The Owner

If you’ve ever been to Chick-fil-a, you might have noticed that whenever customers say, “Thank you,” the employees will always say, “My pleasure!” in return. They all have the same DNA because the owners knew early on that they want to serve their customers in a certain way. All Chick-fil-a employees are trained to respond with “My pleasure!” so that they represent the establishment in the way the owners want them to.

It’s the same with our God. Just like owners train their employees to be representatives of their establishment, God will train us to be His representatives on Earth. In order for you, as a follower of Christ, to be an amazing server, you have to spend some time with the owner.

Matthew 20:28 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” In order to serve, we first have to be served by making a connection with the Lord. He is the one who first served us. God is our provider, and we are the recipients.

Some of us are already serving like crazy—maybe you already volunteer, invite, tithe, or show up every time the church building is open. But what is your heart like when you are serving? Examine yourself to see if the things you are doing are building up the Kingdom of God. You might be a server, but make sure you are serving under the right owner.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are one of God’s representatives. While you’re going about your daily life, remember that God is your provider and that you are representing Him in everything that you do. That’s not just for Sundays when you’re sitting in a church service! When you’re at work, you’re God’s representative. When you’re with your family, you’re God’s representative. When you’re stuck behind a slow driver, you’re God’s representative. And God is a God of provision, mercy, grace, and love.

God created you to bear His image throughout the world. He will provide everything you need to do what He’s made you responsible to do. If your life is going to be what God designed it to be, you have to make a connection with Him, the one who first serves you.

Watch part one and part two of “At Your Service” for the fullest impact of this teaching.

Prodigal God

Jesus drew diverse crowds. He often ate with people the religious leaders of the day thought weren’t worth their time. They thought Jesus was being wasteful of His time, energy, and resources, so to explain what He was doing, Jesus told them a story about a father and his two sons.

The younger son ran off with his part of the brothers’ inheritance. But, he wasted everything he had, so that when a famine came he had no choice but to work on a farm—the son became so hungry that he wanted to eat the pigs’ food. Eventually, he realized that he had run away from his father’s love and provision.

So, the younger son returned home. Luke 15:20 says, “And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” He didn’t feel worthy of his father’s unconditional love. But the father told his servants to prepare a great feast and a party. The father didn’t need his son to do anything, because he had already done everything in advance.

But remember, there is also a second son. He was out working in the fields when his brother returned home. When he heard the partying going on and learned why they were all celebrating, he became angry. His father begged his older son to come inside and celebrate with them, but the older son didn’t want to hear any of it. He told his father, “All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!” The father responded, “We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!” (Read Luke 15:11-32 for the whole story.)

This story is usually called the Prodigal Son story, because of the son who ran away from his father, but I like to call it the Prodigal God story. Jesus told this story to show that He would waste everything to help us get our hearts back home. He will be recklessly extravagant if it means we can find the real meaning of life.

And that applies to you too, no matter whether you’re more like the younger son, running away from the Father, or more like the older son, working and striving to earn the Father’s love. Both of these modes—self-discovery mode and self-righteous mode—will cause you to be tired, bitter, and worn-out, but neither will make you better.

What will help is understanding that no matter who you are, God is looking for you. Whether you’ve never been to church before or whether you go every week, He is looking for you. Take a step toward Him and He will run toward you. Jesus came to repair our broken relationship with God so that we can come back home to Him. All you have to do is put your faith and trust in Him.

Watch the full Easter teaching called “Come Back Home”.

Unity in Diversity

Our culture is one of individuality. We divide ourselves with labels and are encouraged to be independent. And God loves the diversity of creation! His Church is the most diverse group of people on the planet. But the moment we let our diversity begin to trump the purpose that God has set for our lives, we have missed the point of the Good News.

In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul was writing to a group of believers in the city of Corinth. Corinth was a wild and crazy city, and when people became followers of Jesus they would often still live the same type of lifestyle that they’d been living before.

