Tag: hope

Letting Go of Something Good

Letting Go of Something Good

This one’s for me.

“Letting go” isn’t usually easy — especially for me. It doesn’t matter what it is. I’m incredibly sentimental. My closet in my living room has been opened a total of 5 times since I’ve lived there (3 years)! I have yet to clear out its contents because I have some sort of sentimental attachment to those things (awards, memorabilia, etc.). Also, I’m pretty sure there are spiders in there and I’m not really built for that kind of battle.

It’s much easier for me to let go of things I know I don’t need and don’t care about — but what about when it’s something I really care about? What if I have to let go of something God has said is for me? What if I have to let of something that’s good for me? What if I have to let go of something I never expected to part with?

Well, that’s me right now. I won’t go into great detail; but I wanted to express some ideas that have been swarming through my mind.

  1. My trust cannot be in the good “thing’s” ability or likelihood of coming back. I must trust that if God needs me to have it, it will be God’s ability and responsibility to restore it.
  2. I have to consider that what’s good isn’t necessarily what’s best.
  3. When I give up something good, I have to realize that I’ll always win. If I give it up and cling to God, I’ve automatically won. Although, if I’m honest, I don’t always know what that looks like nor am I amped to cling to God in moments like these. Sometimes, I just want to stomp my feet, pout, and demand that God does things my way. This sort of reaction indicates a certain idolatry in my heart toward the thing(s) I let go of.
  4. Although it may be good for me, it may not be good for me right now.
  5. How secure am I in who God has said I am? Do I need this thing in order to feel secure, confident, worthy, etc? Nah.
  6. God will often draw you to Himself in moments of loss (of any proportion). This is almost always the highest purpose or result when loss occurs.
  7. There are no shortcuts for dealing with the pain. There are many seemingly worthy substitutes that make it easier to cope with the pain. They help soften the blow of the loss. However, if maturity is what you seek, you’ll know that eventually you will have to part with the temporary for the ultimate. You’ll have to embrace and face the pain head on.
  8. God is not cruel nor is He interested in making you suffer without purpose. In most cases, our suffering is not due to God bringing some judgment. It’s often due to our poor decisions, decisions of others around us, or attacks from the enemy (Satan).

While God does not cause much of our pain, He will use it for our good. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

All things — suffering, work together for my good.

All things — loss, work together for my good.

All things — obscurity, work together for my good.

All things — rejection, work together for my good.

All things — (fill in the blank), work together for my good.

It is important when you are walking (sometimes crawling) through a season of loss to watch where you put your focus. Social media is a trap I’ve found myself falling into many of times.

Scrolling through highlight reels of the lives of those around me serves as a constant reminder of what I’ve lost or doubt I’ll ever have. Eyes up. Meditating on what was and being worried about what will be — eyes up. Getting stuck in grief, bitterness, self-hatred, frustration with God — eyes up.

God will always be the remedy for what we’ve lost.

He can be trusted. Let this verse permeate your heart in this time:

“The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

 

In the World, But Not of It: Reverence Over Relevance

In the World, But Not of It: Reverence Over Relevance

Disclaimer: This is for the Christians. It is not to be used as ammunition toward any specific Christian, church, or denomination; nor has it been written motivated by the actions of any specific person, church, or denomination.

Instead, I’m writing because of something I’ve periodically observed in myself. I believe it’s something many Christians might observe in themselves if they’d search; this desire to be relevant. This is not specific to Christians, but that’s what we’ll deal with today.

Relevance in and of itself is not evil; but the desire for it must be qualified. Why do we want to be relevant? What does relevance look like in the life of the believer? Does it mean I can’t be fun anymore? How do I serve God without being out of touch with “reality?” To whom do we want to be relevant?

These are all important questions and our answers to them reveal something about the posture of our heart toward God and the things of God. So, let’s dive in.

First, I want to deal with two different perspectives we may observe in the Church (the Body of Christ, followers of Christ) concerning relevance. People often swing to one extreme of the spectrum or the other.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “in the world, but not of it?” Yes? Well, this is an understanding of several verses in the Bible; though it is not a verse itself. Basically, it means even though we exist in this world, we are not of the same nature of the world. There is a culture and citizenship we possess that supersedes that which we experience here. We (children of God) are of a different world which is unseen. Below are some of the verses which compile this theological idea of ‘in the world, but not of it.’

