Waiting for a Greater Miracle

The waiting room is an anxious place to be.

You’re wondering when something might come, if it even will, or what that something may turn out to be. And it isn’t easy to be there for a long time. Most of us know at least a little of what that’s like, and the longer you’re in the waiting room, the more it seems that the something you’re waiting for will never happen. You watch the clock, your mind on the deadline, but your miracle and answered prayer doesn’t appear to be any closer to becoming reality.

But our God is the God of the eleventh hour. He is the God of the midnight hour.

I know a little bit about waiting.

I waited and waited and waited for a full-time job for over a year. I desperately applied at countless places. When I finally snagged an interview for my dream job, I believed the deal was sealed, and my miracle was in the bag. After all, it was what I’d been praying for and what I was hoping would happen for months.

I didn’t get the job.

When it seemed like I had no other options and all hope was lost, God granted me a midnight-hour miracle. And it was greater than what I had expected all because if I had gotten the other job, I may have thought that it was partly because of my “qualifications,” my “experience,” my “perfect” interview. God blessed me with a job I desperately needed, and He did so in a way that proved that it was only because of Him, not me.

Sometimes, we need to hang on to hope for a greater, midnight-hour miracle.

Lazarus was sick and dying, and Jesus could have healed him when he was just sick, but Jesus waited. And it was after Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days that Jesus arrived and raised Lazarus up (see John 11). Jesus performed an ever greater miracle.

When your miracle seems dead, He can resurrect the promise. He can bring back hope when it seems lost.

I love the line from the Elevation Worship song “Welcome Resurrection” (linked here) that goes, “He’s still the resurrection even when the tomb is sealed!”

This is why we can’t give up in the waiting room or even in the eleventh hour. And even as midnight passes, we must keep believing for a greater miracle than before. With greater miracles comes greater testimonies, greater praise, and greater faith. We are in need of a revival of greater miracles, but the good news is that our God is the God of greater. He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think according to His power that works in us!

While you’re waiting, keep praying, keep living for God, keep fasting, keep giving, keep going to church, and keep giving Him your all.

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”

Ephesians 3:20 KJV

A Tale of Four Teens: How Committed to Christ Are You?

The youth respond in an altar call at a youth rally at the Apostolic New Testament Church in Mount Vernon, MO. (Photo courtesy of the Apostolic New Testament Church Facebook page.)

How much do you want to live for the Lord, really?

There’s a group of 4 teens. We’ll call them Jane, Mary, Mark, and Joe.

Jane and Mary come into the church as young women. Jane goes all in. She studies the Word. She’s engaged in every church service, but Jane doesn’t just keep it to herself. She takes the Word with her and starts reaching her friends. She connects with the people at church, and the longer Jane attends, the more she seeks after God at home. Jane gives God her all, and she reaches her full potential in Christ, living for Him and making an impact on those around her to grow the Kingdom. Mary chooses to keep a door open to the influence of the world. She doesn’t close every door to her past. And because Mary keeps that door open, she doesn’t receive a full understanding of what it means to live for Jesus. After a few months, she leaves church altogether and goes back to the world.

Mark and Joe were both raised in church. As Mark grows up in church, he falls in love with the Word, developing a walk with God from a young age. He seeks after God every day. He dives deeper in Bible studying and fasting. He tells others about Christ. He gets involved in ministry. Because Mark stays connected to the body and grows closer to God as he grows older, he remains steadfast in the faith and in living for God. But Joe takes it all for granted. Sure, he goes to church every week, and sure, he seems to walk the walk and talk the talk, but he opens a door to worldly influences. It’s all in good fun, he thinks. Church becomes just a social club to Joe. He falls in love with the world rather than the Word. And soon, Joe leaves God and church behind, thinking he doesn’t need God anymore.

You might think this is a rather generic, simplified tale of four teens, but I’ve seen each of these scenarios play out with young people in the church. Too many young people or new people in Christ take living for God for granted. Too many take His mercy for granted.

Oh, God loves me anyway, they think, so I can just do whatever I want.

