What Does “Jesus Over Everything” Mean?

“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.”

Psalm 139:23-24 KJV

2 Reasons Why You Can’t Hear God’s Voice

Are you paying attention?

We all experience moments when we wonder why we can’t hear the voice of God in our lives. Prayer is two-way communication—our prayers going up to God and His voice coming down to us. Just like in any relationship, there can’t be any development when only one person talks the entire time and the other person only ever listens. We must give space for God to speak to us in our lives. Sometimes, however, we may still feel unable to hear Him or connect with His voice.

What’s wrong with me? you may wonder. Has God left me? Am I all alone? Does God hate me?

The answer may not seem so, but it is simple. No, God hasn’t left you, for He never leaves nor forsakes us. No, God doesn’t hate you, for nothing can separate you from His unending love for you. Today, we’re going to look at two simple reasons why you may not be able to hear the voice of God in your life.

But first, let’s check out the text for today’s blog post:

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:”

Romans 1:1-4 (KJV)

Now, you might be wondering what this passage has to do with hearing God’s voice. Bear with me a moment as we begin with the first thing that can block you from hearing God.

1) Distractions – Too Much Noise

Have you ever been praying somewhere in your house away from your family when suddenly you hear them stomping around in the hallway or kitchen, seemingly banging on pots and pans like wild chimpanzees? The noise becomes so distracting that it pulls you away from your thoughts and focus on God until all you can think about is how annoying your family is. It’s hard to get back into focused prayer when there’s a lot of noise going on. It’s hard to listen to what God is saying when your thoughts are somewhere else.

In the beginning of Romans, we read that the prophecy of Jesus Christ and his death, burial, and resurrection were revealed to the prophets of the Old Testament. Verse 2 states that God promised this “afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures.” This shows that God is in communication with His people and that He gave us the promise of deliverance and salvation. Unfortunately, there are always those who are not paying attention to the prophecy.

People who are paying attention when God speaks will receive the promise and His blessings. People who are paying attention act on the promise and become messengers of the Gospel. Others do not receive because they are too distracted with other voices in the world—noises like the lies the enemy tells them or the sounds of society’s praise when they give into the pressure to embrace the lifestyle of the world that will only lead them to destruction and emptiness.

What sounds are you allowing to distract you from hearing God? Are you struggling with depression and the voice of the enemy lying to you, telling you that you can’t be used of God, that God doesn’t love you anymore, that you’ve gone too far from His presence? Are you investing more of your time in entertainment, social media, or fitting in with your friends or coworkers who don’t live for God? Are you weary and burdened with financial struggles, relationship problems, or a busy schedule? Are you constantly worried about political issues and the direction society is headed?

Whatever issue you might be facing, you allow it to prevent you from hearing God’s voice when you give more space in your mind to those thoughts than to thoughts that please God.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Philippians 4:8 (KJV)

When your thoughts become too distracted, try this exercise: write down one thing for each description in Philippians 4:8 (something that is true, something that is honest, something that is just, etcetera) that counters your negative, distracted thoughts and then take some time to praise God for His goodness. You might find that this will help you focus your mind on Him so that you can tune into His voice.

2) Denial – “That Wasn’t God”

Another reason people do not hear the voice of God is that they are in denial.

God told people about His coming through prophecies, but many did not believe that Jesus was the Christ. Even though God speaks to and through His people of His plans and of salvation, there will still be those who are not moved and who do not believe. Instead, they deny the truth and dismiss His voice.

You’ve heard the saying, “the truth hurts.” The truth in Scripture and God’s words do hurt the flesh, the carnal nature that only wants to please itself. The voice of God may seem inconvenient to the flesh, depriving many of getting something their flesh wants or shining a light on things in their life that they’ve kept hidden from others.

For those who choose the way of the world, the truth is not convenient. The coming of Jesus Christ and His words brought the sins of many pious Jews to light. Not only did they ignore prophecy, but they sought to kill Jesus.