John 15: 19
“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

1 John 2:15
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

John 16:33
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Mark 4:19
“…and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”

The First Extreme

Some interpret these verses to mean we can’t do anything that appears even remotely secular‘– which means ‘worldly.’ For example, some believe we can’t have any sort of relationship with those who aren’t believers–not even any association. Granted, a believer must be wise and discerning when pursuing intimate relationships with unbelievers.

However, there is a difference between being separate and being separate. What? The kind of separation required of believers is one that distinguishes. It is not to isolate or quarantine our faith but to live separate to GOD. Being separate to GOD means we seek to become what GOD desires for us to become.

This was a common issue the Messiah encountered while He walked this Earth. He was constantly brought under scrutiny for spending time with sinners and the ‘unclean’ of society. This didn’t line up with the idea the religious leaders of that time had about being separated or holy.

In one account, the Messiah is eating dinner with tax collectors (oftentimes manipulative con men) and other sinners. One of the ruling religious groups in Israel at the time, the Pharisees, reasoned among themselves and concluded that He was unclean because of this.

You can find some accounts of this encounter here: Matthew 9:10-17, Mark 2:13-17, and Luke 5:27-31.

Believers, we do ourselves and the world a disservice by segregating (isolating) ourselves and the truth we know. Be careful not to build and sustain cozy environments that only welcome those who agree with you (even specifically those of the same faith as you). In response to His being questioned about His interaction with sinners, the Messiah responded, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance (Luke 5:31-31).”

This inclination to isolate in comfortability without challenge hardens the heart of the believer and allows religion to calcify our minds. This causes us to lose sight of the call of EVERY believer–that is reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:11-21). We are called to reconcile people to GOD. This cannot be done if we’re walled up physically or spiritually within four walls of a quaint church that make us feel comfortable, secure, and unchallenged.

There are people who are falling away daily and many more who have not heard the truth and love expressed in the Gospel of the kingdom of GOD. If we’re honest, in our hearts, there is often fostered this culture of ‘staying’ — of finding a safe, comfortable place and resting there; comfortable in our religion. Our call was never to stay, but to ‘go.’ (Matthew 28:18-20) That doesn’t mean everyone is going to live the life of a traveling missionary or what have you. It does mean that we have to come outside of ourselves to reach the lost and those who have fallen away wherever we find ourselves.

The Second Extreme

The other extreme of the spectrum typically involves this need to prove likeness. “I’m just like you.” “We’re the same!” “I like that kind of music too.” Have you ever met a believer who is always trying to convince people to follow Christ or accept them by proving believers aren’t that different from everyone else? Better yet, have you ever been that believer? I know I have.

It didn’t happen overnight though. I’ve always been very vocal about my faith and the importance thereof. However, over the years, I saw a gradual change. I started wanting to compel people to come to Christ by convincing them that things wouldn’t change much or that I was still like the ‘Darveiye’ I was before.

This is problematic because I was compelling people based on a lie. I’m not just like you. We’re not the same. We may seem incredibly similar on the surface, but there is an inner change that differentiates us. It doesn’t mean I’m better, it means I’m renewed. It means I’m saved. It means I’m redeemed. It means my mind has been changed. It means some things will not and cannot stay the same. It means I have a new nature. I may be “in the world, but I’m not of it.”

I found the reason I was trying to be “relevant” was not because I wanted people to accept God, but I wanted people to accept me. I’d spent so much of my life being rejected and bullied for my interests, my looks, my faith that I found I started to work hard to prove I was normal. However, the reality of the life of a child of God is that you will not be accepted by the world and you are not normal. It’s not something that “gets better” or changes with time.

If there comes a point at which I am completely embraced by the world or indistinguishable from it, I’ve ceased being separated. I may find I’ve begun to seek relevance from the world compromising my reverence for God — which is the result of seeking relevance.

For you cannot completely love and embrace God and still look like, think like, and live like the world. You will hate one or love the other. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matthew 6:24a).”

This dynamic isn’t often easily detected. Sometimes, we’re still doing all of the things we usually do (go to church, read the Bible, talk about God) but will find our hearts are far from God in the process. This is why checking your heart is so important. Always ask, “why am I doing what I’m doing?” “Why am I saying what I’m saying?” “Am I trying to get people to accept me or accept God?” “Am I cutting myself off from the people who need to hear about the God I know?” “Am I discerning or am I just judging people?”

