Read the End First

“No, no, no, no! Don’t tell me!” My older brother Shawn says as I chase him down the hall, “Lalalala!” As he covers his ears and I’m trying to spoil the movie “The Sixth Sense” for him. THAT movie is completely worthless after you know the ending – I was such a punk. Books, movies, sports are filled with things that completely lose their value once you know the ending. We are so addicted to novelty, that once the surprise is gone we have no use for beauty.

There’s a good solution to that – the Bible, God’s story, if you’re a believer – your story. Take the book of Ecclesiastes for example – if you don’t read the last two verses first, you’ll probably feel miserable by chapter 4. The last two verses make everything else in that book work. That’s also the nature of Biblical prophecy – even in Garden of Eden, God looked forward to END OF TIME when everything is made right. The Second Coming of Jesus is the Blessed Hope that helps each believer to persevere through trials (Titus 2:13, 1 Thes. 4:16-18). This life isn’t all there is – it’s going to get better.

So go ahead, when the devil reads you the story of your past, read him the story of his future (spoiler alert – it doesn’t end well for him). Go ahead, read the end of THE STORY, your story first, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people … He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away … I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:3-5 NIV).

Right now, take a minute and ask God to speak to you about the end of your story. Listen as He tells you the good things He’s got planned, and trust me, it won’t spoil anything. It will make everything sweeter. Go ahead, read the end first.

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The Anatomy of a Breakthrough

Anyone can fixate on defeat – regret and desperation push us to analyze and rehearse the details of our failures, but it’s possible that greater growth is available to those who study breakthrough. This week has been full of breakthroughs! You all have been sharing story after story of God working in supernatural ways through you! I’ve heard of 3 foot healings, 3 back healings, prayer for a wrist with a brace on, a lost relationship restored, a loved one saved, etc – THIS WEEK.

Here are the things I’ve observed as common threads in supernatural breakthroughs . . .

  1. Relationship with Jesus is restored, rekindled, built up. As a foundation for breakthrough to happen, getting into right relationship with Jesus is key. Obedience is key. Personal prayer and devos is key. Apart from beautiful communion with Jesus, breakthroughs are often just ego boosters and God might not be in them at all.
  2. Raise the tide of faith by consistently hearing testimonies. Testimony is one of our potent offensive spiritual weapons (Rev 12:11)! A constant thread in breakthrough is that people are willing to subject themselves to story after story of what God is doing, listening constantly to recognize how God wants to work through them too.
  3. The commitment to embrace stretching situations. People who KNOW Jesus is around get excited about jumping out of the boat into stormy waters! You will fail some, but Jesus will grow you in it . . . AND you will breakthrough also. When believing for impossibilities starts to look like the most fun option, you’re ripe for breakthrough!

See Simply, Speak Boldly

Everyone’s on the verge of tears, God’s presence was tangible as we sat around a half moon table on 3rd Grader sized stools. My son had just finished praying with his teacher during parent-teacher conferences at public school. We all sat a moment and just enjoyed the embrace of God, before the next family who was waiting needed to start their conference.

The question to his teacher that sparked this moment was simple, “How can we support you?” As she expressed some needs, God showed me very simply how much she loved her students. I had a choice to make in that moment, I could have said, “You really love your students, don’t you?” – which would have been fine, non-threatening, even encouraging. But a boldness rose up to say instead, “I feel like God wants you to know that He sees how much you love your students!” Simple and bold, and she welled up with emotion, as all of us did too. That simple statement transformed a mundane meeting into a holy moment, a public place into a sacred one for God to make Himself known – and He did! We prayed together, God embraced, and moments later, we were making room for the next family, but the signature of God on that encounter lingers.

What God builds into moments like that has eternity written all over it! You plant a seed for God’s kingdom and it can only produce one thing – God’s kingdom! The picture the Holy Spirit showed me was so simple, it almost felt trite and unnecessary to say, but God took that simple message, combined with a bold step of faith and built an altar, that none of us will quickly forget. Don’t overcomplicate it – your simple step of faith today will produce God’s kingdom in someone else!

Groundbreaking!!!

Any good gardener (which I am not, just ask my wife – haha) will tell you that the success of a garden depends very much on the nature and condition of the dirt. Jesus taught from the same principle in the parable of the sower (Matt 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, Luke 8:4-15). What’s so important about dirt? Well, in order to plant successfully and to grow, dirt has to be tended to, watered, tilled, cultivated and given nutrients.

As a church we have been tending to (or “playing in,” whichever you like better – grin) the dirt for a long time – tending to relationships, watering the community with the truth of God’s word, tilling people so that they’re positioned better for passion and gifting, cultivating an atmosphere that the Holy Spirit loves, and receiving the nutrients of God’s activity. Now it’s time to plant! Planting requires breaking the ground! Many individuals and families have made the decision to plant at Journey Life Church over the years, and now our choice to plant is manifesting itself in this groundbreaking moment to add space to our building!

