“Jesus over everything,” you say as you forget to spend time with Him that day.
You say you put Him first, but you spend half the day without a word in prayer. Then, you pray, but you’re distracted.
What is it that’s consumed your attention? Your Instagram account? Tik Tok? The news? Or perhaps it’s the load of laundry you still need to put on? Maybe it’s the garage that needs cleaned out, or the yard that needs mowing, or the half a dozen other projects you still have left to do.
So, what then, does Jesus over everything mean to you? Does it mean Jesus over everything, except your “me time?” Does it mean Jesus over everything, except your house chores? Does it mean Jesus over everything, except your job or your family? What do you think everything means? Oxford defines it as “all things; every single thing.”
That’s what it takes to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. Putting Him above all things, above every single thing in your life.
The rich man left Jesus in sorrow because he couldn’t put Jesus above his riches (see Matthew 19:16-24).
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
Mark 8:36 KJV
Others couldn’t put Him above their family.
“And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:59-62 KJV
So what can’t you put aside to follow Jesus? What is keeping you from giving Him everything?
If you want to get closer to Jesus, He must come first. His Kingdom must be your number one priority in life.
He created you to worship Him and reach the lost. Other things in this life are important, yes, but He has promised to supply all your needs. If you want to follow Him, you must trust Him to take care of you. If you want to follow Him, you must give Him your sacrifice of time and sacrifice of praise.
He must matter more to you than earthly gain. To see His face in glory, Jesus must stand first in your life over everything.
Until then, all your words and efforts are in vain and your promises empty.
Is “Jesus over everything” a daily declaration to you? Or is it an empty phrase you use to fool yourself into thinking you put Jesus first while you really serve the world or yourself?
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:15 KJV
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”
Missouri Youth Camp ended last week, but I’m still thinking about the powerful services we had. In every service, there was a heavy spirit of expectancy, depth in every message, and an outpouring of the Holy Ghost in every altar call. It was without a doubt one of the most incredible weeks I have experienced. Mike McGurk, the morning speaker, taught one message in particular that detailed a few tips that, if applied, can help each person (and each young person, especially) truly thrive in the kingdom of God. For today’s post, we’re going to go over these tips again.
Don’t keep the things you’re struggling with to yourself. This one’s actually hard for those like me who prefer to “suffer in silence.” It’s the noble, mature, strong thing to do, we tell ourselves. But actually, keeping deep struggles to yourself makes you more vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks and makes it harder to overcome those struggles.
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
Proverbs 28:13 (KJV)
Talking to a trusted spiritual leader, such as your pastor or youth pastor, about something you’re struggling with gives you a source of support and guidance. Openness and honesty are underrated qualities in any relationship. How are you to develop a working relationship of trust and transparency with your leaders or even colleagues or friends if you do not let them in if something is going wrong? The more you keep things to yourself, the more time you give to the devil to mess with your mind and bring confusion.
Bro. Mike McGurk spoke of self-destruction. If you keep things to yourself, then the lies of the devil can cause you to break down and self-destruct. There is strength in going to a trusted spiritual leader like your pastor with your personal struggles with sin or an emotional or spiritual issue.
You do not have to be perfect, for as we know, there is none perfect save for God.
We are incapable of perfection, and your pastor knows this. Because of our human nature and constant struggles with our flesh, we will always need encouragement, correction, independence, and guidance. We need encouragement for our self-esteem, correction to overcome our weakness and mistakes, independence to allow us to make our own decisions, and guidance to lead us in the right direction.
“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (KJV)
You’ve heard the saying that no person is an island. Learn to be transparent and trust your pastor to help you and pray for you when you’re struggling.
Be careful with the people and things that you allow to influence your thoughts, feelings, and actions. You’re heard “love the sinner, hate the sin” and the fact that Jesus ate with the sinners and publicans. This is true. However, Jesus called us to be separate from this world.
As another common saying goes, we are in the world but should not be of the world, meaning that while we are in the world, we should do the things we must to survive, build relationship, families, careers, etcetera, but we should not conform to the lifestyles and beliefs of the world. Bro. McGurk explained in his message that when it comes to those you may be around at work or at school who live like the world, you should love them and eat with them, but do not live like them or let them influence how you live. For example, if you’re out to lunch with your coworkers, but they talk about going out later to drink and party, don’t let their lifestyle choices influence yours. The sign of a confident Apostolic Christian is one who influences their friends and coworkers and draws them toward God, not one whose friends and coworkers draw them away from God.
