Free Samples

When you’re at the mall, sometimes people will be out in the food court or at booths throughout the mall handing out free samples. Places like Costco are known for having samples available all throughout the store for customers to try—some people will go to these stores only because they know they will get samples for free. Free samples are there to give us a small taste of something even greater.

After the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt, they wandered around in the wilderness for forty years. During this time, God provided them with manna, which was a sweet bread-like substance that rained down from heaven every day. It was His provision to them, His free samples as they traveled to the Promised Land.

Deuteronomy 8:1-5—Be careful to obey all the commands I am giving you today. Then you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors.

Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the LORD your God disciplines you for your own good.

So obey the commands of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and fearing him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with fountains and springs that gush out in the valleys and hills. It is a land of wheat and barley; of grapevines, fig trees, and pomegranates; of olive oil and honey. It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. It is a land where iron is as common as stone, and copper is abundant in the hills. When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.  

God doesn’t want haphazard, unstable relationships with His people. He knew that the people of Israel had just come out of bondage, and so they needed to build up their trust in Him. God always has a divine purpose in mind for whatever He does, and He wants to help us discover who He created us to be.

Don’t get caught up on what the provision is instead of what the provision is meant for. The Israelites fell for this—eventually, they started complaining about wanting something different to eat. But they missed the significance of the manna, which was a tool to get them to the land of abundance God had promised to them.

There is nothing lacking in the lives God calls us to live. Remember that whatever provision God has given to you is meant for something greater. He has a purpose in mind for your life and has given you the provision to accomplish it.

Watch the full teaching, It’s Just A Sample.

All Access Passes

Hebrews 9:1-8—That first covenant between God and Israel had regulations for worship and a place of worship here on earth. There were two rooms in that Tabernacle. In the first room were a lampstand, a table, and sacred loaves of bread on the table. This room was called the Holy Place. Then there was a curtain, and behind the curtain was the second room called the Most Holy Place. In that room were a gold incense altar and a wooden chest called the Ark of the Covenant, which was covered with gold on all sides. Inside the Ark were a gold jar containing manna, Aaron’s staff that sprouted leaves, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the Ark were the cherubim of divine glory, whose wings stretched out over the Ark’s cover, the place of atonement. But we cannot explain these things in detail now.

When these things were all in place, the priests regularly entered the first room as they performed their religious duties. But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. By these regulations the Holy Spirit revealed that the entrance to the Most Holy Place was not freely open as long as the Tabernacle and the system it represented were still in use.

Only certain priests were allowed in the Holy Place, and only the High Priest was allowed in the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. The Ark was a chest that contained the information of God’s covenant, or agreement, with the Israelite people. The Most Holy Place was kept concealed from all other people.

On only one day every year, the High priest could enter this room. To get in, he had to make a sacrifice and sprinkle its blood over the place of atonement, also called the mercy seat.

But eventually, this all became a ritual, and people missed its purpose. At one point, the Ark of the Covenant was taken out of its first temple and was never placed in the second temple—but the High Priest would still go through the same rituals and formalities.

It sounds crazy, but for many of us today, church has become the same kind of ritual. We come, sing a few songs, listen to a message, go home, and come back a week later to do it all again. Just like the people of Israel missed the purpose of the Ark and its contents, we often miss the purpose of why we come together as the Church.

When Jesus died, the curtain separating the Most Holy Place from the rest of the Temple was torn right down the middle. Through His sacrifice on the cross and His blood being spilled, Jesus exposed their empty rituals. Jesus’ earthly mission was finished: access denied became access granted.

Through this access to God, His gives us the power to do incredible things with our lives. The Holy Spirit lives in everyone who is a believer in Jesus. The Church is supposed to be a people who are called out by God to do amazing things in His name; when we understand the access God is offering to us as His Church, we will begin to see God’s glory rising out of everything we do.  The Church isn’t just a building we go to once a week,  but a people who are committed to carrying out the mission God has given to us.

If you want to learn about how the objects inside the Ark are relevant to our lives today, I encourage you to listen to my teaching on All Access Passes.

Raised Flags

David is one of the most famous people in the Bible. He is well-known for being the only person who was willing to fight Goliath, a giant who threatened David’s people. David had faith in God to help him win, so even though he was small, David fought Goliath—and won. Acts 13:22 calls David a man after God’s own heart. God said, “He will do everything I want him to do.” Try putting your own name in the blank. Now, wouldn’t it be amazing for God to say that about you or me? But too many of us have red flags in our lives that make us think God would never say that about us.

