Look around. Now what? Night falls. Day’s gone. Sink’s still full. Washer’s loaded. Work’s not done. God’s still waiting.
And waiting. And waiting.
You need more time? You had all day. But the things you value you put first. Did you put first God or self? Did you put first God or world? Did you put first God or work? Did you put first God or fill in the blank?
What you worship you make time for. What you love most, you live for. For job, for country, for family, for friends, for fun, for money, for fame, for success. It’s not all bad just when it matters more than Him.
Don’t let your fill in the blank tank your future.
Sixteen hours in a day to spend well or to waste. Seek Him first and all else will be in His hands for eternity. Your job, your family, your health, your abilities, your work, your hobbies, your free time, your money—it all works out and works for good when you put God above it all.
So, love and serve Him with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your soul, and all your time. What you serve you’ll prioritize.
So, love Him first and love Him most for all time.
You did it. You did the thing. You did the thing you knew was wrong. You did the thing you knew was wrong, and yet you did it anyway.
Why? Why’d you do it? Why’d you do it when you knew it was wrong?
Because it made you feel good? Lashing out, getting revenge, making the person who hurt you hurt more than they hurt you.
Yeah, it felt good, didn’t it? The first second the words left your mouth, and the smile left their face, and their mouth gaped open, and you knew you’d stunned them. Cut straight to their soul with an insult, a truth so crushing. Your words dripped with vitriol so full of spite that they wobbled a bit when you said it.
And why shouldn’t you say it? They had it coming. What goes around comes around, so they say.
So they say a lot of things. They say fear is a powerful tool. They say get back at your enemies. They say take what’s owed you, show no mercy, leave no survivors. Eye for an eye. Tooth for tooth. But there’s a lot they don’t say.
And as the second second hit after you said what you said, after the smile of that person – your so-called enemy – faded, after their mouth gaped open, after they seemed to shrink in fear, after your shoulders bared back, fists clenching with the strength of newfound power, tears welled up in their eyes, and they crumpled to the ground and stayed there, shoulders shaking, and then saying what you said didn’t feel so good after all.
They don’t say, “Show mercy.” They don’t say, “Be a peacemaker.” They don’t say, “Admit when you’re wrong.” No, society doesn’t say those things.
But Jesus did. He said, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). His Word says that whoever confesses and forsakes his sins will receive mercy (see Proverbs 28:13).
That same mercy God gives us when we make mistakes is there for everyone.
And so, you unclenched your fists, bent down to the person who had hurt you before, touched their shoulder, and said the words society doesn’t tell you to say:
Forgiveness is there for you as it is and should be for those who hurt you. Never mind what society says. Mind what Jesus has called you to do. He has called you to be set apart from the world, not embrace its ways and lifestyle.
I never used to think gossip was a big deal until I realized the things I’d been gossiping about were wrong. There was a time once when I heard many rumors—none of them good—about people in my life, and I believed it at the time. It suited the narrative in my head about those people, and believing those false things shaped how I thought about them. Because of the gossip I’d participated in, I began to strongly dislike them.
I was wrong.
A couple years later, I realized all the rumors I heard were not true, and I felt convicted about not only believing them but allowing others to gossip around me and furthering that gossip myself. God began dealing with me about this, making me increasingly more aware of the words I say, how I speak about people, the motives behind my words, and the impact of my words as well as the gossip others would spread around me.
I found that when I had engaged in gossip, I believed more negative thoughts about others. The list of people I disliked grew longer and longer. And it became clear that I hadn’t learned to really love others with a genuine, Christ-like love.
Then, when I made a conscious effort to stop gossiping, listening to gossip, and thinking negatively about those people, I found that the love of Christ grew in me toward them. All of a sudden, that negativity and spitefulness in my spirit was gone.
When you hear gossip, it needs to stop with you. When you hear gossip, you need to change the subject and leave the room. Do not participate. Maybe someone did something wrong, sure, but let God handle it. Rest assured, He will deal with the situation if a wrong was truly committed. He will take care of the problem if there really is a serious issue. But if it doesn’t directly concern you, there is no reason to talk to others about it.
“He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: Therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.”
Proverbs 20:19 KJV
Gossip serves only to divide. It is self-serving. It feeds your own preconceived ideas about others. It isn’t productive. It hinders growth. Gossip comes from insecurities, idleness, narcissism, and emotional immaturity.
As we know, our feelings follow our thoughts. If we think (and then say) negative things about others, we’ll feel that way toward them. A 2011 study published in the journal Sciencexpress found that negative gossip actually changes the way we see people visually (you can read more about this here). However, if we only think good, kind, loving thoughts about others, then we’ll love them no matter what. And that’s a hard thing to do with people in certain circumstances.
I learned something about a person I know some time ago, something about what this person did, and it changed how I thought about them. They weren’t the person I thought I knew, but I was challenged to love them even still. I was challenged not to say spiteful, judgmental things about them—even though they did wrong.
Am I their judge? No. I had to let go of my animosity toward them and look at them through the love of Christ. Broken, messed up people hurt others, it’s true.
