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This poem is dedicated to those who are praying without ceasing and are tirelessly waiting to hear from God.

Echoes of Silence 

The echoes of silence are all that I hear.

Humbled by life, I seek you in prayer.

A knock on the door—is anyone there?

Then it dawned on me—

Maybe He heard me, but don’t really care.

For the first time, I looked in the mirror and stared,

And wondered where is the God of old that nations once feared.

Who cared—

Who dared—

To put nations and empires to shame,

And recued those who called upon him by name.

Elohim, El Shaddai, El Roi,

Jehovah Jireh, Rapha, Nissi, my Adonai.

 

The echoes of silence are all that I hear,

Chanting the chorus, “God are you still there?”

World upside down.  Life—Unfair.

God, is silence from you just really a “no?”

My faith is slipping, and I’m letting it go.

Faith lukewarm.  Heart now cold.

Faded memories of faith once bold.

 

The ghost of Isaac and Abraham, they knock at my door.

The prophets and saints that went on before.

They said, “If He did it once, then He’ll do it once more.”

Like the judge who couldn’t ignore the knock on the door.

 

When echoes of silence are all that you hear,

When it seems like your prayers, they fall on deaf ears,

And the core of your life is rooted in fears,

Just trust and believe when he tells you He cares.

He’s the same one who says that He bottles your tears.

Loves you so much that He counted your hairs—

On your head.

And even notices that a sparrow drops dead,

For not one of these can fall outside of His care.

Ears fine-tuned.  Your whispers He hears.

His voice so soft—not found in the echoes or blares,

But in the spirits of those He consoles.

Remember Jesus?  His wrist: bloodied with holes.

He feels your pain.  Trust me! He knows.

Yet He overcame death and from ashes He rose.

 

When the echoes of silence are all that you hear,

Your beating heart is proof that He’s near.

 

Copyright 2016 Khadine Alston.  All Rights Reserved.

 

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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 biggest tests of love and loyalty are failure and success.  If we ever wanted to know where our true supporters are, we should either try living successfully or failing miserably.

 

Our lives are probably the most difficult to assess during the status quo—those moments where our daily routines are nothing short of monotonous.  It’s usually when life’s pendulum swings to either side that we typically get a clearer understanding of our lives and our relationships with others.  When times are really great, or really bad, we tend to learn who is really in our corner, or who is simply taking up space.

 

Imagine any one of the following scenarios.  We finally landed a great mate, but instead of being happen, our single friend is secretly resentful.  We got a promotion at work, but our so-called best friend can’t muster up the energy to be happy for us.  We got our heart broken, but the friend with whom we cried with until 3 a.m. in the morning after her break up can’t pretend to be interested long enough to listen to us vent.  Sounds familiar?  The scenarios might not be exactly the same, but they are probably resonating.

 

Nothing reveals an individual’s true feeling towards us more clearly than his or her reactions to us in our moments of need and celebration.  True friends understand that, for the most part, life is typically inconvenient.  Wouldn’t it be great if we all experienced our happiness and sadness simultaneously?  No, not really!  The truth is, our greatest victories might come at the height of someone’s biggest disappointment.  However, that should not be a hindrance for celebration.  Sometimes we have to learn to celebrate others even when our lives are seemingly in shambles.  The opposite is also true.  Sometimes, we have to pause our celebration to embrace someone who is hurting.  Why?  That’s what true friends do.

 

A few years ago, I read a quote by Mya Angelou.  She said, “When people tell you who they are, believe them.”  For many of us who have experienced, what I will call, serial disappointments in our relationships, we have to be honest with ourselves and admit that, oftentimes, the writing is usually on the wall way ahead of time.  Typically, in relationships, most people make incremental revelations of their character throughout the course of a relationship.  Seldom do people “flip the script” and act completely out of character.  If we are truthful with ourselves, we would probably admit that the terminal behavior (the straw that broke the camel’s back) is not a new revelation.  With that being said, we have to admit that being disappointed or betrayed, regardless of the foreshadowing, is hurtful.

 

As hurtful as it might be to lose a friend, we have to learn that not every relationship is meant to go the distance.  There are times in our lives when God is doing a new thing and He has to clean house in order to take us to a new level.  Sometimes, we need to be pruned, and that pruning needs to be done in isolation.  Think about the Biblical story of the Israelites.  When God made them into a great nation, He did so in isolation.  It wasn’t until the Israelites had grown into a great many that the Egyptians took notice.

 

As hard as it is, we should be thankful for the people whom God has allowed to leave our lives.  If they cannot support, embrace or console us, what purpose do they really serve other than taking up space?  The dream that God has place on our hearts is too big to be bogged down with frivolity.  We need people who can be champions with us on our journey towards our purpose.

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!

 

Usually, each year, I begin the year with a series of declarations.  Some may call them resolutions.  This year, I decided to hang my year on John 19:30:

 

“IT IS FINISHED!”

 

In an earlier post, I mentioned that according to Biblical numerology, the number 15 signified “new direction.”  The number two signifies union, division or verification of facts by witnesses. The number 30 represents the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ.

 

Well, 2 X 15 = 30

 

In John 19:30, Jesus sacrificially gave up His life and His Spirit for us.  So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit,” (John 19:30, NKJV).  Jesus sacrificed His life on the cross. His sacrifice was not only witnessed by several others, His sacrifice was the ultimate, new direction. In fact, all prior shifts in directions led to this moment.

 

As 2015 ends, I declare that, It is indeed finished!”  Every dream and promise that God has placed on our hearts have already been answered.  It is finished.  2015 is finished.  In Psalms 27:13, David said, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living,” (NIV).  In 2016, we should expect to see the goodness of the Lord in our lives.  “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think,” (Ephesians 3:20, NLT).

love

Welcome 2016.  Here’s to the “Year of Love!”

