Read some great devotionals written by Pastor Jayce and some of our members at RED Church.
Check back on Mondays for brand new devotionals.
Read some great devotionals written by Pastor Jayce and some of our members at RED Church.
Check back on Mondays for brand new devotionals.
November 27, 2016
By Shirley Noftsinger
“I wish above ALL things that you PROSPER, and be in health, even as your soul prospers.” 3rd John 1:2
As the system of exchange for goods or services in our culture, Money is Good. The Bible teaches us that the Love of Money is the root of all evil. God created all things for our good.
For twenty years now I have been counseling people in #debt. Sometimes it seems those are the only people I know, but please realize, I do have friends who have never had debt. They own their cars, homes, and have never had to pay college loans. Today, reading an article about wealthy lifestyle habits, several of my friends came to mind. Sure, I’ve taught people these basics, but rarely thought about rich people as having their own spending practices. What set these people apart from the thousands I have counseled over the years? In our book, Paid In Full, we actually refer to this practice as a Lifestyle of Financial Freedom. So, no more suspense: here is what Goal-Powered-Spending habits can get You.
1. Every Dollar on Purpose: Know where your money is…every penny!
Personally, as a single parent scratching my way out of poverty, I literally had to log every dollar I spent. As a theatre director I had blocked actors saying, “Every Move On Purpose.” So, in regard to debt, I switched it to “Every Dollar on Purpose.” First, get a Dome 12 month Bookkeeping Record book, and start TODAY recording your weekly income, expenses, bank fees, taxes, snacks, and anything that exchanges from your paycheck to someone else. I discourage the use of software programs initially, especially if you need to really see where your money is going. Later, the software graphs and charts will be great incentive to watch your expenses shrink, while the profits expand.
2. Credit: What is your Spending Pattern and History?
Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endures forever. Psalm 112:3
Go ahead! Take a deep breath and check your #Credit Score. Equifax offers a free Credit Report without flagging your credit rating.
If there are discrepancies or debts you don’t recognize, contact and verify accounts with creditors. If you have delinquencies you were unaware of, plead for mercy! Explain your case and ask for a grace period, temporary hardship, or have the creditor wave a fee one time.
For credit cards in Good Standing, ask for a better interest rate. If you were the CFO for a multi-millionaire you would pride yourself in saving every penny you could for their company. So, Do it for You! Even your first rule for GPS is to know your starting point. Then, you can determine the #Financial path you need to improve your Financial Address.
3. Spending Plan:
Once you have logged your income and monthly expenses, you can establish a spreadsheet. You will know every expense and when to expect to pay it every month. You will see any extra income and how you might pay extra on a bill, or pay your savings account. I actually logged my income in pencil at $100 less per pay period. (It’s funny how you can fib to yourself and actually start believing it.) That forced me to spend less than I actually earned: a Million Dollar secret! My Dome book made me actually SEE where my money went each week. No Mystery Money Monster. I was the one leaking cash out of my wallet.
4. Shop Smart! Pay Attention, not Retail! Proverbs 31:10 Virtuous Woman!!
Whenever possible, shop and stock ahead. Except for groceries or fresh produce, I buy on-line at sale price with Free Shipping. My list is made up of what I will need the coming month. That means I am not buying under pressure. Inventory your household, especially each wardrobe, and purchase at off-season prices. You’re going to know if your kids have outgrown their sizes, or if you totally wore out clothes at the end of a season.
If you really want the latest style on something, just don’t spend money for something else ahead of time. Our book calls this “GPS-Goal-Powered-Spending.” Keep a picture posted of what you are saving to purchase. You might even start a “Special Purchase” envelope to save up for a few must haves.
When you’re purchasing at the store, always ask, “Is that the best you can do for me today?” So many times I have gotten “Secret” percentages off! The clerk has even given me their discount, or used an extra coupon for me. The Favor of God!!
Be polite, respectful, and expect FAVOR! Always be able to walk away if you don’t feel good about the price. Say NO to up-sales. They cause you to spend CASH earmarked for your Special Purchase Goal. Put pressure on the clerk to lower prices. Just picture what you are saving to purchase. It’s YOUR money. You cannot spend it twice! That’s called #Debt! Just remember “Every Dollar on Purpose!”
5. Pay Ahead: Lay-away Memories- Exchange less value for better value!
Whether you pay into a savings account, schedule automatic payments for car, college, rent, or mortgage, think of your income as payment for valuable memories on hold. The millionaire next door to you never sees cash as “extra money.” Keep the big picture of how that cash will add to a larger investment. Cage the impulsive-compulsive spender in your emotions, and train it to be tame, purposeful, inside a framework of time and experiences.
For instance, take that morning drive-thru cup of coffee. Yes, you deserve a $4.00 cup of pleasure to start that long, hard workday. Five days a week, 4 weeks a month, even just 10 months this year will total $800.00. If you only indulge half of those you still spend $400.00. What would you like to do or have at the end of this year that costs $400-800 dollars? Put that picture on your dashboard, and every time you start toward that drive-through, look at that picture and pay $4.00 to your Special Purchase Goal. That’s how you change your habits and improve your lifestyle. Never think of bonuses, gift cards, raises as “extra money.” Think of it as pre-payment for paying off your car, having cash for college, making a larger down payment on a dream home.
If you’ve paid off your car, keep making payments to your savings. You will need another vehicle someday. Then you’ll have your trade-in plus the cash you’ve been building interest on in your savings account.
Second and Third Jobs? Count the Cost!
Luke 14:28 [Full Chapter] For which of you, desiring to build a tower (Or a dream home), does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he have everything (time, energy, health) to complete it?
