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!

 

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“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.

 

 

 

 

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 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!

 

What Is Love pt. 6 (Notes)

What Is Love?! Baby, Don’t Hurt Me 

Obviously, we are having some fun with that title…

But we’ve been asking the question, “What is love?!”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. [love never fails]

**Notice “Love is always hopeful”. Something the Lord showed me recently… Waiting will always be apart of the Christian experience. Why? Because HOPE is a big deal to God. And hope always involves waiting. God cannot develop hope in us if we never have to wait for anything.

So, boil down all of those virtues listed in 1 Corinthians 13 and you come up with a working definition for love…

SELFLESSNESS,

GUIDED BY WISDOM,

FUELED BY FAITH

 

So if we are growing in love, then we are gonna be increasing in SELFLESSNESS towards others. Increasing in WISDOM. And increasing in FAITH (our ability to give things over to God. To let go and trust God with our selves. Our wants our dreams etc)

I want to teach on tonight…

RENEWING THE MIND

Because that’s how we grow. It’s been said “the mind is the battlefield”.

Romans 12:2

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.

How are we transformed? By the renewing of our minds; we are changed as we change our thought-life.

But I want to look at something first and ask you a question. What does this Scripture mean then?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

How have all things become new if our minds are still jacked up?

Good question: If any person is truly a Christian, they have been BORN AGAIN. More than having your sins forgiven. More than getting to go to heaven when you die. YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN A NEW NATURE.

YOUR SPIRIT—THE VERY ESSENCE OF YOUR BEING—HAS BEEN CHANGED BY GOD. And the Spirit of love and joy and peace resides at the deepest part of you. You are a new creature at the very CORE of your being.

THIS IS IMPORTANT!!! We need to know: we are in a battle, but we are starting from a place of victory.

We are fighting from victory, not for victory.

Yes, we might have a lot of work to do in the realm of our mind, BUT even deeper than our mind is our spirit man—which has been brought alive in Christ.

So with that said, I want to give you 4 very practical things to help you win the battle for your mind.

  1. Realize the importance of your thought life

Proverbs 23:7— “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he”

People know “AJ”. And what they know as “AJ” is a culmination of my thoughts.

Proverbs 4:23— I love this other translation: “Be careful how you think, your life is shaped by your thoughts.”

It’s been said, “where the mind goes, the man follows. ”

Our thoughts determine our life. If we have stinking thinking, our lives will stink. And people will be affected by our stinkyness.

2. Think about what you are thinking about

Phil 4:8— Paul is saying to purposely take an inventory of your thoughts, and then think good things.

Sounds simple, but for me this was a revolutionary concept. To pay attention to what was going on in my head.

**Big idea: You don’t have to think on every thought that pops in your head.

3. Realize you have an enemy

1 Peter 5:8-9— Notice Peter doesn’t say the devil is God’s adversary, he says he is YOUR adversary. The devil is not God’s equal. The devil is merely a chess piece in God’s master plan. But seeks to devour you. The enemy is opposed to God and anything God is doing.

Two extremes among Christians I notice when talking about the devil…

a. Don’t really believe the devil is a threat to them. Think of him as something out in a voodoo hut in africa. Or something out there somewhere. Or maybe he is just a symbolic representation of evil in the world.

b. Other extreme is over fixation of the devil. Super DEVIL-CONSCIOUS. The enemy is EVERYWHERE. Behind every bush and on every doorknob.

We want to be balanced and be like Paul who said we should not be ignorant of the Satan’s devices and tactics. (2 Corinthians 2:11)

4. Resist the lies and confess Truth

LIES! This is the devil’s tactic. WE EMBRACE AND CONFESS THE TRUTH! This is what we do in response to the enemy. Embrace Truth and learn to actively resist lies. And we steadily expose lies that we believe in our souls.

John 8:44— If the devil is speaking, then he is lying.

**BIG IDEA: The devil throws the sentence, but we write the paragraph.

He might inject some goofy thought, temptation, speculation or doubt against God, but we are the ones that embrace and believe that lie. We add to the lie and write the paragraph… and then page… and then the chapter… and then the BOOK. Once we have written an book (or entire encyclopedia!!!) in thinking, this is what the Bible calls a “stronghold” in the mind. A stronghold is an entrenched pattern of stinking thinking.

How do we fight?

John 8:31-32— Because we have been born again, because we have already won, God will see us through!! We just need to ABIDE in his Word. We will continue to overcome lies and obtain freedom through revelation from His Word. Little by little, lies that we believe about God, ourselves, others, and the world around us will be exposed by the Light! And our minds and hearts will come into alignment with His Truth more and more.

 

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.