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Avengers 2.0

Image result for the avengers infinity war

It’s been a long time coming, but it is finally here and I am so excited to share this piece with you. I love the MCU and this list isn’t exhaustive, but there enough to serve a purpose.

Captain America used to be the traditional legalistic one, but he realized that traditional thinking wouldn’t save his friend. Many of us have to go through the reality check of life, have our beliefs challenged, and have to do what Paul said and become all things to all people so that some may be saved. Our change in thinking, like Captain America, will cause people to look at us weird and ultimately we must separate ourselves, so that we may become all we were meant to be and reach those we couldn’t before. Nevertheless, when the time comes, we put our differences aside and rise to the task at hand.

Thor is the broken Christian who has endured so much rain in his life, loss after loss, struggle after struggle. Yet, the rain only strengthens him, and his anger builds persistence and perseverance, for he continues to avenge the Enemy from destroying anyone else without giving up on himself. Thor’s story speaks to those of us who can’t seem to get a break from life. We try so hard to stay face, but we struggle on the inside; we try so desperately to be strong but we are so broken, yet like Thor, every loss, every thunderstorm, reveals a higher level of the gifts God put inside of us. Our power then, delivers and liberates more people, just as Thor.

Iron Man is the believer whom the Lord humbled in order that he realize that it’s not all about him. Iron man Christians become so poor in spirit that they do whatever they can to reconcile, but become pious as Captain American Christians started off to be, but their heart is to keep others from making the same, if not bigger, mistakes than they did, when their ego creeps back up and they believe they know best. The safety net though, is the realization that we all have a different flavor in our worship and ministry, but the salt is the most important spice in our seasoning. The spiciness among the body may cause friction, but when the Chef blends us just right, we can take on alien armies.

Black Panther represents the Christian who is trying to find his own faith. It’s not that he doubts his faith, but life forced him to make it personal, make it real, which required him to break familial curses, finding his own strength. Those of us like this avenger, the Black Panther Christians, are just trying to make our mark in this world and fully understand the mantle the Lord has given us, which forces us to get out of the bubble we grew up in and allow God to do new things, greater still is that the Lord will place people around us to encourage us and hold us accountable to do better and be better.

Scarlett Witch represents one of those persons who have been blessed with heavy gifts, like seeing in the Spirit, but used it in darkness with out the apart from the Spirit. Because her gifts were so unique and so powerful, it caused others to fear her, misunderstand her, and shun her because of them, something that happens too often in the church. But, when this type of Christian gives her gifts over to the Lord, she not only finds her own freedom, demons tremble and the heaviest chains are broken. Most important, it is imperative that she surrounds herself with people who will encourage her and cover her with prayer, and angel armies will protect her.

The Hulk went from one extreme to the other. Originally he was ashamed and timid of the power and gift and did not embrace that which was within him. As we see his character develop, he was in a place where his gift was taken advantage of and his pride got the best of him and he actually lost who he was. He never lost his gifting, but he lost sight of what mattered and what his purpose was. Therefore, when an Enemy came that was bigger and stronger, he wasn’t prepared and he got scared. However, he is on the journey of rediscovering himself and we will wait and see what the Lord does.

Spiderman Christians are the newbies who have no idea about the Christian walk, but have the heart and desire to make a difference and be apart of God’s avenger team, making plenty of mistakes. What keeps this Christian from spiraling is a mentor, someone to come alongside him as Iron Man did, helping him grow and mature in Christ.

Gamora is the Christian who is just trying to escape her past, but around every corner is a reminder of her bondage. She has tried to reconcile, but her bitterness limited her ability to love, though she desired relationship, but we do see her growth and her strength. However, it’s her anger and inability to forgive that is her downfall, but thankfully, in Christ there is always restoration; He can reach down deep in the bottom of the pit through the thickest muck and darkness and lift us out.

Star-Lord is the guy who came to church because of a girl and found redemption. He experienced terrible loss and has yet to really deal with what happened in his past, so that when a similar situation occurs in his present, he loses focus, creating a heavier burden for those fighting with him. This Christian wants to be better, he just has to be more intentional and deliberate and not get in his own way, especially with his mouth.

Black Widow found her way. In my first avengers blog, she was the one working for her salvation. At this point, this lady avenger found her groove and though she still had some difficult decisions to make in her redemption journey, her heart was softened and she was able to love and receive love for the first time. She stopped working for salvation and accepted the gift, as one accepts God’s gift, and continued her work because she finally received and became confident in her salvation.

