Archives for posts with tag: Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996

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

I had nearly lost my foothold.

3For I envied the arrogant

when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Psalm 73:2-3

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Empty Well

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

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

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

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

The most difficult point in any race is not the starting point or the finish line. It’s the half-point mark. By that point, you’ve gone too far to turn back, yet you have so much further to carry on.

Day 10—the halfway marker.

We are half way through this 21-day challenge, and everything in me wants to quit—to give up. Eleven more days. That seems like a lifetime away.

In our modern-day society we have gotten away from the concept of perseverance. In a culture where everyone is a winner, and even those in last place get second runner up, there is no motivation to press forward. Why should we push on when we could settle for second string?

There is something to be said about winning—about victory. When we quit, there is always the question of “what if.” What if we hadn’t quit? What would have happened had we stayed the course? Thankfully, God is great, and He will still bless us even when we fall short. However, we could only imagine that the blessings on the other side of victory are much sweeter.

A few years ago, I watched a story about Olympic athlete, Derek Redmond, who tore his hamstring muscle during the 1992 Olympic semifinals. The pain that shot through his legs brought him to his knees. As each runner sprinted past him, Derek saw his Olympic dream of a gold metal dissipate into the wind. But all was not lost. Out of nowhere, his father dashed onto the field and assisted him as he hobbled towards the finish line.

Friend, there will be moments during the middle of your race when you feel like giving up. I encourage you not to quit. There will be moments when you have done all that you can do to stand, yet you feel as if you are standing all along. Don’t quit. Proverbs 18:24 says, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” (NIV). Sometimes, you just can’t do it by yourself. If you are in the middle of a race, and you are tempted to quit, call on a friend who can fill in the gap and pray for you. If you have no one to stand with you, ask God to send you an angel. Don’t quit now. You have come too far to turn back now. Fight through the tears. Run through the pain, but whatever you do, don’t quit! You want to be able to say that you finished the race, not that you never crossed the finish line.

Lord, we come before in reverent honesty and thanksgiving for You are the friend that sticks closer than a brother. Lord, we acknowledge that we cannot do it by ourselves. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help,” (NLT). Lord, send us people who can help us to stand when we feel like falling. Lord, give us the strength and the courage to stand. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

I usually don’t post other people’s video, but if you’ve never seen Derek Redmond’s story, grab a tissue and check out Connie Lynne’s YouTube video.

So, here we are on Day 8 of our 21-day challenge. We are a third of the way through. I’m not sure what your first week has looked like.  Maybe there have been some emotional and spiritual ups and downs. Therefore, today, I want us to take a second to pause. So many of us are believing God to do a new thing in our lives. However, we might be neglecting the blessings that He has already given us.  Luke 6:10 says, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities,” (NLT). Today, we should stop and think about ALL the blessings in our life.  We should note whether or not we are being faithful with what God has already blessed us with.  Are we taking care of our blessing by nurturing and developing them, or are we neglecting them?  Are we heeding the instructions God has given us on how to take care of the things that He has already blessed us with? Do we have a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving?  It is important that we give thanks and praises for the things we do have. These are all important questions that we must ask ourselves.  The revelations will allow us to grow and mature as we approach the next season of our life.

Happy meditating!! See you tomorrow!

Today’s prayer:  Lord, we enter into your presence with thanksgiving.  We praise you, and we bless your name.  Thank you for the blessings that we have already received and those we have yet to receive.  Father, fill our day with peace.  Let your love saturate our day as we mediate on you goodness.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen!!

It’s so easy to give up on God, isn’t it?  Why wouldn’t it be?  We can’t see Him.  We can’t hear Him?  We can’t experience Him with our five senses, at least not conventionally.  Having faith requires way more energy than just existing.  The notion of waiting patiently can often feel painstakingly disappointing.  Sometimes, it’s so much easier to say, “Why bother?!”

When most people talk about the pinnacle of faith, they usually cite Abraham.  His faith in God allowed him to be the father of many nations.  However, he almost allowed himself to be talked out of the blessings that God had promised him.