Wealthy people also weigh the pro’s and con’s of second incomes to be sure they really get the cash value over all they have to spend for the job. Work extra jobs only if you are not spending the income on childcare, extra vehicles and insurance, restaurant food because you can’t go home to eat. Calculate the expense of doctor bills, medicine for blood pressure or poor diet against the actual bring-home pay. Be selective about which jobs are actually going to benefit your household and skill training, and which ones will add stress or burden to your family.
Too bothersome for you? You thought being rich was an easy lifestyle with no cares for money? Then a #DebtFree Lifestyle won’t work for you. Sounds strange to say when living debt free is an available option for most households. You may not be able to save bundles of money back for retirement, but at least go into retirement with your home paid for, no debt, no heavy financial weight to your monthly income. Start that as your Financial GPS and see how quickly your lifestyle improves.
Proverbs 31:10 (Amplified Bible) A Virtuous Woman- Not exactly a Stay-At-Home Mom!!
10 An excellent woman [one who is spiritual, capable, intelligent, and virtuous], who is he who can find her? Her value is more precious than jewels and her worth is far above rubies or pearls.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her [with secure confidence], He will have no lack of gain.
12 She comforts, encourages, and does him only good and not evil All the days of her life.
13 She looks for wool and flax And works with willing hands in delight.
14 She is like the merchant ships [abounding with treasure]; She brings her [household’s] food from far away.
15 She rises also while it is still night, gives food to her household and assigns tasks to her maids.(YES! Husbands, if she’s doing all these wonderful things, she NEEDS a housekeeper!)
16 She considers a field before she buys or accepts it [expanding her business prudently];
With her profits she plants fruitful vines in her vineyard.
17 She equips herself with strength [spiritual, mental, and physical fitness for her God-given task]
And makes her arms strong. (Fitness Spa)
18 She sees that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out, but it burns continually through the night [she sleeps, but is prepared for whatever lies ahead].
19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands hold the spindle [as she spins wool into thread for clothing].
20 She opens and extends her hand to the poor, And she reaches out her filled hands to the needy.
21 She does not fear the snow for her household, For all in her household are clothed in [expensive] scarlet [wool]. (May be from a thrift store but it is high quality!)
22 She makes for herself coverlets, cushions, and rugs of tapestry. Her clothing is linen, pure and fine, and purple [wool]. (Spends her time on valuable needs for her family-not just hobbies!)
23 Her husband is known in the [city’s] gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes [fine] linen garments and sells them; And supplies sashes to the merchants.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing and her position is strong and secure; And she smiles at the future [knowing that she and her family are prepared].
26 She opens her mouth in [skillful and godly] wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue [giving counsel and instruction].
27 She looks well to how things go in her household (Quality Control) And does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed (happy, prosperous, to be admired); Her husband also, and he praises her, saying,
29 “Many daughters have done nobly, and well [with the strength of character that is steadfast in goodness], But You excel them all.”
30 Charm and grace are deceptive, and [superficial] beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD [reverently worshiping, obeying, serving, and trusting Him with awe-filled respect], she shall be praised.
31 Give her of the product of her hands, Let her own works praise her in the gates [of the city].
October 11, 2016
By Shirley Noftsinger
New Success Image! Resistance Training
Resistance Training for Financial Fitness
3 John 1:2 Beloved, I pray that in all things thou mayest prosper and be in health (continually), even as thy soul prospereth.
Strong, healthy bodies don’t just happen. We see every type of fitness program repeatedly on infomercials, especially as the New Year approaches. The instructors all look “Perfect 10s,” and we actually start believing we can look like that, too…in six short weeks! Well, in truth, we might, if we are not so far gone that we can’t catch our breath while walking. Truthfully, the Key challenge here is “Eat Less than you Burn!”
Likewise, strong, healthy Finances don’t just happen either. Financial Fitness is very similar to Physical, except we are struggling with Unhealthy Habits of over-limit balances, flabby credit card muscles, and a skin-tight wallet. One financial sneeze and we bust the seams!
So, we all need to exercise “Resistance” in some form or another: For most of us the challenge has simply been to RESIST “Spending More than we Earn!”
Change Your Thinking!
Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
For over twenty years we have counseled families in financial fitness management. Our goal (and name of our company) is a Debt Free America! That includes YOU! Initial training has often been Emergency Room and even Intensive Care Treatment. Many people we counseled were good Christians who had followed God’s “Permissive” plan and borrowed themselves into debt. The scripture says to be transformed (spiritually mature) to His Perfect will, “Owe no man anything but Love.” Romans 13:8 “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” No exceptions! Fitness is a bear!
Our “Financial Fitness” center has helped people stop the financial bleeding and -
Not as easy as it sounds? Maybe not, but let’s review the Program. Just as every gym needs a Personal Trainer, your Counselor, the Holy Spirit coaches you in resisting the deceptions of over-spending. Your part is to create an image of a new you, with successful, healthy Habits: a Financial GPS: Goal-Powered Spending Plan.
Create a Financially Healthy Image
Deuteronomy 8:18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today.
The Lord’s emphasis is on His Covenant Blessing-Be Fruitful, Multiply, Replenish, Have Dominion! Gen 1:28.You design a spending plan realistic to your monthly cashflow. Work with your creditors when you are going through job transitions or other life events that threaten to interrupt or extend your Financial plan.
Let The Lord personally help you tailor a lifestyle that is comfortable, within a realistic Financial Framework on which you can build the Image you once dreamed of for your future. Is it coming back to you?
Write the Vision!
Habakkuk 2:2 [ God’s Response ] “Then the Lord answered me and said: Write down the vision; Make it plain upon tablets, so that the one who reads it may run.”
