Practical Living

Here Today & Gone Tomorrow?

Thank you for taking the time to read this  blog today.  With all the many things that you could be doing right now…it’s a blessing to know that you are taking time to invest in your spiritual life.  I share this next statement with people every chance I get…and I hope you catch what I’m about to say…”The Greatest Win is Within.”

Over the past 30 plus years I have seen people here today and gone tomorrow (they’ve come from all walks and levels of life). What’s separates those who will be here tomorrow from those who won’t is one simple word that I want to focus today’s blog on…FAITHFULNESS! I pray that it will add value to you as a christian, a minister or even a student of God’s beautiful word.

Let’s jump right into it…are you faithful?  If you take a moment to look at your life, can you answer that question truthfully?  Now this is between you and God…I really want you to take the time to think about your life and your relationship with God. So, let me ask you again because repetition is the mother of all learning…Are You Faithful?  Are you faithful to God? Are you faithful to your spouse? Are you faithful to your career? If you take the time to really answer those questions…you’ll see that we could all grow in our faithfulness.

Now why do I take the time to ask these questions? Because I want you to be the kind of person that will be here today and also here tomorrow.  And sometimes that means we have to ask ourselves the hard questions…sometimes that means we have to make some adjustments…sometimes we have to take the time to build our character today so we’ll be here tomorrow…sometimes we have to have the mindset that “I ain’t giving up!” Hopefully that’s you today. I don’t just want to give you a feel good message and send you on your way.  I want to challenge you, provoke you and get you to be better than you were yesterday so you’ll be a man or woman that will stand the test of time.

Before we close today, I want to give you three quick stories of faithfulness:

  1. Richard Hooker.  He was a writer who endured 21 different rejections.  Finally, after 17 years a publisher took a chance on him.  From those writings came the hit TV Show “MASH” which ran for many years.
  2. Theodor Geisel was an American writer who underwent 23 different rejections.  He got creative by changing his name but still submitted his writings.  Today he is best known as “Dr. Seuss” and his stories continue to touch lives to this very day.
  3. God. “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” – Deuteronomy 7:9
I’ve learned that God is pleased by what he does and does what he pleases. If we can learn from someone what it truly means to be faithful…it is God.  Don’t give up! You might be going through a tough time at the moment…but you’re going to come out as gold if you hang on.  It’s all part of the character that God is forming in you.  You’re stronger today than you were yesterday and if you take the time today to make the necessary adjustments…you’ll be someone who’s here today and here tomorrow too! I know you can do it.  God has been faithful in my life for over 30 years…and I know he can do the same in your life as well! He is faithful!

The Proof is in the Pudding

The Proof is in the Pudding.” Have you ever heard that phrase before?  If you do a little research, you’ll see that the meaning of this phrase is often summed up as “results are what count.”  Results! Results! Results! I love results. I don’t just do things just to do them.  I don’t wake up with aimless efforts.  I’m very intentional with my time…even to the point of where I know where I want my life to be in 5 years, 10 years and even beyond.  I love to see results in my personal life, in my family, in my ministry and every other area of my life.  You know who else loves to see results? Jesus.  He loves to see results.  In John 15, Jesus was trying to prepare the disciples for what was about to come. Another word for results is fruit.  Let me ask you a question…is there fruit in your life?

I’m sure there is plenty of fruit in your life. If you have a job…fruit would be your paycheck.  If you’re a student…fruit would be your GPA and ultimately your degree.  If you’re taking the time to read this…fruit would be what you do with this after you’re done.  You like fruit too.  Wouldn’t it be a waste of your time to work 40 hours a week just for someone to give you a pat on the back and thank you for a job well done?  While that might feel good…what keeps you coming back day in and day out is that paycheck to provide for the needs that you have.  We love fruit…especially in the areas that we care about.  We’ll make adjustments: if we need more money, we’ll cut spending…if our health is at risk, we’ll go on a strict diet…if we want to further our education, we’ll take the required classes…if we want to be better parents, we’ll seek advice.  You get the picture. There are a few areas that Jesus cared about…and he even calls them fruit.  Before we close up today…I want to share six things that were labeled fruit in the New Testament.  Take some time to evaluate your own life today…is there spiritual fruit in your life?

