3 Things You Need To Know About Celebration Church (And Criticizing Your Brother)

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As a pastor of a small church, I held another pastor in my city in contempt. The small fault I found in the ministry of this man was actually there (at the time). But a few years later, the Lord showed this man the same revelation He showed me (and much, much more).

When I was leading my church, the Lord showed me two important truths that I was to lift up and make the center of ministry. One was Water Baptism and the other was Communion. I felt like as a whole the church had lost sight of these two simple things that God said were important. While the modern church was enamored with good things like loud preaching and worship music, I felt like Baptism and Communion had been relegated to an afterthought. In some ways, Baptism had been replaced by “asking Jesus into your heart” and Communion with “three worship songs and a prayer”. 

We held meetings every Sunday evening. While we had good music (my wife is a phenomenal musician) and Bible preaching, Communion was held up as the pinnacle of every service. Some members of a local megachurch, Celebration Church, started coming to our small meetings. They began to lament to me about how their church wasn’t even doing communion on a monthly basis anymore. In my foolishness and pride, I quickly seized the opportunity to lift myself up against my brother. Of course I feigned a love towards this “misguided church”. I’m sure I spun my words in a way that made me sound wise. But my jealous heart rejoiced that I was doing something better than someone else.

The issue wasn’t with the revelation God had shown me. The issue was with my heart. For a time, I was in the right. But here’s something very important:

You can be right but go about it in all the wrong ways. 

And when you behave like this, you will get no reward for being right, but only face judgement for the wrong you have done.

To make a long story short: the Lord eventually led me into a divine detour into the business world. This sounds strange to some people. Why would God do this? Because God knew it was the best way to strip me of my “pharisee complex”, my love of being a pastor (not serving as a pastor, but being seen by men as a pastor). Read Matthew 23:5-7.

After a year into my divine detour, the Lord spoke to my wife that we were supposed to go to Celebration Church, the same church I had held in contempt. I didn’t really like the news, but somehow I knew she was right. So I swallowed my pride and resolved to go with a good attitude. I quickly saw that the Lord was there, as much or more, as anything my wife and I had ever done. The Lord quickly showed me this man, Stovall Weems, was anointed as an apostle. See Ephesians 4.

But then it happened, the Lord gave Pastor Stovall a vision on Good Friday/Passover of 2018. The Lord showed this man everything He showed me (and much, much more). That afternoon, after Easter service, the Lord spoke to me almost audibly:

“You see, this man, Stovall, is my servant. When I speak to him, he will listen. And when I choose to reveal a thing to him, then I will do it. But who are you? Who were you to judge my servant?”

Three things that you need to know about criticism:

  1. You’re likely tearing down a person better than you.

When you judge and criticize, you always run the risk of tearing down a person who is a far better person than you. You may be better at this one small fault. But that could just mean they are a far nobler person with one small spec in their eye (as was the case with me and Pastor Stovall). That’s why the Apostle Paul advised us to take the safer route, “prefer your brother above yourself”.

2. You are foolish when you arbitrarily pick your own standard, and then boast about it.

Criticism is really silly if you think about it. In your pride and blindness, you are basing all your assumptions about being better than another person on a standard you picked out yourself. That’s not really a level playing field, is it? 

3. You may be right, but going about it in all the wrong ways.

Here’s the thing: the fault you are finding with your brother may actually be there! But that doesn’t mean you’re seeing everything in the right perspective. You are merely a man and have a severely limited view on things. Scripture says, “Man looks at the things on the outside, while God looks at the heart”. God sees the whole picture. 

What is more wise? When you find a fault in your brother, keep it to yourself and commit to prayer for that person. Pray to the God who sees all things. You will find at least two things will happen. One, you will grow more love and compassion for that person as you talk about them in His presence. Two, you will see all the areas of pride and jealousy lurking in your own heart. Heartfelt prayer will enable you to deal with that log in your own eye, and truly help with the spec in your brother’s eye.

May God help us to be a people of love and wisdom, not judgement and criticism.

