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Monthly Archives: December 2012

I AM My Brother’s Keeper

Every decision we make, every action we take (we’ll be missing you) affects those around us.  But, for some reason, we still don’t want to acknowledge this.  A couple of posts ago, I discussed why being part of a community, in particular a church, was important for people. This go ’round, we’re going to dig into how we’re connected.

The Body of Christ aka The Church, is made up of many people. There are billions of thoughts, feelings and interpretations in it. Some parts of the body are sick, some are healthy, but added together, they all equate to a wonderful whole. This holds true for the various denominations as well. So long as the baselines of belief, confession, and baptism are present, the differences are moreso based in passed down traditions. With all of this, the one fact that doesn’t change is…we’re all one body.

When one of us in the body does well, it benefits the whole. When one of us sins, it affects the individual, but also the whole assembly. David and Achan represent the two opposite spectrums.

Before he became king, David carried himself in a manner befitting a king. Not disregarding God’s mandate that he would be Israel’s king, but there was a reverence for the Lord that was unmatched in anyone else. God said as much when He stated that David was a man after His own heart. God knew of David’s affection for Him. Because of this, David would guide the Israelites toward following the Lord’s precepts and commandments. He was the one that set the tone for the masses in terms of obedience, worship, and working God. When he became king he prospered, but the nation did too. Israel’s territory increased, the nation’s coffers got richer, and so did the people.

Then there is the other end of the spectrum, with Achan.

After the Israelites had conquered another group of people per Joshua’s direction, they were instructed not to take any plunder. Everybody listened, but Achan. When the time arose for them to go into battle again, the Israelites were routed. Joshua couldn’t figure out why, but then God revealed to him what happened. Through the process of eliminating tribes, clans, families and then men, it was revealed that Achan was the one who had taken the loot. The assembly of the people were all held responsible because of one person.

Now some might feel that this is unfair. To that I ask, is it unfair that God chose His only Son to die, so that we could be reconciled to Him? It’s the same thought process; one had to die so all could be saved.

We should strive to be like David, in that we seek after God always. When He esteems us, we’ll be an example of what He wants from us; to be a diligent seeker of Him. We’ll not only strengthen our relationship with Him, but the relationships that bind all those in the Body together.

Holla.

 
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Posted by on 12/28/2012 in Uncategorized

 

When God Talks, You Better Listen

I’ve had times when the Holy Spirit warns me when a major intersection in my life is approaching, and quickly. When I was younger, I never knew what it was, so I didn’t adhere to the inklings. As I got older however, the inklings became clearer. Honestly, I think them doing so is a byproduct of more Bible reading, but that’s for another day.

What I present to you are two examples of when God spoke, and I should’ve listened. And one example of when He spoke…and I did.

The Suspension

When I was in the first iteration of my sophomore year of college, I took up the habit of smoking. I started out smoking Black ‘N’ Milds; then transitioned to cigarettes and weed. One night, a group of people I smoked with decided to have a party. Drinks and weed were in heavy supply. I smoked and drank so much that I got sick, but instead of leaving the party, I vomited and continued partying. About an hour later, haters campus police crashed the party, took everyone’s info and sent us to our respective dorms. A few weeks later, all but two people who attended the party got suspended for the remainder of the semester. But, everybody lost their scholarship.

Only after analyzing my actions did I realize that me getting sick was God’s way of telling me to leave. I was so high and drunk that I couldn’t understand it then. Not knowing His voice in that instant has cost me time and money. Of course, it would take a couple more times for me hear Him though.

Lust…

When I was 24, I had initiated a point of celibacy in my life. I had recently broken up with a young lady with whom, until that point, had been my longest relationship. I have no problem admitting she had me sprung. When we ended, I took it as a sign that I needed to change my life around. I started living for God; wanting to be obedient to His precepts. I figured that I was being successful at it. That is, until I met…her.

Sidenote: it’s vitally important to never feel like we can handle an issue, or situation without God. As SOON as we start thinking like we can, we’re going to fail. Mankind is 0 – infinity when attempting to circumvent God.

The summation of meeting this particular woman was that I “fell off” the celibacy wagon. It wasn’t her fault though. She invited me over to “watch a movie”…and that was that. Before I went over though, something said, “Darrk, this really isn’t a good idea.” But I said, “self/conscience/Holy Spirit, I got this.” Obviously I didn’t. Had I listened to that little voice, who knows what may have happened.

Ok God, I Yield

So this last tale is the one where I yielded, and things worked out for the best.

I was without a car for about six months earlier this year. But I knew what I wanted to get when I got another one. I had my heart set on a box Tahoe, between a ’97-’01. No matter how much looking I did, I just couldn’t find the right one. I was getting frustrated. I even took a 3 hour trip to look at an ’02, but it still wasn’t meant to be. Eventually, I said “ok God, you got it. If none of these trucks are working out, then it’s a reason for it. I’m going to let you take the wheel, and I’ll see what happens.”

