Archives for posts with tag: Grace

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!

 

 

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!

Empty Well

It is so important for us to read the bible in context.  So often, we memorize key verses and phrases, and neglect to see the bigger picture.  This morning, as I thought about this blog on empty wells, Galatians 6:2 came to mind: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” (NIV).  But as I meditated on the verse, I realized that it was the second verse of the chapter.  What did the previous verse say?  In fact, the previous verse served as a cautionary statement.  It said: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted,” (NIV).  The New Life Version reads, “You who are stronger Christians should lead that one back into the right way. Do not be proud as you do it. Watch yourself, because you may be tempted also.”  Firstly, the verse calls for the “stronger Christians” to lead his brother/sister back into the right way.  Secondly, it cautions the “leading” individuals to refrain from becoming proud and to be careful of falling into the same trap.  The truth is, we all have areas where we are strong and areas where we falter.  Moreover, these areas may vary by season and/or circumstances.  It is important for us to understand that while God has called us to bear one another’s burdens, there is only one Savior.  We were not designed to save everyone.  In fact, if we do not continue to replenish our wells, then we run the risk of running emotionally and spiritually dry.

If you are consistently playing the role of the go-to person in your relationships, there will come a point where your well will run dry.  If you incessantly pour out and do not replenish your reserve, you will bottom out.  This could have multiple physical, mental and spiritual ramifications.  Below are a few things that I have found helpful during some of my darkest moments.

  1. Be kind to yourself
    1. Know that some days you will fly, and some days you will fall. Some people will think you are the greatest, and some will think that you are the worse.  However, neither one of these things define who you are.  Only God defines you.  He made you, and He knows who He has called you to be.  No one else has that authority, including you!
  1. Keep inventory of your “well” reserve
    1. Most credit counselors advise against credit card use. Why?  With credit card usage, there is a tendency to spend more than we have.  Debit card are just as bad.  I would venture to say that most people are not balancing their account ledger after each swipe of their card.  It’s no wonder the banking industry makes so much money on overdraft fees.  The same is true of our emotional bank account.  If we are not keeping an accurate account of our balance, there will be a tendency to over extend and/or over commit.  If we don’t keep accurate accounting, we will spend more than we have to give.  This brings me to Item #3.
  1. Learn to say “No!”
    1. Saying “no” is way more than simply refusing a request. Sometimes saying “no” could mean declining to answer an email, a text or a missed called.  For some, this is the biggest step towards establishing healthy boundaries in relationships.
  1. Keep inventory of those who are making deposits and withdrawal into and away from your wells
    1. Relationships are seldom equal. However, our relationships must be mutually beneficial.  In other words, we will have relationships where one person brings more to the table than the other.  The important thing for us to remember is that we should maintain a healthy balance of the different types of relationships in our lives.  Again, if we are always giving more than we are receiving, then our relationships are out of sync, which will eventually lead to a dry well.
  1. Take note during your hour of darkness.
    1. Who are the ones calling solely to check on you—not to gossip, not to vent, but simply to check on your well being?  Oftentimes, when you tend to be the strong one in your relationships, people erroneously think that you don’t have problems or that your problems are secondary to theirs.  Please understand that is an unfair and unrealistic expectation.  The people in your life must be able to acknowledge that you too are human, and as such, you too have your cross to bear.
  1. Know that you cannot be everything to anyone person.
    1. I recently had a conversation with a friend who said to me that in relationships, we meet our needs by drawing from the many wells in our lives. Whenever, we start to draw predominantly from one well, we put that other person in an unfair position, which is too much pressure to place on any one person.

Now, after having said all that, I will say this:  When we are weak, God will make us strong.  There are times when God will push us beyond what we thought we could do or where we thought we could go.  However, the problem in many of our lives is that we fail to ask Him for His counsel, and we busy ourselves with things, people and tasks that He never commissioned us to take on.  Sometimes, God is doing a work in our lives and He is doing work in others’ lives as well.  My final parting note is that we should seek God in all that we do, and He will give us the guidance that we so desire.

I have a question for all you Sunday School buffs.  What was the sin that got Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden of Eden?  Now that the Jeopardy music has stopped playing, what is your final answer.   Ding! Ding! Ding!  If you said, “Eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” you won the grand prize.

This afternoon, I was in the middle of writing and entirely different blog when God struck me with the following profound revelation.

