Archives for posts with tag: Devotional

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

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

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

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

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).

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.

Today’s entry is called Just Dance, but I could have very well titled it Just Sing.  My recommendations for today is to crank up the dial on the radio or the iPod and scream at the top of your lungs.  Gyrate your hips as if no one is looking.  The idea is to cut loose—be foot loose and fancy free.  Have some fun.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the everyday drudgery.  Between work, school, bills, spouses, children and other responsibilities we have forgotten how to have fun and not take life too serious.  Even King David took time to cut a rug.  The Bible says that David danced for the Lord with all his might (2 Samuel 6:14).  Just dance!  Just sing! Just be!

The theory that it takes 21 days to create a new habit has been debunked over the years.  New research has suggested that the time it takes to create a new habit could vary between individuals.  Additionally, changing a habit also varies in the duration of time it takes to fully adopt a new behavior.  However, I do believe that there is some merit to the 21 days.  The time frame is short enough to not be daunting and long enough to be impactful.  So, with that said, we are going to go all in for the next 21 days on a path to self discovery and reinvention.
Day 1: Weep It Out

There is nothing like a good cry.  Right?  You know the type I’m talking about—the ugly cry—the one where you snort spastically because you can hardly catch your breath and your nose and eyes leak like faucets and muddle your face with a sludge of mucous and tears.  Even Jesus did the ugly cry.  John 11:35 said that Jesus wept.  The verse did not say that he cried; it said that he wept, implying an expression of deep sorrow.  Bawling is cathartic!  It raw!  Most of all, it’s honest.  For many of us, the ugly cry is our first step in acknowledging our vulnerability and/or our humanity in particular areas of our lives.  Weeping is a release of toxicity—pent up emotions.  It’s an opportunity to face our demons head on.  How can we expect to fight what we don’t see.

 

Our inclination to cry out is not just an expected manifestation of our humanity; it is commandment, not to be confused with the Ten Commandment.  The Bible tells us to cry out to God.  Sometimes, if we are not careful, we could tend to minimize the word ‘cry’ and use it interchangeable with the word ‘call.’  Crying out to God does not equal calling on Him.  The former implies a sense of desperation and urgency.  There are times when we have to be completely undignified in expressions—let it all hang out.

 

The good news is that our cries never fall upon deaf ears.  Psalm 18:6 says, “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears,” (NIV).

 

So, tonight, let it all out.  This blog post is the permission that you need to let it all hang loose.  Weep.  Sob.  Ugly cry.  Let it go.  Psalm 30:5 says, “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning,” (NLT).

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

Seldom do I use my blog as a platform to jump on my soapbox.  Typically, I try to inspire.  However, there are times when I also try to provoke thought by presenting an alternative point of view.

A few nights ago, I watched a story on the local, evening news about a robbery and a possible assault in an upscale neighborhood.  Both the neighbors AND the reporter were incensed, and even offended, that crime had infiltrated, what the reporter described as a “swanky” community.  I found the coverage and commentary perplexing, and frankly, a bit scary.  It is asinine, and prideful, that people should expect, and in some cases, desire that crime be marginalized to neighborhoods with lower socioeconomic statuses.  There is no community that is impenetrable to crime.  There is no community that exists in isolation.  In fact, isolationism is the antithesis of personal security and safety, and it typically stems from the most degenerative human vices:  pride, greed and hate.

Pride and greed tell us that we can never have enough and that only we alone deserve to have it all.  The concept of “survival of the fittest” may work in the animal kingdom, but it is not beneficial for human communities.  Here is the problem.  When we create skewed supply and demand systems, where only a few are equipped to succeed, we create marginalization.  Marginalization oftentimes creates desperation.  When people are backed into a corner, and their propensity for success is truncated, they often resort to crime.  When we create communities where destitution and desperation is prevalent, we do not get to retreat to our ivory towers, throw up the moat and hope that the insurgents relent.  Behaviors and mindsets that are being bred and developed in the adjacent communities will infiltrate.

There are those who will argue that each person is responsible for his or her action and that destiny is determined by an individual’s choice.  I would argue that while that argument might be true to some extent, such conjecture is a fallacy.  Again, we do not live in isolation.  To make the argument of “to each his own” is try to absolve ourselves of our social responsibilities.  In society, and in communities, we have a responsibility to more that just our families and ourselves.

I recently read an article about the push to end the free-lunch program.  It reminded me of how short-sighted we can sometime be.  Oftentimes, budget cuts are targeted at programs that support those who have the biggest need and the smallest voice.  I would venture to guess that many of the decision makers are probably far-removed from the desperation that many program recipients face.  Here is the honest truth.  There will always be those who try to beat the system and slip through the cracks.  Cheaters will always exist, and yes, we should have efficient checks and balances in place.  However, do we punish those in need for the actions of a few?  If the answer of societal obligation is not appealing, then self preservation might strike a cord.  When people in these “swanky” communities invests in individuals from disenfranchised communities, crime actually decreases because people then feel as though they have options.  When individuals’ options are increased, so is their sense of purpose.  When people have viable options, and they have something to live for and to look forward to, they are less likely to jeopardize that by committing crimes.  The problem is there are people in our culture that have a pauper’s mentality.  They believe that supplies are limited and if shared, might cut into their portion.  There are also those who have an even more sinister mentality.   Their mentality is one of hatred, which is reflected in their actions.  Both of those mentalities have excluded the grace and goodness of God.  According to Jeremiah 29:11, God stated that he has a plan to give us hope and a future.  God’s plan to prosper us asserts that heaven’s supplies are not limited and are not governed by scarcity.

Ultimately, as earthly cohabitants, we all have a responsibility to take care of each other.  If nothing else, at the VERY LEAST, we have a responsibility to ourselves and to our families.  Who know, by investing in others, we could very well end up sparing ourselves and our families from being accosted by the career criminal who dropped out of primary school because he couldn’t concentration on his lesson due to hunger-induced confusion.  We never know.  Life is filled with very many ironies!

 

 

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.