Gossip influences perception, and when you perceive people to be bad based off things you cannot confirm to be true, then you are declaring people as automatically guilty. Even if what you’re talking about IS true, sitting around and stirring the pot, repeating the same stories about the same situation keeps your mind in a repetitive loop.
Gossip is also used to destroy reputations and react aggressively. It needs the validation of others and demands that those who hear it agree with it. Gossip acts like a virus that jumps from one member of the body of Christ to another until it finds something to stick to, and then it spreads.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: And they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”
Proverbs 18:21 KJV
As the above scripture says, death and life are in the power of the tongue. Gossip is destructive and antithetical to the lifestyle of a Christian.
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.
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?
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?
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.
“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.”
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!
Missouri Youth Camp ended last week, but I’m still thinking about the powerful services we had. In every service, there was a heavy spirit of expectancy, depth in every message, and an outpouring of the Holy Ghost in every altar call. It was without a doubt one of the most incredible weeks I have experienced. Mike McGurk, the morning speaker, taught one message in particular that detailed a few tips that, if applied, can help each person (and each young person, especially) truly thrive in the kingdom of God. For today’s post, we’re going to go over these tips again.
Don’t keep the things you’re struggling with to yourself. This one’s actually hard for those like me who prefer to “suffer in silence.” It’s the noble, mature, strong thing to do, we tell ourselves. But actually, keeping deep struggles to yourself makes you more vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks and makes it harder to overcome those struggles.
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
Proverbs 28:13 (KJV)
Talking to a trusted spiritual leader, such as your pastor or youth pastor, about something you’re struggling with gives you a source of support and guidance. Openness and honesty are underrated qualities in any relationship. How are you to develop a working relationship of trust and transparency with your leaders or even colleagues or friends if you do not let them in if something is going wrong? The more you keep things to yourself, the more time you give to the devil to mess with your mind and bring confusion.
Bro. Mike McGurk spoke of self-destruction. If you keep things to yourself, then the lies of the devil can cause you to break down and self-destruct. There is strength in going to a trusted spiritual leader like your pastor with your personal struggles with sin or an emotional or spiritual issue.
You do not have to be perfect, for as we know, there is none perfect save for God.
We are incapable of perfection, and your pastor knows this. Because of our human nature and constant struggles with our flesh, we will always need encouragement, correction, independence, and guidance. We need encouragement for our self-esteem, correction to overcome our weakness and mistakes, independence to allow us to make our own decisions, and guidance to lead us in the right direction.
“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (KJV)
You’ve heard the saying that no person is an island. Learn to be transparent and trust your pastor to help you and pray for you when you’re struggling.
Be careful with the people and things that you allow to influence your thoughts, feelings, and actions. You’re heard “love the sinner, hate the sin” and the fact that Jesus ate with the sinners and publicans. This is true. However, Jesus called us to be separate from this world.
As another common saying goes, we are in the world but should not be of the world, meaning that while we are in the world, we should do the things we must to survive, build relationship, families, careers, etcetera, but we should not conform to the lifestyles and beliefs of the world. Bro. McGurk explained in his message that when it comes to those you may be around at work or at school who live like the world, you should love them and eat with them, but do not live like them or let them influence how you live. For example, if you’re out to lunch with your coworkers, but they talk about going out later to drink and party, don’t let their lifestyle choices influence yours. The sign of a confident Apostolic Christian is one who influences their friends and coworkers and draws them toward God, not one whose friends and coworkers draw them away from God.
There is one saying my Bishop used to teach about that some might take issue with, but I’ll mention it here and then explain: if you can’t change your friends, change your friends.
If the people you hang around are becoming negative influences in your life, then you should not spend time around them anymore. For example, if you have a teenage son and he starts hanging around kids who do drugs behind the school every day, you would want your son to stop hanging around those kids. That doesn’t mean he should be rude to them, condemn them, yell at them, or throw the Bible at them. It does mean he should set healthy boundaries in his life so that he can maintain a strong walk with God and show others that he is committed to living for God and not like the world. Having strong principles, convictions, and morals is a good thing, not something anyone should be ashamed of.
Lot allowed his surroundings to influence him, and it led to his wife’s demise.
“And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.”
Genesis 13:10-13 (KJV)
The appearance of the land was pleasing to Lot, and so he allowed what pleased his eyes to influence his actions. He pitched his tent toward a place that was filled with wickedness. Much can be said and written just from this account in Genesis (and indeed much already has), but just six chapters later, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with Lot barely escaping with his daughters. His wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. Most of us know this story, but its message will forever ring true.
Want to know the direction your life is taking? Look at the things you allow to influence you.
The problem with influence is appetite. What you consume is what you put on display through your words, actions, and thoughts. In order to walk with God, you must change your appetite so that the things of the world – entertainment, personalities, trends, money, attention, etcetera – no longer influence you.
If you pursue God and allow the things of God to influence you, then you will thrive in His Kingdom. This point goes back to the previous point about influence. Your life will go in the direction of the things you pursue. If you pursue fame and attention and money, then your life will be filled with self-absorption and materialism. Pursuing God means putting God and a godly lifestyle above everything else.