In 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul told the Corinthian believers, “I urge you, my brothers and sisters, for the sake of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree to live in unity with one another and put to rest any division that attempts to tear you apart. Be restored as one united body living in perfect harmony. Form a consistent choreography among yourselves, having a common perspective with shared values.” Remember: God loves our diversity! The Church is made up of both male and female, people of all different races and nationalities, people with all kinds of occupations, people with all types of talents and skills, and people of all backgrounds.

God loves diversity. But within that diversity, we are all to come together for a single purpose and mission. It is the same mission that Paul was given by God—to permeate the earth with God’s Good News. Much of his letter to the Corinthians is made up of Paul helping the Corinthians solve the divisions that were keeping them from continuing this mission. They were divided over which leader they should be following, what the limits of their freedom in Christ should be, over their different socioeconomic statuses, and over spiritual gifts.

I encourage you to read the book of 1 Corinthians this week. Look at how Paul helped them settle the divisions the Corinthians had in their context. And consider the divisions that are holding you back from fulfilling the mission that God has set before you for your life. Join up with your local church and do your part in making the name of Jesus known throughout the world.

Watch the full teaching of “Stay Focused / Don’t Go There”.

Barriers

Have you ever gone to a movie theater, bought all your popcorn and candy, and sat down to watch the movie, only to find out that someone in front of you is blocking your view of the action? Or maybe you’ve gotten tickets to a concert or sporting event only to find out that a giant pole was right in front of your seats.

Barriers keep us from an experience. Sometimes, barriers only block our view of a movie, but there are barriers that keep people from experiencing the blessings and freedom that Jesus offers. The enemy is always trying to block us from the way to freedom and greatness in Jesus—he puts up barriers so we don’t receive what God has in store for us.

Matthew 21:10-13—The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as he entered. “Who is this?” they asked. And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”

Jesus wasn’t upset at these people because they were selling animals in the temple—it was a natural thing for them to sell animals there because people needed them for sacrifices. The reason he drove out the money changers was because they were missing God’s greatness in their own lives and the purpose of God in the lives of others. They weren’t doing anything to reach out to the people who needed God, but were actually repelling those people.

As the modern-day Church—those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus—it is our responsibility to do the work of God on Earth so that more people can receive Him. Ephesians 2:20-21 says, “Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.” Our purpose is to bring people into an atmosphere where they can receive the Good News of who Jesus is, what He has done for them, and how He can change them. Then, we can build them up and train them so that they can be sent out to bring even more people in, and continue the cycle. Be someone who tears the barriers down and helps people find the purpose that God has for them in this world.

Watch my teaching “Whips And Hugs” for more.

Rest Up

John 5:1-17 tells the story of a paralyzed man who had sat among a crowd of other sick or disabled people for 38 years. One day, Jesus came by and healed the man, but the Jewish leaders were upset because Jesus had healed him on the Sabbath, a day of rest. One the Sabbath, people wouldn’t do work of any kind. Verse 16 says, “…the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”

I want to ask you this—how is your soul today? Are you weary or tired? Broken? Are you worn out from laboring to make yourself right with God or to get Him to like you more? You need to know that until God does something in you, you’ll never do anything worthy for Him. You can never work yourself into God’s grace—and you don’t have to! He gives it freely. There is amazing freedom to be found in putting all of your faith and trust in who Jesus is and what He has done.

Imagine that you fall and hurt your arm. If you go to the emergency room, you might have your arm scanned by an X-ray machine. The X-ray machine is able to show you that your arm is broken, but it can’t do anything beyond that. The doctor is the one who puts on the cast that heals your arm.

The Jewish leaders knew they had a problem; God gave the law, which is the first five books of our Old Testament, to show them and us that problem. We all have sinned—we’ve all missed the mark of God’s glorious standard. But, the Jewish leaders were treating the law as though it was the medicine that would make them better if they would just follow it, when really it’s more like the X-ray machine, which just shows the problem.

Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)–“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

The people who find rest for their souls are not the ones who work themselves to the bone trying to keep the law. It’s not the people who give up and decide to do whatever they want to do. The ones who find true rest and freedom are those who put their faith in Jesus and let Him begin changing the way they think and live. God’s grace is a free gift—what you have to do is accept it.

Watch the full teaching of “Rest Up”.

Battle Ready

In Ephesians 6, Paul wrote about the armor that God gives us to stand up against the attacks the Enemy will unleash on our souls. And no matter who you are—whether you’re a believer or nonbeliever, whether you come to church every weekend or only once a year, whether you’re male or female, young or old—you will experience the Enemy’s attacks in your life. All of us are susceptible to being attacked. But there is a big difference between being hit and being destroyed.

God wants you to be battle ready, so He has given us tools to help us in this fight. In Ephesians 6:10-18, God gave us five defensive pieces of armor: the belt of truth, the body armor of God’s righteousness, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation. And, He gave us one offensive piece: the Bible, the sword of the Spirit.

But it’s one thing to know about the armor, and another to actually put it on every day. The last verse of this passage of Scripture is: “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” These are two of the ways we can put on the armor—communication, and helping each other. Communication with the King, the Creator of the universe, and helping other believers because we’re in this thing together.

Pray bold prayers. God already knows what is in your heart, so don’t be afraid to tell Him. Don’t just focus on what you’d like Him to fix—sometimes, we pray so hard for God to fix something in our lives when He has already given us the tools for it! Then, we just have to ask for the courage to use those tools. Any kind of relationship is a two-way street—God is always there for us, but we have to show up in order to hear His answers.

Another way we can put on our armor and fight the Enemy’s attacks is by helping each other. Remember that you’re not the only one fighting—and the armor doesn’t cover your back. We all need other people in our lives to encourage and challenge us. That is what being a part of God’s family is all about! None of us have it all figured out, but together we can have each other’s backs and advance God’s Kingdom here on Earth.

Watch my teaching on being “Battle Ready”.

Crumbs

Did you know that when you are being tested, God is often using you to teach others? Your faith in the middle of troubling circumstances can be a display to other people of the power of God in your life.

Matthew 15:21-28—Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”

But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”

Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

 “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.

What are your first reactions to this passage of Scripture? Doesn’t Jesus seem like He’s being rude or standoffish to the woman? It’s almost like Jesus is intentionally breaking every rule on how to make a friend or even just get along with someone. But He wasn’t being rude—Jesus knew how strong the woman’s faith was. He knew she wasn’t going to give up because of how he was acting toward her. So, He tested her in front of His disciples in order to teach them something about having faith.

In Jesus’ day there were many people who appeared to have great faith, but their faith stopped at their head, and that’s true for many even today. But strong faith goes further—it reaches into the depths of our hearts. It’s not about how much you know about God, but how much you believe about the God you know. The woman in this story knew God and she trusted what she knew about Him, such as that He is for all people. She believed that even the crumbs from her Master’s table were enough for her.

Examine yourself today—is your faith really in our amazing God, or is it in something or someone else? When push comes to shove, who or what do you turn to? Think about the problems or difficulties that you are going through right now in your life. How can you put your faith on a display for those around you to see the power of God through you, even in times like these? Remember that there is no success without a problem, and there is no faith to display without a test.

Watch the full teaching “Problem to Platform”.

Join the Team

Did the team you were rooting for win the Super Bowl this year?

Whatever you think of the winning team, it took all of their different roles pulling together for a common cause: to win the game. The best quarterback in the world would be helpless without his teammates. Every position on a team matters—if you’re in sales, the marketing team matters, because without them you probably won’t have any clients to sell to. And in the Church, we want everyone working together so that we can show the love, hope, and healing of God to the world. Step in and be a part of building this thing!

Last Thursday, we celebrated the end of our 21-day church-wide fast. And it was great to see some of the individual breakthroughs God made in our lives. But I want you to remember that we didn’t do the fast just for the individual breakthroughs, but to see what God would do in us collectively in the future. It was to prepare for what’s coming next. My prayer throughout the fast was for us to see 5,000 new people begin attending Barefoot in 2018. That might be unrealistic—we can do it, but it won’t happen if we don’t work together.