So! Get your financial workout gear on (Cash Only), sketch out your new image for two years from now (DebtFree), and print it out to stick on your mirror. Skinny down on all your expenses, grab or create an extra temporary job, and start fire-hosing that debt! Your Personal Finance Trainer, The Holy Spirit, will instruct you on where to pay any extra income so that you get the best advantage with reduced finance charges. Be sure to contact the creditor first for exact pay-off amounts any time you are able to “Pay In Full” on a balance.
For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster; to give you a future and a hope.
The Lord wants to be your re-location agent and move you to the other side of debt! His Plans are to Prosper you and not harm you; to give you Hope and a Debt-Free Future! He has a narrow, disciplined path that will introduce you to your New Success Image!
October 14, 2016
By Esther Chang
I have to confess something: I have a hard time not feeling like I own and deserve what I earn. Getting into medical school, then a competitive specialty, then completing training took twelve years of hard work—research labs instead of the beach; Friday nights in college libraries; countless exams and sleepless nights on call and scut work on hospital floors. In medicine there is probably the biggest salary hike of any field, when you go from being a resident who earns less than minimum wage if you factor in how many hours are worked, to a doctor in private practice, and it’s hard not to feel like you deserve it.
So why does God own everything? A brief search through the Bible reveals at least four reasons: one, because he created it. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2). This is perhaps the most fundamental of all reasons: we may feel like we have power over something because we acquired it, but that is delusional and meaningless compared with the power that God has because he created it, and he created all things.
Secondly, we see that God owns everything because he can take it away at any time. This is a lesson I hope I’ll never have to learn, but anyone who has lost something probably feels this. There was gold and other treasures in Eden, but Adam and Eve took nothing with them when they left: it had all belonged to God, and he could take it away. Job 1:21 says, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.”
Thirdly, God owns everything because we can’t take it with us when we die: “For we
brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1
Timothy 6:7). Most of us don’t think much about death, so this can be hard to see: but imagine if you got to go on a one-hour shopping spree at your favorite store at no cost (I’ve spent considerable time debating which store I’d pick). You go through the aisles grabbing everything and stuffing it all in your car, but on the way home you get hit by a truck and die. That’s what a condensed version of our lives can look like: we’re so obsessed with acquiring material goods, but in the end, and certainly compared to
eternity, it’s all so temporary and meaningless, because we can take none of it with us.
Fourthly, God owns everything because he enables us to earn any money we have.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18 says, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth.” God gave me my mind, my affinity for biology, my ability to do detailed work with my hands. It’s because of God that I was born in the twentieth century instead of the seventeenth, when women could not be doctors, and into a supportive family environment. And I could go on.
There are lots of interesting things that happen when I realize that I do not own what I have, but I steward what belongs to God. I can actually be more content with what I have, because I know God picked it out for me, and he is a God who knows me and what I need better than I know it myself. I don’t have to worry that I need more, or compare what I have with others. I can actually enjoy what I have more, because I know it comes from a God who delights in me, and I actually feel his delight when I enjoy what he has given me. It’s a freeing, guiltless, pure kind of delight, that is quite different from the shallower, temporary pleasure I get when I greedily hoard or obtain something for myself. I am free from anxiety, because while I want to manage what he gave me wisely, I recognize that I can’t and don’t need to control my money as a means to security. I can actually be generous from the heart, because I know none of it is mine anyway; I can give willingly because it comes from God and I see that I only have it because of his grace.
The truth that God owns everything, that I am entitled to none of it, has been slowly
seeping into my heart the last few years. And it’s not a grudging, bitter truth: it’s a sweet, freeing one. I see that who I am, and all the things I have in this life, are expressions of a loving, completely powerful God, before whom I bow, to whom I am deeply thankful, through whom I delight in myself and give to others. Romans 11:36 sums it up best: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.”
November 9, 2016
Psalm 105:37 “He (God) brought them forth also with silver and gold: and there was not one feeble person (weak, without force or effectiveness) among their tribes.”
Earn all you can: Take a Talent Inventory
The first step in your exit plan should be Earn All You Can according to the Law of Responsibility. We are responsible as believers to rise to the level of our giftedness, that is, be a good steward of the gifts and talents God has already provided.
Honestly examine and answer these questions:
Let’s consider Elijah’s Seven Steps to Prosperity for the Widow- II Kings 4:1.
1 Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Eli’sha, “Your servant my husband is dead; you know your servant feared the LORD, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” 2 Eli’sha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” She said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house, except a jar of oil.” 3 Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels of all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. 4 Then go in, shut the door upon yourself and your sons, pour into all these vessels; when one is full, set it aside.” 5 So she went from him and shut the door upon herself and her sons; as she poured they brought the vessels to her. 6 When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing. 7 She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil, pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”
Step 1: Go! Once Elijah establishes “What she has at hand that she isn’t using,” he instructs the widow to go, leave her comfort zone and passionately impose on others. Her willingness would have accomplished little without her obedience. Her desperate condition was the motivation behind her actions. Also, she made this a family project. Her sons helped: their incentive? Stay out of slavery!
Step 2: Borrow empty vessels! Not a few. Elijah knew God would fill every vessel. Just as God gifts us with abilities and talents, He fills us with the Oil of His Anointing to make our tasks easy. Many of us have yet to identify our talents, passions, or calling because we are focusing on how little Oil (money, time, or energy) we have. We consider our current condition and fail to see where God wants to take us. Many choose to stay in a very miserable state because they are familiar with their circumstances. Had the widow been too uncomfortable or proud to borrow vessels from her neighbors, her sons would have gone to slavery and she would have starved. In borrowing vessels she simply got containers to hold the Blessing until she sold the oil. Ideally, she returned the vessels in better condition than she borrowed them.
