pride

Beautiful Mercy for Ugly Sin

This love letter is amazing. As I read it and study more, the more I learn the heart of God and how much He truly loves me in spite of. Anyhow, there are four people that come to mind when I think of those that Satan very specifically targeted, not just a demon: Peter, Job, Judas, and David. Of course there may be others, but they are all I got. The first three I mentioned you are probably familiar with, but still going through Chronicles, I read about Satan’s encounter with David, and the story I knew but Satan’s role was unfamiliar.

Briefly, Satan was attempting to bring down Israel and used David to do so, by swaying him to pride and mistrust. You can read 1 Chronicles 21 for all the details. By counting the people David’s pride caused him to think that his success as the king thus far was by him alone, and what he had attained and accomplished was his doing. On the other hand, in doing so it was another slap in God’s face because it was as if David didn’t really believe the promise God made to multiply. He didn’t trust that God was doing what He said He would do. What I find the most intriguing are the events thereafter.

After David realized what had happened and God dealt with him, he was driven to build an altar and make a sacrifice to compel the Lord to stop the plague. However, in doing so, due to his guilt and shame, he nearly backed out because he was afraid, but the mercy of God is incredible. For the same place where David humbled himself after being so full of himself that God had to correct him, the place that represented one of his most costly mistakes and or sins, God still used it to build His temple.

So often in our own lives we mess up big and God has to deal with us, but when He does it’s in such a way that only He can get glory. God takes our mistakes and creates miracles. He uses our faults and failures as building blocks to an amazing testimony of His faithfulness, mercy and power. And truth be told, like David, it can be scary coming to God knowing just how flat out wrong we were, but His compassions are new every morning and His love endures forever. Coming to Him with a repented and humbled heart, the Lord is always willing to receive us with open arms. God will take the very thing hurt us and use it as a platform to help us and to see His promises come to fruition. David prepared the way for his son, Solomon, to build the temple of the Lord in the same place he built an altar.

In the end of his preparations for the next generation who would build the temple, David encouraged them. (See 1 Chronicles 22:17-19). He reminded them that the Lord was with them and everything was taken care of, so all they needed to do was focus on the task. He told them to devote and seek the Lord and begin to build the sanctuary so that things could be set in place.

The same speaks for us. We must continually seek the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33) and surrender all of who we are to Him, heart, mind, body and soul (Matt. 22:37). As we do so, we begin to build our temples, our bodies, the place where the Holy Spirit resides (1 Cor. 3:16) and we allow those precious fruit and sacred things of God to fill our hearts and minds that will give witness to the name of Christ, like joy, peace, forgiveness, love, and hope. These things will give room for the work of God to go forth in our lives and through our lives that the Name of the Lord may be known by whoever interacts with us as we use our gifts, talents, passions, and abilities to usher in His presence and leave His sweet aroma wherever we go. We have to prepare the way and give God the ugly things, the broken things, the sin that hinders the process, so that His beautiful mercy and love can cover it and be our foundation to build on. In doing so we have mastered the art of being ourselves for a purpose.

Ephialtes

300

So, if you know me, you that one of my absolutely favorite movies of all times, though it is rated R, is 300. If you have seen it, I don’t need to explain why; if you haven’t seen it, I won’t explain, just rent it and you will understand the greatness of this movie. There are amazing and dynamic characters and so many great one-liners, and truth be told, I considered it before, but not until I last watched it that I finally was able to put thoughts together to write.

With all that being said, it is one specific character that caught my attention, whose story reflects what I attempt to share as I write. Ephialtes. He was a deformed Spartan whose hearts desire was to fight like his father, however when he approached King Leonidas, Leonidas respectfully denied, yet gave him another option to aid in the battle for freedom, which Ephialtes did not like. Thus, he betrayed his allegiance and long story short went to the enemy’s camp, Xerxes, god-king of Persia, to get the “honor” he wanted.

It made me think, so often we have in mind what we want to do solely on the culture around us; we want to fit in. However, God tells us no, we get upset, frustrated, and tend to do stupid things. However, like Leonidas, God will tell us or show us where how He can best use us, highlighting our strengths, but because sometimes it is too “small of a task” we take things into our own hands, we don’t like the background, we want to be in the front. The problem is that these “big tasks” can’t function, let alone succeed without those behind the scenes, those bandaging the wounded and giving them water or collecting dead bodies. Just like a body, every enzyme not seen with the naked eye is significant, and without it we would falter gravely. Ephialtes was blinded to this by his pride. As a result, he did the worse possible thing.

