Habits for the Heaven Hungry
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Ephesians 1:5
Read that again… This is not a verse to read once and move on. This is a verse to meditate on, to comprehend, and to live by. When the world has rejected you, God has chosen you. When those you are closest to have failed you, God has adopted you. When you feel hopeless and unwanted, the God of the universe wanted you—long before you ever existed. Not because He had to, but because He wanted to. And the mere thought of you brought Him great joy. YOU! Oh, how differently we would live our lives daily if we could just accept this one simple truth about who we are and how God truly sees us.
These are the powerful realities that solidify in our hearts and minds when we get into the Word regularly. We retrain our thoughts to remember these truths when circumstances and struggles attempt to tell us otherwise. It’s time to stop settling for what we see with our natural eyes, letting each day determine our joy and purpose. No. Instead, let’s choose to see with eyes of Faith and decide for ourselves how WE’LL define and respond to each day. Intentional. Purposeful. And with great expectation. The more we read the Word, the more we’ll fall in love with the author: God himself.
Application: In the breakout session, we already covered the “whys” and “hows” of building the habits that we want in seeking God. Now, it’s time to put those new behaviors into practice.
Worship: Set aside a few minutes each morning this week to worship through music. Pick a worship song you love (or from our TNT Spotify playlist) and start your day declaring those promises of God out loud. Remember, faith comes by HEARING (Romans 10:17), so let your ears hear your mouth speaking hope and Truth.
Word: This week, make a commitment to read the book of Ephesians—with seven chapters, that’s only one chapter per day. Ephesians is such a life-giving book; you could read it for a year straight and still gain insight from it each time! Be prepared to learn about who you truly are and your right-standing with God himself.
Prayer: After you read, talk to God about it. Was there something that stood out to you? A part you’re especially thankful for? Or perhaps even a question it brought up in you? Bring your thoughts to Him and expect the Holy Spirit to answer you and bring you wisdom this week as you continue to read.
Unconditional and Never-Ending Mercy
Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. Luke 22:54-62
If you’ve ever set boundaries within your life, you are probably well aware of the struggle to stay true to those standards. The purpose behind setting boundaries is to avoid the things that will lead us to sin. Through purity in all areas, we can build a stronger relationship with our Heavenly Father. Though we strive for purity, we all make mistakes. Not one of us is perfect, and we are bound to slip up. The point of this isn’t that there is no hope—we are redeemed and loved by God. No matter how far you fall, He will be there to pick you back up with limitless grace and mercy. While God has no trouble showing us grace, sometimes it is hard to have grace for yourself.
When I was in high school, I didn’t live my life alongside God. I was into partying, drinking, sexual immorality, and just about every worldly thing that I could get into. When I got saved, I felt unconditional love and acceptance for the first time. With my newfound freedom though, came a little voice in my head that told me I had to be perfect to stay on God’s “good side”. While I had a new perspective on life, I wasn’t fully free of my addictions. I fell back into old habits on multiple occasions. I beat myself up over my mistakes and felt the shame of not being a “perfect Christian”. My way of thinking was all wrong. I now know that I am redeemed and freed of my sins by the blood of Jesus. God has no shortage of Grace and mercy for you, so you need to have the same level of grace for yourself.
In the scripture referenced above, Peter messed up THREE times; yet he repented, and the Lord showed him grace. All this said, we are called to repent. It is important to set boundaries and to realize when we fall short, but it’s also vital to have grace for yourself while accepting the grace Christ died to give us. Then, you can move forward knowing that this is an opportunity to do better in the future.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for your never ending love and for showing me Grace even when I struggle to forgive myself. You say that the blood of Jesus washes my sins as white as snow. Help me remember this and have confidence that when I fall, your hand will always be there. Keep my mind and soul on a path of forgiveness and help me continue to grow in character, even when I fail. In Jesus Name, Amen.
The 3 Keys to Ruling the Future
Integrity: One of our core values at TNT is that “integrity is everything”. This concept is the foundation we must have for success to rule the future. Integrity is simply defined as “doing the right thing even if no one is watching”. Aligning our actions throughout life with this idea may make life harder at times– serving God doesn’t guarantee an easy life. In the everyday, it may lead you to being the only one at work staying late. Because you decide to clean up the proper way, while your coworkers choose to leave early (by cutting corners and getting the job done faster), you may feel like the fruit of your hard work will never be noticed. However, God promises to honor and bless those who live by His principles. We can also be at peace knowing that by acting with integrity today, we will have nothing in the shadows to ensnare us in the future.
Honor: Another core value we have at TNT is that “honor is not earned, it’s given”. Romans 12:10 tells us to “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves”. This is something I like to call “Christian mathematics” meaning: sometimes the things on Earth that would make sense, actually work in completely opposite ways inside the spiritual world. For example, the Bible tells us that being generous with our money will make us wealthy (Proverbs 11:24-25). It also states that when being hit, we should not hit back. Instead, God calls us to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). Honor works in the same manner. As you show more people honor, then you will begin to receive honor. No matter if you believe they “deserve it” or not, we honor others because of Christ’s love for them.