I felt like in that moment God said, “watch me work.” Well, a few days later I was flipping through a car buyers book and saw another Tahoe. I emailed the dealer about the truck that night, and I got a response about 15 minutes later telling me to come look at the truck. The next day, I went to go look at the truck…but the truck wasn’t there.

So now I’m feeling like somebody wasted my time telling me to come see a truck that had been sold. Well, another salesman showed me a car. I didn’t want a car, I wanted a truck. That little voice said…”check out the car, for me.” I relented and checked out the car. Eventually, I pulled off the lot that night with the car, and some knowledge. If I could keep my payments on the car straight for a year, I could come back and check out a Tahoe.

Sidenote: it’s going to sound trite, but when we want something, God will at times tell us not right now. He’s not saying we won’t get what we desire, but we may not be ready for it, despite what we think. By holding our wants up, He is refining us, and preparing us for when we’ll be ready for it.

The take away from these instances is that God speaks to us, repeatedly. Even if we don’t understand, or acknowledge His voice, He keeps reaching out to us. It would behoove us to figure out how to incline our ears to hear Him.

The question begs to be asked: has God spoken to you? If so, were you listening intently? Did you follow the Spirit’s prompting, or rely on your own thoughts?

 
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Posted by on 12/27/2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Aside

Have you ever felt like you’re in the midst of a whirlwind, and don’t know where you can possibly anchor yourself to ride out the storm? I’ve been feeling like that lately, but I got an answer to my question.

I was at my small group fellowship last week and felt like I had a few brothas who could empathize with what I’ve been feeling. What’s a “small group” you ask? It’s a group of people from a church, based on a certain demographic (men, women, married, single, parents, etc.), that get together and “do life together”. It fosters a feeling of community amongst all the members. At least that is the purpose. Even though I’ve been in this particular group for over two years, I still felt slightly of place sometimes.  Nevertheless, these folks could understand that I felt…directionless.

There was one cat in particular who seemed to be living the exact same situation as I.  Things around him have been swirling to the point he is not sure which way he’s going in relation to his career, relationship, or relationship with God. However, he’s trusting God for it all. I’ve been pretty much dealing with the same feelings.  To say it’s frustrating is an understatement.  It feels like there is no direction, or reason why stuff is so chaotic.  Something (I assume God) spoke to me as I listened to him recount his trials and triumphs. What I realized was that I wasn’t alone.

I went from feeling out of place, to understanding that I actually wasn’t. The knowledge was right before me, but God had to open my eyes to see it. As long as I’ve been a part of the group, it was only recently that I understood why being in the group was so important. To paraphrase a Luther Vandross song; “we’re not meant to live alone…” It’s the same reason why Jesus said, “when two or three are gathered in my name, there will I also be.” Does this mean Jesus won’t show up in our individual lives? Surely not. But there is validity to the phrase “strength in numbers”, and this holds true for our spiritual walk.

Each believer is part of the Church aka the Body of Christ. It takes each individual doing their part to ensure the strength of the body. When one is weak, other members (body parts) should be there to strengthen it. However, the weakened part of the body also has to, in a sense, “know that it is weak”. If we’re dealing with negative feelings, then we have to acknowledge them. Being truthful with ourselves is the first step. In acknowledging this weakness, Jesus will show His strength. Then, God can orchestrate His will on our behalf; many times using others to effect the change He desires.

Don’t be someone who thinks they can do it all by themselves. Simply put, we can’t. There are reasons why God created different ethnicities and languages. There are reasons why different spiritual gifts are meted out to different people. God is multi-faceted. Since we, all of humanity, are made in His image, that alludes to us being diverse in our makeup. But…we’re also part of the human body, which collectively is singular. In the same way God is triune, but still wholly God.

When we need other people, don’t be afraid, or too prideful to let them know. The very ones we may act like we don’t need, could be the ones that God has placed around us to strengthen us and reflect His love.

Holla.

…On Community In The Church

 
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Posted by on 12/20/2012 in On...

 

Checkpoints Week 8: Enthusiasm

I made it.  Eight weeks of Checkpoints have come and gone, and all I can think is how I need to go through the book again. I’m more cognizant of the parts of life the book covered, and how God works in those areas. Because of the scripture memorizations, I focus more on studying what I read, and not just simply reading. Overall, I’d say my enthusiam for God has grown incrementally.

If it’s one thing I’ve learned over the last two months, it’s that daily changes lead to life changes. Focusing on one aspect can affect another; almost like steps. We have to care enough to put the energy into making the change however. When we stop caring, that’s when apathy sets in. We become more focused on what WE feel needs to change versus what God desires to change in us. We focus on the external, i.e., how we look, where we live, the car we drive, whereas God focuses on the internal. The only true change comes from God anyway, so allow Him to work.