There is one saying my Bishop used to teach about that some might take issue with, but I’ll mention it here and then explain: if you can’t change your friends, change your friends.
If the people you hang around are becoming negative influences in your life, then you should not spend time around them anymore. For example, if you have a teenage son and he starts hanging around kids who do drugs behind the school every day, you would want your son to stop hanging around those kids. That doesn’t mean he should be rude to them, condemn them, yell at them, or throw the Bible at them. It does mean he should set healthy boundaries in his life so that he can maintain a strong walk with God and show others that he is committed to living for God and not like the world. Having strong principles, convictions, and morals is a good thing, not something anyone should be ashamed of.
Lot allowed his surroundings to influence him, and it led to his wife’s demise.
“And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.”
Genesis 13:10-13 (KJV)
The appearance of the land was pleasing to Lot, and so he allowed what pleased his eyes to influence his actions. He pitched his tent toward a place that was filled with wickedness. Much can be said and written just from this account in Genesis (and indeed much already has), but just six chapters later, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with Lot barely escaping with his daughters. His wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. Most of us know this story, but its message will forever ring true.
Want to know the direction your life is taking? Look at the things you allow to influence you.
The problem with influence is appetite. What you consume is what you put on display through your words, actions, and thoughts. In order to walk with God, you must change your appetite so that the things of the world – entertainment, personalities, trends, money, attention, etcetera – no longer influence you.
If you pursue God and allow the things of God to influence you, then you will thrive in His Kingdom. This point goes back to the previous point about influence. Your life will go in the direction of the things you pursue. If you pursue fame and attention and money, then your life will be filled with self-absorption and materialism. Pursuing God means putting God and a godly lifestyle above everything else.
You should get a job. You should make an income. You should try to have and raise a godly family, but those things become idols when you pursue them above God. So, how do you pursue God?
Read the Word. After all, the Word is God (see John 1:1). The Bible is His Living Word, and if we want to get to know Him more, we should read it every day. Don’t just read it, though. Study the Word. Pray the Word. And while you read the Word, journal. I have a journal set aside for Bible journaling, and when I open up the Word to begin my study time, I have the journal in one hand and the Bible in the other to write down thoughts, revelations, or specific verses while I’m reading. This is a pretty common and simple concept, but it is vital to understanding His Word more and committing key scriptures and biblical principles to memory.
When you pursue God, He will open up His Word to you and welcome you into a deeper relationship with Him.
“Draw night to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
James 4:8 (KJV)
We exist to worship our Creator, have a relationship with Him, and reach the lost. When we make living for God and growing His kingdom our purpose and top priority in life, then we will be too busy to become enamored with the distractions of the world. We will struggle with our flesh every day, but there are things we can do to become purpose-driven in the kingdom.
Be involved in your church. Help with the media team. Be part of the music team. Teach Sunday or Wednesday school. Clean the church. Contribute to your church’s social media page by taking pictures. Help in the kitchen. Go to outreach functions. Invite your friends and coworkers to church and special events. Go to special events yourself rather than skipping them because it’s your Friday night. Teach Bible studies. (Lord knows, we should all be doing more, especially on that last one, including yours truly.)
Whatever it is, be active in your church and be active in the kingdom of God. We find our identity in Christ, and when we make His mission ours, then our purpose will become clear.
Each of these four concepts is essential to thriving and growing in God’s kingdom. So, in order for you to apply these to your life, here are some questions you might ask:
Out of these four points (transparency, influence, pursuit, purpose), is there one or more that are lacking in my life?
What am I doing or what can I do to address this issue?
This was the title of Rev. Victor Jackson’s Friday night message at Missouri Youth Convention a couple of weeks ago. At every youth convention, congress, or camp, there are always powerful messages from anointed preachers. Through each message, God ministers, and He moves. But there is always at least one message in particular that stands out. Everyone has their own “favorite” message that spoke to them in particular. Well, ever since the Friday night service of Missouri Youth Convention, I’ve been thinking about Bro. Jackson’s message on growth.