Six Things the New Testament Calls Fruit:

  1. Winning Souls [Romans 1:13/John 4:35-38]
  2. Holiness & Obedience [Romans 6:22]
  3. Financial Giving [Romans 15:26-29]
  4. Good Works [Colossians 1:10]
  5. The Praise that comes from our Lips [Hebrews 13:5]
  6. Love [Galatians 5:22-23]
As you take time to study each on your own…i pray that you’ll not only be able to see what fruit you have or don’t have at this moment…but also feel the desire to bear more fruit…fruit that will last.

The Most Important Lesson in Life

Good morning, good afternoon or good evening.  I pray that as you are taking the time to read this devotion…that you are blessed.  What I’m about to share with you is something so important that Jesus took the time to put this in scripture for you and I to read.  It’s something that will keep you and I in the days to come.  It’s something so simple that we sometimes take it for granted. Yet it’s so important that it could make the biggest difference in our lives.  Are you ready? It’s one word. You’ve probably figured it out by now because the word is pictured above.  That word is “ABIDE.” Let me ask you a question. Are you abiding in Christ today? Think about that for a second while you read the scripture below:

Go ahead and read it one more time. Let it sink in for a second.  I pray that you begin to examine your own life at this moment.  Let me ask that question one more time, “are you abiding in Christ?” Let me put it another way…is Jesus your lifeline? Is he the True Vine in your life? If he is, then praise God. If anything this devotion will just be a refreshing to you…because you my friend are someone that loves to soak in the presence of God.  But if this is not you, then this is a reminder to you.  Jesus took the last opportunity he had with his disciples to remind them about this very important principle that would keep them for the rest of their lives.

Before we end our heart to heart today, I want to leave you with 4 ways that you can tell if someone is abiding in Christ:

  1. They’re going to produce fruit. [Is there fruit in your life?]
  2. They’re going to experience the Father’s pruning in order to bear more fruit. [Sometimes it would take 3 years to produce sweeter fruit.  That might even be the case in your life today.]
  3. They’re going to have their prayers answered. [Some prayers might be under ‘wait’ status…but you’ll be able to look back and see a track record of answered prayer.]
  4. They’re going to experience a deepening love for Christ and for others. [Our relationship with God will connect us to others and we’ll have a deeper desire to do more for Him.]
If that’s you today, then I just want to continue you cheer you on in the race that you’re running today. And if you’re lacking in an area, then it is my prayer that you shake of the dust, get back up and continue on the race that God has for you as well.  Take the challenge to abide in Christ today. As a matter of fact, I encourage you to take the next few moments to ask God where you can grow in your walk with him. I believe that not only will God answer you, but he will guide you as well.  Remember, “People that are broken know that everything we do is about and for God.”

Are You Fruitful?

“”I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:1-6

As you take time to read through this blog today, please take time to examine your own life.  I really feel that Jesus was communicating a very important lesson to his disciples with the portion of scripture we just read.  It was important because this was his last intentional moment he was going to have before heading to the garden of gethsemane and ultimately the cross.

Have you ever wondered why God has a pruning process?  I mean why can’t we just receive the promises of God without having to go through a process?  I asked myself this question one day when my pomegranate tree was pruned (Side Note: I love me some good fruit).  Well, one day when I went outside to grab me a nice piece of fruit…to my surprise…my entire tree was pruned!  After i gathered myself (just joking)…my good friend explained to me that this tree needed to be pruned so it could produce sweeter fruit.  And guess what? He was right!  That’s exactly what God does in our life.  You might not be enjoying the process…but believe me without that pruning, we will never enjoy the prize.

Before closing up today, I would like to leave you with a few thoughts.