Step 3: Shut the Door Shut-out all unbelievers, scoffers, mockers, who would tell her that “No way are you going to have enough oil to fill all those vessels!” Just as Jesus put everyone but believers out of Jairus’ house and shut the door, we must know when to take God’s instruction into our inner court of faith and obedience and shut the door. In life and death issues, these people did not have the luxury of wondering if, or why, or how God could change their circumstances. He simply had to provide.
Step 4: Pour the Oil After gathering vessels, pouring the oil relates to our actual day at work. Imagine the momentum of her pouring the oil, filling vessel after vessel as her sons ran to bring another, and another. Her thoughts, first of escaping debt, slavery, and death; then daring to think what she would do with the excess oil and money after paying her debt! Perhaps the best part of this story is that she was so busy pouring the oil that she had no time to look inside the original pot to see how much was left before she ran out. How often do we get caught up calculating how long until lunch? How many days until vacation? How many years until retirement? When my staff starts wondering around the office gathering orders for lunch, asking how much longer until they can clock out, I always comment that I must be over-staffed. With so much time to think about not working, they have too much time on their hands. If we answered the questions at the top of this chapter correctly, the day should fly!
The anointing of the Oil on our gifts and talents should:
Her first time she thought of running out was when her sons had no more vessels and the Oil stopped. If we picture her wide-eyed, looking around the house to see if they were mistaken; if there was anything else she could use as a vessel; we can imagine her dismay that they had gathered so few vessels. Sad to consider, but many times we ask the Lord for provision and are so amazed at His results that we repent that we didn’t ask bigger! At some point, we need to recognize that our request is not going to deplete God’s supply.
Step 5: Sell the Oil Elijah commands her to go to work! Sell the oil. I’m convinced that God provides single parents with a special anointing to raise children, manage their household, and work some type of job-or two-or more. What were the alternatives had she not gone to work at gathering vessels, pouring oil, selling the oil? She and her sons would have been slave to her creditors. Today, she might easily have sat back complaining how unfair life has been to them; how abused they have been; how they were left to “do it all” on their own; resigning herself to a life of poverty and lack; being a destructive role model for her children, manipulating others with pity and sympathy, trying to appear worse off than others in their situation. Teaching her sons to underachieve; expect less. We create generations of healthy, bright people who end up under-educated, under-employed, under-privileged, under-productive, often blaming God for their misfortune. Review the parable of the man who was given one talent and did nothing with it. The Lord was very displeased with his example and even took the only talent he had and gave it to the productive servant. — Use it or lose it!
Step 6: Pay the Debts Very simply, to walk out of debt we simply need to Work all we can, Pay our bills, Spend less than we earn! The widow took the money she made from selling the oil, went to her creditors and paid her debts. Like anyone else, she probably had stumbled into debt from her life circumstances, perhaps her husband’s death. Most believers do not purposely go into debt. Satan provides opportunity for debt through challenges to our health, marriage, or career. We make unwise, emotional decisions regarding our finances. After serious prayer and obedience, God brings provision to us to pay our debts. Our responsibility is to quickly use those funds to pay the debt.
Notice, the widow did not take the money from her sales, pay the MINIMUM payment, and run to the mall for the latest sales! Or run to the local auto dealer to finance a new car! Or browse through the furniture store to find a great NO PAYMENTS! NO INTEREST FOR A YEAR! LIVING ROOM SUITE! Her integrity and obedience to repay her creditors released God’s blessings to flow continually.
Step 7: Live on the rest! Isaiah 1:19 exhorts us, “If ye be willing and obedient ye shall eat the good of the land.”
Because of her willing, obedient spirit, God brought this widow out of debt with silver and gold, and she ate the good of the land. Now, let’s consider a final point. Elijah told her to LIVE on the rest- not Retire! Certainly, Elijah did not expect to pass that way next year and find her emptying her last vessel of oil again! She got a revelation of Accountability. She built business strategies to gain and increase wealth. He expected her to support herself and sons until they were old enough to carry on the Widow & Sons Oil Business.
According to the Law of Responsibility, she rose to her level of giftedness and walked in provision rather than poverty. Initially, she was driven by survival. Quickly, she switched to a passion to succeed. She became a Giver, Working for a Giving! These Laws work for those who have committed to the Lord to be honest and diligent with the Talent they have at hand.
Shirley Noftsinger, co-founder of DebtFreeAmerica.com, holds a master's degree from Kent State University and spent fifteen successful years as a single parent. Her prospering is a result of her faith in the Covenant Blessings of the Lord outlined in their book, Paid In Full, Reset Your GPS for Goal Powered Spending.
October 31, 2016
By Esther Chang
The weather is getting colder, so I’m dusting off my knitting again. Knitting exists nearly in the realm of something magical for me: how one strand of thread can be wound around itself continuously to create something like itself, yet utterly different. You never really look at a sweater the same again after you learn to knit.
When you first start, you’re clutching the pattern and counting every stitch off carefully in your head. But after a while, you come to understand the pattern, not because you’re reading it off the page, but because you can tell where you are by how the previous stitch is looped. You gain an intuitive, big-picture feel for how the rows work together, why something looks different on the right versus the wrong sides of the work. You learn how to read the signs.
You’re flying along, feeling pretty good about yourself—I’m an awesome knitter! After this, socks!—then you make a mistake. You drop a stitch, or realize you did the whole last two rows wrong. And you realize you never really understood the pattern at all, and only now, as you painstakingly work each stitch backwards, as you hook up the dropped loops, do you really grasp it.
I think of myself as creating when I make scarves out of yarn, but really only God can create, can make something out of nothing. No other living being can do that. God the Father spoke through the word that is Jesus, as the Spirit hovered, to bring everything we know into existence.
