Ministry at Angelus Temple, Church of the Dream Center

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“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 – Prisoner of Hope

People are eternally hopeful and optimistic, even the coldest, hardest people we know carries hope deep in their heart.

God created us this way. God deposited it in our hearts when He made us. If we had no hope, then we probably never would have invited Jesus to be our savior. We would have thought, “What’s the point? I’m a lost cause anyway.”

After we get saved we find the source of that hope. Jesus Christ living in us is our hope.

 To whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory,” (Colossians 1:27).New Beginnings - Prisoner of Hope - Photo of sad man

Sometimes we let that hope grow cold within us.

This is what we call a hard heart. We harden ourselves to God’s plan for our lives because we believe it will never happen. However, the New Year tends to awaken hope in our hearts. We soften ourselves to the idea of change and improvement. This is why we make New Year’s Resolutions.

New Beginnings - Prisoner of Hope - Photo of CalendarJanuary 1st approaches on the calendar and we decide that it’s time to change.

We want to lose weight, read our Bible, pray in the mornings, speak kindly to our spouses, get our finances in order, etc. We see the areas we want and need to improve and we use the New Year as our starting point.

There is nothing wrong with this and God can and will use our New Year’s Resolutions to help us create lasting change in our lives. However, the problem we face is actually involving God in our Resolutions.

 

The reason we often give up on our Resolutions is because we try to make them happen on our own.

Our self-effort will never be enough to create real change and when we face difficulty in achieving our goals we give up, thinking, “I guess it wasn’t meant to be.” We quit on our Resolutions because we give up. We return to our hardened heart and wait for next year. We become prisoners of our own negative mindsets and we stagnate in complacency.

God’s Word teaches us something completely different.

“Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you,” (Zechariah 9:12).

We are to purposefully make ourselves prisoners of hope. We have to resolve to stay in and live lives of hope. There is a key step in doing this though; we must return to the stronghold. What is the stronghold? It’s Jesus Christ. New Beginnings - Prisoner of Hope - Photo of Double Rainbow

Our Resolutions fail because when we face hardship we return to our hardened heart thinking that change is impossible.

We will begin to succeed and see the victory of God if instead of returning to our hardened heart, we return to the stronghold of hope, Jesus Christ.

Keeping ourselves in the hope of Jesus Christ is the key to real change. Hope will keep our eyes fixed on the good future our Father has planned for us and will also give us the endurance to run our race.

Desires of Our Hearts

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart,” Psalm 37:4 (NKJV)

People will often quote this verse as a way of saying, “God will give me my desires and/or whatever I want.”  They use it in reference to houses, cars, spouses, jobs and the list could go on and on. While our Heavenly Father does want us to have good things, that does not mean He is a vending machine that gives us everything we want when we pray the right prayers.

The meaning of this verse is greater than, “God will give me whatever I want.”

It begins with the word “delight.” To delight ourselves in the Lord means to be sensitive to Him. It means that our ears are open to His voice.  It means that we are in touch with what He wants us to do. It means that we are moldable and pliable; open to be shaped by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart,” (Psalm 37:4 NKJV)We are no longer solely focused on ourselves and what we want. When we delight in God this way, He begins to change what we want. He drops His desires into our hearts and brings them to pass.

He gives us the desire to serve Him and other people.

Instead of thinking about how God can bless us and give us the next thing on our wish lists, we open ourselves up to being used by God to bless others.

This is an important step in our relationship with Jesus and fulfilling His calling on our lives. It takes us beyond the “What will God do for me?” stage and into the maturity of, “What will God use me to do?”. This will cause us to step into an even greater dimension of our calling, because we realize that our lives are no longer just about us, but how God’s grace in us can be used to serve others.

When we learn to delight ourselves in our Heavenly Father we will find true satisfaction. We’ll enter into a deeper level of relationship with Him where we don’t just trust Him to provide for us, but also want Him to use us to bless other people.

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More than a Shallow Understanding

One of the simplest things we can do to follow the plan for our lives is to know and understand the One who created it.

If our relationship with our Heavenly Father is something we only think about on Sunday mornings, then we’re going to have a shallow understanding of His plan for us. However, the more time we spend getting to know Him, the more revelation we’ll have about His specific will for our lives.

More Than a Shallow Understanding - Photo of Stacked Rocks

Knowing, understanding and acting on God’s Word is the rock whereby we lay the foundation of our lives. If the foundation is small, we won’t step into the fullness of everything He has for us.

That’s why Jesus teaches us to build our lives on the rock of His word.

“Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built,” (Luke 6:47-48).  We need to be like the man in these verses.

We need to dig deep and lay the foundation of our lives on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.  We do this by renewing our minds to God’s word.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect,” (Romans 12:2)

Before Jesus saved us, our minds were formed and influenced by the ways of the world. We lived by the world’s standard and desired what the world told us was valuable.

We have to change our standard and our desires through reading and meditating on God’s Word. It’s not going to just magically happen. No one becomes like Jesus on accident. It is a conscious decision we make every single day to leave behind the old way and live by the wisdom that is available to us in God’s Word.

As we do this, we will find ourselves being made into the image of Jesus more and more every day. Reading, understanding and meditating on God’s Word literally changes us from the inside out.

The devil will attempt to downplay this fact in our lives, though.

He will try to convince us that our daily Bible reading and the time we spend in prayer is inconsequential; it isn’t. He’ll try to lie to us and tell us that we aren’t understanding what we are reading, making it impossible to change, that we still make the same mistakes and we’re still the person we were before we got saved; we aren’t. Don’t give in to the lies. Keep pressing forward.

Look at the verse from Romans 12 one more time. Our lives are transformed by the renewing of our minds. When our minds are made new by God’s Word, our actions will follow. It’s a process; one that we must commit to if we’re going to walk in God’s plan for our lives.

So, I encourage you, dig deep to lay the foundation of your life upon the rock of Jesus Christ and He will reveal His specific plan for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a better understanding.  Be patient; God is more than capable to do what He has promised.

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Moving Beyond Yourself

starting block - Moving Beyond YourselfWhen we decide to follow God’s plan we need to know that it’s going to lead us to new places. We will no longer live or look like the world. The majority of people live in isolation. They are either alone or only concerned with their immediate family. God calls us to move beyond ourselves.

In order to move beyond ourselves, we have to realize that while our gifting and calling from God is ours, it is not for our benefit alone. He gives us talents and abilities, and opportunities to use them in order to bless others.

Read what the Bible has to say about moving beyond ourselves: “Just as each one of you has received a special gift [a spiritual talent, an ability graciously given by God], employ it in serving one another as [is appropriate for] good stewards of God’s multi-faceted grace [faithfully using the diverse, varied gifts and abilities granted to Christians by God’s unmerited favor],” (1 Peter 4:10 Amplified).

This should be one of the most encouraging verses for those of us who don’t believe we have anything to offer. God has given each one of us a special gift. We’ve been empowered by the grace of God to change the world in a way only we can.

Don’t think that God has given us a gift just to hide it from us. He wants us to discover our talent and purpose.

Don’t listen to the voices of the past. Many of us have been discouraged by parents, teachers and those close to us. They told us that we aren’t talented or smart. A high GPA or income are not requirements to be used powerfully by God. God does not conform to the standards of the world, and neither should we.

If we don’t know what our gift is, we simply need to ask God.

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking,” (James 1:5 NLT).

God is not going to be angry at us for wanting to know our gifting. He gave it to us. He doesn’t want us to spend our life frustrated and discontented because we never discovered our purpose.

It’s a beautiful thing to discover what God has called us to do. It opens up our world in a way that nothing else can. Once we know what it is we can start to work on it, develop it and allow it to stretch us as God takes us to new heights.

Our divine gift will put us in contact with new and different people; people that we never would have dreamed would be in our sphere of influence.

“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men,” (Proverbs 22:29).

God will exalt us as we seek to glorify Him and bless others with the gift He’s given us.

I encourage all of you to stop listening to the lies of the world and the devil that say you have nothing to offer. You are called an anointed by God to powerfully impact the world for His kingdom. Pray and ask God to show you what your gifting is, then get to work and watch your life move to new heights.

Heart – Searching For God’s Heart

searching for Gods Heart

King David is known as “A Man After God’s Own Heart”.  He was a man searching for God’s heart.  He loved God and simply enjoyed being in His presence.

The first time King David is mentioned in the Bible he is a long way off from being king. He’s the youngest son of a man named Jesse. He is not the favorite. In fact, he’s out in the field taking care of the sheep and goats. It wasn’t a glamorous job. It definitely wasn’t the kind of work we would expect a future king to be doing. However, God makes a powerful statement to the prophet Samuel as to why He chose David to be king:

“Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Our heavenly Father looks at us the same way He looked at David. He isn’t concerned with our age, height, hair color, education, etc. He looks at the condition of our heart.

God did not choose David to be king because David had prepared his body and mind. He chose David to be king because David had prepared his heart.

