Archives for posts with tag: Christianity

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Yesterday, was pretty dreary and soggy on my end of the world.  It had been gray for most of the day until about 8:30 p.m. when suddenly skies burst forth with the most radiant light.  It looked more like late afternoon than evening.  I rushed outside to catch a glimpse of the delayed sunset, but it was hidden behind the trees and the other houses.  Instead, I caught a glimpse of the most spectacular double rainbow.  It was God’s subtle reminder that He is always omnipresent, even during the midst of a storm.

Believing in God is difficult.  Our sinful nature is hostile towards God (Romans 8:7).  When it comes to faith, many of us struggle with some of the most rudimentary principles of Christianity: Does God exist?  If God does exist, could we trust him to do what he said he would do in the Bible?  If God does exist, is the Bible the true Word of God?  These are all heavily-loaded, spiritual questions, far too profound for the scope of this discussion.  However, I will say this, we all have made conscious decisions to place our faith in something or someone.  If any of us have ever driven on the highway or walked down the street, then we have faith.  We have faith that the highway will not collapse beneath us or that one of the thousands of cars on the street won’t skip the median and run us over as we stroll.  For some of us, the veracity of the object of our faith is irrelevant.  For others, we have to have empirical evidence of our faith.  Again, without going into too deep of a discussion, a lot of Christianity has been proven scientifically, archeologically and historically.  Nonetheless, there are some x-factors, unknown variables that have yet to be verified.  The same could be said of science.  There comes a point in both science and Christianity where some things just have to be taken as given—based on faith.

If we opt to believe that God does exist, there will come a point where we just have to trust that God is who He said He is and that He is going to do what He said He would do.  When we have gotten to the point in our lives where we’ve tried everything and all else has failed, why not try God?  It’s not my intention to reduce God to a plan B alternative, but why not take a chance on Him?  What do we really have to lose by opting to believe in God?  Yesterday’s rainbow was a simple reminder of God’s wonderment. The rainbow is a symbol of God’s promises—His covenant with humanity—a representation of His mercy.  It is also a reminder that God can make all things new.  Rainbows usually manifest after a storm, right before it completely clears.  The Bible says that God is not a man that he should lie (Numbers 23:19).  Therefore, if the rainbow is representative of the veracity of God’s covenant with humanity, then it should serve as a reminder that God is true to His Word—all of them.

Telling the truth isn’t always easy.  In fact, sometimes, it’s downright hard!  However, one of our greatest challenges on our road to self-discovery and reinvention is learning to be a person of integrity—let our yeses be yeses and our noes be noes.  We have to learn to engage in difficult conversations, which might result in disappointment for some.  Doing the right thing includes the understanding that we cannot please everyone.  When we try to please everyone, we ultimately please no one, including ourselves.  People might not always like the truth spoken in love, but more often than not, they respect the person speaking it.  When you and I are people of integrity, others can count on our words and our deeds.  When people opt to speak half-truths and untruths, they become untrustworthy, and even their truths are tainted by the perception of deception.

The spirit of deception is duplicitous.  It steals from both the deceiver and the one being deceived.  Most people, unless they are social deviants, typically act dishonestly out of fear and/or cowardice.  They are either unwilling or incapable of telling the truth due to a misguided perception of the repercussions of their honesty.  Instead they opt for what they perceive as “the easy way out.”  However, the “easy way out” is not without consequences, and it isn’t particularly easy.  There are many internal and external ramifications of being untruthful.  One of the internal penalties of not being a person of integrity is the stress of having to remember the lies—what story was told to whom and when.  There is also the perpetual fear of being caught, being found out.  Finally, some people (excluding those who have sociopathic tendencies) who suffer from poor integrity face anxiety knowing that they have this internal character flaw.  As far as the external repercussions go, those who lack integrity are often at risk for having a bad reputation.  They could erroneously be perceived as people of reprehensible moral character.  This misconception could significantly impact both their personal and professional relationships.  Our failure to be honest during difficult times could create a narrative about our character that is simply untrue.  When we hurt others by our actions, or lack thereof, few people are gracious enough to evaluate the cause of our behavior.  The why is irrelevant to them.  All they know is that they have been hurt and offended.

