When you are vulnerable and helpless, that’s when it becomes crucial who comes into your life. Once you’re under someone else’s care, the reality that life and death is ultimately not under your control comes to the surface. It’s good to have that light bulb switched on so that you have enough courage to face death. That way, when pain arrives and it’s sorrows spring out like rivers, you will not be given over to complete waywardness, but resolve in the holiness of Christ.
This Devotional is more of a supplement to my previous blog: Cell With an X. We’re going to check out two passages of scriptures for the sake of study. The interesting thing about this is that we will be doing this backwards. You’ll understand why shortly.
16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in the world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 Jo 4:16-18 ESV
Now I’m going to need or you to get your penny loafers and white socks ready because we’re walking backwards here.
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 Jo 2:15-17 ESV
One, two, twist, kick, turn! Spin around! Glide! That’s it! Now let’s go ahead and start thinking about the passages.
Points to Consider
How perfect is YOUR love? Have you felt God’s Supreme Love towards you?
What type of fear is appropriate with love? What needs to be put away?
If perfection is complete, how should one love the world and its components?
Is lust inherently evil? How would you define godly lust?
Note the phrase: but whoever does the will of God abides forever. To what extent will the present world always remain? How does this inform the believer in engaging in ‘worldliness’?
These points need to be addressed because there are quite a few brothers and sisters in Christ who take inferences from these passages for granted. In one corner, we have people who conflate practicing social justice as a gospel antagonistic to the mission of Christ. On another corner, there are Christians who view any type of worldliness against the mandate to holiness. And yet another corner presumes that there is no sin and that we can do whatever whenever we want. All of these takes are half-truths that have unfortunately been perpetuated in Christendom for centuries. And it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. It is humbling to have to sit down with people and go WORD for WORD to show richness of meaning and reveal what the Scriptures are ACTUALLY saying as opposed to what people merely THINK it is saying. Context and nuance is KEY. And as we progress in learning more about the TRUTH of God’s Word and His will in our lives, we’ll be disciplined in a way that reflects Him according to His faithfulness. Remember no matter what good you do in this world, those who don’t understand or hate you will have something negative to say.
For many of us, many new windows of opportunities have opened up. At last, we can say life is sweet with a lil’ chip on your shoulder. This is just a humble brag. You’re feeling more inspired like a bed covered with silky indigo sheets basking in every moment as you look at the horizons. If you’re like me, you’re becoming more of a person who lives with no regrets; the past becomes a ring of fingered melodies and the fleeting intel you need should you wish to travel back in time. And as the day progresses and you become more feeble through life’s adversities, there comes an inner defense; a potent force that meets backwardness with a smiling face. Not sure if it’s through fried nerves or achieving Nirvana, but I do know the collective spirit at work. It’s the same Spirit that leads me to today’s Gospel reading:
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load. Gal 6:2-5 ESV
The Prison of Biblical Accountability
Obligations are shunned because they go counter to what we call freedom. There’s a demand for records (SIDEBAR: I can’t wait til’ I’m able to physically produce my music. Lord willing it will be some of my greatest work revealing the things I’ve done in secret!) that may expose your weaknesses and detract from your image. Such is true so long as we overindulge our ego and not look to Christ and others as pieces of ourselves. When we look at the world as an extension and not an opponent or autonomous entity, we will love and support each other more.
The following is an exercise in interpretation using juxtaposition. Look at today’s Gospel reading and thread it with Galatians 5:14. *IT COULD* read something like this:
14 For the whole law is fulfilled in ‘one’ word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in ‘one’ word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in ‘one’ word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in ‘one’ word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 5 For each will have to bear his own land.
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in the neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.
14 For the whole law is fulfilled in ‘one’ word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Points in Consideration
Consider the two verses: 2 Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. 5 For each will have to bear his own load. How do you reconcile these passages that apparently contradict each other?
Read Gal 2:20. Are you the summation of all things? If so, how should you regard other people?
How do you hold yourself accountable? Do you find it worthwhile to submit to another for assessment? In what ways partnerships can be mutually edifying?
Given your current resources, how can you help others?