Dr. Strange is like the church usher who takes his job way too seriously. Granted, ushers are important and often times determine if a person returns to the church or not, but like Captain America, when these Christians recognize that people matter more than ministry, that love is more important than their gift, they are able to draw so many more people to the foot of the cross.

The White Wolf is the Christian that just needs some extra grace. He had a rough past that some church people won’t accept, but we must embrace him and remind him of God’s love. He wants to be please God and tries with all he’s got, but if we are deliberate enough to reach out and love him no matter what, this Christian will become a mighty force in the Kingdom, if we don’t we will lose him forever.

These individuals all have their unique strengths and unbecoming tendencies, however, we don’t have to be super rich or super smart to be a super hero, nor do we need some scientific enhancement, intentional or otherwise. We are superheroes when we allow God to use the little we are to do super things out of the regular things. We are of another world, like Gamora, and require training and discipline like Dr. Strange. and if we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us daily, our power and impact on the world around us will be far above what we could dream.

We are in fact avengers for those who have gone before us, avenging the world that was once perfect, but tainted by sin, ruled by Satan, and it’s the Holy Spirit presence that keeps the Enemy at bay, but there is still so much work to do; in one way or another we fight every single day. Just keep being you for a purpose, the superhero you already are.

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A Dark Fresh Start

I have read Ruth a few times and I know the majority are familiar with it, for you often hear women talk about meeting their Boaz and how like him, Christ is our kinsman-redeemer. My focus here though is in the beginning where we learn about the matriarch of the story, Naomi, who lost her husband first, then her two sons and back in those times, that meant that she pretty much lost her livelihood. What is your livelihood? Family? Career? Business? A talent? A dream? Times are different now, but there are things that make us who we are and like Naomi we get comfortable and believe nothing could go wrong. However, everything that could go wrong went wrong.

First, it is interesting that Naomi and her family went to Moab, because Israel and Moab did not have a friendly Image result for naomi and ruthrelationship and God had plenty to say about them throughout their history as well. Both Naomi and her husband were Israelites, but they left the people of God because of a famine and went and settled in unfamiliar territory for help where they probably should never have gone. Nevertheless, one can assume they didn’t trust God to keep His people in hard times, granted their story falls in the middle of when there was no king in Israel and people did whatever they wanted. Although, in the midst of all that happened, she was left with her two daughter-in-laws and was forced to go back home, learning that God was helping His people.

Naomi was a survivor and took whichever chance she had to keep her life in good standing, but it seems that she needed God to prove Himself to her that He could take care of her, and even after she returned home, she still wasn’t convinced. Not only had she changed her name from “pleasant” to “bitter,” but she made it known that God had let her down, and initially she wasn’t that fond of Ruth going back with her as if she wanted to sulk alone. Furthermore, she claimed that when she left home she was full, but it was the Lord who emptied her (and other lovely verbs), suggesting that she had no other expectations of God’s work in her situation than mere existence. But in fact, God had other plans.

By definition, you can’t blame Naomi or her family for the decisions they made and many of us have done the same thing. We make decisions in life, without ever really consulting or trusting God, even the “good” ones; we go with the flow without looking at things with spiritual eyes and we fill ourselves up and we lose focus on God’s plans, if we ever really knew what they were in the first place. This very thing happened to me. I never actually considered what God wanted for me vocationally, including my college studies, and it took a pouring out for me to get aligned; I had to be emptied. The Lord had to break me and take away my dream, my livelihood, of what I thought I was going to do with my life in order to open my eyes for His greater purpose, and by God’s grace, what I studied and experienced in school and other pieces of my life that seemed irrelevant fell in line with what He called me to do. Though, it was only His Spirit that could have revealed it to me, and I haven’t looked back.

For Naomi, she was bitter and had low-expectations, but little did she know that with all that had happened, the pieces of her past would bring her the greatest victory. Not only was Naomi apprehensive about Ruth, but it was the Lord who called Ruth, the Moabitess, into the lineage of the Lord Jesus. I can’t imagine that either of them knew God’s full plan, but Naomi was the first to notice things happening on their behalf when Ruth went to work, and hence, met Boaz. They were just trying to survive, but God chose them to change history.