We often treat this walk with Christ as a one size fits all. Granted, there are elements that are one-size-fits-all (salvation, loved by God, call to reconciliation, and many others). However, we have these misguided ideas of exactly what it should look like and get lost in trying to look like that (clothes we wear, how we talk, going to church, reading the Bible, being kind to people, etc) and forget to check if our hearts are truly one with God’s heart.

To sum all of this up, choose reverence over relevance.

Be sensible. Be fools.

Over and out.

 

I Thought It Was Love

I Thought It Was Love

Have you ever been in love? Many of us would claim we have been. Sometimes, we’re unsure. We use feelings to justify or confirm that we were in fact in love. “I just feel so happy around him!” “She makes me so giddy!” “He just makes me feel good.”

We think because “we’re so excited to be around them,” “we like the same things,” or “they’re different from anyone we’ve ever dated,” that it means we’re in love. Granted, sometimes, this is the case. However, this is not always true. Sometimes, it’s something else.

Lust.

You’ve likely already heard this. Lust does a fantastic job at masquerading as love. We often perceive our lust for someone as love for them. Lust can be defined as a very strong desire–often unquenchable. It is not wrong in and of itself to strongly desire something.

However, it’s important to qualify (verify) what we desire. We can do this by asking a couple of simple questions.

Why do I want what I want?

This is one of the easiest ways to distinguish love from lust. If you want what you want for an unhealthy reason (pride, insecurity, superiority), then you know it’s lust. Lust does nothing but consume you. Love doesn’t consume you, it blooms you and those that are in relationship with you.

What will I do once I get it?

Is your desire for selfish reasons, then you know it’s not love; for love is selfless. Are you unable to give selflessly? Do you only desire to receive without any reciprocation? This leads me to my next point.

Reciprocity.

This is likely the most common dynamic at work in relationships that seem to have love, but don’t. The only reason I have any perception of this, is because I’ve discovered this within myself.

You may have learned about reciprocity in Math class in high school. It is simply a mutual exchange of privileges. “I am this to you because you’ve been that to me.” “I’ll do this for you because you’ve that for me.” “I expect you to give this because I’ve given that.”

Disclaimer: I’m not saying you should not have standards or stay in toxic relationships. No. Instead, I am saying a relationship built on reciprocity cannot live up to its fullest potential and it is not love. 

In a reciprocal relationship, I love that you did this for me, but not necessarily you. I find myself attached to what you can do, give, or be to me and not you. That’s not love. Love isn’t looking for what it can get, love has already given. It’s free. Love gives freely. For the moment love requires compensation, it’s not really love. 

I thought I knew how to love. I did; and maybe I did know how to love. However, after many heart breaking experiences, I’ve been slow to love those around me in fear of getting hurt. “What if I let myself love them and they hurt me beyond repair?” To a hurting person, that is the most valid question you could ask. While our ‘what if’ scenarios hardly ever come true, you can’t help but believe that if you chose to love, you’d end up broken.

I want to encourage you to love again. I don’t mean seek a romantic relationship–but love again.

Love yourself. Love others. This will only be possible through intimate relationship with the Most High. For many of us, the reason we’re unable to love without fear is because we have a skewed perspective about God. We’ve lost our trust in Him. We’ve lost our faith in Him. We feel like He left us when we needed Him most. So, we no longer go to Him when we feel lost or broken.

Fortunately and unfortunately, He is the only One that can find us when we’re lost and mend us when we’re broken.

The thing is, God is love–the very essence of it. God doesn’t have love, He is it. God doesn’t give love, He is it. If we’d allow Him to infiltrate every area of our dark hearts, they’d beat again. God wants you to be able to love again. You haven’t lost it, it’s just hidden. Remember, love doesn’t wait to be acknowledged or recognized. It’s free.

So, even if you’re not acknowledging God in your life right now, just know that He loves you still. That is the greatest truth we can ever grasp as humans–God loves you. Don’t forget it.

Meditate on 1 Corinthians 13.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poorand give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love

Be sensible. Be fools.

1 Cor. 3:18

An Open Letter to Myself

An Open Letter to Myself

What you will read below is a note I wrote in my phone to process my thoughts about my fear of rejection. It’s not going to be well organized. It’s my thoughts nonetheless.

I’m putting this up here in an effort to be vulnerable, transparent, and encourage someone who can relate. When I’m in places in which I can’t express myself, I write. I write to understand what I’m feeling and come to a place of resolution. So, here goes.

“I think I have a fear of rejection. I can trace it all the way back to when I was a child.