God had promised Abram that he would be the father of many nations.  However, many years had passed, and his wife Sarai was still barren.  Not only was she barren, she was also up in age.  For years, there was no sign of God’s promise.  In Sarai’s desperation, she offered Abram, her husband, to her servant Hagar.  The Bible said that, “Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant,” (Genesis 16:4, NLT).

Now, let’s look at this scenario from a human standpoint.  Unless, Abram was a one-hit wonder, he probably didn’t hit the ball out of the park on the first attempt.  That probably meant that he had multiple encounters with Hagar.  I imagine that in Sarai’s attempt to increase the possibility of conception, she probably chose a young, pretty servant.  In other words, Hagar was probably younger and prettier than Sarai.  Imagine how horrible Sarai must have felt.  Not only was she subject to the feeling of inadequacy, she was now subjected to shame, rejection, humiliation and jealousy.  Additionally, when Hagar found out that she was pregnant, she began to mistreat Sarai, who ultimately became angry and resentful.

There are so many Biblical and cultural implications of the story of Hagar and Abram that we will not get into today.  Let’s fast forward some 13 to 14 years later.  Sarai and Abram whose name were now Sarah and Abraham, respectively, had a son, whom they named Isaac.

Hebrews 12:1-3 says:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up, (NLT).

The Bible illustrated that Abraham struggled with waiting on God (i.e. faith) as we ALL do.  But here is the revelation that I had.  Abraham and Sarah were desperate, but instead of taking their desperation to God, they took their desperation into their own hands and made a huge mess.  Thankfully, God is faithful even when we are not.  He never holds our past against us.  The moment that Abraham took his desperation to God, God refreshed him (Abraham) and reminded him of the promise that He made to him.  Shortly thereafter, Sarah became pregnant.

Here is the other revelation that I had:  Don’t allow others to talk you out of what God has promised you.  Only you know what your conversations with God were.  It’s possible that God’s directives to you might seem ridiculous to others.  It doesn’t matter.  They weren’t meant for them.  They were tailored to you!

I know that there are many people reading these words right now who are on the cusp of giving up on God.  You are desperate.  You are at the point of taking matters into your own hands, which might even include walking away from God.

At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him, “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them! “I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God,” (Genesis 17:3-8, NLT).

I believe that one of the reasons why God changed Abraham’s and Sarah’s names was to remind them that He does ALL things new.  God is the author and the finisher of our faith.  He is the Alpha and the Omega.

At this time, I encourage you to fall on the floor.  Roll around if you have to.  Scream out to God in desperation.  Ask Him to remember the promises that He made to you.  If you can’t think of a specific one, Jeremiah 29:11 is a good place to start.  There, God promised to prosper you and give you hope and a future.  Psalms 27:13 says, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” (KJV).

Today’s prayer:  Lord, we come to you in desperation.  We fall at your feet in reverent humility.  Hear our hearts’ cry.  Do not allow us to take matters into our own hands.  The Bible says that you know us better than we know ourselves.  Meet us at the point where our faith is weak and we can no longer stand.  Lord, Sarai’s and Abram’s desperation set in because they did not see you move.  They became weak waiting on you to move.  Proverbs 13:12 says, Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life,” (NLT).  God, today, our hearts’ cry is that you step in before we take matters into our own hands.  Do not let us become so desperate that we move in our own accord.  Lord, show us your power.  Show us that you are the same God of Abraham–the God who created the Universe in His sovereign power.  Lord, we thank you, and we bless your name.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen!

©2015 Khadine Alston.  All Rights Reserved.  Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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! They are the kind who work their way into people’s homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires. (Such women are forever following new teachings, but they are never able to understand the truth), (2Timothy 2:3-7, NLT).

Those words that Paul spoke to Timothy over 2000 years ago are reflective of our culture today.  Debauchery is so ubiquitous that it makes me wonder what God must be thinking as He looks around at us.  Is He angry with us?  Is He indifferent? Does He care?  How does He feel?

Sometimes, I wonder whether these tumultuous times are signs that the end is near.  As a believer, I guess it shouldn’t matter.

Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape. But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. 10 Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing,” (1Thessolonians 5:1-11, NLT).

