How God Loved A Cranky Club DJ

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“But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles…”  – Galatians 1:15-16 

When Jesus saved me, I was a club DJ, and fully engaged in the lifestyle one might expect from a club DJ—late nights, drugs, and partying. I had a foul mouth, a sharp tongue, and a deep-rooted insecurity that affected everything I did.

In comparison to some of the characters in the Gainesville bar scene, I was a pretty decent guy. But I was also extremely moody and emotionally unstable. I carried deep pain on the inside that made me touchy and explosive. I didn’t realize any of this, of course, but anyone close to me could tell you, I was a very cranky and irritable person.

I wasn’t a Christian-kind-of-guy, in any way. I had never owned a Bible. I hadn’t grown up in a Christian home. I can’t even remember knowing any Christian people. Actually, the thought of a “hardcore Christian” gave me the creeps.

But like Paul shared about his own experience, “when it pleased GodHe revealed his Son in me that I would proclaim Him.”

In many ways, I feel like I accidentally became a Christian.

At my father’s deathbed, I had this spiritual experience. And I just couldn’t shake it. Even when I wanted to go back to my old life, I had this growing, inner knowledge of His reality, goodness and presence that I couldn’t get rid of. In the midst of all my darkness and wild living, Jesus opened my heart to Him. “He called me by His mercy and grace” alone.

Thank God too, because I don’t think I would of ever visited a church. Even if a sincere friend would have invited me, I don’t think I would have gone. I was just too afraid—I was a night creature, who had not grown up with much family. So the thought of walking into a bright room, full of old people looking at me, made me nauseous.

So how did I become a Christian?

Again much like Paul, “when it pleased God… He revealed his Son in me so I could proclaim Him”.

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The Events Leading Up to My Dad’s Passing

During my first semester at the University of Florida, I started to hear about “God stuff” happening around my dad, who had been diagnosed with cancer a year before. I heard about signs from God and genuine Christian people coming around him and praying for his healing. I was blown away that my dad was open to something like that. 

Then about two weeks before Christmas my dad passed away, I had a brief, but powerful encounter with a Christian on a bus. He witnessed to me and offered to pray for my dad. I write about it here.

A few days later after talking with the young man, I came home for Christmas break and saw my dad’s genuine faith. Without really knowing what I was doing, I started “proclaiming” God to my dad. Maybe this was first “sermon”. But I shared with my dad about the young man I had met on the bus. I encouraged my dad that my encounter confirmed everything my dad had started to believed. I spoke to his faith— that God was real, and where he was going was real.

When my dad passed, I was in my bedroom. The hospice nurse came in to get me, and she had a testimony herself. She told me how a smile had stretched across my dad’s face, right as he slipped into eternity. I don’t know if this lady was a Christian, but she seemed to be deeply moved by what she had seen. When I walked into the room, I saw the smile for myself.

And then something happened in me.

The way I would describe it: it was like I could see the goodness of the Savior in my dad’s smile. In a moment, I knew Him. I knew this God who had saved my dad. And I loved Him. You see, in 2003, when it pleased God, I believe He granted me a measure of faith (Romans 12:3); it’s the same faith I have to this present hour. I’ve grown a lot since that day, but it’s the same grace in me. It’s the same faith.

So let me encourage you, God is no respecter of persons! What He has done in me, He’s able to do in you! “The arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear”. Jesus has died for all of us! God loved a cranky club DJ. And He loves YOU with the same everlasting love! I pray that you’d see Him for yourself, TODAY.

“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 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.

Update & “Letting God Love You” [Video]

WHAT IS LOVE- GROUP LOGO

(New logo for our Fall group for Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida)

I’m excited because starting on Wednesday, September 13th, 2017, Christina and I will be starting a group for my church in Jacksonville, Florida. The group is called “What Is Love?! Baby, Don’t Hurt Me”. It will be one of the break-out sessions at Sub30, our midweek Young Adults service here in Jacksonville. I’ll be reworking some of the content found in my message, “Letting God Love You”, into a group teaching/discussion format for eight sessions over the Fall semester in the life of our church.

The group is about learning to receive love from God, so that we can love others by faith. 

Here’s the skinny: we must learn to receive love from God. The more we can rely on God for our affimation and support, and not people, the more grace will come upon us. 1 John says it like this, “We love, because He first loved us”. In other words, the more we’re able to receive directly from our Heavenly Father, the more we can be selfless to others. Also, I have found that when God teaches us to receive love from Him, it makes it easier for us to receive love from others.

But how can we be truly selfless towards others? How can we display a love that is not tied back into how people make us feel, or what we can get?

Here’s the key: We entrust our “me” over to God. We can be selfless, when we are looking to God to meet our needs, trusting that He loves us. 

Below is the message “Letting God Love You” from my time at Victory Church of Gainesville a few weeks ago.

 

 

“Letting God Love You” – Highlights and Sermon Notes From Gainesville

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(Facebook Graphic shared by Victory Church of Gainesville)

This past weekend my wife and I had the opportunity to minster at the church I was “raised” in. God did great things! I spoke at the morning service, then we helped with the evening Deeper Service, Christina hoping on the keys and me praying for people. We saw God move in powerful ways.

We also got to enjoy some time with my wonderful in-laws, Bill and Rebekah, who pastor the church.