Protests Against Inflation
When support breaks down it usually comes from two causes:
Historically speaking, there has been little spaces to healthy growth. Cultivation amongst organizations are often hindered due to short sessions of nurturing. And because our current world esteems money and assets as the primary means to survival, those who do not directly affect the bottom line are overlooked. More honor is needed to those who provide sweat equity whether through their hands, lips, or heart. For when we ensure the least among us wins, everybody goes to the next level.
For when we ensure the least among us wins, everybody goes to the next level.
But what happens if we treat others as if they’re worthless? Well Biblically speaking, there are three ways to consider worthlessness.
The person who regularly engages in ungodly or sanctimonious behavior.
A person who does good but is often overlooked.
All people in relation to the headship of the Almighty.
This question is speaking to the second viewpoint in robbing people of their God-given dignity. Assuming the following premise is true, you can draw the following conclusion.
There is ONE body of Christ and each man members of each other. Therefore to despise or dishonor one, you have debased yourself.
And we can expect God using the world to antagonize you until you see each men made in the image of Christ.
Show The Work
In High School, as much as I loved Mathematics, I would sometimes be subpar or fail tests throughout the year. Just about every time my grades were less than I expected, it was due to silly mistakes; either I was rushing and overlooking details or I was too self-confident and figured I can skip steps and still get them correct. I was the type that tried to excel in mental math. Can you do calculations in your head?
Our work is a reflection of our thoughts and habits. If you are not happy with where you are in life, consider the work you’ve been putting out. Whether that is external work or internal work, you should find pleasure and contentment in whatever you do.
What Microsoft platform allows you to innovate with a vast array of solutions through the Cloud?
Finish the lyrics: When the light’s out, it’s less dangerous…
What is cognitive dissonance? How can one experience such phenomenoms without feeling anxiety?
Explain Aristotle’s summation theory. How does this relate to the study of the church; Ecclesiology?
In Economics, what is inflation? Deflation? How does these issues correlate to people?
Name two types of common photographic processing. How does this relate to one’s memory?
The final point would lose its effectiveness if it isn’t based on Christ. For while these words convey broad ideas, Christ is fundamentally the essence of it all. And the more you see Christ as the most objective truth, the more the allure of this world becomes less. Speaking this truth is what will eventually make you a bonded servant. But what a free servant you become! I’ll close this blog out with a response to a man I hold dear and respect.
Interpretation matters. If the universe has no center, how is there life on earth? Why are there cities bustling with life? We have government, celebrities, sports, and schools. And it’s all being animated by what source? Randomness? I’d like to think reason has a more higher vibration, don’t you? And as I look into the skies, I cannot help but feel that someone is peering into the depths of my soul; piercing beyond my fragile frame revealing both the light and darkness within Me. When I close my eyes, I can sense it. The auras of space spark behind my eyelids like an Eternal Twilight. These words come from a man who strives to think with integrity; who prefers a belief system that’s more inclusive with facts rather than exclusive. I find the former having the capacity to be more fair with assessments than the latter. Society has done much harm discriminating and compartmentalizing things. So in my humble opinion, with deference to Divine Knowledge, I assert that:
Sense the Universe has *KNOW* center, you *CAN* be it through Christ.
I wonder how this may change what goes down in people’s DMs? Any who, go be great and make others great through Christ. I James, along with many other saints, some you know and others you do not, write this blog to you. And as always, I love you. Until next time.
See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.
Never mind that you a kid/ Think it’s a joke til’ you get rigged/ What track you think it’s racist/ When they lock you into cages/ And for good reason/ Yes n*** it’s the season for snitchn’/ We can’t keep covering bad nature/ The bad eggs we not hitching/ We calling cops no faking/ Call cap but we in for the taking/ Not today Satan/ Daddy’s coming home with the bacon/ Chicken pot pie/ Chicken pot pi/ All that ganga bop bap/ You can kiss bye-bye/ We sick n’ tired of the drive bys/ Little children’ taking kids lives/ You gonna have to answer to the hive/ And there better not be any false allerbis/
Cuz we after the grand auto return/ Giving back to the one’s who were burned/ You gonna learn how to work for your earn/
During the days of dancing between angels and demons; waffling through the genius of light and darkness, comes another shuffled cue from the archives. The days of sitting at the dock is over. If you were thinking you can catch a part of the wave now, that ship has unfortunately sailed. But don’t worry, there’s likely another buzz going on that people will let fly. Don’t let noncrucial matters keep you from living your best life.