Faithfulness: Faithfulness is the daily decision to walk out God’s will for our lives. No matter what the situation looks like on the surface we can hold steadfast to the truth that God is always moving on our behalf. In 2 Timothy it says “This saying is trustworthy: ‘For if we die with him, we will also live with him. If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he will deny us. If we are faithless, he remains faithful. He cannot deny himself.”’. God describes himself as faithful, so everyday that we walk in relationship with him we are walking out faithfulness. The best way to walk in faithfulness is by creating relational moments (also known as spiritual disciplines) everyday. This means getting into the Word, worshiping, and praying throughout the day. Don’t start a reading plan just to “get it done”. Instead, spend purposeful time enjoying the presence of your Heavenly Father.
Ruling the Future: In order to rule the future, you must begin to work on your character TODAY. Integrity, Honor, and Faithfulness (let's call it IH&F) are not things that you're going to gain overnight. By setting ourselves up with these solid qualities today, we will show God that he can trust us with influence and leadership in the future. Having IH&F stems from decisions we make daily. Though the unfortunate truth is that our fleshly desires are often in direct contradiction of IH&F. Instead of giving in to those natural tendencies, habits, and desires, we must grow in close relationship with Jesus to walk out IH&F and rule the future. Remember that becoming a faithful person requires PRACTICING faithfulness in the day-to-day. It is the same for integrity and honor as well. In order to become someone with high character, we must practice acting in that character.
1. What actions are you taking to walk in integrity today?
2. How can we show our parents/teachers/and even friends honor in our everyday lives?
3. What are some spiritual disciplines I am going to start today?
4. How is God going to use your Integrity, Honor, and Faithfulness to Rule the Future?
How to Worship a King
Listen to: “The Heart of Worship” by Matt Redman
“I’m coming back to the heart of worship, when it’s all about you, all about you, Jesus”
The song ‘The Heart of Worship’ was written by worship leader, Matt Redman, as he helped his pastor lead the congregation through a tough season in their church. The people in the church had become hypercritical about their church worship experiences to such an extent that their pastor, Mike Pilavachi, decided to stop having worship in their services, as they knew it, altogether. Instead, the only songs of worship that would be sung in their services would be those that the congregation brought, and that was only if they were courageous enough to sing them aloud, with no musical accompaniment. Can you imagine what that experience would be like? It quickly became apparent that their church did not have a worship problem, rather, they had a heart problem. Worship had somehow become all about them and not about Jesus. The opening line of this famous chorus addresses this issue head on saying, ‘I’m coming back to the heart of worship, where it’s all about You, all about You, Jesus.’ The ‘Heart of Worship’ is one that says, ‘it’s all about you, Jesus’. So, let’s look further into the heart of worship through the acronym, H. E. A. R. T.
‘H’ stands for Him. Worship is for Him. Romans 11:36 says, “ For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Looking at worship through the lens of this scripture reminds us that the worship we bring is from Him (He is our creator), through Him (Jesus made the way for us to be in God’s presence through His death and resurrection) and it is to Him (He is the one we are worshiping). The moment that we begin to make worship about us, about our likes, dislikes, or preferences, we have missed the mark. It is all about Him! It always has been, and it always will be.
‘E’ stands for Excellence. Becoming excellent at something often requires time, effort, sacrifice, and can often be quite costly. The story of King David in 2 Samuel 24:18-25 is a good example of what it looks like to bring excellence to the Lord. In this scripture King David told a Jebusite named Araunah, “ I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” You see, Araunah offered what King David needed (for a sacrifice to God) to him for free and in so doing presented him an offering of excellence. Based on what we know about Araunah this offering represented not only his livelihood but his “best”, and perhaps even his “all”. We can infer from this scripture that Araunah’s willingness to give an earthly King such an excellent gift inspired David to ensure that offerings to God were also given with excellence. In fact, this offering was so excellent that the land would eventually go on to become the site of the temple in Jerusalem. Now that we are the temple of the living God (1 Corinthians 3:16) may we, like King David, offer to God worship that costs us something; worship that is excellent.
‘A’ stands for Access. We have access to God’s presence because of what Jesus did for us through His death and resurrection. Hebrews 4: 14-16 reminds us that we get to come boldly before the throne of our gracious God because of Jesus. We have access to God’s very presence and we get to come boldly into it. What an honor it is to come boldly into the throne room of God and minister directly to Him with our praise and worship. We all have this access through Jesus. It is not reserved for the worship leader or the worship team. This is an important thing to remember as we worship God both on and off the platform.
