Proverbs 16:24 says “words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” You know, kindness is not something that we do to earn anything. It's something that flows from us because of what has already been earned for us…Because Jesus gives us a new life…Spiritual FRUIT as a gift. This spiritual fruit is something that's already ours and it's already within us. And if we're in Christ, it gets produced from us naturally. Spiritual fruit is not something that we present to the world, fake it til you make it style. It is produced inside of us and should come out naturally & organically. Love, joy, peace, patience, KINDNESS, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, Kindness is a virtue that we aspire to, not just something we agree on. It's not like a belief statement or a value statement where we say, “yeah, I agree to that” and then move on with our life of flipping off bad drivers and being passive aggressive at work. Kindness is Something we "become" because it's in us, it's who we are becoming. And so when this verse says “kindness is sweet to the soul and healthy for the body”, it's not just talking about your experience of kindness. Of course, when someone's kind to you, you love it. But it's a reminder that this is how you're going to be…like honey for others. This is how you make a difference in the world. It's through kindness. So, If somebody is mean to you, whether it's online or in person, be kind to them. If somebody talks junk, be kind. If you have an enemy, DO NOT kill them with kindness! That’s not how you are supposed to kill someone. Kindness can't be leveraged as a weapon. Don’t try to use kindness as a way to hurt someone, just be kind as a way to love them. Kindness is something that just genuinely comes out of us. And so I hope today that you'll look for opportunities to be kind. That you'll tap into that spirit of kindness that's inside of you and let if flow.
I'm done. I'm over it. I'm tired. I'm exhausted. I quit. I'm out of here. I'm such a failure. I'm no good. What's my purpose here, anyway? I'm tired of trying so hard. This is so pointless. I quit. This is ridiculous. Why am I trying so hard? Have you ever used any of those phrases about anything in your life? Why is it, that when things become difficult we backoff and we quit? If you've ever been a runner, when you go jogging, there's a point of exhaustion where your mind is telling you to stop...your body technically could keep going, but your mind is just done with the pain. So you'll just stop and walk. It's easier. Right? Why keep pushing, keep pressing? Paul says something different here in 1 Timothy 6:12. He says "compete well for the faith and lay hold of that eternal life you are called for and made your good confession for in the presence of many witnesses." Basically, he is saying, "did you think this was going to be easy?" No, it's not going to be easy, but you've got to keep pressing forward. For two reasons. One it's your faith. Two, you made the commitment in front of peope. So hang in there. If you want to win the Olympics, you'll endure some pain in order to prepare for that Olympic competition. If you want to pass a test, you'll work hard and stay up late, preparing and studying to pass the test in the same way. Faith is about an eternal prize. So work hard for it. It's not going to be easy, but don't let any setback and push-back stop you or slow you down. Press in, hang in there.
Isaiah Chapter 25:1, "Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago." This whole section of scripture is like a foreshadowing, a prophetic picture of what's to come at the end of the world. It's all about God's judgment and what it's going to be like during that time. When you think about earthquakes and disasters and terrible things happening, you don't immediately jump to start proclaiming how extraordinary God is. I don't know about you, but for me in my own life, I could count a few times in my life where I was actually mad at God when bad stuff happened. However, I don't know that I've ever proclaimed how great God is and how He has done extraordinary things right after a hurricane dropped a tree on my house. I've been angry at God because bad things were happening, or life-stuff wasn't comfortable. How many times have you done this? You get fired from a job, so you blame God. When difficulty happens in our life, like divorce or death or loss of some sort, we get angry at God. But what if we did the opposite? What if in the middle of negative circumstances, we decided to celebrate the great things that God has done and wants to do in our life. I want to encourage you today to recognize one simple truth, that it doesn't matter how bad it is, there's always something extraordinary about God that you can celebrate. So, instead of becoming bitter and angry at God, there's a better way, a different way, a way of celebration and acknowledging how extraordinary God is... ...Even in difficult times.
