Transformation vs Usefulness

The last Thursday of every month I’ve had the privilege of attending a leadership seminar. This past seminar Cookie Cawthon of NewSpring Church spoke on the difference between transformation and usefulness.

Her main point was that God will always desire to change us rather than to use us. She went on to say God will use ministry in order to change us rather than the services we can provide while in ministry. In other words, God is more concerned in who we are becoming than what we are doing. But what I really want to share with you in this post are the 5 truths of change that Cookie shared with us.

1) The Inevitability of a Wait
There is a whole lot of spiritual value in waiting. There is much less spiritual value when we get what we want when we want it. It’s not about what we do but it’s about the more we become like Jesus.

2) The Difficulty of Desperation
We can insulate ourselves so much that we separate ourselves from God.

3) The Vulnerability to Idolatry
Your call to ministry or burden for ministry can become an idol. God will use change in our lives in order to reveal idols in our lives.

4) The Necessity of Faith
God is going to call you to places that are going to require faith. When we do everything we can do, we need to believe that God will fill in the gaps.

5) The Responsibility of Discipleship
Jesus commands us all to go make disciples in Matthew 28:19.

After all that though, there is one trump card and that is the certainty of God’s faithfulness. In every season of change you can look back and see God’s hand throughout. He was faithful. He is faithful. He will be faithful.

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Dried Brook

I heard someone say one time “When the pain of remaining the same becomes greater than the pain of change, that is when change will occur.”

This statement becomes alive to us in the story of Elijah and the brook found in 1 Kings 17. You can read it for yourself in verses 1-9 but here is a quick overview. Elijah goes to the king, Ahab, and tells him that there is going to be a drought in the land. Because of this, the Lord leads Elijah to a brook in order for him to have something to drink and commands ravens to bring him food to eat. But in verse 7 Elijah runs into a problem, the brook dried up. Now what? Why would God lead Elijah to the brook and then allow the brook to dry up?

I believe God did this because He wanted Elijah to move on. God knew that as long as the brook flowed with water and the ravens kept bringing Elijah food, he would have remained the same. But God allowed the brook to dry up signifying to Elijah that change was coming. God was giving Elijah a heads up that the season he was in was coming to an end and that God was moving him into a new season in his life. I know this is true because two verses later, after the brook dries up, God says this to Elijah “Arise, go.”

I believe the same rings true for us today. Sometimes God has to dry up the brook that we are lounging at in order for Him to move us into what He has for us next. Sometimes God will make the pain of remaining the same greater than the pain of change so that we will be willing to move on.

So what brook are you lounging next to? Is God calling you to step into what He has for you next?

Arise and go!

Overcome: How to Rise Above When Everyone Else is Sinking

Overcome_Cover_Comp1

I have a new book coming out pretty soon called Overcome: How to Rise Above When Everyone Else is Sinking. Here is a little sneak peak on what the book is about:

Why does every circumstance in life seem to swallow us
up rather than us conquering it?
We were created to conquer not to be conquered. We
were purposed to overcome not to be overcome. On most
days, however, if we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t feel
like this is true; we feel defeated, we feel destroyed.
In Overcome, you will be challenged and encouraged to
know we can overcome because Jesus overcame. Through the
biblical account of Peter walking on water, we discover how
to rise above our situations, circumstances, and problems.
So, get ready to elevate your life to new heights. Brace
yourself for the experience of a lifetime. Once you soar into
a life of overcoming, there is no sinking back into a life of
overwhelming.

I believe the message of this book is something that everyone needs to hear. This book will be very helpful and encouraging to anyone who reads it. I know this because the message of this book has greatly impacted my own life. I can’t wait to hear stories of how Jesus used Overcome to change someone’s life from a life of overwhelming to a life of overcoming.

Stay tuned for an update with an official release date. Also a website with more info including a promo video, a sneak peak of the first chapter, a Twitter profile picture, a Facebook banner, and much more is coming soon.

Who’s Laughing Now?

Dustin Pedroia, second baseman for the Boston Red Sox, is a very undersized athlete for the position that he plays. Because of his size, when he hits the ball, he has to swing with everything he’s got. When he was first coming up through the ranks of professional baseball, everyone use to laugh at him and ask “Who is this little guy with a big swing?” Pedroia didn’t let this stop him. He kept playing the game of baseball like he always had and kept swinging like he always did. Now a Rookie of the Year award, a couple of Silver Sluggers, a World Series Championship, and a MVP award later; no one’s laughing.

