Archives for posts with tag: Christian

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.

Are you at the end of your rope?  Are you stuck in a rut?  Does if feel like you’ve plateaued and that your best days are behind you?  What if I told you that I have five simple steps that could change the trajectory of your life?  Interested?  Keep reading!

 

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.  If that’s true, then we all have a touch of madness.  Over the past year, I found myself chasing my tail in an infinite circle.  I guess that was kind of redundant as circle are, by definition, infinite.  Nonetheless, I was going full-throttle at 360 degrees.    I found myself repeating the same question in my head: “Is there some grand lesson that I am supposed to learn that I have not yet grasped?”  My prayer became, “God, let me learn my lesson and move on.”  It was in that moment where I received a revelation about what it was that I needed to learn during that season in my life.  What I’ve learned is exactly what I am about to share with you.

 

Lesson 1:

Renew your mind.

 

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” (Romans 12:2, NIV).  Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”  In other words, when our old ways and patterns of thinking have failed to produce the desired outcome, we have to adopt a new perspective.  Renewing our minds is probably one of the hardest things that we could do.  When contemplating change, some might argue that their old ways of thinking has gotten them to where there are.  While that might be true of the past, it isn’t always a valid argument if we want to continue to grow.  Growth require being stretched in new dimensions.  Growth requires conquering new situations.  So how do we renew or mind?  One way is to increase our knowledge.  Read.  Study.  Take classes.  Meet new people.  Sometimes, renewing our minds requires us to change our circle of influence—finding people who could speak life into our dreams and desires.  While the path to the renewal of the mind might differ from person to person, it’s an important step in the pursuit of happiness.

 

Lesson 2:

Speak life into your life.

“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences,” (Proverbs 18:21, NLT).

One of the most difficult questions to answer when we are in the midst of our trials could simply be, “How are you?”  During our darkest moments, it is often difficult to find the median between transparency and wisdom.  How do we truthfully say that we are “fine” when we feel as if we are being immersed by the storms in our lives?  During those moments, we don’t feel fine.  Sometimes, it feels as if our walls are closing in and that we are suffocating. What do we say then?  I was thinking about that very question the other night.  I thought about how God spoke the world into existence with His words.  The Bible says that when God had completed creation, He looked over all that He had done and said that it was good.  That revelation reminded me of Romans 8:28, “And we know God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them,” (NLT).  Sometimes, we just have to look at our lives, despite all the difficulties and trials, and remember that “it’s all good.”  Maybe the next time we are going through a trial and someone ask us how we are doing, we could honestly say, “It’s all good.”  Maybe, in doing so, we could speak life into our future.  This suggestion is not to minimize our pain, but simply to create a new perspective.  It’s to remind us that storms do clear, and sometimes, there is even a rainbow at the end of a downpour.

 

 

Lesson 3:

Stop being a people-pleaser.

“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people,” (Psalms 118:8, NLT).  Life is a journey, and we are all in different stages of our voyage.  In other words, we all have issues and baggage, most of which are shaped by our personal experiences.  One of the greatest lessons that we have to learn when dealing with each other is:  Not everything is personal.  We can’t always internalize other people’s behaviors.  Colossians 3:23 encourages us to work as if we were working for the Lord rather than for people.  As long as we do what we believe to be right in the eyes of God, then that is all that we can do.  We can’t please everyone.  There will always be people who are disappointment in us and by us.

 

Lesson 4:

Take inventory of those who champion around you during seasons of difficulty.

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” (Proverbs 18:24, NIV).  Every single one of us will face moments in our lives where, when the chips are down, the only person left standing in our corner is Jesus.  He is the one true friend that sticks closer than a brother.  While that is true, we need to also realize that we were never meant to go the distance alone.  Ephesians 4: 9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken,” (NLT).  Good friends are important.  The problem is that many of us have clutter our lives with “stand-ins,” but we lack the real thing.  Times of difficulty are usually the best opportunity to see who is really in our corner.  It’s also a good opportunity to start purging toxic relationships.

Lesson 5:

Smile!