Red flags are a sign of danger; they warn you about the harmful conditions ahead. And the red flags in our lives show up in many different ways: addictions, broken or shallow relationships, depression, nervousness or anxiety, defeat, anger, defensiveness, suspiciousness, being judgmental, the list goes on and on.

Sometimes we can look at people like David and begin to compare ourselves to them—we could never be on their level, right? But even David had a red flag in his life, and that is the only time we see him not being used by God in a powerful way. David’s red flag was robbing his potential, taking his focus off of what God had called him to do.

In 2 Samuel 11-12, we learn about a time when King David had an affair with a woman named Bathsheba, whose husband was off at war. She later sent David a message telling him she was pregnant. David’s red flag had just gone up, and it took his eyes off the vision of who God created him to be in his generation.

David tried everything he could think of—he tried ignoring his flag, blaming other people for his own mistakes, and hiding it by sending Uriah home to be with his wife. When none of that worked, he had Uriah killed in battle.

Our red flags may not look the same as King David’s, but we all have one—all of us have sinned and missed the mark of God’s glorious standard. And those red flags will destroy us if we don’t deal with them head-on, because they take our focus off of God and what He has in store for our lives. And just like David, we try to manage our flags. Maybe we do our best to hide them so that no one sees the mistakes we’ve made. Or maybe we blame other people for what we have done ourselves by saying things like, “That person shouldn’t have been doing that either. It’s not my fault God created me this way.”

We all need to realize that there is nothing we can do without God that will get rid of our red flags. We can ignore, blame, or hide them all we want, but they’re still there. Going to church every week, taking Communion, giving our tithe money, and getting baptized won’t remove our red flags. The only thing we can do is admit to God that we’ve screwed up, and ask Him to remove the red flag and restore us. Replace your red flag of danger with a white flag of surrender.

Watch my teaching “Raised Flags” for more.

Build Your Life on the Cornerstone

Matthew 5:17-20—“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.

“So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

“But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”

The law of Moses is made up of the first five books of our Old Testament. It reflects the perfection of God, and shows us that there is no way we can ever measure up to God’s glorious standard on our own.

The writings of the prophets in the Old Testament point to the provision, power, and plan of God. They show us that God always has a plan in mind, that He is powerful over all things, and that He is the provider for His people.

In Matthew 5, Jesus wanted to make it clear that He wasn’t doing away with the law of Moses or the writing of the prophets. He didn’t come to erase all of that, but to be the foundational corner of humanity connecting them. It was always His plan to fulfill the perfection of God and the provision of God via the power of God. Our righteousness will never be enough on its own, but with Jesus, we are made new.

A cornerstone is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation. It’s important because all the other stones will be set according to the cornerstone, so the cornerstone determines the position of the entire structure. Ephesians 2:20 says, “Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.” God wants a people who build their lives on this cornerstone.

When Jesus is the cornerstone of everything we do, He holds the whole thing up. He sets the direction of His Church, and creates something spectacular out of us. Align your life with Christ by making Him your cornerstone, and do your part by working together with His people to show God to the world.

Watch my teaching “Get to Work”.

Aha! Moment

In the past few years, scientists have created a pair of glasses called Enchroma glasses that can help some colorblind people experience colors they have never seen before. There are many videos of people putting these glasses on and reacting in wonder, and experiencing all kinds of emotions as they see the world in a new way. They are in shock of what they can now see.

Maybe some of us are colorblind towards life—we’ve lost out wonder for God. But when we seek God, we can begin to see the world in full color the way it is meant to be.

Jesus came to help us see our circumstances and experiences through a new lens. He gives us aha! moments. “Aha, that’s what you meant! I can see it now!” Life becomes alive and vivid, and we can take everything life throws at us with strength and courage–even the most difficult obstacles thrown our way.

In Matthew 5:3-12, Jesus says a lot of things that seem strange at first. “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” But we usually don’t think of those who are poor as being blessed. “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” All of us will lose someone close to us in our lives, but Jesus wants us to remember that life’s not over yet.

“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.” None of that seems enjoyable, but Jesus says God blesses us for it! And He even takes it a step further in the next verse: “Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven.”

What He’s saying seems ridiculous. Be happy that people mock us and lie about us? Be glad when we are persecuted for following Jesus? But it’s all about looking at life with a different angle, a new lens. When difficult circumstances come into our lives, we need to depend on God. Don’t let yourself lose the wonder of God in your life. Remember that with Him, our future is bright.

Watch my full teaching titled “Shake, Rattle, and Roll”.

Expressions

We tend to gravitate toward people who have the same interests as us. And if you spend enough time around those people, you’ll start to act and dress like them. Your greatest expressions come from the greatest influences in your life and the experiences you have. Depending on who and what you surround yourself with, your expressions will change.

