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We’ve all seen some evildoers get what they deserve, and we understand that because we’re not seeing every detail of their lives that others are getting what they deserve and we don’t see it, and of course all evildoers suffer the ultimate penalty, disconnection from God…  but why would God choose to NOT directly punish an evildoer?  Here’s one reason:

Romans 2:4 TLB 

4 … Can’t you see that He has been waiting all this time without punishing you, to give you time to turn from your sin? His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance

God wants to redeem us rather than punish us, which is probably lucky for most people.

It’s natural for us to want evildoers to suffer for what they’ve done, but we should pray for them instead;  forgiveness and redemption are what pleases God, not revenge.  Yes, sometimes this is hard…  but it is RIGHT.

 

Prepared blessings

from JO’s sermon tonight:

when God laid out the plan for your life, He lined up the right people, the right breaks, the right opportunities. He has blessings that have your name on them: there is promotion, contracts, a business, a spouse. He’s already destined them to be yours. if you will stay in faith, and keep honoring God, one day you will come into what already belongs to you; it’s a prepared blessing. this is what happened way back with Adam and Eve. in the book of Genesis, it talks about how in the first five days God created the heavens, the Earth, the sky, the land, the water. when He finished the big things, He didn’t stop there; He started on the small things, the details. God planted a garden; He put beautiful flowers in it, luscious fruits.  He designed these rivers to flow through it, put precious treasures in the ground, onyx, gold, silver; He went to great lengths to make sure it was exactly like He wanted it, down to the smallest details. when He got finished with it, He put the last touches on this magnificent garden, the scripture says He took Adam, who He had just breathed life into, and put him in the garden.

Genesis 2:8 (NIV)
8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.

notice, Adam came into a prepared blessing, something that God had already finished for him. he didn’t get there and have to work night and day, constantly struggle, think, “how am I going to survive?” there were fruit trees all around, crystal-clear streams flowing right before him, provision everywhere he looked. he didn’t have to live worried, thinking, “well, I’ve got food and water, but how am I going to provide for my family, make a living?” there were resources at his disposal; onyx, gold, silver, everything he needed to live a victorious, abundant life was right there in the garden. God had put it there specifically prepared for him. in the same way, God has some prepared blessings in store for you. He’s working behind-the-scenes, arranging things in your favor, getting it all perfectly in place, and at the right time He’s going to bring you into your garden, into what He’s already finished. you couldn’t make it happen on your own. you didn’t deserve it, you didn’t earn it, it’s just the goodness of God bringing you into a prepared blessing. God controls the universe; He knows how to bring you into your garden.

“I’ve been single so long, I don’t think I’ll ever meet the right person”; no, God has a husband, a wife, that has your name on them. God’s getting it all prepared, and at the right time, God will say, “okay, I’m done; here’s what I’ve been working on.” you’ll meet the person of your dreams. you’ll say, “God, this was worth waiting for. You outdid Yourself.” don’t get discouraged. you may not see anything happening, but God is working, getting your garden prepared; when it’s finished, He’s going to bring you into it. what God has in store for you will boggle your mind. right now, God is getting your garden prepared, putting in the right provision, lining up the right people, and when it’s fully in bloom, when God gets it exactly like He wants it, He’s going to bring you into it. suddenly, you’ll be promoted, suddenly you get the contract, suddenly your health improves, suddenly the problem turns around. when you come into your garden, it’s going to be bigger, better, more rewarding than you ever imagined. this is what God said:

Deuteronomy 8:7-9 (NASB)
7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything

notice, in the garden God has prepared for you, there is no shortage: no shortage of resources, no shortage of opportunities, no shortage of creativity, friendships, joy and peace. in your garden, you will not lack any good thing. when you’re tempted to get down, to look at what you don’t have, no, turn it around; “Lord, I want to thank You that You’re bringing me into my garden, a land of no shortage, a land where my gifts and talents will come out to the full, a good land where I will fulfill my destiny, a good land where I’ll live healthy, happy and whole, a good land where my whole house will honor You.” God’s dream for your life is to bring you into a garden of abundance, filled with favor, with opportunity, with good health, with great relationships. you may not be there yet, but don’t worry; your garden is on the way. David said:

Psalm 31:19 (TLB)
19 … you have stored up great blessings for those who trust and reverence you.

there are businesses stored up for you that God’s about to release. there is promotion stored up that has your name on it, good health stored up, a new the house stored up, a spouse stored up. because you love the Lord, God is going to bring you into what He’s already prepared. you’ve honored God, you’ve been faithful, now you’re not going to have to go find the blessings; the blessings are going to find you. something is looking for you right now. not defeat, lack, bad breaks; favor is looking for you, contracts are looking for you, good health is looking for you. you’re going to come into your garden, a prepared blessing, something like you’ve never seen. if you could see what God has stored up for you, the people you’re going to meet, the places you’re going to go, the good breaks that are going to find you, you would be amazed; it’s going to be the surpassing greatness of God’s favor. too often, we make excuses, we come up with reasons why this is not going to happen for us; “that sounds good, but I don’t have the training, talent, connections, I come from the wrong family, the wrong nationality, I’m too short, I’ll never come into my garden.”

