Be A Masterbuilder

most-photographed-church

In the Kingdom of GOD, everything is built of the same material. Everything consist of Faith, Love, and Obedience. All structures are put together by the spirit; not by might nor by power. These three make up the material that must be used for every weight-bearing structure in our lives. Every structure we plan to use as a support or shelter. This covers our belief systems and life philosophies. The Lord will build upon no other foundation. We are holy to GOD and our lives are an altar for Him.

“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5)

When you study the Old Testament, you find that YAHWEH was very particular when giving instructions on how He wanted His altar built.

“An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.  And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.” (Exodus 20:24-25)

Often, YAHWEH gives us material to work with that seems impossible to create what is needed. Then He will follow it up with instructions that are counter intuitive…Humble yourself and you will be exalted, lose your life and you will find it, give it away and you will have more than you need. When we try to modify the material or instructions He gives us to work with, so that it makes since to us, the result is that we weaken the integrity of the structure. Only what YAHWEH builds can last forever and is strong enough to weather the storms of this life.

Let’s break down the divine building material of Faith, Love, and Obedience.

Love- Love is the expressed will of GOD. The beauty of love opens our hearts to possibilities by inspiring hope, particularly the hope of good things. Love plants the seeds that grow into faith.

Faith- There is so much in life we don’t understand. So many things that are beyond our control. So many things that can’t be seen with the eye or felt with the senses. With all these things that are indefinite to our physical awareness, we still have to live and carry on from day-to-day. Faith gives subsistence to things that are otherwise inconceivable. This enables us to see possibilities when others see no reason to hope.

Obedience- This is the readiness to carry out the actions inspired and motivated by love. It is submission to the governance of love.

These three are the material that make up the divine stones that the children of GOD build with. Many of the structures we see in the world today have been fabricated from far inferior material than Love, Faith, and Obedience. We see structures made from fear, lust, hate, and pride. On the outside, these structures can be just as beautiful and impressive as those made of the heavenly stones. The difference is when the storms of life come, these earthly fabricated structures crumble. They are also like homes built with asbestos and lead; the contaminants they are made of leak death. These earthly fabricated structures cannot sustain life.

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And everyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” (Matt 7:24-27)

“For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.”(1 Corinthians 3:9-14)

When you build based on the counsel and reasoning of man, this is inferior building material. Only the material made by YAHWEH is compliant with the building code of life. We must inspect all material we build with by the Word of YAHWEH. The bible says we are to try every spirit to see what sort it is; whether it be from GOD unto life, or from the deceiver unto death. We have to inspect ideas and counsel given to us to determine if it they can support life. We must see if they consist of the virtues of Love, and if they are founded in the faith and hope of GOD’s word. We must ask ourselves if the counsel or ideas violate obedience to GOD’s word. If the counsel or ideas fail this thorough inspection, we must reject it.

A key thing to remember is that your choice to obey surrenders your choice to choose what is good. What seems good does not equal the right thing to do. Remember, the just lives by faith, not by good reasoning. Therefore, we have to abide in the instruction of YAHWEH. “Trust in the Lord, with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.” The paths of the Lord lead unto the way everlasting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Loving Gets Difficult

roses in the trash

Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].  It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. (1st Corinthians 13:4-8/Amplified Bible classic edition)

Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening] (1st Corinthians 13:4-8/ Amplified bible).

It should be effortless to love our spouses this way, after all, we are to love them as we love our selves. If we have entered the covenant of marriage with them, then we should already be convinced that they always, or at least the majority of the time, have our best interest at heart. Yet there are wars and fighting’s among the married in Christ. What is the problem…Division! Everything about marriage is toward unity and oneness, yet division is permeating in marriage. What does it mean to be divided? Here is the definition from Merriam Webster: “Separated into parts or pieces,”

also “directed or moved toward conflicting interests, states, or objects.”

The word “Divorce” mean to sever or separate. When couples get legally divorced, it is simply the manifestation of their disunity.

One of the definitions above states that divided means, “directed or moved toward conflicting interest, states, or objects.” The key word in the definition above is “conflicting.”  Conflicting means opposed to one another or resisting one another. So, becoming divided happens when a force, either from without or within, moves or directs a couple to interest that are opposed to one another, or this force is causing a couple to be moved into opposing states of mind or being, or the things or objects that they each desire are opposed to one another.

