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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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!