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What You Need To Know About Paul and His Letter To The Galatians

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With popular Evangelical leaders floating around a neo-replacement theology, and ideas of “unhitching” from the Old Testament Scriptures, we could all benefit from a fresh look at Paul’s angriest letter, The Book of Galatians.

“Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised (if you undergo b’rit-milah), Christ will be of no value to you at all.” Galatians 5:2

The Letter of Galatians can seem harsh in places, and if misunderstood can leave you with the notion that Paul was opposed to being Jewish, being circumcised, rejoicing in the Torah, or following the traditions of Moses. In fact, an early false teaching, known as Antinomianism (literally anti-law), was a misinterpretation of Paul’s teaching. The Apostle Peter, whom interestingly enough was brought up in Paul’s Galatians, references antinomianism when writing his own letter to the church. Peter, with a tone of love and respect, even comments in that “his brother, Paul,” was, at times, hard to understand. That’s 2 Peter 3:15-16.

So, we know Paul was sometimes hard to understand; even the Apostles who walked with Jesus had to take time to chew on what he said. Beyond this, most scholars agree that Galatians was Paul’s angriest epistle. So we have Paul, who is already hard to understand, and now he is hot! But why is Paul so angry? What is happening in the church communities of Galatia that made him furious? Here’s why I believe Paul is so angry:

Under peer pressure, Gentiles were attempting to become Jewish. Why is this a big deal? It was out of order. This was not God’s plan. In fact, Gentiles trying to make themselves Jewish was an insult to God’s gracious gift to the nations, Jesus. God’s plan for the gentiles (Goyim or literally “nations”) was Jesus. For a Gentile to go back to Mt. Sinai and attempt to receive a covenant that was never intended for him was out of order and silly. When God wanted to swing wide the door of salvation to the nations, He did so through His Son, Jesus, and not through His covenant with Israel.

God made a special and eternal covenant with Israel and the Jewish people. His calling is irrevocable and not subject to cancelation. That’s Romans 11:29. If you take issue with the fact that God still has a relationship with the Jewish people/Israel, re-read Romans 9-11. Paul warned us Gentiles about becoming arrogant against disobedient Jewish people. Unfortunately, church history shows us that the Gentile church did the exact opposite. By 350 AD, seeing the horrific judgment that fell on Israel through the Jewish-Roman wars, and the fall of the Temple, the Gentile Church, lifted up in hubris by her new found favor with Emperor Constantine, wrongly concluded that God’s covenant with the Jewish people must be over. Early church fathers started to despise non believing Jews, and they boasted against Israel. Some even foolishly declared that the church was Israel. This idea came to be known as Replacement Theology. This theory was finally shown to be the silliness that it is, when God resurrected the nation of Israel in one day, in 1948 (Isaiah 66:8).

So God has given the people of Israel a special calling. But that doesn’t make the Jew any better than someone else. Much like when a follower of Jesus is called to be a great preacher. This person was simply called by God to do a task. In other words, this person was chosen by God to do something for Him and His purposes. While there is a certain honor in this calling, it does not make that person better than any other believer called to something else. In a similar fashion, Israel was called by God to bring forth both the Scripture, and the Messiah. But just like the great preacher from our example, this does not make Israel better than any other nation.

So a Gentile striving to become a Jew is an affront to the mercies of God. The Jews were given one honor. “Israel is my special possession”. That’s Deuteronomy 32:9. But to the Gentiles another honor was given. “Jesus, the Messiah, is to be a light for revelation to the Gentiles”. That’s Luke 2:32. God also said, “to those I called “Not my people”, I will say, ‘Now, you are my people.’ That’s Hosea 2:23. 

Just like Paul preached in everyplace, God has shown the nations a great honor when He sent His Son to bring them back and to redeem them. For the Gentiles to despise this offer was offensive! Both to God, and to Paul.

I also believe Paul was doing one other thing with his letter to the Galatians. While speaking to the Gentiles, Paul was also simultaneously striking at the prideful attitude of some Jewish believers in this church. Paul’s rebuke is in the same spirit of John the Baptists’, when John warned the crowds of Jewish people coming to hear him preach; John said, “Don’t assume just because you are Jewish by blood that you are so great. Reject that entitled and arrogant attitude, because God could easily take these rocks right here and turn them into children of Abraham.” That’s Matthew 3:9.