In the above passage, God quelled my hunger for answers.  He reminded me that in a world of darkness, we need only worry about being a light.  Yes, one person, one prayer, can make a difference.  God just needs one obedient heart.  In Genesis, God would have saved the entire city of Sodom had Abraham been able to find at least five righteous people, (Genesis 18:16-33).

20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. 23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, (Romans 4:20-24, NLT)

Yes, one is not too small a number for greatness.  John the Baptist was also a lone voice in the wilderness, yet God used him for greatness.  Here is the secret.  As Christians, we are never really one.  We are one plus God, which equals greatness.  When we call upon the name of the Lord, we are never acting in our own strength.  We have to remind ourselves that regardless of what we see going on around us, CHRIST is greater than it all.  The name of Christ Jesus is above all other names.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, (Philippians 2:9-11, NLT).

Lord, as we press into you over the next few days, please hear our battle cry. We will shout the names of Jesus as we walked around our spiritual walls of Jericho. Jesus!! We ask that you step into the dark places and rescue the captives. Jesus!!!! We ask that you shed your light on the darkness. Jesus!!! Jesus!!! Jesus!!!! Jesus!!! Jesus!!! Jesus!!!! Jesus!!!!!

Today’s Prayer: Lord, there is so much sadness on the news and in the world around us. However, we know that you are greater than any forces of darkness. You are greater than hate. You are greater than fear. You are greater than ANY and ALL principalities. Lord, release your Spirit on our lives and on your world. We pray for a revival. Let the people of this world know that you are God. God we ask that you reveal yourself. Do not be silent Lord! Remind a generation of the God of their ancestors. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

The Internet has revolutionized the world by allowing, for the most part, a free exchange of thoughts and ideas.  Information on the Web is instantaneous.  Long gone are the days when news took days, weeks or even years, to travel from one side of the world to the other.  Social media has also influenced our culture by encouraging the liberty of free speech.  However, the impact of social media has not always been positive. Oftentimes, it allows ill-spirited people to spew hatred from behind the protective shield of a computer screen and from behind the anonymity of a screenname.

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about King David.  In fact, I’m always thinking about King David.  He’s one of my favorite people in the Bible.  I love his naked transparency.  He was perfectly imperfect, if such a thing exists.  God loved him too, so much so that the Bible labeled him the apple of God’s eyes.  The stories of David teach us that even though God loves us and always forgives us, there are times when He holds us accountable for our actions.  In 1 Chronicles 21, David sinned against God.  He did something that God instructed him not to do.  As a result, God held him accountable.

God was very displeased with the census, and he punished Israel for it. Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt for doing this foolish thing.” Then the Lord spoke to Gad, David’s seer. This was the message: 10 “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will inflict it on you.’” 11 So Gad came to David and said, “These are the choices the Lord has given you. 12 You may choose three years of famine, three months of destruction by the sword of your enemies, or three days of severe plague as the angel of the Lord brings devastation throughout the land of Israel. Decide what answer I should give the Lord who sent me.” 13 “I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great. Do not let me fall into human hands,” (1 Chronicles 21:7-21).

David’s response to God’s three choices has been something that I have held on to in my life.  David said that he would rather fall into the hands of God that into the hands of men.  Oh, how true!  As I read many of the pop culture news stories, I often ask myself the question, “How long should we be made to pay for our past mistakes?”  God said that we are new creatures in Christ, (2 Corinthians 5:17).  So often, people want to define us by our past.  So often, people want us to carry the scarlet letter of sin to the grave.  They want us to walk with our heads hung low for things we have done in our past.  I would rather fall into the hands of God than into the hands of man.  God makes all things new (Revelation 21:5).  Just as any good parent would, there are times when God does punish us for our sins.  However, the punishment is finite.  There IS an end.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us,  nor remain angry forever. 10 He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. 11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. 12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. (Psalms 103: 8-12, NLT).

