“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
I struggle with consistently placing my hope in God alone. I say He is my support, but then I add a secular safety net as a back up to my belief in Jesus. So, my prayer is to hope in God without any worldly props. When He is the sole focus of my faith then trust in Him trumps any whispering idols in the temporal. Christ’s hope is all I need to persevere though pain, change and challenges. His hope anchors my soul in His unchanging grace.
There are many gods who offer fleeting hope. The god of more money offers financial hope. The god of bigger government offers entitlement hope. The god of blind loyalty offers relational hope. The god of harder work offers security hope. However, all hope not founded on God is false and disappoints. Hope in heaven gives peace on earth. And any earthly competitor for the Lord’s hope is powerless. God’s hope generates real joy!
“Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, LORD our God. Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this.” Jeremiah 14:22
Is your hope in God conditional or unconditional? Is it merely words or the conviction of your heart? You know your hope is all in with the Almighty when your life overflows with the power of the Holy Spirit. Bad news only emboldens you to look for the Lord’s creative solutions to sticky situations. You hand over people out of your control over to Christ’s control. Your focus on heavenly hope silences howls from the hounds of hell.
Therefore, hope in God, the Savior of your soul. He is your sole provider who needs no supplementary support. Intensified belief in Jesus is your back up plan. Thus, you embrace hope—an unchanging attribute of God. He is the object and author of your hope. Joy comes from being justified by Jesus. His peace produces perseverance. When Christ’s hope has its way—He shows you the way. Open hope’s door; it hinges on God!
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
Prayer: Heavenly Father, my hope is in You—not the competing hopes of this world.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” Sure it sounds simple, but grabbing hold of that idea’s roots has revolutionized the way Bob Goff lives. He’s cracked a simple code for finding God’s direction for your life with his new book Love Does. How does God feel about (fill in the blank)? And what are you good at? Cool, now go.
So what exactly does love do? We caught up recently with Bob to ask just that…
Family Christian: Hey Bob, could you start by telling us a little about how you grew up?
Bob Goff: I was raised in California. If you read the book you’ll know that I slanted all [of my answers to] aptitude tests to make it absolutely clear that I was supposed to be a forest ranger because I wanted to live in the Redwoods and hang out. Then I went to the Redwoods and I saw where forest rangers live on cots, the neon lights and all that and how they give people tickets for parking in the wrong places (laughs) and I said, I’m out. So I moved to southern California (totally disenchanted) to just surf and went to San Diego State and had a terrific time. And it was in that whole process that I bumped into this outfit called Young Life and they do just a terrific job with high school kids. At the time that I first got acquainted with them I was in high school and it made all the difference for me.
FC: So how many redwood trees did you drive through?
FC: Ya know, because that’s a thing. Where you can veer off highway 101 and drive through a huge tree…? It’s like a side show or something…
Bob: Right, with a big paper mache Paul Bunyan or something? (laughs) Yes! I went to school at Humboldt State because I was going to be a forest ranger and I used to drive by that place all the time. So for all those years I drove by, I never stopped until just a couple of years ago. My son and his friend and I started in Mexico and we bought some Harleys and said, we’re going to drive all the way up to this place we have in Canada. And when we got up to northern California we actually drove through that stupid tree. (laughs)
FC: Good for you. I grew up in Oregon and actually had a similar experience. My dad decided to lasso all of us together, threw us in a van and we all drove down to Southern California to Disneyland.
Bob: Oh! My favorite place in the whole world! How was your trip?
FC: Oh, it was great – but it was many years ago…
Bob: Isn’t it a great place? Actually a pastor from Uganda came a couple of days ago, and I think he was thinking we’d meet in a boardroom and wear suits and ties and everything. And I said, “do you want to go to my office?” And he said, “Yes.” So I put him in the car (laughs) and we drove to Disneyland because my office is on Tom Sawyer Island. It just is. I mean, Disneyland doesn’t think it’s mine, but I think it’s mine. So we met out there. It was terrific!
FC: Bob, so tell us about your transition from Young Life to Restore International. When was it that you saw, perhaps, a greater need going on around you?
Bob: I really kinda backed into it because every outfit that I wanted to work for, Young Life, World Vision, International Justice Mission, it seemed like everybody didn’t want me to work for them. (laughs) I got out of college, and I’d raised all my support so I asked Young Life if I could go on staff and they said no. And I thought “rats!” (laughs) I knew it wasn’t because they couldn’t afford me because it wasn’t going to cost them anything, and then I went to these other outfits – really doing terrific things all over the world, and because no one would have me I just felt like – I’m going to make a difference and I’m not going to be head-faked by all of these inexplicable no’s. I’m just going to pick something and do it. It’s like picking a fight. You don’t want to pick a fight with just the guy at the deli, [you want to] pick a fight somewhere in the world and just run towards it. Run because the fight is going to go on without you if you miss it. So that’s where Restore International was born. It was born out of a desire to make a difference. A lot of people see things like this as “open doors” or “closed doors” and I don’t really see Jesus that way. I see these doors [as situations where] you sometimes have to find another way in. So we started Restore International and started chasing bad guys in India using India’s laws to prosecute them and we ended up in Uganda shortly after that (probably ten years ago) and started making differences there.
FC: I’m thinking about all of these organizations saying no to you. What would you say to a person who is in similar shoes? What does a person do when they’re in a world of no’s and they’re beating their head against the wall because they thought they were pursuing things they thought God was calling them to?
Bob: I think that is such a common feeling – I’ve sure had that as well. But I just decided I’m done spending my life doing the things that I’m able to do. Because (like a lot of people) I’m able to do a whole bunch of things. And so [why not] try to tease out what it is I’m made to do? And then to do a bunch of that. So we go to organizations (and there’s nothing wrong with organizations, they’re terrific) but Jesus didn’t have one. He said, let’s just go do stuff. Love God. Love people. And do stuff. That’s my punch list everyday. (laughs) Ya know, somebody says, what’s on your to-do list? And I tell them the same thing, Love God. Love people. Do stuff.
