Archives for posts with tag: relationship

That’s just the way I am!  You’re too judgmental!  Maybe you are just too picky?

Relationships are hard, both platonic and romantic.  They require work, sacrifices and compromises, especially since we are all broken, imperfect people with a suitcase filled with baggage.

It is impossible to navigate the world alone.  We all need friends.  “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble,” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NLT).  With that said, we have to learn to choose our friends wisely.  Relationships should be supportive, encouraging and empowering.  The people in our lives should directly and indirectly champion us to become better versions of ourselves.  We are the company that we keep.  The Bible reminds us of that in 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Bad company ruins good character” (NLT).

Compromise is needed to make any relationship work, but it should never be license for mistreatment.  Yes, we should all accept people for what, who and where they are, but this does not mean that we have to accept what they are willing or capable of offering.  For example, if we are in a place in our lives where our emotional love tank needs to be filled at a level eight capacity in order to make us feel whole, loved and valued, and someone is only willing or able to give at a level two capacity, then it is within our right to terminate or reposition that relationship.  The problem is that oftentimes, people with relational deficiencies take offense to being reassigned.  They often say things like, “You should accept me the way I am” or “You’re being judgmental.”  Yes, it is true that we should accept people as is, and that we should not be judgmental, but it is equally true that we don’t have to accept what someone is giving us simply because they are unwilling or unable to give us more.  It doesn’t mean that they are bad people, nor does it mean that we are.  It just means that we not compatible at the particular moment, which could change in the future.  It is okay to say that we want and need more from our relationships.  It’s even okay to say that we deserve it.  We should be in relationships with people who allow us to make demands of them, and who are willing to make an attempt to meet our needs.  With that said, we must be willing and able to do the same.  We also must be okay with others telling us that we do not fulfill their relationship criteria.  Some relationships are seasonal, and maybe those seasonal relationships have run their course.  That’s also okay.

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tonight, I feel in my spirit that many of you need to be comforted by this message that God laid on my heart. If you could picture God sitting beside you, this is what He would say to you:

I just love you so much. If only you knew. I have made you special. I have made YOU in MY image. I see you in your pain right now. I see your tears. Your pain has pierced through the atmosphere to call out to me—to reach me. I have even commanded my angels to attend to you right where you are. I have not forgotten you. Wherever you might find yourself, know that I am beside you. Every fiber of you is so precious to me that I am collecting your tears as they fall.

Feel my presence. My peace just passed through your dwelling. You have my full attention. Speak your heart to me. Don’t search for the right words. Don’t worry about “praying,” just speak to me. Tell me where and how it hurts. Let me love you. Let me restore you. Speak to me. Know that I am enough. I am your source. I am your well. I will fill you when you are empty. I will make you whole when you are broken. My promises are true. I am not a man that I should lie. The Earth and its cornerstones lie in my hands. I am still in control. I am the God of your ancestors. I am the God of Abraham. Did I not set the captives free? Did I not deliver Daniel from the lion’s den? Why would I not deliver you too? Trust me! What have I told you? What have I laid in your heart? What were the promises that I have made to you? KNOW that I will NOT fail you! You can trust me.

Be still. Let the sound of my voice still your worries. Cast your cares upon me. Let me give rest to your weary soul. I, God, have created you to be extraordinary. Every desire of your heart has already been met in Jesus’ name. Just wait on my manifestation–my timing. I won’t disappoint you. I won’t fail you. I love you. I am yours just as much as you are mine. I LOVE YOU just the way you are. I love you in your brokenness. I love you in your imperfection. I love you in whatever situation you might find yourself in. I LOVE YOU.

…..

Please know tonight that God loves you and will NEVER forsake you. Be well, in Jesus’ name. Amen!

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken, (Psalm 55:22, NIV).

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs,” (Zephaniah 3:17, NLT).

…The LORD always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does, (Psalm 145:13, NLT).

In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame, (Psalm 71:1, NIV).

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,” (Joshua 1:9, NIV).

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy, (Job 38:4-7, NIV)?

In today’s society, success is usually thought to be determined by degree or pedigree.  I am here to tell you that neither of those things are absolute qualifiers for success.  When Paul spoke to the church in Corinth, he reminded them that few of them were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called them.  He further went on to say that God often chooses the “things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful,” (1Corinthians 1:26-26, NLT).  Now, this is not to say that there isn’t a value to education, for we know that God honors those who seek knowledge, counsel and wisdom.  It is simply to say that our circumstances do not disqualify us from being great.  Look at Gideon.

Too often God places a dream on our heart, and we erroneously think that we need an ensemble team to bring the vision to fruition.  We are inclined to decline opportunities because we think that we lack the skills needed to accomplish the task.  In the Old Testament, Moses tried to hand over the opportunity to lead the Israelites out of bondage to Aaron because he thought that being a successful leader was directly correlated to an ability to speak well.  Fortunately, God is more interested in using those who can walk the walk rather than those who talk the talk.  So how does that tie into the story of Gideon?