I thought I'd take a moment in light of today's verse of the day and give you... 4 Reasons Why You Should Go To God In Secret. #1 - Intentionality. Anything you do in secret, you do it with intention. Most of the things you do in secret are things that you don't want other people to know about, so you still intentionally do it in secret. And so when you are secretive about your prayer life, it unlocks a whole world of discovery with God that you wouldn't have access to otherwise. I don't know quite how to explain this other than to say, when you get in the presence of God, by yourself, things happen in the spirit realm that you can't explain that don't happen in public gatherings. Plus, intentionality requires you to set a time and a place and to go there consistently. #2 - Privacy. It doesn't have to be a literal closet. What Jesus is saying is "get away from all the distractions." So that means your cell phone - set to the side - put your computer aside - spend some private time with the Lord, restrict public access to yourself. #3 - Intimacy. Be intimate with the Lord. You know, if I want to have a decent relationship with my wife, we need one on one time. Uninterrupted. Distraction-free. One-on-one time. Anytime that you are in a relationship with someone, you desire that one-on-one time. You're willing to put your phone aside. And this is what it requires to have an intimate relationship with the Lord. It just requires distraction-free one-on-one time. #4 - Authenticity. Jesus, in this whole chapter is ultimately teaching on being authentic and he's really nailing the Pharisees for their inauthentic fate, religious ways of living. They pray big prayers in public, but they don't have a private life with God. And I don't know how many times do you and I, we go to church and we lift our hands in worship, but we don't even worship like that when we're by ourselves. Don't go out in public and pretend to be a Christian and then go home and never actually have a relationship with God. Go to God in secret. Get in your closet if you have to...
Matthew 23:11 is really short and super simple. It says “the greatest among you will be your servant.” One of the marks, or characteristics of God's kingdom is that it is complete opposite of our earthly kingdoms. So with the way our world operates, there's a lot of social hierarchy, right? Like you can attain social status that sets you apart from others. You can become powerful and others will want to “serve” you. In our world, people work hard to get power and control, sometimes it can be by force or it can be by coercion. Or just a culture that is all about celebrity and popularity and wealth and status and fame and all that…ultimately it gives people an upper hand. Well, Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is the complete opposite. If you want to be great in the kingdom of heaven, you’re going to get there by serving. If you want to rule is God's kingdom, you rule by serving. You’re a "servant leader.” You take care of others. You prefer others. This is why Jesus called his disciples to serve one another, to care for the orphans and the widows, to serve the weak, to be a voice for the voiceless and to stand up for children and women, to release the oppressed. This is the message of the gospel. And this is what you and I should be about. We are here to serve. I'm here to lead, but I lead through serving. So we wash each other's feet. We take care of one another. We look for opportunities to serve. You're never more like Jesus than when you're serving.
Today's verse of the day is familiar. You've probably heard it before, it’s… Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God. “ I think we hear that verse and sometimes we contextualize it to our living room recliner…like we’re supposed to sit down and not do anything for a little bit and recognize God… In reality, when you read it in context, it is so much deeper and more profound than that. So when you read the whole chapter of Psalm 46, you'll see that the writer is actually writing a song about how God is our helper in times of trouble. And he goes on and list out all these different things that are happening all around him. He writes about devastating earthquakes, and it sounds like tsunamis with waves crashing into the land. The earth is dissolving, nations are fighting and in uproar. The people of God are being attacked. And the writer of the song is writing a very reassuring, hopeful song that essentially says in the middle of all this chaos, I cling to God because he's my help in a time of need. And then he gets to this verse in verse 10, and God sorta “takes over” and steps in and has something to say. It's almost like, if you were at a graduation ceremony and the speaker got up and started to speak, And then one of the people sitting behind the speaker decided to stand up and take over the podium. God’s like, “you step aside for a second I need to talk.” And God says, “ Stop. Be Still. Recognize that I'm God.” It's almost like God is saying, give up your fighting, stop working so hard to impress everybody or to impress me. Surrender to me. Say uncle. Tap out. That's ultimately what you're going to have to do anyway, so just stop wrestling and submit. You've heard the old phrase, “let go and let God,” well this verse is kind of like that times 10. And so I hope that's what you'll do today. Considering the verse of the day, be still, stop striving, and recognize that he's God.
