Archives for posts with tag: Strength

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Most of us are doing the best that we can.  At the half-way mark of our 21-day journey, I remind you to be kind to yourself!

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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.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”  Variations of this quote have been attributed to Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Alexander Hamilton.  However, regardless of to whom the quote is attributed, the point is this: There comes a time when we have to decide what virtues we are going to stand for and what principles we are going to stand on.

This past weekend, God gave me the opportunity to author and produce What is Your Status: An HIV Awareness Story, which included live acting, choreographed dance routines, and a fashion show.  The production was presented by approximately 100 teens ages 13-18, who through this production was able to learn about HIV/AIDS and impart that knowledge to their communities.

When I titled this production, I was very intentional.  I wanted to create a title that would beg the question, “What is Your Status?”  The question, “What is Your Status” was not merely meant to motivate people to learn their HIV status.  It was also meant to challenge and stimulate thought.  It was meant to ignite passion.  ‘What is Your Status” begged the questions: Where do you stand?  What is your position?  What will it take to motivate you to action?  You see, many people talk about problems.  Some people even talk to problems.  But very few people are willing to step outside their comfort zone to find solutions.  Finding solutions require sacrifice.  It commands commitment.  It necessitates more than some people are willing to give. It takes more than simply identifying a need.  It means meeting a need.  It means taking action.

The Bible says faith without works is dead (James 2:17).  Many of us are waiting on God to perform miracles.  Meanwhile, God is waiting on us to lend ourselves to be used by Him.  If we truly believe that we are the light of the world, then we have to position ourselves to bring the world out of the darkness and into the light.  What better way to do that than by meeting the needs of others.

This evening, I was touched by a Reuters’ news article that reported an increase in the prevalence of HIV in South Africa.  My reaction was two-fold. I was proud that I, and a group of dedicated world changers, were able to impact a community, a subset of a generation, and to teach them about HIV awareness.  However, I was saddened to read that despite the global efforts of many, the rates of HIV in South Africa has continued to rise.  According to the article, increased rates of HIV were attributed to an increased numbers of sexual partners, an increase in risky sexual behaviors, and a decrease in the availability of life saving HIV/AIDS drugs.  The alarming statistics made me yearn to do more.  It made me wonder what more I could do.  Then, suddenly, the answer dawned on me.  Faith without works is dead.

Our faith requires work, but our work MUST always be precipitated by our faith.  What I mean by that is this.  While the obvious solution to the HIV/AIDS pandemic is education prevention and medication.  However the solution does not just end there.  In the face of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, we have an opportunity to ask God to intervene.  Before I go any further, I feel I need to address those who might be inclined to take my previous statement out of context.  Let me be clear.  In no way am I asserting that HIV/AIDS is a punishment from God.  However, what I am asserting is that whenever we are faced with a problem (i.e. the HIV/AIDS pandemic or any other Earthly problem) we should invite God into the solution.  In the case of our South African brothers and sisters impacted by this disease, we should pray that in addition to an increase in HIV/AIDS education and medications, we should also pray that there will also be an increase in God’s favor on that entire country.  We should pray for a movement of God.  So with that said, I will end today’s post with a prayer.

Dear Father, I pray for every single person impacted by this disease.  Lord, I pray that you will restore them and their families.  I pray over ALL nations impacted by this disease.  I pray over every single person, particularly those in Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana and South Africa.  I pray that there will be an increase in education and resources to those nations impacted by this epidemic.  I pray that those who receive the education will take heed and protect themselves and their families.  Lord, I pray that you touch the hearts of doctors, educators and philanthropists across the world and that they will be motivated to take part in this global initiative.  I pray that they will be moved to action.  I pray that God’s Spirit will be ushered into every village, every township and every city.  I also pray protection over those praying this prayer.  I pray that God’s peace and protection will prevail in their lives.  I pray that no weapon formed will prosper.  In Jesus’ name I pray.

#Whatisyourstatus

Integrity—It’s who you are when no one is watching.  In today’s world, it can often appear as if honor is a forgotten virtue.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “ Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead. As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people,” (The Message).