For this week’s post, I thought I’d share my message notes with you, including my honoring remarks about my faithful in-laws. God bless!

Honor Pastor Bill and Rebekah:

Bill DeConna has been a mentor to me, not just in preaching, but in modeling STABILITY. I did not grow up around a lot of stability and didn’t know you could choose to be stable instead of freaking out. I always assumed if things go bad, you just flip out. Watching Bill was incredible, and set a pattern of stability for me. To me, Bill is the definition of STEADFAST FAITH. He embodies the faith and steadfastness of Abraham.

Rebekah is awesome and kind. Her devotion to God is fierce, yet there is a child-likeness and wonder about her. Rebekah is the absolute opposite of the whole “terrible mother-in-law” thing. If anything, I’ve been the one with issues in the past! LOL!

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that you have given us an overcoming faith. We are not victims with you, we are Victors. No matter where you find us. No matter how broken and cowardly our upbringing. You can turn us into victors. You can teach us how to have COURAGE. You can teach us to be overcomers. All because you love us! We are conquerors through Him who loved us!

“Letting God Love You” 

The truth is, you are loved.

And I believe,  down on the inside of everyone of us is this need to be loved. I believe it’s a basic, human need. The need to be accepted. The need to be seen as valuable. And what I’ve found is that it’s a lot like the old country song says, “We’re looking for love in all the wrong places.”

We can run to money, success, food, drugs, alcohol, or social media. We can also run to religion, which is really sad because religion is where we are striving for something that God has already given us.

Romans 5:8 AMPLIFIED

We must have a personal revelation of His love for ourselves

Receive.

John 1:12

We must receive Him. We must receive His love.

Keep receiving.

As Christians, we must continually have an ever-increasing revelation of the love of God. And we need to learn to let God love us.

John 13:5-8

Peter is a believer. He has “received” Jesus and has boldly declared Him as Messiah. But yet he still has an attitude that says, “I am gonna do it. I am gonna strive for it. You won’t wash my feet. I won’t let you wash the parts of me that I think are too dirty.”

We give Him every part of us. We give Him the parts we think are good. We give Him the parts we don’t like.

We accept His acceptance of us.

Take off the mask.

God can only have a relationship with the real us.

We have to be real with God.

God cannot bless an ideal version of us.

God cannot pour his love into a fabricated, perfect version of us.

We gotta take off the mask with God.

Why do we wear masks?

I think we wear them to SURVIVE. The world is hard. There is so much pain. We get hurt. We smile. We suck it up. We push on. We just try to keep going.

We survive. This is an orphan’s mentality.

But God says, I don’t want you to SURVIVE, I want you to THRIVE.

How do we thrive?

By allowing Him to love us.

We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

 

 

 

What is love?!

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The great 90’s poet, Haddaway, once cried out,

“What is love?!

Baby, don’t hurt me.

Don’t hurt me. No more.

What is love?!”

This poor man, hurting and distraught, was looking for answers. In his agony, he penned his lamentations to the melody of synthesizers and the thumping of a techno beat… Okay, I’m being funny. I don’t know if Haddaway would be considered a poet, but the dude asks a pretty profound question: what is love?

We hear the word tossed around all the time. From songs to movies to slogans to memes. We’re told we should love each other. We’re told to “live, laugh, love”. Others say to “eat, pray, love”. The Beatles told us that love is all we need. Well, we all know it’s important, but what is it exactly? What does it mean to love someone? Is it a certain feeling we should have? Is it some ethereal force that comes over us?

Through both study of the Bible and personal experience, my wife and I have tried to come up with a working definition:

Love is

selflessness,

guided by wisdom,

fueled by faith.

Love is a selflessness, guided by wisdom, fueled by faith.

Let’s break that down…

1. Selflessness: Ultimately, love is selflessness. Love thinks of others. Love is concerned about other people’s interests, not just it’s own. Go read the love passage in 1 Corinthians 13. “Love is patient, love is kind…” and so on. What’s the common theme to all these virtues listed? Selflessness. Love lets go of self. Love gives up its rights. Love forgives, while selfishness screams they hurt ME, and seeks to get even.

2. Guided by wisdom: Love is selflessness guided by wisdom. This is important! Because there’s a selflessness NOT guided by wisdom—it’s a people-pleasing kind of “love”; it’s a passive, pushover kind of “love”. This kind of love will eventually turn to resentment. Biblical love is grounded in wisdom. It is not out of balance. It gives what is right to give; not to the point of burn-out. Love understands boundaries and self-respect. Love doesn’t allow itself to be taken advantage of, but yet never grows resentful and is patient to all.

3. Fueled by faith: Love is fueled by faith. Or you could say, faith is the “how” behind love. How can I be truly selfless? If I am selfless, then what about me?! What about my needs?!

The truth is, we all have needs. We all have a “self” to worry about. This is not wrong. We should not be ashamed of ourselves, or our needs. But here’s the key: We give our “self” over to God. We entrust our “what about me?” to Him. By faith, we can be selfless, because we’re trusting God to take care of us. In this way, our love can be real, and not some martyrs complex. God knows we have needs. God knows we have wants. We can entrust our needs over to God.

When someone wrongs us, and our flesh screams “What about me?!”, how can we not be resentful? We allow God to be our defender, and trust him with handling our justice.

Love is selflessness, guided by wisdom, fueled by faith.