The conditioning of the world causes people to celebrate quantity over quality. People talk about themselves or other couples being married for 30, 40, or 50 years, and it is assumed that these are great unions, or good marriages. Not necessarily so. We seldom know the inner workings of other people’s relationships. We are not always privy to how much compromise or pain was endured. Furthermore, just because a couple never gets a legal divorce doesn’t mean that they have remained married in the true sense of biblical marriage. Christ taught in Matthew 5:27-28, that if a man looks at another woman to lust after her, he has already committed adultery in his heart. Many people who are legally married have actually divorced in their hearts, because they are no longer submitted to one another in unity. They live lives of opposition, in disunity, but still live together and have occasional sex. Some married couples are in such disunity that they no longer have sex, or they may even sleep in separate beds. All this while legally still married. Some couples are divided, but they stay in marriage for the children, or due to financial dependency. These are all very sad and unfortunate circumstances, and do not come close to our Father’s vision for marriage or becoming ONE.

Many people get married having no idea what it really means, or what it will require. Marriage is just one of many things that people get involved in without research, or fully reading the manual (BIBLE- Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth). Existence is the result of biological circumstance, but to live is to answer a call to a vision given by GOD. Being married is just a legal matter, but becoming ONE is a supernatural act only realized through the power of GOD. Unity comes to fruition as a couple submits to His vision for their lives, while living moment to moment by faith. It is impossible to fulfill the requirements of life’s callings without GOD. That which we accomplish in our own strength award us the praise and approval of men, but it is what we accomplish by faith  that please GOD.

There are no 10 steps to a happy marriage, or 20 steps to a successful life; only seeking life through faith in GOD, moment by moment, and day by day. Anything else is manmade and falls short of GOD’s glory. This is what Romans 3:23 is referring too; the sum of our lives when lived in our own strength. On the contrary, the life we live through faith in GOD’s ability is glorious. In the second year of my marriage, I realized it was beyond me. This was even before having children. I fell on my face and cried out for GOD’s anointing to fulfill His vision for me as a husband, and a father.

The “Love” spoken of in 1st Corinthians 13:4-8 is impossible to embody without abiding in GOD, because He is “Love.” We will never be the husband, wife, father, mother, or person we were called to be until we surrender to the governance of GOD’s love, by faith.  Husband, do you think it is impossible the love your wife in sacrificial love the way Christ loves the church…It is unless you surrender to the Word and the Spirit, and allow GOD to do it through you. Wife, do you believe it is impossible to love your husband with sacrificial love as the church loves Christ…It is unless you surrender to the Word and the Spirit, and allow GOD to do it through you. The cost is the same for all…It will cost you everything you have and then some…but you were made for this and the reward is beautiful beyond description.

Stop trying to figure it all out and start focusing on just being in GOD. The rest will work itself out. Through being born again in Christ, we have 1st Corinthians 13:4-8 within us. We just need to work it out, moment by moment, through the awareness given by the Holy Spirit. The motivation to do the work comes from the joy of the vision that GOD sets before us. If the work seems to difficult, then the vision needs to be restored. To have the vision restored, it is necessary to spend some time with GOD in solitude, so you can hear Him. The just shall live by faith, and faith comes from “hearing” the Word of GOD. You will not see clearly, until you hear clearly. In marriage, the husband and wife must have intimate time with GOD, not just with one another, if they are to succeed in fulfilling the vision of GOD for their union. This is the part that is most neglected. A couple can date each other, and have all the intimacy with each other that they can handle, but the love of 1st Corinthians 3 will only come from intimacy with GOD. The Love that never fails is the Love that is sourced from faith in GOD.

holding hands

 

Empathy: The Power of Greater Vision

 

greater vision

I wrote a piece recently about hoping empathy will rise in this New Year, looks like it is beginning with my own heart. Due to all the exposure of racially motivated violence in the past couple of years, I have heard many white people saying they didn’t realize black people still had it so bad. I have also had many white men say to me that they are just realizing that male white privilege is not just a mythical politically motivated assertion. Initially, my reaction to those having these epiphanies was – C’mon really.

