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The Battle of Focus

The battle in our hearts between faith and doubt will be decided by our focus.

FAITH-AND-FOCUS-The-Battle-of-Focus-overwhelming-quote-photo-from-unsplashrolandlarsson.jpgConstantly keeping our focus on the physical world and its hardships will only strengthen our doubt. It will make our life, frustrations and problems seem overwhelming.

Our lives are only overwhelming when we view them through the lens of doubt. Difficulties are only as powerful as we allow them to be. They gain this power through our thoughts and words. When we’re constantly thinking about them and giving voice to our thoughts, we are magnifying our problems. This is a scheme of the devil, and it’s one that people fall for every single day.

The devil didn’t invent this idea, though. He stole a principle from the Word of God and twisted it in order to feed doubt in the sons and daughters of God. In fact, this is always how Satan operates. He’s a counterfeiter. He doesn’t create anything; he lacks the power to do so. Satan turns the promises of God upside down and seeks to use them against us. When we become wise to his strategies, we can successfully stop them. So, he tries to strengthen our doubt by magnifying our problems.

But we are meant to strengthen our faith by magnifying our heavenly Father.

“I will praise the name of God with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30 (NASB)

Magnifying God doesn’t make Him any stronger or more capable. It increases our ability to see Him as strong and capable. We place a magnifying glass on His infinite ability to handle anything life tries to throw at us.

“The Lord will accomplish what concerns me.” Psalm 138:8 (NASB)

We magnify the Lord when we thank Him for what He’s already done, and what He’s promised to do even though we haven’t seen the manifestation.

Thankfulness will shift our focus and keep us awake and alert to the grace of God working on our behalf. Simply put, the more thankful we are, the stronger our faith will be.

FAITH-AND-FOCUS-The-Battle-of-Focus-thankfulness-quote-photo-from-unsplashantoinebarres.jpg

If we struggle with finding something to be thankful for, we should start with the simple things. Thank God for your family, your house and your health. Then you can move on to deeper things like your salvation, Jesus dying on the Cross for you and God’s perfect plan for your life. Surely if God provided for your salvation He is able to provide for whatever you are facing now.

As we continually thank God and become more conscious of His love for us, our doubts will be sapped of their strength.

They will try to have a voice in our heads and creep back into our thoughts, but the voice of God will drown them out.

Always remember that when your life seems like too much to handle, Jesus Christ has already given you an overwhelming victory.

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37(NASB)

Living By Emotions

FAITH-AND-FOCUS-Living-By-Emotion-Father-has-Emotions-quote-photo-from-unsplashnaianwang.jpgWe live in a world where most people are run by their physical senses and their emotions.

They make decisions based on what they see and feel. Their reactions to people and situations come from their emotions. We can all relate to this kind of life.  It’s how we lived before we put our faith in Jesus.

Our heavenly Father has emotions, but He is not controlled by them.

If He were, He never would have created the universe, earth and mankind. When God first looked at the earth, the Bible says that it was “formless and void” (Genesis 1:2), or that it was in chaos and darkness. Chaos, formless, darkness and void aren’t the words that any of us would use to describe potential. We definitely wouldn’t think that they would be the precursors to creation. However, our God is a faith God.  He has always been wholly unaffected by what can be seen in the physical world.

God saw the void and spoke what He desired to see.

He did not let the void determine His desires. He knew that what was in His heart was greater than what He saw with His eyes. So, He did not speak what His eyes saw, but what His heart desired.

Living-By-Emotion-Not-ruled-by-Emotions-quote-photo-from-unsplashatharvaleleThis is a perfect picture of how our faith should work.

As sons and daughters of God, our lives should not be ruled by anything we see or feel, but by our faith in God and His Word. The people and situations around us will constantly change for better or worse and if we allow them to control us, our lives will be weak and chaotic. We need to imitate our Father and speak what we desire in our hearts, not what we see with our eyes.  

“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal,” 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NASB)

God’s Word has infinite ability to bring life to what’s dead, peace to our chaos and victory where we have only seen defeat. We only need to speak it in faith.

FAITH AND FOCUS: Believe and Speak

God is a faith God.

He spoke and things that never existed before were made real. We’ve seen that our faith has the same potential as God’s faith. So, why do we not always see the same results? It’s possible that we do not believe His words the same way He does. God has total confidence in the power of His words.

“The same thing is true of the words I speak. They will not return to me empty. They make the things happen that I want to happen, and they succeed in doing what I send them to do.” Isaiah 55:11 (NCV)

God knows that His Word will not fail. Chances are that when we speak God’s Word over a situation we allow doubt to creep in and knock us off our stance of faith. The smallest thought of doubt can unsettle our faith to the point that it will not work. Doubt can only move in our lives if we’ve left room for it.