The Evil Residence
Last time I wrote about abortion, I brought up additional perspectives that justifies abortion in its proper context. While not condoning irresponsible or cruel behaviors, we took note that:
God causes miscarriages
There is plausibility one can have spiritual children at no cost
If children are the greatest in the Kingdom, it is Logical to infer that fetuses in faith can bear the cross while in the womb.
If we would abort lusts and other carnality to not give birth to sin, it is appropriate to see abortion of unwanted pregnancies as Biblical.
Finding such unconventional assertions as dubious is understandable. My only hope is that final judgements on the matter are reserved until all pertinent evidence is revealed; whether through investigation or in Providence.
The gospel reading I want to use to build my final case on abortion is below:
In cooperation with those who examine text in its context, we’ll affirm that this passage foreshadows the way Jesus would be crucified. Additionally, this verse would speak to following Christ as a living sacrifice…Let’s read the next verse:
25 Whoever loves HIS life loses IT, and whoever hates HIS life in this world will keep IT for eternal life. Jn 12:25 ESV *Emphasis Added*
SIDEBAR: I try my best to makes things as clear as possible, and give people information in a way so that they can go about their lives making the best decisions. When it comes to Christianity, there seems to be this ongoing notion that people are adding or twisting the text to fit their own agenda. While I don’t deny the notion that this may be true in some cases, there needs to be an equal amount of consideration given to those who may not comprehend well, weakening the potency of words and failing to apply the Spirit of God’s Word fully.
CASE IN PONT: Considering the fact that God sent His own Son to die, how can we apply following God’s example personally, relatively, and collectively? I used the word relatively as an intentional pleonasm, knowing that the full definition of words are not commonly understood. Would a correct assessment of the Scripture involve a Lieutenant sending a fellow soldier on a kamikaze mission? A company releasing a beta project for testing marketing demand? Why wouldn’t this include the relationship between a parent and a fetus?
Somebody needs to soak their toes in the tub for an hour because they’re funky. No really, these questions are asked to probe insight around the text and to fill in applications that are normally overlooked. Otherwise, we’re in danger of speaking in a feedback loop or engaging in unhealthy group-think. It’s not flattering to be rounded up as chickens in the coup.
Who is responsible for creating the earliest form of chicken incubators and around what time were they created? In the business world, what are incubators?
What is a cooperative? Name four types of cooperatives? How can you build one within your own community?
Disunity is prevalent is society and unfortunately more so within the Black Community. What ways can we restore harmony without destroying individuality?
So far that was 10 questions. Only eleven more to go….just kidding. Be inquisitive my little kittens. Just remember the old cliche and don’t eat that pizza Garfield.
However, those who have been completely sanctified by the Spirit of Christ will experience Agape love in every place and at all times. Because true love is transcendental, a person who achieves this state will find themselves in Paradise.
22 And thou shalt be loved by all for the glory of God: but the one who falls short of completion shall suffer tribulations. 2 Matt 10:22 TPV (The Prototypical Version)
Herein is a hint for the justification of abortion. For any loving parent would want the best for their child and their partner. Whatever is birthed through the spirit will lead to Eternal Bliss while those who give birth to children in the flesh may experience troubles. May God cause all who are parents to find all their children to be a blessing.
There is a double-edged sword when it comes to finding solutions to climate change. Because some are convinced that humans play an integral role in the current shift, measures have been taken to curb human output through population control. Perhaps controlling the populations makes sense with the ever-increasing rise of water scarcity. It’s threat challenges the future of the human race. On the other side of the ring are people who want to control the population for the manipulation of people to preserve a heirarchy of classism. Guard against those who wish to destory in the guise of nurturing and those who hide their intentions to oppress through the flattery of words. I hope you are wise enough to discern the nuances now.
The Social Mirrors
If you want to experience agape love quickly, social media maybe an obstacle for you. Remember as long as your heart is not converted, the world and the people in it will lack the character to love you well. Guard your ways be learning to love unconditionally – even if that means isolating to love and enjoy your own company – and you will do well.
This water bottling company can be found in megastores like Walmart and Safeway and is named after a waterfall. What is the name of the company?
What is the double-slit experiment and what is it’s significance in quantum physics?