Our failure to exhibit integrity could create irreparable rifts in our relationships, which at the end of the day, are one of the few things of value that we possess.  The moral of the story is, if we want to grow and become better people, we have to learn to be honest and truthful, especially when it is difficult.

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity,” (Proverbs 11:3, NIV).

I am a logophile, someone who love words.  I am also a lover of numbers.  Although I am not sure whether there is a special word for that, I do love to create mathematical equations of numbers and try to make sense of them.  I guess you could say that I’m a bit of a nerd.  Today, I decided to blog about the concept of gratitude. Here is what I learned about this trisyllabic concept.

Gratitude is one word, nine letters and three syllables.  According to Biblical symbolism, the number nine refers to divine completeness or finality.  Jesus died on the ninth hour of the day (3 p.m.).  Gratitude.  Nine letters.  Three syllables.  The number three is also significant.  It’s the number of completion.  Jesus was placed on the cross on the third hour of the day (9 a.m.) and died at the ninth hour (3.m.). Gratitude.  Nine letters.  Three syllables.

If I were to be completely honest, I didn’t really know the significance of these numbers until I decided to do some research for the post.  All I knew was that gratitude was nine letters and three syllables.  However, the revelation of the numerical significances was not lost on me.  As Christians, gratitude is more than being grateful for what we have, it’s about recognizing and appreciating Jesus’ sacrifice—his ultimate sacrifice, where he gave his life so that we could have freedom.  Yes, our Earthly possessions do provide us with some comfort, and we should be grateful for them, but more than that, we should be grateful for the opportunities that have been laid before us because of what Christ did on the cross.  Our lives on Earth is not just a gift of terrestrial gratification, it is an opportunity for celestial investments.  While on Earth, we not only get to enjoy the planet, but we also get to make preparation for our final destination.  This investment is only made possible by the sacrifices of Jesus Christ.  So, no matter what we go through in this life we should find gratitude in the fact that there is something to look forward to beyond our time in this world.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33, NIV).

Gratitude.  Nine letters.  Three syllables.  There is some finality inherent in the concept of gratitude.  Oftentimes, gratitude is the final step of introspection.  When many of us reflect on our lives, we often resign to a place of reconciliation where we realize that we have a lot to be thankful for.  Our relatively health and happiness are reasons enough for celebration.

Gratitude, that three-syllable word, also makes us complete.  It closes the gaping hole in our hearts and our spirits by allowing us to realize that we truly have more than we need and that we lack nothing essential.

Today, my challenge for all of us it to be grateful—express a little gratitude.  “All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory,” (2 Corinthians 4:15, NLT).

Greater success is often found in failures than in victories.  When we really think about it, what lessons do we truly learn from our conquests?  Our succession of wins simply makes us better winners, and in worse cases, sore ones.  Failure is where we experience the immensity of our growth. Our ability to reason, to reflect and to progress expands when we are faced with situation where the problems presented by our circumstances are beyond the scope of our current knowledge.  Those situations challenge us to learn and to grow.  If every action we took was executed with precision and perfection during the first pass, then we would be stagnant, and frankly, boring.

 

Our inclination to steer towards perfection is exhausting, and not to mention, impossible.  In fact, trying to achieve perfection is a waste of time and is one of the greatest impediments to growth.  The pursuit of perfection yield paralysis.  It creates a stumbling block in our minds.  The hypothetical what ifs have a tendency to fabricate and aggrandize the worse-case scenarios.  Oftentimes, the results of our actions are never as horrific as we have imagined, and so what if they were?  Short of doing something immoral or illegal, there is nothing wrong with stepping outside of our comfort zones—challenging ourselves.