Wow! Those words are prophetic.  We ARE living in days where people are indeed lovers of themselves.  Many people are “self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God.”  I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more people allergic to God than to penicillin.  In fact, just the mention of God on the airways seem to send some people into anaphylactic shock.  Some of you reading this blog might even be turned off merely because the content is about God.  We are living in a culture where many have built up a disdain for God and the things of God.  Even many “believers” has succumbed to the customs of the world.  Many of us are self-absorbed, money-hungry and cynical.  When confronted with the state of affairs of the world, there are Christians who respond with “it is what it is,” “people are who they are,” and “what can we do to change it?”  We have become cynical about whether God’s good can triumph over bad.  Many of us have embraced injustice as the new normal.  I am here to tell you that such thinking is contrary to the word of God.  2 Timothy 3:14-17 says,

14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work, (NLT).

Yes, in order to receive victory against all forms of evil in today’s world, we must remain faithful.  We must trust that the Holy Spirit will give us the wisdom, courage and strength we need.  We should not accept or succumb to the practices of the world.  One person CAN make a difference.  If we would realize and understand that while we might not be able to directly change the people around us, we can change ourselves.  When we begin with a change in ourselves, that very change can and will inspire others to take a stand, which could cause us to see a marked difference in the world around us.  We don’t have to just accept things the way they are.  We can make a difference!  Sometimes, we have to simply decide who we will be.  #Integrity!

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

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

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

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

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is a poem/song by Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011), in which the title phrase has been cemented into modern-day vernacular.  Scott-Heron’s influence has transcended cultural, economic and regional borders.  In The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Scott-Heron challenges our apathetic despondence, which fuels our inclination towards complacent mediocrity.  He calls us to take action in a world of unpredictability.  The Revolution Will Not Be Televised asserted that our inaction is an action of dire consequences.  The poem also suggests that our call to action should not be precipitated by the possibility of fame or pursuit of grandeur.  It further states that the greatest revolutionaries are the ones who go unsung and unrecognized.  They are the ones who are willing to go into the battlefield with no guarantees of victory.  They are the ones who are willing to take a chance—to lay it all on the line.  They are usually the ones who truly make a difference.  They are the Esthers, the Daniels, the Davids, the Josephs and the Abrahams.

We are living in revolutionary times.  More specifically, we are in the middle of a revolution, and it’s time that God’s people spring into action—get off of the sidelines and jump onto the battlefield.  We can’t afford not to.  Many Christians are governed more by fear, doubt and insecurities more than we are the Holy Spirit.  Oftentimes, we sit idly by as the World advances its agenda, because we are afraid to speak out, offend or interject.  We rather murmur than make a difference.  We use phrase like, “Who am I to say/judge?” and “To each his own” as spiritual clutches.  Let me be very clear, as Christians, we have every right to say.  We were called to say.  When Jesus issued the decree not to judge others, He did not mean that we should stand in passive agreement of sin, He meant that we should not condemn others because of it.  A society with no governing laws/standards is governed by anarchy, complete disorder, which by definition is contradictory to the nature of God, which is order.  We are called to make a difference.

Over the past few months, I have read various devotionals and books where the authors have suggested that we are in the final days; and we should pursue life passionately.  The truth is, no one but God knows when the final days are.  However, the fact that we do not know when the final days are should ignite a fire in our souls.  Imagine that tomorrow was indeed the last day.  Wouldn’t you want to make today count?  Wouldn’t you want to know that your life counted and that you gave it all you got?  If you answered yes, then you need to start living like you are dying!

The truth remains that despite whether or not tomorrow is indeed our last day, we are indeed dying.  We approach closer to death with every breath of life we take.  The more we live, the more imminent death becomes.  For many people, this topic of conversation is rather macabre.  Those individuals would rather talk about sunshine and rainbows.  However, the harsh reality is that during the time it took you to read this post, time has been withdrawn from your flesh and the withdrawal in non-refundable.    We know that time waits on no man, and that it does not stand still.  The fact that we only have one life to live means that we only have one lifetime to make a Kingdom difference.  So, why not give it all that we have?  Why not go for broke?  Why are we not pursuing our God-sized dreams?  Going for that business? That career goal?  That missionary work? That dream that only you and God know about?  Moving forward, let’s take back what the enemy has stolen and place it back into the hands of those who can properly steward it for God.  There is a revolution, and it has already started.  Where will you stand?

