We’ve read, but do we know?

I come from a big Italian family. So big that each year we have to rent a hall for our Christmas gatherings to see each other because if we didn’t, there would be no way we could fit in just one person’s house. (Unless someone secretly lives in a mansion and is holding out on the family)
Every year I see cousins as well as aunts and uncles. My relationship with a few of them is interesting, though. Why? Well, since I have seen them a few times a year for every year of my life, I have a sense that I know them, but if you were to ask me specifics, maybe about what exactly was going on in their lives, I don’t think I’d be able to tell you. See, we can have the illusion in our minds that we know someone due to association or the occasional encounter when really, we don’t.

With that in mind, I wanted to bring a question forward; we’ve read about God, read the stories and the bible, and have a good base level understanding, but how well do we know Him? We’ve learned about God, but how well do we know Him? We could say it like this, how well do we know the heart of God.
For a while, I’ve been learning the ins and outs of investing, using that as an example, I could read and do research and consult someone, but unless I put some of my money in and start investing, do I know what it’s like?
I know it’s a bit of a rough analogy, but I think it can be the same way with God, we read about the things He’s done, we have heard about the things He’s done, but at the end of the day, do you and I, do we know God? With that being said, let me encourage you, it’s never too late to start. Why settle for only reading about God, when according to Proverbs 8:17, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me” we can know Him.

We’ve read, but do we know?

When Blessing Turns Into Slavery

Do you know the season you are in? I’ve been talking a lot about this on the air recently, knowing where God is leading and guiding us. It’s incredible how something in the right season can ultimately become a curse in the wrong season. 

Do you know the story of Joseph in the Bible? He was one of many brothers; one day, they decided to kill him. Instead, they threw him into a pit and then sold him as a slave. If you know the story, it progressively gets harder for him from there. Eventually, however, he gains favor with arguably the most powerful man in the world at the time, Pharaoh, and becomes second in command over all of Egypt. Now, of course, that is leaving out a lot of information. But it’s the end of the story of Joseph that I want to bring your attention to. 

Genesis 47:5-6

Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you, and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. And if you know of any among them with special ability, put them in charge of my own livestock.”

Joseph’s brothers, the forefathers of the tribes of Israel, were given land in Goshen, according to Pharaoh, Goshen was the best part of the area in all of Egypt. What a massive blessing that was for them. If you go back and read the entire story of Joseph, which I encourage you to, you’ll realize that Joseph’s family went from almost starving to death during a famine to now having more then their needs met. A massive blessing for everyone in that season of time. 

But now let’s fast forward to Exodus 1:6-14

Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.

Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”

11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.

What was once a blessing became a curse in a different season. 

The blessing had served its purpose, but now God wanted to take them to their promised land. I have many things I want to say, but first, a question, what would have happened if the Israelites didn’t listen to Moses and leave? What if they missed or flat out rejected the times and seasons and plans that God had for them? Well, God would have let them stay in their slavery, and they would never have inherited God’s best for them. 

I know we’ve been bouncing between stories here, but I think it beautifully illustrates the notion that what is and can very be a blessing can turn into enslavement if we aren’t willing to move up and onward with God’s perfect timing for our lives. 

How many people are in relationships that they shouldn’t be in, missing God’s best because they were scared of change. How many people are in cities they shouldn’t be in because they didn’t want to leave the familiar? How many people are in business in areas that God didn’t ever want them to get into simply because they allowed their parents to tell them what degree to get instead of seeking and waiting on God’s timing and wisdom?

Let me leave you with this, time, your time, it’s precious. Do you know what season you are in? See, we can force things all we want, God has given us free will, you can do whatever you’d like with your life, but when God says move, let me encourage you to move when He says stay, stay. Know your season, and walk confidently in it.

When Blessing Turns Into Slavery

Why We’re Not Prepared For Peace

The other night I was going through my devotions, I read a book of the bible that I don’t usually, the book of Isaiah. As I was reading, I noticed something interesting that I wanted to share.

Isaiah 5:11-12 

“What sorrow for those who get up early in the morning looking for a drink of alcohol and spend long evenings drinking wine to make themselves flaming drunk. They furnish wine and lovely music at their grand parties— lyre and harp, tambourine and flute— but they never think about the Lord or notice what he is doing.” 

That last line hit me hard, “but they never think about the Lord or notice what He is doing.” Can I encourage you wherever you are, we need to look up to see what the Holy Spirit and what God is doing. Especially during times like we are in where everything is pulling at our focus and our attention.