 

Aside from the inherent fear of failure, many of us also get distracted by how we think others will react to and perceive our mishaps.  The truth is, most of us are doing the best we can, and no one is an authority on life.  Even the experts have achieved their portion of wisdom through trial and error.  Therefore, we should cut ourselves some slack.  We should be kind to ourselves.  There is nothing wrong with trying something new, even something scary.  We should now that we are flawed and imperfect, and that is okay.

My past two blog posts have been about prayer, particularly, praying in general.  I was going to move on to a different topic all together until I came across another individual’s blog on the topic (Pretty good read.  Check it out: https://themirific.co/2015/05/20/stagnant-christians-stagnant-enemies/ ).  In this post, the author wrote about praying for our enemies.  Yes, it is true, Jesus challenges and instructs us to pray for our enemies.  But have you ever wondered what those prayers should look like?  If I were to be completely transparent when it came to praying for my enemies, I would say that I preferred some of the move Davidic prayers found in the Psalms such as, “slap all my enemies in the face” or “shatter the teeth of the wicked,” (Psalm 3, NLT).  Those prayers speak to the core of my anger when I am hurt by my enemies.   I also figured, if it worked for David, it should work just fine for me.

While I slightly kid, I must say that the question of praying for my enemies did resonate with me this morning.  I discussed the issue with my uncle, and he provided some insight which I will share with you:

Our earthly battles all seem to come back to Ephesians 6:12, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities.”  In the Old Testament, David was waging war for a physical kingdom.  The sacrifices made in his day were physical in nature.  Today, we waging war for a spiritual kingdom.  Circumcisions in the Old Testament were physical, while today they are spiritual.  When we say those Davidic prayer, they should be prayed against the spirituals that dwell in the individuals, not against the individuals themselves.  When we truly understand that we are in spiritual warfare versus physical warfare, then we would realize that we should be praying for the deliverance of our enemies from the captivity of the evil one.  In the most rudimentary sense, the individuals who commit acts of evil are merely host to principalities.  Now, this does not completely absolve individuals of responsibly under the notion of the devil made me do it, for we all have free will.  However, it does allow for compassion towards our enemies.  For whatever reason, their free will has sent them down a path that has created a stronghold in their lives.  As we all know, bad habits are hard to break, and so are strongholds.  That is why we need to pray for our enemies.  We need to pray for their deliverance.  Notice that when Jesus prayed, he always prayed for others to be delivered from their infirmities.  Oftentimes, their blessings were found in the deliverance.

This whole topic of prayer brought me back to a previous blog where I begged the question: “How different would our world be if we simply prayed for things that weren’t already being prayed for?”  Imagine if we got to heaven and God told us that we could have dramatically changed the world, but we didn’t because those prayers were never released.  Would that knowledge change how we prayed today?  For me, one of the biggest frustrations, and even hesitations, with prayer is that I don’t always see the results of my prayers.  Sometimes, I feel as though God hasn’t heard me or that He is slow to act.  The Bible reminds us that, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient…” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).  We have to remember that God is sovereign and that He might not answer our prayers in the manner and time we want, but He has His reasons for His approach.

Today, I challenge all of us to put on the armor of God:  the belt of truth, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:12).  Let us pray for our world, our government, our enemies, our families and friends and ourselves.  Included below is a prayer of protection over our family and friends:

Today, Lord I pray an anointing over myself and my family.  I pray a hedge of protection around us.  I pray that the enemy and his allies would not be allowed to penetrate this fence, and that the gates surrounding the hedges are locked and sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ.  I pray that angels will be dispatched to the four corners of this fence and that they will protect and defend us from all attacks.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

One of the greatest and most humbling reminder on our road to self-discovery and reinvention is that we are not Jesus!  Yes, as Christians, we are meant to bare each other’s burdens, but we are not called to save, to fix or to restore anyone, including ourselves.  That’s Jesus’ job.  Some many of us in our quest to become Christ-like, or just plain liked, have resorted to becoming a receptacle for others to unload.  We allow others to dump all their “stuff” on our doorsteps.