no, God is not limited by your circumstances, by your family, by who’s against you; when God breathed His life into you, He put a blessing on you that overrides anything that comes against you. the blessings God has stored up for you cannot be stopped by people, bad breaks, injustice; God has the final say. the garden He has prepared for you, He has every intention of bringing you into. we see David in the scripture as a powerful king, a great leader, one of the heroes of faith, but David wasn’t raised in a wealthy family, an influential family, he wasn’t trained to take the throne, just the opposite; he came from a very poor family. he was the eighth son of a man named Jesse. his brothers were involved in the military, they had somewhat significant positions; David’s job was to take care of his father’s sheep.

he was looked down on, seen as secondary; his family thought, “that’s just David, let’s stick him out in the shepherd’s fields, he’s never going to amount to much.” in the natural, it didn’t look like David had much of a future; he came from a low-income family, no education, his own father didn’t believe in him. but just because people write you off doesn’t mean God writes you off. circumstances may look like you’re stuck, too bad, you’ll never rise higher, but that doesn’t change what God has prepared for you. the blessing God put on you will override any curse. the blessing will make up for what you didn’t get, who was against you, for any disadvantage. what God has prepared is not affected by people or circumstances; His blessing will cause you to step into the fullness of your destiny. one day the prophet Samuel came to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the next king of Israel:

1 Samuel 16:3-13 (NIV)
3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”
4 Samuel did what the Lord said. … Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”
12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.
Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”
13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.

(here is some of the classic commentary about this story:

“b. There remains the youngest: This shows the low regard David had among his own family. First, his father didn’t even mention him by name. Second, he wasn’t even invited to the sacrificial feast. Third, he was only called to come because Samuel insisted on it.

i. “So small was David in his father’s esteem that it wasn’t considered necessary to include him in the family when the prophet of God called them to sacrifice.” (Redpath)

ii. When we consider that David was the youngest of eight sons, we aren’t surprised at the low regard he had in his own family. It wasn’t because David’s character or conduct was unworthy, it was simply because he was the youngest of eight sons.

iii. God often chooses unlikely people to do His work, so that all know the work is God’s work, not man’s work. He wants to work in a way so that people regard His servants as they regarded Samson: they wondered at the secret of his strength (Judges 16:5).

iv. “You may not be intellectual or well thought of in your family circle; you may be despised by others for your faith in Christ. Perhaps you had only a little share in the love of your parents, as David did. But remember that those who are rejected of men often become beloved of the Lord.” (Redpath)”

http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/0916.htm)

you don’t have to worry about somebody else getting your blessing; the oil that’s been prepared for you will not flow to anyone else. when it’s your time to be blessed, don’t worry, nobody can take your blessing. “my coworker got the promotion I deserved; I worked harder, but my supervisor overlooked me”; no, if you didn’t get it, it wasn’t supposed to be yours. your oil will not flow for anyone else. the blessing that belongs to you will be your blessing; nobody can take it. what’s destined to be yours, nobody else can have. that house that has your name on it, you’re supposed to have it, the oil is not going to flow for someone else. that promotion, that contract, that husband, they have your name on them exclusively. that’s why you don’t have to worry, you don’t have to get all upset, God’s got you covered; nobody is going to get what belongs to you. when you see somebody being blessed, they get a big contract, a baby, move into a new house, don’t get jealous, “I wish that happened for me, I go to church more than they did,” no, that doesn’t have your name on it; if it was supposed to be yours, the oil would not have flowed. you can be happy for them, knowing that what God has for you will be better because it’s prepared specifically for you.

if God were to give you what shouldn’t have been yours, it wouldn’t be a blessing, it would be a burden; you’re not anointed for it, it’s not right for you. God has the right people lined up for you, the right promotion, husband, gifts, breaks. nobody can take what’s yours; your oil is not going to flow to someone else. sometimes, when we see a person blessed, they get a big promotion, we think for some reason that them being blessed is going to stop God from doing something good to us, like they’re using up all of the God’s favor, though He has an unlimited supply. no, He did it for them, He can do it for you. maybe you’re single, you’ve been believing to meet the right person for a long time, and one of your good friends just got married; it’d be easy to be jealous, envious, think, “that’s not fair.” no, turn it around; “God, You did it for them, I know You can do it for me. that person that has my name on it, they’re coming in.” you don’t have to covet what somebody else has. don’t covet their spouse, covet their gifts, covet their promotion, or anything they have; God has blessings specifically prepared for you. our prayer should be, “God, give me the blessings You have prepared, not for my neighbor, my cousin, my coworker, but God, bring me what you have prepared for me. in the scripture:

1 Kings 17:2-4 (NIRV)
2 Then a message from the Lord came to Elijah. It said, 3 “Leave this place. Go east and hide in the Kerith Valley. It is east of the Jordan River. 4 You will drink water from the brook. I have ordered some ravens to feed you there.” 5 So Elijah did what the Lord had told him to do. He went to the Kerith Valley. It was east of the Jordan River. He stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning. They also brought him bread and meat in the evening. He drank water from the brook.

he had his provision, a prepared a blessing. here’s the key; Elijah didn’t have to try to find the ravens, he just had to get to where God wanted him to be, and the ravens found him. in the same way, there is a place where God has commanded you to be blessed; the ravens are already there, your provision, favor, abundance. the real question today is, will you do what’s required to get to your place of blessing? Elijah could have said, ” God, I don’t want to leave, I’m comfortable, I like it here, my friends are here,” but if he would’ve stayed, he would’ve missed where he was commanded to be blessed. and sure, he could’ve survived, he could’ve endured, but if you want to see God’s best, you’ve got to be willing to do what God’s asking you to do. maybe down deep you know you’re supposed to get away from some friends that are dragging you down, a bad influence causing you to compromise; as long as you stay there, you’re going to miss your prepared blessing.