  1. Are you Fruitful? When you look at your life, are you producing fruit? We’ll get into what fruit is a little bit more in my next blogs but there are Four Levels of Fruit that are brought out in this passage: No Fruit, Fruit, More Fruit & Much Fruit.  Which level are you at?
  2. Is Anything Severing Your Relationship with God? Severed means “pulled, cut, broken or severely damaged.” “In the world, we’ll have relationships/friendships that are damaged…but we can’t let our relationship with God get pulled, cut, broken or severely damaged. We can’t let hardships or trials affect us.
  3. Are There Air Bubbles in Your Life? A very important part of processing clay is when the Potter takes a mallet and methodically pounds the clay layer by layer.  He’ll pound it over and over again until he feels that all the air bubbles are gone.  Air bubbles can’t be seen with the naked eye. The air bubbles could be anger, jealousy, lust, etc. And if clay goes into the fire with air bubbles…the clay will pop.  When God allows us to go through the fire, he wants us to come out as gold…not to pop.  We’re not worthy of the promise if we can’t handle the process.
So where do you stand today in your life? Are you fruitful? Are you allowing anything to severe your relationship with God? Are there any air bubbles in your life? Jesus continually says “Remain in me.” The real question is “Are you with me?” He’s continually saying, “I’m not going anywhere”…but are you?

Don’t Fret

It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to sit down and share a cup of coffee with you.  But since the last time we’ve talked, so much has happened within my own life.  I am so excited to see what God is doing within our movement Victory Outreach International [we just came back from our World Conference in Los Angeles, CA], our local church in Whittier [we are currently in the process of purchasing a new building] and within my own personal life.  God has been so good to me.  It is out of a full heart that I share today’s devotion with you.  I pray that you are blessed, motivated and ready to do all that God has for you.  Why? Because that’s exactly what I feel right now as well.  Take a few moments to pray right now that God will open up your heart as you read today’s blog entitled, “Don’t fret.”

Do not fret because of those who are evil 
   or be envious of those who do wrong; 

for like the grass they will soon wither, 
   like green plants they will soon die away.” – Psalm 37:1-2

Have you ever been envious of someone else’s life?  Maybe they had a car that you wanted? A job? A salary? A husband? A wife? See where this is going?  If we’re honest with ourselves, I’m sure we can all trace back to a time where we weren’t satisfied with our own life and wanted something to change.  Maybe you’re there today.  Maybe you find yourself in a place where something isn’t where you want it to be.  Maybe financially you are having a hard time making ends meat. Or maybe there is a relationship in your life that seems unfixable.  Or just maybe another situation has you in a bind.  Wherever you are today, I want you to know that God sees your situation and he is able to change everything around.

Just recently in my own life…I almost fell into this trap.  I was visiting a new church building of a well known pastor around the world.  I was blown away by the story that I heard that day.  Not only was this building in a very nice area, it was able to sit a lot of people…but it was also FREE! Let me say that again…it was FREE!  I was stopped in my tracks for a second.  Part of me wanted to complain to God and say, “God what about us? What about Whittier? God you know I want to reach people.  Why can’t we just have the building for FREE like this man?”  It was at that moment when the Holy Spirit began to minister to my heart and say, “Joe, you don’t know what he’s sown.  You don’t know what he has had to go through to get here.  Focus on the field that I have given you.”  So many times we do this.  Don’t get fooled.  The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.  The grass is greener where you water it.

If you continue to read Psalms 37, it goes on to give some really great insights into how we can turn our focus from us & our circumstances to God.  Some keys words are for us to “Trust,” “Delight,” & “Commit.”  I want to camp out on that word delight before we wrap up our conversation for today.  That word delight actually refers to us being soft and moldable in reference to clay.  Once clay becomes hardened, it’s of no value.  It becomes stuck in that condition.  Sadly, there are many christians today who are stuck and have been stuck in the same conditions for years.  Do you know anyone like that? Maybe a friend? A family member? I’m sure we all do.  When we’re obedient to God, his blessings will follow.

God doesn’t bless disobedience.  Why? Well, let me ask you a question…would you?  If you asked your kids to take out the trash and they responded, “you do it you jerk.” Would the next words that come out of your mouth be “you know what? Let me take you to the mall and get you whatever you’d like.” I didn’t think so.  It’s the same with God. If we stay close to God, we’ll have that peace that only he can bring.  If God has shown me one thing these past few months its for me to keep that intimate relationship with him like never before.  I want to encourage you to do the same.  Don’t fret!  In other words…don’t start to spoil.  Don’t let anything in this world cause you to fall apart.  And when you’re close to God…he won’t let that happen.