We don’t, I think, in our postmodernist mindsets, think of ourselves as created beings. We think of ourselves as dictating our own narratives, writing our own meanings, constructing our own identities. If a mask is identity and perception, our culture knows all about that: blame your parents if you don’t like the mask they gave you. Watch the ads to figure out what you should look like. You’ll seem perfect if you get the spouse or career you want. Figure out who you want to be and self-help your way there.
But as I knit, I think about how the person I give the scarf to will never really understand it the way I do, because while they use it, I’m the one who created it. I’m the one who sees exactly how the threads overlap to create the warmth for which it was made; who sees the beauty of the pattern’s workings because I fixed it when it fell apart. How much more does God, who created us, understand me? In fact, God is the only one who knows who I am: he created me in his image, for his purpose, and until I realize that, I will forever be finding any identity I slip on a hollow mask that cannot satisfy or explain. “They have forsaken me,” God says in Jeremiah 2:6, “the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
Six hundred years later, Jesus sits down at a well in Samaria, tired from a journey, and talks to a woman about living water. You don’t have to be thirsty all the time anymore, he says. I can give you water that will become “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). How do we understand who we are? We look to our creator. We read and meditate on the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to make its truths real in our lives. We talk to God and spend time worshipping and hanging out with him. We engage in community and let others speak into our lives. We follow God in our careers, families, marriages; in how we take care of our bodies, in how we think with our minds, in how we use our talents—and when those things aren’t our primary identities, but flow out of our love for and service to God, we experience them so much more fully and joyfully than we would have in any other way. Because that, of course, is how it was created to be.
October 24, 2016
Pastor Jayce O'Neal
Hello, my name is "Joyous Jayce" and this is "Harmonious Holly." We would like to welcome you to the Christian walk, where all your dreams come true. You will never get sick, people will always like you, and money will grow on trees, so you can live a safe and perfectly, peaceful life.
You see Christianity is like a social club, but better, because there are no popularity contests and everyone is completely honest. Yup, you have made the right decision, so once you pay your initiation fee you can be well on your way to the life you have always dreamed of …
Is this the Christian walk you thought you were signing up for? Or better yet, is this the story you have tried to sell to others? When I look around at the landscape of modern Christianity, I see a lot of teachings that seem to directly contradict the message of the Bible. I hear messages that are so pie in the sky that if there is something "not perfect" in your life, then there is an issue with your walk with the Lord.
What got me thinking about this is a friend of mine who reminded me the other day that our testimonies are our best opportunities to minister to people. However, if we try to live in "La La Land" then how can we begin to relate to those who have not seen the amazing grace of God?
What I mean to say is that if we pretend or even believe that our lives are to be safe and perfect, then how in the world can we hope to connect with those who have no idea what we are talking about? If I were to be honest, sometimes I hear Christians talk in such a weird Christianese way that I do not even have a clue what they are talking about.
The Christian walk was never meant to be the path of least resistance that we often portray it to be. The bad things we have gone through, and the hurts we have endured are not anomalies, but the very things God uses to help us in this world to relate to people.
Our wounds are not our own. Take Jesus for example. He could have been born on the earth and died and rose again. It could have been as simple as that. He did not have to teach, nor did he have to die in such a painful way, but He did. He chose to do that.
Why? I used to ask myself that question, and one of the reasons I think He did this is because He knew the power of being able to identify. God (AKA Jesus) became man and chose to identify with us by experiencing the pain and anguish that each of us have to experience.
He is not a distant God who tells us the do's and don’ts, but rather a very personal God who says, “I will go through the hells of this world in order to show you my undying, everlasting love.”
You see, He was betrayed, so when your friends gossip about you, He understands. His dearest friends walked away from Him in His greatest time of need. So when your spouse cheats on you, He understands. He hung on a cross naked and exposed for all to see, so when you are abused and exposed in ways no one should have to experience, He understands.
When Thomas doubted Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus put Thomas’ fingers through His wrists where the spikes pierced Him, and then Thomas believed. You see, sometimes people will only come to believe the truth after they have seen your wounds.
I do not know why bad things happen, but I do believe that one of the reasons is because if none of us Christians had ever gone through anything difficult, then we would never be able to relate to the broken and wounded in the world.
So when we try to make the Christian walk sound like a Sunday stroll, I think we hurt the cause of Christ. People cannot relate to that because it simply is not true. The world is seeking truth, and they can smell sensationalism and fraud from a mile away because nothing this side of heaven is perfect and pain free.
However, when we show them the nails in our hands, the paths we have walked, and how God has touched our lives, then many of the doubting Thomases will listen. The power of identifying is your greatest tool, not walking through trials by denial.
Revelation 12:11 says, "And they overcame Him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death."
October 17, 2016
Pastor Jayce O'Neal
As we look at the world around us and the people in it, it is often difficult not to compare ourselves to others.
She is a great singer. I could never do that.
He is so much better than me at this and that.
These are the internal monologues we tell ourselves and save on the hard drives of our hearts - immobilizing our souls to truly and honestly be who we were created to be.
So much time is spent on what we do not have and what others possess that we fulfill a self-prophecy that sends us into the cellar of impotency. We become timid, insecure, and complacent.
We become safe. What if I fail? What if I give my best, and it's still not good enough?
When David met Goliath, he was not worried that Goliath had a sword and he had only a sling[Office1] . He knew who he was and what he could do, and he met this situation with what he did have. Whether David lived or died was inconsequential to him. He met his challenge head-on.
Most of us these days would instead whimper in the corner, sucking our thumbs and crying because our sling isn’t a sword. It's not even a spear!
Honestly, does the Mona Lisa sit around saying, “If only I were a sculpture like Michelangelo's David!” Seriously, does an orange complain that it is not an apple? Does the sky resent the earth? Do the stars envy the moon?
