The Writing Is On The Wall

God leading you.
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 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.

 

 

Thanksgiving: Our Weapon Against Worry

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Anxiety has become an epidemic. But through thanksgiving we can turn our worry into worship.

 

Have you ever been worried?

As a new believer, a better question for me would have been, “Have you ever NOT been worried?”.

Since a small child, I had lived in a state of anxiety. Fear was my constant companion, imbedded into every fiber of my soul. I worried about everything. My entire life seemed to revolve around an attempt to calm my nerves. Looking back, I should of probably been on medication. But instead, I medicated myself with sugary drinks, food, cigarettes, and alcohol.

Even good things became a way to cope with my crippling anxiety: work, budgeting, exercise, eating better, and cleaning the house. Everything seemed to be fueled by fear!

So when I became a Christian, my spiritual activity was also tainted by worry. And here’s the thing: God has mercy on a young Christian. When we are first saved, our prayer is basically, HELP! And our heavenly Father is quick to respond. But eventually God wants us to grow up.

I want to share with you something the Lord has showed me about overcoming worry in my life. Philippians 4:6 says,

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God.”

Notice, the first thing Paul says we have to deal with is worry. We need to learn to rest. Because…

  • Praying is good, but praying anxiously is not good.
  • Planning is good, but planning anxiously is not good.
  • Pursuing our calling is good, but anxiously striving to accomplish it is not good.

But how can we not worry? The Lord has shown me that the key to keeping our peace is found in these two words: “with thanksgiving”. Thanksgiving is our weapon against worry and creates a buffer for our prayers—guarding our souls from fear, as we make requests to God.

Think about it: when we pray, we are bringing our problems and concerns to God. So it’s easy to get anxious as you recount and review all the problems you are facing. Before we know it,  we are praying out of a troubled, doubting and fearful spirit. If we let this continue, our prayers even become accusatory towards God. “Aren’t You gonna help me, God?!”

But thank God! Thanksgiving clears our mind and drives anxiety from our hearts; because as we thank God, our attention is lifted off of our problem and onto the One who solves our problems. We’re reminded of all He has done, all He is doing, and all He will do.

To stir your faith even more, learn to posture all your supplication (your “asking for stuff”) in a spirit of thanksgiving. Let me give you an example. Instead of praying:

“Father, I ask You to take care of this” 

say,

“Father, I thank You that You are taking care of this.” 

Do you see the difference? Thanking Him vocalizes certainty and fights against worry. We are still bringing our problem to God, but in a way that magnifies Him and not the problem. We’re thanking Him for the answer. Thanking Him according to His Word. Thanking Him in faith.

Turn your worries into worship by letting these two powerful words—“thank You”—fill your prayers:

“Father, thank You that You have taken care of this. Thank You that Your Word says You’re sovereign and over all things. Thank You “that You work all things together for my good”. Thank You that I can rest while You work. Thank You that “the battle is the Lord’s”. Thank You that I can be still, and watch You do it. Thank You that not too long from now I’ll be looking back at this situation and marveling at how You worked it out for me!”

 

 

 

 

 

The “45 Things You’re Thankful For” Challenge

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As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, take this challenge to exercise yourself in gratitude.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Psychologists say gratitude is the least felt of all human emotions, even though it has some of the most positive effects on the mind and body.

I know this to be true in my own life. Expressing thanks never came easy for me, but pouting sure did. The only thing I was proficient in was throwing a fit. When Jesus saved me, I was the king of pity-parties, constantly sending out invites to anyone who cared to join and assist me in wallowing in my misery. I wore people out so much with my belly-aching and sob-stories that I actually had a person in high school once tell me, “AJ, no one wants to go to your pity-parties.” (What a resounding rebuke from a high-schooler, huh?!)

Giving Thanks

More than a gleeful response to getting what we want. More than having optimistic tendencies. Thanksgiving is a discipline and a practice.

Let’s define practice: the repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.

Much like physical fitness or playing guitar, thanksgiving is a practice. As we engage in repeated exercise of thanksgiving (or giving-of-our-thanks), it becomes a skill in our life. Consistent practice of anything makes us proficient in it. You and I can become proficient in thanksgiving; we can become highly-skilled “thanks-givers”!

That’s why the Apostle Paul tells you to give thanks at all times, regardless of your circumstances, or the season you find yourself in.