When I was thinking about that passage in Isaiah, I thought of this analogy. What if you were thirsty, it’s summertime, and you had no water, so you were looking all over the place for some. Imagine that I noticed that you needed water, so I called out for you and threw a water bottle towards you, you wouldn’t see it coming. You wouldn’t be able to catch it because you were too preoccupied with the things that were happening on the ground level. You didn’t stop to see what was coming for you in the form of provision or guidance because you were too busy looking for things on your level. 

I know it’s a bit of a rough example, but can you see what I’m saying? Let me encourage you, you and I, we need to hear from God, we don’t need opinions, we need wisdom, and we need to see what God is doing even during a time like COVID 19. If we do, we’ll get the understanding that we need to live the lives that we need to live.

Why We’re Not Prepared For Peace

Your Battle with Temptation

I wonder if it would be surprising to hear that you can allow the devil to tempt you? Does that shock you? “I’m a child of God; the devil can’t come after me”. Let’s quickly put that to rest, even Jesus was tempted, found without sin, but still tempted. 

I know we aren’t going out and doing much shopping recently due to Covid-19, however, think back to a time when we used to do that regularly. Maybe you remember a time when there was the perfect dress or that tech product you wanted so badly but knew you probably shouldn’t put it on a credit card or knew it wasn’t in the budget. 

I’ve been there; it usually would go one of two ways, I’d either decide right there on the spot that it’s irresponsible to buy it when it wasn’t in the budget and decide that I didn’t need it. Or, I would do something that humans do all the time, I’d think about it, sometimes even obsessively. Maybe, if I were trying to be smart, I’d take a few laps around the mall and think about it. But the more that I did (think about it), the more I followed what I was already feeling inclined to do. 

There’s a famous verse in James, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Resist, and he WILL flee. Let’s take a look at that word for a second; the definition for resist is, “succeed in ignoring the attraction of (something wrong or unwise).” That’ll preach right there. 

How many of us, though, when tempted, resist? Or if we do, to what extent? I’m not writing this as someone who is thinking about this topic from the outside. I’m writing this as a person who has fallen short in whatever form that took many times. 

I remember a preacher saying that we can’t control what enters our minds, but we can control what we do with those thoughts. I think that’s true. Sometimes, we pick up on cues throughout our day that would love to feed our sinful desire, especially in a world that advertises all sorts of things to us, food, sex, and lifestyle. It’s what we do with the thoughts thought, when they enter our minds, that matter, and that will decide how things play out. 

Let’s go back to my original question, did you know that you can allow the devil to tempt you? When we do not deal with thoughts, when we let them sit or even when we disregard them while still not dealing with them, we set ourselves up for failure. 

I think it’s crazy how sometimes we can rationalize things, “no, I’m an adult, that’s okay for me”, “in my culture that’s fine”, “I know my limits”.

The last time I checked the devil is about stealing, killing, and destroying. Do you think he cares if you consider yourself an adult, do you think he cares about your limits? When we justify and let things in it gives way to thoughts, when thoughts are not dealt with, they lead to sin. If we go back to the book of James, it lays this out clearly, 

“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” 

Let me encourage you; we need to deal with thoughts that are contrary to God’s word immediately as they enter our minds. Not disregard them. You may have to do this many times throughout your day, but you know what if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes. In 2 Corinthians, it says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 

If we are going to start winning, if we are going to take back our thoughts and minds, we need to start shutting doors that would regularly allow the chaos to enter. Remember, with God, all things are possible. Including your battle with Temptation. 

Your Battle with Temptation

Turning Fear Into Focus

What a few months it’s been, eh? Even putting everything to do with Covid-19 aside, I know people who seem to be going through one thing after another. Everything from finances to health to relationship situations. One thing though that is a commonality between them is fear.

Have you ever been afraid to the point where you’ve been paralyzed? Where that situation or the obstacle or whatever was in front of you becomes the only thing that you could focus on? Fight or flight, adrenaline, the heart rate goes up. Do you know what’s interesting about it? When we feel fear, for the most part, we tend not to be able to focus on anything else. And usually for a good reason.
I was listening to this guy share a story from a time he was out hunting on Kodiak Island, when a grizzle charged him and his friends. He had seconds to react. He didn’t have time to focus on the football game that was happening that weekend or what he was preparing to do the next day. Fear caused him to focus on exactly what was at hand. Now, that’s a healthy fear, one that would cause you to make right decisions like not jumping out in front of a car or not sticking a fork in an electrical outlet. There is wisdom in that fear. However, there is also an unhealthy fear that I wanted to talk about.

Let’s take our very real current situation, Covid-19,. People are taking precautions; for the most part, we’re doing our part. We’re social distancing, the extroverts are off shaking in a corner somewhere, but life is slowly starting to get to a more manageable place. However, there are also those who are fixated, almost in terror of what’s happening right now. Now I don’t want you to get me wrong here, and I’m not saying to not be cautious and follow proper procedures. What I am saying is that when the focus starts to shift from God to fear, we, as believers, set ourselves up for disaster.