As has been pointed out more than once while going on this journey through Checkpoints, day one of each week is foundational. Week 8 is only slightly different. Apathy feeds into self-centeredness, yet apathy can itself be fed by self-centeredness. Pride is another aspect of self-centeredness. As stated about apathy, the focus on self gets in the way of doing God’s will. We’re no earthly or spiritually good to God when we can’t get out of our own way. No matter how it manifests itself (pride, or depression) being self-centered puts us closer to being like the enemy than it does Christ. Jesus came to serve, and if He’s our example, then we should do the same. That will take our sight off of us, and put it where it needs to be; on Him.

To experience the full joy that enthusiasm can bring, we have to be comfortable in our own skin.  Insecurity robs us of that joy.  When we aren’t secure within ourselves, we really are unsure of our Identity.  If our identity is to be found in Christ, and we’re not sure of it, then are we really trusting Christ?  Insecurity within ourselves will manifest itself in other areas of our life.  We won’t be confident around others, nor will we actively take hold of the promises of God, because we shall always question Him.  As Paul stated in 2 Timothy 1:7, “God didn’t give us a Spirit of fear…”, and ultimately that is what insecurity is; fear.  We must allow Christ to strengthen us by seeking Him, and studying His word.  Not only will we find renewed strength, but we’ll find ourselves as well.

Insecurity isn’t the only thing that will rob us of our enthusiasm for God. Having feelings of burnout will, also. Another name for it is exhaustion, or fatigue. Burnout is what happens when we push past our internal limits consistently. If we don’t take the time to rest, our body can betray us, and we won’t have energy to do what brings us joy. Even Jesus drew away from everything and everyone except God, so He could rest and let His spirit be refreshed. Think about that. Even the supernatural being that is Christ needed refreshing. We must listen to our bodies and rest when it tells us to.

If we push past burnout, as some of us are apt to do, we’ll fall into a state of depression. Feelings of hopelessness, despair, and thoughts of giving up all accompany depression. Rest isn’t the only thing we’ll need if we reach this stage. Focus, direction, and support will all be needed. In these times, it’s vitally important to have the Word “hidden in our heart”. We’ll also need to ensure our mental and physical wellness is tended to. Depression is not something fallen into easily, nor is it something we get out of easily. However, if we take the time to figure out what caused it, and how to combat it, it can be overcome.

 
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Posted by on 12/17/2012 in Checkpoints

 

Checkpoints Week 7: Loyalty

Loyalty is defined as strong feelings of devoted attachment or allegiance. It can, and should include love as well. God desires for us to show loyalty to Him and His commands. We wish it to exist between us and others as well. There are 5 problems that affect our level of loyalty to God, and each other.

When thinking about what affects our loyalty, the first issue that comes to mind is betrayal. At betrayal’s core, it is a breaking down of trust between people. In our relationship with God, we are the cause of the breakdown. God is never the cause, since He IS truth and is constant. If we ask Him, He’ll show us where we betrayed Him, and how. God is forgiveness also, which means we have to ask for it, and do what’s necessary to make amends for our lack of trust.

When I personally think of loyalty, disrespect doesn’t immediately come to mind. But, after reading the devotional about disrespect, I better understand the correlation. Implicit in the disrespect is a lack of trust, and if there’s a lack of trust, it’s difficult to remain loyal to that which is being disrespected. When we don’t defer to God, or those whom God has given authority to, we disrespect them directly, and God indirectly. Even if we don’t like something or someone, there are two thoughts for us to remember. The first is that how we feel about something is secondary to being obedient to God. The second is that we can’t allow our emotions (heart) to take us to a place where we’re outside of God’s will.

Why can’t we allow our heart to take us out of God’s will? Scripture after scripture in the Bible tells us that the heart is deceitful. It cannot be trusted. The heart will have us continually committing habitual sin, even when we know it’s wrong. Yet, it feels good to our flesh, so we keep on doing it. It’s easy to believe that a particular sin doesn’t “have” us, but our actions and thoughts will tell us different. You know what else habitual sin does? It betrays our relationship with God, which affects our loyalty. Jesus was crucified once and for all; let us not keep crucifying Him.

For us to keep crucifying Jesus shows an inconsistency in our walk with Him. We don’t want to be like the first two examples that Jesus gave in the Parable of The Sower. Instead, we need to be like the third kind of seed. One that continues to grow and produces good, spiritual fruit. The way we ensure we do this is by staying in communication with God; talking to Him, reading His word, and allowing Him to guide us. We fight inconsistency by holding fast to those things that God has commanded us to do.