Pride
Being thankful could be difficult— sometimes VERY. The mind is hard to silence and the heart is equally difficult to humble. Being thankful requires us to be intentional. It requires faith.

Ecclesiastes 11:5-6 says, “5 Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. 6 Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both,” (NLT).

We have to trust that even during what we perceive as difficult seasons, God is still on the throne. We have to believe that even when the desires of our hearts seem to be light years away, God has a plan for victory. No one said that walking by faith and not by sight would be easy, but we have to remember who God is. He is the same today, tomorrow and forever (Hebrews 13:8). If He did it before, He will do it again! If He did it for one, He will do it for all! He will do it for you.

King Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived cautioned:

9 Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. 10 So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless, (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10, NLT)

King Solomon was right. Everything in life is meaningless. Can any of us remember the worries that we had 10 years ago? Sure, we might be able to remember that we had some cause for concern, but those visceral emotions have fade. Even the memories of joyous events have faded. It is impossible to relive a moment. It is for that reason that we have to be thankful. We cannot relive today. Today is a new day. It’s not tomorrow or yesterday.  When you and I are not thankful for today, we spend our day wishing it were tomorrow, and in some cases, yesterday. Doing so never allows us to live in the present. The problem is, time doesn’t stand still when we fail to engage the present. In fact, it quickly sifts away. Before we know it, days have turned to months and months have morphed into years, even decades. We have to give thanks for where we are today, for tomorrow is not promised. Not only is tomorrow not promised. It does not exist. Tomorrow is a mirage. The moment we experience tomorrow, it has already become today. So, why are we living for tomorrow? We should enjoy today! We should give thanks for today!
Dear God, we thank you for today. We thank you for every moment—happy or sad. Lord, we know enough to know that we know nothing at all. We thank you that you have the universe and our lives under control. We thank you for the rainbow that hails after the storm because we know that is your promise of things to come. God, we simply thank you! Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I’m usually not the best at reciting jokes, but this one I had to share.  A man went to God and said, “God, your power is so infinite and your resources are so limitless.  For you, a million years is like one second and a million dollars is like one penny.  Surely, you would have no problems giving me a million dollars.”  God looked at the man and said, “I sure don’t.  Just give me one second.”

The truth is God’s timing is not the same as ours.  When everything ceases to exist, He will still remain standing.  God has seen empires rise and fall.  He has seen generations created and destroyed.  He is the beginning and the end of time.  So, sometimes it does beg the question:  Could God truly sympathize with the fact that we are but a mist in the spectrum of time?  Even though He created us, does He really understand that our Earthly bones decay daily?  Does He truly understand that for us a million years is not the same as one second?  As I explored the answer, perhaps answers, to this question, I came across an interesting passage in Scripture.  It’s a little long, but just bear with me:

A Valley of Dry Bones

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”

10 So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ 12 Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. 14 I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken,’” (Ezekiel 33:1-14, NLT)!

This story should give each and every one of us great comfort.  You see, when the bones first came together, they had no life.  They were just going through the motions.  It wasn’t until God breathed His Spirit into them that they came alive.  This passage illustrates three really important principles.  First, it is quite possible that you and I can make plans absent of God.  Our plans might even create the illusion of success.  I am sure that had there been distant onlookers, the regenerating bone might have given the appearance of life.  But just like the bones, our plans do not experience true life until God breaths His Spirit onto them.  The second point is, regardless of how dead something is, God can bring it back to life.  The fact that those bones were dry throughout suggests that they had been there for some time.  The bones probably surpassed any memories of the individuals’ existence, but God was still able to bring them back to life.  To us, our dreams might appear dead and forgotten, but God can bring them back to life by breathing His spirit into it.  The truth is, our very existence is proof of that.  We were dead before we were born, and God breathe life into us and caused us to exist.  The third point is easily overlooked.  God could have resurrected the bones on His own, but he used Ezekiel to perform the works.   God commanded him to speak to the bones and the wind.  What is He commanding us to speak to in our lives?

I love the way this passage end.  Even though God had given this illustration as promise to the nation of Israel, we should know that our God is not a partial God, and that the promises He makes to one is applicable to all.  With that said, God promised the Israelites that He would open their graves of exile and cause them to rise again.  Wow!  How many of us are living, but we still have one (or both) foot (feet) in the grave?  The truth is, it does matter.  God has promised us that He can rescue us from the tomb and bring us back to life.