God had called Gideon to defeat the Midianites.  Like many of us, Gideon doubted that God could really use him to do something so extraordinary.  Thankfully, what Gideon soon came to realize was that his weakness was inversely proportional to God’s strength.  In other words, he realized that when he was weak, God was strong, and it was that epiphany that allowed him to grow in strength.

Prior to battling the Midianites, Gideon had 32,000 men.  God told him to send home those who were fearful.  Twenty-two thousand men left.  Gideon was left with an army of 10,000.  Still God was unsatisfied.  He ordered Gideon to bring the men to the stream and “[d]ivide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream,” (NLT).  There were three hundred men that drank from their hand.  Finally, God was satisfied.  With a total of 300 men, God delivered the Midianites into the hands of the Israelites (Judges 7).

The story of Gideon serves as an amazing demonstration of God’s ability to elevate us above our circumstances.  In the natural, there was no way that Gideon could have defeated an entire army with only 300 men.  However, God reduced the size of Gideon’s army so that He would receive the glory.  The first lesson that you and I should learn from Gideon is that when we are called to do the impossible with only a skeletal crew, it’s not because God is punishing us.  It’s simply because He wants us, and others, to know that success is not based on a formula, but is predetermined by God.  The second lesson to be learned from Gideon is that not everyone in our camp is destined or willing to fight.  Know that the dream that God gave us was given to us.  Not everyone in our camp is meant to go with us to battle.  In order to achieve victory, sometimes, we have to get rid of those who are stumbling blocks.  In the case of Gideon, had God not gotten rid of those who were “timid or afraid,” it might have cost them the battle.  Under pressure, those eliminated individuals might have surrendered or betrayed their camp.  The third lesson to be learned from Gideon is that when God gives us a dream, it’s better to have a faithful few than a lazy bunch.  Those who drank from their hands proved to be hard workers and go-getters.  They didn’t just kneel at the stream and waited for the water to flow into their mouths.  They took the initiative.  We want people in our camps that take initiative.  The last lesson that we learned from Gideon is a little off topic, but equally important. 

The Bible says that God will make our enemies our footstool (Luke 20:43).  We should know that oftentimes, God will use our very enemies to announce our victory.  In the case of Gideon, God used the Midianites to announce the Israelites’ victory:

The Midianite camp was in the valley just below Gideon. 9That night the Lord said, “Get up! Go down into the Midianite camp, for I have given you victory over them! 10 But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. 11 Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.”

So Gideon took Purah and went down to the edge of the enemy camp. 12 The armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east had settled in the valley like a swarm of locusts. Their camels were like grains of sand on the seashore—too many to count! 13 Gideon crept up just as a man was telling his companion about a dream. The man said, “I had this dream, and in my dream a loaf of barley bread came tumbling down into the Midianite camp. It hit a tent, turned it over, and knocked it flat!”

14 His companion answered, “Your dream can mean only one thing—God has given Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite, victory over Midian and all its allies!”

15 When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord. Then he returned to the Israelite camp and shouted, “Get up! For the Lord has given you victory over the Midianite hordes,” (Judges 7:8-15, NLT)!

Know today that God has called each and every one of us for something great.  If God can use flawed individuals such as Moses, Gideon, David, Ruth, and Esther, imagine what He could do with us.

Shut-Up-Graphic-09

 

Shut up
Just shut up
Shut up [3x]
Shut it up, just shut up
Shut up
Just shut up
Shut up [3x]
Shut it up, just shut up

Black Eyed Peas, Shut Up, Elephunk Album (2003)

Shut Up is a song from Black Eyed Peas’ 2003 Elephunk album.  It’s one of my all-time favorite songs.  It’s no wonder why when I thought about this topic, it was one of the first thing that popped into my mind.  I believe many of us could take a cue from the lyrics:

JUST SHUT UP!

For many of us, one of our biggest problems is that we talk too much—myself included.  Yesterday, I was reminded of that.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of listening to a young, married couple share their personal testimony on the trials and rewards of marriage.  But it wasn’t so much their testimony that struck a chord with me.  It was their answers to one of the audience questions that impacted me the most.  Although the questions were submitted via secret ballot the tone of the question suggested that the person asking was female.  In essence, she asked the couple whether they believed that it was possible for God to reveal detail-specific information to her even though there was no supporting evidence.  The wife answered.  Here is what she said that resonated with me.  She said that there are some things that God reveals to us that are meant to remain between us and God, at least until the appointed time.  I was blown away by her answer for this reason:  What she said was reminiscent of a similar conversation that I had with my minister uncle a few months prior.  He said that there are some things that are so sacred that God wants them to remain secret until the appointed time of revelation.  Many of us, in our excitement to share our blessings (e.g. victory/breakthrough), blab prematurely, and instead of going through the open doors we anticipated, we end up running into brick walls.  We fail to realize that in the natural progression of any birth, there is a significant difference between conception and delivery.  Just as with a natural child, if a dream is birthed before time, it will be premature.  I am quite sure that any parent of a premature child would agree that children who are delivered prematurely face more developmental challenges than do children who were birthed full term.  The same is true of God’s revelations.  When you and I speak them out loud before time, it’s possible that we could birth our dreams into a toxic environment where they might have to fight for survival.  You and I have to know that there are some plans that are so critical to God’s kingdom that the only way that you and I can keep them safe is to keep our mouths shut.  If you don’t believe me check out the story my uncle shared with me about John the Baptist’s birth.