In Economics, there is a study on game theory. What is simultaneous and sequential game theory? How can it be applied to Spirituality and Epistemics? Under what context should zero-sum games be adopted?
Of Wombed Sacrifice
Cruising right along here. Are we bored yet? I’ll admit, I have a lot to work on in regards to my pen game. Great communication isn’t my strongest trait. I wonder if that makes me an anomaly.
*Looks to see if he can fly this cycle somewhere*.
Any hints Steve?
Well the last reason abortion can be justified is in pious sacrifice to God. To recap, there are irresponsible and immoral reasons to abort a child. The point that is being made here is that there are scenarios where such practices are acceptable, i.e rape, death of mother or child, abandonment etc. To confirm this, let’s look at a well known scripture:
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Rm 12:1 ESV
Compare with an earlier passage:
12 So then brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Rm 8:12-13
Being basic is giving low vibrations/ I’d rather drive a hoop-dee/ than pay for a car note/ That’s education for ya/ I’m not toying with ya/ If you wanna stack paper you’re gonna need to change/ ya nature/ You don’t have to be a student before you become the teacher/ When you look beyond the surface/ You’ll see the special features/ Like Mister, Where did these footprints come from?/ Look like Bruce Wayne but Shorter/ Brother must be from another kingdom/ You know why I hate chitterlings?/ They’re pig intestines/ Somewhere down the line someone thought this makes a healthy helping/ Like ok! Who would ever go for seconds?/ And that concludes my 21 questions/
I know some of us would rather stay young, but who would really want to go back to Middle School? There were too many restrictions at that time. And if you think that is bad, just think about how it would be returning to become a fetus! If you’re in Christ, you perceive everything before you’re brought into the world. Otherwise, you’re ignorant and dependent on the care of your mother. Yeah, I said mother. If an unborn child cannot bear the cross through Christ, then the only other option that is justifiable is the parent crucifying the child by agency of the Spirit.
Not the most palatable food, I know. I don’t do simple chit-cats. And I don’t wish to put stumbling blocks before anyone’s path. I just get upset when people are being condemned for something that is Biblical all because others overlook small details. Well anyways, did we really write this thing together? I wonder how many thoughts were exchanged without speaking to one another. So about that flick…we making this movie or nah?
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
The lyrics above I wrote for my wife and sang them to her on the day of our wedding. Today would mark 10 years of us being married and boy has it been a journey. The day we got married felt so surreal; committing to the ONE I love and looking back wondering if you’ll ever have those moments again. I’m so grateful to know that in Christ it’s a resounding YES and infinitely more as we mature. So honey, let me remind you one more time who you are.
You are a reflection of the Most High God; beautiful and elegant in every way. You are filled with all the fullness of the sacred Godhead. You are a priestess and my Queen. And when we look into the world, remember it is a kaleidoscope of our existence. We don’t have to be insecure anymore, neither should we stifle our gifting. I want you to see and know all that you are as you learn to appreciate me for who I truly am.
Count: What’s the point of gain? Should a man add centuries of problems to his cause? Should he detract from his genius in pursuit of wealth? I cannot muster the thought being mastered by chimes dinging throughout the day. Such a man can never sleep.
Countess: Unless he takes upon himself a definitive partner; one who will push him to infinite limits while keeping him fed. Such a man found favor with his wife; and he pangs in anticipation as he watches over the city.
I promise you there’s no foul play here. There’s only lofty fancies transmitted to hard copies. These things drive me like offensive line backs off the shotgun formation. I’m ready to stand firm and go long. No my lady. You don’t have to look pretty. You already got me. This gospel reading is for all of us who has boogers in their nose.
10 And you are indeed showing this love to all the bothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to excel more and more; and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your own hands, as we instructed you. 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thess 4:10-12
the love train
You ever pulled up on someone while they were digging in their nose? Like they’re mining for gold; got their whole face wiggling like they gettn’ jiggy with it? Like if they didn’t get this booger out they might die of suffocation? What do you do? Do you ignore and pretend you didn’t see it or look at em’ in the face and be like, “Eww, that’s gross!” Hopefully, your response is predicated on how you love, the type of relationship you have, and your analysis on what type of love is needed.