He went to Xerxes, asking for the same thing as Leonidas, and like Satan, Xerxes played to his pleasures and stroked his ego, and all he had to do was kneel, the exact same way that Devil tempted Jesus. This kneeling was not out of reverence or love, but of greed, arrogance, and manipulation. The Devil comes the same way, as an angel of light, appealing to our desires and pride, but it is not in God’s will or timing, thus we need to run far from it. Like Xerxes, the only thing Satan has in mind is destruction, giving in to those temptations is what damages our relationship with God, families, reputation, honor, and testimony. The problem is that we want when we want it how we want it.

If you look back in the conversation Ephialtes had with King Leonidas, you notice that he asked him to stand. That is so profound to me, because God has called us to stand, to be strong in Him and confident to face whatever Hell has to throw at us, trusting in His power and love, His mercy and grace, His provision and protection. Kneeling before Him and worship is a given, but it’s a choice we make on our own; those under Leonidas’ rule gladly knelt before him out of respect and a genuine love for him, Xerxes on the other hand, if not coerced, they just did so out of duty and to keep “getting.” Like the Devil, Xerxes just gave him what he wanted so he could get what he wanted, not because he actually cared, but he wanted to destroy the other kingdom.

So many get caught in that web and we miss the great opportunity that God has for us in serving Him in a way that brings out the best in us; we want someone else’s gift and hinder God from using us and Him shining through us. Like God sees in us, Leonidas saw the best in Ephialtes and catered toward his strength; like Satan does to us, Xerxes saw the worse in Ephialtes and played to his weakness. It wasn’t until he sees Leonidas again face-to-face that he realizes how completely wrong he was, just through Leonidas’ compassion; he still blessed Leonidas. In the same way whenever we come back to the loving arms of our King, His arms are open and He still desires to bless us, even though it was our betrayal that lead Him to a glorious death on the as was Leonidas. As well, pleasure and satisfaction only lasts temporarily when Satan gives it to you, operating outside of purpose and your function, and the aftermath is destruction, brokenness, emptiness, ineffectiveness, and guilt.

Being you for a purpose is accepting and embracing the strengths God has given you, not being prideful or jealous of other people’s gifts. God already knows how He can and wants to use you, and in whatever way, big or small, it will bring glory and you will shine in your differences, so don’t try to blend in; God doesn’t like to use blenders. God wants the best for us, and He truly cares and sees the best in us, even when we don’t; He knows how we can be most effective for His kingdom. He does not try to manipulate us or have impure motives. Trust the wisdom and knowledge of God, don’t do as Ephialtes did and compromise who you are and minimize who you were created to be because things don’t go your way and or God doesn’t do as you wanted Him to. Our king, like Leonidas, has been doing this for a while and has a pretty good track record, so I think He knows what He is doing. Just trust His judgment.

Be you for a purpose, not only yours, but other people’s freedom depends on it.

We are Not Gods

There is a common belief that assumes that we, humans, are gods or can become a god in some way or another. Even though, it sounds pretty, that is a dangerous philosophy to carry, if for no other reason, we can barely keep track and hold together our own lives, let alone be responsible for some distinct facet of every other person’s life. In my opinion, people just want to feel good about themselves and put themselves on a pedestal and be acknowledged. We want that sense of control and power. On the flip side, people tend to deem others as gods just because of what they have accomplished or what they have, lifting them up as some supreme being. Truth be told, these supreme beings, can do absolutely nothing for us, let alone our souls.

May I just say, we are not gods nor can we become a god. We are virtually powerless and whatever sense of ability and power we do claim, it all comes from God anyway, ask Jesus, Paul, or James. So often, when pride or race gets in the way, we want to feel worthy and valuable after we have been treated wrong, misused, or abused, and we lose sight of the beauty in us and take it to the extreme. Many times, we get haughty, self-righteous, and hurt people in the process. We tend to believe the world owes us something to recompense for our godhood.

That is a lie from the pit of Hell.

We are humans, no more, no less. We are God’s precious and prized possession. We all in some way or another have been hurt, broken, disappointed, discriminated, abused, or misused, but our value does not come from other people. Our value comes from the Creator Himself, and as I recently heard it, our worth does not come from what we do or don’t do, it comes from birth. As sons and daughters of God, that is what makes us special. You must never lose sight of that.

It’s interesting, because this is not the avenue I originally wanted to go in when speaking of this, but I will take you to the story of Joseph, where I was inspired. At the end of the story, when he was reunited with his brothers, and they were feeling guilty, remorseful, and obligated to him due to all that they had done to him, Joseph showed compassion. It is there he asks the question, “am I in place of God?” That stood out to me because even in the midst of his new positioning, he had every ability to avenge himself for what his brothers did, but he realized this one thing, he was not God, nor did he have the right or any form of divine power to condemn those that wronged them. The very next verse you understand why. Joseph acknowledged that because of all that had happened since he was sold into slavery, and he chose to stay faithful and committed to God, he was able to lead a nation. He knew his place and God blessed him for it.