For those who prefer to listen to the voice of their flesh, the voice of God isn’t comfortable. The disciples were focused on their own desires in seeing the Romans overthrown and reestablishing the kingdom of Israel, and the truth that Jesus didn’t come for that reason was hard for them to accept. Matthew 16:22 states that Peter began to rebuke Jesus for saying He would be killed:

“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go into Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day, then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”

Matthew 16:21-23 (KJV)

Jesus called Peter “Satan” for denying the truth and savoring, or entertaining, the things of man, or of the flesh. Jesus has called us to instead deny ourselves and follow Him (see Matthew 16:24).

Often in our lives, we might hear the truth or the voice of God, and because we are feeding our flesh too much, we deny that it’s the truth. We deny that we really heard from God. Have you ever felt conviction when your Pastor was preaching or during prayer and then immediately thought, “That wasn’t for me. That wasn’t God?”

The more we deny the truth, the more we delay His promise. The more we fill our minds with noise, the more we forget what His voice sounds like. We are called to be ambassadors and messengers of the truth to this lost world. Through Christ, we are more than conquerors of the struggles that we may face. We have a purpose and a promise.

Don’t let distractions and denial keep you from receiving that promise of salvation and walking in His purpose and calling for your life. Jesus is calling you to something greater than you could ever imagine. His thoughts and ways are higher than ours.

It’s time to turn off the noise, deny the flesh, and tune into the voice of the Lord.

The Freedom We Take For Granted

Today marks 246 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence when America declared its freedom and independence. Since that day, the United States has stood as a beacon of liberty and hope for people across the world. We’re a blessed nation with countless freedoms many other nations don’t have the privilege to enjoy, but one of our most important freedoms is often taken for granted—the freedom to live for God.

The U.S. has religious liberty, so we can choose to serve and worship however we want. There are many different observed religions in America from Christianity to Catholicism (yes, they’re different), from Judaism to Islam. We are free to worship as we please, which has, however, created a society that takes this freedom for granted.

Too many people are lazy and refuse to come to church every week. Too many people take the freedom to live for God for granted when there are many countries that do not allow its citizens to worship freely. Churches in many countries do not have the freedom to meet in public, and people are persecuted and murdered for worshipping Jesus Christ.

In contrast with persecuted Christians across the world, there are too many comfortable Americans who give God half-hearted worship. These people run after the world rather than God. Many Christians today think of church as a social club instead of the body of Christ. They disregard the mission to save souls, they use ministry as a launching pad for their carnal desires, and they participate only to perform rather than to serve.

Church has become a concert.

Servanthood has become an act.

What happens when the American society doesn’t take advantage of their God-given freedom, a freedom that men and women have fought and died to preserve? A 2020 Gallup poll revealed that only 47% of Americans said they belong to a church, and another poll revealed that the percentage of Americans who believe in God has dropped to 81%. This may still seem like a high percentage, but it is down from 87% in a 2017 poll, and it is the lowest number of the past 80 years.

Young people are leaving church left and right. Adults get offended and quit church. The online church culture has seeped in and created a group of so-called Christians who take advantage of online services every time they are tired, had a long week, stayed out too late on a Saturday night, or simply just don’t feel like going to church.

If you don’t fight for freedom, the enemy will defeat you. We have to fight our flesh to exercise the freedom to worship and live for God. We cannot procrastinate on living for God.

Don’t let freedom to live for God make you a lazy Christian. Don’t let laziness rob you of a relationship with God. Don’t let comfort keep you from pursuing God. Don’t let convenience prevent you from being active in the Kingdom of God. Don’t let procrastination pull you from your purpose.

Instead, let freedom embolden you to dive deeper into your relationship with Jesus. Let the ability to meet in a church building every Sunday and Wednesday compel you to be more active in ministry and servanthood. Let the opportunities and resources that God has given you drive you to reach others with the Gospel.

In Galatians, Paul spoke of not being entangled with the yoke of bondage but instead of standing fast “in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Galatians 5:1). Many Galatians wanted to return to the Mosaic Law. They preferred tradition—comfort or convenience, if you will—over following Christ’s teachings. The Law did not make them righteous or justified, however. It is only through Christ and His death and resurrection that we were justified and made free, and we cannot take this freedom we have in Christ lightly.

