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.

Meetings to Movement

In John 4, Jesus spoke with a lady from Samaria. The Samaritans and the Jews hated each other, and on a normal day you’d never see a Jewish man talk to a Samaritan woman. But, Jesus wanted His disciples and the woman to know that God will meet with someone right where they are, no matter who they are. Back then and even today, God is for everyone.

A lot of us don’t think we have any value because of who we are, what we’ve done, or where we’ve been. And until you receive that God wants to meet with you personally, you’ll never move to your God potential. Read some of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4:10-18—

Jesus replied, “If you only knew who I am and the gift that God wants to give you—you’d ask me for a drink, and I would give to you living water.”

The woman replied, “But sir, you don’t even have a bucket and this well is very deep. So where do you find this ‘living water’? Do you really think that you are greater than our ancestor Jacob who dug this well and drank from it himself, along with his children and livestock?”

Jesus answered, “If you drink from Jacob’s well you’ll be thirsty again and again, but if anyone drinks the living water I give them, they will never thirst again and will be forever satisfied! For when you drink the water I give you it becomes a gushing fountain of the Holy Spirit, springing up and flooding you with endless life!”

The woman replied, “Let me drink that water so I’ll never be thirsty again and won’t have to come back here to draw water.”

Jesus said, “Go get your husband and bring him back here.”

“But I’m not married,” the woman answered.

“That’s true,” Jesus said, “for you’ve been married five times and now you’re living with a man who is not your husband. You have told the truth.”

This lady was living in denial, which was destroying her destiny. And many of us are in the same boat—we’re searching for something in life but looking in the wrong places. For this woman, she was looking for it in men. For you, it might be something different. Regardless of where we’re looking, we have to understand that when we misdirect our desire, we will never find the significance we were created for.

Desire isn’t always a bad thing, but don’t let it take your focus from the Creator just to put it in the creation. The Samaritan woman knew about God, but she’d never met Him personally in a way that realigned her to her purpose. What about you? Do you know your purpose? God will challenge you where you are in order to move you to where you can be—meet with Him so that He can begin to show you who He made you to be. He knows the incredible things you can do if you’ll just put your faith in Him.

Watch the full teaching of “Meetings That Create Movement”.

The Purpose of Fasting

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions this year? It’s nearly the middle of January, so how’s your resolution going? If you’re like a lot of people, you may have already forgotten about it or given up on it. You may have gotten distracted from the reason you made the resolution in the first place.

Without some form of discipline, distractions will take over our lives and can even destroy our destiny. For example, two seconds of allowing yourself to get distracted by your cell phone while you’re driving can physically destroy you. And, the Enemy is very good at distracting you from your God-designed purpose.

To help ourselves learn discipline, we can participate in a fast. The purpose of fasting isn’t as much about what you do or don’t eat as it is about preparing you for distractions. Fasting is a fundamental exercise that can help us move by faith, rather than by sight, toward God’s promises.

Matthew 4:1-11—Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you.

And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”  Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the LORD your God.’”

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him.’” Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.

Fasting is about the future, not the fast itself. Engage in the fast because it will prepare you for greater things in your life. It’s like practicing before a big game; you wouldn’t expect athletes to be able to show up to the Super Bowl or the World Cup without training for years beforehand. It takes discipline to do what needs to be done to be prepared for bigger things.

I invite you to participate in our 21-day, church-wide fast. Don’t be satisfied in the desert. Discipline yourself so that when temptations come, you’ll be prepared.

Watch my full teaching, “Purge to Surge”.

Sowing the Seeds

Jesus talked a lot about seeds while He was on Earth. To put these stories into context, know that Jesus lived in a time when the Romans controlled the area He lived in, and the Jews were looking for the Messiah. Here, Jesus was talking to a crowd of people who were questioning Him on why He spent so much time with people who weren’t like them–they weren’t a part of the in crowd. They even accused Jesus of being of the devil! So Jesus showed them who He really was and what He came to do in their lives through a few stories:

Matthew 13:3-9—“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

In Matthew 13:18-23, Jesus did something He didn’t always do when He told parable: He gave the meaning behind it: “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.

The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!

The Kingdom of God is for everybody, but not everyone is going to receive the seed of the Good News and enter into the Kingdom. It’s not our job to be soul examiners, looking around to decide for ourselves who should hear the Good News, but to be seed spreaders, scattering seeds wherever we go. How many of us are willing to go sow seeds in places where the people don’t look, act, or sound like us? Maybe they’re a lot younger or older than us. Maybe they have a different skin color, ethnic background, financial status, or social class than us. None of those things held Jesus back from touching the lives of people unlike Him.

In Jesus’ day, the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other, but despite the animosity between their people, Jesus reached across ethnic and gender lines to talk with a Samaritan woman with love and compassion. And, He called out the Jewish religious leaders of the time for having hard hearts despite all of their knowledge. Who someone was or what they had or had not done never kept Jesus from reaching out to them.

Don’t just hold on to the seeds, wandering around and looking for the best place to plant them. Remember, the seeds come from God, so it is always good and always plentiful. The seeds will never run out so spread them everywhere. Believe the promise of hope and an eternal future, because God has said that there is a great harvest coming.

Watch this full teaching from my two-part teaching, “A Season to Come”.

Seasons

Winter’s here! For many people, winter is just a time to wait for the season to change to spring. Where I live in South Carolina, we even have people from up north moving here in order to escape the North’s harsh winters.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2—For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

There is a season for everything in life. If we spend all our time planting, when will we have the harvest? And to have a harvest, we first have to plant seeds and wait for them to grow into something beautiful. Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and you’ll see how our lives are made up of different seasons.

Sometimes the events that are happening in the world can be confusing. We see moments of peace right before tragedies happen. We have seasons of plenty as well as seasons of lack. And with our limited perspective, it’s easy to lose sight of God in those more challenging seasons and become hopeless. But this is what Ecclesiastes 3:11 says: “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

God created humans to live eternally. We weren’t meant to experience death, pain, or sorrow, but when sin entered the world, everything changed. But at Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the one who salvages us from our sin and restore us back into a right relationship with God.

This Earth is in a season right now, but we have so much to hope for in the future! Revelation 21:1 and 4 says this: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared…He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” This life is not all there is. It’s temporary. The meaning of life is to live for the eternal life God offers to us. Don’t plant your hope in things like good health, a relationship, or your finances, because those may be gone tomorrow. Instead, keep your hope in God’s promises of an eternal future with Him.

Watch this full teaching from my two-part teaching, “A Season to Come”.

Don’t Sit in the Fire

Do you have a fire-retardant blanket in your home? A house fire isn’t something any of us ever want to happen, but there are tools we can have on hand to protect ourselves in case it does. A fire-retardant blanket is one of those tools, and it is designed to cover you as you move through the flames so that you can get to safety.

You wouldn’t get the blanket and just sit down on the floor, would you? No, you’d want to use it to get out of the fire as fast as you could! But so many of us treat God’s grace in the same way. We think of it just as a blanket that covers our sin, when really it is so much more. The grace of God, His unmerited favor upon our lives, isn’t permission to sit in your sin, in the flames, and never change. Grace is an empowering agent that God lavishes upon our lives; it’s a tool that covers you on the way out.

Titus 2:11-14 says, “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.”

Stop just covering up with grace. If you use it as it’s designed to be used, you will get out of your current condition and be free to live life again. Flames will come at you, but God has given you what you need to make it through. His grace sets us free and enables us to be what God has created us to be. Let the unmerited favor of God flow in your life so that His love can flow in and through your life.

Watch my full teaching called “Turn Up Love” for more.