1 John 4:10-12—This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

We are on Earth to be expressions of God. We are His masterpieces that paint His presence all around the world. From the very beginning, God’s plan has been to express Himself by influencing our lives. All through the Bible we see God telling His people to be fruitful and multiply, to permeate Earth with His glory and power. He blesses us so that we can also be a blessing to others.

When we come to Jesus through our faith and put all of our trust in Him, something changes in our lives. We aren’t influenced by the same things anymore. Any of us can fake it temporarily, but to consistently express who God is, we have to be in a relationship with Him and allow Him to be the greatest influence in our lives.

Ephesians 3:10-12—God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

We’re not just a display for the people we know and see all the time—the Bible says God puts us on display to the spiritual rulers and authorities that we can’t see. We can be confident in our faith in Jesus because He is more powerful than death itself. On every day and in every decision that you make, ask yourself what the greatest experiences and influences in your life are. Be the Church; be an amazing display of God’s love, power, and glory to the world.

Endurance

When athletes train for endurance, they don’t just go until they start to feel tired. They keep on going, pushing themselves to get stronger. They train their bodies to endure.

Endurance doesn’t mean much of anything if we’re not under pressure. It’s not built on the mountaintop, but in the valleys—in the low points of our lives. It’s easy to keep going when you have it all together. It’s another to press on when things are difficult.

2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” Salvation is a gift; it’s not dependent on what we do. Jesus forgives all who come to Him by faith. But that’s not where our journey has to end. If we stop at forgiveness and never do anything else with our lives, we miss the opportunity to receive amazing rewards in eternity.

In Matthew 24, Jesus talks about the time when He will come back to Earth. Matthew 24:42 -44 says, “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.” We don’t want to become complacent and be caught off guard when Jesus returns. In games like basketball, the players know that eventually, the final buzzer will sound and the game will end.

Jesus tells us that there will be a final buzzer—when we give an account for what we did on Earth, what will we tell Him about the opportunities He gave us? God has entrusted each of us with certain abilities, resources, talents, and opportunities to use for building up His Kingdom on Earth while we wait for Jesus’ return. Don’t sit and watch the time tick away. Pick up your ball and try and score some points for your team while you have the opportunity.

Jesus is coming back, so get ready. Stay alert. Build your endurance so you have the strength to play through the whole game and put some points on the scoreboard. We are never guaranteed tomorrow, so do everything you can today to grow the Kingdom of God.

Watch the teaching “Shoot Don’t Sit”.

Get in Position

“There’s not enough time in the day.” “I wish I could turn back the clock.” Sometimes, time feels like it’s dragging on and on, and often, we pray to ask God to give us more time. But God doesn’t work on our schedule.

Joshua 10:7-13—So Joshua and his entire army, including his best warriors, left Gilgal and set out for Gibeon. “Do not be afraid of them,” the Lord said to Joshua, “for I have given you victory over them. Not a single one of them will be able to stand up to you.”

Joshua traveled all night from Gilgal and took the Amorite armies by surprise. The Lord threw them into a panic, and the Israelites slaughtered great numbers of them at Gibeon. Then the Israelites chased the enemy along the road to Beth-horon, killing them all along the way to Azekah and Makkedah. As the Amorites retreated down the road from Beth-horon, the Lord destroyed them with a terrible hailstorm from heaven that continued until they reached Azekah. The hail killed more of the enemy than the Israelites killed with the sword.

On the day the Lord gave the Israelites victory over the Amorites, Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel. He said, “Let the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.”

Joshua’s prayer wasn’t about time. He didn’t ask God to freeze time and give the Israelites more time to prepare for the battle. Joshua asked God to let the sun stand still in the east, so that it would shine in their enemies’ eyes in the west. It was a prayer of position.

It’s easy to think that if we just had more time, we could do so much more, and win every battle that we face. But God isn’t on our timeline. He knows His purpose for us; our job is to get focused on our position in the battle, rather than try to change the condition of the battle.

People often want to jump ship when the conditions become unfavorable; many people think that once they become a Christian, everything will be perfect for them all the time. But Jesus said in John 16:33 that we will have difficulties in this life. God’s will is for you to keep pressing on through the pain and the challenges, not to switch paths once you hit some resistance.

The battle isn’t the problem—someone can always through punches at you. We need to make sure that our hearts are in the right position to take on the battle. Be audacious enough to move to the position God wants you in. When we walk in our God-given position, we ready ourselves to face any of life’s conditions.

Watch the full teaching Sun Stand Still.

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.