“A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit,” (Proverbs 15:13, NLT).  In spite of it all, sometimes, the best thing we could do is smile.  Earlier today, I was watching an Internet video about a woman who was elated about purchasing a Star Wars mask.  She was excited about her purchase—I mean really excited.  She was beyond giddy.  She laughed throughout the entire clip.  However, as silly as the video might have been, I could not help but laugh with her.  Her joy was infectious.    That’s because joy is contagious.  Smiling can impact our mood, our spirit and our outlook.  Our live might not be perfect, but sometimes we could soften our blows by greeting them with a smile 🙂

A while ago, I was perusing the pages of Instagram, and I came across the quote, “Jesus was king of the clapback.”   For those of you who don’t know what a clapback is, don’t worry, up until that Instagram post, neither did I.  Simply put, a “clapback” it’s the ability to give a quick-witted retort to a comment, typically one with negative intentions.  When I thought about the spirit of the quote, it made me chuckle, because it was kind of true.  Jesus was no shrinking violet.  Although he was meek and humble, he wasn’t afraid to let you have it.  Just ask Peter.

 

Out of Jesus’ twelve disciples, Peter was definitely one of Jesus’ favorites.  Several modern day commentaries have even cited Peter as one of Jesus’ inner three. (James and John were the other two.)  Peter was with Jesus during His Transfiguration.  Peter walked on water with Jesus.  He prayed with Jesus.  He even lopped of a man’s ear for Jesus.  You could say that Peter was one of Jesus’ besties.  That is why what I’m about the say is all the more significant.

 

In the early days of Jesus’ ministry, people varied in belief about who they thought Jesus was.  Some thought he was Elijah the Profit.  Others thought he was the prophet Jeremiah, while other believed that he was John the Baptist.  When Jesus asked Peter who he thought that he was, Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” (Matthew 16:16, NLT).  Jesus must have been pleased with Peter, for He responded by saying, “’18Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 19And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven,’” (Matthew 16:18-19, NLT).  Wow, Jesus called Peter a “rock,” and not just any rock, but a rock upon which he would build His church.  That was definitely high praises coming from the Son of God.  Peter must have been beaming.  He must have been proud, because Jesus had not said this in private.  He had praised Peter in front of the other disciples, but it’s what came next that would make today’s urban youth label Jesus “King of the Clapback.”

 

When the time drew near, Jesus had begun to prepare His disciples for His death.  He warned them that he would suffer death at the hands of man for the glory of God.  When Peter heard this, he rebuked Jesus stating, “’Heaven forbid, Lord,’ he said. ‘This will never happen to you,’”(Matthew 16:22)!  Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns,’” (Matthew 16:23, NIV).

 

“Get behind me Satan.”  Did Jesus just call Peter Satan?  He did, and here is why?  When it comes to the truth, it is either black or white.  There are no shades of gray.  Something is either true or false.  If God’s Word is true, then it stands to reason that anything contrary to the Word of God is false.  Truth comes from God.  Falsehood comes from Satan.  God told Jesus that he would die for the sins of man.  Therefore, when Peter attempted to contradict God’s command to Jesus, he spoke a falsehood.  He spoke of the devil.  In a crude sense, in that moment, Peter was being the devil’s representative.  Maybe Peter was thinking about his own desires.  In fact, not too long ago, Jesus had call him the rock.  Maybe Peter thought that Jesus’ death would compromise his plans of what he envisioned his position as the “Rock” to be.  Who knows what Peter was thinking.  What we do know is that Jesus knew that Peter’s motives for speaking weren’t aligned with God’s plans.

 

“Get behind me Satan.”  When I thought about this post this morning, the first passage that came to my mind was Jeremiah 29:11, “11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” (NIV).  Earlier in the post, we stated that anything that is not of God is of Satan.  In Jeremiah 29:11, God said that He has plans to prosper us and to give us hope and a future.  Therefore, anything (or anyone) that threatens our hope, our prosperity and our future is acting as Satan’s representatives, and we need to tell that thing (or person) to, “Get behind me Satan.”  James 4:7 says, “resist the devil and he will flee from you,” (NLT).

 

Jesus wasn’t afraid to call a spade a spade.  Jesus was destined to die.  In order to fulfill His destiny, He had to speak against all that threatened it.  Each of us has a destiny, which we have to work to ensure that we fulfill.  The devil comes to kill, steal and destroy, (John 10:10).  As such, we have to be mindful of his various presentations.  Satan is the master of disguise.  Sometimes, he manifests as friends, family, co-workers, preachers, employers, employees and much, much more.  Whenever, individuals in our lives contradicts what God has commanded us, we need to rebuke them.  That rebuke doesn’t always have to be confrontational.  Sometimes, we could do it during the privacy of our prayer time.  If someone is getting between us and our destiny, we should call them by name and say: (Insert name), get behind me Satan!