We live in a small city, and it’s a city that is very difficult to do ministry in—it’s transient, so people come and go all the time. No one wants to make any long-term commitments. But I believe that God planted Barefoot in a resort area to change the atmosphere. Think about it—we get people from all over the nation and even from all over the world coming to our city! When they come and hear about the Good News of Christ, they can go back and begin changing their own cities. Though we’re in a small, transient area, we can make a world of difference.

I encourage you to read the story of Nehemiah this week. Nehemiah was a coach who motivated his players to accomplish something to bring hope and healing into their community. And by looking at the way Nehemiah led his team to do amazing things in their time, we can learn how to bring God’s same hope and healing to our modern world.

Watch the teaching from Team Weekend.

Humbling the Enemy

God’s love has no boundaries. It has total power to change our lives and begin making us more like God. Romans 5:8 says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Sinning means missing the mark of God’s glorious standard. It’s what separates us from God.

Adam and Eve were the first people to miss the mark by disobeying what God had told them to do. After that in Genesis 3:15, God said this to the enemy: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” This was a promise from God that one day, someone would come who would humble the enemy. That person was Jesus.

Remember, Romans 5:8 says that God loved us even while we were missing the mark—sinning. Even when what we’re doing is everything we shouldn’t be, He still loves us. No matter where you are in your life, who you are, or what you’ve done, God loves you. But the good news is: you don’t have to keep missing!

John 3:16 is one of the most recognized verses in the Bible, but do we actually understand what it says? “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” God sent Jesus to live a perfect life here on the earth to take the penalty of all our misses upon Himself. And He resurrected from the grave to display to the world that He has power over sin and even death itself.

When the love of God reaches into your life, He changes you so that you are no longer that same person. You become a new creation, a son or daughter of the King, and a citizen of His Kingdom. Every time His amazing love shows up in someone’s life and they put their faith in Him, the enemy is being humbled.

Watch my full teaching, “Waiting On the Win”.

The Crooked Mortgage Lender

Did you know that God created you to have significant purpose in this world? He has a part that He designed for you to play. That’s an easy thing to say, but I can show you that it’s true, and that we should put our faith in God.

When you think of the things Jesus did, what comes to your mind? Do you believe He was just here for a few years, gave some good speeches, and taught a few nice things? Or do you really believe in what He has done for you?

Many of us believe that Jesus covers their sins, but they live like they still have to pay for them. If that’s you, you’re missing it! Imagine this: you’ve been paying off a mortgage to a mortgage lender for 25 years. Despite times of worry, guilt, and being late, eventually you make your last payment. But, you learn that someone else paid your entire mortgage off 25 years ago; the mortgage lender was lying to you, letting you think you still owed him money when you were really debt-free.

If you are still trying to pay off your debt to God, please understand: Jesus has paid it in full. The Enemy of your soul would rather you live your whole life feeling guilty, working to get God to love you when actually He loves you despite where or who you are.

Hebrews 10:12-18—…our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy. And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For he says, “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the LORD: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.

We’re all sinners—we’ve all missed the mark of God’s glorious standard—but Jesus lived a perfect life and died on the cross to provide the sacrifice to cover all our misses. And then, He rose again to prove that He has authority over both life and death. You have the opportunity, right now, to stand up and do something significant with your life—all you have to do is place your faith in Jesus and what He has done for you.

Your sin has been paid for in full to liberate you so you can stand up to have a holy life and reflect God’s glory. Until you, by faith, receive that, you’ll always strive to pay for what has already been taken care of. Don’t live your life paying the crooked mortgage lender, whose only aim is to steal from you. Instead, give God control over your life, and watch as He begins to mold you and do incredible things in you and through you.

Watch the full teaching on Connecting the Dots.
For more content related to the crooked moragage lender analogy, read my book Hope Is Here.