So when you identify with an organization and you want to do stuff [but] you get this inexplicable ‘no’ – a lot of people get off the end and think, Well, God must have said no to me. No! The organization just said no to you. Find what it is that you were made to do and get on it! Go do what you were made to do. So for me, I knew that justice was something that has always been a big part of my life. And I know that Jesus is nuts about kids. He doesn’t seem to think much of lawyers (laughs) which really lands close to home, but He’s nuts about kids and loves justice. So I said, why don’t we go do that? And do a lot of it? And if you get a no from somebody, don’t say, ‘I’m going to take this as some big cosmic signal.’ No, you just got a no, deal with it. Just go to the next step. I never know what all of the steps are but I do know the next step. So the next step for me was to engage a country (just pick one, there’s nothing mystical about it, just pick a fight), and then run towards it. What’s the next step? Buy a ticket to Uganda. What’s the next step? Find a judge. Where do you do that? The courthouse. Ya know, the next thing you know you’re sitting in the office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I know that’s nuts, but I think Jesus does that to blow our minds. He doesn’t want us to think that we’ve got all of these plans laid out. I love that Jeremiah passage [when God says] – the plans I’ve got are good. And I keep doing my plans. The problem with my plans is that all my plans work and I get these puny little returns that go with my plans, but when you do this cannonball – did you do a cannonball when you were a kid? Where you just grab your knees and jump in? I love that! So when I think of faith, I’m thinking of a cannonball. You pick a fight – wherever it is, in the Congo or down the street from you and you run toward that. I love that scripture in Joshua of him headed toward the fight and he meets this big angel with the sword drawn, and I think Joshua had some lawyer in him because he said, ‘whose side are you on?’ And the angel said ‘neither, take off your shoes.’ I love that! So like, instead of picking sides on this thing, keep picking Jesus and keep running toward the fight.
So that’s a long way around the bush but I just decided I wasn’t going to get head-faked by an inexplicable no and I just did the next thing, which was doing justice things in Uganda. From there we ended up trying cases. I bought the entire Ugandan law library – both books. (laughs) And I just tried cases, and people were like – were you invited? And I said, ‘no, but as followers of Jesus we’re invited to everything!’ (laughs) It doesn’t seem polite but I’m telling you, you could show up at my house for dinner, man, you’re invited. And I think Jesus is saying that about all these fights out there – you’re invited. Bring your hook shot; bring what you’re good at. I’m good at law stuff, so bring that. So when we tried the first hundred cases of kids [who were] stuck in jails without a trial, we dropped off 98 at home, with all of the charges resolved. And I go, Man! I don’t need to have a memo from God on that. I know God loves them and justice, and then there’s this idea that you and I can be part of that…? Ya-hoo.
FC: So whose responsibility is justice? Is it the state’s or the church’s?
Bob: I’d say it’s all of the above. We each are stakeholders. It’s government and the various people in positions of power – they have a responsibility. But I think of the church as this bride of Christ, who is incredibly capable of doing amazing things. And so where we see injustice, we come, not with fists clenched but with palms up. And we say, what’s the next thing we can do? And the stuff we do is the stuff we were made to do. I know that sounds so circular, but for you, what you were made to do, is different than what I was made to do. But instead of spending all of our time having Bible studies about what we were made to do, go do stuff and you’ll figure out what you were made to do, because you’ll be great at some things and you’ll be terrible at others. And I say, do less of what you’re terrible at and more of what you’re good at. I don’t know if that sounds too simple, but it’s been working for me.
FC: No, I don’t think that sounds simple at all. I think it actually sounds quite profound. It seems that sometimes we can over complicate our value system so much it almost prevents us from doing anything good.
Bob: Yeah, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for getting together with men and women in small groups around Scripture and letting it just wash over us, but for me, I’ve been meeting with the same ten guys for like 15 years now, but we don’t have a Bible study every Friday, we have a Bible doing. We say, let’s not just agree with Jesus about this stuff, let’s do something – so what’s the next step? You know those [studies] where you’re reading about Lazarus and he’s raised from the dead and they say well, dead in Greek means this, and dead in Hebrew means this, and dead in Aramaic is…? And then the compelling question is “when was the last time you were dead?” (laughs) and I’m thinking like NOW. (laughs) And what I want to say is, let’s go do something! Let’s either head to the morgue or let’s pick the next thing to read that we’re actually going to do something with because Jesus never got all of the disciples together and said, guys I just want you to agree with Me. So I mean, I get it, Jesus won’t think we’re swell if we do a bunch of stuff, He already thinks we’re swell. He’s just nuts about us, our pictures are in His wallet. So now that we’re done with that can we just go do whatever the next thing is… So for some person, doing stuff with the court systems and justice, that would be a train wreck, it would be the worst thing they could ever do because it isn’t what they’re made to do. They’d be able to do it, but it wouldn’t be what they were made to do.
[What if the] body of Christ said, “What are you good at?” And people responded, “Well, I’m good at this”, and we said, “Ok, are you doing a lot of that?” “Well not really,” so ok, “Why don’t you do some more?” It probably wouldn’t feel so complicated. And don’t ask guys like me, ask my wife “What is it that Bob’s good at? And what does he stink at?” And she’ll know. I would say to all men, listen to your brides! The stuff that they’re saying is really good. These are words of truth to you. Maria Goff and I have been married for 26 years, 1 month and 23 days, I kid you not, I’m counting. I spent so much time trying to get that girl to like me that I’m going to count every single day. (laughs) And you know what she’s been telling me the whole time? Bob, work the plan. She never tells me what the plan is, but I know what she means when she says that. It means like all this stuff that Scripture says you’re supposed to be about? Do that! Ya know that stuff you were made to do? Do that. And this stuff over here on the other side that you kinda stink at, or it kinda feeds your pride – not that. So it’s really been terrific. I’m so glad she got dropped into my life and tells me to ‘work the plan.’ I think that’s really a beautiful way of viewing the Christian faith. Jesus is saying work the plan. You want to know what the plan is? Read what I wrote about it and then go do it. Then overlay it with the stuff you’re good at and do less of what you stink at. And as to your pride and selfishness, try to arrest that. As to compassion, try to enhance it. And that, that’s the plan.
