Are you struggling with finding who you really are? Society (through media,
social network, so-called experts) has no problem telling you who you are.
And if you let them, they will shape your identity for you. Look at what it
is doing to our country. Our country is in an identity crisis and the world
is trying to dictate what its identity should be. The problem with that is
that society itself doesn’t know who or what it should be. Society is
constantly changing with the latest whim and is like a chicken with its
head cut off. It can’t see where its going, it has no wisdom to tell it
what to do, and eventually will die (actually it’s already dead but you get
my point). I am not here to put down our country or the people living in
it; it is because of my love that I write this. The Bible has a proven
track record and speaks about God’s heart for mankind. In Jeremiah 1:5 God
says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I
set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” It shows us 3
things regarding our identity: He knows you (relationship), he set you
apart (purpose), and he appointed you (influence). If you think I am just
taking a verse out of context, start at the beginning in Genesis with Adam
and Eve. It was only when the enemy came in and challenged their identity
that they sinned. And the devil is still deceiving people today, “The thief
comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have
life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). If you want life to the full I
encourage you to find your identity in God. He is timeless, he is all-wise,
and has the power to change your life. He also always has your best
interest in hand. He desires to see you, and our nation for that matter,
walk in destiny more than anyone else! How do we do that? How do we begin
to find our identity and begin living with purpose and destiny? It is one
simple step. It is turning our lives over to Jesus. Jesus said in John 14:6
that he is the way (so you won’t get lost), he is the truth (so you won’t
be deceived), and he is the life (so death is no longer an issue, you can
start living with intentionality!). I am a lot of things (a husband,
father, pastor, son, brother, friend, etc.) so the choices I make don’t
just affect me, they affect others. It is important that I know who I am.
What I want to be remembered for more than anything else is that I was a
man who loved Jesus with everything I had. It doesn’t mean I was perfect,
but that I was trying to live the way God wanted me to the best of my
ability. If you want to know who you are, start by finding whose you are.
You belong to God. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, or
where you come from. God will take you just as you are, and he will set you
on a new path of discovering who you can be in Him. God bless!

Have you ever bought something that in theory looked great but in reality,
not so much? I recently purchased an inflatable octopus sprinkler for my
kids. It looked great on the box; it had pictures of kids playing on it,
with the parents looking on fondly so I purchased it. I got it out of the
box and realized I didn’t have an air compressor with me. That did not stop
this determined dad. I was not about to deny joy to my three children. I
huffed and I puffed and after two blackouts later I finally inflated the
octopus. The kids bring it outside screaming ecstatically. I casually
stroll behind with a swagger of pride. We turn it on and everything I hoped
for was squashed. The sprinkler top sprayed crooked, the hook-up was
leaking and wasn’t get enough pressure. Within ten minutes the kids were
over it and so was dad. As I was deflating the octopus I couldn’t help but
be disappointed. All this wasted air I put into this toy and then the Lord
spoke to me. He said, “I wonder how much air (words) are wasted coming from
peoples’ mouths? It sounds good in theory, but realistically it is a
disaster.” Now for all you skeptics, this is not the lack of oxygen
talking. The more in-sync you are with God you will realize he can speak to
you through anything. The Bible says that sin is unavoidable when there is
much talk, but whoever seals his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19 GWT). You
might think, in theory, that what you are saying is good, helpful, or valid
but realistically, if it is not used to glorify God or build someone else
up then, it is useless, just like the hot air coming out of the inflatable.
Jesus said that the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45). Are
you full of hot air? Or does your words soothe and bring refreshment to
others. Before you speak, make Psalm 19:14 your prayer, “May these words of
my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord,
my Rock and my Redeemer.”

As Christians, are we remaining flexible and pliable in our lives, our jobs, our families and ministries? Are we flexible enough to allow our agenda to be disrupted, when Holy Spirit comes on the scene? In both a literal figurative approach?

As individuals, are we okay with Proverbs 3:5-7a, from a literal perspective? The part where it tells us not to lean on our understanding, but to rely & trust in God? I wonder if we rely too much on the God given wisdom in our lives and the the God giving the wisdom.