There was a man in the bible, King David, one day he famously killed a giant, if you read the story, it’s quite amazing to recognize the pattern with which David talks. Even as he is confronting the giant, he declares, I will kill you. I will cut off your head and feed your flesh to the birds. He’s focused, he’s determined to see the victory for both Isreal and God, most importantly he ends up doing just that. Then years later we find a different David, a man who is still after God’s heart, but a man who takes his eyes off of the prize. 2 Samuel 11 “In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem.” The story goes on, and David ends up committing adultery, murder, which leads to rape and unrest in his family, and I’m sure a lot more than the bible does not mention.

What can we learn from these two different stories about the same guy? What we focus on, what we choose to focus on matters. It will end up determining outcomes. As I mentioned before, fear demands attention, so if we walk around in fear always focusing on the negative and what might happen and all the negative possibilities and outcomes, where do you think that road will lead? It’ll lead to a lack of peace, a loss of purpose, and feeling disconnected.

Let me encourage you, in a time where so many different things are trying to rip your focus from you. Focus on God and what He has called you to do, bring your concerns to Him daily even hourly because He cares for you, and has a good plan for your good future. I’ll leave you with 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Turning Fear Into Focus

Practise Peace, Forget Worry

Practise Peace

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were unprepared? When I was younger, I used to go to piano competitions. It’s a pretty strange thing to do, especially when you get into your teen years. No matter how good you become, what level you get to, there is always a five-year-old that can outplay you. I remember this one time when I was around 18 years old, sitting in a row of performers looking like I was the babysitter instead of a contestant.

Usually, I did well; however, there were times where I felt like I could have done better. I believe it came down to preparation or a lack thereof. If we have to bring things to the modern-day, I’m not worried about winning a piano competition against a bunch of five-year-olds anymore, but there are real things that pop up every once and awhile.

Recently, I had a non-medical emergency happen in my life that ended up costing a decent amount of money. Not to brag, but I got the invoice, and I paid for it. I didn’t stress or think twice about it. Why? Because I had prepared for an emergency in advance. (Thank you, Dave Ramsey)

The Bible says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He’s done.” The question on my mind is, how well are we practicing not worrying? How often are we practicing praying about everything?

When I went on stage as a kid to perform a piece of music, if I suddenly decided to take a few moments to memorize the piece and practice it right then and there, it would have done me no good. It was the practice ahead of time that prepared me for the moments I was on stage.

Let me encourage you; you don’t have a different access level to peace than other people who seem peaceful do. You simply may not have practiced handing your circumstances and stresses over to God.

In the coming weeks and months, even today, stop and breathe, take a moment and bring the things that are on your mind before God. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He’s done. If you do, the Bible goes on to say, “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ, Jesus.”

Practice peace, practice putting it into your life today, and it will guard your tomorrows.

Practise Peace, Forget Worry

Your Power Is In Your Authentic

I wanted to send out some encouragement tonight. You are a threat, a threat to the plans of the enemy. Not just in your life, but in the lives of the people that are connected and close to you.

There’s a lie going around that would try and convince people that if they are not living a quote-unquote perfect Christian life if they aren’t a person with a title of pastor or reverend (or whatever other man-made title) they have a less than calling on their lives. What a lie that is.

Can I encourage you, by being authentically you, authentically who God has called you to be, you are a massive force of destruction that the enemy can not silence. The Holy Spirit isn’t looking for perfection; He’s looking for you and me to be willing, when we are, the most amazing things can happen. 

Recently I spoke with someone who was discouraged and unsure, then someone else came into my path, and I was able to encourage them with the truth. The bible says it is the truth that will set people free, not a title or a fancy phrase that you speak or religious practices; it’s when you and I look into someone’s eyes and speak the truth of Jesus Christ to them that real change occurs. 

Let me encourage you, don’t allow the enemy who, hello, is called the father of lies, to tell you that you are not capable or enough. Don’t let anything keep you living life small; you have people that need what only you can authentically bring. 

Your Power Is In Your Authentic

You’ve come too far to quit now.

We do a disservice to ourselves when we quit.

I’ll never forget a story that a friend of mine shared. He was in a line at the grocery store, there was a woman in front of him. You know those people that make the check out such a complicated thing? She probably had coupons and savings cards, maybe she struck up a conversation with the lady at the cash. Whatever she was doing, it was taking an extremely long time. My friend waited and waited until finally he couldn’t take it anymore and he left to go to another line. When he did, though, something interesting happened. The lady paid and left, and now he had to wait again.