The divides we face should never be along racial lines.  We, regardless of who we are, should always side with truth and justice.  In the Bible, Jesus often spoke about showing favor and mercy to the widow, the alien, the fatherless and the poor.  Many of us have fallen, or will fall, into one of those categories.

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Hezekiah’s Sickness and Recovery

20 About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him. He gave the king this message: “This is what the Lord says: Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness.”  2When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3“Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” Then he broke down and wept bitterly.  4But before Isaiah had left the middle courtyard, this message came to him from the Lord: 5“Go back to Hezekiah, the leader of my people. Tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you, and three days from now you will get out of bed and go to the Temple of the Lord. 6I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will rescue you and this city from the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my own honor and for the sake of my servant David.’” 7Then Isaiah said, “Make an ointment from figs.” So Hezekiah’s servants spread the ointment over the boil, and Hezekiah recovered!  8Meanwhile, Hezekiah had said to Isaiah, “What sign will the Lord give to prove that he will heal me and that I will go to the Temple of the Lord three days from now?”  9Isaiah replied, “This is the sign from the Lord to prove that he will do as he promised. Would you like the shadow on the sundial to go forward ten steps or backward ten steps?”  10“The shadow always moves forward,” Hezekiah replied, “so that would be easy. Make it go ten steps backward instead.” 11So Isaiah the prophet asked the Lord to do this, and he caused the shadow to move ten steps backward on the sundial of Ahaz!

2Kings 20:1-11

 

The message of today is, “Lord, Remember me!”

 

“Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people; come near and rescue me,” (Psalm 106:4, NLT).

 

Remember me has become the cry of a generation of Christ Followers.  In Psalm 73:2-3, the psalmist said, “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”

 

It is easy to look around at our world and think that God has forgotten about the promises that He has made to His people.  It seems that the wicked flourish and prevail, while the righteous cower and suffer.  Today, I challenge believers to remember who God is, and in our remembrance of Him, we ask that He remembers us!

 

While on the brink of death, Hezekiah asked God to remember him.  In humility, Hezekiah pleaded with God for his deliverance from the clutches of death.  How many of God’s people feel as if they are on the brink of death—spiritual, financial, emotional and/or physical?  How many people feel as though God has forgot about them?

 

Romans 3 says that not one single man is righteous—not one.

 

23For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood,” (Romans 3:23-25, NLT).

 

As believer, we are made righteous, not through our own doing, but through the blood of Jesus Christ.  Today, as we cry out to our Father, we should ask Him to not only remember us, but to remember His son, Jesus, and His faithfulness.  We should ask our Father in Heaven to remember the promises that He made to us through Jesus.

 

Lord, many of your people are on the brink of all sorts of deaths, and we ask that You remember them because of your Son.  God, in humility, we ask that you remember us individually as we pray to you as Hezekiah did on his death bed.

 

16When he [Jesus] came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:  18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, 19and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”  20He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

Luke 4:16-21

 

In John 14:12, Jesus told his disciples that, “anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works,” (NLT).  Therefore, we like Jesus, are called to the declarations of Isaiah 61:

 

Isaiah 61:1-3 says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.  2He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. 3To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.  In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory,” (NLT).

 

Lord, I ask you to remember us because we have a job to do, which is to bring glory to your name!

Have you every prayed really hard for something only to get it and think, “God, get me out of this thing as soon as possible.  This is not what I signed up for?”  I’m sure we have all been there.  The lessons we learn in these cases are:  Things aren’t always what they seem and usually require more effort than we realize.

 

During these past few years, one of the Bible verses that most heavily rests on my heart is “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it,” (Numbers 23:19, ESV)?  How many of us when praying for a miracle simple pray for said miracle without any accompanying manifestations?  Seldom.  We dream about our miracles.  We fantasize about them.  Our prayers are often layered petitions.  We dream of owning a home so that we could share it with our loved ones.  We dream of getting an education so that we could impact a generation.  Many of our prayers are gateway requests.  Imagine what could happen if we cut God off at the path when we ask Him to revoke our granted prayers.  We could potentially block other blessings associated with our initial prayer. Could it be that the reason that God does not readily rescind on what we might perceive as misguided prayer requests is, not because of punishment, but, out of a desire to bless us?