Today, we should be encouraged that regardless of where we find ourselves, we should know that God has the ability to rescue us.  He sees us.  There is nothing that can separate us from His love.  He has not forgotten about us or given up on us.  Many may say that it is too late.  The doctor might have predicted when someone will draw his final breath, but only God breathes life.  Critics might say that our dreams have an expiration date and that we are too old to achieve God’s plan, but God gets the final word!  In fact, He has also shared that final word with us.  We need to speak life into our situation today!

Repeat after Ezekiel (via God):

“‘Dry bones [FILL IN THE BLANK WITH YOUR OWN CIRCUMSTANCES], listen to the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord….Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again….‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken, (NLT).’”

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.

Greed

The name of this blog is called That Next Level Thinking.  Part of the reason why I decided to write this blog is because I believe that in order to separate ourselves from the pack, we have to learn to think outside the box—to think on that next level.  In a spiritual context, that means leading with our spiritual minds and seeing past the vision of our natural eyes.  Today, I am starting a new series called the “Seven Deadly Sins.”  Hopefully, over the next seven days, I will challenge you to think outside the box as we look at these seven vices and discuss how they impact our Christian walk.

The theory of the seven deadly sins has captured the interest of scholars, historians, philosophers, artists and even movie directors for centuries.  In 1995, the American movie, Se7en, told the story of two police detectives who tracked a serial killer who profiled his victims based on the seven sins: wrath, gluttony, sloth, greed, pride, envy and lust.

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).

TODAY’S DEADLY SIN: GREED

What is greed?  Greed is an insatiable appetite for possessions.  In other words, it’s a bottomless desire for more “stuff.” Usually, that “stuff” is material in nature.   According to 1 John 2:16, “For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world,” (NIV).

As I was thinking about the topic of greed this week, the parable that came to mind was “Jesus and the Prince of Demons.”  In the parable, Jesus cast out a demon from a possessed man.  As usual, the Pharisees tried to entrap him.  They accused him of being in allegiance with the prince of darkness.  Jesus responded to them saying:

19 And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. 20 But if I am casting out demons by the power of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you. 21 For when a strong man like Satan is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe— 22 until someone even stronger attacks and overpowers him, strips him of his weapons, and carries off his belongings, (Luke 11:19-22, NLT).

I am sure many of you are not quite seeing the greed connection.  Just bear with me.

If greed is from the devil, then it stands to reason that the devil himself is greedy.  He IS the father of greed.  We should also keep in mind that the devil is a spiritual being, hence, the things that the devil craves are not “natural”.  In other words, the devil is not enticed by designer labels and premium neighborhood.  He craves spiritual possessions.  He has an insatiable appetite for our souls.  He’s greedy.  This brings me back to the passage: “For when a strong man like Satan is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe,” (NLT).

Satan tries to gather us like possessions.  One of the possible reasons why many of us have not experienced our breakthrough is that we haven’t realized that there are principalities that are trying to resist us.  Ephesians 6:12 says we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities.  Our battles are spiritual.

Now, I feel like I need to interject for a second.  We should understand that we are never outside of God’s reach.  Some of us are exactly where God wants us to be.  Just like Jesus, the Spirit drove us into the wilderness.  Others of us, on the other hand, have created our own wilderness experience.  The good news is that even when we detour off course, God can use our mistakes for our edification and for His Glory.  However, regardless of which situation we find ourselves in, we have to acknowledge that there is a spiritual battle taking place.  The “strong man” is always trying to vie for ALL our souls (greed).  Verse 21 says that “when a strong man like Satan is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe,” (NLT).  Thankfully, there is a caveat to that statement.  The following sentence in that verse says that Satan’s possessions are safe with him “until someone even stronger attacks and overpowers him, strips him of his weapons, and carries off his belongings,” (NLT).  We should know that even though we have an enemy, we also have an ally who is far stronger and will rescue us from the devil’s wiles.

Today, if there are any of you facing difficulties or praying for breakthroughs, ask God to tie up the “strong man” so that you could walk out of his house and into your destiny with ALL of your “possessions.”  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

Photo Credit: Peterheck.com (No endorsement of content.  Just loved the graphic:-) )