Now it’s important to note: no where in the New Testament is a Jewish believer encouraged to forsake his/her traditions, or become a Gentile (Read Acts 21:17-26). But having an arrogant attitude, whether Jew or Gentile, is a stench to God!

At the end of the day, God ordained the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Galatians as a reminder, for all people, in every generation, whether Jew or Gentile, that true righteousness comes from Him, and Him alone. We didn’t earn it. We didn’t deserve it. And we must receive it as a gracious gift through faith in His Salvation, Jesus.

The Writing Is On The Wall

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The end of the year is the perfect time to do a self-diagnostic. Take time to bring your heart before God, reflect back on 2018, and set goals for 2019. Is there something God has been trying to say to you? Has there been any writing on the wall? (Photo by FlickrLickr)

There’s an interesting story told in the Book of Daniel. The king of the land is throwing a wild party when all of a sudden a pair of Heavenly hands appear and begin to sketch out a message on the wall. King Belshazzar and his guests all see these heavenly hands and of course they’re freaking out. Can you imagine being a guest at that party? One minute you’re doing the electric slide on the dance floor and the next you’re looking up to see these large, floating hands basically writing you an angelic text message. Wild!

What I find most fascinating is this: no one could make out what the Heavenly hands were trying to say. No one could read the writing on the wall. Not even the wise men on Palace payroll could figure it out.

Now, I’m sure this supernatural message was big, bold, and probably lit up like a neon sign in that dim, party atmosphere. You would have thought it should have been clear to all—the handwriting was literally on the wall.

This may seem strange to us at first—how could all those people not see something so obvious? But let’s think about it for a moment. How many people do you know who can’t take a hint? They’re not able to see the proverbial writing on the wall. They just don’t see it, or maybe they don’t want to see it. You know, the people who stay in the toxic relationship. The people who keep striving to make something happen that’s not spelling out. The ones who push past all sound advice and turn away from common sense. How many workaholics can’t take the hint that neither their bodies nor their families can keep up with their frantic pace? How many people continue to use heavy drugs, even though the writing is so clearly on the wall?

Back to our story. The Bible says Daniel, the man of God, was the only one who could read the writing on the wall. He was the only one able to articulate what God was actually trying to say. Why could Daniel see what others could not?

The Bible answers that for us: Daniel had the Spirit of God upon him. God gave this faithful Jew the eyes to see.

No matter how wise, witty, or seasoned you are—or think you are—all of us humans beings have this proclivity towards self-deception. A temptation to stick our heads in the sand and not face the music. But thank God, He can give us wisdom. He can lighten up our path like the rising of the sun. God is the Giver of light, eyes to see, and ears to hear.

I remember after 8 years of full-time ministry, I starting to sense the writing on the wall. Being a pastor—speaking, ministering music, and studying—was my life; it was all I knew, but I started to get this sense down on the inside that God was going to do something different. He finally shared with me that He was taking me on a “divine detour”—one that would seem like instead of moving towards my calling it was taking me in the exact opposite direction. This path would require faith that God could cause this strange path to lead me to the very thing He promised me years before, at my father’s death bed.

You see, I believe if you walk with Him long enough, you start to get this “sixth sense” when you’re missing it or trying to make something happen in the flesh. You start to see His hand in things; you’re quicker to surrender to His timing. The truth is, God wants to lead us; you just have to faith enough to open your heart to Him. He is the Giver and Maker of light, and He’ll give you wisdom—a heart to understand the seasons and times in your life, no matter how hard, perplexing, or painful. Like Daniel, He’ll put His Spirit upon you, so you too can interpret the writing on the wall.

We honor You, wonderful Father of our Lord Jesus. May You bless us, and keep us, and cause Your face to shine upon us. May we have the ability to discern the times, signs, and seasons in our lives. Give us eyes to see your hand in things. Let our hearts not be filled with natural wisdom or reasoning, but with revelation of what You’re doing in our lives. Place Your Spirit upon us, like You did for Daniel, and give us grace to lives worthy of Your noble calling.