“if I make these changes, I won’t have any friends, I’ll be lonely”; you may be lonely for a season, but God will always bring you new friends, plus He will bring you better friends. it may be difficult for a period of time, but before long you will come into that commanded blessing, where the ravens are, greater opportunities, greater fulfillment, greater relationships. it may not be leaving a friend or moving physically, it may just be in your mind; you need to leave the negative thoughts, leave the worry, leave the fear, leave the doubt, anger and resentment. God has a place of abundance, but you’ve got to be willing to leave what He’s asking you to leave. or perhaps it could be for you; you need to leave your comfort zone and take a step of faith. you can’t reach your highest potential if you play it safe all of the time. is there something God’s asking you to leave? God likes to do new things:

1 Kings 17:7-10 (NIV)
7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the Lord came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath.

his place of blessing changed. he could’ve thought, “I know God sent me to this brook, these ravens have fed me for years, I am not leaving”; he would’ve missed the new thing God wanted to do. your place of blessing can change. don’t hold onto the old when you know God is leading you somewhere new. be willing to take a step of faith; get out of that comfort zone. don’t stay stuck at a position where you haven’t grown in years and years; God has some greater things in front of you, prepared blessings, but you’ve got to be willing to step into it. this is what a lady did in the scripture:

Ruth 1:3-16 (NIV)
3 Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth… 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband… 8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home.. they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters… Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her… 16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.

Ruth knew deep down that she was supposed to go with Naomi and help take care of her; Naomi was an older woman. so Ruth moved to Naomi’s home town; they lived together.

Ruth 2:2-16 (NIV)
2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” 3 So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek… 15 As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. 16 Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.”

now when she went out, the wheat was already there waiting for her; a prepared blessing. later, that owner ended up marrying Ruth:

Ruth 4:13 (NIV)
13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife

now, Ruth didn’t have to work in the field anymore; she owned the field. when you do what God asks you to do, you move when He asks you to move, you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone, when you get to your place of blessing, God will speak to people to be good to you that have never even met you. He will command his ravens to feed you. in other words, good breaks will find you, provision, divine connections, supply; when you’re in that place where you’re commanded to be blessed, you won’t be able to outrun the good things of God. there is a garden that God has prepared specifically for you. just like with Adam, He’s put resources in it, provision, opportunity, the right friends. you need to get ready; God’s about to bring you into what He’s already finished for you. it has your name on it, it’s going to be bigger, better, more rewarding than you ever imagined. stay in faith. keep doing what God’s asking you to do. be willing to leave when He asks you to leave. if you’ll do this, you’re coming into your garden; favor that you didn’t deserve, good breaks that you didn’t earn, provision, abundance, healing and restoration; the fullness of your destiny.

Mercy vs grace

I saw an essay about the difference between the 2, and thought it might be a good idea to touch on it here:

Mercy is when we don’t get what we do deserve…  in other words when God withholds punishment when we have behaved badly.

Grace is when we do get what we don’t deserve…  in other words unmerited favor and blessings.

We are fortunate that God is so generous with both of these things…  especially to those of us who love Him best.

At a time when I was undergoing a great deal of stress, God brought me some wonderful people to comfort me and lift me up;  3 young Moslem men…  not American Moslems, either, but men in Arab countries.  I’m American, Christian, female, and twice their age, yet they have invested an astonishing amount of time and effort into supporting me, just from the depth of their caring and compassionate natures.  We have also spent hours talking about God;  it has been one of the most powerful experiences of my life.  Their love, their passion, for God is inspirational and deeply moving.  We have shared many things with each other, and they have educated me and shown me just how much we have in common.  The most powerful thing they shared is something that, with a few word changes, could be something that I would say about God:

“Allah says, ‘I am as my servant expects Me to be, and I am with him when he remembers me. If he thinks of Me, I think of him. If he mentions Me in company, I mention him in an even better company. When he comes closer to Me by a handspan, I come closer to him an arm’s length. If he draws closer to Me by an arm’s length, I draw closer by a distance of two outstretched arms nearer to him. If my servant comes to Me walking, I go to him running.”

I wept the first time I read it.  My first experience with interfaith has been an unimaginable success, in addition to the extensive emotional benefits.  I am so blessed!!

This was my first time reaching the 10K mark for the month;  it’s amazing how many people want to read about God on a blog!!  Thanks to all my visitors for this milestone!!  :)

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all go through situations where life is not fair. sometimes, other people’s poor choices have a negative effect on us. maybe you were raised in an unhealthy environment, now you’re still struggling with the same addictions, depression, anger; it keeps getting passed down. some people have been mistreated, taken advantage of, now they have to deal with guilt, shame, feeling like they don’t measure up; it wasn’t even their fault, somebody else dropped them. I’ve learned, you can’t live very long without being dropped: dropped by an illness, divorce, a friend that turns on you. it’s easy to get discouraged and think, “this is my lot in life, it’s never going to change.” no, you may have been dropped, but the good news is, God knows how to pick you back up. David said:

Psalm 40:2 (NIV)
2  He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
 out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock

David had been dropped by rejection, people coming against him, and his own mistakes and failures. but God said, in effect, “David, don’t worry, that drop is not the end. that bad break, that person that hurt you, addiction, sickness, is not the end of your story. you may have been dropped, but you need to get ready, God is about to lift you up, set you on a higher place, take you where you could not go on your own; to a new level, with new opportunities, new friendships, new joy, new health, new fulfillment. you’re not going to come out the same way; the scripture talks about how God will pay us back double for the unfair things that have happened:

Zechariah 9:12 (ESV)
12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
    today I declare that I will restore to you double.