Feeding your Faith & Starving your Fear

As they left Bethany the next day, he was hungry. Off in the distance he saw a fig tree in full leaf. He came up to it expecting to find something for breakfast, but found nothing but fig leaves. (It wasn’t yet the season for figs.) He addressed the tree: “No one is going to eat fruit from you again—ever!” And his disciples overheard him. [Mark 11:12-14]

I pray that as you read this blog, you will be encouraged to take your faith to another level.  That’s exactly what Jesus did with the disciples every chance he got.  I once heard it said that you have to be taught the same thing TEN times before it begins to become ingrained in you as a person. Is it any wonder why Jesus spoke so much on faith while he was still with the disciples? For Jesus to spend so much time and energy on one subject…I think he wanted us to tune into what he was trying to say.

I want you to take some time to reflect on your own life for a second.  Have you been feeding your faith or feeding your fear?  Maybe I should ask you another question…have you been obeying the voice of God in your life or been running from what God has been telling you to do?

Have you ever doubted in your heart?  What makes you doubt?  TIME! When time goes by…it will beat at your heart and tell you “when is it going to happen?” Sometimes time has a way of making us feel impatient.  We’ll wonder, why hasn’t it happened sooner?  In those moments, what do you tend to say to your mountain?  Do you speak faith or fear?

If you are in the habit of speaking fear…let me give you some quick advice: God responds to Faith, not Fear [which in most cases is our emotions].  Why is saying/speaking your faith so important?  Because it’s easy to pray quietly or in your mind. But if you’re mountain doesn’t move…no one will ever know.   it’s safe.  But if you speak it out…now that’s a test of faith!  Today I want to encourage you to speak out in faith…don’t get tired of waiting on God.  It’s just a matter of time before that mountain is moved in your life.  God doesn’t want you to struggle.  Choose to do things different today.  God is always trying to teach us faith.  He did the same thing with his disciples even after he died.  Remember what he said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and still believe!”

Increase Our Faith

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”  He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. [Luke 17:5-6]

Let me start this blog with a simple question, “Why is faith important?” I’m sure everyone will have different responses to that question.  But with a simple question…I’ll pose a simple answer…because without faith, it’s impossible to please God.  Are you someone that’s pleases God today in your walk?

God doesn’t waste ministry on someone that doesn’t have great destiny!” If you’re taking the time to read this blog, then that means that you’re an individual who has great destiny.  It was the same with the disciples.  Jesus spent time and energy investing in their lives because he knew they would one day take his ministry around the world.  The story that follows in Luke 17 was a model of faith building for the disciples…and I believe for us too!

The key phrase in the scripture above is “you can say.” Some people miss out on that key phrase and focus too much on the mustard seed part of the scripture.  If you get stuck there then you’re only catching part of what Jesus was saying…it’s much bigger than that.  The disciples were asking for Jesus to increase their faith.  But Jesus was telling them to SPEAK their faith.  Are you speaking faith in your life today?  God is not moved by your emotion…but he is moved by your faith.  See…faith doesn’t want details…just obedience.

Jesus changed the World with 3 Statements:

  1. Mark 4:39 [Atmosphere]: He told the winds and the waves to stop.  He was saying…”i spoke an impossibility and you can do the same thing.”
  2. “Lazarus, come forth” [Death]: He allowed a dear friend of his to die to prove to everyone that he had power over death.
  3. “It is finished” [Relationship with God]: It was because of this that we now have access to God.

In Exodus 14:15, God tells Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?” Sometimes all you see is your red sea…but God sees the end result.  Have you’ve been in a place where you have been crying to God? He’s telling you today to speak to your Red Sea! Remember God is moved by your faith, not your emotions.  The situation will change! We just need to stop telling our God how big our mountain is and start telling our mountain how big our God is!