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

Galatians 5:13 (KJV)

Not only is it our God-given right to serve Him freely, but it is our duty to use the liberty that we have to love and serve others and to reach them with the Gospel of Christ.

Today, more than ever, we must take advantage of the freedom we have to worship God and give Him everything we have because He’s given us as Americans everything we need—a path to salvation (see Acts 2) and a free country. We as a nation must turn back to God and grow the Church.

May God bless you and your family and church, and may God bless America!

Happy Independence Day!

4 Tips to Thrive in God’s Kingdom: Notes from Missouri Youth Camp

Photo cred: MO Youth Facebook page

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.

1. Transparency

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.

2. Influence

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.

3. Pursuit

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)

4. Purpose

“Your hands need to be so full of purpose that you have no room to reach for anything else.”

Mike McGurk

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?

2 Principles of Spiritual Growth

Where do we grow from here?

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.

“If you’re not growing, you’re living outside of God’s purpose for your life.”

Victor Jackson

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.

“You were destined to grow. You were destined to go beyond.”

Victor Jackson

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.

We were destined to grow.

The Temporal vs The Eternal: Tuning Out the World and Tuning into the Spirit

Hollywood held the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony this Sunday, but not many tuned in to see it. In fact, recent polls reveal that the majority of Americans have not even seen or heard of any of the films nominated at the Oscars. This is, of course, very good news.

Ten-plus years ago, I remember hearing of the films that won awards at the Oscars and being somewhat familiar with them. Back then, I watched the short clips of humorous moments that had happened at the ceremony that were still family friendly and did not alienate half of the country because of different values and beliefs. Things are very different now, and the polls that show most Americans did not watch the Oscars or the nominated films may be a sign that the culture of celebrity worship is dying as the average American is more concerned with keeping their job during the pandemic and spending time with their family.

So, why is the tuning out of Hollywood significant for us as Christians?

Because it’s an indicator that many more conservative, centrist, and/or Christian Americans are waking up to what truly matters in our life: the physical, mental, and yes, spiritual wellbeing of ourselves and our families.

One writer on Facebook wrote about how refreshing it is that Hollywood is becoming completely irrelevant to Americans. Many no longer look to the Oscars for entertainment or obsess over films and celebrities that took home several awards.

Instead, they go to work, take their kids to the park, attend church on Sunday, and completely forget that the Oscars were even coming up or happened at all.

This is a sign that our lives truly do not and should not revolve around materialism, consumerism, and temporal things, such as Hollywood, in order for our lives to be fulfilling and purposeful.

Indeed, it is true that the more we spend time in God’s presence and reading His Word, the more we feel fulfilled in Him. The more we focus on living a life that is pleasing to God, the more we invest in our eternity with Him, and the more we tune out the distractions of this world, the more our purpose will come into focus and the more our lives will become balanced and our minds at peace.

“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

Matthew 24:35 (KJV)

The decline of Hollywood and celebrity worship culture should inspire us to keep our minds and affection set on things above. Nothing in this world will remain, which means that nothing in this world is worth sacrificing eternity in Heaven with our King Jesus. When we tune into the Spirit, then we can understand the importance of investing in things eternal over things temporal.

Robert Frost wrote a famous poem in 1923 called “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” essentially about the fleeting and fading nature of life. Part of the poem reads, “Then leaf subsides to leaf/so Eden sank to grief/So dawn goes down to day/Nothing gold can stay.” Frost was referring to the golden buds or flowers on trees that turn to leaves before withering away and to the idea that nothing beautiful or seemingly innocent will last. Our lives are but a vapor, after all.

The gold in Frost’s poem takes on a new meaning when thinking of the Oscars. The awards celebrities give themselves take the form of literal golden statues, but each award becomes irrelevant by the time the next awards season rolls around, and they gather again in hopes of receiving yet another award. You see, when you tune into materialism and gorge yourself with a worldly appetite, the accolades and praise from society’s echo chamber become shallow, unsatisfying, and meaningless. When you fail to invest in the Kingdom, life becomes hollow. You lose out on what truly matters, and your spiritual wellbeing falls into decay just like the grass that withers and the flower that fades.