 

For some, 2015 was a tumultuous year, perhaps it could even be called a year of many changes.  According to Biblical numerology, the number fifteen is the number of rest.  Some sources say that 15 is also the number of new direction.  Below are some of the Biblical references associated with the number 15:

  • The Great Flood:
    • Genesis 7:7 (the 15th time Noah was mentioned in the Bible)
    • “And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood,” (KJV).
  • Abram first enters Egypt:
    • Genesis 12:14 (the 15th time Abram was mentioned)
    • “And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt…” (KJV).
  • Abraham enters Sodom:
    • Genesis 18:16 (the 15th time Abraham is mentioned)
    • And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way,” (KJV).
  • Eliezar goes to Haran to find a wife for Isaac (the 15th time Isaac is mentioned):
    • Genesis 24:14
    • And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master,” (KJV).
  • Joseph is sold into slavery, which changes the trajectory of his life.
    • Genesis 37:28 (the 15th time Joseph is mentioned)
    • Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt,” (KJV).
  • Naomi sends Ruth in a new direction, which ultimately leads Ruth to Boaz.
    • Ruth 3:1 (the 15th time Naomi is mentioned)
    • “then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee,” (KJV)?

 

Proverbs 20:24 says, “The LORD directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way,” (NLT)?  Similarly, Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps,” (NIV).  How often do we plan our lives in one direction, only to find out that God has other plans?  In order to grow, and to be truly happy, we have to be willing to succumb to God’s will.  Maybe, for many of us, 2015 was the beginning of a new direction.  Maybe, God was stimulating the renewal of our minds.  In 2015, many of us were faced with new circumstances, challenges and opportunities that we could not have predicted.  However, the fact that we are reading this blog, only means that we survived 2015 and are walking into 2016, “The Year of Love!”

 

Sixteen is the number of love.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:16, NIV).  In 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, Paul lists sixteen characteristics of love:

  1. Love is patient.
  2. Love is kind.
  3. Love is not jealous.
  4. Love is not boastful.
  5. Love is not proud.
  6. Love is not rude.
  7. Love does not demand its own way.
  8. Love is not irritable.
  9. Love keeps no record of being wronged.
  10. Love does not rejoice about injustice.
  11. Love rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
  12. Love never gives up.
  13. Love never loses faith.
  14. Love is always hopeful.
  15. Love endures through every circumstance.
  16. Love will last forever!

 

In Genesis 7:9, “There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah. This was the 16th time that Noah was mentioned.

 

Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit,” (NIV).  It was with His words that God created the heavens and the Earth.  It is with our words that we speak life into our situations.  I believe that 2016 will be the “Year of Love.”  This year, marriages will be consummated and reconciled; wayward sons and daughters will return home, and families and friendships will be restored.  I decree and declare this in Jesus’ name.  Amen!

 

 

 

Numerology References cited from The Biblical Meaning of Numbers from One to Forty by Dr. Stephen E. Jones.

Porridge

 

The story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a classic, childhood fairytale.  In summary, Goldilocks stumbles into the house of the three bears.  She sits in their chairs, eats from their bowls of porridge and eventually falls asleep in one of their beds.  When Goldilocks ate from the first bowl of porridge, it was too hot.  The second was too cold, but the final bowl was just right.

 

When we think about the Christmas story, Goldilocks and the Three Bears is probably the last thing that comes to our minds.  Yet, for me, the irony of the correlations between the two stories made me chuckle.  In Luke 1 of the Bible, we read about the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Both were up in age.  Both were descendants of the Aaron the priest.  The Bible said that both were righteous in God’s eyes.   However, in the eyes of man, the were barren and disgraceful, for they were an old, married couple with no children.

 

A few months later, in another town, a young girl named Mary would have a dilemma of her own.  Mary was young, unwedded and pregnant.  According to theologians, at the time of Mary’s pregnancy, she would have been between 12 to 15 years old.  By modern day accounts she was too young.

 

One woman was disqualified because she was too old.  The other was disqualified because she was too young.  The only thing in both of these stories that seemed to be just right was God’s timing.

 

The angel, Gabriel, had informed Zechariah that Elizabeth would give birth to a son.  Six months later, Gabriel gave the same news to Mary.  Two women.  One angel.  Same story.

 

According to ancient prophesy, a Messiah would be born, and he would be preceded by a messenger.   When Gabriel visited Zechariah, Gabriel told Zechariah that Elizabeth would give birth to the messenger, and they should name him John.  Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah, and she should name him Jesus.  Two great women—connected by God’s divine prophesy.

 

When Elizabeth became pregnant she was past child-bearing age.  Some texts hypothesize that Elizabeth was beyond her forties.  Therefore, at the very least, she would have been at least 30 years Mary’s senior.  That becomes a very important fact in God’s divine plan.  God had already preordained Zechariah and Elizabeth to be John the Baptist’s parents.  He has also pre-ordained John the Baptist to be Jesus’ predecessor.  So, here is God’s holy paradox! Had Elizabeth become pregnant in her late teens or early twenties, which would have been customary for women at that time, Mary would not even have been born.  On the contrary, Mary’s youth prevented Elizabeth from being stretched beyond the limits of her faith.  Perhaps, had Mary conceived a few years later, Elizabeth might have lost all hope.  Additionally, Mary would have been married by then, and there would have been no virgin birth.  Two women, one too young and one too old, proved to be just right in God’s plans.

 

1 Corinthians 2:26-29 says, “26Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God,” (NLT).

 

The world may have disqualified you because of your age, race, gender or financial status.  However, God has a plan for you.  His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  Remember, God always has a bigger purpose in mind.

 

Photo credit:

Isaac Andres

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.”