This could be discouraging because we know that everyone battles doubt.

Every human being has to deal with weakness in some way. We might think that this means that we can never see our faith work the way God’s works. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and Jesus is our proof.

Jesus was all man and all God. This means He faced all the same weaknesses as we do, having victory over all of them, while operating in the fullness of God’s power.

“For we do not have a High Priest (Jesus Christ) who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15 (NKJV)

When we read a verse like this, we should see possibility.

Jesus is our example, our forerunner. He came so that we could have the same kind of life He had, by the same kind of faith He has. It’s the faith He used to create the universe and everything in it. Every time He speaks, it’s released. Every time it’s released, it succeeds. This is how our Father wants our faith to operate. He showed us this desire in the words of His Son, Jesus.

“So Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Have faith in God’.” Mark 11:22 (NKJV)

Jesus isn’t just telling us to have faith IN God, but to have the God-kind of faith.

Jesus would not say something like this if He knew it could never happen. He wouldn’t lead us on with puffed up words that had no backing. His words were and always will be the Word of God, so He knew they would succeed.

We should notice that Jesus did not speak these words as a suggestion or a good piece of advice. He gave them as an order, showing us that the God-kind of faith was essential to live a victorious life.

For our faith to work the way our Father’s works, we must believe His Word as He does. God knows that His Word will not fail. When we believe in the absolute authority of His Word, we will see it succeed when we speak it out loud.

FAITH AND FOCUS: Totally Dependent On God

FAITH-AND-FOCUS-Totally-Dependent-Upon-God-Dependent-QuoteFaith is being totally dependent on God.

We often hear statements like that and mentally or verbally agree without letting it truly sink into our hearts. Being totally dependent on our heavenly Father would require laying aside all of our preconceived notions about life.  It requires us to put all our confidence in Him based on what He’s said in His Word.  We would have to lose all confidence in our own ability. This kind of living is obviously foreign to our human mind, but it’s the deepest desire of our born again spirit.

When we accept the love and forgiveness that Jesus bought on the Cross, our once dead spirit is made alive in Him.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” Ephesians 2:4-5 (NASB)

Our spirits are brought to life by Christ’s spirit.  He places all of His power, wisdom and desires into our spirits. The desire of our spirit is to be absolutely reliant on God. However, our flesh and mind initially fight against our spirit in this, because they are accustomed to relying on themselves.

“Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:38 (NASB)

FAITH-AND-FOCUS-Totally-Dependent-Upon-God-Walk-by-Faith-QuoteBefore we allow Christ into our lives we are forced to depend on our own strength and our own intelligence.

So, learning to depend on Him is a process. He doesn’t get frustrated with us in this process, but He also doesn’t want us to stand still. Our Father doesn’t demand perfection, but He greatly desires progress. He wants us to take steps of trust toward Him every day.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NASB)

FAITH AND FOCUS: The Potential of Faith

FAITH-AND-FOCUS-THE-PURPOSE-OF-FAITH-HEBREWS-QuoteBy faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Hebrews 11:3 (NKJV)

Our heavenly Father is a faith God.

What He sees does not affect Him.  Instead, God speaks into being what He desires.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said…” Genesis 1:1-3 (NKJV)

As soon as God started speaking the darkness dissipated and the world, and everything in it, came into being. He had no doubt that He would see what He spoke. We should notice that there’s no verse in the creation story that speaks of how surprised God was when His words actually worked. This is the kind of faith God has given us. FAITH-AND-FOCUS-THE-PURPOSE-OF-FAITH-Our-Faith-Potential-Quote

“…as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith,” Romans 12:3b (NKJV)

The faith we’ve been given isn’t  lesser, weaker or even faith of a different kind.  Our Father wants us to operate in the same power and assurance as He does. He never desires to see us strain and struggle in confusion just wishing our it would work.

However, it can seem this way when we don’t have a good understanding of what faith is, how to use it and how we can strengthen our faith.  It’s not God, or other people, or circumstances that frustrate us; we haven’t learned that our faith has the same potential as God’s faith.

When this revelation roots itself in our hearts, it will bear the fruit of victory.

Patriotism and Hope for Our Nation

Patriotism seems to be on the decline in the United States today. 