And finally, we arrive at a byproduct of inconsistency, which is mediocrity. If we half-step anything, we’re not giving a full effort. The Bible calls it being lukewarm. It even makes mention of being lukewarm in our Christian walk, which leads to ineffectiveness for the Kingdom of God. Or when we do (what we think is) just enough in/for our Walk, we’ve taken the easy way out. But God calls us to do everything with excellence, which is a challenge, but one we should strive to rise to. The question is when we die, what do we want to hear? Is it well done, or you just made it?

I want my growing loyalty to God to mean on the day I pass on, I hear “well done my good and faithful servant.” What about you?

 
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Posted by on 12/10/2012 in Checkpoints

 

Just. Shut. Up.

Normally, I can tune out what I consider nonsense.  If somebody’s opinions on something sound foolish, or if they’re unwarranted, I’ll ignore it until the frequency changes.

But then, there are those other times.

Lately, it’s getting more difficult to consistently ignore the opinions because people have something to say about EVERYTHING!  It really grinds my gears when folks stick their nose in other people’s business.  If that isn’t bad enough, saying what so-n-so should do is even worse.  It’s not anybody else’s place to say what another grown person needs to do.  If the so-n-so doesn’t have any issues with what’s going on, then why do you (in a general sense)?

It gets worse when the opinionated one has people parroting and consigning their unsolicited views.  The former becomes empowered to shoot off at the mouth more, when really they should just. Shut. Up.  Admittedly, I sound like a curmudgeon, but so what.  Twitter says “just tweet through it”, well I’m blogging through it.

I have no idea when it’s gonna let up, but God, do I hope it’s soon.  I’m learning about myself during this time. Long-suffering, restraint, and patience come to mind.  The platitude, “God only puts on you what you can handle” comes to mind.  However, the following question is “well God, uh, when is it gonna be enough?”  That’s where I’m really at now.

Then I have to wonder, is it me that is supposed to get a lesson out of this?  Perhaps what I’m dealing with is supposed to bring out these aforementioned traits in me, but something else in another.  At this point, it’s the only logical conclusion I can come up with because I am just about at my level of having no more ****s to give.  No doubt I’ll be repenting for feeling like this later, and I’ll deal with that then.  A dude needs an outlet.  But for now, this is mine.

 
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Posted by on 12/04/2012 in Random

 

Checkpoints Week 6: Patience

Out of all the characteristics that men deal with, Patience has got to be the hardest to exercise.  In fact, out of all the aspects of God that we are to reflect, it’s the one we show the least.  It’s not just because of society’s “instant gratification” culture.  The inability to exercise patience is innate.  To show it means we are purposely doing so.  Several emotions fight against it; but through the strength of Christ, patience can be cultivated.

One of the emotions that feeds into a lack of patience is anger. When we get angry, we have a tendency to rail against people, and even God. Anger isn’t always negative however, because we can have righteous indignation. The difference comes in the motives for us being angry. Are we upset about a personal affrontage, or is it something that would grieve the Holy Spirit? Examining the reasons for our anger will help form an appropriate response.

Want to know what really tests our patience? It’s frustration, and not just with people, but with God as well. There are a myriad of reasons we become frustrated with relationships and people. The reasons all have one common denominator though: us. We become frustrated by the expectations that WE PUT on others. People don’t have to meet our standards, but God’s.

But what about when we become frustrated with God?

Woooo…this is a doozy. The problem isn’t that God can’t live up to our expectations; it’s that we can’t live up to His. At least not consistently. We have ideas on how things should be, how people should act, and how situations should turn out. God decides all of this though. He is in control, and that is the issue for us. We can’t control these things, so we get frustrated. Learning that we need to “let go and let God” will help us deal with our control issues, as well as increase our patience.

Another emotion that tests patience is feeling misunderstood. It feeds our frustration. There are two ways to handle it. We can let it fuel angst and anger, which can lead to sin. Or, we can channel it and acknowledge that not everyone will “get” us. Just remember that Jesus was misunderstood by His own family, and disciples. If the Son of God was misunderstood by those closest to Him, we shouldn’t be surprised when we are too. Living for God will cause misunderstanding at times; it’s His choice to clear up what He wants.

Since it is God’s choice to make things clear or not, it’s up to us to beseech Him for clarity. We tend to misunderstand, for instance, when we desire something and do not receive it. There are either two reasons we don’t get what we want: it’s not meant for us to have, or God has something better for us. Neither is acceptable to us when seeking instant gratification. We want what we want when we want it, not even realizing that what we want could be detrimental to us. Yet, in those other times, God will allow us to gain what our heart desires, even though He had something better in mind. In either case, we must pray for 1) peace of mind, 2) the ability to trust the Lord and 3) the provision of what He knows we need.

God provides the tests that cultivate our patience; it’s up to us to pass them.

 
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Posted by on 12/03/2012 in Checkpoints

 

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