 

Healthy relationships should be symbiotic, meaning each person should take turns serving the other.  There should be a healthy balance.  Our relationships should improve our lives and well being.  If we find ourselves giving more that we receive, we place ourselves in a position to become out of equilibrium, which puts us at risk for suffering emotionally, mentally or even spiritually.  Additionally, when we fail to set boundaries in our relationships, it sends the message that it is okay to not respect us. It tells others that our feelings do not matter.  That’s not only unfair, it’s also unhealthy!

 

One of the best ways to stop being a receptacle is to learn to love ourselves.  At times, loving ourselves might often mean putting ourselves first.  As Christians, we sometimes have a tendency to pervert the Gospel.  The phrase “die to yourself” has been misused and abused.  In fact, when asked by the Pharisees which of the Commandment was the greatest, Jesus replied that we should first love God, then love our neighbors as we would ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).  In that verse, Jesus commands us to love God, ourselves, and then our neighbors—in that order.  In order to love someone as we love ourselves, it is implied that we first love ourselves.  It is imperative that we love ourselves.  Oftentimes, this might mean saying no to others.  Additionally, it is important that we set aside time for ourselves to allow for a reset.  We will find that by doing so, we will also redefine the boundaries in our lives and have more healthy and productive relationships.

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Lately, I’ve found that the first thing I do after waking up and the last thing I do before going to bed is to read the news.  It’s actually gotten pretty depressing.  The typical news story portrays the world as one that has gone to hell in a hand basket.  Stories of savagery and inhumanity are ubiquitous.  Murder, rape, and pillaging are some of the most common headlines.  The sensationalism is beyond the categorical scope of yellow journalism.  The story contents are vile and the commentaries are even more viscous.  This morning, as I attempted to scroll the Internet for my daily dose of news happenings, a small, still voice told me to stop.

 

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life,” (NLT).  In this visual age, our world has become inundated by sensory images, and unfortunately, most of the tactics have been subliminal.  Everything and everyone is vying for our attention.  We have to be cognizant of the information that we filter through our eyes, our hearts and our minds because what we allow to resonate in those places often shape our emotions and our actions.  While it is important that we keep abreast of current events, it is critical that we filter out the hysteria and the nonsense.  The seeds that we water will be the one that will take life and grow.  If we plant seeds of negativity and despair, then our days and our lives will be filled with doubt and turmoil.  If we plant seed of hope, then our lives will be fruitful and productive.  So, during these days of fake news, political turmoil, and civil unrest, let’s take heart that goodness still exists.  God still sits on the throne.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  The promises that God made yesteryear are still relevant today.  Filter out the negativity and embrace the promises.

About a year ago, I read an interesting post from one of my friends on Facebook.  He said that when we die and go to heaven, we will realize just how many things about God we actually got wrong.  I couldn’t agree more.  There is not a single person alive who gets it 100 percent right at all times.  For most of us who identify ourselves as Christians, we try to live a life reflective of who we believe Jesus has called us to be.  However, we are shackled by our imperfections.  We have imperfect actions, thoughts and reasoning abilities, which even impact the way we interpret the Bible.  Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”

When it comes to interpreting the Bible, I believe that it is impossible to completely comprehend God’s word solely through scholastic measures. Spiritual discernment and revelation is also needed.  Additionally, I also believe that our relationship with God is an intimate one.  While Biblical truths are absolutes, there will be times when our Biblical interpretation will be based on our discernment and personal relationship with God.  With that said, here’s a cute funny story.

Sometimes, we forget that God knows just how imperfect we are.  In our pride, we try to camouflage our shortcomings.  We fail to realize that it’s during our most vulnerable moments when God can really reassure us of who He is.  The story of Gideon reminds us of just that.