7 Ways to Perfect Love for the Brothers
Pray – it helps to intercede on their behalf so that good may come to them. If you truly desire what’s good for their soul, spirituality will factor into your actions.
Get to know them: find out their hobbies, their interests. Get to know their ambitions and help them solve any problems if you can.
Be affectionate – whether through empathy or tenderness, let your feelings be ‘healthy’ towards them.
THINGS TO DISCUSS: How can you develop healthy feelings for someone? Where should you let your guards down? Where should you set up boundaries?
Touch – whether through high fives, a tap on the shoulder, or a warm embrace. We are sentient beings and a soothing touch can show that one is loved.
Get to know their family – if you would call someone a brother or a sister, you should get acquainted with their family at some point.
Get them a gift – people appreciate gifts as it shows them you care for them. Just don’t think friendships can be bought.
Go out together – this could be to a party, another country, or doing community service. Bonds are strengthened as you do work together.
A Quiet pyre
One of the main reasons why I cling to Christian thought are the presence of paradoxes; two opposing statements that gives an underlying truth. There was a time where I thought it made no logical sense to hold two opposing opinions until nature humbled me.
TRUE STORY: I was working downtown in Chicago outside when it was staring to rain. Because my day of work wouldn’t be over until that evening, I needed to find some shade. It thundered and began to pour hard – and lo and behold – I looked across the street and it was sunny with no clouds. Literally I was being rained on and all I had to do was cross the street to be dry. Have you ever had this experience before?
In the 11th verse in our devotional, we’re encouraged to live a quiet life. In two other verses, there is an insinuating of living a loud and passionate life.
8 And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Archaia… 1 Thess 1:8
19 Do not stifle the Holy Spirit 1 Thess 5:19
The way I’ve learned to reconcile this is two-fold. For one, there is no thought or whisper not heard form God and those in the faith. Number two, there is a time and place for open preaching, and quiet work. There needs to be balance between the two.
Mind your business
No really…unless your work involved overseeing the affairs of others, you have no place prying into people’s lives, spreading gossip or slander. Do you have a business or are you merely working for another? This isn’t to look down on those who are working for others, rather this is to provide alternatives to those who may be looking for work outside of their job. It’s counterintuitive to pursue a career as an intrapreneur or be the president of a company acting as an employee.
Things to Ponder
If you wanted ot start a business, what would it be?
How would you maintain & grow your business?
What partnerships or sponsors would you look for assistance?
My personal touch
Feels nice to have an assistant helping you complete tasks.
Count: You know I cannot have my servants slave for me dear. Have them be paid their worth. Countess: Yes my love. I will look into payroll and make adjustments accordingly.
If we ever worked for others, more than likely you were at a job where you worked long hours for little pay. It’s tempting once you have your enterprise to set up structures under you so that people must work hard to work with you. And no, simply saying that’s how the world is isn’t gonna cut it. Either we learn to pay people fair wages or we lighten the load through their removing or sharing tasks. Nobody’s mousn’ around here.
Have you ever thought you could drag and drop things in your house with a computer hand? Or is it just me? Like while you’re cleaning the bathroom and you finishing the tub & toilet at the same time with your digital hands going ,” Zoo Be Doo Wap!” *In my Louis Armstrong voice* BOOM and then it’s DONE… Let me prophesy to the mothers who are burned out from maintaining the house. Your hands may have been weary in work but I’m going to extend your hands. My work shall be great amongst you as my eye works in your heart. You shall perform wonders in the home with ease with time and energy to spare says the LORD.
May Christ be born into our lives to do the impossible. Amen
The promise of self-sufficiency
When humanitarian cooperatives are preferred over spiritual community, we may find our values, goals, or boundaries clashing. We can lose a sense of freedom as outcomes are not only determined by circumstances, but other people. In Christ, our future in entirely dependent on Providence, and God only wants the best for us. All He asks us to do is serve Him and make his name great. If we are sound in Christ, we can do all things without the assistance of another. Nevertheless, Christian community cooperates as one body in the Earth.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT: If you CAN do all things through Christ, what spiritual or natural gifting do you feel can be awakened? How can you partner with Christ so that every good and hidden thing in you becomes perfected?