“When you tune into materialism and gorge yourself with a worldly appetite, the accolades and praise from society’s echo chamber become shallow, unsatisfying, and meaningless.”

Hollywood is fleeting. The films they make are not forever. Their fame, fortune, and success will not last.

But the things of God will stand forever while the things of this world will pass away.

So, to those investing more in temporal things and to those in Hollywood obsessed with acquiring their collection of awards, I say: remember—nothing gold can stay.

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.”

Matthew 6:19-20 (KJV)

“Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Colossians 3:2 (KJV)

2 Truths and a Lie: Easter Edition

The cross at Calvary sits between the crosses of the two criminals crucified with Jesus.

Resurrection Sunday is less than one week away, and while we’ll be celebrating the resurrection of our King Jesus, there are still so many who will be celebrating Easter as a fun spring holiday about egg hunts and Easter bunnies.

Now, I love the fun aspects of Easter (like egg hunts, special chocolates, and picnics), but Easter is, of course, not about those things in the same way Christmas is not about receiving gifts or simply gathering with family.

It’s all about Jesus.

Sadly, there are many who forget that. There are many who fail to recognize the significance of this holiday, perhaps because they have fallen away from serving God or because no one has reached them with the truth. There are many forms of “truth” roaming around, especially around religious holidays, and there are many lies that distract people from focusing on the truth.

Today, we’ll focus on one lie that the enemy tells to keep people from finding Jesus and two truths that disprove this lie.

The lie: the days of New Testament miracles and spiritual gifts are over.

This is called cessationism, which is the belief “that spiritual gifts ceased after the closing of the biblical canon” (Apostolic Study Bible). Of course, we know this is a lie due to the truths below.

1. Jesus Christ is alive, and so are supernatural gifts and miracles!

Jesus Christ was crucified but rose again and reigns today. If He is alive, and His power still exists, then so do the miracles, signs, and wonders that all stem from His power.

Through the Holy Ghost, we have the power to reach the lost, tread on serpents, discern spirits, prophesy, and interpret tongues among many other things (see Acts 1:8, Luke 10:19, and 1 Corinthians 12). The fact that God’s people can pray for the sick and they be healed and that God’s people can rebuke spirits and perform other miracles is the evidence of Christ’s reigning power and presence.

Jesus is still performing New Testament miracles through His people, which brings us to the second truth.

2. Jesus Christ is still raising people from the dead.

Yes, that means both physically and spiritually. A person can suffer two deaths: physical and spiritual, but the spiritual takes place before the physical. While a physical death does not necessarily resign a person to eternal death (hell), a spiritual death can lead to eternal death if left untreated.

But our God does not abandon the weary, the broken, or the spiritually dead.

When I was struggling with the darkest depression I had ever experienced, I worried I was lost. I worried that there was no way out of that seemingly endless pit because I couldn’t see it. A mix of various emotions consumed me—grief, bitterness, despair, hopelessness. I found myself in a dry wilderness where there was no life and no peace.

But God breathed new life into me.

Through a series of sermons, He began to speak life into me again. After studying certain Scriptures, I began to feel His love and mercy again. After calling out to Him on several occasions, I began to get closer to Him than I had been before, and He brought me out of darkness into His light.

He renewed me. He resurrected me.

If He did it for me, He can do it for you.

Those are the truths we must remember, especially as we celebrate His Resurrection.

Jesus Christ is still on the throne.

He is still healing the sick.

He is still mending broken souls.

He is still saving the lost.

He is still reviving the dead.

He is still moving, and He is not done.

For our God is alive!

Happy Easter, everyone! Thank God for His blood that He shed to cover our sins and give us the chance at eternal life with Him!

I pray you all have a wonderful time celebrating our risen King this Resurrection Sunday!

“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said….”

Matthew 28:5-6a (KJV)

3 Scriptures to Speak Over Anxiety

Anxiety

What will the future hold?

That’s a question we often ask ourselves when life seems more uncertain than usual.

Bills pile up. We’re saving for trips, home maintenance, or a new home or car. We’ve got work and school responsibilities, or we’re in need of a job or financial blessing. It seems we often waste our days away in nervous expectancy for what won’t or could happen. But that’s not what God wants for us.