FC: Before we talk about your new book Love Does, we’re curious what you think about the church here in the United States. Are we in a healthy state?
Bob: Oh I’m nuts about the church. Have you ever gone to a wedding and brought a card with you that says “7.5” like the Olympics? (laughs) And as the bride passes by you say, Oh, I’ve seen better…? Not at all! We’re the bride of Christ, and what makes the bride look so great, at least at the weddings I’ve gone to is, not only is she dressed up nice, but the groom – you just sense his anticipation. He knows everything about her and he picked her and he said, I’m in. So when I think about the church, I’m just nuts about her. She’s looking good, she’s got this Groom that’s just crazy about her. Does the church have all kinds of problems? You bet, because it’s made up of people like me, so I get that part too. But all I need to know about the church is that Jesus picked her. Wouldn’t that be lame if you were trying to talk me into what a swell gal your wife was? I mean, all the information I need to know is, you’re married. With that comes all the information I need – that she must have taken you by storm. You must have given up everything. I bet you would have given up food if she would have gone on a date with you. Like that kind of thing, that’s all the information I need to know about the church, Jesus picked it. And so instead of me telling the church how she would really look better if she had this in her hair, or that over there (and I’m not just being shallow here), I think I’m just respecting the Groom’s pick. The bride is going to do great things, and has the ability to. I think one of the times the bride looks great is if she is just trigger-locked on the groom. Wouldn’t it be weird if the bride was just looking to the right and the left the whole time she was just walking down the aisle? Distracted by this and that? What if a bride came down the aisle reading a list of all of her opinions? “This is my opinion about this…” wouldn’t that be a screwed up wedding? I mean, really?! (laughs)
So one thing I do is (and I realize this might sound nuts), every month or so, I try to take like an Etch-a-sketch [so to speak], and I clear my faith. I go to zero, clear the deck. And I start adding things back to my faith, one at a time. What would be the first thing I’d add back? Jesus. It sounds a little bit like a Sunday school answer, but that’s what I do. Then what’s the next thing? And I’d say, well, loving people. And then the next… and what’s crazy about it, (just try it yourself) what would be like the seventh thing you’d add back to your faith? I bet you won’t get there. I think you’re really going to have a hard time even getting back to seven things. And we start sometimes talking about number 80! Like, this opinion about this, or that. If the bride is looking to other things, we’re [essentially] talking about number 80. I want to say, just as an illustration – what’s number 7? Because I think if I can get number 1 and number 2 right, and then number 3 and 4, those will instruct what my number 5 and 6 are – and I’ll probably never get to 80. But if I do, it will probably be so instructed by those other numbers that then it’s just trigger-locked on Jesus. Just eyes focused on Jesus.
FC: Bob, what was your goal in releasing Love Does: discover a secretly incredible life in an ordinary world?
Bob: Oh it’s a terrific caper. Thomas Nelson asked if I would write a book and I said, “Oh I don’t know, would you build a school?” (laughs) And they said, “How big’s the school?” and I said, “260 kids and 40 teachers in Gulu, Northern Uganda.” Many of these kids are child soldiers and they said “Wow, big school!” And I said, “I don’t know, big book!” And so we did it! It was everybody together, Donald Miller, Thomas Nelson, me and everybody just said, let’s go build this school, and it’s built! You can build a school out of a bunch of pages of paper. That’s amazing to me.
FC: And is that what Restore Leadership Academy is?
Bob: Yes! Isn’t that great?! And get this, they’re the number one school now in all of Northern Uganda. We’ve sold a couple more books than we thought and this thing hit the New York Times [bestseller’s list] a couple of times and we’ve got seven more buildings underway right now. We’ve got a library with 5,000 books in it, already. It’s the first one in Northern Uganda. It’s nuts! So, that’s what we set out to do. We said, what if there’s nothing on the other side of the equals signs? Just Jesus. We don’t even really tell anybody until the last page of the book, and then it’s hey, do you know what you guys did? All of the proceeds of this thing go to help these terrific kids.
FC: We won’t tell anybody either… well, not until the end of this interview.
Bob: (laughs) Ahhhh! Terrific!
FC: Bob, at the end of your life, what do you want people to remember you for?
Bob: (laughs) Well, we had all of these pets growing up – did you do this as a kid? Ya know, the rabbit would die or a squirrel or a canary. Well, I never wanted to tell the kids that their pet died, so we’d always say, “it got away.” (laughs) Isn’t that crazy?! They’d say, well, dad, where’s the bunny? And I’d say, well, it got away.
