Archives for posts with tag: Spiritual

Most recently, I have been lamenting over the significance of the human existence—both the brevity of life and the stench of death.  As Christians, we are taught that death is to be celebrated.  However, many of our celebratory instincts often wane when death is untimely and protracted.  In the era of digital news, it seems as though death is ubiquitous.  It could just be that even (or especially) in the digital era, the old journalism mantra of “If it bleeds it leads,’ still rules.   As such, the news cycles are often inundated with stories of tragedies, many of which we, as a society, have become immune.  The headlines are riddled with stories of murders, suicides, overdoses, illnesses and police brutality, just to name a few.  Although the loss of all human life is significant, none is more impactful to me that the loss of young life—the loss of someone who had yet to reach his or her prime—had yet to experience his or her “better days.”

 

The thought of untimely death has made me question and challenge God’s sovereignty and humanity.  Though I must confess, typing the word “humanity” made me chuckle.  I realized that in my quandary, I had somehow brought God down to my level.  I wanted His ways and His thoughts to be akin to mine.  I knew it was unreasonable and irrational, but I still felt that He owed me an explanation.  Like Job, I felt as though the Creator of the Universe owed me an explanation.   While my meditation did not yield quite the answer that I was looking for, it did provide a story of hope, which I will share with you below:

 

The Time is Closer Than You Think!

 

For eons, many have prophesied about the Last Days.  Each generation has cited turbulent times as evidence of impending doom.  Most recently, I have wondered what those day would look like.  For a glimpse into the future, I turned to Revelation, one of the most allegorical books in the Bible. Revelation 19:19 says, “Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army.”  The verse talked about Jesus returning with his army to wage battle.  Many Biblical scholars are divided between whether that army would consist of solely angels or a combination of angels and those that have gone before.   The thought made me wonder in merriment.

 

Today, there are approximately seven billion people walking the planet.  According to the Population Reference Bureau it is estimated that approximation 107 billion people ever lived.  I image that if a war was declared between the Heavens and Earth, Heaven’s armies would necessitate at least that many “soldiers.”  That’s a lot of angels!  The debate about the composition of Jesus’s army is a complex theological debate that is beyond the scope of this post.  However, I will explore that notion of what it would look like if Jesus’s army consisted of both saints and angels.

 

Disclaimer: The opinions presented below are simply conjecture provided to stimulate thought—a mental exercise.

 

Now that that is out of the way, here are my thoughts:  What if the end was closer that we thought?  What if the increase prevalence of youth mortality was actually a battle call?  What if those who died young were being called home early for a greater purpose—preparation for battle?  Maybe your 23-year-old son that lost his battle with cancer is now a general in the battle of Armageddon.  Maybe that 16-year-old that die in the car accident is now a comrade in Heaven’s army.  I would imagine that if Jesus’s army does consist of saints and angels, some “training” would be necessary.  Imagine if during the final battle, you saw your loved one dress in white linen at the battlefront.  Imagine how good you would feel to know that God has given you beauty for ashes.  While no one know the precision of God’s plan, we do know this:  God’s ways are not our ways and His thought are not our thoughts.  God’s plans might seem inexplicable and painful at times, but we have to trust that HE IS GOD and that He still sits on the throne.  Isaiah 61 (NIV) says:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.

“For I, the Lord, love justice;
I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”

10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations.

 

Regardless of what the world has managed to throw our way, God will continue to give us beauty for ashes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few weeks ago, shortly before New Year’s Eve, I was going through some old journals and reading over prayer requests from previous years. Many of those prayers had been answered in one form or another, while others still remained “unanswered.” For some reason, this made me ask the question: What does faith really look like? Immediately, I started thinking about Jesus’ ministry on Earth. More specifically, I started thinking about the people who Jesus impacted. As far as I could remember, I could not think of one where an individual’s prayer was not immediately answered the moment that they encountered Jesus. For example, the woman with the issue of blood had been bleeding for years, yet the moment she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, she was healed by her faith in Jesus. The same could be said of the lepers, the lames and the blind. The MOMENT they encountered Jesus, their prayers were heard and answered.

Most of us know that God does not act on our timetable. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. However, those stories did challenge the way I perceived my faith. I believe the reason why all of those people received an immediate response was because of the desperation of their fate. Jesus was all they had left. I am sure that the woman with the issue of blood must have seen all the experts of her day, assuming that she could have even afforded their services. The lepers were scorned, mistreated and exiled. Few people might have even cared enough to offer them assistance. I mean, how could they? Most people would have been scared for their own safety, as leprosy was a highly infectious disease at the time.

The people who came to Jesus were desperate. He was their last hope. In fact, He was their only hope. He HAD TO work. This made me ask myself the question: When was the last time I was that desperate? When was the last time I said, “Jesus HAS TO work?” I wonder how many of those “unanswered” prayers in my journal had to do with my own lack of desperation (i.e. lack of faith)?  How many times have I made God my last resort instead of my only hope?  With that being said, it’s important that I clarify one thing.  God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  Sometimes, no matter how hard we pray and believe, things just don’t work out the way that we anticipated.  Sometimes, God has plans that are different than ours, and even though we’ve exercised our faith, we still do not receive the answers we desire.  This purpose of this post is not to assert that all unanswered prayers are due to lack of faith, but to challenge the way we pursued Jesus.  I guess my question for all of us, including myself, is how desperate are we? Is Jesus our only hope?

Father,
Tonight, we come before you with desperation. We desperately want to make Jesus our only hope. We put our trust and faith in Him and Him alone. In your Word, You said that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can command mountains to move. Today, we stand on your word and your promises and command the mountains in our lives to jump into the sea. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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