  1. Our quest for knowledge is great, as long as it doesn’t come at the price of faith.
    1. The story of Adam and Eve is so complex, and it has so many spiritual implications and interpretations, but here is what God laid on my heart today. In the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam dominion over the land.  The entire land was his to explore.  However, Adam was not satisfied in gradually exploring the kingdom.  He wanted instant gratification—instant knowledge.  Learning the lay of the land would take too long.  Eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil would give him an instant upload of information.  Isn’t that true of you and I.  Rather than simply letting each day play out and taking life day by day, we attempt to skip to the last chapter of our lives, hoping to get a sneak preview.  How many of us have been given Gardens to explore, but continue to fall because of our multiple attempt to eat from our individual Trees of Knowledge of Good and Evil?
  1. Knowledge if left unchecked could become an adversary of faith.
    1. If we knew everything, why on Earth would we need God? There comes a point in our pursuit of knowledge where we have to curb our enthusiasm.  As most scientists know, the deeper we delve into knowledge, the more we realize just how much we do not know—just how inexplicable the universe is.   In fact, many scientists have gone mad trying to find answers for things for which there are no known explanation.  At some point, science will take us to a terminal end—an “x-factor”—an unknown.
  1. If knew everything, then we would become God’s equal. When we equate ourselves with God, we automatically become prideful.
    1. Who would have thought that just wanting to know whether God is going to move in our live could lead to pride? It can, and it does if we are not careful.  Here is why:

Lack of Faith =                                          Doubting God

Doubting God =                                         Doing life by our own will (no need for God)

Doing Life by our own will =                       Pride

Pride =                                                       Lack of Faith.

When we lack faith, what we are essentially saying is that there is no need for God—we are our own God.

The good new is, God is faithful when we are not.  He knows that our hearts are adulterous, yet He loves us nonetheless.  Ephesians 2:8 states that, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God,” (NLT).  I believe that God gives us revelation, not to condemn us, but to allow us to live a life full of His grace.  If nothing else, our revelations remind us that there is no way that we could ever live up to any standard of perfection.  We are only made righteous through the blood of Jesus Christ.  I hope this this post blessed you.  Be blessed until we meet again.

Have you ever looked around and saw all the world’s travesties and wondered, “Where is God?” Have you ever felt weighted by the burdens of your own life and questioned whether God exists or whether He cares for you? Well, if you answered “no” to either or both of these questions, then this post is not for you.

A few weeks ago, I was watching an episode of a popular cable talk show. The host quoted a statistic stating that the rates of those who identified themselves as Christians were declining. The numbers were particularly low among Millennials. As I was wondering why such was the case, God laid Joshua 24:31 and Judges 2:6-12 on my heart.

“The people of Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him–those who had personally experienced all that the LORD had done for Israel,” (Joshua 24:31, NLT).

After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel. Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. 10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger, (Judges 2:6-12).

Get this! The passages say that the people didn’t turn from God until after Joshua and those under his leadership had died—those who had personally experienced what God had done for Israel. I read this the other day, and it stopped me in my tracks. Notice what the passages were saying. The younger generation did not believe nor worship God because they neither saw nor heard of His goodness. Much like today. Many of our youth have never seen nor heard of the goodness of God from their predecessors. We can’t talk about God at work. We can’t talk about Him at school. We can’t talk about Him in government. So, we just stop talking about Him. Many of us who have seen the goodness of God have become conditioned to being quiet. As a result, we are raising a generation that does not know the God of Israel and are worshiping the gods of the people around them. I wonder how many time when we ask the question, “Where is God,” we miss seeing Him because we don’t recognize what He looks like. Are we so wrapped up in our circumstances that we are not telling the younger generation the miracles that we have seen and experienced? I know that I have been guilty of doing so in my life. There have been so many good things that have happened in my life that I have kept to myself. How could people truly know my God if they cannot see Him working in my life?

Here is the simple truth: Life IS challenging. Sometimes the road before us is toilsome and difficult. But in life we only get two choices: Roll over and play dead or dig our heels in and press forward. We must remember that God hears and answers our prayers—ALL OF THEM. What many of us fail to realize is that when we moan and worry, that too is a form of prayer, and God WILL answer those prayers.

26 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 27 “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. 28 So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: 29 In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30 Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. 31 As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. 32 But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’ 35 I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die, (Numbers 14:26-35, NIV).

Thank God, that by grace, each day, we are new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and that God is faithful even when we are not (2 Timothy 2:13). With that said, we must still remember that Proverbs 18:21 says that the power of life and death lies in the tongue. Day after day, the Israelites complained and declared that God would not promote them. So, finally, He answer their prayers, and many of them died before seeing the promises that God had in store for them.

Lord, I know that there are people reading this devotional today who are hurting. Right now, it might feel as though they are barely putting one foot in front of the other to keep going. They might just be going through the motions. They might even feel as though you have forgotten about them. Lord, I pray that you touch them in the ways that only you can. Remind them that you are faithful and that you have a plan for their lives. Heal them, Lord. Restore them. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

I am a part of the hip-hop generation. One of the things I love about the music is that there is always a call (of sorts) to action: “Where my girls at,” “Where my dogs at,” or “Where my people at.” Today my question is: Where my Christians at? Say what? Where my Christians at?

