Archives for posts with tag: patience

If anyone has ever taken a road trip with children, they would know that one of the most incessantly asked questions of any vacation voyage is, “Are we there yet;” to which the most frequently given response is, “We’re almost there.”  Whether we are five minutes or 105 minutes away from our destination, the answer is usually the same: We are almost there.  In those moments, it seems like we just cannot get there fast enough.  Sometimes, this is not only true of our physical journey, but our spiritual journey as well.  Sometimes, it can feel like the light at the end of the tunnel is light-years away.

Have you ever noticed that it is usually the children who ask, “Are we there yet” on road trips?  Why is that?  One reason is that the adults are the ones who, for the most part, know the final destination, including where it is and how long it takes to get there.  Also, most adults are mature enough to know that they must endure some temporary discomfort (e.g. cramped spaces, long ride frequent bathroom breaks, etc.) before they get to their final desired destination.  In other words, before we can be free to enjoy our fun in the sun at the theme parks, we have to endure the turmoil of the four-hour car ride.

So, you might be asking yourself: What does this have to do with our Spiritual lives?  I think it’s safe to assume that many Christians are living an “Are we there yet” lifestyle.  Most of us have faith and trust God, yet there are moments when we believe that we have not yet seen the manifestation of our faith.  We have put one foot in front of the other, yet we have not arrived at our desired destination.  We often find ourselves asking God, “Are we there yet?”  Sounds familiar?  How about one of these scenarios below?

  • God, it’s been years, and I have been praying for healing; yet I am still sick.  Are we there yet?
  • God, I have been believing in you to mend my marriage, but it’s still falling apart.  Are we there yet?
  • God, I have been praying so long for you to bless me with my partner, yet I am still single.  Are we there yet?
  • God, I have been praying to you for years to bless my womb with life, yet I am still childless.  Are we there yet?
  • Lord, I have been praying that you would bless my business ventures, yet I have only experienced closed doors.  Are we there yet?
  • Lord, I have been praying for my wayward child to return home, yet he (or she) is still so far from you and from home.  Are we there yet?
  • God, I have been praying for financial breakthrough, yet I am still in debt.  Are we there yet?
  • God, I have been praying for (fill in the blank), yet (fill in the blank). Are we there yet?

Yes, many of us have been asking God, “Are we there yet,” for quite some time.  But consider this revelation.  In order to get to a place of peace, we have to realize that we are God’s children, and that we are in the backseat of His proverbial car.  We have to know that when we allow God to drive us, He knows exactly where He is going and how to get there.  When God drives us, we never have to worry about Him being pulled over for going too fast or being honked at for going too slow.  Like children in the back seat, we have to be patient, mature and know that if we buckle up and sit tight, we will eventually arrive at our destination.  We might also realize that if we quit whining and complaining, we might actually enjoy the ride.  Ultimately, our lives and our walk with God comes down to this one simple truth, “We are either going to trust God, or we are not.”  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.,” (NIV).

You and I have to believe that even though to the naked eye it might seem like we are light-years away from our desired destination, God is still in control and that He has a plan to bless and prosper us.  You see, in our minds, we might be thinking weekend getaway, while God is planning a vacation destination.

Father God,  Please continue to bless us with your peace that surpasses all understanding.  In those moments when we are tempted to ask, “Are we there yet;” comfort us.  Allow us to know that you are still in control and that you have a plan for our lives that will supersede our expectations.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen!

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EnvyA few weeks ago, we started a new series called the seven deadly sins.  Those sins are:  pride, envy, greed, wrath, gluttony, sloth and lust.  In our previous discussions, we mentioned that although the concept of the seven deadly sins is not Biblical per se, some scholars have said that the principle has a Biblical derivative, specifically Proverbs 6:16-19 and Galatians 5:19-21:

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17  haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18   a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19     a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community, (Proverbs 6:16-19, NIV).

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19:21, NIV).

So far, we have talked about pride and greed.  Today we will talk about envy!

Previously, we mentioned that pride was the original sin that caused man to fall.  If I were to rank the seven deadly sins in order of egregiousness, I would say that pride would be a first place contender, and envy would be a close runner up.  Of the seven deadly sins, I believe that these two are the most vile of them all.  I would even argue that pride and envy are what I would call gateway sins.  When they take root in our lives, they open the gates for other sins.  Let’s take a look at James 4:1-4 to illustrate this point.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

James 4:1-4, NIV

So, in James 4:1, the Bible says that our desires that battle inside us is what causes us to quarrel and fight.  That is pride and envy 101.  It was pride and envy that caused Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Their pride told them that they were entitled to God’s knowledge.  Their envy made them begrudge the fact that God possessed the knowledge that they thought they deserved.