Today's verse of the day is deep and it's challenging. So you're going to have to hang with me for the next two minutes or so. It says this in James chapter 1, verse 2. "...my brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials" Is that not completely outrageous? It's probably the most unbelieved scripture in the whole Bible. Who does that? In order to grow, you have to go through difficulty. Pain always leads to progress and it doesn't matter what kind of pain it is. And some of you reading today, you've been through some deep, intense levels of pain. And I truly believe that God brings pain. He allows pain. And, whatever your theological perspective is on it, it's here for a purpose and it's to stretch you, to break you down so that ultimately you can be built back up and prepared for what's ahead. Pain always leads to progress. So when you're going through pain, smile real big and consider it joy. You might not be happy in the moment, but you can be full of joy. Joy comes from within. It comes from the Christ that's inside of you. Happiness comes from without. It's about circumstances and situations. Happiness is really dependent on the gifts in your life, but joy is dependent on knowing the giver of gifts. And so, you know the giver of all gifts. And you can have joy today, no matter what you're up against.
2 Timothy 3:16 is today's verse of the day and it says "all scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we're wrong and it teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work." There are four things the scriptures do. It teaches, it referees, it corrects, and it trains. 1) It teaches us stuff that we don't know. There's a lot of stuff about the Lord, mystery and profound depth in the scriptures that, like an onion, we just continue to peel it back. As we dig into God's word, we learn new things. While we need to learn new things, a lot of our Christian faith isn't necessarily about learning new things. It's also about staying on a path, or in the "way" of Jesus. This is why the scriptures "referee" us. It helps us to see what's wrong in our life. And so it's blowing the whistle to say, "yo, you're on the sidelines. You need to get back into the field." "Hey, you're not supposed to commit that foul, stay faithful to doing what's right." So it's not just teaching us new things, but it's helping us to stay in line. It corrects us - this means that it helps us to know what the right way is after we've gone the wrong way. It doesn't just blow the whistle, but it pushes us back in the right direction. And lastly it trains - the scriptures train us like a good coach. It gets us into shape, prepares us for the battle in front of us. So that's what the scriptures do. I hope you'll take it serious. PS - I want to invite you to stick with me for the next few days. Get in God's word for the next few days with me. You can follow along on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, or YOUTUBE
The #verseoftheday is Proverbs 29:25, and it says "the fear of people becomes a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord will be set on high." The fear of people becomes a snare. This is the greatest trap. Long story short: I became an orphan when I was 9, and was adopted at 16. For six years I dealt with all kinds of feelings. I felt isolated. I felt alone. I felt unloved. And so I would work really hard to get acknowledgement and praise. I spent countless hours and time just trying to get adults to tell me they were proud of me, convincing friends to like me, and even though I was adopted and all that stuff there's been this lingering "Lack" in my life since I was a child and I have no way to fix it. I know that the Lord is healing me. But one of the symptoms of that lack that I had is this "need to please people." I want to win everybody's approval. I want them to like me. I need affirmation. My mom and dad have poured so much and invested so much into my life. And they've dealt with a lot since they adopted me as a teenager. But the wound is still deep and it's still there. And it's just like a soul tattoo that I can't erase. I just haven't been able to remove it. But I bring that up because the Lord is saying here that the fear of people is a snare. Meaning that if you try to please everybody, and you're always trying to win everybody's approval. That's a trap you can fall into because you'll never please everybody, and you'll never win everybody's approval. You'll never please everybody. You'll always be okay if you just focus on pleasing the Lord, but if you focus on pleasing all the other people in your life, you'll always fail and you'll always fall short and you'll always see those who do not approve. And let me tell you, even as a pastor, my greatest temptation is to try to make everybody happy and I've learned over the last seven years or so that that's completely impossible. It's impossible. And it's not that I don't care about how people feel. But I've gotten to a place where I've started saying, "Lord, I just need to please you and I just want to do what you want." Are you trying to please people, or are you trying to please the Lord?