In Acts 13:22 God said this about David: “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.”

David was a man after God’s heart before He was anointed to be king of Israel.

David did not love God for the things God could give him. His purpose in seeking God was not because he knew one day he would be king. He simply loved God for His goodness, mercy and love.

It is easy to fall into the trap of seeking God in order to obtain material blessings. We think that if we can memorize enough scripture, go to church twice a week and maybe even serve while we’re there, then God will give us a bigger house, a bigger paycheck and a nicer car.

While none of those things are bad in and of themselves, they should never be the goal of our relationship with Jesus. Jesus is the reward of our relationship with Him.

David did not desire to be close with God in order to gain social status and material wealth. He was a shepherd out in the fields alone; becoming king was probably one of the furthest things from his mind. He simply enjoyed the presence of God. He was content with the fellowship of his heavenly Father.

That is why David was the ideal choice for king, because the deepest desire of his heart was to seek and know God. God knew that when He promoted David, David would have the position and the position would not have him.

This is the danger of seeking after God in order to gain riches. Our heart never truly belongs to God, it belongs to the riches. So, when we receive the promotion, move into the house or deposit the bigger paycheck, we leave God and cling to the riches.

We should make this the goal of our relationship with Jesus: to be content and fulfilled with His presence and fellowship.

“But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment,” (1 Timothy 6:6).

When we stop seeking after God’s things and simply seek Him, we will begin to see and walk in His plan for our lives. It is only in His presence that we will receive everything we ever wanted.

 

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Walk by Faith

Walk By FaithEvery child of God has a desire to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

However, when we’re young in our relationship with Him we can have trouble knowing what this means and how to begin to walk by faith. The word “ walk ” in the New Testament means “our daily manner of living”. So, to “ walk by faith ” means to live every day of our lives trusting in our heavenly Father. We go to Him first in the decisions that we make. We ask the Holy Spirit to lead us, help us watch over what we say and open our eyes to opportunities to share the love of God with the people we meet.

Until we became Christians we lived our lives totally by our emotions and our five physical senses.

Living by faith is the exact opposite of living by sight, so we can struggle at the beginning.  The same way that we don’t just wake up physically fit one day, we also don’t just happen upon mountain moving faith.  It’s a process of strengthening our faith and removing our doubt and unbelief. We start to trust God by taking small steps of faith toward Him.

“I will run the way of your commandments; for you will enlarge my heart,” (Psalm 119:32).

This verse shows us that when we move towards God our ability to receive His promises increases. We shed the doubts of our old life and take on the strength and humility of Jesus. Our small-minded, fearful thinking is replaced by faith that receives what would have once been impossible.

The only way to get to this kind of faith is simply to begin trusting. You give the control of your life over to God. Most of us aren’t able to do this all at once. We insist that we can take better care of ourselves than God can. Our heavenly Father lovingly and patiently allows us to surrender our lives to Him one area at a time.

The irony of this is that once we do give Him control we realize that He does more than we ever could have asked of Him.

We see that we should have just let Him handle it all along.

When we realize that we can trust Him in one area, we will give Him more and more. This is the process of being fully surrendered to Him. But it starts with the first step.

I encourage you to begin to walk by faith today. Make a decision that you’re going to give God the control over an area of your life: your marriage, your job, your finances, etc. Watch what happens when you make your heavenly Father the chief decision-maker. I promise He never disappoints.

 

Staying Connected

Mark 4:1-9 is called the Parable of the Sower. Jesus used it to teach about the four different kinds of hearts. It’s a parable about the ways people respond to God’s word.

The first thing Jesus says in this parable is that the sower goes out to sow. Later, Jesus explains this statement by saying “The sower sows the word,” (Mark 4:14). This shows us that the Word of God is available to all of us.

Jesus doesn’t say that the sower only went to a certain race or gender. The sower went out to all people. God offers His power and promises to everyone.

The issue is not with the availability of God’s word. It’s how we receive it.

The first three hearts described in this parable are either totally incapable of receiving the Word or cannot grow in it, all because they are hardened.

The first heart can’t receive because the devil immediately comes and steals the Word.

The second heart can’t receive because it’s too shallow to let roots grow.

The third heart can’t receive because the worries, distractions and desires of this world come in and choke the Word.

The fourth heart hears the Word, accepts it and produces thirty, sixty or one hundred times more.

All four of these hearts hear the Word of God. Only the fourth one accepts it and produces fruit.

We all want the Word to have an effect on our lives. However, many times we feel like we’re one of the first three hearts. We forget what we hear in teachings, the changes we make don’t last or we get distracted by everything going on around us. We allow all of these things to push the Word out and stop its power from working in us.

