purpose

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.

 

John Mark

It’s definitely safe to say that Acts is now one of my favorite books in Scripture. There are so many characters at play and it is really so exciting, yet it makes me mad at the same time, because I desire to see the work of the Spirit more frequently in the [Western] church and believers to be used by God in the magnificent ways that He used the apostles. But that is another post altogether. Subsequently, there is one character that I want to point out that appears a couple times in Acts, then resurfaces a few more times in Paul’s epistles. His name is John Mark.

When we first meet John Mark, we learn of his mother, a Christian woman who lodged Peter after he escaped prison. Afterward, he goes off with Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey, which is when the story gets interesting. We learn about two chapters later that John Mark decided to go back home, for reasons unknown. I have heard many say that it was because he found the work too hard and or it was more involved than he realized, but there is also the possibility that he went back home to care for his mother, whichever reason it was, we don’t know for sure. Nevertheless, his departure caused a split between Paul and Barnabas (his cousin) later on; Barnabas wanted to welcome him back and bring him along on the missionary journey, but Paul wasn’t having it, thus Barnabas and his cousin went in one direction and Paul another.

So, what’s the point.

After considering the reactions of Paul and Barnabas, I can understand why each felt the way they did and can’t say either of them was wrong for their choice. As we deal with people in living out our purpose, we must not only recognize that people don’t always think like us or agree with us,  and like Barnabas our perspectives can be influenced as well by family. Again, this doesn’t mean that we are right or wrong, however, this story does compel us to develop not only wisdom and discernment, but compassion and patience as well when dealing with people, because even though John Mark’s reason for leaving them was deemed inexcusable, it teaches us that sometimes people just aren’t ready for what we hope or don’t see themselves as we see them. For, John didn’t leave the faith, as some assume, he left his assignment. Unfortunately, people will walk away for one reason or another, and we have the choice to trust them should they return or leave them, which is when discerning the voice of God comes into play.

Ultimately, we see that both Paul and Barnabas did what they thought was right, and God honored them both, even though they were separated for a time; whatever work Barnabas did with John paid off because not only did he end up in prison alongside Paul some years later, but Paul had also requested his presence in ministry, validating his value in the work of the Lord.

It’s not clear in Scripture when exactly Paul and Barnabas and John Mark all reunited, but the Spirit was obviously present in the development of their relationship. The point I desire to make in all of this is that God is one of reconciliation and restoration, in His timing and His way, and he does allow the people we work with to come in and out of our lives for seasons, but that doesn’t mean we stop praying for them or condemn their choices because of  a difference of opinion. Furthermore, some individuals do require extra grace and extra encouragement as they are figuring their way out and trying to honor the Lord and do what He has purposed for them to do, and if God has called us to extend that grace, then we must, because we never know what blessings we may forfeit if we turn someone away who disappointed us. How many times have we failed or disappointed God and He still keeps His arms open? But again, our journey may require us to not allow someone in our close space to protect us and protect them, like Paul, but if the Lord brings you back together, we must trust Him.

To be honest, I don’t know if this made sense. A lot was going through my mind when the Lord first illuminated John Mark’s story to me, and I wanted to get it all out before I forgot. I may come back and add to this blog so come back here in a week to check lol. Nonetheless, I think this disciple’s story reflects so many of us and those we know who aren’t ready to walk in their calling, especially if it connected with our own, but God’s grace is sufficient, so we must be mindful and not discourage those who decide to take time to do work through their things, because when God burden’s their heart enough and that fire is finally lit inside of them, the demons in Hell will tremble.

People are interesting and relationships are complex when you mix personalities and personal experiences together, and that’s what makes this race we run so beautiful, because each variation of our colors and beauty creates a breathtaking reflection of the glory of God. So, with wisdom and discernment, compassion and patience, be yourself for a purpose.

The Israelites: A Special Kind of Love

Over the last two years, the love of God has perplexed and overwhelmed me. I mean, like really. How can anyone love me that much and invest so much in me, and continually welcome me back when I fail and miss the mark time after time? How can someone love me past my pain and my insecurities, past my faults and disloyalty, past my wicked heart and my selfish ways? For real. A love so deep that vows to restore and heal. It’s interesting that the Spanish word for ‘deep’ is profundo, which looks a lot like the English word ‘profound.’ The idea of profound is something that goes beyond one’s normal thinking and understanding. Therefore, God’s love is so profound that it goes beyond our finite comprehension. His love is so unique and so pure that nothing can separate us from His love; it is unconditional, specifically to those of us who surrender our lives to Him. In the Bible we see words like everlasting, eternal, true, perfect, and never failing used to describe His love for His children. How insane is it that I can always count on God to love me and hold His arms out no matter what. Granted that does not give me the right to take that love for granted or assume the Lord won’t show tough love when necessary, hence the Israelites.