In 1 Corinthians 12:14-31 Paul talks about the very same thing.
"Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body" (I Corinthians 12:14-15, NIV).
We are all different. If the feet feel less than the hands, and the eyes are jealous of the ears, then we find ourselves impaired. We all have different strengths and weaknesses.
We have not learned to lose gracefully. We may think that losing is a bit of a stretch.
It’s as though we have a score card and we list who is better and worse than us. "She gets guys' attention more than I do. Score one for her. Minus one for me." Or, "He is stronger than me. Score one for him. Minus one for me.”
It is as though we say to ourselves, We must be the best! We can never fail because if we do, what might that say about us? We foolishly compare and compete, but in the end we all face the same fate.
Age is the great equalizer. Feeble bones and tattered memories sneak up on the young as they age, with or without their knowledge. In the end, the talented and gifted are no better off than the most average of us.
Why do we have to be the best? Why can't we just be ourselves? It's a freeing thought to finally realize we don't have to be the best. We only have to be our best.
We may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but a hammer doesn't need to be sharp. Can a hammer saw? Can a saw hammer? Can either do their job if they're jealous of each other’s gifts and purpose?
This is a deep thought for a simple principle. Be free to be your best and free to do your job, not someone else's. God has made us as different parts with different strengths. Freedom comes in relishing in what He’s made us to do, while admiring what He has made others to be as well.
October 10, 2016
By Esther Chang
There’s a difference between gratitude and adoration. Gratitude is when I say, “Thank you for this, God.” Adoration is when I ask, “How does this reveal an attribute of God that I can admire him for?” Gratitude goes as far as saying, “Thank you for sex, God; it is a good thing.” Adoration takes it further, asking, “What does sex reveal about God’s nature and narrative?”
Putting God and sex in the same sentence can seem awkward, which I think reveals how much we are creatures of our culture—and, as Pastor Jayce preached about in his first sermon in this series, how powerfully Satan uses sex to drive us towards shame, instead of pointing us towards God.
J.L. Packer writes about how sex is a signpost to God. Now, if you camp under a signpost, you’re not going to get much of anywhere. If you’re driving down I-64 and camp under the sign that says “Virginia Beach, 60 miles” and say, “we’re here, honey!” you won’t get there. Yet that’s what we’re doing; our appetites are so habitually inflamed as to distract us, or our shame is so great as to paralyze us, from moving on to the destination.
So how does sex point us to God?
It points to one way in which we were made in his image. God is one God but in three persons, and at the center of the Trinity is a state of mutual, self-giving love. C.S. Lewis calls this the “great dance”; a dynamic, pulsating activity in which the Father, Son and Holy Spirit pour love and joy into one another continually, and sex mirrors that.
Sex points to what it will be like to be with God in heaven. In Ephesians 5:31-32, Paul writes, “The two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” This is why, I think, sex can never be just about the body—it involves the heart, mind, soul, all of us—because it is meant to point to the wholeness of union we will have with Jesus one day for all of eternity. That is the story God is writing us for, and sex now is somehow just a faint foretaste of it.
Sex points to the gospel in involving the ability to create new life. As Pastor Jayce also says, God didn’t have to create sex for procreation. I can think of a few alternative ways of mingling genomes. But God chose to have a covenant act of self-giving bring new life, a life that we cannot take credit for masterminding, and I can only think that it points to the gospel.
Ultimately, I think sex makes us realize we are creatures with needs that only Jesus can meet. If I dig deep enough, I see that sometimes underneath the need is a desire for connection, meaning, understanding and identity that ultimately only Jesus can satiate. As Isaiah 54:4-5 says, “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer.”
October 3, 2016
By Adam Woods
In this day and age it is so hard to remain sexually pure. Images come at you from every angle. Commercials on T.V., movies you watch or simply walking down the street can all be avenues for your mind to run wild. Boy, is it tempting. And it should be! God created the human body. He created sex. He declared them to be good! You may or may not know, but when God creates something, it's goooood.
So why then do we need to be sexually pure? If God created something that's good, why would he want to keep it from us?
I’ll try and explain it this way. Technology is amazing. I absolutely love it. We can keep up with people half-way around the world. We can take photographs of our life events, post them on Facebook and, instantly, my family 1000 miles away can see what's going on. I can see my family in Washington D.C. through a computer screen. I can talk with my nine-month-old niece even though I'm not in the same room. It's truly amazing. However, technology used in the wrong way can be really bad. The same technology that is used to show life events to my family or give me the ability to talk with my niece in another state can also be used to show the world an embarrassing picture that will stay with me forever.
How about this? The same guidance technology that sent men to the moon can be used to send a bomb to kill people.
Let's get away from technology. How about a simple hammer? A hammer is great. It can build a house. It can build grocery stores, schools and hospitals. But a hammer used in the wrong way can be deadly.
Get where I'm going? Sex, as it was intended, is a good thing. However, when sex is not used as it was intended, it can have deadly effects ... literally. According to God's word, the sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (I Corinthians 6:9). Aside from shame, guilt and the fact that you're sinning against yourself, God says you will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Whoa. That's heavy.
But hang in there with me. I have some good news. Throughout my journey of overcoming an addiction to pornography, God has always shown his grace, mercy ... and ... wait for it ... forgiveness!
I was a sexually immoral person. One of the most influential verses God spoke to me through the years of addiction (and still to this day) is 1 John 1:9, which says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." As soon as I confessed my sin to Christ, I was forgiven!
Please don't hesitate to do the same. Are you living a sexually immoral life? Are you in a sexually immoral relationship? Is your thought life not as it should be? Do you struggle with looking at images on the computer or T.V.? Do you struggle with looking lustfully at other people? Whatever situation you find yourself in, remember the first step to becoming free is to confess your sins, knowing that God loves you and will forgive you!
