Change Your Name

From JO this week:

I want to talk to you today about Change Your Name. It’s easy to go through life letting people put names on us, things like average, unqualified, poor, addicted. Sometimes our own thoughts have named us: not talented, not good enough, unattractive. As long as we’re wearing these names, believe in the lies that people and circumstances have told us, it’s going to keep us from our potential. You have to change your name. I’m not talking about on your birth certificate, I’m talking about in your mind. Who do you believe you are? How do you see yourself? When God breathed life into you, he named you blessed, prosperous, talented, one-of-a-kind. He calls you a masterpiece. People will call you average, ordinary, nothing special. If you accept those names you’ll be average, ordinary, nothing special. And what’s holding many people back is they have the wrong name.

A man was walking down a busy street in Thailand, he came upon this tattoo shop. In the window there were many of the tattoos they offered. One said “Born to lose”. He couldn’t believe anyone would have that tattooed on them. The owner came up, they struck up a conversation, he asked the owner if anyone ever got the born to lose tattoos? The owner nodded his head yes and said in broken English: before tattooed on body, tattooed on mind. He’s exactly right: if you accept the name in your mind, if you believe negative things people have spoken over you, if you let life name you, you’re giving it the right to come to pass.

In your mind is your name born to lose or born to win? Is your name poor, broke, defeated, or is your name blessed, prosperous, more than enough? Have you let life name you addicted, struggling, limited or do you go by what God names you: free, whole, victorious, overcomer? Anything that’s telling you otherwise, you need to change those names.

In the scripture Jacobs wife Rachel died while giving birth to their second son. The baby was born fine, but she was in so much pain, just before she died she named the baby Ben-Oni, which means Son of my Sorrow. Here the little baby had done nothing wrong, but he was going to have to go through life being called “Son of Sorrow”. Back in those days the names they gave people were much more significant than today. Those names could literally determine the person’s destiny. It seemed like for little Ben-Oni is just bad luck, his mother was in pain, she took out her misery on him, she pronounced that he would live a painful, sorrowful, depressing life.

And sometimes the people that should have been speaking faith into you, naming you talented, valuable, masterpiece, have done just the opposite. Because they were hurting, because they were in pain, they named you “Less than”, “Not good enough”. They may not have said it, but how they made you feel, putting you down, not showing your love and affection. The good news is: what God names you overrides what people name you. They may name your Son of Sorrow, son of pain, son of defeat — God names you son of victory, son of favor, son of blessing. Don’t let the negative things people have spoken over you, how you were raised, what you didn’t get, determine your destiny — change your name.

A few minutes after Rachel died, Jacob came running in, the nurses handed him the baby and said here’s your son, his name is Ben-Oni. When Jacob heard that something rose up on the inside, he said “No, that is not his name. No matter what’s happened in the past, no matter what someone else said, he will not be called Son of Sorrow, his name is Benjamin”. Benjamin means son of strength, son of power. In that one moment, with that one name change, he went from “Son of Sorrow” to “Son of strength”. Benjamin went on to do great things, he became a great leader. Out of his genes, out of his family line came the kings of Israel, one king after another.

God had a great assignment for Benjamin, but he knew, if he had gone through life being called “Son of Sorrow”, that would have gotten on the inside. He would have seen himself as limited and defeated. So God stepped up and said, “No, he will not be the Son of Sorrow. He is not the son of defeat. This child is a son of destiny, this child has greatness in him”.

Now maybe someone has tried to name you average, unqualified, unattractive, too many mistakes. God is saying to you, what he said to Benjamin: I’m changing your name, no more Son of Sorrow, no more son of not good enough, I’m renaming you: son of strength, daughter of destiny, child of greatness. Now you have to do your part and get rid of the old names. The enemy would love for you to live as the Son of Sorrow, when God has called you the son of strength. He knows what’s in you, that’s why he’s been fighting you since you were a little child, trying to change your name, through people, through disappointments, through your own mistakes and failures.

But when you learn to change your name back to who you were created to be, all the forces of darkness cannot stop you. When you know you’re a son of strength, equipped and empowered, talented and creative, surrounded by God’s favor, with royal blood flowing through your veins, then doors will open that no man can shout, the right people will suddenly show up, you will overcome obstacles that look too big. When you have the right name, you’ll go further than you ever imagined.

