Archives for posts with tag: Jesus

When we think about relationships, what are some of the core values that many of us desire/crave?

  • Love
  • Trust
  • Honesty
  • Intimacy
  • Respect
  • Honor
  • Loyalty

Although the above-mentioned list might not be all-inclusive, it’s a good foundational core.  Not many of us would renounces any of those virtues.  This bring me to today’s discussion: Our relationship with God.

Is our relationship with God based simply on blind faith, or is it, or should it be, something more?  In other words, should we just trust God wholeheartedly and NEVER ask any questions? Today, I will explore what those question means to me.  Sidebar: If you have followed my blog for any period of time, you probably have noticed that I typically resist groupthink and encourage individual critical thinking.  In providing my answers, I do not claim to be a Biblical scholar, but more of a Socratic pupil.  So, with that being said, here are my thoughts.

If God wanted our relationship with Him to be solely linear, where we simply did as we are instructed, then there would be no need for free will.  In essence, God would have made us robots, but He didn’t. He made us reasoning beings.

Before I delve further into my thought about what a relationship with God should look like, I will begin by asking a more immediate question: How do we know that God wants a relationship with us?  We’ve heard pastors and religious orators say so, but is that assertion true? For the answer to that question, we have to look at how the Bible describes God.  Oftentimes, when the Bible references God, He is described by relational terms such as father, friend, husband and provider.  One example of God as a father is found in Acts 17:23-28.

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring,’(Acts 17:23-28, NIV).

So, what should our relationship with God look like?  I believe that our relationship with God should model our ideal, human relationships.

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen, (1 John 4:20, NIV).

My interpretation of this verse is that it is impossible to love God in a manner that is different from how we love each other. Therefore, if we acknowledge that our human relationships should be comprised of reverence, love, trust, honesty, intimacy, respect, honor and loyalty, then so should our relationship with God.  Additionally, healthy human relationships require reciprocity.  As such, our relationship with God should have the same expectations of reciprocity.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything you made,
putting all things under their authority—
the flocks and the herds
and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims the ocean currents.

Psalm 8:3-8, NLT

In my life, I have faced my fair share of adversities.  Oftentimes, people have told me that it is not my place to question God’s sovereignty.  I wholeheartedly, and respectfully, disagree.  If God and I are in relationship, then by definition, I have every right to ask him the questions that matter to me, and, by definition of our relationship, he is obligated to answer me.  When Job questioned God, God did not ignore him.  He simply explained to Job that the answers to his questions were beyond his comprehension.

I believe that many of us do not get the answers to many of our questions because we are fearful to approach God for answers for fear of being viewed as irreverent.  I do not believe that the God we serve will smite us for simply seeking answers to issues and concerns that are important to us.  In fact, Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come,” (NLT).

Relationships are built on trust.  Faith is developed when trust is cultivated. We cannot have faith without trust. Therefore, we have to first trust God before we can have faith in Him.  In other words, we have to believe that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He said He would do.  When we begin to trust God, we will develop our relationship with Him, and we will, in turn, have faith in His character and His word.

As we begin to trust God (and he begins to trust us), we will learn that there are some secrets that God will keep close to His chest (for reasons only He knows).  However, there are some secrets that He will reveal to us, but the answer will require pursuance of our relationship with Him. Additionally, as our relationship with God matures, we will begin to trust and be comforted by the sovereignty of His “yes,” “no” and “not now.”

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Who’d have thought it’d come to this:

Tales of broken hearts, disappointments and unchecked lists.

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

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

 

With hope renewed like the dew of a morning mist,

The forces of pain we did resist,

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

 

Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?”

And the Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you,” (1Samuel 30:8, NLT).

 

Have you every felt like you’ve done everything right, but you still can’t catch a break?  You’ve lived and played by the rules only to conclude that maybe nice guys do finish last.  Well, you are not alone.  In 1 Samuel 29, David wanted to fight alongside King Achish, but the Philistine commanders rejected David and his army.  The Philistine commanders feared that David and his army would eventually betray them.  Ultimately, King Achish gave in to the Philistine commanders’ demands to part ways with David.  King Achish admitted that even though David had been loyal, and had done nothing wrong, he would yield to the request of the Philistine commanders.  As such, King Achish ordered David to leave their territory.

Imagine how rejected and disappointed David must have felt.  To add insult to injury, when David and his men returned home three days later, they found that their town had been raided and destroyed by the Amalekites who also made off with their families and belongings.  The Bible says that when David and his men saw what had happened, “they wept until they could weep no more,” (1 Samuel 30, NLT).   As a result, David’s men plotted to stone him.  What a week?  Sounds familiar?

 

David had every reason to give up.  His mentor abandoned him.  He lost his family and everything he had, and he was about to lose his life.  Fortunately, the Bible said, “David found strength in the Lord his God,” (v.8).