I remember pulling out of the student council race for president because I thought I’d lose. I don’t invite people places because of fear of rejection. I never wanted to throw parties because of fear of rejection. What if they don’t show up? They’d be rejecting me because they think I’m not worthy of showing up for.

In various seasons of my life, it’s been communicated to me that I’m not good enough to other people. That my voice doesn’t matter. That my interests were lame. That I was almost pretty, but not actually pretty. That I was almost cool, but not quite.

This is sad because I’ve let it rule my life for way too long. I’ve chosen not to go after things for fear of rejection. I have gone after things I knew I’d succeed in so not to lose or be rejected; all based on a conditioning by broken people. How are broken people going to tell me what I’m worth?  I’m worth the very GOD of heaven coming down to save me. That’s invaluable. No one can ever provide that for me.

So, I’m not broken. I’m whole in Him.
I’m not rejected. I’m accepted by Him.
I’m not unworthy. I’m worth it because of Him.
I’m not pathetic. I have purpose in Him.

God has already planned amazing things for me to do. Some will seem glorious, others not as much. But it’s what He has planned. And I’ll be glad in it. I don’t have to shrink back and pretend I’m not worthy of what is mine. Instead, I will step up and fully embrace that which God has called me to. I am more than enough.”

Here’s the thing. God loves you. Passionately. Everlastingly. Unconditionally. This matters above all else.

It doesn’t matter what people have said or done to you. You don’t have to believe them. Any thought or idea lower than God’s idea about you is a lie. God knows you the way no human will ever know you.

David, King of Israel, was a man with many issues but a heart set to please God. He understood that despite his shortcomings, his inward sin, his outward sin, rumors about him, betrayal, and his lowest points that God knew him and loved him still. David had done some terrible things in his life; things that many of would hate ourselves for. David knew that what others thought about him and what he thought about himself had to be subject to what God knew about him.

Read below what David was expressing about God’s intimate knowledge of him and you too!

 O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
3 You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
5 You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.

7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.

Psalm 139:1-18

May you leave this believing the best about your Father and who He created you to be. Be blessed.

6 Things A Relationship Won’t Heal

6 Things A Relationship Won’t Heal

Here me out. While some of these things can be helped by a relationship, it(a relationship) is only a temporary fix that is likely to land you in further issue. So, before you decide to change that relationship status to ‘taken’ or ‘boo’d up,’ check out these things. You may think twice.

Loneliness

I’ve learned this in my most recent romantic relationship. A relationship will not heal ‘loneliness.’ It didn’t matter how often we spoke, how much time we spent together, or that the relationship was healthy and life-giving. I’d still find myself experiencing loneliness. This speaks to a common phrase we hear, “you can be in a crowd full of people and still feel alone.” So, having another person active in your life doesn’t guarantee you won’t feel lonely.

A relationship can only provide a band aid for the issue of loneliness. There’ll be times in which you feel the loneliness is subsiding; but that’s usually only during the moments you spend with your significant other. Once you’re alone, it all comes crashing down again.

Honestly, I’m still unpacking exactly where this weight of loneliness comes from. However, once I realized that I was lonely while still in a relationship, I ran to the Most High (GOD) and He’s been revealing and healing those areas. Now, it’s a very rare thing I experience.

Lust

Oh man. Many of us don’t want to say it. We wouldn’t say that’s largely the reason we hop into a relationship. We think that if we are committed to one person then we can somehow channel the lust into a positive energy in the relationship. One thing I’ve learned is that lust cannot be tamed, coddled, or ‘channeled.’ It can only be starved. Lust that’s starved is a lust that loses its power.

I’ve heard this said from various married folk, “whatever problems you have before marriage are the same problems you’ll have IN marriage; just multiplied!” I believe this applies to any sort of relationship. Any relationship will not make your issues magically evaporate. In fact, a life-giving God-ordained relationship will expose those issues and propel you toward purpose.

However, marriage exposes those issues in a unique way. For GOD’s purpose through marriage is to sanctify the husband and wife so that they reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church.

So, you can rest assured that if you’re struggling with lust now and you do nothing about it, you will struggle with it in a relationship.

Brokenness

To be honest, I’m hesitant on even putting this here; because I’ve seen the power of a healthy God-ordained relationship in dealing with brokenness. However, I wouldn’t say the relationship healed brokenness. Instead, it created a safe place for the areas of brokenness to be exposed and mended. 

