This past weekend I encountered God in a real way. I spoke at The Movement Youth Conference at Grace Christian Church in Detroit, and the title of my message was "Heart to God, Spread the Stoke: Thoughts on Making a Move with God."
Ironically, I was walking through the exact challenge I was talking about—making a move with God—and my "move" was delivering my first Sunday morning message. I covered four topics, each challenging the hearts and perspectives of both the audience and myself:
- Seeking a Kingdom Mindset
- Focusing on Your Tree
- Making a Move
- Anticipating Opposition
Allow me to expound on each and on how I was called to practice what I was preaching.
Seeking a Kingdom Perspective
The topic: There are so many pressures coming from so many angles that try forcing us to live a certain way. Christ, however, calls us to live with a Kingdom mindset and challenges us to shed our old "false" selves in order to live as our new "true" selves (Ephesians 4:22-24).
The struggle: I was completely saturated at certain points last weekend. It reminded me of how Christ was completely dependent on God to give him the patience and strength to carry on with the mission He'd been given. At one point, Jesus even asked the Father to reconsider the crucifixion (Matthew 26:39,42).
For me last weekend, the challenge came when I started making everything about me. My temptation was to throw in the towel and retreat to my hotel room. But instead, by grace and conviction, God granted me the strength and emotional capacity to keep going. He desired for me to be a vessel of love and truth for the youth and young adults in Detroit. And after all, I only had less than three days with those wonderful people.
The lesson: It's a God-thing, not a me-thing. I must always rely on His strength.
Focusing on Your Tree (Heart to God)
The topic: When making a move with God, we tend to focus on the move itself. If we go on a missions trip, we focus on the mission. If we pave a career path, we focus on the career. If we lead worship, we focus on the music.
I spoke about Matthew 7:18-20: "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."
The bottom line is—focus on your tree (your relationship with God), and your fruit (your mission, career, music) will be good. If you want healthy apples, you don't water the apples. You water the tree.
The struggle: While I was preparing my message, I became so focused on it that I forgot about my God, who was equipping me in the first place! I became anxious, forgetful and frustrated the more I focused on my fruit. After a stiff dose of conviction I surrendered everything to God, and although Sunday morning didn't go quite as I'd planned, it went exactly as He'd planned.
The lesson: When I water the apple of my eye, my tree dies. When a tree is bad, the Bible says it produces bad fruit, and every tree that doesn't produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Making a Move (Spread the Stoke)
The topic: Your movement is your fruit. So basically, don't focus on it.
The struggle: There I was, preparing a talk on focusing on your free, and before I knew it, I was focusing on my fruit! To top it all, I was also wallowing in feelings of inadequacy. My heart was all wrong, it had become about me and my sermon.
The lesson: The more I focus on my movement, the more disconnect I have with God. It's "Heart to God" first, then "Spread the Stoke"—never the other way around.
The topic: When our lives align with the heart of Jesus, we're destined to face opposition. John 15:18-20 tells us so. We have to anticipate fear and opposition, then combat both with God's truth. If not, we're practically inviting ambush.
The struggle: The evening before I was to speak, I struggled with thoughts like: Do you even know who you are? You're not a preacher. You're not qualified to talk. The other pastors speak better than you. The toxic thoughts spread like wildfire. I felt like I was in a battle and receiving enemy fire from every angle. Luckily for me, I knew the thoughts were lies.
The lesson: I acknowledged opposition in the form of lies and stood on a foundation of truth. I am a child of God. My identity is in Christ and Christ alone. I am equipped by Him to obediently bring a message of redemption to anyone He calls me to talk to. Amen. The only way to move gracefully forward without being crippled by opposition is by having an intimate relationship with God.
If you're prepared to make a move with God, I encourage you to ask yourself: What are the different forms of opposition I may face? And once you're ready to move, may your steps be a fruit of your heart to God.
Heart to God.
Spread the Stoke.