I am beginning to see how when you are immersed in something from birth, it is hard to recognize it as unnatural, foreign, or harmfully infectious. I have advocated for the better treatment of women through writing and through speaking directly to men. I have spoken to women about their immeasurable value, above and beyond physical beauty. However in all that I have come to understand, I know that I have not fully grasped the depth and scope of the mental and physical impact centuries of oppression has had on women. By accepting that fact, hopefully I have increased my ability to hear and understand my sisters unto deeper and more fulfilling relationships.

When you consider that from the founding of America, most of the information propagated in this society from the imagery, writings, entertainment, public policy, education, and so forth has been generated out the oppressive source. Our social environment is so thoroughly contaminated with certain biases and prejudice ideologies that it is almost impossible not to normalize some of it in your psyche. That goes for those who are oppressed, as well as the oppressors. This is true in every instance where America has historically practiced injustice and inequality.

Our moral compass has to align with an influence higher than just the survival instinct, if we are to reach the promise land of liberty and justice for all. Creatures like jackals and snakes know how to survive, but it has been ordained for man to have Life. To “have”, is defined as to hold or maintain as a possession, privilege, or entitlement. Every person is entitled to the freedom and means to realize the potential of their being. Anytime someone purposely hinders another person’s progression in this sacred right it is reprehensible. We have to respect everyone else’s entitlement to live as we do our own. That is why the golden rule is so vital to humanity. The commandment of GOD, to love our neighbor as ourselves, invokes the power of empathy. The power of empathy gives us the ability of greater vision through the use of many lenses. This why hate blinds us but love shows us the way.

Opening the Gift of the Present

The GIft

Today as I ate my lunch, I decided to do a little research regarding, “How to increase focus and concentration” and I found some nuggets to add to my treasure chest. In my search, I found that what resonated with me more was actually some information on what to focus and concentrate on more so than how to increase focus and concentration.

These days I find it increasingly rare to have someone’s undivided attention. Once upon a time it was considered rude to engage someone without stopping what you were doing to make eye contact. When someone looks directly at you it is a sign that you have their attention. These days you are often forced to share someone’s attention with personal electronics like mobile phones, laptops, and other multimedia devices. There are times when multi-tasking is the best way to be productive and then there are times when giving less than your undivided attention results in time thwarted. Sometimes when you are not fully engaged in something that is occurring, you miss cues and subtleties that give important information causing that time to be less fruitful.

We have been given life by a GOD that is detailed to an infinitesimal degree. He packs so much into every moment we live. The secret to abundant life is learning to be fully aware in every moment we are blessed to live, in order to be mindful of the present goodness. Be sure the things you focus on are worthy of your time, and if anything is worthy of your time, you should make sure you get everything you can out of it. Prudence is one of the truest markers of maturity and enlightenment.

Enjoy these exerts from an article I read from a website called “The Art of Manliness” :

“Modernity has given us a lot of comforts and conveniences, but it has also unleashed a torrent of stimuli competing for our attention. To live a truly flourishing life amidst this cacophony of distractions, mastering your attention is key. At the end of your life, who you’ve become, what you’ve learned and accomplished, and who’s there at the end with you will be the sum total of what you chose to pay attention to each year, day, and hour of your life. Will a series of cat videos flash before your eyes? Or will you look back on the deep conversations you had with your family and friends, the books that changed your life, and the little details you discovered in all the places you visited?”

“Practice attentive listening. Focus isn’t just useful for intellectual endeavors. It’s also an essential interpersonal skill. The ability to be present with a loved one or friend builds your rapport, intimacy, and trust with them. At the same time, making an effort to focus all your energy on someone else strengthens your concentration muscles overall. It’s win-win. So next the time you’re talking with your main squeeze, put away your phone and listen as attentively as possible.”

Practice mindfulness:

“Mindfulness is simply focusing completely on what you’re doing, slowing down, and observing all of the physical and emotional sensations you are experiencing in that moment.”

All the life you have is happening right now, everything beyond this present moment is a matter of faith.

 

Revelations from the Eye of the Storm

The Exercise

I had a discussion recently with a white male friend of mine about the different perspectives people can have based on their life experiences. The conversation led to him sharing how he knew he was a beneficiary of white male privilege in America and how that privilege has led to a disconnect sometimes when it comes to him understanding the Black perspective. The next day he sent me a couple of different links to videos of Jane Elliot’s “Brown Eyed/ Blued Eyed” exercises. Some of you may be familiar with the work of Jane Elliot but in case you are not, she is an educator that has done some good work on exposing the racism innate in American culture. Her work began the day after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. She did an exercise with her primary school students, who were all white, to help them understand the struggle Dr. King was involved in, which ultimately cost him his life.