The heart of men tends to incline toward eternal condemnation.  Thank God, there is freedom in Christ Jesus.  We are not defined by our past.  We are not who we were.  Christ allows us the freedom to reinvent ourselves yearly, monthly, daily and even secondly.  In one minute, we could be the devil reincarnate and in the other, we could be ambassadors for Christ.  This is the freedom found in the blood of Christ.  Man does not define us.  They cannot.  Man cannot define what he did not create.

As we lean into God today, I want to remind you that you are not who you were yesterday.  During the next few weeks of this challenge, consider taking a break from social media.  Unfortunately, today, so much of who we think we are is tied up in other people’s opinions and validation, or lack thereof.  We need to reset our standards.  Over the next few weeks, learn who God says you are.  Learn who He created you to be.  Remember, when God created man, He created him in His own image.  When He was finished, He said, “This is good,” (Genesis 1:27-31).  God did not say, “Wow, this is bad.  Back to the drawing board.”  He said, “This is good!”  Therefore, He intended for us to see ourselves as such.  We are His masterpiece, (Ephesians 2:10).

Today’s prayer:  Lord, remind us who we are.  Never allow us to fall into the hands of man.  Lord, we know that when you punish us, your judgment is swift and fair.  Lord, allow us to learn who we are in you.  Remind us that Christ has made all things new.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen!

Guarded Heart

Today’s message is to guard your heart.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it,” (NIV). As we step into God’s presence over these next few days, I challenge you to guard your heart. According to dictionary.com, to guard means to keep safe from harm or danger. Therefore, to guard our hearts means to keep it safe from harm or danger.

Why on earth would we need to keep our hearts safe?

The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy, (John 10:10). The devil isn’t trying to destroy us per se. He is trying to destroy the thing that God loves most, which is us. To the devil, we are simply a causality of war. Fortunately, we serve a God that so values His creations that He ensures that we are always heavily guarded and heavily protected by the impenetrable forces of heaven’s army. The devil can never launch a secret attack while we are encamped on heaven’s base. The only way that the devil can attack us is by luring us from under God’s artillery.  The only way he can do so is by separating us from the word of God. Now, I feel the need to make this disclaimer. The Bible says that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). We live in a fallen world, and bad things happen to good people and vice versa. The presence of atrocities in our lives is not always directly correlated with our deeds. I digress.

Again, I ask the question: Why should we guard our hearts? Simple! It’s where God hid His Word, and I could not think of a better hiding place.

33 “’But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,’ says the Lord. ‘I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people,’” (Jeremiah 31:33, NLT).

Think about this. Ephesians 3:17 says, “Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong,” (NLT). So, if God has written the word on our hearts, and Christ will make a home in our hearts if we let Him, then as long as we let Christ in, the Word is guarded, and it will begin to grow roots into our heart. Unfortunately, the devil is constantly trying to separate us from God by trying to steal and corrupt the Word in our hearts.

Guarding our hearts sometimes means not entertaining “debates” about religion. “Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are,” (Proverbs 26:4, NLT). Entertaining misguided religious philosophies could corrupt our thinking, and subsequently derail our relationship with Christ. Before we began our walk with Christ, God met us where we were. Sometimes, we just have to allow God to meet others where they are. We don’t have to convict everyone. The same way God convicted us, He will convict others as well.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend,” (NLT). As we progress towards our God-given destinies, it is important that we surround ourselves with people who bring out the best in us as they challenges us to grow. God has planted His seed in each of our hearts, and we have to be careful how we allow it to be stolen or how we give it away.   If there are relationships that are hindrances to our growth, we might need to sever them to best guard our hearts. “If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away,” (Matthew 5:30, NIV). Sometimes, in our misguided attempt to help others, we end up repeating lessons that we should have already received!

Today’s Prayer: Lord, help us to guard our hearts as we focus on you. Soften our hearts so that the seeds that you have planted will always remain on fertile ground! Help us to love you, ourselves and your people as you have commanded. Keep us free from temptation. Help us to forgive other so that you can forgive us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

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

Oftentimes, we forget just how much power our spoken declarations have over our lives. Recently, I read a story about an athlete who, as a child, told his mother, who had been affected by breast cancer at the time, that he would purchase a pink Cadillac with pink rims for her when he “grew up.” Years later, he was able to fulfill that promise. A few years prior to that story, I heard about a famous actress who, as a child, had promised to buy her mom a diamond ring when she became rich and famous. She too was able to fulfill her childhood promise to her mother. I doubt that as children either of those two individuals knew that they were “prophesying” over their lives. Impregnated in that young girl’s promise to her mother was the declaration that she was going to become a famous actress. The reflection of those two stories made me think of my own life. There have been times where I too have spoken in “jest,” and my “declarations” have come to fruition.