That wasn’t the question
We could be talking about the birds and the bees but here we are; reading these words…I can only hope you’re really digesting this language so that our lives may mushroom to something grand. This adrenaline is natural man. And I’m not trying to steal anyone’s thunder. You should know me by now. Stay in sync and the flow will come automatically. Continue to pursue justice, and Christ will come in a heartbeat..will come in a heartbeat…come in a heartbeat….in a heartbeat…..a heartbeat……heartbeat.
And James was relieved to know that he was still alive.
Count: God, I am forever in debt to the mercy extended to me. It is new every morning. You turned my sorrows into joy, and when I was just a worm, you caused me to fly with many sparrows. Thank you for keeping my life on track and preserving my mind from being quacked. You know how prone I am to wonder. Today I’m not six-feet under.
Countess: So make us stand taller in grace; even as we stand upon shoulders of giants who came before us. We praise you becase although many families are broken, the spirits of our ancestors are ever with us. Thank you for pouring your love abundantly in our heart. Let this same love bring restoration in the world around us. Ameen.
Which type of reality you prefer: Virtual, Digital, Augmented, or Spiritual? Why not have it all in Christ…
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your entire spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ
When pleasure is no longer derived from external factors, you are more prone to find joy. You’ll find that your closest friends were in your heart all along and love you unconditionally. No matter how bitter you may find life, you’ll remember that you’re the star of your own movie. Direct it well; guard it through faith with your life. Shine the appropriate spotlights. Surprise! You’re now in the presence of God. Do you see God smiling at you?
The following passage comes from a verse my Dad would have me memorize as a child. It would help me whenever I felt betrayed or hurt by others:
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. 45 So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matt 5:44 ESV
Things to Discuss among yourselves:
How do you classify your enemies?
How practical is it to love those who intentionally do you harm?
NOTE: The King James Version has two additional clauses in verse 44: ‘bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you’.
What do you make of the phrase, “Kill them with kindness?” In what way is this benevolent? How can it be sinister?
How will you conduct yourself when faced with adversity?
Are you your worst enemy? How will you confront yourself?
Probably one of the biggest blessings a person can have are their wonder years; those times in the ‘good ol’ days’ when things were more simple & blissful. You may have made childhood friends that may or may not have lasted a lifetime. Perhaps you had a childhood sweetheart that either stayed or faded out of your life. As I count my blessings, I can honestly say that I have good friends…now. Which leads me to a quick review of T.D Jakes sermon, “Branded”.
I have yet to listen to a single T.D Jakes sermon in which I was not deeply moved. This time however, I watched in sober silence. I watched a man in a snowy sweater speak to a man who is broken on the inside. I listened to the sermon with Shandra, and it was therapeutic for us to listen to a sermon together. For me, I couldn’t help but to listen, feel, and analyze the word of God delivered through Jakes.
A few highlights that ought to be commended about the message:
Confirming the need for critical thinking when examining the text. As many of you know my positions on Biblical issues, there is a pandemic of Biblical assumptions postulated as orthodoxy.
Confirming the dual nature of the mind of Christ. Because although Christ didn’t think of being equal with God something to be grasped, he also didn’t think of himself robbing God of His glory in claiming equality with Him. The significance of this assertion is that this mindset should be adopted by fellow Christians.
Bringing in an inspiring personal testimony. To hear Jakes talk about his personal struggles and learning how to make do obviously resonated with me. To see where God took Him over the course of his career gives me hope. If God can bring abundant blessings in the midst of suffering, why can’t he also do it with me?
Remembering that our story is meant to be shared for edification. There are countless stories of men and women who hit rock bottom only to receive healing, success, and favor. The Christian Testimony is given to show that with God all things are possible. And the more we submit to God’s ways, the more our stories will be effective in outreach.
Hearing an exchange of spiritual truths – from speaking about computers, gates, soup, and chess, I felt heard. And oe of my deepest desires is to feel loved ad accepted. It’s one thing to experience that in Christ, it’s quite another to experience intin the world with people you care about.
Being reminded that our suffering is what qualifies us for royalty. This gives me relief as I can see purpose in hardship. ‘the greater the suffering; the fuller the discipline, the bigger the crown.
Not looking for brownie points in writing this review. Rather this is my attempt to live out the passage in outdoing another in showing honor uncoerced. My most important relationship is between me and God, and after that His people. I dream of one day seeing His Spirit at work in His people in a powerful way.