Actually one time I was too chicken to say it… We had this long-eared rabbit called Ben, so I found a replacement rabbit and I put it in the cage and everything because Ben “got away.” But it was a little bit bigger and the spots were in different places (laughs) and when they got home they said, “Where’s Ben?” And I said, “This is Ben” and they said, “Dad this is NOT Ben.” So we named him Bennigan. (laughs) So I’m flaking on your what’s-on-your-tombstone thing… I hope it just says “He got away.” (laughs) I know that’s what the kids will put. But I hope that I leave a legacy of capers and mischief and joy. And there’s a difference between a caper and a prank. A prank is like playing Ding-Dong-Ditch, you know, you ring the doorbell and then run and hide in the ditch. That’s a prank. It has no shelf life, like reassembling the principal’s car up on the roof of the gym. It’s cute and everything but there’s no shelf-life, and it can actually be kind of destructive. But a caper is different. It’s something where everybody has made it in. so I hope that I can leave a legacy of capers. We have a thing around the Goff house. The first one to make dad cry around Christmas, they’re the big winners. And all I want are photographs of the kids. And so anything flat… if the kids pick up something flat and start walking toward me – I just start crying because I know it’s going to be a picture of them. (laughs) It could be the Beatles White Album, but if I thought it was a picture of them, I’d start to cry. So the kids this past year put together a book of all the capers we’ve done in the last 15-20 years and there’s a lot. It was a pretty thick book, and so I’m just weeping, turning the pages from one caper to the next. And at the end of this book there was an envelope with three letters in it. They were letters that the kids had written to the children that they don’t have yet. They’re not even going out on dates yet (laughs) but they wrote their [future] kids. And so to read this letter from my son Adam to his kids talking about a life filled with whimsy, filled with joy, filled with adventure that he’s looking forward to, and then to see at the bottom of the letter signed, “your dad, Adam…” that just took me out. That’s what I want to leave behind. That kind of legacy where the kids are already plotting and planning for their kids, and I think that’s what the church did. They had all these hopes for us early on. They said this is who we could be. This is this big God that we follow. They were hoping, they were just rooting for us. That’s that ‘great cloud of witnesses.’ Rooting for us, hoping we’ll live into the people that God meant for us to be. The people that God made us to be. Not just [who we’re] able to be.
FC: Are you a book reader?
Bob: I am! I tell you, every time I read a book now though I think, here’s a guy or gal who did their job. (laughs) They finished the book! It took me so long to do it. Sometimes with reading it’s hard to make the time. I think Don Miller’s probably one of my favorite authors of all time because he just writes with his heart. He’s just a good guy. I’ve learned a lot about love and friendship from how he lives his life.
FC: How about music?
Bob: Oh, probably Brandon Heath is one of my closest friends and he’s releasing a single called, get this, “Love Does.” Isn’t that fun? He totally mugged me. Like he played the song for me, and I’m crying and he’s like “Bob I put this on the album, I hope you don’t mind.” And I’m like what? And he played the song and I’m like NO! (laughs)
Born into a legacy of gospel music, J. Moss continues to blaze an R&B trail with his addictive beats and no nonsense message. Through his new album Volume 4… The Other Side and powerhouse production team, J. Moss is breaking new ground in the industry and challenging gospel artists to let even their stage presence open new doors for ministry.
Family Christian: Would you start us off by taking a few minutes to describe your childhood?
J. Moss: (laughs) Well, it’s kinda fast. My dad basically stuck a mike in front of my face at the age of 5 years old and I’ve been doing it ever since. At the age of 41 this year, that’s 36 straight years in music. So of course, you can only imagine what that type of childhood is like, being in the limelight right at the time you can complete full sentences. But I think it took every bit of that time to nurture and shape who I am today. But it also took me away from being on the local football teams and basketball teams, a lot of movies I didn’t see, a lot of parties I didn’t attend, get-togethers at school I didn’t get to experience. During the summers my dad had us on the road. I wasn’t able to do things with my friends in the neighborhood because of the calling that I had and of course what my dad required of us. Definitely a very fast, expedient (if you will) childhood. I missed a lot, but that’s why I’m making up for it now – still a kid at heart.
FC: So you come from a long line of musicians – your dad was part of the Moss Brothers and your cousins are the Clark Sisters. As you just alluded to, you went on tour as a child. At what point did you realize that your life was going to continue moving in that direction, as a Gospel singer?
J. Moss: I always knew it, way back from when I was 5, on those old 45 records that we put out years ago. I always knew I’d be a singer in some capacity. Whether I’d be in a group or a solo artist I didn’t know, but I definitely knew at a young age that a calling was on my life and I was different from other kids. No better than the other kids, but I was different; the pull on my life (and not just what my mom and dad were requiring of me), there was something to my heart. A passion deep down that hadn’t even been awakened yet. It probably came [to fruition] when I was at Michigan State University. Those years are where it really started to shift and I was kind of able to guide it to where God wanted it to be.
FC: May we ask what you went to MSU for…?
J. Moss: Electrical engineering.
FC: So you’re one of those guys (like a lot of us) who are not doing what you went to college for…
J. Moss: Right, not at all. (laughs) It wasn’t easy, but I definitely utilized that education, I programmed microphones and was a programming instructor for Microsoft for 7 to 10 years. I was able to utilize some of that training and even get more training (at a certifiable level) with Microsoft. But I’m not using a lot of that now. It’s all about music and music production.
FC: Let’s talk about music a minute. You seem to take the listener on a journey in every single one of your songs. What is your process for writing a new song?
J. Moss: Well, it varies. Sometimes [I get ideas while] mowing the lawn, pulling weeds out of the garden, sometimes it’s on a plane. There’s no finite way to write a song, it comes in many different forms. You just have to be open and available for it to drop in your spirit. That’s what I love about art; there is no right or wrong way to do it. We just have to be open to those feelings as they drop into us. That’s pretty much how I live my life. It could be 3 AM or 3 in the afternoon that I go to the piano and get something going on. That’s just how it is. That’s how we make it happen. I don’t run from that, I embrace it and my family understands that. My wife automatically knows that if I jump up in the middle of the night and run out of the room, 9 times out of 10 it’s not an emergency, it’s that something’s been pulling at me during the night, during my sleep. I’m just always in a receptive place for whenever or whatever God wants to do.
FC: How would you describe your music?
J. Moss: My music is definitely very in-your-face, very one-on-one. Humanistic, if I can use that word. Just a real down-to-earth kind of writing. They’re songs that people can put in and say “that’s neat” without having to decipher through. I write by Scripture, but there’s not a lot of scriptural “jargon” to pick through. A lot of the songs just kinda hit you in the face just dealing with your everyday situations. Marriages, parent/child relationships, things that go on in our churches, our jobs, things that happen while we’re driving home from work, things that happen in school, in relationships. Things that aren’t miracles. Just a real, in-your-face, down to earth, grimy kind of style that hits home with everybody.