Thoughts or comments? How about a testimony? I want to hear from you! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
September 26, 2016
Dr. Jayce O'Neal
How would you feel if I called you a liar? How about if I labeled you as the cheater? If I called you a compromiser, would you feel as strongly?
What if the person you loved had an affair? What if the person you loved had an emotional affair, meaning that they depended on and longed to be with someone other than yourself? How would you feel?
Maybe it did not even go so far. How would you feel if your boyfriend or husband was watching another woman’s body for while you stood next to him?
Men, what would you feel like if your girlfriend or wife pined for another man while she was in your arms?
I ask you these questions, because we are all cheaters, liars, and have proven unfaithful. You see, we do these things to God all of the time. All throughout the Bible God refers to His passion for us as a man who burns for his bride.
And every time we compromise, push the limits, or forego Biblical boundaries, we cheat on God…we hurt Him. God is not a distant being who cares nothing for us, but an Almighty Being who desires your heart more than any mortal man. Yet we continually give our attention, our hearts, and our passions elsewhere.
We often get so caught up in what we can and cannot do that we rarely consider whether or not we should. If we were to look at the landscape of morality in America it is obvious that there is a serious decline in conscience. Might this have something to do with our stance on compromise?
So many in the church argue against legalism and how the Church’s rules have suffocated the relevance of the Christian message to a point that the world cannot relate to it. These same people also argue that the rules are cumbersome for the Christian themselves to a degree in which they seem out of date with what is going on in the mainstream culture.
These arguments are made as if this sort of cultural division has never happened before. It’s as though they are unaware of the drastic cultural differences in the Bible times between the Christians and Romans. Nearly every major civilization has fallen from within due to moral decay.
Recently I heard the argument from one individual that they were tired of Christians following rules they do not understand. The argument was founded on the concept that Christians are too conservative and that “rules” were illogical and inconvenient.
This individual had issues with legalism. The argument is valid, but the conclusion is faulty. Following rules without understanding why they are there means nothing more than the fact that we are ignorant. It does not mean the rules are bad; it simply means we do not know their intent or feel they are not needed.
Another faulty conclusion to this argument is that rules are legalistic. This is untrue. Legalism only comes into play when we divorce our hearts from the rules. Legalism is following rules with our actions but rebelling in our hearts. This does not mean, however, that the rules are bad in and of themselves but merely that our hearts must also be in line with our actions.
Jesus stated this same thing. He said that if we lust in our hearts it is just as bad as if we actually carried out the act physically (Mathew 5:28, NASB). Therefore if we follow the “rules” and do not physically cheat but do in our hearts, then we are still in sin.
So my question to all of us (including myself) is this ... where are we compromising? If everyone saw the thoughts we had on a movie screen, what would it show? Christians often pretend that we are not affected as much as we are. We do this because I believe it buys us a little bit more freedom to do a little bit more than we know we should.
Movies and music are filled with so many anti-God messages these days, but yet we continue to buy the CDs and DVDs and complain about the immoral state of our culture. This does not mean that every movie or song is bad, but when was the last time we walked out of a movie or turned off a song?
Better yet, when was the last time we did research ahead of time to avoid having to leave? We cannot complain about the movies and music and how they are so immoral if we are lining up to consume them. It is like complaining about the government and never voting.
If all the Christians decided not to go to these movies or buy the music, they would stop making them because they are a business. They sell what will be bought. Right now, what is selling? Sex-filled music, blatantly pagan comedies (that Christians go in droves to see), and story lines that mock God and elevate anti-family themes. There are some good things to listen to and watch, but are we consuming those or the other kind?
Philippians 4:8 says, ”Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things (NASB).”
Maybe our particular compromise is not the media. Maybe it's talking too long to that person at work that you know you shouldn’t because it may lead to something more even though both of you are in committed relationships. Maybe you are letting your boyfriend or girlfriend stay the night? Perhaps, you are a man who has roving eyes or a woman who cheats in her heart even though she knows she would never act on it.
You see, we are not the only ones we hurt when we abuse our free will to serve our selfish endeavors. We hurt those around us too. And yes, we are responsible for the effect we have on others. In our American mentality we often think of our rights and our individualism, however, this can often be contrary to Scripture.
1 Corinthians 8:9, 12 says, "But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ (NASB).”
We too often choose the path of least resistance because it’s easier and because we have become spiritually lazy. We try to do as much as we can without fully “sinning.” We tip-toe to the edge of the proverbial “sin cliff” and look at what lies below.
We mock those who stand further back because they are scared and “prudish,” and we wave at those who fall over the cliff and say nothing to prevent them from falling. However, even if we did try to speak a word of caution, they would not listen because, from their vantage point (right before they fall), we look the same as them.
If we as Christians look no different than anyone else except that we sing songs and pray from time to time, then our lights are not shining in the world but only in our small circles of friends who likely have small lights too.
We should be different and act different, but so many of us look no different at all. Too often we are wavering candles amidst a vast, endless cavern.
My dad told me a story about when he was a pastor, and a young person over heard him tell a dirty joke. Because of that, the kid swore he’d never go back to church. He thought my dad was different, but his actions (in that moment) were no different than everything else he had heard from the world.
No, we are not perfect, but how often do our actions betray what we say we believe? The Christian walk is not a checklist of do’s and don’ts, but a way of life that testifies to the fact that our lives have been transformed. Legalism is not the answer, but from what I see these days, it appears to me that compromise, apathy, and justification are even more dangerous.
We should ask ourselves where we have faltered, and we should allow ourselves to try and imagine how much we hurt God and those around us with the “affairs” we are committing in our lives. Would we ever want to experience that type of pain? Would we want to ever cause anyone that much pain? We have. We do.