We find Jesus in a similar situation. Mark records it for us in the 5th chapter of his gospel. A man named Jarius comes up to Jesus and asks Him if He would come to his house in order that He might heal his daughter. As they are on their way to Jarius’ house, trying to make it through the crowd, people came and brought Jarius the devastating news that his daughter is dead. This didn’t stop Jesus, He spoke a quick word of encouragement to Jarius and kept on toward his house. What happens next is where we see the similarities to Pedroia’s story. This is what Mark writes:

When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.”But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!”(which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. (Mark 5:38-42 NIV)

The people laughed at Jesus, but that didn’t stop Him from doing what He had set out to accomplish. After Jesus raised Jarius’ daughter from the dead, no one was laughing then.

You probably have found yourself in the same position as Jesus and Pedroia. You may even be in this situation right now. It might be a dream that you have had since you could first remember. It might be a certain goal that you have set out to accomplish. Recently things may have started to look bleak and maybe your dream had even died. Now people are laughing at you. Saying “Can you believe so and so still thinking that they have a shot at accomplishing ______.” You fill in the blank. Or maybe they’re laughing saying “Can you believe so and so actually thinks they can do ______ considering where they come from.” Again you fill in the blank.

But just like Pedroia and Jesus ignore the laughter, silence the critics, and keep on setting out to do what you originally set out to accomplish. If your goals are looking bleak, don’t give up. If your dream has died, don’t lose hope Jesus will raise it from the dead. And then you’ll be able to say “Who’s laughing now?”

Jesus > Circumstances

Recently my circumstances have caused me to doubt what I believe to be true in the Word of God. I have come to question some of the promises that God has made in His Word. If you were honest with me, you would say that there were times in your life, maybe even now, where you have done the same thing. Why is this? Why do we seem so confident about God’s promises when we are on the mountain top, but so confused about His promises when we are in the valley?

This dilemma isn’t anything new. We see John the Baptist wrestle with the same thing in his life. We see him boldly proclaim Jesus as Lord in John chapter 1, but later on when he is placed in prison, we see him start to doubt his proclamation in Matthew chapter 11. While John the Baptist is in prison, he sends his disciples to ask Jesus “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (See Matthew 11:3 ESV) But Jesus responds “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (See Matthew 11:4-6 ESV) In other words, Jesus was saying “John just because your circumstances have changed doesn’t mean that I have changed. I am greater than your circumstances.”

The same holds true for you today. The writer of Hebrews tells you that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (See Hebrews 13:8 ESV) Your circumstances may change, but Jesus never changes. The same Jesus that was with you in the pinnacle of your life is the same Jesus that will be with you in the prison of your life. The same Jesus that was with you on top of the mountain is the same Jesus that will be with you down in the valley. Your situation doesn’t change your Savior. Your circumstance doesn’t change your Christ. Jesus is greater than your valley. Jesus is greater than your prison. Jesus is greater than your situation. Jesus is greater than your circumstance.

Locked Up

Have you ever felt locked up? Have you ever felt like you are bound by chains and didn’t know why? I’ve been there. Recently I discovered the reason for feeling this way. I saw this when I was listening to a message by Pastor Perry Noble of NewSpring Church on Paul and Silas in prison.

We find the story recorded by Luke in Acts 16. I’ll do my best to summarize it for you, but if you get the chance, you should go read the story for yourself.

So Paul and Silas get severely beaten, thrown in prison, and locked up in the inner cell with their feet fastened in the stocks because they caste out a spirit from within a slave girl. Paul and Silas didn’t do anything wrong, in fact they actually helped this girl out, but they were put in chains for it. Funny how Paul and Silas got locked up for setting someone else free. But that didn’t stop them. At midnight they started to pray and sing hymns to God. Suddenly there was an earthquake that shook the whole jail, opened the prison doors, and everyone’s chains fell off.

A couple of takeaways we can pull from this story that will be beneficial to those of us that are feeling locked up or bound in chains and don’t know why.

1) Sometimes you will get put in chains not because you’ve done something wrong but because you have done something right.