The verse of the day today is 1 Corinthians 13:13, "now these three remain faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." The greatest is love. How many times have I, personally, put something else above love? I've put truth over love, conviction over love, my preferences over love, especially this past year! There is so much stuff happening in our world and everything deserves a "stance". As a pastor, I feel like I constantly have to take a stand about something. All the time. And if, if you don't take a stand, you, you get sort of baited into taking a stand. People are asking for a stance. They want a written statement. They want a white paper on everything and you can't just take a stand because then you have to explain your stance. And you spend all this time talking and mulling over and arguing about a stance. But the scriptures say the greatest way is LOVE. So many of us have placed our stance over love. We've placed our convictions over love. We've placed our preferences over love, and I don't know about you, but I'm continually evaluating me and my life and my spirit walk. And I'm saying, God, show me how to BE LOVE. You know, the greatest act of love ever in the course of human history was when Jesus laid his life down on a cross for you and for I, for our sin. When we were unlovable, Jesus didn't think that in order to change our hearts, he needed to take a stand. Jesus never once thought in order to change our hearts, he needed to have deep convictions and express them. No, he had deep convictions and he had a stance, but he chose to lay down his life in love. And this is how we win the world. This is how we persuade the world to know Christ. It's through an act of love. Jesus even said it himself. He said the way they're going to know that you're my disciples is when you love one another. If we live like Jesus, then we will love like Jesus. We will both love God and love others as deeply as we know how. So I pray today that you'll choose the way of love because it is truly the greatest way.
The #verseoftheday is 1 Peter4:10, and it says "just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied, grace of God." And I want to emphasize that phrase. "VARIED grace of God." You know, if you had a whole bunch of money, you might sit down with a financial advisor. And they would help you distribute your money into VARIOUS investments. It's called a diversified investment strategy. You might want to diversify your investments, meaning, you're not gonna put all your stock into one account. You're not going to put all of your money in one place. You're going to put various amounts in various accounts, right? And this is how God distributes his gifts into his people. He puts various amounts of gifting into various people with a diversity of backgrounds and experiences and perspectives, because this is how he beautifies...or magnifies the people of God, which ultimately magnifies and beautifies himself. How has God uniquely gifted you, specifically for this time, for this season, for the situation God has you in? He has divinely ordained relationships and situations in your life, and he's given you a specific gift for this season and for this time. Here's a personal question and you don't need to answer publicly, is your gift being leveraged in a way that would make God proud? You know, as an investor, you might put your money in an account and if that account is not doing well, you might take your money back out of that account. Well, I'm not saying that God's going to take his money back out, he's not going to take his gifting away from you, BUT I would ask you to seriously consider is God proud of how I'm using his gift? Does he feel like I'm a good investment, or not? I hope this question doesn't promote some kind of negative self talk, but rather, I hope it prompts you to take responsibility and steward the gifting that God has given you. He gifted you so that you can build up other people, edify the church and glorify God. I hope that's what you want to do with your gifting.
The #verseoftheday is Colossians 4:5 “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.” IF we are going to make a difference in the world, then we need to learn to see people the way Jesus sees people, and we need to treat them the way Jesus treated them. We need a paradigm shift. A change of perspective. We need to see through a different lens. How did Jesus see you when you were an outsider? Jesus sees your struggle. Jesus sees your doubts Jesus sees your unbelief Jesus sees your questions Jesus sees how different you are from him... And yet he is NOT afraid, & he still pursues you. IF JESUS pursues outsiders for relationships, then we should pursue outsiders, too. When we live the Christian life with “outsiders” in mind, it impacts all of our decisions & influences how we treat others.
