Dark Moments

When I was a little kid, I was afraid of the dark. And that’s a pretty common fear, right? When you’re in the dark, you can’t see what’s right in front of you, so your imagination runs wild. There are monsters in your closet, or under your bed, or hiding in the shadows. Hearing a noise in the dark would make me retreat under my covers until morning came.

We all have dark moments in life that threaten to stalemate us. These dark moments can cause all different kinds of emotions in our lives. Sometimes they cause us to become fearful of moving forward. A dark moment might cause insecurity—maybe someone said something about us that’s made us forget who God says we are.

Dark moments might make us isolate ourselves from everyone else, or stir up bitterness in our hearts. Perhaps we feel shameful of something in our past. Or maybe we’ve experienced failure and are afraid to try again.

Look at your own life today and figure out what dark moments cause in you. Be honest with yourself, because the enemy uses that to keep you right where you are. He doesn’t want you moving forward, but instead wants you stalemated.

Darkness can be an enemy of our soul, but it can also set us up for what’s coming. After a long day of working hard, the dark helps you get to sleep so that you can wake up refreshed and energized in the morning, alert and ready to take on obstacles and challenges.

For three hours on the day that Jesus was crucified, Luke 23:44 says, “darkness fell across the whole land”. The next verse says, “The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle.”

In the middle of the day, the land became like night. Darkness seemed to be taking over, but God was working even in the dark. The curtain separated the presence of God on Earth from almost everybody—no one was allowed to go behind the curtain unless they had gone through a detailed cleansing ceremony. By tearing the curtain, God opened up access to Himself for all of humanity.

Jesus knew that darkness didn’t rule Him. In Luke 23:46, He shouted His last words: “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” Jesus knew He would rise, and that a new day was coming.  Death, darkness, sin, and the grave don’t win because Jesus has already defeated all of them. He rose from the grave to illuminate the path for all who will trust in Him. God is with us, before us, and behind us.

There will be battles, but remember that God rules over the dark. If you don’t trust Him in the dark, you can’t walk with Him in the light. And if you’ve trusted in Him, it is impossible for you to walk in spiritual darkness any longer. Trust Christ to lead you into the light. Allow Him to guide the rest of your life so that you can be all God created you to be.

Get an Empty Cup

Have you ever ordered a drink at a restaurant and taken a sip only to find out it’s not the drink you were expecting? When you order fresh, hot coffee but get something lukewarm that’s been sitting in the machine for three days, it’s terrible! If you’re expecting sweet tea but get iced tea instead, you get upset! So you let the waiter know and request a brand-new drink.

But what would you do if you gave that lukewarm coffee to your waiter and watched as he topped the same drink off with fresh coffee? You’d say no—get rid of the old drink with the grounds floating around in it, get me a freshly washed cup, and pour in the good stuff!

Psalm 23:5-6 says, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.” David saw his cup overflowing with blessings, and that is what we should desire. But a lot of us make the same mistake as the waiter who just tops off the cup of bad coffee—we ask God to top off our life with blessings, but we want to keep all the bad stuff in our lives, too.

God wants to fill your cup with amazing blessings, but so many of us want to hold on to the sin in our lives. We just want to be topped off with a little bit of God.

In Matthew 26, Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane before He was betrayed by Judas. He said in verses 40-42, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine…My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” Jesus knew that for us to receive new, empty cups to be filled with God’s blessings, He would have to drink all of the dirt, sediment, and junk that filled the old cups.

Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath so that you and I don’t have to. He knew that when He did, humanity would have the opportunity to have a restored relationship with God, and could be filled with His Spirit. And Jesus didn’t just cover up our sin—He drank the whole cup. He took it away and offers us a brand-new cup. Our lives overflow with blessings when we understand the power of God’s love.

So many of us want God to just top our lives off with His blessings, but He will never just top it off—He wants to completely fill your life with His blessing. Realize that for this to happen, God has to empty your cup first. Give Him the control of your life, and let Him help you get rid of all the junk in your life. Then, watch as your life begins to overflow with the blessing of God.

God’s Attributes

Revelation 4:1-8—After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

In Revelation 4, Jesus’ disciple John was seeing a vision into the throne room of God. The four living creatures he described all represent different attributes of God. And as God’s representatives on Earth, we need to know these attributes so that we can take them and reflect them to the rest of the world. By reflecting God to others, we can help them have a hunger to meet Him for themselves.

The lion represents God’s majesty and courage. Ephesians 6:10 tells us to “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” In Joshua 1:9, God said, “This is my command—be strong and courageous!”

It takes courage to go against the culture. Sometimes the pushback can be so strong that it seems overwhelming. But draw courage from your faith—put on the armor of God in Ephesians 6 so that you will be ready to take on the devil no matter the tactics he uses. Have the courage to walk in the promises of God.

Oxen are animals of labor, strength, and service. All throughout the Bible God’s people are called to serve, and we as the Church are no different. In Mark 10:45, Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others…” Remember that before we even knew His name, Jesus first served us. Take what He has already given to you and use it to serve others.