Now, here is why I call pride and envy the gateway sin.  James 4:2 says, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”  Remember pride makes us feel entitled and envy makes us think we should have the product of our entitlement.  So what happens when someone has what we think we should have? We become envious and that envy could lead to rape, murder, adultery, lying,  greed, and any other vice we could think of.  Let’s look at some practical applications.  For example, a man cheat on his wife with another man’s wife.  Why?  Somehow, deep down inside, he has reasoned that he is entitled to the value that other man’s wife brings to her husband.  The man who is doing the cheating might have reasoned that he deserved to be respected, loved and honored.  Since he is envious of his perception of the other man’s wife’s values, he “steals” her from the other man.  His pride has told him that he is entitled, and his envy has precipitated his adultery, lying and stealing, and in some cases, killing.

Let’s use another example.  A woman shoplifts from a department store.  Why? Somewhere in her mind, she has determined that she is entitled to the items she has stolen.  She is also envious that the store owners/stock holders have move than she does.  Most of the time when we listen to the excuses of people who shoplift, they say things like: “They have enough stuff;” “They’ll never miss this;” or some variation of “I should have this stuff too.”  This is jealousy and pride.  That jealously and pride have caused them to resort to lying and stealing.  First, the individual in our shoplifting scenario has lied to herself in an effort to convince herself that she deserve someone’s miracle/destiny/blessings.  Second, she has lied to herself by trying to convince herself that she is not hurting anyone.  Lastly, she will have to lie to avoid getting caught.

The problem with envy and pride is not that they are inherently bad, even though they are.  The problem is that they set us up for failure each and every time.  It is impossible for us to have someone else’s blessings because that blessing was custom fitted for that individual.  You see, God knows each and every one of us inside out.  Just as no two people have the same fingerprints, no two people have the same spiritual DNA.  When God considered our blessings, He considered our gender, our race, our backgrounds, our personalities, our idiosyncrasies, our level of faith (or lack thereof), our maturity and so much more.  It is IMPOSSIBLE that any another person on the planet would align with us on ALL of those thousands, maybe even millions, of variables.  We could save ourselves a tremendous amount of heartache and pain if we understood that no matter how much we envied someone, we could never have what they have.  Their blessing weren’t made for us.  The other thing is this.  We do not know how much time, effort and prayer someone has put into their blessings.  The problem with many of us is we think that our story ends when God grants us our blessings.  Friends, in many cases, this is just the beginning.  God has an expectation that we will take care of what He has given us.  Let’s use another example.  We might look at our neighbor and say, “Wow, they have such good, accomplished children.  I wish mine were like theirs.”  The problem is we don’t know how they got to that point.  How many days did that mother fast for her children?  How many nights did that father pray for their success?  What about their ancestors?  Imagine how they could have prayed and planted seeds.  They truth is we just never know what people’s true circumstances are.

The final point I would like to bring home is this: James 4: 2-3 says we have not because we ask not.  It also says that sometimes the reason that we do not have is because we ask for the wrong reasons.  Friends, if God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (p.s. He owns the hills too), why aren’t we asking Him for everything.  No matter how small our requests, we should bring them to God.  If we do not get the answer we desire, we should not automatically think that we are asking with wrong motives.  Instead, we should ask God to check our heart and purify our desires.  If we have done a heart check with God and we still find ourselves with the same desire, then the answer is simple.  We have to wait and trust that His timing is perfect.  We have to know that though others might appear to be experiencing their Jordans, their timing is not ours.  We have to trust that God knows what we need and will come through when we need it.

God,

My prayer for today is that you settle the hearts of your people.  Grant us your peace that surpasses all understanding.  Thwart in us any temptation for pride and envy.  Allow us to know that you have custom-fitted blessing designed specifically for each and every single one of us that will be revealed at just the right time.  I pray blessings over all your people.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

Moment

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them,” (Matthew 18:20, NIV).

If we were to take Matthew 18:20 literally, we would be inclined to assume that when the author spoke of a gathering, he was simply referring to a natural occurrence—an assembly of people.  We couldn’t be more wrong!  The Bible is filled with double, even triple, entendre.  What if I were to tell you that it is possible for people to gather without meeting?