 

In Genesis 32:22-28, Jacob is all alone in the camp when and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break.  “When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!’  But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’  ‘What is your name?’ the man asked.  He replied, ‘Jacob.’  ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob,’ the man told him. ‘From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.’”

 

Maybe that very thing that you are trying to escape from is the living God himself.  Let’s break down Genesis 32:22-28.

 

  1. Jacob was all alone when a man came and wrestled with him until dawn began to break.
    1. Jacob was all alone.
      1. God’s greatest works in our lives are usually found in moments of great solitude. Those moments can often be a time of great loneliness.
    2. A man came and wrestled with him.
      1. It would appear that this man sought out Jacob. Jacob did not go looking for this man.  John 15:16 says, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name,” (NLT).
    3. Jacob wrestled with the man until dawn began to break.
      1. Dawn is the period of day right before the light rises. Even though Jacob was shadowboxing in the dark, daybreak, light, was on the horizons.

 

 

  1. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket.
    1. The previous verse said a man came and wrestled with Jacob. It did not say who started the fight.  What if the “man” came in peace and only responded to Jacob’s engagement?
    2. Could it be that maybe “the man” tried to plea his case to Jacob, but could win against Jacob’s harden heart?
    3. Jacob was so enraged and defensive that the only way “the man” could get his attention was to throw him off guard by “wrenching” his hip out of its socket.
      1. Are there any areas in our life where we are wrestling with God?
      2. Is there any potential area in our life where God has touched it and wrenched it out of its socket?

 

  1. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!’
    1. Sometimes we are not always on the same page as God. The Bible says, His ways are not our ways nor his thoughts our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). Jacob could have been interpreting the comment literally.  Maybe he thought God was telling him to release him physically. Maybe when God told Jacob to let Him go he was telling him to stop fighting with Him.  Maybe God was telling Jacob to release the anger that he had towards Him.  Ephesians 4:26 says, “’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” (NIV).  Maybe God was telling Jacob to let go of his anger, to forgive, before dawn broke.

 

  1. But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’
    1. Again, it seems as if Jacob might have been referring to a physical restrain. Nonetheless, he had the wherewithal to know that he was in the presence of divinity, and he wasn’t willing to let go of that opportunity to be blessed.  He had fought too hard throughout the night to walk away empty-handed.
      1. If we have been struggling for some time, it would be foolish of us to walk away without our blessings.
      2. Let go of the anger, but do not let go of God.
  • As we let go, we should ask God to bless us before we leave from the place we find ourselves in.
  1. Your name will no longer be Jacob,’ the man told him. ‘From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.’”
    1. Jacob did not give up, and God rewarded Him.
    2. Jacob might not have gotten it right, but he did the best he knew, and God rewarded his faithfulness.
    3. At the end of the battle God gave Jacob a new identity.
      1. We can never go through the trenches with God and come out the same. Matthew 23:12 says, “But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” (NLT).

 

Summary of Genesis 32:22-28

  1. God will isolate us so that he can begin a transformation in our life.
  2. Let go of our anger and press into God’s grace.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask God to bless us. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you,” (NIV).

DECLARATION:

I WON’T LEAVE HERE UNTIL YOU BLESS ME!

 

Traditional slavery, chattel slavery, is officially illegal in all countries.  However, while most of the world has since eradicated the antiquated systems that once forced multitudes of people into involuntary servitude, today, there is a new form of slavery—a new slave master.

 

According to Cambridge Dictionary, slavery is defined as “the condition of being legally owned by someone else, or the system in which people are owned by others.” Wikipedia puts it this way:  Slavery is “a legal or economic system in which principles of property law are applied to humans allowing them to be classified as property, to be owned, bought and sold accordingly, and they cannot withdraw unilaterally from the arrangement. While a person is a slave, the owner is entitled to the productivity of the slave’s labor, without any remuneration.”  In today’s capitalist economy, financial institutions have become the new captains of the slave trade.