Many scholars say that the face of the man represents the intelligence of God. He is omniscient, which means all-knowing—there is nothing we can hide from Him. There are no secrets with God! He knows more about you than you know about yourself. No matter what, He loves you and wants you to be a part of His Kingdom.

The eagle shows God’s leadership. Eagles are focused and committed—they mate for life. They are gentle with their young but also challenge them at the same time. Especially in times when people are searching for hope and life, we as the Church need to be an eagle in our community.

Keys to the Kingdom

If you have just met somebody, are you going to pull out your keys and show them the key to your safe? Of course not! You’d be afraid that they might use that knowledge to steal some of your most precious belongings.

Our enemy is like that—He keeps things from us because He is afraid of us finding the keys to God’s Kingdom. The devil knows that God offers us keys to unlock the future of God’s purpose for our lives, and it terrifies him. But Jesus came from heaven into the darkness of Earth and exposed everything the enemy is trying to keep from us.

If you’ve ever misplaced your keys, you know how important they are in our lives! A key can be very rewarding, but if you don’t know what it unlocks or how to use it, you’ll just end up frustrated. That is what has happened to many of us—we don’t understand the life that Christ offers us or the purpose of that life. Once we trust in who Christ is, we are adopted into the family of God to be Kingdom kids, and are given a set of Kingdom keys. And parents who give their children keys expect responsibility.

Matthew 23:13 says, “What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering.” Here, Jesus was showing how not to use the keys He gives. We aren’t intended to use the keys to exclude other people—there is room in heaven for everyone. Instead, we are to use our keys to invite other people over so they can experience the generosity God has shown to us.

Acts 15:19, Paul was talking to Jewish leaders when he said, “…my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” Paul wanted them to break down the barriers that kept people from meeting God and receiving their Kingdom keys, the most powerful set of keys in the universe! In Our assignment is the same today—don’t hold people back, but instead do everything you can to ensure there is nothing standing in the way of anyone hearing the Good News and getting their keys.

Watch my full teaching on Grace.

Losing Control

We don’t like the word “submission,” do we? In America, we’re raised around the words “free” and “independent.” We don’t like to be told what we can and can’t do! We have a submission problem, and that’s very hard for grace to break out of us. It’s part of why the world is in the condition it’s in right now—we are all so strong-willed and determined to do things our own way. But God wants to work things out of us through our submission to His will, so that He replace them with better things.

Submission feels like we’re losing control, but that’s the point. It’s aligning yourself back with God and letting Him lead you in your journey through life so that He can show you what is best for you. Remember, God knows the whole story—He sees the big picture when we can only see what’s in front of us. He won’t lead us astray.

If you want to be all that God has created you to be, and do all of the incredible things He has planned for you to do, you have to totally submit yourself to Him. Ephesians 3:16 says, “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.” Let God’s amazing, unlimited, eternal grace lead your faith, and ask Him to help you learn to submit. It’s not easy because it goes against everything our flesh wants: control over our lives. But let your faith follow God’s grace, and allow Him to empower you with the strength you need.

In Ephesians 5:21, Paul says, “…submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Submit to those who are in authority above you, and when you’re given the opportunity to lead, follow God’s example and lead with love and grace. Learn from and listen to the people around you. There are things you can learn from those older than you, and there are things you can learn from those younger than you. You can learn from them no matter their age, gender, skin color, nationality, social status, financial background—we’re all in this together. The Church is God’s set apart people—we are to function as a single unit, unified and working together for His purpose.

Watch my teaching on Grace.

Make the Connection

Ephesians 3:20—Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Have you ever been on a plane that landed late, and then had to run through the airport to reach your connecting flight? Or maybe you’ve been hooking up a trailer to your vehicle, and had to make sure the connection is locked down and tight so that you won’t wreck. A bad Internet connection won’t allow you to open pages or download files that you need. Connections are important because they help us reach our destination.

It’s through connections that God is working. If we want to see Him do more than we could ever ask for or imagine, we have to make a connection. Ephesians 2: 4-6 says, “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.”

So many of us try to connect our faith, but we miss the mark. Instead of putting our faith in God, we end up putting it in our spouse, job, kids, nationality, skin color, language, or even our self. Sometimes we put our faith in doing good deeds, going to church, and reading the Bible. But we can’t make up for our sins by doing good things because God isn’t pleased by the things we do. We can only please Him by taking our faith and connecting it to God’s unmerited favor—His grace.

Be honest with yourself and ask what your faith is in. Is it in something you are, have, or do? Or is your faith in the risen Savior named Jesus, who came to save your life by grace and change you forever? Make the connection with your faith. Appropriate your faith in God’s grace, because it’s the greatest opportunity of your entire life.

Don’t Hide from God

Grace is the empowering agent of God, and we find it in Jesus. And faith in Jesus means recognizing the power we have from Him, and beginning to multiply the grace He’s given us.

But many of us are stuck feeling overwhelmed. Life is managing us instead of us managing life. When He created humans, God intended for us to rule over the earth and live in a perfect relationship with Him. But Adam and Eve were seduced by the Enemy, and now sin affects all of us.