This weekend, I attended the 2013 Hillsong Conference, which was held at the world-famous Radio City Music Hall in NYC.  Although Hillsong Church, which was founded in Australia, has hosted several conferences in the past, this was their first conference in NYC.  In fact, about three years ago, Hillsong Church set their sights on the Big Apple, and Hillsong NYC was birthed.  As I sat in the audience and listened to the stories of some of the pioneers, I noticed one common denominator.  God had made an impression on each individual’s heart, and each individual followed up with prayer.  Their prayers for NY made me think of my own NY experience several years prior.

Picture this: New York City, Lower East Side (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  I love Sophia from the Golden Girls.  For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, you’re missing out).  I digress.

Picture this: New York City, Lower East Side.  I was a young, naïve woman living in the City of Lights—not a very safe place for the young and vulnerable.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love NYC.  It is a great place with golden opportunities.  The “theys” have said that, “If you can make it in NY, you can make it anywhere.”  That is certainly true.  There are a lot of hopes and dreams that have been birthed in the concrete jungles of NY.  However, there is a dark side to NY.  It can be a predatory environment.  The treacherous and the ill-intentioned have also flocked there.  They too are looking for opportunities, but opportunities of a different kind.  They are there to deceive and defraud.  When I moved to NY, I knew I needed to be grounded.  I knew I needed to find a church home.

When I first arrived in NY, I knew no one.  I found my first church through an online search from slim pickings.  Eventually, I found one that was in walking distance from my dorms.  I was excited.  My excitement was short-lived.  Let’s just say that five minutes into the service, I knew that I would NEVER return.  The following week was equally eventful.  My new find was also in the City, but a little further away from my first location.  I guess I should have known something was amiss when the cabbie pulled up in front of the church and asked me whether he should stick around while I scoped out the scene.  Those who are familiar with stereotypical NY City taxi drivers know that offer was unusual.  Typically, they speed off while you still have one foot in the vehicle.  All kidding aside, stubbornness got the best of me.  I told the cab driver to leave, and proceeded inside.

Service was scheduled for 11 o’clock on Sunday morning.  This time, I had taken extra precautions to ensure that I would have a positive experience.  Early Saturday afternoon, I had called the church office to confirm the time and location of the service.  I arrived at the church around 10:45.  To my surprise, there was only one other person there, and he gave me the creeps.  He was a talk, middle-aged man dressed in a black suit and a top hat.  He tried to make small talk, but I couldn’t hear him over the intensity of my heart pounding. Between questions, he would intermittently open and close the door to the entrance of the church.   My pulse raced each time the door closed.  Maybe he was a standup Christian man, or maybe he had stacks of bodies in the church basement.  I didn’t want to stick around long enough to find out.  During one of the open-door intervals, I bolted, and I did not look back.

That was week two.  By the third week, I had grown tired of being disappointed and frustrated.  In my heart I whispered, “If I don’t find a church that I like this week, I will stop looking and just not go.”  Thankfully, we serve a God that responds to silent SOS.

On the third week of my church quest, I found yet another Manhattan church online.  That Sunday morning, I got dressed and headed down the elevator as I had the weeks before.  As I was about to exit the building, I stopped and chatted with my building’s front desk security guard.  He was a Christian, and we had spoken about Christ many times before.  That morning he asked me a question that changed my life.

“Where do you go to church,” He asked.

I smiled and replied, “I don’t know.  That’s what I’m trying to find out.”

When I told him that I was having difficulty finding a church, he suggested that I look up the Brooklyn Tabernacle.  His suggestion resonated with my spirit.  I dashed upstairs before he could place the final period on his sentence—I couldn’t have move fast enough.  That afternoon, I attended the 12 o’clock service at the Brooklyn Tabernacle.  I was fed there for almost five years—the entire time I lived in NY.

This is the point where our story comes full circle.  Although I LOVED the Brooklyn Tabernacle and would never trade my experience, there were weekends where I wished that the City offered more variety for hungry Christians and famished unbelievers.  Oftentimes, I would pray that individuals who had also had difficulties finding a church home would not be discouraged.  I prayed that God would give them a place of worship where they could hear about His Word and His greatness.  Those were some of my prayers.  Who would have thought that somewhere across the globe people that I did not know, would be “GATHERING” together with me in prayer for the same thing.  Though we were separated by space and time, we were still able to gather together in God’s name.