They seek instant gratification over self-sanctification. They seek worldliness over holiness.

But we must seek God while we can, especially when we are young, be it young in age or young in Christ. Don’t wait until you are older to take God seriously.

I wish I had read the Word more fervently when I was a teenager. I wish I had prayed more earnestly then.

Young person, study the Word every day. And I mean, study it. Don’t just read a few verses of Psalms at the beginning or end of the day, mark it off your Bible reading chart, and call it good. Invest your time in the Word. Read a chapter and then write down what it means. What is God saying to you through His Word? How can you apply it to your life? Likewise, don’t just say a few words of prayer and then be done with it for the day. Seek Him in the morning. Set time aside later in the day as well to spend more time with Him. Don’t rush through your prayer time. It takes time to develop a relationship with Him.

Get involved in your church. Use your social media page to promote church and living for God. Tell your friends about the Gospel. Vest yourself to the Kingdom of God. Make Jesus and the Kingdom your priority in life now while you are young.

I’ve seen too many teenagers come into church and leave the door open to past influences or get offended and return to the world. They go back to the world more devoted to sinful lifestyles than before. I’ve seen too many young people who were raised in church never really take it that seriously or become personally involved in a relationship with Christ and with the church, and at the first real struggle in life, they abandon God and the body of Christ. And they turn to the world, allowing drugs, bitterness, and impurity to consume them.

Don’t take living for God for granted. God didn’t put you on this planet to waste your life away on frivolous pursuits. God comes first. Reaching the lost should be your top priority. Getting closer to Him should be your daily focus.

Every so often, we all need to do a heart alignment check. What am I focusing on most? How often am I spending time with God? Have I been applying His Word to my life? Have I been invested in every service or distracted? Am I vested to the cause of Christ?

Being vested means to have a right of ownership that is not conditional. We must not be just invested in living for God and reaching the lost, but we must take ownership of our part in His Kingdom. We must fully commit to and take responsibility for the role we have, living wholeheartedly for Jesus and giving up ourselves to bring more souls to salvation.

There’s a song by Gas Street Music (linked here) that goes, “Every idol, hit the ground/Cause there’s only space for Jesus/When He clears the temple out/So turn the tables upside down/This is my surrender/Only one King to be crowned.” Make God the center of your daily life.

How much do you want to live for the Lord, really?

Jesus is calling you to a closer, deeper walk with Him. Will you answer?

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

Revelation 3:20 KJV

On Anger and Forgiveness

They hurt you.

Maybe they meant to. But it’s hard to move on and forgive when they seem to forget all about you. Or maybe they didn’t mean to, but it doesn’t matter. You can’t forget. And so you remember, and you seethe, and you stew, hoping someday they’ll get what’s coming to them. And the years pass on your anger, but nothing seems to change. Their life moves on, and you find yours does, too. And all that’s left is the semblance of anger turned to indifference.

Yes, they hurt you, but who cares about them, anyway? They’ll pay. Indifference turns to pride, pride to arrogance, arrogance to vengeance.

But vengeance only belongs to the Lord.

I’ve learned a lot over the past few years about forgiveness.

When I was going through a struggle and believed someone had wronged me, I wanted vengeance. I wanted to see them crumble. My circumstance made me believe they were my enemy, and how could I hope that anything good could happen for them? How could I want them to be successful? How could I want anything but destruction for them?

Well, I was wrong.

Let go and let God. It’s a cliché these days, but it’s exactly what you need to do when you believe someone has wronged you. Maybe they did. Maybe they really hurt you, but for your sake, you have to forgive and let God take care of it. It isn’t a matter of, “well, what if they don’t get punished?” If a wrong has truly been committed, rest assured, God will take care of it either now or on judgment day. But you should hope that that person gets right and is forgiven for what they’ve done because you shouldn’t want anyone to have to suffer for eternity.

They’re only human, after all. Like you. How many mistakes have you made in your life? And how many times have you asked God to forgive you? And yet you want to hold a mistake over another’s head?

Forgive them.