In her exercise, she poses two groups against the other; one group represents people of color (brown-eyed participants) and one group represents white people (blued-eyed participants). Jane Elliot then has the brown-eyed group partner with her as she subjects the blue-eyed group to the reality of American racism as experienced historically by America’s non-white citizens. It was very surprising to see the level of anger and frustration exhibited by the Blue eyed participants as Jane treated them with contempt and disrespect, even though they had been forewarned and knew it was a staged exercise. For me, it had the effect of validating my own experiences in a new way. The experiment showed me how mentally disruptive even small doses of racism could be on its victims in less than 30 minutes, not to mention its potential impact when endured for over 400 plus years. I always knew that Black people were strong, but it was illuminated in a whole new way as I watched people buckle under weights I carried as a child; weights that only got heavier with the increased gravity that comes with age and the responsibilities of life. It reinforced the belief I have that if all men are created equal, then there are external forces creating the large disparities seen throughout American society.

The impetus of racism is the need to justify a system of oppression. Ta-Nehisi Coates in an article from “The Atlantic” quotes David Blight, A Yale Professor, on the subject of The Civil War and Reconstruction. Blight says that at the maturation of Slavery in America it was the largest financial asset in the entire U.S. economy, worth upwards of $3.5 billion, exceeding the profits of all manufacturing and railroads combined. The bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. This would explain America’s wicked obsession with oppression as a means to profit. See Ava Duvernay’s “13th” production for a well-documented illustration of this point. Racism is perpetuated in America because oppression is still government policy. How can the poor and oppressed gain equality in a society where law and law enforcement favors the rich? Bryan Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. He is also an American lawyer and Social Justice Activist. Bryan states that in the USA you are treated better if you are wealthy and guilty, than if you are poor and innocent.

If equality in the pursuit of happiness is to become a realization, the epidemic heart disease of greed must be dealt with. Greed is incubated and hatched through selfishness and nourished by fear. Desire infected with greed distorts perception and perverts judgment. The only cure is Love. Love breaks the power of selfishness and eliminates fear. The kind of Love as taught through biblical principles. The love that gives at the expense of self for the benefit of all, contrary to selfishness which takes for the benefit of self without consideration for anyone else. The false dearth created through racism will continue to ravish society, until we all learn to love one another as ourselves. There is but one race, the human race.

[Image is from janeelliott.com]

 

Learning the lesson of Jonah

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Yahweh gave Jonah a commission to go Nineveh and call the people to repentance before he punished them. Jonah wasn’t willing to carry the message of reconciliation to Nineveh because he had judged them as being unworthy of mercy and grace. Without delving into the history of the people of Nineveh and all they had done, our merciful GOD Yahweh decided to reach out and offer them a path to reconciliation. Jonah was very reluctant to carry out the commission he had been given. Jonah had no concern for Nineveh and just wanted GOD to destroy them and be done it.

Jonah called himself a prophet of the Most High GOD, and a descendant of GOD’s chosen people. He obviously felt that he and his people were the only ones worthy of the deep riches of GOD’s mercy and grace. I see Christians today with this same disregard for others and mindset of privilege. These Christians want as many chances as it takes to avoid the wrath of GOD, however when it comes to people of other beliefs they want swift judgment. Like Jonah, these Christians have somehow mistaken the grace they have received in this world as something they have earned. When I see the lack of empathy and compassion in many Christians today, I realize they have not learned the lesson of Jonah. Living on the welfare of GOD, some Christians have the nerve to want to hoard the grace of GOD for themselves. They want to create standards and make others earn what they have received freely. “Send in the troops, squash the uprising, unleash the police, they are disturbing my peace,” say these redeemed.

At the conclusion of the book of Jonah, we see our Lord asking Jonah if it right that Jonah wanted Him to come running to his aid when something disrupted his comfort, but when it came to saving the very lives of others who were lost,  Jonah was indifferent. I don’t expect the unbeliever to care about someone other than themselves, but those that confess to have been saved by GOD’s amazing grace, those who have asked for the innocent blood of the Lamb of GOD to cover their transgressions and have been granted redemption, I expect more.