There will be a time, in your darkest moments, when God is all you have left.  There will come a time when those who once supported you have now abandoned you; the friends you used to have, are no longer championing in your corner; and the enemy has stolen everything from you.  What will you do then?  What did David do?

 

Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?”

And the Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you,” (1 Samuel 30:8, NLT)!

 

  1. Identify your raiders.
  2. Identify what they have stolen from you.
  3. Ask God whether you should go after them.
    1. If the answer is yes, then, the next question is: How and when?

 

Two key points to remember:

  1. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me,” (Psalm 118:6, NIV).
  2. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds,” (2 Corinthians 10:4, NIV).

 

Sometimes, God wants us to physically go after our enemies.  However, sometimes, he wants us to wield the weapon of prayer and/or fasting.

 

The Bible says that, “David got back everything the Amalekites had taken, and he rescued his two wives. Nothing was missing: small or great, son or daughter, nor anything else that had been taken. David brought everything back. He also recovered all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock. ‘This plunder belongs to David!’ they said,” (1 Samuel 30:18-20, NIV).

Tonight, after you have wept and gotten it all out, go to God in prayer.  Identify your plunder.  Ask God whether you should go after the raiders.  If they answer is yes, then begin to circle your circumstances in prayer, and ask God about the “how.”  Place your confidence in God, and know that God is not a respecter of persons.  If He did it for David, He will do it for you.  Know that everything that was stolen from you will be retrieved untarnished, unharmed and unscathed.  In Jesus name!

The video below that I posted is a must see.  I viewed it earlier on YouTube, and it brought tears to my eyes.  It reminded me so much of the passage found in Matthew 7:11:

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him,” (NIV)!

The video captures the young boy’s disheartenment at the thought that his father had forgotten his birthday.  He was devastated.  Fortunately, not only had his father remembered his special day, his dad had already prepared for him an extraordinary gift.  How much more valuable are we to our God?  He has a memory that never fails, and He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  He has not forgotten nor will He forget about us.  His promises are unfailing, His word is unshakeable.  Tonight, know that God has definitely NOT forgotten about you!  Enjoy the video!

What is the meaning of life?  What is my purpose?  These are two of the most common questions that dominate the human existence.

We all want to know that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.  We all want to leave our personalized mark on the Earth.   What if I were to tell you that even though we all have different gifting, we all share a common purpose—a common calling?

One of the biggest struggles facing our humanity is man’s desire to disconnect from and exalt himself above God.  As a society, we have denied God’s sovereignty.  We have defied God’s authority.  We have disputed God existence.  Many of us fail to realized that humanity was created by God with one sole purpose: To praise and worship God.  Our gifts and our talents are simply tools to bring glory to God’s name.  For Christ deniers, the evidence is ubiquitous.  The further we pull away from God, the more our World plummets into despair and an omnipresent sense of hopelessness.  Our society needs to be recalibrated.  We need to remember why we were created.

As I was writing this blog, I thought about an example that many could probably relate to.  In my kitchen drawers, I have several butter knives that are bent out of shape because I have used several of them to tighten loose screws around the house.  While the knives might have gotten the job done, the disfigure tips were proof that they were used out of context.  The same could be said for us.  Many of us are living our lives out of context.  We were created to praise and worship God.  Make no mistake, God will see to it that His name is praised.  Romans 14:11 says, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God,'” (NIV).

Have you ever noticed that when there is a national or international tragedy, the first thing that people do is call on God?  Well, this practice is not a new phenomenon.  Friends and foes of God have been calling on Him from the beginning of time.  When it comes to calling on God’s name, we are either in the position of giving praise or asking for His mercy.

In Exodus, Moses was given the charge of leading the Israelites out of Egypt.  The Pharaoh and the Egyptians resisted him.  God allowed the manifestation of several miracles as proof that He was with the Israelites, but the Pharaoh still would not set them free.  In Exodus Chapter 11, Moses delivered a dire message to Pharaoh from God.  Moses told Pharaoh that God would bring death to all the firstborn son in Egypt.  After death had swept across Egypt, Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron.  “’Get out!’ he ordered. ‘Leave my people—and take the rest of the Israelites with you! Go and worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you said, and be gone. Go, but bless me as you leave,’” (Exodus 12: 31-32).  Pharaoh was a man who did not believe in God, but at the end, he had to confess that God is Lord.  Through Moses and Aaron, Pharaoh requested that God would bless him.

Our world is in crisis.  We need to acknowledge that there are powers at work that are far greater and stronger than we are in our natural state.  We need to recognize that God has already sent a deliverer to save us, we just have to call on Him.  We have to acknowledge that we must decrease so that God can increase.  God, today we pray for our world.  We submit it to your authority.  We ask that you right the wrongs and bring order, peace and hope to a generation that has lost its footing.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

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.