It’s time to take a praise break! Thank you God, for the amazing people that you’ve given us to enjoy life with at Journey Life Church! Thank you that we NEED to add on, in order to steward well the people and the relationships in this community! Thank you that your heart is so huge for Holt, Lansing and your Church that you would desire to bring more people into your kingdom through us! And thank you that you are the ultimate Provider of all resources! We celebrate your goodness, and invite you to do even more in Journey Life Church!

Take a praise break today – I believe that will be ground breaking in your life too!

Rest is a Verb . . .

. . . and a noun, it’s both, I get it (and all of you vintage DC Talk fans out there, yes, I know “Love is a Verb” also – haha). Rest as a word, however, is used in the English language very differently from the Bible. Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes rest as, “ a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities; a state of motionlessness or inactivity; the repose of death” – Aaaahhh! That’s pretty morbid . . . and uninviting . . . and . . . a little bit scary.

The Bible defines rest differently: fulfillment, contentment, peace with God. Rest in the Bible does lean back into God’s person and His goodness, but it’s actively leaning back. Rest is also not the cessation of activity, but it’s finding wholeness in God in the middle of it. Rest is a verb. Rest also is a place where battles are won – the Israelites were told that entering the promised land meant entering God’s rest, yet as soon as they did, they were fighting battles. How was that rest? Well, the Bible views rest differently . . . and . . . the battle is the Lord’s. So go ahead, enter God’s rest. His fulfillment, contentment and peace are waiting for you in the middle of your world . . .

Right now . . . yep, rest in God right . . . now.

Be Careful Little Feet . . .

“Get down here!!!” I can feel my blood pressure rising, after the third time calling my children. 3 minutes earlier I was happy as a lark, ready to give my kids some freshly baked cookies. But now . . . I simply didn’t want to give it to them. After a stern talking to, and then making them wait it out for a while, I ended up giving them the cookies (I’m such a softy). But my rousing lecture centered around a common theme in our household, “So much of obedience is just being where you’re supposed to be.” Be careful little feet where you go.

On Sunday I said, “People vote with their feet.” Obedience is shown through the action of doing what God tells you to do. Jesus’ final command to His disciples was simple location directions “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift . . .” (Acts 1:4). What happened to those who were not obedient with their feet? They missed out on one of the greatest days in history – the Day of Pentecost. They might have even missed out on the gift; at the very least it was delayed.

Obedience can often be measured in feet and inches (just ask King David in 2 Sam 11:1). Being in obvious places that you know are good for you, will either qualify or disqualify you for assignments, and gifts from God. Think about it – when God is looking for people to bless, to give cool jobs to, where will He look first? – in His courtroom. God will look for the people who like to hang around Him, and spend time with Him. How can your feet position you for usefulness and blessing this week?

An Invitation

“My sister has a tumor, she’s 15 and blind in both eyes,” an elementary school age girl told me on Saturday, “she’s right over there,” as she points with compassion- filled empathy in her eyes. My breathing stops as my heart races, and the desire rises from deep in my soul to see her healed. I got the chance to pray with the family, and with this precious teenager as well, but there was no change. No visible change at least – her hat was still over her eyes, walking stick in hand, with a solid grip on her guide dog’s leash. I saw the change in my spirit, the tumor shrinking, the eyes restored, light returning, celebrating and praising God. Instead, I simply saw an optimistic teenager with a great trust in God’s goodness, which is amazing and inspiring – I just know there’s more.

So I went to my secret place to grow. Jesus was not ok with blind people staying blind in His world, and neither will I be. Just because my experience did not line up with God’s word, does not make it ok to dumb down the word of God to human experience. I refuse to blame the faith of the person I’m praying for, or the country I’m in. God’s word is clear, Jesus said to John the Baptist, “the blind see, the lame walk … the good news is preached … Blessed is anyone who does not stumble” (Matt. 11:5-6). Why would we stumble? How can you say that Jesus? . . . Well, what about those who haven’t seen yet? That’s how you can stumble, and exactly how John did – What about me, I’m in prison?

The nature of growth in the Spirit requires that we focus on what is possible through Jesus, rather than on the impossibilities in our world. Focus on the fact that Jesus healed the blind and He told me to do the same. And the fact that I didn’t see it Saturday is not invitation to redefine what Jesus said, or an invitation to get bitter or discouraged. Instead, it’s an invitation into the heart of God who loves for the, “eyes of the blind to be opened” (Isa. 35:5). It’s an invitation to know Him, and in the mirror of who He is, discover more fully who you are. It’s that authority grounded so firmly in relationship with Jesus that will cause the blind to see, and all sickness to bow to the name of Jesus through you and me.