GOD often works through people to heal and provide. However, it’s HIS power and resources that make healing and provision possible. So, no relationship with any human can provide all that you need for healing. It can merely serve as a conduit for healing.

Fear

If you’re struggling with fear as a single person, fear will infiltrate your relationship. We often think that a relationship will magically heal every issue we have. It will not. The same is true with fear. The only remedy for fear is love. The Bible says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).

I’ve wrestled with this passage many times; because according to it, I don’t walk in perfect love. I know I don’t walk in perfect love because I often live in fear. The two can’t coexist. The reason love and fear can’t coexist is because fear torments and punishes.

There is no pride in love. Love is humble. There is no lack in love. Love is complete. Love doesn’t keep record of wrong. Love forgives.

You can’t operate in perfect love and fear. GOD is love. There is no fear in GOD. What does God have to fear? Who does GOD have to fear?

My friend Chevon encouraged me one day concerning the verse above. She explained that perfect love will cast out fear as in it will draw it out. It will bring it to the surface and demand that it leave. It must be exposed first. An issue cannot change unless it is first exposed. An active relationship with the Most High (GOD), who is Love,  will pull the curtain back on your fear and drive it out.

Low Self-Esteem

Our society informs us that if you are in a relationship, you must be of importance or value. Have you ever been single and no one was trying to get at you at all? As soon as you got in a relationship, everyone seemed to shoot their shot? No? Just me? Cool. Sometimes, people don’t desire us until it seems someone else desires us. Oftentimes, we find our worth in whether or not we’re ‘desired’ by others.

We gravitate towards relationships because of the perception we want people to have of us. We want to be seen as someone who is worthy of another’s affection.

The thing is, whether or not someone woke up this morning with you on their mind, you are worthy of love. In fact, Christ thought you were worthy of His life. No human could ever or will ever top that. Ever.

Honestly, this is something I have to keep at the forefront of my mind. I tell myself often enough, “I’m not more important or attractive because I’m in a relationship with someone.” “I’m not less attractive or important when I’m single. I have the same kind of value in either position; because I’m HIS.” To be honest, I don’t always believe this, but I know it’s true. I don’t always feel like this is true, but GOD.

Lack of Purpose

For those that desire a long-term relationship, there is a certain security we experience having found someone we desire to invest in and who wants to invest in us. Sometimes, it can feel like a release or relief from ‘singleness.’ Many of us have been waiting for what seems like an eternity to ‘find’ someone or ‘be found,’ so that our life can finally “start.”

Now, I’ve heard it said many times that some of your best days are when you find that special someone and build a life together. I believe there’s a level of truth to this. However, you ought to have some of your “best days” before you’re linked in a relationship.You can’t wait around for someone or a relationship to ascribe purpose to you.

Granted, a facet of your purpose may be revealed once you link up with someone, but it’s important we begin seeking GOD concerning our individual purpose before a relationship.

Many of us get in a relationship and the relationship becomes our purpose. If you don’t have purpose before the relationship, you may not be choosing to be with this person for the right reasons. You could be choosing to be with them because of a lack of knowledge of your purpose, a fear of being alone, brokenness, loneliness, etc. Knowing your purpose or at least a glimpse of it will help in choosing wisely and timely as to when and with whom to get into a relationship.

So be encouraged and mindful. A relationship is not and should not become your everything. The very things you’re seeking healing for, GOD will heal if you let Him.

I’m encouraged today because I’m not where I used to be. I don’t even have to focus on “not being where I should be or will be.” I just know, I’m not where I used to be. The Father is healing me from the inside out and isn’t willing to let anything go unfinished. This is a work he started and I know He’ll finish it. (Phil. 1:6)

I’m encouraged because of the relationship I have with my Father. The Most High (GOD) pursues me, placed purpose in me, and continues to transform me so that it is fulfilled. So, if you’re struggling with any of the things listed above, remember that GOD is with you. No one can ever fill all of those voids and wounds. 

The only relationship that can heal all of the broken areas in you is your relationship with the Most High (GOD), your Father, if you accept Him. 

 

*I do not own the featured photo.

Hang In There

Hang In There

“Have the kids drove you crazy yet?” she asked. “Absolutely.” I replied.

“Hang in there.”

Those three magic words calmed and reassured me as my coworker with great empathy encouraged me. I didn’t even know I needed to hear that or that it would have the kind of effect it had.

The beauty of those three words strung together is that there are no empty promises or frilly pretenses. It means what it says. “Hang. In. There.”