Several years later, God answered the cries of His people.  Due to the gatherings of many faithful people across the world, God responded to the cries of the City.  As a result, newly planted churches such as Hillsong joined previously established NYC churches to create and even bigger movement of God.

The revelation that the term gathering could be interpreted as a “spiritual meeting” is not to minimize or discredit the importance of intimate, personal fellowship and prayer, for the Bible does say that we should not forsake the assembly of believers (Hebrews 10:25). However, the antidote simply serves to illustrate that our God is not impeded by our limitations (e.g. time or space).

Today, please know that you are not the only one praying for your situation.  Others are, or have been, gathering, whether personally or spiritually, on your behalf.  Isaiah 55:11 says that God’s Word will not return to Him void.  In other words, your prayers that have been rooted in His promises WILL be answered.  So be of good courage tonight and know that God will do what He said He will do!

The final day of our prayer challenge has come upon us.  So, what do we do now? Now, we wait. Not quite the answer you were expecting, huh? Wait?  We just spent an entire week waiting and believing for God to move.  Surely, God is going to meet our faith now.  Surely our worlds are about to dramatically change.  The truth is, God’s army doesn’t always launch a frontal attack.  Sometimes, they take the path less traveled.  In other words, life doesn’t always happen according to plan.  It is quite possible that the blessings that God has in store for us could very well appear out of left field. None of us know what God has in store for us.  We just know that as believers, we have to stand firm on His Word.  Below are a few of the top lessons I have learned during this past season that will guide me, and hopefully, you, into the next chapter.  I hope they bless you too!

  1. God is still on the throne.

Isaiah 45:6-7

so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me.  I am the Lord, and there is no other.I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things, (NIV).

Psalm 22:28

28  For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations (ESV).

  1. God has not forgotten about you.

Isaiah 49:15-16

15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.

  1. You are either going to believe/trust God or you are not.  There is no middle ground.

Matthew 19:26

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” (NIV).

  1. Wait with expectations.

Philippians 1:20

20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 NLT

Then the lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.

  1. If you find yourself explaining too much, STOP!

2Timothy 2:23-26

23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will, (NIV).

  1. Don’t justify/explain your blessings.

1 Samuel 16:7

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” (NIV).

  1. Worry less. Fear less.  Pray more.

Isaiah 41:10

10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with my victorious right hand, (NLT).

  1.  Eliminate excuses.

2 Corinthians 5:10

10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body, (NLT).

  1. Love your enemy. Even pray for them.

Matthew 6:14-15

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins, (NIV).

  1. Learn to say no. It’s okay to let your yes be yes and your no be no.

James 5:12

12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned, (NIV).

 

  1. Be strong and courageous.    

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go,” (NIV).

 

  1. Embrace failure.

Romans 8:28

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (KJV).

  1. Know that you are stronger than you think.

Exodus 9:16

16 But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth, (NIV).

  1. Look in the mirror, and embrace God’s masterpiece.

Ephesians 2:10

10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago, (NLT).

  1. Know that the same God who closes doors holds the blueprints for every construction site, and He can place a window wherever He so desires.

Isaiah 55:8-11

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.  10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. 11 It is the same with my word.  I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it, (NLT).

  1. LAUGH!

Job 8:21

21 He will once again fill your mouth with laughter, (NLT).

 

  1. LOVE!

John 3:16-17

16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

  1. LET GO!

Ephesians 4:31

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you, (NLT).

Today, I pray that God will teach you how to laugh again and that you would not be jaded by the world’s shenanigans. I pray that you will love and live.  I pray that for each door that closes, God will increase your strength and wisdom in preparation for the next chapter.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen!!

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Today, we are going to keep it real.  No airs.  No facades.  Just pure, raw nakedness.

Have you ever felt disappointed by God?  Never?  Be honest.  Some of you are disappointed right now.  You have stood on the Word.  You have stepped out in faith.  You have believe, and you have prayed.  However, you have not seen God move in your situation.  Now your situation appears more dire.  Now you are exhausted.  Now, you are humiliated.    Your enemies all seem to laugh and scoff at you.  What do you do now?  The God that you have told them would deliver you seems to be distant and silent.  Now even you have begun to believe that maybe He can’t or won’t rescue you.  You can’t minister to them because you are having a hard time trying to convince yourself.  Do you give up?  The Bible says that God is faithful even when we are not (2 Timothy 2:13).  So do you just give in?  Do you throw in the towel?  Why wouldn’t you?  Your heart is burdened from hurting.  Your hair is gray from worry.  Your eyes are heavy from crying.  Now is the time that even the most faithful would surrender.  What are you going to do?