FC: In writing your latest album Volume 4… The Other Side did you set out to write around a specific theme? We aren’t music critics, but we’re pretty sure we’ve picked up on one…
J. Moss: Well, [typically] the theme you’d guess is exactly what we set out to do. We’re very strategic with our albums. Very strategic with what’s going to be the direction or focal point. We try not to be all over the place so we can give the listener or those who are going to experience the project a pleasurable experience. So this album is definitely one of victory and triumph, being on the other side of victory. So many gospel albums are very somber, slow, very “in the struggle” or “in the storm,” types of concepts and what we wanted to do was go on the other side of that; get into a more celebratory, triumphant and victorious type of delivery. Where we’re talking about the advantages of God bringing healing and bringing you out of it – God doing what He promises that He would do. So probably what you felt is what we set out to do.
FC: What would you say to a person who is spiritually “in the wilderness?” They realize that God is there, but in their heart they feel abandoned…
J. Moss: Well, that’s where the song “Good and Bad” comes from. I just got so tired of people falling into this hopelessness. And it’s not necessarily just individuals; it’s those of us who are leaders, ministers, recording artists, what have you. It’s our job, our duty, to let them know that God has not abandoned us. That’s a really serious thing. That’s heavy on my heart. I’m on a campaign to let everybody know, hey look, God is still there, He’s still healing. As long as you have breath, the Lord has your back. All we have to do is tap into that. A lot of times we stray so far away that we can’t find our way back home – so basically what you have to do is use your spiritual GPS system (which is the Word of God), and a healthy supporting cast – your friends and family. You want to hang around the people that actually speak those things into existence and you’ll be able to find your way back to the light. But by no means has God punished us, left us, abandoned us. That’s what this record is about. It’s about reminding people of God’s faithfulness. Great is His faithfulness. It’s because of His mercies that we’re not abandoned, we are not consumed. And I live by that promise. Every single day we are renewed. That means every morning He gives us a clean slate. The things we’re ready to ask forgiveness for He’s already thrown into the sea of forgetfulness. Now all we need to do is just press on toward the high calling which is in Jesus.
FC: J, you’ve said “this record is a clear reflection of my life and where I am at this moment.” You’ve talked briefly about going through the wilderness and living on the other side of that. Do you write from your own experience, or for a particular audience?
J. Moss: Well, I’m definitely writing [in response to] things that I hear on Facebook, read on Twitter, what I get in emails and from people walking up to me at the end of shows we do. People saying “thank you J for your transparency.” I’m hearing these stories and these issues and experiences that others are going through, so a lot of the final form is not targeted just at J. Moss – but he gives you a lot of himself. [I showed you] the fragile human being in the 3rd project Just James, but with V4… The Other Side we came out of that and decided to really just be a servant of the people again and give them what they needed to hear – a word of encouragement to continue to press on…
FC: So obviously you’re a solo artist, but also along with your business partners – Paul Allen and Walter Kearney – you’ve formed PAJAM Music Group and have had the privilege of working with a ton of heavy hitters: Byron Cage, Hezekiah Walker, the Trin-i-tee 5:7 girls, Karen Clark Sheard, N’Sync, Boyz II Men, Patti LaBelle…? Dude, seriously?! How do you continually balance all of this and keep Christ at the center of your heart?
J. Moss: You have to balance it out. You know, you can’t say yes to everything. Sometimes you just have to say, “look I’m unavailable right now” even if it’s just for a 30-40 minute reading or meditation session with God, or I’m going to Bible study and I’m not going to be bothered. A lot of times it’s family that will keep you rooted and grounded in those things. You have to balance family, spirituality and business all at the same time and you only get 24 hours a day to do it per day. Plus you gotta get sleep in there, exercise, health, all of that in there. Balance and management of time truly is key. And again I can’t say enough about the supporting cast. You gotta have management and partners around you who understand the demands on your life and will allow you to breakaway and break free to do certain things. A lot of times it’s our business affairs guy, Walter Kearney, who handles most of that [for me]. He’ll call me sometimes and say J, we have an interview in five minutes and I’ll say, Walter, I just sat down at the table with the family to eat. And he knows that we’ve been out of town for a few weeks and that the time is important, so I won’t even have to deal with that – he’ll intercept it for me, call the radio station or media outlet. You need people like that around you so you can keep a level head about these things. Because you’ll always be pulled in different directions, and eventually you’ll just explode. So I thank God for the people at PAJAM, my family, friends, siblings, mom, all of them who really understand what it takes to be somebody like J. Moss and they really help me the best that I can be.
FC: This is kind of a curve ball – In all of the various people that you’ve worked with in the past, do you have any embarrassing moments or hilarious memories with them that you’d be willing to share?
J. Moss: Well if anyone follows us on Twitter or YouTube you’ll know we always have a top 5 or 10 [artists]. One artist that is consistently in our male vocalist top 10 is Marvin Winans. He was gracious enough to lend us his talents on the V2 project that we did with Byron Cage. So we did the vocals, recorded it and he did a wonderful job, and somehow between Paul, Walter and myself, after it was done we somehow threw the vocals into a digital trash can and could not get them back. We had nothing. I mean, man, for days we went back and forth first to try and find the vocals, and once we realized that it was just a no-go, we had to call him. We almost did everything but flip a coin to see who was going to have to call Marvin. (laughs) I mean we were so on edge, He’s a Grammy award winner, he’s our mentor, he’s helped us in so many areas and given so much to our ministry, he’s just been a great friend down through the years. But still, out of respect for who this guy is and his time, how do you tell him on a vocal that he already approved that we lost it and now he’s got to do it again. On one hand you look like you don’t know what you’re doing, and ya know, on the other hand he’s busy and he may not want to do it again, or he may get upset with us. So Paul and I had a time on our hands just trying to figure out the best way to break the news to him. The funny part about it was, I ended up being the one to break the news to him and really all he did was laugh. I mean, he couldn’t stop laughing. He’s a jokester so he clowned us. We have a very personable relationship with him. If you would have seen us, you never would have thought the end result would have been him laughing and clowning with us. It was definitely a time to be remembered.