 

Why To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice

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Photo by Jaymantri

Many times, I see young Christians feel this pressure to do big things for God. They find out about the Great Commission, they read the book of Acts, and they hear about people in other parts of the world doing great things for God, and think, “To be a real Christian, I need to move to Africa and become an evangelist” or “I should be doing BIG exploits for God… and be doing them NOW!This youthful zeal oftentimes comes from a good heart, but it can drive us to get ahead of God, attempt to do things we don’t have grace to do, or (maybe the most unfortunate of all) steal our joy and peace from the present moment.

What’s the best way to honor God? I’ve found it to be this: learn to quiet yourself, hear His voice, and then do exactly what He tells you to do. In other words, build your relationship with the Living God and obey Him. That simple. The only “burden” on your life is doing what God tells you to do, when He tells you to do it, how He tells you to do it. Nothing more. Nothing less.  

The weight of the world is not on your shoulders, its on God’s shoulders. Like the old song says, He’s got the whole world (and you) in His hands. Our job is simply to obey His voice and leading. Remember, on the great Day of His Judgement, we Christians, will be held accountable not for what we did, but what we were called to do. In other words, you are not called to run someone else’s race, you are called to run YOUR race.

That’s why learning to hear God’s voice is so important. What has He called you to do? Or even better, what has He called you to do now? Are you sensitive enough to discern the times? Are you willing to see the “writing on the wall”? Are you willing to submit yourself to seasons of waiting? Or will you try to beat down doors that God has closed? Will you try to flash fry what God has ordained to boil?

Let’s use my story as an example, God made it clear to me my calling was to preach and display Him to the world in 2005. Well… it’s been 13 years and counting.

I was called by God as a preacher, but I am currently in a DIFFERENT season. I call it “my season of business”. It’s a place I never thought I would be. From 23 to 31, I was in full-time ministry, and the gift to preach and pastor was evident. But around 31 years old I saw the “waters of His grace” start to recede. I saw the writing on the wall and sensed God might be doing something different. So I followed Him along this divine detour. He led me to a place I never thought I would be (nor did I ever want to be)— the business world. Every year or so, I’ve tested the waters, so to speak, to enter back to full-time preaching, but it’s been made clear to me the door is not yet open. At the same time, I’ve been given grace to be in the place I never thought I’d be—sales and the business world.

Some say to me, “Oh, you found your true calling. It’s in business.” No, I have simply been asked to be obedient to God. I’ve been asked to accept the truth that God’s ways are above my ways and that He knows the best way to get me to where I need to be.

The call on my life has not changed—the Lord has been sure to confirm this countless times—but I have been asked—like He has asked all of us—to lean not on my own understanding, but to trust in God with the process. To trust that He alone holds all wisdom, that He loves me, and that He knows the right way for me to go.

When we learn to hear His voice and develop the faith to obey Him “in season and out of season” (1 Tim 4:2), Jesus’ words in John 11:28-29 will start to make a lot more sense:

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (KJV)

Rest in your God. Be patient in Him, and you’ll come to understand the meaning of this Scripture, “to obey is better than sacrifice“.

Why Every Christian Needs To Hear This Message

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Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day [we all stand before Christ] will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. – 1 Corinthians 3:12 (NKJV)

What materials are you building your life with? Is it with pure motives, like gold, silver, or precious stones? Or is your work driven by selfish ambition and conceit, i.e. wood, hay, or straw? Paul’s message above to the Corinthian church is one that every Christian needs to hear again and again.

One of Those “Amen or Oh My” Verses

When Jesus saved me, I was a club DJ—and truly godless in every sense of the word. I didn’t grow up in Church, I had never read a Bible, nor can I remember ever meeting an authentic Christian person before college. But in the middle of my chain-smoking and wild ways, I had a revelation of Jesus at my father’s deathbed, and within a year’s time God sent me a friend who bought me a New Living Translation Bible because she wanted me to have something I could understand.