LORD transform our minds so that we may have a pure conscience; circumspect and forbearing in all circumstances. Let our faith be genuine where we do not downplay our doubts but are vigorous in convictions. Let it be established on truth and not mere fancies. Give us a fervent heart to love others beyond normal compacity. We thank you for those who have labored over us in these dark times. Give us grace to be edifying. – Amen
Please check out my wife’s review on the same sermon entitled, “Emptying Yourself to Receive His Brand”
2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
“Grace and Peace”
This greeting rings in my head, I used to hear it time and again during a season of my life in which I attended a church in the south suburbs of Chicago. During this time James and I would help lead worship by playing our instruments in the morning and then high-tail it back into the city to attend our church in the afternoon. The church members at this particular place of worship would consistently greet one another this way. At that time I thought it was nothing more than “Christianese”. And yet now almost ten years later, it has become a life gripping phrase for me as I have become more aware of how much grace and peace I need to navigate the hardships presently before me. I am also aware of the tremendous grace He has given me to do what before seemed impossible- to grow in patience and in faith in the face of persistent struggle. It is with this opening that Paul writes his letter to the Philippians. Chapter 1 verse 2 he writes:
“ May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.” So now I say to a younger, more ignorant, immature version of Shandra “ No, this was not some religious idiom, it is a lifeline of encouragement, drawing from the true source of strength you will need in life- Grace and Peace in the Lord Christ.
But now what does this exactly mean, what does it even look like? This is where I’d like to share some insights I’ve gleaned from this passage in Philippians, my life experience, and a message recently preached by Bishop T.D. Jakes.
Oftentimes when we discuss grace in the biblical context we are focusing on its chief definition which is known to most as “unmerited favor”. In the context of salvation, yes it is right to think about this because we have been granted eternal and unmerited favor through the death and resurrection of Jesus to live with Him throughout eternity should we embrace salvation. Right now, I’d like to underscore another dimension of the word which is more aligned with this definition:
1. simple elegance or refinement of movement. “she moved through the water with effortless grace”
“at least he has the grace to admit his debt to her”
do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one’s presence. “she bowed out from the sport she has graced for two decades”
And so when we say “grace be upon you” we are granting that someone would have the elegance to move with refinement, the strength to do goodwill, and the capacity to do honorably in whatever circumstance they find themselves within. We see this unfold in Paul’s instruction in Philippians chapter 2. In this text Paul brings up the conduct that Christ displayed while here on earth- he made himself nothing, humbled himself, became a servant. By the way, how authentic that Paul would write this type of encouragement while he himself is imprisoned! He was displaying the type of grace he encourages others to obtain. And you may ask “Why? Why do I need to have this type of grace and to what end?” This is where I wholeheartedly appreciate Bishop T.D. Jakes sermon. Bishop Jakes would say for the purpose of “Brand”. Brand, as expressed by Jakes, is to be sealed, authenticated so that one understands the ownership thereof. We know that in this life we cannot escape hardship. Hardships come in many forms- physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. And these categories themselves lend to various types of hardships one can suffer and the intensities thereof. Regardless of whether my hardships have been more intense than yours or not, one thing is true among us- we have faced them and they have profoundly impacted our souls. Given that suffering is inevitable, what comes out of its process is what becomes of chief importance. In other words are we better or worse off through it and after it? Are we more virtuous and productive than before? Note when I say productive, I am referring to the ability to produce life-giving attributes. This is exactly what we see of Christ, he went towards the cross, through the cross, and out of the cross giving eternal life to all who fellowship with Him. My goodness, we should pause right there and seriously contemplate this profound occurrence…Christ gave life while embarking upon the pathway towards death. Am I giving (life not grief to others) while on this pathway of suffering?