In the story of Gideon, God had given Gideon a specific assignment.  However, in his humanness, Gideon doubted God, and he asked God for a sign to reassure him that he had heard him correctly.

36Then Gideon said to God, ‘If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, 37prove it to me in this way. I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.’ 38And that is just what happened. When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water,” (Judges 6:36-38, NLT).

Twice Gideon asked for a sign, and twice God obliged him.  God did not chasten or chastise him.

Oftentimes, we feel as though we have to be perfect before God, and that is not the case.  The story of Gideon shows that it’s okay to ask God for confirmation.  I am not saying that we should have a lot system approach to God.  What I am saying is that God is sensitive to our humanness. With that said, here is the cute, funny story:

A few moons ago, I was experiencing a tumultuous season.  Although there seemed to be no immediate resolution to my situation, I felt as though the Spirit of God was reminding me that everything was going to be okay.  However, I wasn’t sure whether I could trust the voice in my heart because everything around seemed far from okay.

One night, as I laid awake trying to figure out the solution to all my woes, God laid the story of Gideon on my heart.  As I read the passages in the middle of the night, I was moved by Gideon’s humility.  In that moment I decided to ask God for my own sign.  I figured if He did it for Gideon, He could do it for me.  A part of me felt silly.

“What could I pray for,” I thought.  “What sign could I ask for, and what was the confirmation that I was looking for?”

I wanted to ask for a sign that I could not blame on mere coincidence.  I wanted my sign to confirm the words that were whispered in my heart.  After a few minutes of deliberation, I had finally come up with one, and it had to do with birds and my patio.

My entire back patio, with the exception of a small hole at the top where the squirrels had once used the mesh as a makeshift trampoline, is enclosed by a screen. That night, I prayed that if by morning, a bird had fallen through the hole and landed in the patio that would be my confirmation that everything would be okay.  A part of me felt silly for making such an arbitrary prayer request. Nonetheless, the first thing I did the next morning was check the patio.  There was no bird.  Secretly, I was disappointed.  More than that, I felt even more silly, but then a funny thing happened.  Later that day, I was watching television on the sofa when something caught my eye.  Hopping around in the patio was this guy:20150811_142611

I couldn’t contain my excitement.  I just know my circumstances were about to change.  I just knew that the breakthrough that I was praying for was about to take place.  But it didn’t.  A few weeks had passed and nothing had changed.  My circumstances were still the same.  But even though I felt silly, I couldn’t resist the urge to ask for another sign.  This time I asked God to send a different kind of bird.  When I awoke that morning, I had resigned to the fact that I had officially lost my mind. Then I heard a loud thud on my roof.  I ran to the living room and peer outside, and this is what I saw:

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I know many are probably thinking that these are all coincidences, but to me, they are the miracles that I had prayed for.  I wish I could say that my circumstances changed that day.  They didn’t.  Though my circumstances hadn’t change,  I had.  That day, I had gotten the confirmation that I needed.

A lot of life is about perception and what we chose to believe.  Oftentimes, our beliefs and our miracle coincide within the same space in our minds.  Though I might not have seen a physical change that day, I did receive a peace that surpasses all understanding.  I also learned that I didn’t have to be afraid to show God my humanness.  I also learned that He was not afraid to meet me where I am.  Perhaps He could meet you where you are too.

5Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear,” (Matthew 24:35, NLT).

Have you ever felt forgotten about—overlooked?  Sometimes, it’s so easy to feel as if God has answered everyone else’s prayers but yours.  You’ve pray.  You’ve fasted.  You’ve done everything you know how to do, but there seems to be no avail to your situation.  In some cases, you’ve been waiting so long for an answer that you have almost forgotten the question.  You have even begun to wonder whether God will keep His promises to you.

Numbers 23:19, says, “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through,” (NLT)?

In both of the above-referenced passages, the Bible reiterates the fact that God is not a liar.  In fact, oftentimes, in Scripture, we see God go after those who attempt to turn Him into one.