FC: Ok, last question – every time we have seen you live or on video, you are a ball of fire! So we’re wondering, do you drink Mountain Dew or Red Bull? Are you just jacked up on caffeine all day long?
J. Moss: (laughs) You know what, that has been one of those things people have always said to me. If you look in the gospel music industry, especially black gospel, there’s just not a lot of artists that can target the young person in how they want [music/ministry] presented. So when you look at Kiki [Kierra Sheard], myself, Deitrick [Haddon], you know, outside of the few of us, there’s not many more. Of course Kirk [Franklin] does what he does, but just for that incorporating of the dancers and all the movement, jumping from one side of the stage to another, it’s all really just trying to give people in general (not just young people) an experience, and let them know that we’re excited and having a good time. We’re happy with this commission that we have on our lives. I just think that’s where God put me, not just in a place of standing flat-footed to sing, it’s always about being excited about Him. I think the more people can see the excitement in you, they will be more engaged and that will prompt them to get more involved in the service and what’s happening. When you can capture their attention on that level, then you can start feeding them that word of encouragement from the Word of God and start [seeing] changed lives. So PAJAM and I are all about artists who are sticklers for their presentation, because if we can get their attention and get them in the palm of our hand, we can start feeding them what our ultimate purpose is – the Word of God.
FC: We love it. We just really appreciate your music and have especially enjoyed this last record.
J. Moss: Thank you so much, we appreciate your love and support – allowing us to use you as an outlet to get this message out. We are going to continue to stay in the studio, in the books, on our knees before the Lord and try to provide excellent product.
“Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was powerful in both speech and action.” Acts 7:22 (NLT)
Have you ever tried to hide from God’s call on your life?
Moses did. He fled to the wilderness to get away. The hillside was a comfortable place; one that allowed him to live in obscurity. But God approached Moses as he tended sheep.
When God asked Moses to speak to Pharaoh on His behalf, Moses balked. He felt inadequate. He lifted up his weakness to God and submitted it as an excuse not to do as God asked. “My words get tangled,” he said. (Exodus 4:10b NLT)
Yet years later in Acts 7:22, we find that Stephen described Moses as powerful in both speech and action.
How could this be? Did he truly struggle with his words, or was it an excuse?
As an Egyptian citizen and adopted member of the royal family, Moses had access to the finest education. As a young man he rose to the rank of prime minister, a task that required him to communicate with others. But Moses is believed to have had a true speech impediment.
He struggled to get the words out.
So when God approached Moses to join in an adventure to free His people from slavery, all Moses could think about was his weakness.
When Stephen described Moses, hundreds of years later, he had the advantage of seeing Moses’ life span. He had heard of every act of courage and victory. Even in death, the name of Moses was revered among the nation of Israel.
Stephen knew when Moses spoke, though he may have stammered, his words carried weight.
The words Moses spoke were described as “life giving.” (Acts 7:38 NLT) Moses’ words mended arguments, offered justice, negotiated freedom and dispensed wisdom.
Only in hindsight do we see what Moses could not see in the beginning. God wasn’t worried about Moses’ lack of eloquence, vocabulary or skill, but whether or not Moses trusted God enough to obey.
Where Moses was deficient, God would be sufficient.
Where Moses struggled, God would succeed.
Where Moses was weak, God would be strong.
How many times does God invite us to follow Him into an adventure? Whether it is to be a great mom, or to lead a Bible study, or do anything outside our comfort zone, do we hold up our weaknesses and say, “Sorry, God, I can’t,” and then point out our weaknesses to Him.
In these instances, “My words get tangled” translates to:
I’m not patient, God, so don’t ask me to be a good mom.
I don’t like to be in the spotlight, God, so let someone else lead that study.
I’m afraid, God, so don’t ask me to [fill in the blank].
When we look past our “tangled words” to His equipping, we find our answer.
What is God asking you to do? Have you been responding with your own version of, “My words get tangled”?
Are you willing to step out in obedience today?
Like Moses, only with hindsight will you one day see how your obedience shaped a child, or a neighbor or a nation.
What do you stand to gain as you take the focus off your deficiency to trust in His sufficiency?
Dear Lord, You know my very real weakness. But I am excited to respond to Your voice today. With You all things are possible, so I step out in faith beginning today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Abraham was old; Timothy was timid; Jacob was insecure; Peter was impulsive; and Moses had a speech impediment, yet God used each of these people in such a way that their names are etched in history.
Add your name to the list above: I am _______________, but with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27).
Exodus 4:10, “Moses said to the Lord, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.'” (NIV)
Exodus 4:11-12, “The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.'” (NIV)
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:17
Brokenness by God is beautiful to Him. It is His passageway to purity. It is His entrance into intimacy. It is His plan for our maturity in the faith. However, it is painful and not always pretty. We can become stubborn and selfish in our way of doing things. We need the tender touch of our Lord to lead us away from a hardening heart to one that is broken before Him. An unbroken heart rivals God. A broken heart aligns with God. Unbroken, we are like a stallion in the wild. We need a “heart whisperer” from heaven to tame our spirit. We need God’s bridle of brokenness to bring us under submission. If we buck the breaking of the Holy Spirit, then we are in for a rougher ride. Why push back with pride when the outcome can be joy and gladness with God? He breaks us to build us up.
Some things that are broken are discarded. They are done away with because they are more easily replaced than repaired. We can’t drink any longer from a broken glass. It is useless to its user and discarded. Our heart, on the other hand, is not useful until it is broken. When broken by God the heart can no longer be adamant about doing its own thing. A heart is never at its best until it is broken. Brokenness brings out what is on the inside. It reveals where there is still a rascal in rebellion. It is in our brokenness that divine restoration takes place. A heart becomes whole when it is broken. This is the Lord’s way. He doesn’t break us and leave us to suffer in pain and discomfort. It is out of our brokenness that He pulls us close to His heart in compassion and love.