 

Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender,” (NIV).  No where is this truer than in “free trade.”  The average American is shackled by debt.  According to an article published on Nerdwallet.com, as of October 2015, the U.S. household consumer debt profile was as follows:

  • Average credit card debt: $16,140
  • Average mortgage debt: $155,361
  • Average student loan debt: $31,944

 

The article further went on to say that the total debt owned by American consumers was:

  • $11.85 trillion in debt
    • An increase of 1.4% from last year
  • $918.5 billion in credit card debt
  • $8.09 trillion in mortgages
  • $1.19 trillion in student loans
    • An increase of 5.9% from last year

 

The median household income for 2014 was $53,657. As the numbers suggests, most Americans are in over their heads in debt.  The problem is not so much the debt itself.  The problem is the issue of usury, which is illegal and morally reprehensible.  Merriam-Webster defines usury as, “the lending of money with an interest charge for its use; especially:  the lending of money at exorbitant interest rates.”  How does one quantify and/or qualify exorbitant?  Today’s credit card APR can range from low 13% all the way to 29.9 %.  I would make the argument that even 13% could be considered exorbitant.  Who determines exorbitance?  I’m sure it’s not the average citizen.

 

The main difference between traditional slavery and economic slavery is that most individuals, at some point, voluntarily entered into their financial engagement(s).  However, the similarity that both conditions typically share is the inability to readily disengage from the entanglement.

 

Let’s take another look at the definition of slavery.  The first part of the definition of slavery asserts that slavery is orchestrated by “a legal OR economic system.”  By definition, the financial system is an “economic system.” So, check.  The second condition of slavery is that an individual is “legally owned” by another individual(s).  Yet, another check.  I must say this, although individuals are not physically owned by financial institutions, they are economically imprisoned and shackled.  Before I expand on this though, I would like to state the third condition of slavery, which is “they cannot withdraw unilaterally from the arrangement.”  Check!

 

Most financial institutions are in the business of buying and selling debt.  It is not uncommon for people who are saddled with debt to see their loan(s) change hands several times during the lifetime of their loan.  With each change of ownership, there are new notices and disclosures, which are usually multiple, page documents that are typically indiscernible, microscopic fine-print with an inherent obligation for compliance.  In essence, the borrower does not get to pick and choose which terms and conditions they accept and agree with.  Once the loans are sold, the borrower’s finances become subject to the new lender’s (“owner”) discretion. The borrower cannot readily disengage from the financial obligation without legal recourse or ramifications.  In some cases, many individuals are working solely to pay debts.

 

There are people who are reading this post and are probably thinking that individuals who are indebted are in the position that they are in because of poor decision-making.  While that may or may not be true of some, it’s not true of others, and I caution such thinking.  There are many individuals, who have made prudent decisions, yet have still found themselves victims of circumstances, including divorce, life, sickness, death, fraud or even hunger.  Not everyone in debt is living above their mean.  Some people are simply trying to live.  A mother who uses her credit card to buy food and clothing for her family is a far cry from a squanderer.  A young, doe-eyed humanitarian who made a prudent decision to attend medical school to refine his God-given gifts and impact his community and the world around him is far from what I would call irresponsible.  While I am sure there are people who’ve placed themselves in the lion’s den, this is not everyone’s story, and the truth is, even if it were, do they deserve to be eternally imprisoned?

 

King Solomon said it best when he said, “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all,” (Ecclesiastes 9:11, NIV).  One on the worse things that any of us could do on our journey on this Earth is to make distinctions between “us” and “them.”  If anyone has lived on this Earth long enough, one of the valuable lessons learned is that time is the ultimate equalizer where “they” often becomes “me.”

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

1 Corinthians 1:27

 

I pray that this quote encourages you as much as it has encouraged me today.  God is about to do something in the lives of the unassuming—the brokenhearted, the forgotten and the unrecognized.  He is about to elevate leaders that the world has criticized, mocked, beaten, captured and imprisoned.  He is about to do a new thing.

 

I know that I am speaking directly to someone’s heart today.  The Lord is about to use you in ways that defy imagination.  He is about to make your enemies your footstool.  Every tear that you have shed has been captured.  Psalm 56:8 says, “Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record?”  God has heard your cries.  There might seem as if there is no way out.  It might appear as if everyone has abandoned you and told you ‘no,” but please know that it is during your darkest hours when God does His finest work.  It was during the darkness that God called light into existence.  It was after Pharaoh’s heart was hardened that God parted the Red Sea and delivered the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians.  It was after Job had lost everything that God restored him two-fold.  Please be reminded that God is a God of grandeur, and while his preparation might be done in seclusion, His restorations are never done in private.  God’s promotions are for His glorious victory.  Therefore, they are always on display. Matthew 23:12 says, “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” (NIV).