Maybe you even helped someone else out but you were locked up because of it. You might have even set someone else free. Whatever the reason is for you being locked up, you can’t let that prevent you from what God has called you to do. Paul and Silas didn’t let the reason for them being locked up keep them down. They decided to keep doing what God had called them to do no matter what the circumstance they were in.

2) Sometimes God will lock you up in order to set others free.

Notice that only Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God but everyone’s chains fell off. God will not only set you free, but He will set everyone free who is connected to you. Maybe God’s placed you in that family because when He sets you free, everyone else’s chains will fall off too. Maybe God’s put you in that job so that when He opens the prison doors for you, everyone else will walk out in freedom as well. Maybe God doesn’t just want to set you free, but He wants to set everyone who is connected to you free too.

3) When Jesus sets you free, you are truly free.

Not only did everyone’s chains fall off, but the prison doors were opened as well. How cruel would it be if the chains had fallen off, but the prison doors were still locked shut? This is what the world has to offer. The world can only set you free from your chains temporarily, but it leaves you still locked up in the prison you’re in. Only Jesus can set you free completely. John writes it this way “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (See John 8:36 ESV) That bottle will only set you free for a moment, but it will leave you trapped in your prison. That pipe will only relieve your pain temporarily, but it will still leave you locked up inside. That pill will only let you escape for a season, but when you wake up, you’ll still find yourself in that cell. But when Jesus sets you free, He not only takes your chains off but He swings open the prison doors so that you can walk out in true freedom.

Behind Your Back

In the book of Daniel chapter two, we see something happen that I believe still takes place today. Let me give you a little context to the story here. Daniel and the people of Judah had just been taken into captivity by Babylon. For a whole year, Daniel lived in obscurity, having a gift of understanding visions and dreams. Until one day, the king of Babylon had a dream that troubled him so much that he couldn’t sleep. The king called all his wise men and commanded that they tell him his dream and what the dream means. But no one could do what the king had asked, so the king ordered every one of the wise men to be killed. However, Daniel was able to tell the king his dream and give the interpretation of the dream so all the wise men were saved and Daniel was made “ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.” (See Daniel 2:48)

Some of you may find yourself in a tough situation just like Daniel. You might find yourself in the background. You might be living in obscurity. But I believe, just like He did for Daniel, that God is working behind your back and creating a problem that you only have the answer to. He is making a way for you to use the gift that He has given you.

Paul tells us that God was working behind our backs all along because while we were still sinners He sent Jesus to die for us. (See Romans 5:8) Just like He did for Daniel, God will provide a way for you to come out of obscurity to notoriety. He will bring you from the background to the forefront. Even though you can’t see it, God is always working behind your back for your good and His glory.

The Tomb is Empty

Yesterday we celebrated Easter. The reason why we celebrated is because the tomb is empty. It’s because Jesus rose again. It’s because their was a resurrection. We all were reminded about this yesterday. This truth was magnified in our lives.

But what about today? What happens when you go back to work and it doesn’t feel like the tomb is empty? Yesterday you could feel the resurrection power, but today feels more like an execution. What do you do? Where do you go? Who do you turn to?

You just got to keep reminding yourself that the same tomb that was empty on Sunday is still empty on Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday, and Friday, and is still empty on Saturday. The tomb is empty so that your heart doesn’t have to be. Jesus rose again so that you can stand again. Jesus’ life didn’t end with an execution but with a resurrection. Jesus preached death’s funeral.

So when stuff on your desk keeps piling up at work, remember that the tomb is empty. When you get that flat tire on Tuesday, remember that the tomb is empty. When the kids are acting up on Wednesday, remember that the tomb is empty. When you get that bad report from the doctor on Thursday, remember that the tomb is empty. When you get served the divorce papers on Friday, remember that the tomb is empty. Or when your life starts falling apart on Saturday, remember that the tomb is empty.

Jesus can take your mess and turn it into your message because the tomb is empty. Jesus can take your test and turn it into your testimony because the tomb is empty. Jesus can take your opposition and turn it into your opportunity because the tomb is empty. Jesus can take your pain and turn it into your promise because the tomb is empty. Jesus can take you from being a victim into being a victor because the tomb is empty. Jesus can turn your execution into a resurrection because the tomb is empty.

Stand up because Jesus got up and know that the tomb is still empty!

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