What do I mean by this? Everyone one of us has been given gifts and wisdom to know, learn & understand things in our lives. One of the blessings God has given me, has to do with computers and anything technical. From a young age, it’s all just been “natural” to me and without a bunch of formal training, I just “Got it”.

Naively, I tend to just rely on my understanding to get things done when it comes to this field, yet I am reminded of scripture that I am not to rely on my understandings. Or on my God given wisdom & talent in this field. Proverbs 3:7a NIV says – Do not be wise in your own eyes.

I use this as an example, but there are many areas in my life where I have, for far too long, relied on my God given talents and not in God alone.

In ministry, I’ve learned to use my God given abilities and talents to get church services in order, creating orders of service, getting the “right” songs chosen, the right setting, etc. However the thing I am most happy that I’ve learned and continue to learn is to be okay with God coming in and disrupting, re-arranging or all out changing what I’ve come up with.

For instance, if the plan is to be done with worship by a certain time, yet God’s Presence has manifested in a strong & tangible manner, then I am okay with us continuing and me shortening my message. As a result of this approach, we’ve been able to experience very strong and heavy “Presence” moments.

As I write this, I wonder how much of that freedom I allow God in other aspects of my life. Personally, with my goals & ambitions. With my family and the details of where we live, what kind of car we buy, etc. Or with my companies and ministry areas…really all the “paths” talked about in Proverbs 3:6 that He will make straight.

So as I write this, I’m challenged by Holy Spirit to allow Him more in my life. I’m excited, because it’s been revealed to me, places where more of God can literally come in my life.

I challenge you to look at your life and let Holy Spirit have more and more space to do what He wants to do. Trust in Him with all your heart!

 

Pastor JJ

My son Jonah had just received a quite expensive toy for his birthday. He loved it, would not share it, and wouldn’t let go of it for hours. The family had to make its weekly pilgrimage to Wal-Mart and Jonah was insistent on bringing it with him. Seeing the attachment he had to it, we allowed it. As soon as Jonah saw the toy vending machine, he dropped his new toy and ran to it. I couldn’t believe it. He was willing to give up his expensive toy for junk. Needless to say Dad hung on to the toy for the rest of the trip. I wonder how many of us do that spiritually. When we first find Jesus (the gift of God) we are excited. We can’t get enough of him, we spend all our time with him. But after some time has passed or something else catches our attention we are quick to drop Jesus for junk. All the while, God the Father watches in disarray as he sees his children let go of the thing that cost him so much only to cling to something worthless. Today I want to encourage you to hold on to Jesus. Get back to the place where Jesus meant everything to you. If you’ve dropped Jesus for junk, let go of it because what you are holding adds no value to your life, but your relationship with Jesus is invaluable. Have a blessed day!

“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of
the temperature of the heart” – Corrie Ten Boom. In some point of your life
you will be offended, hurt, subject to someone’s poor decision. It is
inevitable. At that point you will have the opportunity to forgive or hold
on to unforgiveness. Forgiveness is a difficult thing. We know what the
Bible says, we want to be obedient to it, but what do we do with our
emotions? First let’s define forgiveness. To forgive means to pardon
someone for a mistake, misunderstanding or wrongdoing. I love the way C.S.
Lewis puts it, “it is forgiving the inexcusable because God has forgiven
the inexcusable in us.” The greatest example of forgiveness is when Jesus
was hanging on a cross and people were walking by mocking him. What did he
say? “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). At
that moment Jesus could have said a number of things. But out of the
abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). In that moment his
words showed what he had been storing in his heart. Forgiveness doesn’t
have anything to do with the other person/people, it has everything to do
with what is in you. Jesus simply handed his feelings/emotions over to God
and trusted God to heal him. He was then able to love them. When we are
hurt or offended we need to take it to the Lord right away. If we don’t, we
prevent him from bringing the healing, freedom, and breakthrough that we
need and our hearts begin to fill up with bitterness, anger, fear,
mistrust, etc. We become a prisoner to our emotions and get stuck in life.
God wants you to be free and move on. Forgiveness doesn’t excuse the other
person for what he or she did, nor does it doesn’t make what they did ok.
It means you are making peace with God in your heart and allowing him to do
what you or I in our own strength can’t. Forgiveness does not always lead
to a healed relationship. That is why it is so important to be careful with
the words that we speak, how we treat one another, and who we allow in our
lives. You may have to let someone go and that’s ok. Just make sure you let
everything go. Some of you may still be dealing with relationships that
ended years ago, but you are still allowing that individual/people to
impact or affect your life. Take the example of Jesus and give it to God.
Don’t let what has happened in your past to impact your future. It is by
his stripes that we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5), that includes our emotions.
Take time to forgive today and if you need some encouragement, here are
some Scriptures to help: Ephesians 4:32, Psalm 55:22, 2 Corinthians 12:9, 1
Peter 5:7, Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 147:3, Psalm 34:18, Isaiah 41:10.