How would you respond if I sat down with you over coffee and said, “in 30 minutes, a friend of mine will arrive at this table, and I’d like you to share your faith with her. I arranged this meeting so that she can be inspired by your faith.” What thoughts or emotions come up in this scenario? Would you enjoy sharing your faith with another person? Or does it feel super awkward or maybe a little bit scary? For those who are honest, “evangelizing” probably doesn’t feel like the easiest thing to do. It comes off a little weird sometimes & “someone” will probably stop liking you if you spread your faith a lot. The #verseoftheday tells us we should always be ready for something like this. Truthfully, we never know when someone we know will need us to lead them spiritually. This is why we should always be ready for an occasion like this. “If someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it” -1 Peter 3:15 Notice, it doesn’t say “When sharing your faith with others, make sure you know all the right answers from the Bible.” So...BREATHE! 😂 Just focus on what you do know and your own experiences with God. When someone is interested in God, then they’re also gonna be interested in your experience with God. You don’t have to have answers. Just be you. Explain how knowing Him has made a difference in your life. You’ll be blessed to know that people usually respond well when you sincerely share your faith with love. Question of the Day: what other obstacles prevent you from sharing your faith?
HAVE YOU ever gotten in trouble for something, maybe as a kid forgetting to do the dishes… or as an adult, making a huge mistake at work. And instead of owning up to it, you thought of a way to deflect or hide your mistake. You covered it up, or blamed something or someone else? Maybe the reason you did this is because you didn’t want to feel the accusatory, judgmental, condemnation from your boss or your mom? Well, todays verse of the day is Romans 8:1 and it says “therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” God can’t get you out of trouble with your mom, but at least you can know He isn’t accusing you. God isn’t bringing up all the wrong things you’ve done at work or school or home. Instead, He has closed all the cases against you. Because of what Jesus did for you, all guilt, shame, and condemnation have been removed from you. This means you can live a life of freedom. You don’t have to be held back by feelings that you don’t measure up or that you’re not enough. In Jesus, you are more than enough. Your worth comes from what God says about you, not others.
The other day I sold an old car to a young immigrant from Egypt. He had only been in the states for a couple of years but was already fluent in the English language. As we discussed the price of the vehicle and came to an agreement - he needed me wait a few days before completing the transaction. In an attempt to boost my confidence in him as a buyer, he shook my hand and said “I’m a man of my word, I promise I’ll come back and buy your car this weekend.” So I held it & waited for him. You’ve heard the saying, “A man is as good as his word.” This was especially important back in the day before we could get stuff “in writing” and back before everything required an attorney. A person who kept their commitments and promises gained honor and respect in the community. It was disgraceful, though, to break your promises. Today’s #verseoftheday is Matthew 28:6 “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” This was the first announcement of the resurrection! But it was also confirmation the Jesus was a man of his word! He did what he promised he would do. Today we will say “He is risen!” It’s a declaration that God keeps his promises! Happy Easter!!! 🐣
John 3:14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. Remember in the Old Testament when the Israelites buried Aaron and headed toward the Red Sea, but they ended up taking the long route around the land of Edom & they all got frustrated and impatient, & they complained against God and Moses? The Israelites were constantly complaining and it really got on Moses’ nerves. Because of their constant complaints, God plagued them with serpents. It was almost like God was the frustrated parent who said, stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” LOL For the Israelites who repented, Moses had a serpent of bronze that was used as a tool to miraculously heal those who looked at it. In the same way, John is referring to Jesus as similar to Moses’ bronze snake, when He is lifted up, for those who repent, they will be saved. Take some time today to intentionally consider and contemplate Jesus lifted on a cross. It was not just a man, but it was Salvation, Healing, & Restoration that was lifted up on that cross.