This happens because our heart is clogged up by everything else we hear and see. We hear the words of the world more than the Word of God, so it’s easier to accept.

Jesus proves this later in the chapter when He says, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them,” (Mark 4:24-25).

This is why we need to constantly hear the Word of God. It prepares our hearts to receive and produce. But hearts that are overflowing with the world will bear little to no fruit from the Word they receive.

This week I encourage you to turn off the radio and listen to solid Biblical teaching. Skip one of your shows. Don’t get on Netflix. Instead, sit down by yourself or with your family, and read the Bible. In a world where it’s so easy to be plugged into something, the children of God should be plugged into the Word. When we do this, we’ll see our lives begin to produce fruit thirty, sixty and one hundred times over.

Joy of the Lord

When we don’t tap into the spiritual fruit of joy, we negate our source of strength. “…Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”(Nehemiah 8:10b)

The truth of this verse turns the world’s definition of strength upside down. The world wants us to think that strength is the ability to work harder than anyone else. We believe that if we can just hold out longer or put in more hours than others, then we are stronger.

That might mean that we are physically stronger than others, but if we put all of our faith in physical strength, what do we do when it fails?

We’re not going to find lasting strength in ourselves, our jobs or our relationships with people. Like Nehemiah 8:10 reveals, we’re only going to find true strength in the joy of the Lord.

This is because everything that’s in the world is temporary. We won’t always be as strong as we are

right now. Our job will eventually change. People will walk in and out of our lives. We will be weak when our strength is found in these temporary things.

However, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”(Hebrews 13:8).

We can and should make the joy of our heavenly Father our source of strength because He never changes.

But a hardened heart doesn’t look for joy. It’s too busy looking at all the negative circumstances and people surrounding it, and is blinded to the work of God’s grace.

That’s why a hardened heart is a weak heart, because it is a heart without joy.

It’s only when we begin to open our eyes to the amazing work of God’s grace in our lives that we begin to be joyful. Instead of looking at ourselves and seeing how far we need to go, we see how far we’ve come. This causes us to praise and thank God for everything He’s already done.

If His grace has already brought us this far, wouldn’t it make sense that it would continue to work in our lives?

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 1:6).

God is perfecting His good work in us. This is where we place our faith. This is where we should find our strength. When we do, we’ll also find our joy.

Looking Beyond Pain

We should never allow our pain to make us cold and insensitive to God.

Look Beyond The Pain -- Photo of Young Man Looking Out of a Window

How do we look beyond the pain though? By responding to hurt the way our Father tells us to.

We imitate Jesus. What did Jesus do in the middle of the most painful moment of His life?

He looked ahead to the promise of God.

Hebrews 12:2b, “…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Let’s look at what the word “despise” really means.  It means to think lightly of, to not care for, to neglect. It is the opposite of caring about something or supporting something.

So, to despise the shame of our past means that we think lightly of it. We neglect it, and we stop supporting it.

Too many times we allow shame to define us.

We turn it into the biggest part of our identity. Instead of despising it, we exalt it. Instead of neglecting it, we focus on it. We continue supporting it.

When we choose to despise the shame, we strip it of its power over us. It is no longer our identity. It doesn’t hang over us like a black cloud.

That is what Jesus did on the cross; He despised the shame and focused on the joy set before Him.

That is why He isn’t just Jesus of Nazareth who died on a cross. He is Jesus Christ, the risen savior.

We have faith in God because He always has joy set before us.

Look Beyond The Pain - Photo of Man on wall looking at the sea and city scape

If we’re too focused on the circumstance we’ll get stuck in it and miss the joy.

Notice that joy was set before Jesus. It was out in front of Him. Jesus did not have a mindset that His best days were behind Him. He didn’t hang on the cross thinking about all the people that He raised from the dead. Jesus wasn’t reminiscing about the miracles or the times of prayer. He was looking forward to what would come after the Cross.

Jesus made a choice to look beyond the pain of His present situation to see what God had in store for Him.

It’s a conscious choice to look at Jesus in the middle of the pain. This is how we keep a sensitive heart toward our heavenly Father in the midst of adverse circumstances. We put our faith in the promises of God. We believe in the promise of joy.

This will cause us to stop identifying with the shame of our past and to know that we are complete in Christ. (Colossians 2:10). We won’t just be old sinners, saved by grace. We’ll be kings and priests, seated with Christ in heavenly places. (Revelation 5:10, Ephesians 2:6).