Burden of Strength

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Photo Credit Gino Astuto Artist

There’s an invisible armor that we all tend to bear… Its superhero characteristics include the illusion that you have it all together. There is no moderation in these commendable qualities you possess. You can take care of others, be independent, put your needs aside or indicate that you do not have any to begin with. This armor of strength is your superhero mechanism to reject all forms of denial, depression, or sadness that you may feel because you have an obligation to control yourself and those around you. Nothing happens without you or without your consent. Nothing comes past this armor that you bear. Nothing…

The saddened state of this armor is that you probably did not put it on yourself. Society teaches us to be independent, strong, financially dependent, and incredibly self-sufficient. For the African-American culture, there is an epidemic of the stereotypical “Strong Black Woman” who has to dance between the image of being strong but vulnerable enough to be with an equally “Strong Black Man.” The pressures that both black woman and men face are too heavy to bear so often times it leads to a co-dependency that ultimately destroys cultural relationships and healthy authenticity. For the typical “white” culture in society, men and woman bear the armor of strength through status and hierarchy that only deepens the divide that our country has been fighting for hundreds of years. Other minority cultures bear the armor to protect themselves from being hurt and taken advantage of, which furthers the distance of reconciliation and restoration that is so desperately needed…

I’m sure you’re familiar with the story of David and Goliath. “In 1 Samuel 17, just before David goes out to face the giant, Saul tries to protect David in the best way that he knows how by dressing him in his own armor (Walker-Barnes, 2014).

” Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them: “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. – 1 Samuel 17:38-39 NIV

If we are all honest, we all have been dressed by an armor that we are not meant to bear or is not our own in some sort of fashion. We cannot allow culture and society to paint the picture of who we are supposed to be…and so like David, we need to begin the process of taking off this armor that is “too heavy a yoke to bear (Walker-Barnes, 2014).” Only then can we be free and move and discover our own identity in Christ. Even the best of the best superheros dismantled his suit and identified as human…Clark Kent to Superman and back to Clark Kent. But what does this look like for you and I?

“It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 NIV

When we accept Christ we are no longer slaves to the things of this world, no longer slaves to the armor that it wants us to bear, and no longer slaves to the pressures that it wants us to conform to. Those yokes are heavy and will cause us to have real life issues that are detrimental to our physical health and overall well-being! Who wants to live life like that? I’ve been there and to be honest often times find myself back in a trap that wants me in bondage to bearing the heavy burden of this world, especially when it comes to trying to take care of everyone in my circle. But let me tell you what joy it is to become slaves to righteousness. God’s yoke is easy and light. God bears the yoke for us and thus we are led to freely and wholeheartedly obey the love that sets us free…Please don’t misunderstand that we are not supposed to walk around with no armor. Ephesians 6 advises us to put on the whole armor of God…we are supposed to be protected and guarded but the difference is the weight of the world’s armor will be a burden, while the weight of God’s armor will liberate you.

I have recently taken a class that addressed this issue of the burden of strength (in particular African-American woman) but I believe so many others deal with it as well. We read a book from Chanequa Walker-Barnes called “Too Heavy A Yoke: Black Woman and the Burden of Strength” and a lot of this content I wrote about comes from this book. She really does a masterful job of offering historical, social, and theological influences on why we deal with this burden of strength and even crafts practical ways in which we can begin the process to being free from these stereotypes. I will address three here that she mentions that I thought were most insightful to me. Be Blessed! Be Revealed!

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  • Find a safe community or small group – Walker -Barnes speaks about becoming a part of community in which you trust and feel safe enough to “dis-armor.” We are meant to be in relationship with other people and intimately connect emotionally and spiritually. Do you have a community of close friends, small group, or safe place where you can be vulnerable and let down your guard? Also, “when you are able to demonstrate compassion for others, you learn to be compassionate toward yourself (Walker-Barnes, 2014). I often like to ask myself “who is sitting at your destiny table?” Who you associate with often determines where your future will look like in the next couple of years including your well-being.
  • Acknowledge that we are not the Divine – this is one out of the twelve steps Walker-Barnes crafts in the book but I thought was probably one the most important. There is a Power greater than ourselves who can restore to us right relationship with ourselves and others. The biggest take away is that there is hope! There is healing available to you and I if we are willing to receive it.
  • We carry this message to others – it’s one thing to get it for ourselves….but trust me there is more work to be done in generations that follow us and they need to know that they don’t have to bear a burden if they do not have to. Let’s be a generation of bridge – builders that offer hope and restoration for a better tomorrow.

 

 

 

The Hidden Places Where God Develops You

This book probably couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Founder of Jesus Culture and Pastor of Jesus Culture Sacramento, Banning Liebscher, wrote his first book titled “Rooted: The Hidden Places Where God Develops You.” It spoke to my heart and I believe it can also speak to yours.

For those of you who believe that they were born to make an impact in this world and feel it deep down in their bones…this book is for you.

For those of you who have a hunger to be great and meaningful change keeps you up at night…this book is for you.

Here’s the thing…we must allow God to establish a root system and foundation in our lives so that what God develops through us will produce fruit that remains. Here are some great nuggets I picked up from reading this book. Enjoy this Appetizer! Be Blessed! Be Revealed!