Sometimes we have to start fresh when we get in dark places and go back to where we know God is, like when we have our “mountain top experiences” and we connect with God and lay our hearts out before Him, and ironically, Bethlehem, Naomi’s home, is in the mountains. So often we have to be broken and emptied in order for the Lord to build and fill us up again, which means whenever we get to the place where God is in our lives, we should live in high expectation that God will give us victory and conform our life to His best, which is always far greater than our own. In the same manner, we must ask for discernment and spiritual eyes so that we can recognize when God is moving in our lives in even the smallest ways, and if you are like me, I get so excited when I begin to see God working in the unnoticeable small ways, because I know that He is setting me up for something that is above I can hope for or imagine. So, as you be yourself for a purpose, if the Lord takes or is taking you through a breaking and pouring out season, let Him. By continually surrendering and letting the process happen, you are allowing God to pour back into you and fill you up with Heaven’s best.

 

No Bones Broken

Wow! It’s been far too long since I have written or posted anything, so I am so glad to be here with you in this moment as you are read this. Thus, my prayer is that you are encouraged and likewise challenged by this blog.

Side note: A great portion of what I write comes from something I read in devotional, recreational, or educational books or texts, where I have taken a point and added my own twist or expounded on it. So, I just want to encourage you to read as much as you can, because there is so much out there to be consumed that you will inevitably grow, be stretched, mature, develop, and become a better person.

Nevertheless, this particular writing is based on a short conversation I had with a co-worker of mine. In a nutshell, she has been having issues with others on the job, almost to the point where she is ready to reach back and awaken the woman she was before she met Christ. As she was dropping me at the train station she told me that she was at her breaking point. And like clock work as I was getting out the car, I said to her, “if Jesus didn’t break any bones, you don’t have to break your temper.” I know for a fact that was nothing but God, because God tends to speak to me when I am speaking and or ministering or encouraging someone else; kind of like the after effects of devotions and readings I guess.

Extra side note: I have mentioned it before, but again, recognize and learn how the Lord tends to speak to you, whether to comfort, challenge, confirm, compel, or convict, that way it becomes easier to know and discern when He is speaking or otherwise. But of course, God speaks to us in various ways in different times and situations, so the worst thing you can do is put Him in a box, so just be sensitive to His voice.

Back to the point of this post. As I considered what I had said, it was so very humbling. Thinking of all that Jesus went through on our behalf, the ripping, tearing of skin, profuse bleeding, bruising, swelling, mocking, and spitting, yet he never broke. Old Testament prophesy told us none of his bones would be broken (Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:20), but I believe that it goes deeper than the physical. I mean think about it. Jesus had every right and reason to be angry, yet he never responded to the insults hurled against him, let alone did he try to get himself out of being crucified. He didn’t break emotionally, mentally, or spiritually in that the purpose, promises, or love of God through his only son would be compromised. He saw his work completed all the way through and never said a word of rebuttal.

Wow.

As we live to be ourselves for a purpose, what an awesome reminder that despite the trials, storms, and persecutions we will experience, we don’t have to crack or break under pressure assuming the power and strength of the same active Holy Spirit that carried Jesus all the way to the cross. Yes, we will be scratched, bent, bruised, mocked, lied on, persecuted, made fun of, bet against, pained, pierced, and cut – mainly metaphorical but possibly literal – but because Jesus experienced it like us, if not exceedingly more, it doesn’t have to break us. None of those things should have the ability to break the formation of what God is calling us to be, but rather empower and compel us to fully carry out the plan that God has for our lives with the work of His Spirit in us.

No bones broken. Because Jesus didn’t break, and the same resurrection power that raised him up is inside of us, though we might bend, may we never break, less the full, rich, favored, and abundant life God wants to give us be forfeited or disrupted.

Goats and Sheep

Like any great piece of literature, as you read, it raises questions and makes you want to learn about the information that is not written to understand why it was written, that’s why we take classes, have book clubs, and participate in Bible studies. We are drawn to what is not there, not so much of secret or subliminal messages, but understanding what was said and why in its respective contexts, adding to the beauty and color, as well as deeper significance and meaning. On the other hand it opens up mysteries that the author wanted to hide,  demanding the reader or listener to seek out, which is often what we see in the parables Jesus told. Now there are many, but there is one in Matthew that has always baffled me.