‘R’ stands for Relational. One of the words for worship used in the bible is the Hebrew word ‘Proskuneo’. Proskuneo means, “to kiss the hand towards one, in token of reverencce”. I don’t know about you, but I don’t often blow kisses towards strangers. Rather, that type of action is reserved for those with whom I have a close relationship. Worship is relational because we are in a relationship with God. An example of this is that Jesus, in what we now call ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, taught us to call God our Father. God could have revealed Himself to us as anything, but He chose Father because He wants a relationship with us as His children. He loves us, and worship is one of the ways that we can express our love back towards Him.
‘T’ stands for Truth. The Father is looking for those who worship Him in spirit and truth. Worshiping the Lord “in spirit” means to do so with your whole heart, with a genuine passion for God that overflows from your relationship with Him. Worshiping the Lord “in truth” means to do so with the right understanding and knowledge of who it is we are worshiping. Worshiping him in Spirit alone can lead to an overly emotional experience that flames hot and high but burns out fast. Then, when the moment or the song is over, then the worship ends. Worshiping in truth alone can lead to a dry and dull experience that at worst ends in legalism and at best creates mindless rituals that can last for ages and eventually lose all meaning. To truly honor God with our worship, we must worship him in both spirit and truth. Jesus speaks on this topic throughout much of the New Testament, and to this day, that message has not changed. God is still looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and truth. The more that we seek to know Him, and the more we love Him from that place, our worship becomes that which He is looking for.
APPLICATION: Take a moment and ask the Lord to search your heart. Invite Him to investigate if you are operating with a heart of worship or if there are areas of ‘H.E.A.R.T.’ that need more attention in your life. If so, write those areas down and make your aim to bring excellence to that area. Set aside some time alone to listen to the songs, ‘Heart of Worship’ by Matt Redman and ‘Nothing Else’ by Cody Carnes. These two songs were written decades and continents apart, but their message is the same- that we would return to the heart of worship, return to what matters most, Jesus!
How to hear God/Prophecy
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. John 10: 27
1 Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy. 3 But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them. 1 Corinthians 14: 1/3
Isn’t it amazing that God, the Creator of the universe, is speaking to us? Scripture is clear that He hears us when we pray; not only does God hear us when we speak to Him, but He also speaks back! God is speaking all the time in countless different ways. Despite what you may think, hearing God doesn’t come down to if He’s willing to speak, it comes down to if you’re willing to listen. God speaks through the Bible, dreams, a still small voice, visions, other people, and so much more. In a world that is screaming at you from every direction, we need to be listening for the voice of God. He wants to speak to you, AND He wants to speak through you to others.
So how do we learn to listen? God will never violate His Word. The Bible holds the written words of God and is one of the greatest tools for you to learn about who God is. If you know His character, it’s much easier to discern if the words you’re hearing are from God. For instance, if you have a thought in your head that makes you afraid, you can recall that 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “God has not given me a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.” Therefore, you know by reading the Word that God doesn’t bring fear. He brings peace. He is peace. So we know that thought is not from God! But if you have a thought that reminds you how much God loves you, you know from John 3:16 and 1 John 4:7 that God is love and He loved you so much He sent His son for you. Now that’s a God thought! Spend time with Jesus in prayer and in the Word, and you’ll learn who God is and what He sounds like.
Next, pay attention. God is always speaking, and sometimes we dismiss what He’s saying because we think that what we heard was random and probably nothing. But in reality, if I pay attention and ask, “God, what are you saying in this situation?”, you’ll be shocked at how much God is actually speaking. This world is full of distractions, and we have to be intentional in tuning into what God is saying. While you’re at school, at home, at the mall, at the airport, at a restaurant, or even in the shower, ask God to speak to you, and listen. You’ll realize He’s speaking to you and wants to speak through you!
A spiritual gift God gives us is prophecy. To put it simply, prophesying reveals the heart of God toward someone and tells that person what God is saying over them. When you prophesy, it will always strengthen, encourage, and comfort them—according to 1 Corinthians 14:3. Often when I go somewhere, I pray this prayer, “Holy Spirit, is there anyone you want to speak to? What are you saying about them?” But I don’t stop there! The next step is vital: I listen. Many times, the Holy Spirit will highlight a person, and I might hear something as simple as “I love them, and I’m proud of them.” Or I might hear or see something more in depth.
Remember that when God speaks, what you hear or see will never violate the Word of God and will always strengthen, encourage, and comfort. Now I need to be obedient to share what I felt like God showed me responsibly. If you are not sure if something is from the Lord or how you should approach someone, talk to a trusted leader who can help you. Prophesying is such a powerful tool that God uses to speak to people! And isn’t it amazing that God wants to use us to reach other people?
If we’ll listen, God will not only speak to us but also through us. Today, ask yourself these questions:
1. Talk about a time you heard from God.
2. Have you ever had someone prophesy and given you a word from God?
3. In what way do you normally hear God?
4. Why is it important that we hear God?
5. Why is it important that we prophesy?
Take a moment and ask God these questions:
1. Lord, what do you think of me? Who do you say I am? What do you want to say to me?
2. Holy Spirit, is there anyone you want to speak to? What are you saying about them? Who do you say they are?