Rooted

  • Everyone champions accomplishment, but not many people champion the journey. ~ Kelly Clark, Olympic medalist
  • Anybody can start a race. Finishers are impressive.
  • Unfortunately, many believers today don’t live with forty years in mind, let alone generations, or eternity.
  • Neither appearances nor short-term success impress God.
  • God always develops us before He develops our vision.
  • We’ll never thrive in the process unless we accept the place where God put us, because that is the only place He will work with us.
  • Are you more passionate about pursuing a dream or about following Jesus?
  • Do what’s in front of you, and do it well.
  • You must understand that getting out of sync with the timing of God’s seasons puts you in danger. Don’t rush.
  • If you’re not there, it’s because He doesn’t want you there yet.
  • We can trust Him with the deep things of our hearts because they are also the deep things of His heart for us.
  • God is not interested in your comfort; He is interested in your growth.
  • It’s not my responsibility to build or maintain what God opens. It’s my responsibility to follow Jesus.
  • So many people are driven by the need to prove themselves. Rest in the fact that God chose you and you have nothing to prove.
  • There are many areas where God develops your root system, but none is more important than going deep in the Word of God. The Bible Reveals.
  • Perfection is not a requirement to lead. Growth, however, is.
  • Everything you will ever need is found in the presence of God. Everything in your life must be birthed from the revelation of His love for you.
  • There is an anointing that is found only in one place. If you want to receive, you have to separate yourself to the inner room of prayer.
  • You are called to greatness. But greatness looks different than you think. If you really want to be great, here’s how you do it: become the least.
  • Love looks like serving.
  • Any increased blessing in your life is so that you can better serve others.
  • The most joyful people I know are also the greatest servants I know.
  • You were never meant to live life alone. You were meant to live in community. Isolation is a killer.
  • We do get hurt in community. But we also get healed in community. Community is where we grow. We cannot live without it.
  • You don’t need more teaching; you just need the courage to do what God has called you to do.

The Secret to Your Joy

This may come as a surprise to you, but true joy is not about you. Let me say that again. Real, genuine joy is self-forgetfulness. There are so many people trying to find joy in so many things, people, and places in an effort to ultimately please and satisfy their own need to be happy. Yet, happiness and joy are not the same thing. Happiness is a conditional state of emotion based on the current circumstances of your life where joy is based on the permanent work of the Cross of Jesus Christ. As believers, “our focus is the crucified and risen Christ and the incomparable excellencies of his person and work” (David Mathis).

So how do we get to a place of self-forgetfulness? Brace yourself because I don’t want to give you too many surprises at once. The most important means of grace and our greatest weapon in the fight for joy is corporate worship. It combines all three principles together: his word, prayer, and fellowship. There are just somethings that God gives only in meeting together with other believers! I’m sure you and I catch a glimpse of heaven’s bliss when we study alone or worship in our own quiet place. However, we were made to worship Jesus, together.

A great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and people and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to the our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9-10)

Heaven will be beyond what we can think or imagine it to be, and the closest thing and the closest taste to what it would look like is to come together with the gathered church and adore our King. Understand though that worship is bigger than services and gatherings, it is a way of life. And its not necessarily and emotion we seek to obtain. True worshippers worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). John Piper states this, “In the moment of authentic emotion, the calculation vanishes and we are taken above the reasoning work of the mind and we experience feeling without reference to logical or practical implications.”

In the next post I will discuss five benefits of corporate worship and what those things that God gives only in a gathered meeting. I don’t know about you, but I sure do want to experience a taste of heaven here on earth while I’m here. Take a moment to look at this video by the worship team Jesus Culture. It captures at the essence of what this post is about. Be Blessed! Be Revealed!

Fly in Fellowship

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I personally know the power of community and how having covenant fellowship can be life transforming in your own walk with the Lord. Many of us have the idea that fellowship just means a common love for pizza, small talk, and a nice clean evening of fun among those in the church. However, I agree with David Mathis when he says that fellowship really means a “partnership in the gospel.” It is a willingness to come together  for a life or death mission in taking the faith worldwide and to truly get close, go deep, and exhort one another. That is so far from where what we are doing today, if we even are gathering together and connecting.

As a junior in college I started attending a weekly Wednesday night Bible Study group on campus. It was probably my second time at the group when my phone started buzzing like crazy in the middle of the lesson. I didn’t want to be rude so I just decided to call back whenever the Bible Study was over. When the group dismissed I went outside into the hallway and listened to the voice messages on my phone. It was my brother saying that my godsister was in a car accident and they didn’t think she was going to make it…

Tears immediately began to flow and I stood in the middle of the hallway shocked, alone, not knowing what to do next. I found myself walking right back into the Bible Study group of young ladies, weeping, asking for prayer. They took me in as family and I felt the love of God from their care and concern. I never expected to call me during the week and check on me. I never expected them to bring me food. I never expected them to pray with me. Yet, they were there in a very difficult time of loss in my life. That was one example of God showing me the power of fellowship and community in my life.

God uses others to demonstrate His grace and providence when we need Him. The enemy will use isolation as a means to attack you. We were not meant to go on this mission alone, nor can we be successful alone.

If you know anything about the formation of geese flying together, you know that they can teach us a lot on what it looks like to fly in fellowship. When one goose becomes ill, is shot or injured and drops out of the formation, two other geese will fall out of the formation and remain with the weakened goose. They will stay with and protect the injured goose from predators until it is able to fly again. We need our fellow believers to pray for us when we are weak and dry until we are back up again on our feet. Tell me, are you connected in the power of community? Be Blessed! Be Revealed!