You should get a job. You should make an income. You should try to have and raise a godly family, but those things become idols when you pursue them above God. So, how do you pursue God?
Read the Word. After all, the Word is God (see John 1:1). The Bible is His Living Word, and if we want to get to know Him more, we should read it every day. Don’t just read it, though. Study the Word. Pray the Word. And while you read the Word, journal. I have a journal set aside for Bible journaling, and when I open up the Word to begin my study time, I have the journal in one hand and the Bible in the other to write down thoughts, revelations, or specific verses while I’m reading. This is a pretty common and simple concept, but it is vital to understanding His Word more and committing key scriptures and biblical principles to memory.
When you pursue God, He will open up His Word to you and welcome you into a deeper relationship with Him.
“Draw night to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
James 4:8 (KJV)
We exist to worship our Creator, have a relationship with Him, and reach the lost. When we make living for God and growing His kingdom our purpose and top priority in life, then we will be too busy to become enamored with the distractions of the world. We will struggle with our flesh every day, but there are things we can do to become purpose-driven in the kingdom.
Be involved in your church. Help with the media team. Be part of the music team. Teach Sunday or Wednesday school. Clean the church. Contribute to your church’s social media page by taking pictures. Help in the kitchen. Go to outreach functions. Invite your friends and coworkers to church and special events. Go to special events yourself rather than skipping them because it’s your Friday night. Teach Bible studies. (Lord knows, we should all be doing more, especially on that last one, including yours truly.)
Whatever it is, be active in your church and be active in the kingdom of God. We find our identity in Christ, and when we make His mission ours, then our purpose will become clear.
Each of these four concepts is essential to thriving and growing in God’s kingdom. So, in order for you to apply these to your life, here are some questions you might ask:
Out of these four points (transparency, influence, pursuit, purpose), is there one or more that are lacking in my life?
What am I doing or what can I do to address this issue?
This was the title of Rev. Victor Jackson’s Friday night message at Missouri Youth Convention a couple of weeks ago. At every youth convention, congress, or camp, there are always powerful messages from anointed preachers. Through each message, God ministers, and He moves. But there is always at least one message in particular that stands out. Everyone has their own “favorite” message that spoke to them in particular. Well, ever since the Friday night service of Missouri Youth Convention, I’ve been thinking about Bro. Jackson’s message on growth.
Growth has been a topic I’ve thought about often over the years as God has helped me navigate various life struggles and situations. So, for today’s post (which I know was supposed to go live yesterday—my apologies for the delay!), I wanted to share with you an extension of some of my notes from the message “Where Do We Grow From Here,” highlighting two principles of spiritual growth. Also, I do share post updates and topic ideas on my Instagram, so please be sure to go ahead and follow me there if you aren’t already so that you can find out when posts may be delayed or about upcoming topics. (You can find my Instagram account by clicking here.)
Without further delay, here are two principles of spiritual growth.
1. Don’t make a small start your identity.
Everybody’s gotta start somewhere, right? Whether it’s in your ministry or personal relationship with God, you must begin small. In order to grow your prayer life, for example, you may begin by praying 15 minutes a day consistently and extending that over time. As Victor Jackson said, however, “It is a blessing to begin small. It is a curse to end small.”
We should all start out at small beginnings, but that isn’t where we should end up.
We are meant to be producing spiritual fruit. An apple tree will not produce apples if it stays in the state of a small seed or the size of a twig. When we grow, we become stronger and produce spiritual fruit. The righteous man experiences spiritual growth like what the beginning of Psalms describes when comparing the godly versus the ungodly:
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Psalms 1:3 (KJV)
2. Don’t put limits on your elevation.
People often limit how you can grow. As soon as God starts using you more and growing your ministry, there are people who judge you. They place limits on how much a person can grow in his or her walk with God. We may even fall privy to the idea that we should only grow to a certain extent and no further so as to prevent others from believing we’re trying to make everything about ourselves or to try to prevent ourselves from becoming prideful. So, we stay small and claim it’s out of humility.
Humility is an essential attribute of a true Christian character, but Bro. Jackson pointed out that we are not meant to use our humility as an excuse to remain small and refuse to grow into what God wants us to be.
“Humility is not a destination; it is an attitude,” he explained. “If you don’t want to grow, your humility in remaining small just became disobedience. Obedience is a pathway. You’re supposed to be going and growing. Get to growing and knowing this is what the kingdom is.”
Indeed, spiritual growth is about letting God use you more in the ways that He wants to so that His Kingdom can grow through each of our efforts. That’s why we should teach more Bible studies, pray more, fast more, become more involved in ministry, and do all that He asks us to do. As we mature in Christ and grow, we become more well-rounded Christians and more effective in ministry and in the Kingdom.
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8 (KJV)
Follow after God’s direction in your life, and you will grow. Spiritual growth is stunted when you stop putting effort into your ministry and walk with God. A lack of effort leads to a lack of growth, and a lack of growth leads to spiritual death.
We must always be striving to do more for the Kingdom, more for God, more for others, more in our ministry, and more than we’ve done yesterday and ever before in order to reach this lost world and get closer to Jesus. We cannot forsake the importance of growing in every aspect of our lives.