I would do my DJ-thing at night and pour over the Scriptures during the day. Reading the Word for the first time, I was enthralled with the beauty of it all—especially the “red words”, the teachings of Christ. But I continually had this thought come to me, “DO PEOPLE ACTUALLY READ THIS BOOK?”. So much was shocking. The verse above, 1 Corinthians 3:12, caused a similar reaction in me. I call it one of those “amen or oh-my” verses of the Bible. To this day, I still wonder if we Christian folk really catch the gravity of what Paul is saying here!

What is Paul talking about?

In context, Paul is teaching about leaders in the Body of Christ. He’s saying to the church, “You Corinthians are so enamored with this leader or that leader, but you are not enamored by the right things. You draw your worth and value from the leader that you follow, thinking so highly of yourself, and your leader. But your judgment is off: you’re seeing things in the flesh and not from God’s point of view. You’re so infatuated with gifted people that you forget a gifted-leader is simply a servant of God, working for God’s glory (the One whom you should really be enamored with). Stop putting so much stock in people. Remember, when Jesus returns, ALL of us believers will stand before Him, and with eyes like fire He will see through all the flash and external stuff and give us a TRUE opinion of how well we’ve built our ministries.” (Paraphrased, 1 Corinthians 3:3-13)

What are we building… and how are we building it?

All throughout the Bible, God refers to both our personal lives and our ministry (our work, our calling) as buildings. In Psalm 118:22, people are referred to as builders: “the Stone that the builders have rejected, this became the Chief Cornerstone.” [emp. added] (NKJV) Likewise, Jesus taught people to build their house (their personal life) on the rock of His Word. (Matthew 7:24-27) The Psalmist warned, if we build something that God’s not building, we labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1) This labor represents our calling, work, ministry—anything we set out to accomplish before God. Of course, then we have the Apostle Paul here in our passage using both the building metaphor and the imagery of the chief cornerstone from Psalm 118:22. Paul says, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11, NKJV) Jesus is our solid foundation, the chief cornerstone rejected by the builders, that we are to build our life and ministry on.

So with this in mind, I want to ask you, what are you building… and how are you building it?

First, are you building the right thing? Are you doing what God has called you to do? Not what you want to do or what people think you should do. Have you sought after God and His calling for your life?

Second, are you building it with a pure heart? Or do you approach God’s work with impure motives? Is your labor fueled by love or self? Is there a mixture? When it comes to our motives, according to the Scriptures, you have two options: you can have God reveal them to you NOW or THEN… but either way He’s gonna show you. The “Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire,” is “that One who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person” and He says, “I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.” (Revelation 2:18,23 NLT) Now… or then. He will test each man’s work and see what it’s really made of. I don’t know about you, but I’m of the opinion it’s far better for Him to deal with me now!

May we all seek God, and ask Him these two very important questions:

  1. What have you called me to do, Lord? (the what)
  2. How do You want me to go about doing it? (the how, when, and where)

If we call upon God, He will answer. If we seek, He’ll show us the way we are to go! Don’t be discouraged, we all have stuff in our hearts that God needs to deal with. But, dear reader, be a person who seeks after God, bearing your heart before Him. Get real with Him, and He’ll surely not allow your feet to slip. He has enlarged a path for you—your life is divinely orchestrated by the Most High God. He’s more than able to finish the work He has started in you. Yes, He’s got it all planned out. Seek Him!

 

 

 

 

How God Deals With Us To Bless Us In The End

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Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

Philippians 2:3

I’ve found people get real quiet when you start to talk about motives. In my years of preaching, I’ve noticed this time and time again—the hooting and hollering starts to recede, and the atmosphere gets a little more somber. In fact, some people even start to make this face; it’s like this “semi-naseous-cause-I-know-God’s-dealing-with-me” look.

I can make the same face, too, when God starts to dig around in my heart. I’ll never forget when the verse above, Philippians 2:3, came alive to me in a fresh way: “let nothing be done for selfish ambition or vainglory” (King James Version)… man, my heart sank down to my stomach as a thought flashed across my mind: “I think everything I do is out of selfish ambition and vainglory!”. It was a pretty sobering moment.

Why is it so uncomfortable for God to deal with our motives?  I mean, even for us who love God and want to give Him our best, it’s something we can run away from. I think the answer is found in Proverbs 16:2, which says, “the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes”. In other words, we humans have this tendency to assume the very best about our motivations for things. So when God exposes something in our hearts, it can feel like we’re having the rug pulled out from under us, so to speak.