I don’t know how many of you have every attempted a 30-minute work out on the Treadmill after a long day at work.  For me, getting past the first 15 minutes is the most difficult.  But once I push past that arduous time, I know I can complete the workout.  During the first 15 minutes, I am always tempted to quit.  There have been times when I have quit.  After some of the days that I have had, who would blame me anyway?  Here is the truth.  On several occasions, I would regret prematurely quitting my workout, especially when I noticed that my jeans have begun to fit a little tighter that I would like.  Alternately, I have never regretted completing my workout.  In fact, I usually have a sense of accomplishment when I brave the 30-minute course.  By the end of the workout, the stresses of the day usually melts away.  All my negative thoughts become replaced by positive one.  Oftentimes, I even begin to envision the benefits of having worked out.

The Bible says that we have an enemy who has come to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10).  He has come to kill our spirit, steal our joy and destroy our hope and faith.  When the enemy attack, we need to make sure that we are wearing the full armor of God so that after everything we can stand.

There is no miracle formula for faith.  If there were, someone would have been rich trying to sell it by now.  What we do know is that we have more to lose than gain if we quit before our time.  If we throw in the towel prematurely, there is no telling what we would be giving up.  We might be giving up the very thing that we have been waiting for.

Metro Zoo 027Metro Zoo 027

Lately, there have been so many talking donkeys in my life.  It’s been very difficult to resist the urge to beat those asses.

For those of you who don’t know or have never heard the story of Balaam and the Donkey, let me give you a brief synopsis.

Balaam was a prophet in the Old Testament.  King Balak, king of Moab, had sent messengers to request that Balaam curse the Israelites who were living in Moab.  This directive was against God’s orders.  Nonetheless, Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials.  God was angry with him for disobeying His order, so he sent an angel to oppose him.  When the donkey saw the angel standing in the road, it went off the road and into a field.  Balaam beat the animal and forced it back onto the road.  The angel appeared a second time further along the path.  Again, the donkey saw the angel and hesitated.  Balaam beat the donkey a second time.  The third time the donkey saw the angel, it laid down under Balaam.  This time Balaam beat it with his staff.  God allowed the donkey to speak.  The donkey questioned Balaam about the beating. Balaam threatened to kill the donkey.  The Lord allowed Balaam to see the angel standing in the road with his sword drawn. The angel informed Balaam that had it not been for the donkey’s resistance, he would have kill him (Numbers 22).

Crazy huh?  Maybe not!  How many times during the course of our day do we experience donkeys that try to protect us?  Many of us may likely never experience a literal talking donkey, but we do experience them metaphorically speaking.  Lost keys, delayed traffic, missed flights—these are all talking donkey in our lives.  Instead of trusting our “donkeys,” we resort to beating them.  Some of us get worked up to the point of wanting to annihilate our roadblocks, not realizing that death or disaster is imminent.

One of my prayers is that we learn to recognize our talking donkeys.  To begin, we should question resistance.  Is our resistance a part of the travails of life, or is it indicative of danger?   The truth is, only God can answer that question, but we need to present it to Him so that He could give us revelation.  Some circumstances could be avoidable if we just take heed.  Our prayers, should involve asking God for wisdom, discernment and peace about the situation.  When we do, we allow God to step in and implement His divine will.

Today’s Prayer:

Lord, allow us to embrace our talking donkeys.  Provide us the wisdom, discernment and peace regarding your will.  May your will be done in our lives.  Protect us from all harm.  Let us rest in your peace regarding our life’s decisions.  Bless us in our coming and our goings.  We love you.  We trust you.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

We never have to worry about missing the memo from God.  If we failed to receive it the first time, He always provides an opportunity for our lessons to be repeated.

Last night, I attended a midweek, young-adult service at one of my local churches.  Actually, the Tuesday night worship experience at this particular church is not your typical, midweek service.  The atmosphere is charged with and electrified by the Spirit.

The message of the night was from James 1:2-4:

Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (NLT).

The take home messages of the night were:

  1. God uses our trials as an opportunity for growth.
  2. We should find joy in the pain of growth.
  3. When it looks like all is lost, God has one more move.

Wow! How many of us can perpetually see the glass half full?