Jesus taught Peter what forgiveness really is about in Matthew 18.

“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”

Matthew 18:21-22 KJV

Of course, Jesus did not mean for Peter or anyone to literally count up to 490 until they could stop forgiving a person for wrongdoing. It’s not about the numbers or keeping track. It’s about always having a spirit of forgiveness.

“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:”

Ephesians 4:26 KJV

Anger is not sinful in itself, and it is okay to be upset when someone wrongs you, but holding onto hurt and anger leads to bitterness.

I had a conversation once with someone about an offence that was believed to have taken place. This person told me they had begun to pray for the one who had allegedly committed the offence and that they had told another confidant about it. They relayed to me that the confidant had allegedly asked them, “Why would you pray for them to be blessed? They’re your enemy.”

Whether this was truly said or not, it was the wrong sentiment about such a situation. You shouldn’t want anyone to have to suffer or possibly spend eternity in hell. When someone hurts you, pray for them. If they’ve truly done wrong, pray that God changes them and that they receive His forgiveness for what they’ve done.

“But I say unto you which I hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”

Luke 6:27-28 KJV

This passage in Luke 6 and the subsequent verses are a great study on the spirit of forgiveness. It takes strength to truly forgive someone who has hurt you, but the more you do it, the more Christlike you will become. The more you forgive, the more your love for people will grow. You’ll begin to understand people better. You’ll begin to truly care about people more. We are to be merciful as He is merciful (see Luke 6:36). When someone hurts you, give yourself time to sort through your anger maturely and privately, and then forgive.

Love people even when it’s hard. Let God change their heart and yours. Let God handle the offence. And let the matter go.

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Ephesians 4:31-32 KJV

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

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.

How to Study the Word More Thoroughly: The Re-Reading Method

Hey, BPR readers! As you’re reading this (that is, if you’re reading this on Friday, April 15, 2022), I am at Missouri Youth Convention with our church youth group where young people across the state of Missouri are worshipping God together, receiving the Holy Ghost, and hearing anointed messages from the Lord for their lives.  As such, today’s post is a bit simpler, but I hope you find it helpful!

Today, we’ll be diving into one Bible study method I’ve been using that’s helped me study the Word more thoroughly. One of our associate pastors at my church once mentioned the phrase “digging for diamonds” when mentioning Bible studying and how we ought to dig deep and truly search the Scriptures for understanding if we’re going to know the Word and draw closer to God.

I dubbed this Bible study method the “re-reading method.”

Read, then re-read, then re-read, and then re-read again.

That’s right. It seems like a pretty basic Bible study method. Just read the Word, right? Well, there’s a lot more to it than that. Last year, I read the Bible through, but I’ve always found it difficult to truly study the Word when I’m just trying to get through a certain number of chapters in a day so I can meet my goal.

So, this year, I’ve been reading through Romans, and I’m on my 3rd go-round now. The re-reading method involves at least 5 steps, but you can alter this to suit your style.

1) Read the book you’re focusing on straight through.

Yes, the first step is really that simple. Set a daily reading goal and read the book through within a week or a month.

2) Start from the beginning again, taking brief notes along the way this time.

The notes can be as simple as rephrasing a key verse in your own words that you want to highlight, jotting down a recurring theme or purpose, or noting how you can apply a verse to your life.

For example, when I went through Romans chapter 6 for the second time, I took these quick notes as I read verses 15-23: “Grace compels us to righteousness. The more God gives us grace and mercy, the more we want to live righteously for Him. As we grow in righteousness, it leads us to a greater desire to reflect His glory and Christ-like character.”

3) On the third read-through, take more time with each section of every chapter.

Write more thorough notes about what is going on in the chapter and how it relates to other verses, chapters, and concepts. I recommend using a concordance or the Apostolic Study Bible for this step as the footnotes and cross-references are great resources to study the Word more thoroughly.

When I read Romans chapter 6 for the third time, I took more detailed notes, referring to the footnotes in my study Bible for more information on the concepts of being dead to sin and living righteously.