Isaiah 61:7 (NIV)
7  Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land

when you go through a disappointment, when you get dropped, don’t get bitter, discouraged, get ready for double, increase, favor, new levels. God has not forgotten about you; He has seen every tear you’ve shed, every hurt, every lonely night, every person that’s done you wrong. God is a God of justice. He told the Israelites when they were in slavery, being mistreated, taken advantage of:

Exodus 3:8 (ESV)
8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians

He was saying, “I’m coming down to pick you back up, I’m coming down to bring justice.” notice what causes God to get off the throne, what causes the Creator of the universe to stop what He’s doing and take action, is when He sees you being mistreated. when God sees that injustice, He doesn’t sit back and say, “well, too bad,” no, He says, “that’s My son, My daughter, My most prized possession; they’ve been dropped, now I’ve gotta get up and do something about it.” when God goes to work, all the forces of darkness cannot stop Him. people, bad breaks, sickness can’t stop Him; God will make your wrongs right, pay you back for the trouble, get you to where you’re supposed to be. but the truth is, we all get dropped in life, and it’s easy to feel alone, forgotten, like you don’t matter, but don’t believe those lies; God said:

Isaiah 49:15-16 (NIV)
15 … I will not forget you!
16  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands

every time God opens His hand, He sees your name, He is reminded of you. you may have had some bad breaks, closed doors, some people come against you, but God has not forgotten about your dreams, the promises that He’s given you. He didn’t forget about that baby you want to have, that husband or wife you’ve been praying about, that wholeness, healing, freedom that you need. stay in faith. life happens to all of us; you may get dropped, but remember, it’s only temporary. God sees it; He’s not only going to lift you back up, but He’s going to set you on a higher place. you’re going to come out better off than you were before. this is what happened to a young man in the scripture named Mephibosheth. he was the grandson of King Saul and the son of Jonathan; he was born into royalty, destined to one day take the throne, his future was very bright. as a child, he was being raised by loving nurses, people that treated him with great kindness, made sure to meet his every need; they knew they were dealing with the future king. but when he was five years old, his father and his grandfather, King Saul, were both killed in a battle. messengers rushed to Mephibosheth’s house, to tell them the terrible news, and to inform them that the army was on their way to try to wipe out all of King Saul’s relatives.

2 Samuel 4:4 (NIV)
4 (Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.)

Mephibosheth had not done anything wrong, it wasn’t his fault, yet he’s having to pay the price for somebody else’s mistake; it doesn’t seem fair. sometimes in life, well-meaning people can drop you. they didn’t mean to hurt you, they made a mistake, said some things that they shouldn’t have. or they worked all the time, struggling to make ends meet, they weren’t there when you really needed them.  perhaps they had bad habits and addictions passed down to them, now they’re passing them on down to you. they weren’t bad people, they had our best interest at heart, but like this nurse they dropped us. we can become crippled with low self-esteem, addictions, depression. even though Mephibosheth was the grandson of the king, even though he had royalty in his blood, he ended up living in a place called Lo Debar, one of the poorest, most rundown cities of that day. year after year went by. I’m sure he thought, “nobody remembers me. I used to be somebody important, somebody that was respected, I used to be excited about my future, I had big dreams, but look at me now, I’m a cripple, I can’t even walk, I’m living in the slums, nobody cares about me, I don’t have any friends, and it wasn’t even my fault; somebody else dropped me.”

he felt alone, forgotten, like it would never change. but here’s the beauty; nothing goes unnoticed with our God. God saw his father killed and taken away at a young age, and the well-meaning nurse drop him, his once-normal legs that could run and jump and play instantly becoming crippled. God saw the despair, poverty, lack, that he was living in. God didn’t say, “well Mephibosheth, you sure got some bad breaks, you need to find a more sure-footed nurse next time, she really messed your life up,” no, God said, “Mephibosheth, I have not forgotten about you; I’ve got you carved into the palm of My hand. you’re always on My mind. yes, you may have been dropped, but that bad break is not the end; I am a God of justice, I’m going to pay you back for what has happened.” one day, King David was on the throne of Israel, sitting in the palace minding his own business, when all of a sudden he felt this desire to be good to some of Saul’s relatives. this is unusual, because Saul was the one that tried to kill David; he was the one that chased David through the wilderness and make his life miserable. yet David said:

2 Samuel 9:1 (NIV)
9 David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

why would David want to be kind to one of his enemies? that was God whispering in David’s ear, giving him a desire to be good to someone that had been dropped. God can make things happen that you could never make happen on your own. you may say, “I’m stuck. I’ve had these bad breaks, I’ll never accomplish my dreams, never get out of this mess, never be fulfilled”; no, you need to get ready, your time is coming. God is about to whisper in somebody’s ear to be good to you. you didn’t deserve it, you couldn’t earn it, but for no reason somebody gives you a good break, somebody offers you the job, somebody gives you the contract, somebody steps up and solves the problem for you. don’t get discouraged: justice is coming, restoration is coming, new beginnings are on their way. when David asked if any of Saul’s relatives were still alive:

2 Samuel 9:3-4 (NIV)
3 The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”
Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”
4 “Where is he?” the king asked.
Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”

one of his assistants said, “he’s crippled, he can’t even walk, no use wasting your time with him, he’s never going to amount to anything.” they tried to talk David out of it, but:

2 Samuel 9:5 (NIV)
5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.

Mephibosheth was living in exile, hoping that nobody knew that he was related to King Saul; after all, Saul had not treated David right. imagine what the people thought when they saw these officials from the palace, wearing their royal uniforms, show up in Lo Debar and start searching through the slums for this crippled man; the whole city was stirring, buzzing with excitement. word finally reached Mephibosheth that people were there from the palace; he asked, “what are they doing here in Lo Debar of all places?” they said, “Mephibosheth, they’re looking for you.” his heart skipped a beat. he thought, “my luck has run out, they finally found me, they’re going to get rid of me.” the officials came bursting in and said, “Mephibosheth, get up and come with us, you’re being summoned by the king.” the problem is, Mephibosheth couldn’t walk; they had to carry him to the palace.

King David was expecting to see someone that looked like King Saul, his grandfather; Saul stood head and shoulders above the rest, looked like a king, had a presence that commanded respect, walked like he was royalty. but when David opened the door and saw Mephibosheth on the ground, frail, emaciated, legs shriveled up, hair not combed, clothes dirty, David said to his assistant, “are you sure this is the grandson of the King? are you sure this man is royalty?” they said, “yes sir, we are certain.” David looked at him and said, “Mephibosheth, what happened to you?” Mephibosheth wouldn’t even look at David; he was too insecure, afraid, embarrassed. he said, “King David, when I was five years old, and my father and grandfather were killed, somebody dropped me, and my life has never been the same.” that could’ve been the end of the story; David could’ve said, “too bad for you, you should’ve seen how your grandfather treated me, I don’t feel sorry for you one bit, you’re getting what your family deserved.” Mephibosheth is there on the ground, afraid, trembling, thinking that it’s the end. David smiled and said:

2 Samuel 9:7-9 (NIV)
7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”
8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”
9 Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.”

maybe today, like Mephibosheth, you feel like you’ve been dropped, you’ve had a bad break, a loss, you weren’t treated right. it would be easy to settle there, be discouraged, not expect anything good; no, you need to get ready, you’re about to be summoned to the palace. God is about to pay you back;  not just what should’ve been yours, God is going to give you what belonged to your forefathers. it’s going to be far and beyond favor; you didn’t have to work for it, it’s just the goodness of God, paying you back, bringing justice. you may not see how it can happen, but God has the right people He can speak to about you. He’s softening the right hearts. God’s going to pay you back for an unfair childhood, pay you back for the person they did you wrong, pay you back for that baby you couldn’t have. don’t sit around in self-pity; there’s a seat at the King’s table waiting for you. God has already prepared it; it has your name on it, it’s a seat of favor, healing, restoration, increase. you have royal blood in your veins; the most high God breathed His life into you. He has destined you to live in the palace: that means a place of blessing, wholeness, honor, victory.

don’t settle for Lo Debar, don’t get comfortable surviving, enduring, barely getting by. “I’ve have a lot of bad breaks, my life hasn’t turned out the way I thought”; that may be true, but that didn’t change who you are. you’re still royalty, you still have that crown of favor, you still have that DNA of Almighty God. get this down in your spirit; it’s payback time. people may have tried to push you down, but God’s about to push you back up. circumstances may have dropped you, but God is called “the glory and the lifter of our head.” there’s about to be some lifting, some things that you could not make happen; the favor of God is opening up new doors, causing people to be good to you, paying you back for that injustice. what’s interesting is, Mephibosheth never did get healed; he continued to be a cripple the rest of his life. it could have seemed like this story doesn’t have a good ending, but I’ve learned that if God doesn’t remove the difficulty, if He doesn’t totally turn it around, God will make it up to you.

you may have lost a loved one; you can’t bring that person back, but God can make the rest of your life so rewarding, so fulfilling, that it will help take away that pain. or perhaps somebody walked out of relationship, broke your heart, did you wrong;  God can bring somebody new into your life that is so loving, kind, good-looking, well-off, you don’t even miss that person that left you. God knows how to pay you back. Mephibosheth never walked again, but sitting at the King’s table every night, having people wait on him, bring his food, farm his land and give him the profits, for some reason I don’t think he ever complained. all he could say was, “Lord, thank You for remembering me, thank You for Your favor, mercy.” when God overwhelms you with His goodness, brings you out with double, you won’t complain about who hurt you, what didn’t work out, how unfair it was; you’ll be so amazed that God remembered you and promoted you and had people to carry you where you couldn’t go on your own.

like Mephibosheth, all you’ll be able to do is thank God for His goodness in your life. Mephibosheth was summoned to the palace, but he couldn’t get there on his own; he had to be carried to the palace. each night at dinner, he couldn’t get to his seat by himself, he had to be carried to his seat. you may think, “I’m never going to accomplish my dreams, I’m crippled, I’ve got this sickness, this addiction, this depression that I’m dealing with.” no, when you can’t get there on your own, God will always have somebody there to carry you. you’re not alone. you’re not forgotten; God has you in the palm of His hand. and God is not looking down at you because you’re still crippled, so to speak, you’re still struggling with some issues. God saw the times you’ve been dropped; you didn’t go down by yourself, and you’re not going to come up by yourself. God has already lined up the right people to carry, encourage you, to help you do what you could not do on your own. when Jesus was carrying the cross, on his way to be crucified, he was so weak, so exhausted, he fell down under the weight of the cross; he couldn’t carry it anymore. there was a man named Simon:

Matthew 27:32 (NIV)
32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.

you don’t have to be strong all of the time; even Jesus fell down under the weight of the cross. the good news is, there will always be a Simon there for you, somebody to help, encourage you, get you to where you’re supposed to be. on the cross, even Jesus felt alone, forgotten. in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was so stressed that he sweat great drops of blood:

Luke 22:44 (NIV)
44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

(“Hematidrosis” is a rare, but very real, medical condition where one’s sweat will contain blood. The sweat glands are surrounded by tiny blood vessels. These vessels can constrict and then dilate to the point of rupture where the blood will then effuse into the sweat glands. Its cause – extreme anguish.

http://www.gotquestions.org/sweat-blood-Jesus.html)

at one point he cried out:

Mark 15:34 (NIV)
34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)

(God would never forsake anyone, but Jesus cannot be wrong, so what does this mean? Jesus needed to experience the full range of human suffering, including the greatest possible agony, believing oneself to be separated from God. For the first and only moment in all eternity, God turned his back on Jesus, so that Jesus would have this horrible experience and thus be able to understand how human beings feel when they believe themselves to be forsaken.)

he was saying, “God, I’ve been dropped.” it looked like the end, but the enemy never has the final say; God does. three days later, Jesus was sitting at the King’s table, the victor, not the victim. God is a God of justice; when you don’t have the strength to move forward on your own, don’t worry, God will have angels to carry you. God is not going to let you stay in Lo Debar; He’s going to keep working, moving, restoring, speaking to the right people, until He gets you to your seat at the King’s table. dinner is not complete without you there. you may have been dropped, had bad breaks, feel broken, crippled, but today you’re being summoned to the table. we need your presence. we need your gifts. we need your smile, your joy, your laughter; not pushed down, not halfhearted, no, this is a new day. Isaiah said:

Isaiah 61:3 (ISV)
3 to provide for those who grieve in Zion—
    to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
a mantle of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

there’s too much heaviness in our world. people are letting circumstances and the stress of life push them down. I believe today as God is breathing new hope into your heart that gladness is coming and the sadness is leaving. the heaviness is going, and joy is on its way. your life is going to be filled with a new laughter; the scripture calls it:

1 Peter 1:8 (WEB)
8 … joy unspeakable and full of glory

the scripture says:

Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV)
3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you

it doesn’t say, “call if you come to church, call if you know the scripture, call if you live the right kind of life”; no, anyone is welcome to call. there’s a seat at the King’s table waiting for you. God has not forgotten about you. you may be dealing with an illness, a loss, a bad break; you feel like life has dropped you. you need to get ready; God is about to lift you back up. not bring you out the same; He’s going to set you on a higher place, bring you out better off than you were before. it’s payback time; God is about to make some things up to you. He’s already spoken to the right people to come find you with healing, with encouragement, with blessing. you’re coming into the palace, the place of healing, the place of blessing, the place of abundance. you’ll take your seat at the King’s table, and become everything God’s created you to be.

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all face situations that we don’t like, where we’re uncomfortable, we’re not getting our way, somebody’s not treating us right, traffic’s backed up, a person gets on our nerves. it’s easy to get frustrated, think, “God, when are You going to change this?” but I’ve learned, you can’t pray away every difficulty. some of the things that are uncomfortable in your life right now, if God removed them, you wouldn’t be prepared for the promotion that He has in store. God uses difficulties to do a work in us. the scripture says:

Jeremiah 18:6 (NIV)
6 He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.

Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)
8 Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
    We are the clay, you are the potter;

when God is spinning us around on that potter’s wheel, and He comes across a lump of impatience, pride, jealousy, He’ll put us in a situation to bring those impurities to light. nothing randomly happens. every traffic jam, every person that irritates you, every time you’re tempted to worry, to be critical, to be jealous, that’s an opportunity for you to be refined. in the difficult times, we prove to God what we’re made of; that’s when our quality is tested. if you’ll work with God, and stay on the potter’s wheel, be moldable, pliable, willing to change, then your character will come up higher. as your character is developed, God will release more of His blessings and favor. but too many people, when they’re in an uncomfortable situation, instead of doing the right thing, keeping a good attitude, forgiving the wrong, being patient, they try to get off the potter’s wheel. they complain, get upset, offended, impatient;  “I don’t have to put up with this, I’m going to give them a piece of my mind.”  they respond the same way, year after year;  that’s why they get stuck.

this is what happened with the Israelites; they were headed toward the promised land, it was an 11 day journey, no big deal, but they started complaining, “it’s hot, we’re tired, we don’t like the food. Moses, it’s uncomfortable out here; can’t we just go back to Egypt?” they kept getting off the potter’s wheel; that 11 day journey ended up taking over 40 years, and they never did make it into the promised land. they kept going around the same mountain again and again; if they would have just recognized, “yes, this is uncomfortable, we don’t like it, but we know God wouldn’t have us here unless we needed it. He’s using it to refine, prepare us, to make us tougher, stronger; it’s not working against us, it’s working for us,” if they would have passed those tests, let God refine them, their character would have come up higher, and their whole life would’ve been so much better. my challenge to us today is; don’t do like they did, and spend the next 40 years responding to the uncomfortable situations the same way, getting upset, offended, impatient, feeling sorry for yourself, no, stay on the potter’s wheel.