Last night was my God reminder.  I heard God say, “Just in case you missed the memo the first time, ‘I am reminding you of who I am.’”  During the service, I remembered that God had laid this very message on my heart a few month ago.  I was excited to go home to find my journal entry and be reminded of what God had said then.

Once we embrace the fact that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8) we can rest in the knowledge that what He promised yesterday is still valid today.

Below is my 2/13/13 journal entry on James 1:3-4.  I hope it blesses you as much as it has me.

For you know that when your faith is tested,
your endurance has a chance to grow.  (James 1:3, NLT).

Endurance is preparation for the next time.  Think about jogging.  The first time you commit to jogging, you might only be able to run one block.  But in running that one block, the body is being conditioned.  The cells are being oxidized, and the muscles are being strengthened.  The next time you run, you might either

  1. Be able to run the same distance with less fatigue

Or

  1. Run further

Each time, however, there is an increase in strength that occurs.  The same is true of faith.  Each time you exercise your faith, your spiritual muscles increase, yielding increase endurance.  The things that you endured today might have seemed impossible last year.

So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing, (James 1:4, NLT).

Think about the jogging analogy.  Let’s say you were training for a 5K.  There would come a time in the training process where you could run the 5K without stopping, or without fatigue.  So as far as the 5K level, you would need nothing.  You would be perfect and complete.  However, if you decided to train for a half-marathon, additional training would be required and the cycle would repeat.

The same applies to our faith.  There are different levels of completion.  When you reach, what I will call, “level-one faith,” you are perfect and complete for THAT level.  It doesn’t mean that you are perfect and complete for life.  It simply means that you are ready to be graduated to the next level of faith.  There is always a growth curve—at least until death.

Dear God,

During this season, you have challenged so many of us to have faith in your word and your character.  I pray that we will continue to trust you as you develop us.  I pray that we will trust you with our lives, our relationships, our finances, our destinies, our purposes and our hearts.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen!

There are moments in our lives when we will feel as though the walls are closing in around us and that we are surrounded by enemies on all side.  In those moments, it seems like there are more of them than there are of us.  That is when we are called to stand firm on the Word of God and scream the name of Jesus.  Deuteronomy 28:7 says, “The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven,” (NIV).  This morning I speak God’s words into your situation.  I pray that when your enemies comes at you in one direction, they flee in seven.  The Bible is filled with many verses for various situations.  Below are just a few:

Your enemies are attacking you and have surrounded you on all sides.                

“The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven,” (Deuteronomy 28:7, NIV).

Your faith is being tested and shaken.

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Show us how to increase our faith,’” (Luke 17:5, NIV).

The foundation of your marriage is being tested.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love, (1John 4:18).

But for those who are married, I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord.A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife.  (1Corinthians 7:10-11).

Your relationships are being tested.

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence, (Jeremiah 17:7, NLT).

Your finances are being attacked.

The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it, (Proverbs, 10:22).

The devil is robbing you of your peace.

 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done, (Philippianss 4:6).

Doctors, man, have spoken death and sickness over your life.

O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved.  My praises are for you alone, (Jeremiah 17:14).

Doctors, man, have given you the news of infertility.

Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant (Genesis 25:21, NIV).

Man has spoken failure over your life.

Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.

When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing, (Psalm 146:3-4).

Man has spoken curses over you and your family.

Listen, I received a command to bless; God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it, (Numbers 23:20, NLT)!

A few years ago, a network television station featured a woman who was living with HIV.  The HIV-related story had piqued my interest for several reasons.  As a graduate student, I had the opportunity to work as a graduate assistant to one of the frontier epidemiologists who studied the trends of HIV when it first emerged in the US in the early 80s and whose role in the discovery of HIV was documented by Randy Shilts’ 1987 best-selling book, And the Band Played On.  However, as much as I was interested in the topic itself, it was the underlying tale of that feature presentation that, even until this day, has held my interest.  My memories of the details of the story have faded over the years, but the take-home message still resonates in my mind.

The purpose of the story was to document one woman’s daily regime of living with HIV.  The story began with the tale of young love that fizzled out, only to be rekindled later on.

The woman featured in the documentary was in love with the man of her dreams.  Like with most young women, she wanted more than simple romance.  She wanted commitment.  She wanted to be married.  Unfortunately, her beau disagreed.  They eventually broke up.  She met another man, and they engaged in a sexually encounter.  As I remember the story, he was her first.  So it was no wonder when the woman was contacted by the health department to inform her of her exposure to the HIV virus, she knew where she acquired it.  She was tested.  The results were positive. One single decision had changed her life.