“…the very emblem of our faith is suffering….we carry crosses to remind us that this did not come cheap…”
Bishop T.D. Jakes – Branded
What is my mindset as I navigate these hardships? In honesty- during what I call grey days, I have thoughts that range from- “ I deserve better than this…” to “ This is the consequence of my sinful behavior of the past, if I only do better from now on, I can circumvent suffering in the future…Lord please give me the grace to get out of this!”. Once I sober up from this state, I come to recognize that first, these are lies. They are lies because they are extreme statements that derive from a place of judgment of the heart that is not based on a full view of what is truth. No matter what I did in the past or do now, I cannot circumvent suffering in this world, our world is marked by hardship. Further, these types of thoughts do not produce in me the capability (grace) to walk in peace and give life to all that is good in my life despite the hardship. Instead, they have me turn inward and get stuck in the mire. And this is exactly what amazes me about Jesus. On his way to the cross, he washed the feet of his disciples, he fed the masses, he healed the ill and did that which seemed impossible for a man who was to face the most gruesome death physically and spiritually. Make no mistake Jesus was under duress. We are told in Luke 22:43-44 that He was so stressed in the Garden of Gethsemane that He began to sweat blood! And it is this reality that puts my heart in check. Surely I can serve well despite my disappointments… YET I can only do this by thinking like Christ and drawing from His divine strength.
I have begun to learn the art of drawing from His strength. Can I tell you a secret? Mastering this art is not rocket science and it is one of the hardest skills one will need to learn in order to survive the darkest hours. It is much like the training of a young Jedi. Mastering self-control while drawing from the strength of the force is critical in order to avoid the destructive, seductive power of the Darkside. (More on Star Wars and biblical theology…)
Ephesians 6:10 Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.
Hebrews 6:11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
These passages side by side convey something about our strength’s source and resting in the Lord. First that there is a power within the Lord and secondly that your very life depends upon its resource. I have learned that resting requires a discipline of redirecting my thought life, redirecting my attention, recalibrating my body, forcing my mouth to praise when my heart is so heavy it has tried to lock down my words, exercising and moving, fellowshipping with others, withdrawing from others at the appropriate time, and so much more. Resting is not only physical health, resting my friends is mental health (more on mental health in a future blog and podcast) To rest in Christ is to trust that the hope of being with Him eternally and internally is greater than the pain I currently experience from the cross He has allowed me to experience. I am so sure there are deeper layers of truth to what it means to rest in Christ. For me, this is what I have come to understand at this leg of my journey. I also rest my worry of the unknown in the fact that I know that come what may, there is a beauty unfolding towards a purposeful end. In other words, I do believe there is a purpose to my current hardship- branding, authentication, to be useful to others in a greater life-giving way, etc.
A few years ago, 2 Corinthians 1:4 became my “jam” while I was in a hard space. This became my jam much like a slow R & B to groove or a funk soundtrack one dances to no matter what circumstance they find themselves in. And so it says: “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” It is important to not miss the “so that” in biblical text. It’s like the pocket by which the beat resides and produces more resonance. It is the purpose I am talking about. If we miss the purpose, then what really is the point of it all?
I’ve seen this come to life in my own life! I began to realize that the encouragement I would give to others was now more than what I call “Christian platitudes”. By the way here’s the definition of platitudes:
a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful.
If you’ve been around church people for some time you know these all well- verses out of context thrown at you during a hard time, unbiblical phrases such as “ Well, He won’t give you more than you can bear…” By the way, that’s nowhere in scripture my friends. And is actually quite offensive to people who have borne a crapload. Or another one I disdain is the “ Thanks for sharing…” left with a hollow emptiness and no mutual return of exchanging how one has either experienced God’s grace in an equally difficult time OR an admission that they are in need of God’s grace in a similar or profound way. What we find in 2 Corinthians 1:4 is the mark of one who has been authenticated, branded not just with hardship but with the comfort that those who walk with Christ experience! I can now look another person in their eyes and truly tell her/him I know what it means to come to the recognition that Christ alone is my all as I’ve experienced deep relational disappointments. I can equally tell you what God’s comfort meant for me as He gently but firmly showed me the darkness and deception of my own heart and how I’ve deeply hurt those I love. The point here is- receiving His brand requires us to be unashamed of the gospel in our lives.
And so I’d like to end this blog with an invitation for you to share your process with someone about how you are being branded for a greater purpose. I’d suggest to you that even if you just share what insights you’ve gathered (without sharing the details of the situation), that alone is a gem that could touch another soul in the deepest parts of their being- calling them towards endurance and life. You may share with us by commenting, share with me directly by email, or better yet share with another with whom you are in relationship with throughout your daily life.
Grace and peace to you friends, may the Force, the only true One, be with you.