In fact, Paul says that this steady ability to offer thanks to God is His will for your life. Do you want to be in God’s will? Become skillful at giving thanks.

But how can we be thankful when nothing is going right?

It’s easy to feel that way. But I think we all know the answer… there’s always something you can be thankful for. Even if our current circumstances are not good, God still is.

Reverse the Stinking Thinking

Why is it so hard for us to see the bright side? Because the human default setting—our flesh—is tuned into the frequency of selfishness. And selfishness and thanksgiving don’t flow together. Rather, selfishness breeds fear, entitlement, discontentment, jealousy, and self-pity.

As Christians, thank God we’ve been given a new nature. (2 For 5:17) The old has passed and the new has come—we have been born again and a new nature resides deep on the inside of us. Once we received Jesus, the core of our being was filled with the Spirit of love and peace and joy. We simply need to let the joy and gladness out. And we do that as we feed upon the Word of God and confront old strongholds of “stinking thinking” and the blah attitudes in our minds (1 Corinthians 10:4-5, Romans 12:2).

Energized by the word of God, thanksgiving can become a habit and practice in our everyday life. Let’s start today.

Here’s the challenge:

Sit down and list out 45 things you’re thankful for. Get on your Notes app and write them out. Or even go old-school with pen and paper. Give 45 different “thanks” to God. Ten, twenty, or thirty might come easy to you and then you hit a wall… But dig down, think about who He is and all He has done, and exercise that “gratitude muscle” inside you to list out all 45.

 

The 3 “R”s Of Receiving From God

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God has prepared an unique process to mold you in His love. Here’s 3 “R”s to receive more from Him, as you walk upon this path.

Last week, I shared a little from my journey into facing my issues and learning to receive love from God. (Click here to read it.) My behaviors were extreme, but I’m not alone. Many of us live as prisoners to our emotional wounds. We’ve become “functional” in our prison. Much like a “functional alcoholic”, we sort of get by, but we’re not free. And the reason we stay bound? Well, facing the pain is just that… PAINFUL! It requires courage to face the proverbial man-in-the-mirror. But as Christians, God has called to spiritual growth and freedom.

Here’s the reality: God will test our hearts. It’s what He does. If you walk with God long enough, He’s gonna to get there. Proverbs 17:3 says it like this, “Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the Lord tests the heart.”

So we might as well go ahead and be like David, and say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). As we make this our prayer, I believe God sets us on a path into wholeness and love.

Last week, I mentioned at one point God led me to see a clinical psychologist and how she confirmed somethings for me. I don’t think everybody has to go to therapy, but I do believe if you set your heart after God, pray like David prayed, and obey His leading, He’ll direct your steps—ordering appointed seasons and “divine set-ups” to craft you and mold you in His love. Before you were born, He designed a “you-specific” process to build you on His love, victory, and freedom.

Along my thirteen-year journey with God, here are three things He has shown me about learning to receive from Him:

  1. Realize Everybody is messed up

When we start to face the proverbial man-in-the-mirror, it’s tempting to be overwhelmed. Shame whispers in our ear, “Oh man, there’s something so wrong with you!”. But shame is twisting the truth. Yes, there’s something wrong with you, but there’s something wrong with everybody: it’s called sin! You see, the enemy wants us to think there’s something ESPECIALLY wrong with us. In other words, he wants us to believe we’re beyond God’s love. But true faith says, “I’m no better than anybody… but I’m also not worse than anybody either. I am what I am. My value and worth come from God.”

2. Remove the Mask

We wear masks because we don’t practice Number 1. For some strange reason, we secretly think other people don’t struggle like us, or have problems. It’s the “grass-is-greener” syndrome. In our modern times, one main reason we fall into this “stinking thinking” is that compare our messy lives with other people’s Instagram and Facebook posts. So we put up a front. We pretend and hide. But God has called us to let down the mask. Especially with Him! We need to get real and allow Him to look upon the real us. That’s the only way we can receive His love.

3. Receive Revelation from the Word

We need to go to His Word. This is where decision and willpower come into play. No one can study the Bible for me, I must dig into the Word for myself. I must find out what He says about me. I must confess what He says about me. I must begin to speak the right words—His Word—over my life. And as I pray, and seek, and confess, and meditate on what He has said, I start to receive revelation from the Word. The Bible goes from information to revelation, and gets down into my heart.