 

Be grateful for all who denied you.  God is elevating you in a manner that you will be indebted to none other than He.  The blessings of the Lord make a man rich, and it adds no sorrow with it, Proverbs 10:22.  Know that God has already blessed you, and He is about to make a public proclamation.  In Jesus, name, Amen!  The Bible also says that even before God restored Job, Job repented and humbled himself.  He praised God even while he was covered in ashes and riddled with sore.  Wherever you are, praise God.  Praise His glorious name.  Know that the end of your story was written even before the beginning, and it’s not over until God says that it’s over.  Glory to God.

2But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;

I had nearly lost my foothold.

3For I envied the arrogant

when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Psalm 73:2-3

 

During this season, I have experienced some of life’s greatest disappointments and setbacks.  Most recently, I entered a business venture. As part of my due diligence, I implemented all the necessary safeguards to reduce, if not, eliminate my risks.  I read.  I researched.  I hired an attorney. I had a contract drafted.  However, life sometimes teaches us that there are no failsafe plans.  There are no world systems that could entirely mitigate moral corruption.  Although most, if not all, legal agreements are drafted based on the worse case scenarios, most people enter contacts with the assumption that the opposing party has some semblance of integrity, or at the very least, he or she has a fear of or a reverence for the law.  A year and a half after signing my contract agreement, the opposing party involved still managed to express flagrant disregard of the agreement by violating several terms of the contract. This morning, as I evaluated my situation, I thought about the above verse.

 

Oftentimes, it feels as though the lives of the wicked are bountiful.  Many of them cheat, lie and steal, yet they still manage to thrive beyond the imagination of the meek.  It’s easy to look at the proud and the arrogant and be envious.  They leap and abound.  Their lives are grand.  They enjoy fine things, and they seldom seem concerned with the toils of those who are pure at heart.  “They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong…they are not plagued by human ills,” (verse 4 and 5, NIV).  They play by their own rules.  They scoff at honor and valor.  The lives of the wicked seems grand, indeed.  However, there will come a time when the Earth’s grandeur will cease.  Each man will be equal, and God will judge each man according to his deeds.  “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad,” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).  It’s so easy to want the wicked to pay—to take vengeance into our own hands because it might seem as though God is moving too slow.  However, Romans 12:19 says, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD,” (NLT).

 

The truth is, waiting on God can seem slow, and, at times, feel torturous.  However, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance,” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).  In His justice, God has given even the sinners time to change their wicked ways.  Psalms 73 goes on to say that God has placed the wicked on slippery ground.  The wicked will perish if they continue to do wickedness.

 

To those who are longsuffering, I ask that you give your suffering to God.  Leave your vindication in His mighty hands.  God is just, and He judges fairly.  Even King David, whom the Bible refers to as a man after God’s own heart, experienced God’s immense favor despite being reprimanded for his egregious sins. Although David had many shortcomings, God did not forget the promises He made to David.  During earlier times, God decreed that David would not only rule as king over all Israel, God also promised David that he (David) would always have a line to the throne (Jesus).  One of David’s biggest fall from grace was when he had an adulterous affair with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his soldiers named Uriah.  As a result of the affair, Bathsheba became pregnant.  In an effort to cover his tracks David tried to convince Uriah to sleep with his wife, Bathsheba, so that he could pass off the baby as Uriah’s.  Uriah, who was a committed soldier in David’s army, refused to lay with his wife because he did not want to break his allegiance to his fellow fighters by indulging in merriment during battle time.  After David realized that his attempt to cover his tracks had failed, he gave orders to have Uriah killed.  Fortunately, God did not allow David’s position as both king and the “apple of His eyes” to usurp Uriah’s life.  God was not only faithful to David, He was also faithful to Uriah, because the Bible says that God is not a respecter of man (Acts 10:34).  God avenged Uriah’s death by destroying the seed that was created from David’s and Bathsheba’s deception. Thankfully, God did not stay angry with David forever.  He pursued David and blessed him.  Moreover, David repented for sinning against God.

 

In all of our lives, there will be times when we feel forgotten about—by family, by friends, and even by God. Many of us feel like Uriah, a lone soldier in a vast army—a number in the crowd.  The temptation is to give up on God because we feel neglected or betrayed by Him.  However, just like God fought on behalf of Uriah, He will avenge us too.  The Bible says that God will leave the 99 sheep to find the one that has wondered away (Matthew 18:12-14).  It is during our weakest moments that God will seek us out and pursue us.

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.