PATRIOTISM-a-great-nation-quoteTearing down America has become something of a verbal sport, where the people who find clever and unique ways to insult our nation, its leaders and its people, are rewarded with attention and waves of agreement.  The 24 hour news cycle seems to be a highlight reel of tragedy and the impending doom of our country.  If we paid attention to these people, we would probably abandon all hope.

Even though we are still a great nation, we are not the shining light we once were. This isn’t because of the laws we’ve passed or the 20 trillion dollar debt we have. Things like this are just symptoms of the real problem. The root of the problem is the decreasing influence God has had in our nation over the years.

We were and are a great nation because God has greatly blessed us.

As members of the Body of Christ, we shouldn’t be influenced by the indifference and negativity we see around us.  In the face of apparent hopelessness, we should be beacons of hope, living our lives to glorify God.  We should be allowing His blessing to flow through us.

PATRIOTISM-beacons-of-hope-quote-photoThis truth should also apply to the way we live in our nation.  Many people have said that America will never be what it once was, and that God cannot save us.  Christians must passionately believe that God’s love and power can change the U.S.A.  We should return to the godly principles that helped to make this nation great.

Paul had this kind of passion for the people of his heritage:

“I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,” Romans 9:1-3 (NASB)

His desire for his countrymen to know the love of his Heavenly Father was so great that Paul was willing to lose his own salvation.  This is how we should love our nation: by having a deep desire for its people to know the love of God.

We don’t need to lament at legislation and movements with which we do not agree.  Let’s recognize that evil and immoral things come from hearts that don’t know Jesus.

We live in a blessed nation.  We should make it one of our goals to continually show people that this blessing comes from a loving God.

Our nation can return to and surpass its former greatness as we put our faith and hope in our Heavenly Father.

The Abundant Life: Faith To Live It

We receive everything from God by faith through grace.

Abundant-Life-Faith-To-Live-It-Faith-Does-Not-Waver-quote-photoOur salvation, the Holy Spirit and all of His blessings come to us when we believe and speak. When we push past our doubts, preconceived ideas, fears, and trust our Heavenly Father, we will see His will happen in and through us.

“Faith assures us of things we expect and convinces us of the existence of things we cannot see,” Hebrews 11:1 (GW)

Faith is assured. It’s convinced. It does not second guess itself. It does not waver.

Too many times we make a decision to live by faith then allow circumstances to make us second guess ourselves.

Whether the doubt comes from within our own minds, or the enemy tries to bring it to us, we should understand that our faith is going to be attacked.

If we doubt ourselves, it’s because we need to renew our minds to God’s Word.

Our minds are steeped in doubt and skepticism because of the world we live in. As we allow the Word to gain prominence in our minds, it will push out worldly thinking and doubt.

The enemy will attack our faith because he doesn’t want us to gain ground. A victory for us is a loss for him, so he will fight us every step of the way. Please remember that Jesus has already defeated Satan at Calvary’s Cross (Colossians 2:15). Take your stand of faith and don’t waver when the enemy is trying to deter you.

“Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore,” Ephesians 6:13-14a (NASB)

Seeing God’s will work in our lives is a matter of not turning back from our confession of faith.

When we decide that we’re going to trust God for a promotion, a healing, our bills to be paid, a better marriage or someone’s salvation we need to hold fast to that decision. We cannot allow anything to turn us away from what we know God has promised us. We have to trust that God is already working, even when things get worse before they get better.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful,” Hebrews 10:23 (NASB)

A New Kingdom: Foreign Currency

Any of us who have ever been to a foreign country know that the U.S. Dollar is not accepted everywhere.

A-New-Kingdom-Foreign-Currency-cant-expect-foreign-currency-to-work-quote-photoWe can’t just walk into any restaurant or clothing store overseas and hand the clerk a twenty dollar bill expecting them to receive it. We will most likely run into complications, or be blatantly turned away. This is because we are carrying foreign currency. It is worth something back where we are from, but carries no weight where we are now.

In a way this is how the kingdom of God operates. We can’t expect foreign currency to work in His kingdom. The things that work in the world will not work in the kingdom of God. The world is moved by need, hard work, emotion and a laundry list of other things. God’s Word teaches us that our Heavenly Father only responds to faith.

Faith is simply trusting God and if you don’t trust somebody, then you don’t truly love them.

We came into His kingdom by faith, not by need or works. He saved us by His grace because He loves us.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast,” Ephesians 2:8 (NASB)

Everyone in the world desperately needs God, whether they realize it or not. So, if God were moved by our needs, then we would all be saved as soon as we were born. We would never have a sense of needing anything because God would have already met all of our needs. Faith would not be required, so there would be no possibility to have a real relationship with our Father.

