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.

 

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.

 

 

Has God Ever Messed Up Your Plans? (Ecclesiastes 7:13 Devo)

Accept the way God does things,

for who can straighten what He has made crooked?

Ecclesiastes 7:13 NLT

 

The Scripture above is very interesting and reminds me of what God said to Isaiah, “my ways are not your ways”. The Hebrew word here for “crooked” is AVATH and it means “to bend, to make curved, not straight or linear”.

Have you ever felt like God was messing up your perfectly good plan?

In 2005, God spoke to me about my call to preach. Full of youthful zeal, I left my job as club DJ and started serving a local church. For over a decade, my journey was “linear” and seemed logical—I was asked to come on church staff, eventually being ordained as Associate Pastor, and then in 2013, I figured my next move, according to the things God had spoken, was to start a church; so my wife and I did that for two years.

Then… in 2015 things got AVATH.

I felt like God told me to shut down the church, work in business for a season, and trust Him to work it all out… I’ve been on this divine detour ever since—continually trying to explain to God that this way is “crooked” and I seem to be headed in the totally wrong direction.

But as I’ve learned to accept this season, I’ve seen God bless me and my wife immensely: I lost 80 pounds (my wife over 50!), 10K in debt paid off, marriage better than ever, and best of all, incredible amounts of revelation from God’s Word.

Maybe you’ve suffered a disappointment, or feel like God is leading you in the wrong direction, remember this: THE LONG WAY IS BETTER THAN THE WRONG WAY. And Almighty God is able to cause even the most jacked-up path to usher you right into your destiny! God’s “bent, curvy” path is better that your “straight” one any day. God is fighting your battles, and He knows exactly what you need. Your set-backs are simply a divine set-up for Him to showoff. Trust Him!

 

“I Need Alcohol To Sleep And Function In Life” (Romans 12:2 Devo)

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2

 

The Scripture above says that we are only transformed when we change the way we think. Why? Because what we think shapes what we believe; and what we believe governs our life.

You ever had a goofy thought?

I remember as a new Christian I was convinced that I needed to drink a 12-pack of beer every night to go to sleep. What a goofy line of thinking! But I believed it—hook, line, and sinker. And since I believed a lie, I gave that lie power over my life.

Months before, I had encountered Jesus in a radical way at my father’s deathbed. Something had changed on the inside of me; I was different—born-again, the very essence of my being changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. At the core of me, I had this love for Jesus, but in my mind, I still believed a lie: “I need alcohol to sleep and function in life.”

My spirit was renewed, but my mind wasn’t.

How do we renew our minds? We read God’s Word. As we read and study the Bible, we replace our thoughts with His thoughts. His Word is a light—exposing our stinking thinking to Truth. When we do this, we’re transformed and start to “prove”—see for ourselves, experience firsthand—how good and wonderful His plan is for us.

 

 

 

 

“The Tale Of Two Brains” (Ephesians 3:17 Devo)

“…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:17-19

 

Here’s my rendition of the passage: “I pray that your souls would become secure in the love of God! I want each of you to know FOR YOURSELF the love the Father has for you. As you continue to receive this unconditional love into your heart, you will be filled more and more with God Himself!”

The Apostle Paul is touching on a reality that modern neuroscientists are just starting to uncover. Take a look at the picture below…

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Why is one brain so much bigger than the other? Love.

Both children are physically healthy. Both have the same access to early education. Both eat the same diet. The only difference? The child on the left was raised with love and care while the child on the right faced extreme neglect from their primary caregiver. Lack of love and attention has literally stunted the child’s brain from growing to its full potential!

So when God says that He wants our mind, heart and soul to be “deeply rooted and securely grounded in love” (Amplified translation), He is not only speaking of a spiritual reality, but a physiological and biological reality as well. You see, just as real as our need for food or water, humans beings have a need to be loved, accepted, cared for, valued, and wanted.