The verse goes on to say, “but the Lord weighs the heart”. I believe this means if you follow God, He’s gonna lead you in ways that will expose and test what’s in your heart—that’s just what He does. Not for His sake (He already knows), but for yours. Through His Word or trials (or both), He will bring junk to the surface, so you can deal with it. Not to shame you, but because He loves you and wants you to grow.

The truth is, God wants to bless you, and to entrust you with the precious things of His Kingdom. He has good things planned for your future—next levels of influence, wisdom, promotion, more resources, more favor, more open doors—but He knows you need the right heart to handle such blessings. Deuteronomy 8:16 reveals to us that He purifies our hearts, bringing us through the wilderness, so that He “may do us good in the end”. (emphasis mine) You need to know God has a “good end” in mind for you. This is the way of God Most High—-He gives beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, and double for our former shame.

Is God dealing with you about something in your life? Has He led you into a time of testing? Don’t be discouraged. Take heart. God is treating you like His very own son or daughter. (Hebrews 12:5-11) Jesus Himself said to one of the churches in Revelation, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline”. (Revelations 3:19) He is not doing this to destroy you, but to do you good in the end. God has good things already lined up in your future; all your days have been written in His book. What He promised you will come to pass. But remember, it takes a steady hand to hold a full cup. He’s getting you ready. Trust Him.

 

 

Why The Wait?

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“I waited patiently for the Lord…
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.”

 

I certainly do not like waiting. In fact, I have this strange tendency to assume when God promises me something that it’s going to happen in a timetable that seems reasonable to me. But God’s timetable is not my timetable. Oftentimes, God doesn’t tell me how long something is going to take. He rarely gives me the details. I think He does this because He knows if I knew how long something would take I’d never sign up for it in the first place. For example, when God spoke to me in 2005, I certainly didn’t know I’d have 13 (and counting) years of waiting, delays, and testing.

I’m not alone. None of us like to wait. But as Christians, we better get used to it because (are you ready for this?)…

Waiting will always be part of the Christian experience.

That’s right. Waiting is an essential ingredient in following Jesus. How can I say this? Because I know that hope is a big deal to God, and hope always involves waiting. Without waiting, how can there be hope? Think about it. Hope involves waiting, every time. Without first a season of waiting, how could you and I develop our “hope muscle”? The Apostle Paul says it like this, “hope that is already seen is no longer hope” (see Romans 8:24-25).

So again, waiting is a central part of our spirituality. In fact, the Christian life can be boiled down to one long “wait”. You’re born to wait. 1 Peter 1:3 says we were “born again into a living hope”. Just like when we’re physically born we’re born into a body, when we’re spiritually born we’re born into hope.

Believers in Jesus are born to wait, so we’d better develop some patience! By God’s grace, both Jew and Gentile receive a faith that says,

Messiah has died.

Messiah is risen.

Messiah will come again.

Christians look back and believe God has forgiven our sins, but we also look forward to the future. We look… we wait… for the One who is coming. We wait for the return of Messiah, the One who came first as Suffering Servant, but is coming again as Conquering King. This “blessed Hope” bleeds into every area of our faith.

Any expression of our faith is founded on the Ultimate Hope. We believe God is going to turn a situation around, come through with a promotion, restore our health, or bring back a wayward child—all of these things are built on the ultimate hope that Jesus is coming back. Think about it. What good is a temporal blessing if He’s not coming back in the end to restore all things? God is honored as we exercise our faith in smaller matters. But any hope, dream, or promise God speaks to us personally finds it’s worth in this overarching Hope: God is good, and His Son is coming back to turn this bad world good.

I define biblical hope as “the ability to rest on the inside, while we wait on the outside for God’s promise (big or small)”.

So let me encourage you… hope in God! Wait on God! Learn to rest in the Lord, and watch Him bring it to pass. Let go of your timetable, and delight yourself in God. He’ll give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4) You won’t have to fight for them. You want have to strive for them. You won’t have to impress or manipulate people to get them. God will give them to you.