One of the few details that I remembered about the story was how this woman made herself vulnerable on camera so that other women could learn from her experience.  She explained to the interviewer that the disease had committed her to diapers because of her incontinence.  I am assuming that her incontinence was a result of the drugs, but I can’t exactly remember.  The story continued in the kitchen.  The camera panned her drug cocktail.   The woman described how taking the medley of pills often made her nauseous and would sometimes cause her to regurgitate them. Whenever she vomited, she would have to retake the cocktail.  Both the disease and the treatment had made her very weak.  It was almost an entirely sad tale.  Almost!!

Remember our prince charming from the beginning of the story.  He resurfaced.  Not only did he return, He married her.  Yes, you read right.  He, fully aware of her condition, chose to marry her.  Not only did he marry her, he cared for her, and he loved her.

This is where I pick up with my second point.  This man married this woman with a disease, which at that time, many people feared and believed to be a death sentence.  Wow.  It made me wonder.

I believe that life is predestined to a certain extent.  Sure, we have free will, and there is a direct correlation between our choices and where we end up.  Even so, I still believe that there are some things in our lives that are just meant to be, and regardless of which path we take, we will end up at the same destination.  That is my belief.  So with that belief in mind, I started to wonder.  What would have happen had she been patient?

(Disclaimer: There might be some people reading this story who are attempting to pervert the discussing by making the assertion that I am somehow suggesting that this woman acquired HIV as some form of punishment.  Such thinking is—well—WRONG!)

I digress.   What would have happened had she been patient?  Would he have still returned?  Could she have been married to the man of her dreams without the baggage?  There is no way to know for sure, but it does make you wonder, even in our own lives.  Could our attempts to preempt God cause us unnecessary misery?  I wonder how many of our bumps and bruises that we receive on our way to victory are a result of our own doing—our pursuit of the infamous free will.  Could our lack of patience take us through tumultuous journeys?  The answer is, there is no way to tell for sure, at least on this side of time.  Fortunately, regardless of what decisions we make, God is faithful, and He will do whatever He has promised.  The Bible says that His Words will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11).

One of the greatest gift that God has given us is the gift of grace.  Regardless of whatever decisions we choose, His grace will ALWAYS be sufficient.  He will always give us more than what we deserve.  This woman’s one poor decision did not render her to a life of despair.  God gave her a life partner who would love and care for her despite her past mistake.  This story is one of the most beautiful manifestation of God’s love.  Sometimes it is impossible to live a pain-FREE life, but we can attempt to make it pain-LESS.

Lord,

Please grant us patience in everything that we do.  Give us the courage to trust that your Word will NEVER return to you void.

Isaiah 55:10-11

New International Version (©2011)
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent.

A few days ago, we talked about accepting people as they are and allowing them to change at their own pace. However, there was one critical component that we neglected to mention.

Whenever we ask someone to alter his or her behavior, we should recognize that change is not always easy or immediate. Oftentimes, we expect colossal leaps, and are disappointed when all we see are baby steps. Our disappointments are seldom embraced in silence. We usually let the objects of our disappointment know how much they have let us down. But if we knew anything about growth, we would know that growth is a process. Change in behavior could mean breaking down foundations that took years to develop. Our behaviors are often so embedded into our infrastructure that sometimes we don’t even know where to start to get back on track. The truth is, in order to progress forward, we often have to alternate between forward and backwards steps, and that is not easy. We should keep that in mind when we are in relationship with others. Regardless of whether someone else’s rate change is to our liking, we should give credit for progress. Even the slightest change could have taken great courage. Know that positive reinforcement is often a better effector of change than criticism or ridicule.

When it comes to experiencing change in a relationship, we should know that ultimately, it comes down to being patient with each other. We should know that none of us would be where we are if someone did not invest in us and allow us the room to grow.

Would you allow yourself to be patient with someone and allow them to grow? If someone you love is trying to make a change, but is still plodding along, encourage them. Congratulate them on the small changes you see. According to the old adage, “A little encouragement goes a long way.” You might just see that the change you desire is not so far removed once you start to acknowledge the small accomplishments.

Today’s Prayer:
Lord, we pray that we could learn to be patient with each other. Soften our hearts and allow us to view each other with a spirit of gratitude. In Jesus’ name. Amen.