Moreover, brokenness is both an event and a process. Your salvation broke you of unbelief and brought you into a right standing with your Savior. However, the Holy Spirit is still breaking your behavior by conforming you into the image of Christ. It is a process whereby your pride decreases and your humility increases. Do not be gullible in thinking you are over the need for a work of God’s grace. Brokenness is a process of becoming more like Jesus. Your Christian maturity didn’t occur when you were first broken; it only began. Brokenness brings us back to our faith in Him. He tames us to trust Him. Therefore, out of your brokenness, present to your Savior the sacrifice of a contrite heart. It may be financial brokenness, relational brokenness, emotional brokenness, or physical brokenness. Wherever the pain is, present it to Him for healing. He restores broken hearts.
Lastly, do not be afraid of brokenness. Invite it as a blessing instead of ignoring it as a burden. It is better to be broken a little along the way than to be broken a lot in one fell swoop. Brokenness is God’s way to blessing and change. He breaks our will and restores us into the wisdom of His will. He breaks our spirit and restores us into the security of His Spirit. He breaks our pride and restores us into His humility. He breaks our stubbornness and restores us into His sensitivity. He breaks our harshness and restores us into His kindness. He breaks our greed and restores us into His generosity. He breaks our lust and restores us into His love. He breaks our disobedience and restores us into His obedience. Brokenness is our transformation by His grace and truth. God breaks us to conform us into the image of His son.
“‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on’” (Luke 21:3–4).
Little becomes much when the Lord is factored into the equation. He takes a little money and multiplies ministries. He receives a little faith and moves mountains and heals sick bodies. He applies a little forgiveness and restores relationships. He blesses a little sacrifice from leadership and saves a business. Christ takes a little courage and fulfills a grand vision. Thus, do not despise your small contribution. It makes a huge difference.
Jesus exhorted His disciples regarding the potential of a little faith: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).
You may be the only person at work or in your extended family who stands up for Christian values. It is tempting to ease into the status quo and blend in with a complacent culture. However, with humility and love, stay the course of unselfish service, and you will see Christ work. Exceptions become exceptional with eternal favor and persistence.
“One of them [a leper], when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan” (Luke 17:15–16).
Do the right thing, even if the majority does not take seriously the Lord’s expectations. Your quiet service is not unnoticed by Jesus. Keep thanking God when others take Him for granted. Persevere in your prayer closet when it seems like prayer-less people are progressing. Remain faithful in gift giving, especially when money is tight and uncertain.
A little is much when you lay it at the altar of obedience and the Holy Spirit’s fire ignites it for God’s glory. So lay before the Lord your gifts, talents, and faith, and watch Him forge you into a faithful disciple of Jesus. Lay your plan before almighty God, and trust Him to lead you through a prayerful process of implementation and adjustment. A little faith and obedience go a long way in God’s game plan.
Joshua brought his army to Jericho expecting a brutal battle, but the Lord simply had him march around the wall and worship! “When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city” (Joshua 6:20).
Have I laid before the Lord my little faith for Him to multiply and grow for His glory?
“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2
Prayers of thanksgiving bring a smile to the face of God. He delights in hearing His children express to heaven their gratitude for their sisters and brothers on earth. Jesus expects His followers to not just tolerate one another, but to celebrate each other’s uniqueness. A prayer of thanksgiving for another needy soul grows a heart of love for souls. Consistent prayers of gratitude gets God’s attention and moves His heart to bless, forgive and love.
We all need prayer; prayer for wisdom, prayer for solutions, prayer for healing, prayer for forgiveness, prayer for reconciliation, prayer for salvation, prayer for God’s will, prayer for strength, prayer for faith, prayer for courage, prayer for work and prayer for patience. How grateful we soon become, when we reflect on friends who lift us to the Lord with passionate petitions. We thank God for those precious souls who pray for our soul care.
“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.” 2 Thessalonians 1:3
Do you thank Christ regularly for those whose faith is on fire? Are you grateful to God for the grace of God that is ever growing in your community of faith? Those who boldly bear a beautiful banner for Jesus need our serious prayer support. The enemy rages against the righteous who are engaged in eternal issues: justice for the poor, education for the ignorant, church planting, job training, discipleship and food for the hungry.
Your grateful prayers to God garner good will for those executing God’s will. Thank Him for their trust that perseveres through persecution. Thank Jesus for those who share Jesus with words and deeds. Thank your heavenly Father for the fathers and mothers who model compassion, love, leadership and the nurturing of their children. Thank Him for single adults who hope in Christ and who serve unselfishly in His name. Gratitude prays!
“I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus.” Philemon 1:4-5
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the passionate prayers of Your people.
“Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.” Genesis 25:26b (NIV)
Do you ever get tired of waiting on God to answer your prayers? I do.
I get tired of saying the same old prayer day after day, month after month, year after year. Tired of telling God about the same old problems still going on. Tired of hearing myself pray about the same old issues, leading me to wonder if God is as tired of hearing my prayer requests as I am of praying them.
Recently I bowed my head and admitted to God that I was simply tired of praying and waiting.
In a heavy state of emotional exhaustion, I turned to my Bible. I hoped a few verses would jump straight into my heart and give me patience. That day I read about when Isaac’s wife Rebekah gave birth to twin sons. One sentence in particular caught my eye and God used it to speak hope into my soul.
Genesis 25:26 tells us that Isaac was sixty years old when his twins were born; a simple Bible fact, yet profoundly meaningful to me on that specific day.
You see, Isaac had waited patiently for the Lord to provide the perfect wife. He was forty years old when he married Rebekah. That means Isaac waited twenty years for Rebekah to bear children!
He was a man of great patience who waited on God. And eventually his patient faith was rewarded.
In Genesis 25:21a we see that “Isaac pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children.” (NLT) He earnestly and strongly prayed about their desires to have kids. He did not half-heartedly ask God for a son, he pleaded! He begged. He poured his heart out.