Throughout the various studies and readings, especially in the Old Testament, the depth of God’s love is demonstrated by His commitment to the Israelites, His chosen people. Reading through the prophets, the lives of their kings, and even when they first came out of Egypt, the Israelites were trippin. Just in a book like Hosea, one of the tribes were accused of having a spirit of prostitution. What?! Furthermore, good kings were few and far between, for most of the kings of Judah and Israel were terrible and got progressively worse from one to the next, and the people tended to follow the leadership. God on so many occasions threatened them in many ways and claimed that He would turn away from them, and He often made good on His word, and as I read His words in Scripture, I imagine His fed up, rolling His eyes and smh face, so much that I wouldn’t be surprised if He cussed them out on multiple occasions (no He didn’t, let me be clear), because the Israelites put their God through so much crap for centuries. My brother wrote a poem some years ago called, “Thank God I’m not God,” or something similar and that poem is ridiculously accurate just looking at the relationship between Yahweh and the Israelites, because I know for a fact that if I was God, I would have walked away and never looked back.

But that’s why I can’t be God.

Even though the Lord disciplined them, sometimes severely – they were wilin’ – they never had to wonder if God loved them, because He was slow to anger and His anger did not last long, and He always reminded them of who they were and of the covenant He made with their fathers. He was quick to restore and to redeem and desired to bestow His awesome favor upon them when they got their lives together. (There were many good years in between the not so good.)

The more I read, the more I study, the less I understand the love of God. It’s so…indescribable. How can a God that big, love little ole’ me that much? I have nothing to offer Him that He needs or could make His living better or more meaningful; He needs to depend on me for absolutely nothing, but I need Him just to write this blog. He has every reason and right to be distant, short-tempered, and arrogant, but in His flawless character, He chooses to be jealous for my love and chose to give His life in order to prove to me how much He desired me and wanted to have a relationship with me. I am on the verge of tears writing this, because I am just considering how great His love really is and how undeserving of it I am, but His love is mercy and grace, just as it was with the Israelites, for as He chose them to be His people, He chose me before time began to be His daughter, just like He chose you to be His child. He loves you and He loves me because He said He would. Be you for a purpose and bask in the big, strong, special kind of love that will carry you through the fires and deep drowning waters of your life, even if you set the fire or jumped in the pool yourself.

Imperfectly Perfect

He was a little snot, you may even say an arrogant snot. When we are first introduced to Joseph we see how the greater love he received from his father put him a bad place with his brothers, so much in so that within the first 11 verses there is a progressive hatred from his brothers. If I were Joseph I would not have worn the coat and would have tried anything to please my brothers, and I definitely would not have bragged or shared my dreams with them that I knew would make them salty, let alone be a tattletale.

At the age of 17 we pick up the story of who would become one of the greatest Biblical heroes. However, before we see the transformed life of snotty teenager, we also learn see the work of God in one of his elder brothers, so much in so that he initiated the bloodline of the Messiah, Judah. It is no secret that all the brothers of Joseph hated him, however, two of them, Reuben and Judah, were empathetic, especially toward their father, for it was Reuben who stopped the brothers from killing him and it was Judah who stopped them a second time and suggested they sell him as a slave. Even though he hated his brother, he knew it was wrong to kill him and put Joseph in the place where God needed him to be to elevate him. It is because of this that I believe the Lord chose to usher in His Son through his bloodline. Even in Judah’s imperfections, he came to a place of humility and tried to do what was right, not only with Joseph but with Tamar as well. Back to Joseph.

Just like his brother, Joseph had to be humbled in order to be ready for the calling God had on his life, which took 13 years. From being the favored son to being a slave, accused of sexual assault and jailed, Joseph became a man who trusted the Lord and did well in whatever work he was in while he was in Egypt. His story reminds us that even when we find ourselves in the most unfavorable situations that God orchestrates, we must do them honorably to our best ability, because we do it unto the Lord and there we will find favor with both man and God.

Judah was jealous and hated his brother and had enough drama with his sons’ indiscretions, but it is the tribe of Judah that brought forth Christ. Joseph was a snotty spoiled teenager, but God used him to rule a nation and establish the beginning of a people we know as Jews. They were both imperfect, but God still used them for His glory. This is so pertinent for us, because we all have vices and character flaws that cause others to look over us, but God is famous for taking the imperfect to fulfill His perfect plan. Continue to live and be you for a purpose with your imperfections, and allow God to transform you and take you higher than you ever imagined. Remember this, if only God knows your name, that is all that really matters and it won’t be long before the rest of the world knows your name.