Anxiety can absolutely consume our thoughts and affect our physical health. I sometimes get more stressed just thinking about stress, and then I try to put away all those things causing me anxiety, which causes me more stress because I know they’re still out there.

For those who struggle with anxiety, overcoming our worries often involves a process of reminding ourselves throughout each day that God knows what we’re going through and has a plan for us. He is our Provider and Comfort.

If you’re battling anxiety, here are 3 passages of scripture to study and speak over your fears so that the Lord can calm the troubled thoughts within your busy mind and speak peace over the storm in your life:

(8) I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
(9) Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
(10) Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.
~Psalms 32:8-10 (KJV)

(3) Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
(4) Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:
~Isaiah 26:3-4 (KJV)

(6) Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
(7) And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:6-7 (KJV)

Our God has a plan for each of us. He is faithful, and He never fails.

No matter what you’re facing, rest assured that He is right there with you.

He will guide you.

He will keep you.

He will give you peace.

Setting the Right Goals in 2021

2021 is finally here, and many are already starting on those special resolutions they’ve set for themselves, but before you start on your new resolutions, here’s something you might consider:

Don’t.

Seriously, don’t make any resolutions. Instead, make goals, and instead of making goals that are glorified resolutions, strive to set goals for yourself that are practical and have a real purpose to them.

For example, I once set a goal at the beginning of a new year to exercise to a specific workout video every day. I did it for about a week, and then I began skipping a few days here and there. Those few days turned into an entire week, and before January was over, I’d completely abandoned my new year challenge.

“Well, that’s just you,” you might say.

Maybe that is just me. Maybe I have a deeper passion for delicious food than taking up running marathons, but maybe many of us have the habit of setting goals for ourselves out of flimsy desires that are simply unrealistic.

But I learned some time ago to choose a specific goal for which I had a passion and burden, and I developed a few steps to achieving success in completing said goal.

1. Start small.

Last year, I decided to study the Word more, so rather than commit right away to analyzing Isaiah or Revelations in depth, I chose one of my favorite shorter books—Esther. I knew it would be a book that I could easily commit to studying due to its short length (only 10 chapters), and I chose to read a few verses each day and study those verses only.

2. Set time aside each day.

I made a schedule to read Esther over the course of several weeks and estimated the time I would spend each day reading the verses and then set time aside to study each verse individually, taking notes and using Bible study tools to help me.

At the same time, I’d made a goal to pray more, so I set a realistic time to pray each morning. The set time sometimes changed, depending on the day of the week, but I knew that specifically writing down my goals and the time I would set aside for them would help me achieve them.

3. Gradually increase time allotted each day and effort necessary to complete the goal.

After about a week, I gradually began to increase how much time I spent in prayer. Sometimes, it was by five minutes or by ten minutes or by fifteen minutes, but the more I prayed and focused on prayer, the easier I found it was to increase my prayer time.

4. Approach with firm resolve and understanding—don’t quit.

I didn’t always pray as long as I needed to or study for as long as I could have, but I didn’t give up. Why? Why didn’t I give up the same way I gave up exercising to that new exercise video after a couple of weeks? Because I didn’t set a goal that was only linked to fleeting desires or insecurities. Instead, I made sure to set a goal linked to my own identity and lifestyle. I am a child of God, an Apostolic Pentecostal, and as such, I seek a stronger relationship with God through prayer and studying His Word. I understood the value of the goal I set.

When I failed one day to meet my goal, I began again the next day with a resolve to try harder and do better. By the end of the year, I’d managed to read through and study more of the Word, such as the book of Genesis and themes like comfort. Because I didn’t give up or revert to doing the “same-ole-same-ole,” I was able to reach a breakthrough in my prayers and spend more time in His Presence, getting closer to Him than I’d been before.

Don’t underestimate the importance of writing down your goals and setting schedules.

I’m a visual person, anyway, so putting down my goals and plans on paper helps solidify them in my mind and helps me take those goals seriously.

Your goals don’t have to be big, but your passion does.

If you don’t truly, really, deeply care for achieving your goals deep, deep down, then chances are you’ll give up on them.