Growth has been a topic I’ve thought about often over the years as God has helped me navigate various life struggles and situations. So, for today’s post (which I know was supposed to go live yesterday—my apologies for the delay!), I wanted to share with you an extension of some of my notes from the message “Where Do We Grow From Here,” highlighting two principles of spiritual growth. Also, I do share post updates and topic ideas on my Instagram, so please be sure to go ahead and follow me there if you aren’t already so that you can find out when posts may be delayed or about upcoming topics. (You can find my Instagram account by clicking here.)
Without further delay, here are two principles of spiritual growth.
1. Don’t make a small start your identity.
Everybody’s gotta start somewhere, right? Whether it’s in your ministry or personal relationship with God, you must begin small. In order to grow your prayer life, for example, you may begin by praying 15 minutes a day consistently and extending that over time. As Victor Jackson said, however, “It is a blessing to begin small. It is a curse to end small.”
We should all start out at small beginnings, but that isn’t where we should end up.
We are meant to be producing spiritual fruit. An apple tree will not produce apples if it stays in the state of a small seed or the size of a twig. When we grow, we become stronger and produce spiritual fruit. The righteous man experiences spiritual growth like what the beginning of Psalms describes when comparing the godly versus the ungodly:
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Psalms 1:3 (KJV)
2. Don’t put limits on your elevation.
People often limit how you can grow. As soon as God starts using you more and growing your ministry, there are people who judge you. They place limits on how much a person can grow in his or her walk with God. We may even fall privy to the idea that we should only grow to a certain extent and no further so as to prevent others from believing we’re trying to make everything about ourselves or to try to prevent ourselves from becoming prideful. So, we stay small and claim it’s out of humility.
Humility is an essential attribute of a true Christian character, but Bro. Jackson pointed out that we are not meant to use our humility as an excuse to remain small and refuse to grow into what God wants us to be.
“Humility is not a destination; it is an attitude,” he explained. “If you don’t want to grow, your humility in remaining small just became disobedience. Obedience is a pathway. You’re supposed to be going and growing. Get to growing and knowing this is what the kingdom is.”
Indeed, spiritual growth is about letting God use you more in the ways that He wants to so that His Kingdom can grow through each of our efforts. That’s why we should teach more Bible studies, pray more, fast more, become more involved in ministry, and do all that He asks us to do. As we mature in Christ and grow, we become more well-rounded Christians and more effective in ministry and in the Kingdom.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8 (KJV)
Follow after God’s direction in your life, and you will grow. Spiritual growth is stunted when you stop putting effort into your ministry and walk with God. A lack of effort leads to a lack of growth, and a lack of growth leads to spiritual death.
We must always be striving to do more for the Kingdom, more for God, more for others, more in our ministry, and more than we’ve done yesterday and ever before in order to reach this lost world and get closer to Jesus. We cannot forsake the importance of growing in every aspect of our lives.
So, I have this need. A time-sensitive need. It’s one of those needs that you try not to worry about too much, but as the days go by and nothing changes, you start to worry a lot.
“God,” I say, “I have this need. Now, You know I have this need, and I know You know that, so if You could maybe speed up Your need-fulfilling machine and meet this need ASAP, that would take a load off my mind. We’re dealing with a time-sensitive issue here, and the funny thing about time is that it’s always running out. Right, God? God? Is this thing on?”
I scratch my head and wring my hands and ramble on and on until all I can think about for the next hour and day and week is that one need that keeps coming closer to its deadline.
And then I read Matthew chapter 6, and I realize God is speaking to me:
(30) “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? (31) Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (32) (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. (33) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
From these verses, God reminds me, and us, that we need not allow worry over our needs to consume our thoughts. Sometimes, we prioritize our cares on earth over Kingdom concerns too much.
What should we do?
We should seek first the Kingdom of God and trust that God will meet our needs. My Apostolic Study Bible explains it as actively pursuing the Kingdom while passively expecting the meeting of our needs.
Indeed, Matthew 6 says it perfectly as well. If God takes care of His creation, then how much more will He care for His children? For He knows our needs. And so we should not busy ourselves with overloaded concern for our own selves. Rather, we should busy ourselves with His Kingdom.
Prioritizing trust in Him breeds more trust in Him and the assurance that God will take care of us no matter what life throws our way.
I may still have a need, as do we all, but I also have the promise that my Savior who knows my need is working on my behalf and will come through for me at precisely the right moment.
If we are faithful to Him, then He will provide for all our needs in this life, for the righteous are not forsaken.