Stuck in a Tree

“I can’t find it dad!!!” says my 8-year-old son, scared and almost crying. When I looked to see where he was I was scared and almost started crying! He was at the top of a 25-foot pine tree!!! My heart is racing, and I tell him (as calmly as I could muster), “Ok son, just come down from the tree and I’ll find your boomerang.” He comes down from the tree, his voice shaking because he wanted to find his boomerang so bad (I’m saying, “Slowly” every few seconds). I send Jaren in for bed-time routine, just happy he’s safe.

NOW, it’s time to make good on my promise and find the boomerang!!! From the ground I looked all over the tree and couldn’t find it – I was going to have to climb – aaahh! Climbing a dense pine tree, I’m getting sap everywhere, poked in the eye a couple time with branches, and as I get higher, each branch creaks a little more under my weight. Jaren told me it was very high up, but part way through the climb I decide to turn around and survey everything around me. Sure enough, about 10 feet up the tree, way out on the branch in some thick foliage I spot my son’s boomerang! After a broom and some shaking the tree, I have a very happy 8 year old! God spoke to me through this …

  • The breakthrough you’re looking for isn’t always as hard as you think. My son was 25 feet up and nowhere near his boomerang. If your search for breakthrough involves fear and crying you might be striving too hard.
  • Stop and look around in the Spirit. Your breakthrough might not be as hard, but it requires a change in perspective – Stop, turn around from the mess you’re focused on and your source of fear, and see something else in your spirit.

God said,See (Look!), I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19) The problem is not what God is doing or not doing, it’s in your perception of His work in your life. Are you taking the time to see what God is doing in your world? Do that right now. Turn around, and ask God, “What should I see in Your world right now?”

The Strange Design of Hard Work

“I don’t wanna go to VBS . . .” whines my 6 year old, Jemma, through closed eyelids, with a drool spot on the pillow, clutching her blanket like it’s the last piece of bread for entire starving village. So Jessica gently rolls her body around on the bed until her legs come off the bed and touch the floor, five minutes later (no joke) Jemma is running around the house getting ready, chattering about all the fun things she’s going to do at VBS!

The nature of motivation is strange. All humans are wired this way. Daniel 6:4 says that Daniel, “was neither corrupt nor negligent.” Why do we assume someone has to be either corrupt or negligent? Because it’s human nature to want to work less. The new American dream is to work less and get paid more. It’s entitled, lazy and against God’s plan. God designed you for work. Work is good.

Truth: hard work enables more hard work. The less you work the harder it becomes to start. When you work, you build up your physical mental emotional and spiritual muscles to be able to handle more. There is a limit (working more does not necessarily produce more motivation to work), sometimes you need to diversify your work portfolio with different kinds of work to engage your mind differently, your emotions differently, your body differently. That diversification of activity between – people work, house work, desk work, manual work, sitting work, standing work, family work – will produce a rhythm of proper work motivation. You’re not built to do nothing. You’re built to be active. God hardwired activity into your DNA, but it takes a connection with the Holy Spirit to tap into organic and life-giving work motivation.

So take the first step – gently roll your body over, put your feet on the floor, get upright, and get working. Watch God work in you through this principle.

Collect a Toll

“We need to collect a toll!” Blake (JLC’s Creative Arts Pastor) says as he pops his head into my office on Monday. Immediately, I knew what he meant. You see, Abby (our Impacts Director) was home sick with a migraine. So we stopped what we were doing, and headed to the hospital!

Collect a toll? Here’s the concept: (it’s not stated as such in the Bible, but it flows with the Bible harmoniously) if the enemy is going after someone in your life, you go collect a toll and pray for and see a bunch of other people healed, making him pay for what he’s doing. So here’s the deal, I’m not a fan of fasting as a hunger strike in the middle of a crisis, because it feels like trying to manipulate God and assuming we have more compassion than him. However, I have no problem manipulating Satan. He’s a punk and a liar, and if he’s going after someone in your life, he’s got to pay. Remember, “The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 Jn 4:4) We get to give Satan a bad day, and “destroy the works of the devil.” (1 Jn 3:8)

So Blake and I headed to the Mclaren ER waiting room (asked permission) and prayed for 10 people there, loving them and seeing multiple people have changes in their pain levels … and … Abby woke up healed from her nap! So if the enemy wants to mess with you or someone in your life’s health, go pray for a bunch of people and see them healed. If he’s messing with your relationships, go speak life, forgiveness and Godly encouragement into a bunch of people’s relationships, and so on. You’re a son/daughter of the king you don’t need permission to stare down the enemy and Collect A Toll.