No one tells you to ‘hang in there’ when things are easy. The very reason for which they’re saying that to you is because things are NOT easy. ‘Hang in there’ means:

  1. You may not have much left to give, but give anyway.
  2. You may be tired, but press anyway.
  3. You may not be noticed, but serve anyway.

The Bible says, So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up or quit” (Galatians 6:9 MSG). Paul is specifically addressing believers and how they engage with other believers and those who do not share their faith. This response is important because it’s not a response to humans, but a response and result of relationship with God.

Paul is teaching the church at Galatia that God does not ignore our efforts, hard work, good intentions, good deeds, etc. While those things are no good in and of themselves to save us, God still recognizes them and responds to them. 

The verses before verse 9 explain a basic principle that most people believe regardless of religious or cultural background. Some call it karma. Some call it ‘energy’ or ‘vibes.’ Some call it the power of positive thinking. We call it many things without fully understanding the weight of it.

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked [He will not allow Himself to be ridiculed, nor treated with contempt nor allow His precepts to be scornfully set aside]; for whatever a man sows, this and this only is what he will reapFor the one who sows to his flesh [his sinful capacity, his worldliness, his disgraceful impulses] will reap from the flesh ruin and destruction, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life(Galatians 6:7-8).

Basically: whatever you plant, grows. Whatever you put in, you get it back. The beautiful thing about God is when you choose to plant according to His desires, His nature, and His will, you don’t just get back what you put in. You get a HARVEST. You get MORE than what you put in. Unfortunately, some of us feel as if we haven’t seen anything that looks like a harvest.

Some of us are frustrated right now because we don’t feel like our efforts are being noticed by the people we’d like to notice. Some of us feel God doesn’t seem to care about the pain, discomfort, or difficulty we may be walking through. Know this:

The Bible also says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

If there is anything that you take away from this, let it be this: God sees. More importantly for some of us, God sees you. Specifically. Clearly. Lovingly.

So, whatever you’re going through, know that God has a beautiful plan for you. It may not be easy or comfortable; but it’s worth it. God never promised we wouldn’t suffer; though He did promise that He’d always be with us (Deut. 31:6). So, hang in there. Better yet, rest in the One who is holding you.

Friends: How Many of Us Have Them? Pt. 2

Friends: How Many of Us Have Them? Pt. 2

We’re back to dig a little deeper about a subject that is relatively touchy for me. I have found over the years that I feel quite strongly about what friendship is and ought to look like.

I’m that person that is very intentional about which words I use when referring to someone. “Oh, that’s my homeboy Jake.” (I do not have a homeboy named Jake. I’m just saying.) When I say homeboy, I am referring to someone who I get along with, we can have the occasional deep conversation, but we’re not exactly friends.

There are levels to this.

If I had to draw a diagram of some sort, it would look a little something like this:

Diagram From the outer circle to the inner circle, each one represents a function of relationship.

Acquaintance: someone I just met

Associate: someone I know within a particular context (classmate, coworker, etc)

Homie/Homeboy: someone with whom I’ve had more regular contact, deeper conversations, and get along with very well

Friend: someone I trust; and while we’re close, mutually, we’re not in each other’s innermost circle; accountability and support

Best friends: God has mutually equipped us to walk together through life; higher accountability, greater intimacy, have been ‘vetted’ etc.

The levels don’t indicate who’s better. The levels indicate the different functions and purposes of those relationships. What these levels comprise is a support system. For clarification, this does not mean I don’t have intimate moments with acquaintances and associates. I believe transparent moments like that are necessary and important to personal growth.

If you didn’t notice, there wasn’t a circle for me. Friends aren’t there for their worlds to revolve around me. This is something I’ve struggled with from time to time. I’ve learned that it’s not simply about who they can be to you or how they can help you.

Yes. It’s important to know who your friends are and how they function. However, an important question to ask ourselves is, “What kind of friend am I to them? How have I been a support to them?”

For me, it’s often easier to assume I’m not in the wrong. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I ‘classify’ my friends for lack of a better word. I have not spent nearly as much thinking about how I can be better as a friend. “A man of many companions may come to ruin; but there’s a friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24)

It’s so easy to read that and begin to think of all the people who don’t fit that description. Today I’m asking myself, “am I a friend who sticks closer than a brother?” Honestly, I do think I’m a good friend; at least I have the potential to be. However, potential means nothing without progress.