He trusted that God would provide and continued to pray the same desperate prayer for a son, day after day, month after month, year after year.
Isaac never gave up hope that his Lord could make the impossible, possible. And after twenty years, God gave him a son.
Are you tired of the wait? Tired of pleading with God just like Isaac? It may take twenty years for God to answer, or it may only take twenty minutes. But today, let’s find comfort in remembering Isaac’s patient faith and take hope in believing that God is not tired of hearing our prayers.
Dear Lord, please help me have patience and faith while I wait to hear from You. Help me live in excited anticipation for the day when I will see how You answer my prayers. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
“Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.” 1 Chronicles 16:35
A nation that stays on its knees in thanksgiving to God enjoys the blessings of God. Sophistication is never meant to substitute ingenuity for the Spirit’s power. Modern conveniences are meant to be a catalyst for Christ’s love to be leveraged worldwide. Moreover, when a country dedicates a holiday—holy day—in remembrance of the Almighty’s favor the citizens of that nation remember their true Originator and Sustainer.
We are a blessed people because of the godly people who went before us under the authority of Almighty God. We stand on the shoulders of other saints who believed boldly in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and the working of His power that fueled their faith, their patriotism, their life, their work and their relationships. Therefore, we are compelled to be thankful for our ancestor’s blood, sweat, tears, resolve and trust in God.
“I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.” Daniel 2:23
Yes, you can bow quietly at home with your family in gratitude for God’s great goodness and provision. The faith of your forefathers in your heavenly Father is a gift that keeps giving to this day. Remind your children of the context of their Christianity. It is a privilege they have to praise and worship God without intrusion from outsiders. They can be thankful to the Lord for their heritage of faith that facilitates humility, love and service.
Furthermore, your freedom to express your faith can be a blessing to other less fortunate nations. A nation that gives away God’s love is a nation that is loved by God. Take His blessings and bless the nations. Your motive is not to make them like your country, but to help them understand how to be like Jesus. One newly converted leader filled with the Holy Spirit can influence the masses to embrace Christ. So today, thank God for a day of Thanksgiving and from a grateful heart give all nations an opportunity to know His love!
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.” Romans 1:8
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thanks for blessing my nation, so that I can bless other nations.
“O Lord, I am your servant; yes, I am your servant, born into your household; you have freed me from my chains. I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.” Psalm 116:16-17 (NLT)
King David really messed up. Not the “oops-I-snapped-at-my-husband-again” type of mistake. Rather, the Bible tells us David committed adultery with a soldier’s wife, then had the innocent man killed to cover up the act. Talk about a condition for guilt.
While I haven’t walked in David’s sandals, I do know what it’s like to feel guilt and shame over what I’ve done … or haven’t done. It can be all-consuming.
Guilt wraps its way around your mind and heart until it chokes out the truth. You avoid people, situations and places. Embarrassment leads you into disobedience. Guilt hisses lies like:
• He’ll never forgive you.
• You’re the worst mother on the planet.
• What kind of Christian does that?
• Just give up; you’ll never do better.
I wonder if David heard lies too. After all, God took him from a shepherd’s field to the king’s throne. The guilt at letting down the God he loved, and a soldier who trusted him, must have been intense.
After David had blown it, he could have given up trying to be a man of God. Who would respect him after such shameful behavior? But David didn’t give up.
Rather than pulling back from life, he pressed into God.
And God forgave David and continued to use him for years.
Half of David’s situation is common. We all make mistakes. We all fall short. We all need a Savior. The other half, the redemption, isn’t so common. Too many people sit on the sidelines after a wrong choice, guilt-ridden and convinced they are disqualified from service. So why was David’s story different? How was David restored to a position of honor and respect after behaving so shamefully?
The answer is whispered and shouted throughout the book of Psalms. We hear it in David’s prayers and poems. Rather than living with a sentence of guilt, David chose to be grateful. He turned attention from himself to His God – and that changed everything.
David sought God’s forgiveness with a sincere heart (Psalm 51). He was truly repentant. But then, his focus turned to thankfulness. Psalm 116 records David’s words: “O LORD, I am your servant; yes, I am your servant, born into your household; you have freed me from my chains. I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.” (vs. 16 & 17)
Thankfulness is hard to come by when we feel like the scum of the earth. It feels like a sacrifice to offer praise instead of allowing our hearts to sink into self-pity with thoughts like, “I’ll never change.” “I’m such a failure.”
Although he was deeply aware of his own lack, David focused on God’s character, power and majesty. And when he did, thankfulness overflowed – silencing the lies about his worth and potential.
Most of us won’t go to the extremes David did, but sinful decisions can bring about a guilt-ridden condition that manifests itself in negative thinking and reduced potential. Thankfully, David’s example shows me that I don’t have to stay there. Yes, I’m a big mess at times. But gratefulness sings these truths:
• God’s grace is sufficient.
• When you are weak, He is strong.
• You’ve been forgiven; you are a new creation.
• Don’t dwell on the past, God is doing a new thing.
Gratefulness changes my perspective and opens my heart to the truth. And it’s your truth as well. Jesus has already paid the price for our sins, so we don’t have to pay it every day through guilt. When we humbly seek His forgiveness (and the forgiveness of others when necessary) our sins are forgiven. Through Christ’s sacrifice we are set free.
Dear Lord, today I desperately need Your forgiveness. Please forgive me for what I’ve done and what I’ve not done. Help me to exchange the lies of the enemy for Your truth. Create a clean spirit within me so that I can serve You all the days of my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Related Resources: For more ways to replace guilt-induced doubt with grace-infused confidence and hope, consider Renee Swope’s life-changing book, A Confident Heart.
Reflect and Respond:
Why is it so hard to forgive ourselves?
Name five reasons why God is worthy to be praised.
Name five things you are grateful for today.
Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (NIV)
Psalm 143:7-8, “Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” (NIV)