Sin isn’t just all the bad things we do. It’s missing the mark, the bullseye, of God’s standard. And if Adam and Eve missed the mark when they were in the perfect garden of Eden, and in a perfect relationship with God, how much easier is it for us to sin?

That sin separated Adam and Eve from God just like it separates us from Him, but God never separates Himself from us. After they realized what they had done, Adam and Eve ran to hide, but God went looking for them! God’s not afraid of your sin—He wants to have a real, living relationship with you.

When our faith is in Jesus, He empowers us to do incredible things. While Jesus was here on Earth, He managed life perfectly, even though He faced the same temptations we do today.

We have the choice to walk with Jesus and let Him teach us how to manage life, or to focus on the circumstances and let life manage us. John 16:33 says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Don’t hide from God like Adam and Eve did. He’s not afraid of anything you’ve done. Instead of being burdened by everything that overwhelms you, focus on the grace Jesus offers, and let Him show you how to manage and overtake life.

Watch week 2 of Manage the Monkeys

Team Up

When you think of church, what comes to your mind? Is it a place where you feel discouraged or alone, or is it somewhere you feel at home and encouraged?

God didn’t design humans to do life alone. We’re made to have relationships with other people. And the Church—God’s set apart people—should be the most encouraging and most hospitable people on Earth. But the reason so many of us feel discouraged even at church is because we’re either not using the gifts God has given us, or we’re trying to take over other people’s gifts.

He never intends for you to be just a face in the crowd. We are all uniquely designed by God to play a significant part for His purpose and His plan. And every part is just as important as the next. So don’t spend your life just being a spectator, watching everyone else play the game. Get up and take action with what God has given you.

Others of us have what we often call Type A personalities—we want to control every little thing that everyone is doing. But by doing that, you’re keeping others from receiving the blessings of doing their part. Have a humble heart and give others the chance to experience the blessing that comes from using their gifts for God’s Kingdom.

The Church needs to be unified together for one purpose, the purpose of fulfilling God’s plan here on Earth. We have to be careful not to divide ourselves. Saying things like, “That’s not my job, it’s your job,” doesn’t help anyone get anywhere. Whether you’ve been a Christian for 20 years or 20 minutes, whether you’re on stage in front of thousands or behind the scenes where no one sees you, and whether you’re a staff member or volunteer, it doesn’t matter. There’s no volunteering for God—there is only fulfilling your destiny and the plan God has for your life.

Don’t just be someone who watches everyone else doing the work and receiving the blessing. Be a person of action and use whatever is in your hands to build up the Kingdom of God.

Watch the full teaching from week 1 of Manage the Monkeys.


Celebration / Concentration

For 21 days in January, we fasted together as a church so that we could begin 2017 with our hearts and minds set on God. Now that the fast is over, I want you to remember that God is not finished with us yet!

Ephesians 4:1-10—“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.”

However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say, ‘When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.’ Notice that it says ‘he ascended.’ This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.

Having oneness and unity is the direction we need to go. The Enemy wants to isolate you, and the way out of isolation is to come together. Our gifts are to work together for one purpose, and that is to fill the entire universe with God’s name.

What God does in you, whether through a fast or during any other time in your life, is always part of His plan to distribute Himself throughout the world. He gives little breakthroughs to show us that He wants to do even bigger breakthroughs in the grand scheme of His plan.

So while we are celebrating all that God did and is doing through us as a family, be sure to remember the reason for everything we do. The purpose of Jesus saving us is so much greater than just getting to go to heaven. True worship is doing your part for the Kingdom so that as many people as possible can experience the freedom Jesus offers.

Watch the full teaching of Celebration and Concentration.

The Peak

Often we think of a person’s “profession of faith” as the end-all-be-all of their Christian journey. But the Christian life isn’t about just saying, “I believe in Jesus.” It’s about having an obsession with your faith.

God doesn’t want just your professions and confessions. He wants your heart. He wants everything in your life to be about Him and the purpose He has placed on your life.

When we believe in God, He delivers us from the bondage of sin in our lives—that’s something we can’t do on our own. And He takes us on a journey with our faith to drive out the enemies of our soul, making small tweaks to our soul so that we can reach the peak of the mountain.

After God rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, He brought them into the wilderness. They had a goal to reach—the Promised Land, a land of abundance. Those who had the faith to trust in God reached this land and experienced its fullness. And it is the same with us today; if we have faith in God and let Him guide us on our journey through life, we’ll be able to experience the abundant life.

But just because we get there doesn’t mean the war is over. The Israelites had to fight city after city in the Promised Land, and it’s for the same reason that we have to fight spiritually every day. Ephesians 6:10-12 says, “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” We don’t fight against people—the fight is against the enemy of God for their souls.

We have to remember that the object of our salvation isn’t just so that we can be saved. It’s so that we are saved so that we can help others also experience the love of Christ and let Him salvage their lives.

Right now, we live in a world without peace. But, by working towards the peak of the mountain and keeping God’s purpose at the forefront of our minds, we can have peace in our hearts that we are doing everything we can to help people meet God and find the same peace.

Watch Small Tweaks to Great Peaks