God’s promises in our lives aren’t simply confined by time.  Those promises can often surpass our existence.  Just look at Abraham.  God promised to make him into a great nation—a promise that continues to this very day.    Throughout the Bible, we see countless examples of God’s promises to the Israelites and illustrations of His faithfulness.  In fact, God has been vigilant about going up against individuals who try to thwart His plans.  God will always avenge his people when there is an eminent threat against his promise.  Just ask Saul.

After a period of judges, the people of Israel demanded a king to rule over their affairs. Saul had found favor with the Lord, and he was anointed as King by the prophet Samuel.  However, Saul’s reign was cut short by disobedience, and possibly pride, but, that’s another story.

1One day Samuel said to Saul, ‘It was the Lord who told me to anoint you as king of his people, Israel. Now listen to this message from the Lord! 2This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. 3Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys,’ (1 Samuel 15:1-3, NLT).

Unfortunately, Saul was disobedient.  Not only did he spare the Amalekite king, he and his men also took plunder from their victory.  This angered God, and in his anger, God renounced Saul as king.  At first glance, one might wonder what was the big deal.  Saul made a stupid mistake for which he was truly sorry (1 Samuel 15:10-31).  But it was more than a simple mistake.  We have to remember that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).  There was more at stake than simply carrying out an assignment.  The Amalekites had inadvertently attempted to make God a liar.  When they challenged the Israelites, they didn’t realize that they were going after God’s Word.  John 1:1 say, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” (NIV).  You see, when the Amalekites went after God’s word, His promise, they went up against God Himself.  God had to defend His Word.  He had to defend Himself against character assassination.  Therefore, He had to avenged the Israelites.  Friend, whenever God has made a promise in our lives, we must take confidence that His character will make Him keep His promise, not for our sake, but for His.  God’s Word MUST prove true.  Hence, He will annihilate all threats to His word.  Think about this.  There was such a large period of time that had elapsed between when the Israelites left Egypt and when Saul took reign, yet God still remembered His promises to the Israelites.  We should take confidence in this.  We should also take heed.   God will avenge those whose promises have been threatened by another.  With that said, I think about the verse in Mark 9:42, “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck,” (NLT).  Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him,” (NIV).  I wonder what is the fate of those who hinders someone else faith and cause them to doubt God?  This is a sobering thought.  It’s no wonder that when Jesus went on the cross he said, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:34, NIV). If many of us knew exactly what we were doing, we probably wouldn’t do some of the thing we have done.  But thank God for grace.  Tonight, we should remain confident of this:  God’s will be done.  We pray that God forgives those, including ourselves, who go up against God’s will, for we truly do not know what we are doing when we do so.  God, tonight, I pray for the broken and the forgotten that you will remember them!

2016-09-01 13.30.22 Pains of life circumference by our ball-clenched fists.

Who’d have thought it’d come to this:

Tales of broken hearts, disappointments and unchecked lists.

But to end it there, I’d be remiss to explain the travesty caused by a ball-clenched fist.

So many of us are straddled by baggage. We don’t always know we have it, but we do. Many of us, in an effort to maintain our daily functionality, bury our hurts in the dark crevices of our hearts. The problem is, just like rain could uproot skeletons buried beneath the Earth’s surface, our tears often reveal our misplaced pain. Many of our buried hurts are sharp, unbeveled deposits just below the surface. They cut and bruise. The friction of some of our deepest hurts have caused calluses in once tender places.   Many of the composite effects of our pain is dear.  The tighter we clutch, the deeper our scars.  During our day-to-day activities, we might not even realize that our grip is so firm until we finally decide to let it go. Only once we have let go the shattered pieces of our lives can we truly begin to heal and experience a freedom that we have not yet experienced….

 

With hope renewed like the dew of a morning mist,

The forces of pain we did resist,

To release these shards of glass from our ball-clenched fist.