next time you get stuck in traffic, instead of letting that sour your day, have a new approach; “God, I believe You’re guiding and directing my steps. You have me at the right place at the right time, so I’m going to stay in peace and enjoy where I am.” that’s passing the test, letting God refine you. when you go through a disappointment, an unfair situation, instead of being discouraged, living in self-pity, no, “God, You said You’d give me beauty for ashes, what’s meant for harm You’d use to my advantage, so I’m going to stay in faith, and get ready for the new thing You have in store.” “I always get upset when I can’t find my car keys, I always get offended when my spouse does a certain thing, I always get discouraged when my friend doesn’t call.” whatever the always is for you, the next time it comes up, respond differently; start passing these tests. life is flying by; you don’t have time to spend another year going around that same mountain, your destiny is waiting on you. God has amazing things He wants to release; new opportunities, levels. but it depends on the quality of our character.

none of us like uncomfortable situations, but here’s the key; if God is not removing it, that means we must need it. He’s using it to refine, purify us, to get us prepared for new levels of our destiny. if you’re still responding to difficulties the same way you did 5 years ago, getting upset, offended, you need to grow up. don’t go another 5 years letting those same things keep you from God’s best; recognize that that’s a test. you’re on the potter’s wheel; God’s giving you the opportunity to come up higher. instead of complaining about that person at work that gets on your nerves, have a new perspective; that person is there to help develop your character. next time you see them, and they say something rude, disrespectful, instead of responding the same way, letting it upset you or saying something rude back to them, no, stay on the potter’s wheel. let it bounce off of you, don’t pay any attention, just smile and say, “I hope you have a great day.” here’s the beauty; the next time you do it, it’ll be a little bit easier. next time, even easier. if you keep at it, you’ll look up in year or two, and it won’t bother you at all. what happened? your character came up higher. they didn’t change, you changed.

but too often, we’re praying, “God, change my children, they’re getting on my nerves, change my boss, he’s driving me crazy, change the traffic, it’s making me upset.” but God is more interested in changing me than He is in changing my circumstances. sometimes, we’re trying to pray away the very thing that God wants to use. the reason He’s not removing it is that He’s waiting for us to change. that person that irritates you, God can use them like sandpaper to rub the rough edges off of you. that neighbor that’s hard to get along with, God can use them to teach you how to be merciful, kind, understanding. or that loved one that says things that are hurtful; God can use them to toughen you up, to learn not to be easily offended. they’re not there by accident; God has them there on purpose. why don’t you look inside and say, “God, how can I change? how can I be more patient, forgiving, loving, understanding? how can I come up higher?”  don’t ever pray for God to change somebody else without first saying, “God, change me.”

a question I ask myself is, “how much have I grown in the last 5 years? do I have a better attitude? do I forgive quicker? do I treat people better? am I kinder? am I more considerate?” we shouldn’t be at the same place now as we were 5 years ago. if you’re still letting the same things upset you, the same people offend you, the same circumstances steal your joy, this is a wakeup call. I’m sounding the alarm; you don’t have time to waste another year going around the same mountain. your assignment is too important, your time is too valuable, your destiny is too great; you can’t afford 40 years like the Israelites, to learn a lesson that we could learn in a fraction of the time. you’ve got to put your foot down, and say, “that’s it, I’m done going around this mountain. I’m done having a bad attitude when I don’t get my way. I’m done getting stressed in traffic. I’m done arguing with my spouse over the same petty things. this is a new day. I’m not waiting for anyone or anything to change; I’m going to change.” the scripture talks about how there are different levels that we can grow into:

2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NIV)
20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. 21 Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

if you’ll stay willing to change, and not get stuck on one level, in your attitude and how you treat people, in how you respond to difficulties, but you’ll let God keep refining you, then you will become a vessel of gold used for His highest purposes. we all start off at the same place in life; like a lump of clay, we have impurities; impatience, selfishness, anger. God will put us in situations to work that out of us. the key is to pass those tests. don’t fight against everything you don’t like; that’s an opportunity to come up higher. if you don’t pass the test, the good news is, you get to take it again… and again, and again. it’s not going to go away until God does the work in us. the sooner you deal with what God is bringing to light, the better off you’re going to be. are there things that you keep letting upset you, stress you out? do you keep going around the same mountain again and again? this may be hard to swallow, but that other person may not ever change. why don’t YOU change? God wouldn’t have put you in that situation if you didn’t need it. He is not going to be content with you staying a vessel of clay, wood, or silver; He’s going to keep spinning you around on that wheel until he brings out all those impurities and you become the vessel of gold that He’s created you to be.

our job is to recognize that every challenge, delay, offense is an opportunity to be refined; you can’t just pray it away. God’s not going to remove every difficult person from your life. you’ve got to learn to overlook the faults, stay on the high road. He’s not going to shield you from every negative, derogatory comment; you’ve got to learn to keep your walls up, not be easily offended. He’s not going to keep us from every delay, inconvenience, setback; we’ve got to learn to believe He’s directing our steps and go with the flow. be aware of what you’re dealing with this week; don’t let the same things continue to hold you back. if you’re going to become this vessel of gold, you’ve got to stay on the potter’s wheel, be willing to change, keep growing, keep letting God refine you. when you pass these tests, make a decision; “I’m not going around this mountain, responding the same way;  I’m going to bite my tongue, even though I feel like telling them off, I’m going to stay peaceful even though I feel like being stressed, I’m going to forgive even though they did me wrong.”