Here are some ways I have identified I could be a better friend:

  1. Call when I have nothing to talk about. For us ladies, this can be so difficult. We typically call or text each other to talk about a specific topic. We may call to update each other about our life events.
  2. Give them the benefit of the doubt when they don’t do what you’d like for them to do. This is a really big one for me. I’ve improved, but often my mind begins to wander and I find myself thinking thoughts that are not life-giving.
  3. Keep shorter accounts.  Don’t just wait for them to contact you or a special occasion. Contact them more frequently.
  4. Ask the questions you’re uncomfortable asking. Some questions include, “How can I be a better friend?” “When and how have I acted out of character as of late?”
  5. Be honest when things hurt me. Sometimes we think that just because we’re in a friendship that God put together that hurt or the appearance of betrayal isn’t possible. It very well is. How we deal with the hurt afterwards is what matters. One of the best ways to deal with hurt in that particular area is to be honest and confront those feelings within yourself.

I’m sure there are other ways in which I could improve as a friend. However, we’d be here for a very long time. You may have some reasons you think you could improve as a friend. Share those ideas with a trusted friend and encourage them to hold you accountable.

Remember, friendship is so important. Who you decide to be intimate friends with will dictate your life. So choose wisely. In all of your choosing, don’t forget to be a great choice as well.

The Danger of Comparison Pt. 2

The Danger of Comparison Pt. 2

In part 1, we dove into the reason humans feel the need to compare themselves to others. Read part 1 here. It’ll help this post make more sense.

One thing we learned in part 1 is that comparison is not bad in and of itself. Humans were originally meant to be compared to, or better yet, likened to God Himself. We were created of the same nature and comparably took after attributes of God Himself.

So, from the beginning, we were reflecting Someone. When sin entered, it distorted everything. We began to use other standards to measure ourselves against instead of God Himself. We exchanged the truth for a lie.

Every time we examine who we are in comparison to someone else, we are exchanging truth for a lie. Pastor Marcus Howard, in his training ‘Detox,’ said, “Be careful of comparing yourself to others because the bar is too low. If you’re going to compare yourself to anyone else, compare yourself to Christ.” 

Think of someone you would consider to be a good person. They may do nice things all the time and they don’t do the things you think are wrong. Even this person, is not worthy to be used as the standard by which we all should live. They may be a good example, but they are not the Truth Itself. 

Christ is the ONLY Truth. Everything outside of Him is a lie. It is a distortion of what is true.

This does not mean you treat those who don’t strongly believe in Christ as less than. Absolutely not! This does not mean you enforce your beliefs on them. Share them with boldness, truth, and most importantly love. Without love, there is no truth. Without truth, there is no love.

This is where the issue lies. Comparison is an assault on love. Comparison is an assault on truth. The conclusions we usually draw from our comparisons are not true and are rooted in ideas that are contrary to God (Love).

For example, if I compare myself to someone and come out thinking, “I’m better than them,” I’m wrong. This would be rooted in pride and indicative of a lack of identity. I don’t need to be better than anyone when I know I’m loved by God.

If I compare myself to others and believe, “I’m less than them,” this is also false! This is rooted in insecurity, self-doubt, and indicates a lack of identity. I can’t believe I’m less than anyone because the love of God embraces and empowers me.

When Love (God) is revealed and realized in someone, there is no need to search for the approval of others. God doesn’t just set you free so you can live a morally good life. God sets you free from you and the opinions of others. To realize I am loved by God allows me to be certain of who I am in the midst of any crowd or environment.

When I lose sight of God’s love for me, I begin to try to work for His approval and the approval of others. I try to prove that I’m ‘worth it,’ that I belong, and that I’m enough. I try to justify my wrongs because I’ve removed myself from the covering of the grace of God. God’s grace covers what we were and will never be able to cover. When I remove (or try to) myself from this covering, I use my own system and measurements to prove I’m good enough. I do this because I no longer trust God to do it for me.

The thing is, we can never gain God’s approval on our own. God took care of that through Christ. We can’t do it on our own. Our system of what is right, wrong, enough, or insufficient pales in comparison to God’s. The ideas or acts that don’t seem that bad to us are a distortion of what God originally intended and God doesn’t approve of them. Essentially, our systems are faulty.

Comparison takes you out of the security of who God knows you to be and causes you to act according to who you have deceived yourself into thinking you are.

Comparison is an enemy to love. God is Love (1 John 4:7-21). In the Bible, we find several stories of how God responded to His enemies and the enemies of His people. God does not leave them standing.