Apart from the parable itself, I’ve heard it referenced in other settings and wondered what the difference is between goats and sheep. So I got the bright idea to look it up after reading it fairly recently in my devotion. If you aren’t familiar, long story short sheep go to Heaven and goats burn in Hell, but why? From the outside looking in, they are very similar in how they look and operate, maksheep-and-goatse similar sounds, and even move well together, but as you move past the surface you begin to see that they are quite opposite animals indeed. As I learned, it comes down to this one thing, sheep are dependent and goats are independent.

If you notice Christians are likened to sheep, just as much as Jesus to a lamb. Why? Because we follow. Every move a sheep makes is based on that of the shepherd, on whom it depends for everything. For example, the sheep rely on the shepherd fully for food and protection, and even if the destination is the slaughterhouse, the sheep will still follow to the end, just as Christ did for us. Thus, because sheep, Christ-followers, have made the choice to puSheep_and_goatt their dependence in God, placing their very life in the Shepherd’s hand, they receive Heaven’s reward. Okay, so what about the goat?

Generally speaking, goats can move with the sheep herd, but they aren’t followers. Instead, they tend to be stubborn at times and do whatever they want when they want, and we see people like this every day who have not surrendered their life [totally] to Christ for whatever reason, and desire to live how they choose and do what they want, good or bad. In the parable, the goats are the ones that burn. Whoa!

In our culture, the focus is often independence and doing what we feel, but the life of Christian is about dying to self daily. Still, even as a Christian we lose sight of that and fall into goat-like behaviors, depending on our own abilities, resources, talents, money, education, etc., when truthfully we should be living as if our very next breathe depends solely on God, because it does. Being you for a purpose means that every word, thought, and deed is guided and directed by the great Shepherd, the only one who is really worth following into a place of infinite possibilities, and the only way to Heaven.

Solomon

If my vote counted, I would say that he is one of the most prolific, yet practical writers in all of Scripture. His writings don’t really tell stories, but rather it’s as if he is having a heart to heart with his readers, well except for his books of songs which is more like him sharing the love letters between him and his lover. Anyhow, reading through the book of Ecclesiastes again, I don’t see as much of a paradox as I used to, but rather I see him coming for my life like no other book has, which is part of the reason I understand his quite large number of lady friends and acquaintances, but back to the matter at hand. I mean he really makes you question like everything about you life, even the people in it.

Really listening the heart of Solomon, we see how vastly different his philosophy of life is compared to the world’s philosophy today of humanism and happiness. Now, not that Solomon discredits that type of thinking, but he warns us about it. If pleasure and happiness and money are all we are after in this life, our life will count for nothing; it’s vain; it’s meaningless. Furthermore, with that type of life, there can never be any satisfaction, and if you look around, he was all the way right. What we see today are people indulging in what they find pleasure, living for self, and though they get a temporary smile, they are still left empty and broken and at some point come face to face with consequences they never imagined and a life ruined, and die and wake up in Hell because they didn’t recognize their need for a savior or make it to Heaven sad that they didn’t do more.

On the flip side, living for God and following His commands as Solomon described, should make up the most satisfying and invigorating life. Following Christ is not boring and mundane, because if you know His character, He is all about the element of surprise and astonishment, causing you to take those giant leaps of faith often times blindly, step out of your comfort zone, bring you into a place to face your fears, constantly molding, shaking, pressing, purging, breaking, and building you to be all He meant for you to be, and above all else develop a personal and ever-growing, ever-changing, deepening relationship with the One who created the universes with His very word and died to spend an eternity with you.

The treasure that the world seeks can in no way ever measure to what a life in the Lord has to offer and Solomon over time came to understand this. I mean after all He was stupid rich, indulged in any pleasure he desired, and literally had the world at his feet, but still found himself miserable, and one of his realizations was that things will come and go, everything has a season, but God is the only thing constant in life. Nevertheless, life should be an adventure with the people put in place by God to venture with and alongside of you as you do whatever it is that brings your soul satisfaction, not just work that provides a paycheck, but rather a passion or calling to the person fearfully and wonderfully formed by the Creator in your mother’s womb that gives you a life that money cannot buy, discovering and using the strengths and gifts divinely given to you.

So, live a life that means something for eternity, and if you have the opportunity to splurge or fulfill nonsense pleasures in the process, go for the gold, if not, Heaven’s glory will welcome you when your number is called. But still, it makes me think of a verse in Psalms and one in Matthew, reminding us to delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart, and always to seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you. Follow Solomon’s candid approach in sharing what he learned, following the Lord and keeping His commandments, and get ready for the time of your life. Be you for eternity’s purpose.