This topic has been brewing inside me for quite some time. So, if you are faint of heart, judgmental or easily offended, I suggest that you stop reading now, because I’m about to go in!

Our world is in turmoil. We are definitely living out prophesy. According to 2 Timothy 3: 1-5:

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

This description written over 2000 years ago is an accurate depiction of the state of affairs of our current world. Today, men ARE lover of themselves. In some circles, “cash rules everything around me” (Wu-Tang Clan reference for all my hip-hop heads). Bottom-lines and bottom-dollars usurp integrity and honesty. The concept of more never seems to be enough. Our insatiable appetites for acquisitions have bred a new form of greed where people are willing to do just about anything to acquire more “stuff.” As I watch the world around me, I feel as if our world is on the cusp of moral bankruptcy. The moral fabric of our culture has waned. Our word is no longer bond. “Yeses” are not “yeses,” and “nos” are not “nos.”   Heaven forbid that we watch the evening news. There are more stories about misgivings and misdoings than there are stories of altruism. Sometimes, when I walk outside the sanctity of my home, I feel as though I am a sole voice in the wilderness, like I am surrounded by a bandit of vultures waiting for me to stumble and fall so that they can ravish my carcass. My heart cries in the face of the world’s travesties. I know that I can’t be the only one whose heart is aching. Where my Christians at?

This is a call to action! Where are the lights and the salts of the Earth? Praying and quivering in the corner is NOT where God meant us to be. There is a place for prayer, but God also urged us to action.

Where my Christians at? God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind. In the face of trials and adversity, we should take heart because God has overcome the world. For far too long we have allowed the tail to wag the dog. We are head and not the tail. We are above and not beneath. We are leader and not followers.

Where my Christians at? Many of us are “scrimmaging” for change rather than mining for gold. We are too concerned with rocking the boat than we are walking on water. We have become absolute relativists. “To each his own” has become the mantra of a generation. Newsflash, some things are just WRONG, point blank.

Where my Christians at? We are too busy conforming to the world. We’d rather be tolerated than offended. We’d rather blend in than stand out. Guess what? Jesus stood out. He comforted the afflicted. He confronted injustice. He took a stand for His generation and the generations to come. What are you standing for?

I have no inalienable right to question the things that I do not understand, for even among the best minds, comprehension is finite. Moreover, challenging the universe has led great men to even greater madness. The world around us is terribly complex and complicated. One of the hardest things to comprehend is human wickedness. Evil is ubiquitous. The seed of deception is often veiled by the garb of statues, religion, customs and institutionalized policies. Buried deep within all of us is the ability to delve deep into the clutches of wickedness. The pride inside me wants to say that some of us are closer to darkness’ grasp than others. The truth is, all of us have the potential for grave depravity. We all have catalyst(s) that could potentiate our fury. With that said, I guess it’s good that God offers salvation, even to the worse of us.

The carnal part of my mind (and my heart) doesn’t believe that heaven should be afforded to everyone, especially those who have committed heinous crimes against humans and humanity. My mortal nature would like to see those individuals “pay” and “suffer” for their misdeeds.

A few moments ago, I watched a movie on one of America’s greatest atrocities—slavery. My heart ached at the thought of the tragedies afflicted upon my ancestors. What was even worse was that many of those slave masters/owners were Bible toting proclaimers of the faith. They raped! They stole! They killed the spirits of a generation. Some of them used the name of God to do it. As I continued to watch the movie, a horrifying thought came across my mind. Their evil actions do not necessarily disqualify them from receiving salvation. Wow, there goes that five-letter “G” word again. Grace. In that moment, I realized that grace is bigger than me. It’s bigger than my feeble mind can comprehend. Here is what I learned: I might not know why God does the things that He does. I might not even agree with them. However, one thing I do know is that it would take a lot to disqualify me from the love of God. That’s huge. That’s bigger than everything. Again, the pride inside of me wants to say that I could never be as wicked as some of those other people. I don’t need all that grace. The truth is, grace is the best insurance policy ever created. The aggregate policy limit is greater than any debt we could ever incur.

Sometimes, it is hard to see God beyond the people who profess His name. In a culture where people try to politicize and “demonify” God, it’s hard to extract Him from religion. But when we do, we realize just how merciful God is. He is impartial. If He could forgive the unforgiveable, imagine what He could do for you!

Have you ever noticed how some people always seem to have an opinion that is far from encouraging?  Not only are these people opinionated, they are seldom shy about expressing their views.  Well today, I want to express some views of my own, and I hope they encourage you.  So here goes:

Today, I want you to know that God is NOT mad at you.  In your life, so many people will try to lead you to believe that your misfortunes are directly correlated to your disloyalty to God.