So, today, I’m choosing to allow God to kill comparison, doubt, and insecurity in me. I can be sure of me because He loves me. I don’t have to doubt the love of God because God doesn’t change. God doesn’t lie. God didn’t make a mistake when He made me. Therefore, I don’t have to find assurance in anything or anyone else. 

I didn’t write this because this is an area I’ve mastered. I wrote this because it’s been a problem area for me as of late. So, I hope it encouraged you!

I pray you find the strengthen and courage to stand against comparison and accept the Love of God for yourself!

 

Friends: How Many Of Us Have Them?

Friends: How Many Of Us Have Them?

In a world where being friends with someone is as easy as a click, the definition of friendship is shifting.

Social media has ‘virtualized’ relationships. We no longer have to be as present or focused in friendships as we had been. Nevertheless, this is not a social media bash post.

Social media isn’t the only thing influencing how we define friendship. Oftentimes, the first place we look for some sort of guidance in our friendships is our parents or guardians. The way your parents engaged in friendships heavily influences how you engage in friendships.

Whether they offered blatant advice or not, you picked up behaviors, cues, and ideas about how you would participate in your friendships.

Personally, I believe we use the word ‘friend’ a little too loosely. Everyone is not your friend. Everyone ought not have the kind of access you give a friend.

A friend knows the good, bad, and ugly and sticks around out of choice, not obligation. A friend makes a commitment of sorts to ‘do life’ with you. A friend corrects you.

The Bible says, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

Friendship is so important. The friends you choose will affect your life in a tangible way. Friends will either encourage you towards purpose or propel you towards ruin.

You’ve heard the phrase. ‘Blood is thicker than water.’ This speaks of the loyalty within family. However, the Bible challenges this notion. This is why it’s so important to be mindful of how you choose your friends.

A friend is the family you choose.

Now, this isn’t only about knowing who’s best for you but knowing whether you’re good for someone else. Sometimes, we’re not the person that someone needs to support and sharpen them. We must have discernment to know when it’s time to leave a friendship or whether to start one in the first place.

Friendships ought to make you better, hold you accountable, be enjoyable, and push you towards purpose. Not everyone is built to do that in your life. You’re not built to do that for everyone. You can ‘act’ as a friend in a moment to a stranger or acquaintance; but true friendship requires commitment and sacrifice.

 

I Just Can’t See It

I Just Can’t See It

One of the most clever tricks the enemy (Satan) plays on us is encouraging a system of belief built on sight. It’s quite dangerous to do everything based on what you can see. If you make decisions based on what you can see, you’ll almost always choose incorrectly. When we make decisions based on what we can see, we choose selfishly. We make decisions whose benefits don’t have longevity. 

Our belief system cannot be built on sight. This is not a sustainable culture and it is not the culture of the kingdom.

The ‘kingdom of heaven’ I’m referring to is not a physical place. The kingdom of heaven is the rule and reign of God. It is God’s authority in any place. “But seek first the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 6:33).

Like any kingdom or government, the kingdom of heaven has a culture. Faith is a part of that culture. Faith is believing in what you cannot see. “Now faith, is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is the thing.  This means your faith is evidence that what you do not see is real.

Faith isn’t faith if there is sight. “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). If there’s sight, then it’s belief. (I’m not going to get into that. If you’d like to learn more about faith and belief and the difference thereof, read this awesome book, “Believe You Can” by Pastor Marcus Howard.)

Faith does not require sight. Therefore, it allows you to believe and manifest what is not seen. It allows you to believe for things unselfishly. For sight chooses for now. Faith chooses for the future.

Now, here’s the thing. Sure, we could believe for just any old thing and it would come about. However, it’s important to seek God about what to believe. Sometimes, we’ll believe God for something we don’t really need or isn’t His best for us. He’ll give it to us so that we would know that it wasn’t what He had for us.

Don’t simply desire the thing you think you want. Seek the kingdom of heaven so that you’d know what you should want.

This will cause your heart to be aligned to desire the things God already desires to see in your life and the lives of those around you. A belief system built on sight can only desire based on what they think is right.

Due to the growth happening in my life right now, there are some things up in the air that cause me to doubt everything. However, oddly, when my thoughts are quieted, I find that I truly believe that a resolution will come. I believe clarity will come. Even though I just can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

So, have faith. Eventually, it will all make sense.

Happy reading!

Over and out.