September 19, 2016
I’m going to go on a limb here and talk about secret sexual sins. Not a comfortable topic. Twice in my life, I met with girls who were brave enough to confess their struggles in this area, and both times it opened the door to me doing the same. While recent studies have highlighted how often women watch porn, and certain bestsellers have shed light on erotic literature, this is still a hard topic to talk about, especially for women.
I was reflecting recently on how it is so common, even for those who are outwardly moral, to have a fantasy sex life, defined as watching or reading anything that leads to having mental fantasies often manifesting in masturbation. The actual content one struggles with may range from what most believers would call bad (porn, erotic novels) to more acceptable things (lyrics in songs, TV shows with sex scenes, christian romance books with sexual tension).
The reality is, it’s almost impossible to grow up in this culture without struggling to some extent with a fantasy sex life. Before you get married, you figure actually having sex will fix all of it, but it doesn’t: while the fantasy sex life affects the real sex life, having the real life doesn’t always affect the fantasy one. Because at heart, they are two totally different things. The real sex life is about relationship, about a real person, about putting ourselves aside, about being vulnerable. The fantasy life is about consumerism, objectification, and immediate gratification, without actually giving anything. It’s faster, easier, and more addictive.
What’s behind the fantasy life? Sometimes it’s time-of-month hormones, or being tired, or being angry, but mostly it’s an idolization of feeling desired, at least I think for women. You don’t have to foray far into the romance novel industry to figure this out: the longer the book can draw out the pursuit and ongoing sexual tension, the better.
That’s why, to me, the issue is at heart a spiritual one. There are so many rational reasons to stay away from this stuff (objectification of women, bad examples to our kids, polluting effectiveness in ministry, contributing to pedophilia, rewiring our brains, affecting our sexual expectations, wasting our time, practicing deceit), but what will make us stop?
The other night I was confronting the reality of this in our lives, and I felt overcome with sadness in a way I never had before, just sadness for myself, my friends, for those I loved, that these things which we struggle to utter to the people closest to us on earth will one day come before a holy God. I saw how much these things hurt God, and cheat us of what he wants for us, and as I was crying I started thinking about the picture of Jesus in Revelation 5: Jesus with seven eyes, seeing everything. A slain lamb, because he loves me. Standing, because he has resurrected and overcome the darkness. With seven horns, because he has complete power, power that he gives me to overcome. It’s a bit of a horror-movie image, but at that moment, it felt precious.
It doesn’t take much to see that our story with Jesus is the stuff of fantasies. He went from one world to another, changed form, became poor, suffered for us. He is the ultimate alpha male, sensitive lover, and unfailing protector that all these novels hark on about, and I suppose there is a kind of tension that we exist in, anticipating the ultimate consummation of our lives forever with him in eternity. But there’s a difference between knowing these things and feeling them deep in our hearts, in a way that takes away the hungers and habits we nurse in the dark. I think it can. I’ve experienced that, and I’m praying it for the people I know and love.
August 22, 2016
Pastor Jayce O'Neal
Frustrations mounting, sweat-dripping, and steam coming out of my ears like a raging bull, I have again found myself at the end of my rope. What has me all bent out of shape, you might ask? Love life gone wrong? Nope. Problems at home? Nuh-uh. Money problems? Not really. Then what?
I have again found myself irritated beyond belief, because of a stupid game called golf. Stupid being the operative word simply because the game is the problem and not my inability to play it, or so I tell myself over and over again. Most everyone knows that sports are often great tools to learn life lessons: being a team player, perseverance in the face of adversity, hard work paying off, etc.
However, this lesson I am currently facing is one I believe to be the toughest for many (including myself) to learn and live out in a practical manner in everyday life. I find that when I play golf, I become keenly aware that patience in my life is in short supply. I have found that when an issue shows up in one part of my life, it can often be found in other places of my life as well. Sports can often act as a catalyst to reveal such things. Is there a fear of failure, an anger problem, or simply a lack of patience?
Patience… the very word can cause me to yawn, roll my eyes, or turn my attention to something else altogether. You see, I am a doer. I see something, I go after it. End of story. Being patient is not my cup of tea.
In fact, the thought of having to be patient seems to even increase my frustration. Yet, in golf I really have no choice but to be patient. In football, if I get frustrated I just hit someone harder on the next play. In basketball, I can foul someone. In baseball, it’s easier to just hit the ball harder. Then there’s golf.
When you get frustrated in golf and lose patience, you often land the ball in the sand trap, woods, or in my case the window of that expensive house that just happened to get in the way of my innocent ball.
I can often mistake patience and waiting on passivity, or I can see it as a convenient excuse for the lazy or the fearful. Yet I realize that this is not always the case. I think if I were back in Bible times, I might have made different decisions.
If I were Joshua I think instead of waiting for the seventh day, I might have instead knocked on the front door of Jericho after the first night. Perhaps if I were with Moses with the Red Sea in front of me and the Egyptians close behind, I think I might have jumped in the water and attempted to swim across.
This is not how I wish to be. I desire to be a person of faith, and a large part of that is to be more patient. Being a patient person is not being passive or lazy, but rather being bold in confidence that God will do exactly what He promises to do. I want to be like Abraham who waited patiently and was rewarded for it.
Hebews 6: 15 says, "And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise” (NASB).
When I think about it, it’s nearly impossible to truly and honestly serve God faithfully and obediently without being a patient person who is willing to wait for the right thing at the right time. It is an odd thought really to realize that my frustrations on the golf course can give me a glimpse into my relationship with God.
This being said, I can at least make strides in trusting the Lord and waiting for the right thing at the right time…even if I’m still paying home owners for broken windows because of my less than par golf game.