Let that be a reminder to us. Your value and identity comes from God Himself who created us perfectly, fearfully, and wonderfully. Though you have been mistreated, that does not give you the right to step on the backs of others; the world owes you nothing. All that we have and all that we are comes from God anyway, and at any moment, He can choose to take it away. So don’t put others or yourself on a pedestal so much that it blinds your view of God. For money, prestige, power, influence, talent, education, success, or anything of the liking does not make you worthy, but rather being birthed into a relationship with the only God. This means, as Joseph came to know, that we do not have godlike powers to do whatever we want when we want, no matter what the situation is. Science and emotions can cloud that truth, so be mindful and remember to do what God has called you to do, and let Him do what He will do. Don’t take His job or even a portion of it, by acting as a god or claiming to be one. When you take His job, not only will you miss out, but you will fail miserably, not only yourself but others, because no one can do it like He can.

Know your place, and be blessed for it. Be you for a purpose, and you are a human, a wonderful creation by God.

Devil’s Credit

You know what, the choir sang a song today, and the lyrics express a doctrine that many church people believe. With all that said, I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, we give the Devil waaaaaaaaaay too much credit. In this scenario, like the song I heard them sing today and many other popular gospel songs, we talk about how the Devil came and stole this and that from us and we are taking it back. Now don’t get me wrong, Jesus himself said that the Enemy comes to steal, and yes he does; full-time he is fulfilling his purpose. But may I dare say, he doesn’t steal everything we give him credit for stealing. More times than we admit, we give it to him or we let him take it, or turn the other cheek when he begins to creep.

Just like what is in your house, you fight to keep it and safeguard what’s in it, so that if anyone tries to get to it, you fight for it. You put up an alarm system or keep a weapon close by, or take up some form of self-defense, and whatever other safety measures. Yet there are those that don’t don’t guard themselves or don’t put forth any worthy effort and pretty much hand over their stuff to the intruder. The Christian life is the same.

Too many of us just hand over our promises without even fighting; we give up too easily; we don’t prepare for the enemy so we can’t and don’t defend ourselves, for things that we never should have given him. To be real, he may not even have our possessions at all, we just let things rust for one reason or another. God says certain things belong to us, and like anything we own, we won’t just hand it over without a fight, and the blessed part about it, God has given us the resources and weapons to protect what’s ours just by His Word alone. What God gave you is yours, not the Enemy’s, to use for His noble purpose that He has for you. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world, and if you believe that, there are some things the Devil shouldn’t have access to and should be protected at all times at least by the weapon of His promises. Joy, peace of mind, patience, love, and self-control, those are things that as a follower of Christ, the Enemy should never have the ability to steal, less we give him the keys, giving him access and permission.

Likewise, too many times the things that are going wrong in our lives and the situations that are anything but pleasurable in experiencing, we say the Devil set it up or set us up, or he is attacking us, and we rebuke it. Again, yes he is busy and forever disrupting the kingdom man or woman, but far too often we credit him for what we did too ourselves. To be honest, enough of the things that we do experience that unfavorable things people are giving the Devil credit for, its by their own merit, their own sin or wrongdoing. Sin, going against God’s Word or not doing what He tells us to do in certain situations, we set ourselves up for trouble whether we realize it or not. There is a quote that says “sin will take you further than you ever wanted to go, keep you longer than you ever wanted to stay, and cost you more than you ever wanted to pay.” On the flip side, sometimes the hell that is breaking loose in our lives is a result of prayer; we may have prayed for patience, a good man, a good woman, a sign that God wants us to leave a job or relationship, a more loving spirit, for God to keep us humble, a better house, or a better car without realizing what it will take for us to see His answer fully manifest; so we wind up upset and broken because we forgot what we prayed and neglect to remember that His thoughts and ways are not our own.

So in reality, when we are really reaping what we have sowed or God is setting us up for what we prayed for and preparing us for His purposes, we blame Satan himself. It’s time to wake up with a purpose so that God can get the glory, not the Devil. Lucifer was kicked out of Heaven because of his pride, stop blaming and giving him credit for everything and blowing his head up even more.

Ignorance is Bitterness, Not Bliss

The one thing about a good story, a story that is passed down from one generation to another, is that every single character has a purpose. Whether they had one line of one word or no line at all, their presence no matter how short, creates the story and adds new depths for the reader or hearer to explore. The story of the Prodigal Son is no different.