There is a parable Yeshua taught about a servant that had been forgiven a great debt by his King but turned and would not show compassion to a fellow servant that owed him much less. Here is how the parable ended:

“Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.  Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’  And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.” (Matt 18:32-34)

We should not be like the wicked servant in this parable or Jonah, and allow our hearts to become hardened from too much focus on the debts and wrong doings of others. We have to stay sober-minded and remember the debt Christ paid for us.

It is easy to begin harboring ill feelings for a particular religious group or ethnic group if you just believe information circulating in popular media outlets or popular culture. There is a lot of propaganda in mainstream media circulated to form views that serve special interest. News is often reported without disclosing all the facts and it leaves people with misconceptions. We have to care enough to want to know the whole story and be willing to seek out the truth.

Yeshua says if you are not with Him then you are against Him, and if you aren’t gathering with Him then you are scattering abroad. If you proclaim that you are with Him, then let your conversation and witness be seasoned with compassion, understanding, empathy, humility, mercy, grace, and thanksgiving toward drawing people unto Christ. You will not be able to do this if you are feeding on the news more than the Word of GOD. You will not be able to do this if you have chosen, like so many people, to turn a blind eye to the facts of history which reveal that all people have committed wickedness. None of us are better and have greater value than the other. This is a key message in the testimony of Christ since He paid one price as a ransom for ALL people.

Through a grateful heart for the redemption that has been shared with us, we too should be eager to carry the same gospel of reconciliation to the rest of the world.

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:19-21)

 

 

Correcting Sons, Correcting Fathers

correction

A prerequisite to becoming a good father is learning to be a good son. I am specifically talking about being a son to a father. There is purpose and design to a husband and wife conceiving and raising children that many have irreverently dismissed. The dismissing of purpose is always a precursor to abuse. Due to various circumstances, many fathers in our society were never sons to fathers themselves. Having never walked the path of a son to a father, there will be some inherent challenges in the relationship. Challenges in the area of disciplining tend to be the most impacted. If disciplining and correcting the son becomes ineffective, then the son doesn’t become mature and the flaws persist. This scenario has created a cycle of parenting that has produced generations of immature men. However there is a fix and the cycle can be broken. Yeshua gives us the opportunity to becomes sons to the Heavenly Father. The scripture reads in  John 1:12, ” But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of GOD, even to them that believe on His name”. What is this power that He gives… it is the power to obey. As the first-born son of GOD, Yeshua walked in perfect obedience and so abides in the love of GOD the Father. This same power Yeshua exercised over the pride of life, as an obedient son, is made available to us through His cross that we may also abide in the Father’s love and reach maturity.

Again, the challenge comes when we have to be corrected or chastised for our own good. When chastised do we buck up and rebel, or do we submit like a good son? The traits of a good son is that of being humble, teachable, faithful, and receptive to correction. This comes from trusting the Father and an eagerness to please the Father. We must be convinced of the Father’s love for us and then render Him our trust. Our faith and trust will justify all that He ask. The thing that makes disobedience sinister is not the failing, it is the self-justification and reasoning that foils the attempt from the beginning; the mindset that considers the command too hard and unreasonable in the first place, due to the pride of selfishness. It is all the abominable reasoning that is the result of pride exalting personal opinion to personal truth. Personal truth equals personal reality which essentially makes a person the deity in their own world. This is why the scripture says in 1 Samuel 15:23, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” The disobedient son conjures up something of his own, instead of trusting and submitting to divine authority. Yeshua, of whom GOD said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him ” (Matthew 17:5) operated from “not my will Father but yours be done”.

The good son accepts correction because he realizes if he failed it is on his own part and it is the just response of a loving Father. The good son realizes that if he is punished for disobedience, it is because he didn’t humble himself when he should have. Hebrews 12:6-8 reads, “ For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes. You must submit to and endure [correction] for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is there whom his father does not [thus] train and correct and discipline? Now if you are exempt from correction and left without discipline in which all [of God’s children] share, then you are illegitimate offspring and not true sons [at all].”

When men resist correction from divine authority, it demonstrates that they are not being matured in the son-ship offered by Yeshua. On a deeper level it shows that they have not yet given control of their lives over to GOD. We must consider the gospel of Yeshua the Savior until there is nothing in us that contends with the call to the cross. Through this process we will find the approval we seek as sons from GOD the Father and the anointing to serve as Father’s ourselves.