when you do the right thing when it’s difficult, you will feel a new sense of joy down in your spirit; you will know that the Creator of the universe is smiling down on you. I read about how in the Northeast, codfish fishing had become a huge commercial business. but they had a major problem; when the codfish was frozen, it didn’t have any taste. they tried shipping it alive in big containers with fresh seawater, but because the codfish were inactive in the water, they became soft and mushy and lost all their taste. someone came up with an interesting idea; they decided to put a catfish in each container. the catfish is the natural enemy of the codfish, so the whole time the codfish were being shipped, they had to stay alert and active looking out for this catfish. this solved the problem; when the codfish arrived at their destination, they were fresh and tasty. sometimes, what looks like an enemy is really an asset. that person that gets on your nerves, that neighbor that doesn’t treat you right, that traffic that gets you stressed out; what you think is there to defeat you, the truth is, God put it there to make you better.

nothing in your life happens by accident; the people you encounter, the delays, the grouchy clerk, the slow waiter, the child that never stops, they are divinely orchestrated by the Creator of the universe to help make and mold you into that vessel of gold. how you respond is what makes the difference; if you get upset, impatient, offended, feel sorry for yourself, you’ll get stuck. pay attention to what you don’t like in your life, what you’re praying for God to remove, what you’re fighting against; recognize that that catfish is there to make you better, not to defeat you, but to promote you. you may work with a catfish, be married to a catfish; God wouldn’t have put you there if you didn’t need it. like iron sharpens iron, that’s going to sharpen you. stay on the potter’s wheel; God’s using that to strengthen, refine, polish you, and to develop your character. the scripture says:

1 Peter 1:7 (AMP)
7 So that [the genuineness] of your faith may be tested, [your faith] which is infinitely more precious than the perishable gold which is tested and purified by fire.

you don’t really know what’s in you until you’re put under pressure; the pressure brings to light what we need to deal with. Peter said:

Matthew 26:33-35 (NLT)
33 Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.”
34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
35 “No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!”

but a few days later, when Peter was under pressure:

Matthew 26:69-75 (NLT)
69 Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.”
70 But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
71 Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.[a]”
72 Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said.
73 A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.”
74 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed.
75 Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.

when you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, where you feel like being impatient, telling somebody off, you’re tempted to be upset, offended, that’s when you have to recognize, this is a test. “I’m here for a reason. I’m not going to go around the same mountain, responding the same way; I’m going to come up higher, keep my cool, forgive even though they did me wrong, stay in peace.” if you’ll stay on that potter’s wheel, and let God keep refining you, you are headed toward that vessel of gold. that’s when God can release some of the amazing things He has in your future. but it all depends on the quality of our character; your can have gifts, talents, but your character is what matters. can God trust you with more responsibility, greater influence, new levels? if you’ll see these catfish in the right way, and recognize that each one is a test, and respond properly, you’ll see God take you places that you’ve never imagined. years ago, the government of Thailand wanted to build a new highway, but right in the middle of their path was a huge religious statue that had been there for centuries; it stood over 40 feet tall and was made out of clay. this statue was greatly revered by the people; they knew they had to move it with extreme caution, but a huge piece of clay fell off. one of the men noticed something shiny; underneath the clay, the whole statue was made out of solid gold. the clay was never supposed to be permanent, it was just a façade to protect the gold, but it had been there for hundreds of years.

in the same way, we all start off as vessels of clay. we have flaws and weaknesses; impatience, selfishness, pride. all we can see is the clay. but underneath that clay is a vessel of gold. God made you to shine; as you grow, you let Him keep refining you, little by little, that clay is going to come off. maybe you used to get offended by that coworker that said hurtful things; it ruined your day. you tried to pay them back, but then you started overlooking it, staying in peace, taking the high road, letting God fight your battles; now, it doesn’t bother you anymore. what’s happening? the clay is coming off, the gold is starting to shine through. maybe you used to be impatient in traffic, stressed when your plans didn’t work out, but now, you’ve learned to go with the flow, knowing that God is in control, it’s no big deal. what’s happening? more and more of that clay is coming off; your gold is getting brighter and brighter. or perhaps you used to rely on compliments, people’s approval to feel good about yourself, that’s how you gained your value, your self-worth, but now you know that God approves you, that He’s made you valuable, that you’re a masterpiece. so you put your shoulders back, you live with confidence, knowing that you’re one-of-a-kind. what’s happening? the low self-esteem, the insecurity is breaking off, and your gold is starting to shine forth. we all have areas where we can come up higher; all of us still have some clay left on us. don’t get discouraged. the scripture says:

Philippians 1:6 (KJV)
6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ

Philippians 1:6 (DARBY)
6 having confidence of this very thing, that he who has begun in you a good work will complete it unto Jesus Christ’s day

the good news is, you’re not a finished product; God is still working on you. don’t beat yourself up because you’re still dealing with some weaknesses; just stay on the potter’s wheel, keep improving. every person fails from time to time; the key is to get back up again. don’t you dare settle for the clay; you have gold in you. you were made in the image of Almighty God; He created you to shine, to live free, happy, secure, peaceful, confident, calm, that’s what’s on the inside. I’m asking you to work with God to bring it out. don’t try to pray away every uncomfortable situation; recognize that that’s an opportunity for more clay to come off. don’t complain about the catfish; God put it there. it’s not there to defeat you, it’s there to make you better. if you’ll make this decision to stay on the potter’s wheel, let God refine you, see these as opportunities to grow, then you will not stay a vessel of clay, wood or silver; you will become a vessel of gold, used for His highest purposes. you’ll not only enjoy your life more, but you will see His favor in amazing ways, and become everything God’s created you to be.

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