After 2020 let down many people, I believe it’s acceptable to set small, realistic goals for 2021—something simple like spending more quality time with loved ones or taking a short vacation (or even staycation) that was cancelled last year due to lockdowns.

2021 will certainly be better than 2020 if we set that as a goal for ourselves and charge forward in faith and with purpose. We have an entire year ahead of us, and we can’t control what happens outside of ourselves. But we can control our determination.

Let’s do this, 2021!

Why Things Happen

Why?

This may be the question we ask God the most. Why did “x” have to happen? Why couldn’t I have gotten that job? Why did you let me fail that test when I studied so hard? Why did so-and-so have to die? Why are you letting bad things happen to me? Why, why, why?

We wonder, we fret, we pity ourselves, and we ask “why, God?” until our eyes are swollen, and depression consumes our spirit. We see through a glass darkly, so we sometimes cannot see that there is always a purpose behind our pain. Ah, yes—the statement no one wants to hear when they’re going through something, but we humans often only learn things the hard way, especially young adults, and our struggles exist to make us stronger if for no other reason.

Physical pain can be a good thing. It tells us that something is wrong and that we may need medical attention. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I never felt a literal pain as in aching bones, but I felt a mental pain. I was fatigued and nauseous (among other things), and the very sight of my weary self signaled to others, like the receptionist at urgent care, that something was wrong with me. Miserable is the word I typically use to describe how I felt then, but if I hadn’t felt that way, I might not have known for quite some time that I had diabetes. My pain served a purpose, but it’s often emotional pain that is the hardest to see through and understand.

During and after the spring semester in 2018, I felt an emotional and spiritual exhaustion that threw me out of sorts, and it set me on a path to realign my focus. I had just entered a four-year university to get my bachelor’s degree, and the shift in the atmosphere from a small community college to a very liberal university was palpable. All semester, I was stressed from classwork that involved treating subjective, liberal studies as legitimate, evidence-based coursework, which greatly conflicted with my conservative and Christian beliefs. But I felt an exhaustion deeper than simple stress due to papers and exams, and it escalated that summer.

Never before had I been tired literally every day. It is an understatement to say that I slept a lot. Practically all I wanted to do was sleep, and when I wasn’t sleeping, I was tired and disturbed in my spirit. I loathed college—loathed it—for the atmosphere and for its inefficient system, and I knew I simply couldn’t continue college past a bachelor’s degree to get two master’s degrees (long story there, but that’s where I was headed) in order to teach college English and write professionally. I was done. I was miserable. I was lost. It’s only now after having finally finished college that I have come to truly appreciate the experience for what it taught me and how it helped me grow.

After realizing I didn’t want to continue the path to becoming a full-time English professor in this liberal society, I prayed (a lot), and I looked to different avenues. I made an alternate plan to apply for work at a local publishing company after graduation, but then COVID happened. The company went on a hiring freeze. Great. I scoured the internet for job openings in editing, tutoring, and copywriting, and by the grace of God, I found a company that was hiring part-time tutors. The future is still uncertain, but all of my searching and pain and misery and growth has helped me grasp a simple concept that I hadn’t realized I didn’t truly “get” until I went through something difficult: trust God.

Sometimes, we don’t truly understand a concept or truth until we have no other choice but to embrace it head on. C.S. Lewis once said that “God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.” Of course, having grown up in church, I’ve always known we should trust in God to guide us through life, but somehow, I’d formed my own contingency plans for everything to get where I wanted and expected everything to work out as I planned—until it didn’t. I can look back now at all those moments I was worried and miserable and exhausted to my core and understand that God let me go through those things to teach me that no matter what happens in my life, I still need to trust in Him and let Him take the reigns of my life, that I need to believe it’s okay when things don’t go my way, that if something tragic happens, I am going to make it as long as I trust in Him.

I still wonder why things happen sometimes. But now I understand that I am not alone in whatever trial I’m going through. Whatever happens—no matter what happens—I can rest in the assurance I have in Jesus. It’s okay to be not okay. It’s okay to wonder about why things happen, because in those moments, God fills me with His Peace and whispers, “trust me,” and He draws me closer to Him than I’ve been before.