That story made me think long and hard about a lot of things. See, we have no idea how close we are from a breakthrough, we have no idea how close we are from God’s promises coming to pass over our lives. Some of us, though, get tired, we get impatient and try to solve things for ourselves, therefore, taking ourselves out of what God has for us. What if everything you ever wanted, all that God has for you, is on the other side of the situation that you are going through right now? What a disservice it would be to our past selves to throw in the towel and quit. Let me encourage you, if one thing is for sure, it’s that God’s promises will always, without exception, come to pass. All we have to do is be still, remember that He is God, know that He is in control and do all that we can do in the meantime. Do not be a person that throws in the towel, you’ve come this far! Your breakthrough could be on the other side of this next hardship, but you’ll never realize it if you quit now. Seek God, get the wisdom you need, and then continue to stand, believing that His word will come to pass over your life at the perfect time!

You’ve come too far to quit now.

Getting it done in 2020

Getting Stuff Done

What’s happening friends! One thing that I have been seeing pretty clearly recently is that we set the bar too low in our lives (for the most part). I think we can all accomplish a lot, but will we put in the effort. That seems to be the determining question.

Let me share a story with you from my past. I remember when I was younger, I was maybe 16 years old, I was really big into soccer, like the FIFA world cup, Italy beating France, Cristiano Ronaldo fresh on the scene, I loved everything soccer. I’d be out playing soccer all the time and I remember seeing Cristiano Ronaldo and how great of shape he was in and wanted to be like that too, I’m not going to lie this had nothing to do with health I was just like, “dang I need me some biceps and abs”. I remember talking with God about fitness and He said something that I will never forget. He said something along the lines of, “You can achieve that level of fitness, you just won’t put in the work to get there”.

He was absolutely right (obviously He’s God), I wasn’t willing to put in the effort to get those results. Now it’s a different story, I’m consistent, I go to the gym on specific times on specific days every week. When I feel like it, I go to the gym, when I don’t feel like it, I go to the gym. Here’s what I’ve been thinking recently, what if God had something for you that would change your children’s children’s lives? But because the new call of duty came out you rather waste away in front of a t.v? There is time for leisure, hear what I’m saying, but there are times where we need to get up and say, I can’t live beneath what God has called me to, let’s get things done! 

Getting it done in 2020

God Thoughts

God Thoughts

Isn’t it easy sometimes to think to ourselves, “God doesn’t see what’s happening to me, He doesn’t understand what it’s like. He doesn’t know.”

Those are some really big statements and even accusations to make. When we go about our days, it can really seem like God is far removed from our situations, can’t it? Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve seen someone who legitimately did something wrong get off barely being punished or slip under the radar and go completely unnoticed. While in a similar situation someone who may very well be innocent get’s all the blame and punishment. I’d say that’s pretty unfair. Odds are though, if you breathe air, these things happen around you all the time.

Have you ever worked for someone and thought, “I could do that better” or “If I was running the company I’d do this like that?” I bet that thought has crossed a lot of our minds. The thing is, we are operating from a place of limited information. Sure we can look at a CEO or President or Prime Minister and think that we could and would do better; yet until we are in that seat we don’t really know, because we are seeing things from a different level and vantage point with limited information.

Isaiah 55:8-9 is very interesting when it comes to thoughts like these: It says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

We have a limited ability to see things for how they really are. Our thoughts are not the thoughts of God, and our ways are not His ways. He sees situations from a different place altogether. 

I was reading the other day about a time in the Bible where there was a person who saw the injustice going on around him. He went to God (which is the right thing to do) and basically said to God, “I’m confused, I’m seeing people prosper that are wicked while at the same time seeing the righteous be abused…” God was gracious to this person and responded but His response was from a higher place of thought. God told him that He does see, that He is raising up another nation to take care of their enemies. Just because this person could not see justice, it did not mean that God was not acting completely consistent with his favour for those who honour Him.

In this though, remember to see the heart of God. He sent His son to die for everyone, not just for a select few, not just for you and I but everyone. His will is for everyone to turn from sin.

Honestly, I don’t know why there is so much intense suffering in this world, I don’t know why there must be martyrs and why wild things are happening all around us but I know God’s character (at least what my small human mind can understand of it). Let me encourage you, God is 100% just. If someone has wronged you, if things have come against you, He sees and He knows. Never loose sight of the fact that God will not let these things go unanswered. We will all give an account one day for the things we did, the thoughts we thought and the words we said. God is just, have faith and continue to walk in peace as you remember that He is actively working the circumstances of your situation out for good.

 

God Thoughts