A-New-Kingdom-Foreign-Currency-God-I-Trust-You-quote-photo “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him,” Hebrews 11:6 (NASB)

It isn’t that our Father doesn’t know or doesn’t want us to approach Him with our needs.

It’s that He wants us to come to Him in faith. We can have a need and not trust God to meet that need. We can even be upset with Him for not meeting our needs. However, if we’re only trusting in ourselves, then we tie His hands. When we come to Him in faith we will always have our needs met.

Faith does not say, “God give me the ability to meet my own needs,” it says, “God I trust You and thank you that you have already met my needs through the finished work of Jesus Christ.”

We must stop trying to use foreign currency in God’s kingdom. It carries no weight with Him. Our faith is the only currency we need.

If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you,” Matthew 17:20 (NASB)

Ministry at Angelus Temple, Church of the Dream Center

Angelus Temple Logo

“Thinking Right”

Message at Angelus Temple, church home of the Dream Center in Los Angeles, CA on Thursday, February 9

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Angelus Temple and with Pastors Matthew and Caroline Barnett.  What an incredible church led by amazing Pastors.  The ministry they do in the city of Los Angeles is phenomenal.  I am grateful for my friendship with them and am especially humbled by being asked to speak to their congregation.

While the Live Stream did not work due to technical difficulties, they did record the service.  Here is the message, “Thinking Right”.  Enjoy!

Let me know what you think of the message on either Facebook or Twitter. You can also share your thoughts in the comments below.

Angelus Temple Logo In November 2001, Matthew Barnett took over the leadership of Angelus Temple. Angelus Temple was opened in 1923 by Aimee Semple McPherson, and Matthew continues the legacy of reaching the lost, hurting, and oppressed. The church now reaches thousands weekly and, together, with The Dream Center, is showing how churches and outreach centers can work together to make a huge impact for God’s kingdom.barnett_family1

For more information about Angelus Temple and the Ministry of Pastors Matthew and Caroline Barnett click here.

Dream Center logoRescuing people out of poverty, homelessness, addictions, and human trafficking, The Dream Center seeks to provide hope in addition to providing empowerment to the homeless, at-risk, and underserved communities in the inner cities of Los Angeles.  They do this by providing social services, intervention programs, and most of all, the love of Christ.

 

For more information about the Dream Center click here.

Tommy Barnett PhotoTommy Barnett is an author, the senior pastor of Dream City Church (formerly Phoenix First Assembly of God), and chancellor of Southeastern University. Dream City Church has branded itself as “the church with a heart”, and has over 275 active outreach ministries.  Tommy Barnett and his son Matthew co-pastor the Los Angeles Dream Center, a Pentecostal Christian Church mission in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

For more information about Tommy Barnett click here

I had the distinct pleasure of sharing a message called “The Real You” at Angelus Temple, church home of the Dream Center, on June 2, 2016. To watch that message click here.

New Beginnings – Radical Faith

Hebrews chapter eleven describes people from the Old Testament who radically trusted God – they had radical faith.

New-Beginnings-Radical-Faith-Decide-that-Gods-Plan-is-is-Better-QuoteThe chapter says again and again it was by faith they saw God do amazing things. All of their stories have a similarity though; God wanted to do a new thing for and through all of them. If they were going to take part in God’s new beginning, then they had to live by faith. The walls of Jericho fell down, the dead were raised, barren women had children and their enemies were defeated; all by faith.

However, they all had to decide that the plan God had for their future was better than what they were leaving behind. The only way they could commit to this decision was by faith. 

“For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them,” (Hebrews 11:14-16).

New-Beginnings-Radical-Faith-By-Faith-Look-Ahead-QuoteBy faith these people looked ahead, knowing that God was going to do what He said He would do.

They had faith that God’s plan was far beyond anything they could imagine on their own.  They willingly left their own plans behind.

These people serve as our example of how to persevere in faith. Even though their outward circumstances were uncomfortable and the situations in front of them seemed impossible they trusted that God would bring them through. We have to do the same if we’re going to see the promises of God come to pass in our lives.

 

For we walk by faith, not by sight,” (2 Corinthians 5:7). New-Beginnings-Radical-Faith-Feelings-are-Temporary-Quote

Keeping our focus on our heavenly Father and His plan for our lives will carry us through on the days we think we can’t make it. Our faith will take hold of His strength and we’ll be able to stay faithful and controlled when the temptation to quit is strong. We’ll know that what we’re feeling is temporary while God’s plan is eternal.

“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal,” (2 Corinthians 4:18).