Stop sitting silently for a moment and repeat this sentence out loud. Listen to yourself as you say the words: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34a) What is Jesus saying? In his last hour, Jesus offers up a prayer, a specific request to God. Whats crazy to me is Jesus isn't asking for anything for himself! I would be terrified and overwhelmed, trying desperately to retain my composure. My prayer would probably be: "God help me!" if I could say anything at all. But Jesus' prayer is one of radical unselfishness. He is concerned for the people who are responsible for crucifying him and is asking God to forgive them. Instead of thinking of himself and his own needs, he is thinking of others. Question of the day: Who was he thinking about when he prayed this prayer? Judas (a friend who betrayed him)? Pilate(the one who broke the law and gave the order for his crucifixion)? The Roman soldiers (the evil in front of him)? The Pharisees & Sadducees (the community leaders & religious lawmen)? The chief priests & scribes (religious leaders who hated him)? The disciples (who had abandoned him)? Perhaps he was forgiving YOU & ME? Because ultimately all of us were the reason he went to the cross in the first place.
Have you ever experienced a swing from one extreme to another? Maybe it’s emotional - you go from happy to sad, suddenly. Or from Bold and Confident to timid and insecure? Maybe it’s financial - one year you are making a lot of money and doing well for yourself, but the next year you are struggling to pay the bills? I remember in high school, this would happen to me at Basketball games. One half, I’d drop like 17 points. But then in the 2nd half, I’d score 2. I never understood why - it just happened! I would swing from one extreme to the other. Well, Jesus intentionally went from one extreme (God) to another extreme (servant). Philippians 2:7 says, 'rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. ' Jesus started at the highest place. And then he swung to the lowest place. Verse 7 says, “He made himself nothing.” The phrase literally means that he emptied himself. He poured himself out. He was equal to God with all the rights and privileges as God. But he made himself nothing. He gave up those rights and privileges. He became a servant. Or better, a “slave.” A slave is someone who has no rights. Jesus became a nobody. Remember when he got on his knees and washed his disciples’ feet? Paul says our attitude should be the same as Jesus. Instead of clinging to our own privileges and rights, we should humbly serve each other in love. This week, I can’t help but consider the reality that the cross was Jesus’ destination all along. The cross was the heart of Jesus’ mission, and it is the heart of the gospel. Jesus traveled from the highest place to the lowest place. There was no place lower the Son of God could go than death on a cross. Question of the day: In your opinion, why did Jesus choose to go from “Godliness” to the cross?
Have you ever experienced sad loneliness? I’m talking about the kind when you are at the point of absolute desperation, and you kneel or lay in humility before God and pour out your anguish in feverish prayer, sleeves, pillow, tissues drenched in snot and tears? Nothing can be deeper, more serious, or more meaningful than this kind of moment with God. In Luke 22:42, Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemene, and he cried out to his Father…"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” There was no crowd. Even the twelve were socially distancing, asleep, but Jesus had a one on one with God. I’ve heard it said, the highest form of faith is praying “nevertheless” as you submit to the will of God. There is something special that happens when you trust Him regardless of the outcomes. Here, Jesus prayed and asked God if it was his will, take the cup of suffering away. And what happened? Did God deliver Him so that He would not have to drink of the cup? No, instead God sent an angel, who strengthened Him. God does not always deliver you from the circumstances that drive you to go one on one with God, but He will give you the strength and the grace to endure it. Question: When facing a big challenge, would you rather God change the circumstance or give you strength to endure it? why?
Jesus stepped into human history over 2,000 years ago. He lived for 33 years, fully God and fully man. He is the son of God and came to bring peace to a world at war with itself. In humility, Jesus chose to sacrifice himself on the cross so that whoever believes in him could have eternity with him in heaven. He took on the weight of all the wrong + darkness humanity had ever created