Have you ever heard God speak to you through a normal, every day
occurrence? Maybe it is something you have done hundreds of times or maybe
it is something out of the norm. I have had God speak to me through a
situation with my kids, a movie, a quote off a commercial, etc. Today it
was through paint. What I thought was going to be a simple, quick fix ended
up taking hours. There were a lot of places that needed to be scraped.
Scraping is the hardest part of painting. Painting is easy, it is prepping
the wood that takes a long time. Any good painter knows the value of
scraping. Scraping allows the paint to adhere to the surface so it can last
longer. It can sustain the elements of weather. Painting over the old paint
may last a little while but the elements will soon expose the wood again
and a touch up will be required. What does this have to do with your life?
What was God saying to me? He was telling me that Christians today need to
take the time to adhere to him instead of just slapping some new paint over
the old. We can come in looking good with a fresh coat of spiritualism on,
but if there has been no preparation on the inside, the elements of this
life will expose it again. If we desire transformation, it is a process
that begins with a longing to adhere to Christ (John 15:4). John Piper
said, “When I pray for revival I pray first for the most radical thing: The
utter devotion and allegiance of your hearts to Christ. That you would love
Him so deeply and long for Him so passionately that His coming would be
your great hope, and death would be gain, and life would be for Christ and
His kingdom.” There was nothing spectacular about the disciples. The only
difference the people knew about them was that they had been with Jesus
(Acts 4:13). Have you been with Jesus today? Do you know when he’s there or
would you even realize if he was gone? Before you adhere yourself to the
television or your phone or whatever else you go for, pick up your Bible,
get on your knees, get the family together and spend time with God. Andrew
Murray states, “A true revival means nothing less than a revolution,
casting out the spirit of worldliness and selfishness, and making God and
His love triumph in the heart and life.” He is ready to do the
transformation but are you willing to be transformed (2 Corinthians 13:5
GWT)? I have seen the most beautiful natural pieces of wood underneath
layers of junk. Let him scrape off the junk and let him restore the natural
beauty that he originally designed!

“Whenever, in any century, whether in a single heart or in a company of
believers, there has been a fresh effusion (outpouring) of the Spirit,
there has followed inevitably a fresh endeavor in the work of evangelizing
the world.” – A.J. Gordon. Grapes are a fragile fruit. I am not going to
get all scientific on you but there is a term called “bud break” which is
the first step in the annual cycle of grapevine growth. It is when vines
leave their protective winter dormancy behind. The grapes are especially
vulnerable during this time. When the temperature drops to low, a sensor
kicks on heaters, and huge fans blow the heat to protect the vines so they
can continue growing. If the sensor fails the grapes would freeze and die.
The sensor is extremely valuable and any good owner knows to check the
sensor often and make sure it is properly maintained. The Lord showed me
this as a symbol of the church. He is the vine and we are the branches. We
are called to bear good fruit. The Holy Spirit is the sensor. If your fruit
is dying or dead, check the sensor. The Holy Spirit does not fail so when
was the last time you checked in with Him? Billy Sunday said, “When is a
revival needed? When carelessness and unconcern keep the people asleep.”
Are you asleep today? Do you need to be awakened? Allow the Holy Spirit to
fan the flame so that you can continue to mature and bear good fruit. I
leave you with the words of G. Campbell Morgan, “We cannot organize
revival, but we can set our sails to catch the wind of heaven . . .” Catch
the wind today! Read John 15:1-8, Ephesians 5:8-16, Romans 13:11, John
20:22, Acts 2:2, Ezekiel 37:9-14