The writer Luke tells us this story in the Bible, and in most cases you are directed to the two main character, the father and the younger son, but there is someone else in the story that you don’t often hear about, or at least as much as the other two; the older son and that is who I want to focus on for the sake of this piece.

You don’t really see much of the older brother until the end of the story, though his being is so significant and gives us so much to learn. If you aren’t familiar with the story, the man’s younger son leaves the family to go and squander his inheritance, and ends up coming back home broke and broken, and his father lovingly ushers him back home and celebrates his return. Although, his older brother is far from happy. He feels that younger brother is unworthy of such a glorious welcome and complains to his father, because he had been faithful and not stupid like his brother; he was the good son.

At first glance, his argument makes plenty of sense and has good reasoning. On the other hand you can see his pride and jealousy, neither which are God’s favorite character traits of His children, actually his least favorite. Reading this, it reminded me of how often we judge and feel that someone else sin is worse than our own and God shouldn’t save them or welcome them back. How wrong is that?! How wrong are we?! As Paul said, it’s only by God’s grace we aren’t where someone else is.

Still, the main thing I want to point out how his response to his brother shows that he was so busy, so faithful, as he vigorously explains, that he completely lost the intimacy with his father and life itself passed him by. He just seems so uptight to me and was so focused on being perfect that he squandered his own life away, for his father told him “my son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” Along the way, I think the older brother became ignorant of who he was and who he belonged to and became bitter because he had been so faithful but seemingly got no return on his investment. He didn’t know who he was or what he had even after so many years and because he didn’t know, he wasted his life trying to earn what he already had by birth.

Don’t be like this son, this older brother. As God writes your story, every element is significant, every situation or event, good, bad, or just plain ugly is for a purpose. Your story is your story, and it’s God who knows how it will end so don’t criticize another person’s story just because it isn’t written like yours. Furthermore, the more you try to write your own story, rather than letting God write it, you will become bitter and upset because you will begin to search for what you already had and miss out on what God had in store for you. Get to know who it is you belong to and bask in it as much as you can; understand the riches and blessing you already have because of who your Father is. Don’t work so hard trying to earn what you don’t need to, because truth be told, we can never truly earn anything God has for us, we are so unworthy, but His grace, His grace…

Living a life of purpose, and being you for a purpose – a child of your Heavenly Father – don’t be ignorant to what is available to you and at your fingertips. It’s not about being perfect, because we fall short, but living our lives in such a way that proves we love our Daddy and are secure in our identity and look as if God dumped all His riches in glory on us. Wherever you are weak, He is strong, and wherever you are strong, He is stronger. Whatever you think you have, He has much more, and whatever you don’t have, He has promised to meet each and everyone of your needs and to give you an abundant life. Now is that to say do whatever you want or be lazy and not do anything and wait for God to drop it in your lap? Absolutely not. It is okay to work and live a good positive life free from all the craziness and drama of what the Prodigal Son experienced. If you don’t have to don’t, just don’t think you are more worthy than someone who didn’t live a polished life. Either way enjoy the life you have and make the most of it. As the father said to his son, God is saying to you to me. He is ALWAYS with us and ALL He has is ours. We don’t have to walk around bitter and jealous because of how God decides when and how to bless someone, celebrate that person, because it could’ve been you, and you may not know the story behind that glory. You know why you should celebrate? If for no other reason, he excited that a person has [finally] decided to live the abundant life of purpose in Christ and tap into God’s awesomeness, a life that you should already be living. If you aren’t, you are just as lost as the Prodigal Son, because you are living in bitterness, pride, and jealousy, that it’s blocking all that God wants to do in, by, through, and for you. This life someone else is about to embark on is so close to you, it may as well be a million miles away. Don’t live a life like that if you don’t have to.

God wants you and loves you, and wants you to enjoy Him and live a life of purpose believing and walking in His promises for you. He wants to give you all He has for you, but you have to want to receive it and know what you have. It has already been paid for. Ignorance is not bliss, but knowledge is power. Learn and Know. Know the force behind you. Know the power that goes before you. Know the purpose and plan God has for you. Know who you are. Know who you belong to. Know the riches of all kinds that are at your feet. Know what belongs to you. Know that God has tailored-made your story. Know that you are no better than anyone else. Know that God has always and will always be there. Know that Heaven will celebrate you when you get Home. Know that you are not forgotten. Know God will honor you and lift you up, in due time. Know that if you don’t know or learn these things your life will be bitter.