Success is not a Fruit of the Spirit …

“Success is not a fruit of the Spirit, but peace is,” even as the words dribbled out of my mouth, we could both tell they weren’t from me. Have you ever stood apart from yourself for a minute and thought Amen! Good point, you’re definitely not smart enough to come up with that one. The Holy Spirit (and His peace) showed up in that room powerfully, as He inspired that Word of Wisdom (See 1 Cor. 12:8).

For me, and so many others, “success” has been a cruel taskmaster. The desire to provide, mixed with the desire to feel powerful, mixed with survival instinct produces a striving for “success” in many that has proved unhealthy. But what is it that God requires of us? To live for His Son, full of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:24-25). What does Holy Spirit produce? Fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Yum, I like fruit. “Success” is not yummy. It goes down smooth, numbs your senses to reality, makes you think you’re better than you are, and then can leave just as quickly and you’re left with regrets, lost time and possibly broken relationships.

But what if we redefined success? What if God’s definition was always different? … Success is when your life produces more of the goodness of the Holy Spirit. If your “success” is threatening your peace, it’s not success at all. So take a moment right now, and reconnect with the God of Peace (Rom 15:33, 16:20,1 Cor 14:33, 2 Cor 13:11, Phil 4:9, 1 Thes 5:23, Heb 13:20).

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Faith Like a Child

“Mommy, it’s bwoken” my 2 year old Jolena said today as she looked at the mangled ash of a building that was the teen center Building 21. Jessica: “Yes, (choking back tears), yes it is honey.” Then Lena says with complete faith and trust that it’s going to happen, “You have to fix it.” There was no question about what was possible in her tone, no hesitation based on finances, or insurance companies, or physical strength. Instead she looked at the building, looked at her Mommy and thought, “Oh yeah, you can fix it.” She just knows that mommy doesn’t let her down, she is her full source of supply and help, and her confidence in mom’s abilities are not dependent at all on what she sees – only on the fact that mommy has never failed her.

What if you and I had faith like that? Looking at your mountain – your broken relationship, or sin, or broken body, or tough job situation, or God-sized dream – and just say to God, “You have to fix it.” Nothing double minded, nothing demanding – just simple faith and trust that God is my full source of supply and help. I look at my situation, and then I look at my God and think, “Oh yeah, you can fix it!” Faith like a child – He’s never let me down, and nothing is impossible for Him! Our building is broken, but our community is galvanized. Our building is broken, but this didn’t take God by surprise. Our building might be broken, but this was never about a building. Our building might be broken, but our vision is stronger than ever and God is going to bring beauty out of this. God brings beauty from ashes, strength from fear, gladness from mourning, peace from despair.

In the aftermath of our teen center burning down on Sunday night, we’ve been in a whirlwind of emotions, interviews, board meetings, talks with insurance, contractors and people who want to help. I can tell you with confidence – no whirlwind is worth taking your eyes off of Jesus. Whatever your whirlwind, whatever’s broken – take a moment right now, with faith like a child, look at Jesus – become fully confident again that He is your source of supply and help.

For details about the Building 21 fire – watch this video from the night of …

  • For details about the Building 21 fire – watch this video from the night of … https://youtu.be/5hRubXiSmZE .To purchase tickets to the Building 21 Tailgate fundraiser on Nov. 8th where you’ll learn how you can help rebuild click this link … buildingtwentyone.org/tft.

Reward

“Ah wan ge ma mpackpack on, daddy” (Translation: “I want to get my backpack”), my 2 year old Jolena states resolutely. Meanwhile, she hadn’t brought her backpack, but was simply trying to be like her sister – but oooohhh what a cutie! I just wanted to find her a mpackpack from somewhere to reward that little baby for just being my cute little baby – haha. The reward for me, was being there for that moment with her – I felt my happy meter rising (endorphins or dopamine or something science-y), I felt heart enlarge, and for a moment my burdens feel lighter.

Scientists who study motivation tell you to have constant little immediate rewards for yourself for doing the right thing (ie. 3 mins of break for 20 mins of focused work, a steak dinner for a week straight of working out, a smoothie for making the choice to get up at your first alarm, etc.). What if your rewards were even better than those things? What if you counted as reward spending focused time with your family, or getting some moments alone with God? I’m learning that being all there for moments like the one above with my kids DOES in fact satisfy my reward center; and you know what else does – a few minutes striving free minutes in the presence of God! Striving free – no agenda, no to-do list, no mantras to quote – JUST BE with God. I know that can be your reward too.

So reward yourself right now, take a short time (don’t tip the scale to painful) – JUST BE with God – picture Him as best you can maybe, or just relax knowing that He’s there. You’re closer to breakthrough than you could ever imagine because God is with you and He is your reward!

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.

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.