In the Old Testaments, the Ancient prophets prophesized that there would be a man who would pave the way for Jesus Christ.   Scripture has since revealed to us that person was John the Baptist.  Even before he was born, John the Baptist’s destiny was predetermined.  Remember, the Bible says that God’s word will never return to Him void.  So, it’s no wonder the angels did everything they could to protect the birth of this one man.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were the parent of John the Baptist.  Both were very old and had never had a child because Elizabeth was unable to conceive.  One day, when Zechariah, a priest, was serving God, the angel of the Lord came to him and told him that his wife would give birth to a son who would prepare people for the One to come.  Zechariah was doubtful because of his age.  This is the part of the story where we need to pay close attention.  Listen to what Gabriel said to Zechariah:

“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time,” (Luke 1:19, NIV).

Essentially, Gabriel told him to SHUT UP!  Not only did Gabriel tell Zechariah to shut up, he shut him up.  In fact, Zechariah was not able to speak again until John the Baptist was born.  Too often you and I speak prematurely into our situations and allow negative spirits to seep in, including doubt, fear and envy.  Maybe, just maybe, had Zechariah been allowed to speak, he might have spoken death (literally) into his situation.  He might have been so riddled with doubt and insecurity that he could have caused Elizabeth to go into premature labor or deliver a still birth.  Remember what we said earlier about those premature births.  Elizabeth was already old in age.  She didn’t need any additional stress.  Who knows, she probably had her own insecurities and issues.  She sure didn’t need to take on anyone else’s.  Isn’t that the same with our dreams?  God reveals it to us, and we blab and allow others and ourselves to speak doubt into our situation.  Speaking God’s revelation before the appointed time could be our manifestation of pride and arrogance.  In addition to wanting others to see the hand of God at work, we want them to see just how blessed and favored we are.  In our arrogance, we can sometimes overlook one small factor:  Not everyone in our camp is cheering for us.  While we are praying life, they are speaking death.  Part of allowing God’s revelation to mature is learning how to discern with whom we should share our revelation.  We want to make sure that those who are smiling with us are also praying for us.  Thankfully, the good news is: God’s words will never return to Him void.  His plans will ALWAYS come to fruition.  No man, force or spirit can thwart God’s plans for our lives.  However, we can make our journey difficult.  Therefore, we have to be careful how we speak our dreams out loud.

Today, my encouragement to you is: If God has given you revelation for your life, seek His directives.  He might tell you to shout it from the mountains, or He might tell you to keep it to yourself.  Trust me, if you ask Him for clarification, He will let you know!

**Graphics from commentsyard.com.  No endorsement of site content, just a really cool pic.

The closing ceremonies for the Hillsong 2013 NY Conference was almost two days ago, and I am still savoring the glory of the experience.  There were so many amazing stories and testimonies shared.  The one that most compelled me was that of Joel Houston.  He is the lead singer of Hillsong United and co-pastor of Hillsong Church NYC.  He testified that his walk with God did not always immunize him from insecurity and loneliness.  Joel, a man of God and a pastor, stood before thousands and shared a part of himself.  The authenticity of his vulnerability was palpable.  It was raw.  How much courage that must have taken?  Surely, he must have considered what other would have thought of him.  What would his flock say?  Would they frown on him as a leader for admitting his fallibility, or would they honor him for his humility?  The answer is both!  The truth is, you could never be everything to everyone, but you could be something to someone.  When you and I are vulnerable, it allows others to embrace their own imperfections.

A lot of my confidence has evolved by experiencing other’s vulnerability.  For example, as a recently graduated dentist, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing Endodontist (Root Canal Specialist).  She had worked previously as a general dentist.  Her vulnerability and transparency gave me courage to face my insecurities.  It took great courage for her to share some of her pitfalls with me.  She stepped out on a limb and trusted that I would not use the information she shared to judge her or scale myself to her.  I have to tell you, her act of kindness boosted my confidence.

When we express vulnerability it allows the recipient to know that they are not alone.  Vulnerability allows others to know that it is possible to be victorious despite their circumstances.

When Joel shared his story, it reminded me that even those closest to God are still refined by fire.  Joel’s testimony not only renewed hope, but it created an opportunity for the development of freedom.  Unfortunately, even Christians are held captive by false ideologies.  The idea that trials are punishment for misdeeds still permeate the Christian world.  That concept is nothing new.  Look at Job.  His friends thought that his misfortune was directly correlated with his sin.  Thankfully, grace is free.  God created it in a way where we can’t earn it.  We can’t buy it, and, we definitely can’t lose it.

Today, my prayer is that you allow others to experience freedom through your vulnerability.  The notion that we always have to have it together is false and dangerous.  It creates fodder for negative spirits (e.g. insecurity, doubt, envy and fear).  Ask God to grant you the vulnerability to set someone free.  In the process, you will learn that the person who will experience the most freedom is YOU!

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!