Unfortunately, in our fallen world, mothers and fathers can fail to provide this love, but God promises to step in and show you love Himself. Psalm 27:10 says, “Although my father and mother have abandoned me, the Lord will take me up (adopt me as His child)” (Amplified) I believe this verse means there’s a special blessing for those of us who did not receive a loving upbringing. God, who calls Himself “the defender of the widows and orphans”, will reveal His love to us in a greater measure. Does God not call Himself father to the fatherless? Is He not the God who promised to give double for our former shame?

God’s love is abundant, and He loves you right where you are! God proved this when He sent His Son, Jesus, to the cross for us. But have you experienced this love? Have you experienced Him? There’s a big difference between knowing God and knowing about God. It’s one thing to mentally accept a historical fact and another for the Holy Spirit to make this truth real to you. When I was 19 years old, I knew very little about God, the Bible, or Christianity, but none of that mattered. At my father’s deathbed, God graciously made His love real to me. I encountered His Son; I encountered divine love.

Look to Him today, and receive His word. Start praying the Apostle Paul’s prayer over yourself. May God bless you, and may you ever increase in your knowledge of His great love!

 

God Our Trainer

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 3.43.40 PMMany of us fear correction from God because we lack understanding of His ways. 

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the training and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Ephesians 4:18

Notice above, God’s appeal to parents. When it comes to adjusting a child’s bad behavior, the Father says to “bring them up with training”. Not beating, shaming, or threatening. But training. This is God’s way. He is a Trainer at heart. And He wants you to be a trainer as well—especially to those entrusted to your care.

Many of us fear correction from God—we see it as a scary or negative thing.

I believe this fear comes from a faulty view of God. We envision God as an angry, all-powerful being up there, with smoke blowing out of his ears. We screw-up and do something wrong, He’s like some massive spirit-being awoken from his slumber— straight-up Temple of Doom style—there to lay the smack down. 

Even Christians who know better can still struggle to shake this feeling that God is angry, and always mad at them. It’s one thing to know in your head that Jesus has forgiven you. It’s a whole other thing to have this revelation sink down into your heart.

In fact, that’s why the Apostle Paul was always praying for his churches to “really come to know” and “experience for themselves” the love of God in Christ. (Ephesians 3) And that all believers would know what they have in Jesus. (Ephesians 1)

Training: God’s Style of Correction

Let me ask you something: is it shocking for a fitness trainer to show their clients what they’re doing wrong?

Of course not! When we hire a trainer of any kind— whether fitness, business, or life coach— we expect them to reveal our shortcomings. We obviously sought someone out because we know we have some things to change. So all training involves correction, right?

But here’s the thing: a good trainer has a way of helping us change—redirecting and reshaping our behavior— without losing their connection with us. They can offer criticism without breaking trust and discipline without causing us to lose heart.

Think about a great football coach. He builds a bond with his players. Can you imagine a head coach who doesn’t train his players— he just sits passively on the sidelines, rolling his eyes at them, taking potshots at the running-back, pestering the quarterback to throw better, then walks off the field shaking his head when they screw up.

No! A good coach creates an environment for growth. He doesn’t walk away the first time the players make a mistake. If all the players had it all figured out, they wouldn’t need a coach! That’s the whole point of hiring a coach.

A coach is there to help them get it right, not to prove to them how bad they are.

This is God’s heart towards his spiritual children: He wants us to get it right. He’s not there to prove to us we’re terrible. I mean, if He wanted to prove that, He could of just left us to our own devices. He wouldn’t have to mess with us at all.

But God is for us! And He wants to shape us and mold us into His image. Is there correction? Of course, there is. We show up to the field with an attitude, then God is gonna deal with it. We make a mistake, He will guide us to the right path. But when we mess up— even when we mess up big— He never breaks connection with us. He never withdraws His love. In fact,  when we make a mistake, He draws us even closer, like a loving and gentle father, and He says:

“Ok, my man. That’s not how it’s done. We’re going to do it again, okay?”

And God won’t give up on us until we get it right. That’s what training is all about. That’s what a trainer is for. He’s there to help us succeed.

 

Say these five confessions out loud:

1. God is my Trainer.

2. Because of Jesus, God is not mad at me.

3. God is not ashamed of me. He is not fed up with me.

4. God is patient. He is a loving Father to me.

5. God is training me. He is helping me to grow daily!