“The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.”―
D.L. Moody. Today I brought home breakfast. One of the joys of having kids
is as soon as they see the food they want some too, except for today. It
did not look like the normal food I usually bring home, so my youngest was
hesitant. Avari dove right in, but Jonah wouldn’t feed himself. I knew he
would like it but he wouldn’t give it a try. So I just started eating, and
made sounds of how good it was. Soon my son grabbed his fork and cautiously
placed the food in his mouth. “I like it!” was his response. It is that way
with the Bible. Some of you may look at it with hesitance, others can’t
wait to dive into it. And there may be others that just need to watch you
live it before they try it. Are you living the word today? Are you being a
doer and not just a hearer? The Bible is meant to inspire, you and others.
Spend time in the Bible and let it transform you. It is living, powerful,
and active, so it will always do something if you allow it to. Your mom
always told you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So
don’t just feed your stomach, feed your spirit! Here are some Scriptures to
put on your fork! Hebrews 4:12, Psalm 119:105, James 1:22-25, Matthew 5:6,
Matthew 7:24-27.

To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible to be alive without
breathing – Martin Luther. My youngest son Jonah is 2 and has been battling
a cold. He is so congested that it limits his breathing. He has such a hard
time sleeping because he is trying to force air through his nose, not to
mention he snores like a bear; until last night. I noticed something. He
began to open his mouth and get oxygen that way. He slept better, I slept
better and he was free to breathe. It’s like that with prayer. Maybe your
life is congested with hurts, offenses, fear, depression, worry, etc. It
feels like it is sucking the life out of you. You can try in your own
limited strength to continue living with it or through it. Or you can open
your mouth and pray and experience the breakthrough/answer you are needing.
You will sleep better, others you may be affecting will sleep better. Take
time to pray today, get in God’s word and you will hear him. You can’t live
without Him anymore than you can live without air. Here are some Scriptures
to get you started: James 4:1-10, Matthew 6:25-34, Jeremiah 29:11-13,
Isaiah 40:1-31.

In any given moment, God can transform your life. Every Sunday my prayer is
that when people enter any one of our campuses, that they would experience
the presence of God. I am amazed at the stories of people that have come
through our doors. As a leadership team, we do our very best to prepare an
atmosphere that invites people to engage with God. The danger is when God’s
presence becomes routine. The Israelites faced this same problem. They left
the boundaries of Egypt and started on their journey to the promised land.
God’s presence was always in front of them. Moses wrote that by day the
Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and
by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel
by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire
by night left its place in front of the people (Exodus 13:21-22). At some
point they began to grumble and complain. Then it turned into an attitude.
It got to the point that some had even wished they were back in bondage!
They became so familiar with his presence that they forgot He was still
there. Do we come in to our worship services with the same familiarity? Do
we, like the Israelites, grumble that God is not taking care of us like we
feel he should? Have we forgotten whose presence we are coming in to? We
are coming in to the presence of Almighty God! He is the one who parted the
Red Sea, defeated the enemy, provided food from heaven and water from a
rock. God forbid if we come in with such a casual attitude! God’s presence
is a privilege, not a right. He will always be right in front of his
people. But only the people who continue to follow him and seek after his
presence will see him. God says that we will find him when we seek Him with
all our heart(Jeremiah 29:13). Don’t wait to experience God on Sunday; you
can do that right now. God’s presence is intimate. That means he is close
to us, with us every day. He is also with us even through difficult
circumstances. Remember what David said, “Even if I walk through a very
dark valley, I will not be afraid, because you are with me. Your rod and
your shepherd’s staff comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). Some of God’s brightest
moments come out of our darkest moments. When was the last time you truly
experienced the presence of God? If you have to think about it, it’s been
too long. If his presence has become too familiar ask Him to awaken your
heart again. Don’t come into His presence empty handed. Come with
thanksgiving in your heart and give him praise! (Psalm 100:4) If you are
experiencing the presence of God, maintain the attitude of gratitude and
thank him that his presence never leaves us or abandons us (Deuteronomy
31:8) and is with us until the very end! (Matthew 28:20)