4) On this read-through, study a collection of verses a day, whether it’s 4-8, and break down each verse.

I like to call this the word study. It’s a study of certain words that might stick out to you, for which you’ll need a Strong’s concordance or Bible dictionary to get to the root meaning of each word. On this step, you might write down how the original text’s definitions enrich and deepen our understanding of Scripture. By now, your notes will begin to build off each other from the previous read-throughs, resulting in a more layered Bible study approach.

5) Read through the book again using a related daily devotional or study book.

The final step in the re-reading method is optional, but it involves re-reading the book again but with a corresponding devotional or study book on the specific book you’re reading.

For example, I have a devotional from The Daily Grace Co on the book of Colossians that I’ve used to answer prompts about the verses as I read through the chapters. Reading someone else’s study of a particular book or passage in the Bible and using the prompts they give you can help you think more critically as you ponder how to respond to a prompt about applying a verse or concept to your daily life.

By the time you’ve finished with this method of Bible studying, you’ll have re-read the same book several times in a row, digging deeper into the Word each time and hopefully gaining a greater understanding of what God is telling us through His Word. If we are going to draw nearer to God and become who He wants us to be, we must study the Word – not merely read it each day to check off a box on a to-do list but really, truly, earnestly study the Word and search the Scriptures.

After all, Jesus is calling us to a deeper relationship with Him.

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”

Psalm 119:11 (KJV)

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

The Burning Bush Experience and Four Points of Reflections on Exodus 3:1-4: A Guest Post by Dr. Rafael Machuca

Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.

Exodus 3:1-4 (KJV)

1. Stay faithful in the things of God.

As the above passage of scripture opens, we find Moses traveling to the backside of the desert. He was traversing a hot, barren place alone, leaving behind him the comforts of home, companionship, and support. Regardless of his circumstances, Moses continued to faithfully take care of the flock that had been entrusted to him by his father-in-law. He was a support for his family even though it put him in a difficult situation. As he put the care of the flock before his own comfort, he was completely unaware that he would soon be called to lead God’s flock, the children of Israel.

Any time we do work for the church or support the leaders over us, it is important to remember to do it all unto God. It is not unusual to experience situations that make you feel like you are working alone in the desert. Maybe you are the only one showing up for prayer, willing to teach a Bible study, or participating in evangelism. It can be easy to wonder where everyone else is. If your eyes are not on the Lord, the work can become very wearisome in your own eyes. However, when you do it unto God, you can take comfort in knowing that God notices your hard work and determination. He knows exactly where you are and the work you are doing to further His kingdom.

2. God will utilize all parts of your life for His Glory.

The mountain Moses came to was called Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai. Even though Moses had been raised by Egyptians and then spent decades as a fugitive in the desert, God knew that every experience he had and every land he learned to traverse would be beneficial to help lead the children of Israel out of captivity. When God uses us, He does so knowing every past experience will become a skillset to be used in the future.

Do not let yourself believe you have no skills or talents to offer.

God can use your Bible quizzing experience, years of living faithfully, your secular work experience, and even the knowledge born out of learning from mistakes. The key is to give ourselves totally to God so He can use us for His purpose and His glory.

3. God uses your surroundings to get your attention.

A bush burning in the desert would not have been an unusual sight. It would have been easy for Moses to see the fire but shift his focus back on moving the flock away and continuing with his daily tasks.  However, he gave this situation enough attention to realize something was different, and doing so, he witnessed a “great sight.”

God used a seemingly normal occurrence to get Moses’ attention as he was going about his day. What in our surroundings is God trying to use to get our attention? It may be a situation at work or with family or friends. At first sight, everything may appear insignificant and normal. But further inspection may reveal the Lord at work getting our attention for a greater purpose.

4. When God calls, answer.

As Moses turned aside to witness the bush burning yet not being consumed, God had succeeded in getting his attention. However, the Lord’s intentions went far beyond that. God does not just want to get our attention. All who are willing to stop and turn toward God can have the opportunity to hear Him calling. It is a call filled with love and a purpose, and all who hear will get to choose if they are willing to answer that higher calling.