Before I move any further, let’s just get one thing straight, none of us are faithful to God.  We are all adulterous people.  The good news is that we are saved by Jesus’ righteousness, not our “good deeds.” Just know that if God was in the business of punishing us based on our actions, we would all be goners.  Thank God for grace.  However, with that said, know that we can be within God’s will and still face turmoil.  Doubt it?  Look at Job.  He was right smack in the will of God, yet he faced the fight of his life.

I don’t know where you are right now.  Maybe you made some bad decisions along the way.  Maybe you haven’t.  The truth is, it doesn’t matter.  Thankfully, God has never been a God that dwelled in the past.  He has always existed in the present.  The current condition of our heart is all that matters.  God will guide us through the rest.

In order to be encouraged, we need to know that there will always be people who judge us and say that our circumstances are due to our lack of faith, prayer, or action.  Know that their opinions are irrelevant.  God is the only one who truly knows our heart, and only He can judge.

Maybe, we are exactly where He wants us.  Maybe God is using our trials, not a punishment, but to develop our character and better prepare us for our future blessings.  Job’s friend had erroneously thought that his adversities were the result of dishonoring God.  They couldn’t have been more wrong.  Maybe our friends are wrong about us too.

When it comes to life, there are no experts.  The “expertise” of man can only take us so far.  The problem is, even the most scholastic theologians have based some of their theories on hypotheses and suppositions.  At some point, each and every one of us will have to embrace our Spirit and the Word of God in order to determine our right course of action.  The closer we get to God, the more we will be convicted about whether or not our actions are in line with His will.  The take home message is this: Don’t let others cast doubt into your relationship and your walk with God.  Find out who He is and who you are in Him so that you will be better equipped to ward off the attacks and commentaries of the enemy.

Have you ever felt like God has left you hanging?  C’mon, tell the truth! Never?  Let me ask it a different way.  Have you ever experienced a time when you know within your heart that God has instructed you to do something specific, yet when you did what you thought He told you to do, the results were not what you expected?  In fact, not only were the results not what you expected, they seemed to cause you more shame and heartbreak than happiness and reward.  Still can’t relate?  What about one of the following examples:

  1. Have you ever followed God’s instruction to quit your job with the intention of starting a new business only find yourself unemployed with no business?
  2. Have you ever pursued a relationship on God’s instruction only to be rejected and humiliated?
  3. Have you ever moved to a new state (or country) on God’s command only to experience the worse loneliness you have ever experienced?
  4. Have you ever made yourself vulnerable only to be scoffed at?

If you have ever experienced any of the following, know that you are not alone.  You are probably thinking, “Great! So, now what?”  The pious thing to say would be, “Trust God and everything will work itself out.”  While this is true, it’s not always easy. 

Sometimes, pursuing what we believe to be the voice of God could lead to humiliation, exhaustion, disappointment and doubt.  Remember Joseph?  He told his family that God had revealed to him in a dream that he was going to be a great leader. Imagine how embarrassed he must have felt when he sat in jail, falsely accused of rape.  How many times did he question himself?  How many times did he question God?  How many times did he ask whether he had heard God correctly?  What about you?  You have testified to others about God’s greatness, but you have yet to see the fruit of your labor (or belief/obedience).  The business that you know that God told you to build is under water.  You poured everything you had into it.  The relationship that you thought would prosper is nonexistent or failing.  Your enemies are secretly (or publicly) triumphing over your failures.  You are exhausted.  What do you do?  You are beginning to wonder whether you heard God correctly.  You are beginning to wonder whether you would ever get it right.   How could you be so wrong?  The pain is overwhelming.  So what do you do?

The first thing I want you to do is put on your seatbelt.  What I am going to tell you will probably give you spiritual whiplash.

What might seem to us like a spiritual goose chase could actually be a divine appointment.  Know that it is not a bad thing to return to God empty-handed after you have pursued His directives.  Here’s why.  When God sent you out, He sent you out armed with a promise.  However, a promise is just the beginning of the story.  In order for the entire story to be assembled, you will need additional directive from God.  So you go off with the promise.  You have to plant the promise at your destination because you will need to return to God for further directions, and you cannot return with the promise.  Why?  The Bible says that His Word cannot return to him void.  Are you excited yet?  This is the point where most of us miss the mark.  We go back to God and quarrel with Him about being empty-handed.  However, we should be celebrating.  Instead of accusing God of disappointing us, we should be asking him how to water the seed we just planted in the place He just sent us. 

This revelation should excite us.  It might not stop the pain and the sadness, but it will give us some insight into who God is.  In Psalm 37:25, David said, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread,” (NIV).  According to David, the apple of God’s eyes, God will never forsake us.  If we delight in God, he will give us our heart’s desires (Psalm 37:4).  We should know that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and our ways are not His ways (Isaiah 55:8).  Sometimes, we might have to water His planted promises for a while.  However, once they are planted THEY cannot return to Him void.  Take heart tonight and know that God will never take us somewhere that His grace would not sustain us.