Today, I want to challenge all of us to prophesy over our lives. We need to go back to the days of our childlike faith—a time where we thought any and everything was possible. We need to speak over our lives and declare and proclaim our futures.  We need to live in bold faith like Abraham did.

16 So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. 17 That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.”This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.

18 Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” 19 And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.

20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. 23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God, (Roman 4:16-20, NLT).

One of the signs that we are getting older is that we are no longer as cool as we think we are.  Nothing reminds us of that more that working with teenagers.

During the past few months, I have been volunteering with a group of youngster who remind me that my limited arsenal of “slang” words might no longer be cool.  With that said, I am going to resuscitate my 1990’s colloquial vernacular.  The title of today’s blog is, “I Am No Spiritual Punk.”  In the 90s, a punk was someone who would be considered a softie.  It was someone who shied away from conflict because of fear.  A punk could also be defined as a coward—someone who would be determined to be weaker  (spiritually, physically and/or mentally) than the average person.   Once someone was labeled a punk, they would most likely be subjected to conflict and possibly bullying.  Why do I say all of this?  As Christians, if we are not careful, the world could view us as “spiritual punks,” therefore, subjecting us to bullying and unnecessary conflict.

Let’s go off on a tangent.  Isn’t it easy to look out into the world and marvel at all the wonderful things that are happening to everyone else?  It is so easy to challenge God and ask, “Why not me?”  At first glance, the Christian life could be seen as a life riddled with failure and hardship.  Even many Christians have perpetuated the negative image of Christian life by inappropriate referencing Scriptures such as, “take up your cross daily, and follow me,” (Luke 9:23) along with many other Scriptures that when cited incorrectly and exclusively paint a hopeless Christian existence.  While Jesus did make it clear that the Christian life would be no bed of roses, the Bible also does depict a clear picture of hope, joy and prosperity.  Unfortunately, pastors who preach messages of hope such as the promise found in Proverbs 10:22 (The blessings of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it, NIV) are often stereotyped as prosperity pastors, and their messages are frequently erroneous titled as motivational speaking.

Where am I going with all of this?  My point is, the world, including some Christians, is waiting to see whether God is going to show up as the Bible promises He would and like many of us Christians are believing that He would.  Many are waiting to see whether Christians are going to “punk” out before the watching world in the face of disappointment.  In response to that, my question is this: Are we as Christians going to put up our “spiritual dukes” and show the world that despite our perceived setbacks and/or shortcomings, our God is greater?  Are we going to live a life that exemplifies that greater is He who is in us than he that is in the world?  The truth is, it is NOT our reputation that is on the line.  It’s God’s.  If everything that we do is supposed to give glory and honor to God, then when we cry out to Him in faithful obedience, He MUST show up.  A non-responsive God depicts a powerless, unfaithful, dishonoring, uncaring and dishonest God. However, as Christians, we have to believe that is not the case. We have to know that if God is not a man that He should not lie (Numbers 23:19), then we must also know that His very nature dictates that He MUST fulfill His promises.  Psalms 31:19 says, “Your goodness is so great! You have stored up great blessings for those who honor you. You have done so much for those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world,” (NLT).  As Christians, we have to stop behaving as though our blessings are from man, because, they are not.  Oftentimes, we fear man more than we fear our Creator.  We, as Christians, have to get into a place in our Spirit where we know that our blessings and promotions come from God ALONE.  Man does not have the ability to fire us, hire us, promote us, increase us, or define us.  We have to get out of that “Spiritual Punk” mentality and embrace the fact that we are heirs of the throne of God.  As heirs, we are entitled to our Father’s blessing and we should know that what God has blessed, no man can curse!