This passage in Exodus 3 paints a beautiful picture of how God will set things in motion to get your attention. From the burning bush to the call, don’t be too busy living life that you miss what God really has for you. He is just waiting for you to look toward His direction to call you into a deeper walk and a deeper life with Him.

*****

Dr. Rafael Machuca is a VA Hospital Chaplain at the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. He studied and received his Doctor of Ministry degree at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in 2020. Dr. Machuca served his country in the United States Marine Corps from 1993 – 1997 and has been honoring and paying tribute to U.S. veterans ever since.

Welcome to 2022: A Bit About The New Year, Jonah, and Forgiveness

Happy New Year 2022 from yours truly!

Welcome to 2022!

This first post of 2022 is going to be pretty simple and casual because, to be honest, things are already starting to get crazy busy, and my mind can’t focus long enough this week to spend 3+ hours writing anything!

First order of business, I just want to say thank you to everyone who is reading this and beginning the new year by keeping up with Breathe Pray Repeat. It means SO much to me! Second order of business, I wanted to share a thought with you today on something that’s been on my mind for a while now, and it involves perception, forgiveness, human nature, and the account of Jonah.

From all the things I’ve heard said about Jonah throughout my life, I’d say the dude gets a pretty bad rap. Of course, he did literally try to run away from God’s commandment and was angry when God wanted to show others mercy, only being truly distressed when his plant died. But if I’m going to be completely honest with you, I have to say that I find Jonah incredibly relatable. You see, it’s easy when we read the Word to separate ourselves from the people we’re reading about as though we would never act or think like they did when they made mistakes. Sometimes, it’s easy to think of them as mere 2-D historical figures playing out a role in our heads rather than real, regular people. When we do that, we forget our own human nature.

Jonah did NOT like the people of Nineveh to say the least, and as I read a little about Nineveh, I began to understand why Jonah felt as he did. Nahum called it “the bloody city,” and witchcraft, murder, fornication, and other evils were abundant in Nineveh’s society (see Nahum 3). Suffice it to say, they were a truly wicked people committing unspeakable horrors and egregious evils. It’s completely understandable why Jonah, who knew full well what kind of people the Ninevites were, would not want God to pardon them (however wrong he was in his response).

Put yourself for a moment in Jonah’s sandals. You’ve seen and heard what the Ninevites do, and then all of a sudden, God tells you to go preach to them, and knowing God, you KNOW He will show them mercy. And (because you know how much evil they’ve done), you don’t want them to be given mercy. No. You want them to be punished. After all, how could they do all that evil and then get a free pass?

Ay, but there’s the rub. Therein lies the flaw in your thinking. And therein lies the point of the book of Jonah.

It isn’t about all the bad things the people of Nineveh did. They truly repented, and God always honors true repentance, and He offers forgiveness and mercy even though we don’t deserve it.

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

Romans 9:14-15 (KJV)

Our human nature doesn’t want to look past people’s mistakes. That’s why we often want to hold grudges against others for hurting us. That may even be why we may want to judge Jonah for the mistakes he made. Our expectations of others can make us forget our own human nature and flaws.

God extended grace and mercy to the people of Nineveh as He does to you and me. He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins if we turn from our wicked ways and seek after Him. Jonah shows us an interesting study of human nature, but it also shows us that God wants us to be forgiving towards others as well.

No matter what so-and-so did or said to hurt you or others, forgive them. No, they don’t deserve mercy, but neither do you. God GIVES us grace. We don’t earn or deserve it. Our flesh causes us to judge others and hold grudges, but it’s the Spirit of God within us that helps us show mercy and love.

So, that’s it for today! It’s true that even after what we know about Jonah, I still relate to the dude for how real and imperfect he is. There is an account out there that states he came to his senses after the end of the recorded book of Jonah and praised God, so there IS hope even for us stubborn people!

Thanks for reading the first BPR post of 2022! There should be a guest post on here in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned for that as well.

God Bless,

Caitlin