I know a man that was told by his high school counselor, he wasn’t very smart, and that he should pursue the lowest skilled job that he could find. The counselor may have met well, but people don’t know what’s in you, they can’t see your seeds of greatness. That’s why David’s father left David out in the shepherd’s fields, when the prophet came to anoint one of the sons as the next king. David seemed ordinary, he wasn’t like his older brother Eliab, he was tall, handsome, he looked like a king. David’s father thought: David will never amount to much, nothing special about him. He named David average, but God named him giant killer. He named him a shepherd boy, God named him a history-maker. His father named David “Not going to amount to much”, God named him king of Israel. Don’t let what people can’t see in you talk you out of who you know you are.

This counselor didn’t see anything special in this young man, he named him below, average, not talented, barely get by. For 30 years this man believed those lies, he went around thinking: I’m not smart enough, I’m not up to par, I don’t have what others have. He worked at the local factory and stayed at the lowest level position year after year. One day that factory closed, he went across town to another factory and applied for a job. They had a policy that every applicant had to take an iq test. He took the test, his score came back at a genius level. The owner called him and said “What are you doing applying for this low level position? You’ve scored higher than anyone in our company’s 60-year history”.

That day a stronghold was broken in his mind, he realized what that councilor couldn’t see in him did not define who he was. What people have spoken over you or what they haven’t spoken over you hasn’t changed what’s in you, it didn’t lessen your potential, the greatness is still in there. He did what I’m asking us to do, he changed his name: no more “Not good enough”, no more “Not talented”. He started seeing himself as bright, as valuable, as one with seeds of greatness.

Eventually he started his own company, he went on to invent several products that are now patented and very successful. You can’t stop people from saying negative things, but I’ve learned, you are not what people call you, you are what you answer to. They may call you unattractive, unqualified, not up to par, that’s fine, just don’t answer to it. When thoughts say: hello fearful, hello depressed, hello insecure, “You must not be talking to me, that’s not who I am, I am confident, I am secure, I am victorious”. Well, “Hello sick, hello limited, hello chronic pain”. Sorry there’s no one here by that name, you must have the wrong address, I am healthy, whole, energetic, that’s who lives here.

Are you answering to something that you’re not? Quit giving your time and energy letting those negative thoughts play, that is not who you are. When thoughts whisper: you don’t deserve to be blessed, you made too many mistakes, you’re unworthy. Recognize what’s happening, they’re trying to rename you. When you hear forgiven, redeemed, restored, that’s when you need to listen. Well, “Hello unqualified, inexperienced, less than”. Excuse me, do you mean anointed, highly favored, well able? That’s who I am. When thoughts tell you: you’re not attractive, nobody wants to be around you, you don’t have a good personality, you’re too tall, too short. Don’t give that the time of day. When you hear, “Hello masterpiece, hello good-looking”, yes, how can I help you? Now you’re calling my name. Answer to victorious, answer to fearfully and wonderfully made, answer to overcomer.

Growing up my friends at school used to call me Peanut, because I was very small. Nobody said it in a derogatory sense, but I can tell you, it didn’t help my self-esteem. All through the day, “Hey Peanut, how’s it going”? Playing basketball, “Peanut, pass me the ball”. I couldn’t stop them from calling me Peanut, but I never let peanut get on the inside. I didn’t let them change who I knew I was. And yes, I was small, but deep down I knew, there was a history maker in me. I wasn’t as strong as some of my friends, but I knew there was a giant killer on the inside. They couldn’t see it, all they could see was peanut, but I never let peanut take root in me.

Even going into high school, my freshman year, I was 4 feet 11 inches tall, I grew a lot after high school. But you can imagine at my basketball games people say, look at that little kid, look how small he is. I never saw myself that way, I may have been 4 feet 11 on the outside, but on the inside I stood 7 feet tall. People can call you a lot of things, but you don’t have to let it get in you.

Go back to what God says about you, let your Heavenly Father name you, not people, not your mistakes, not your past. God calls you exceptional, he calls you redeemed and forgiven, he calls you healthy and whole, he calls you a masterpiece, a giant killer, a history maker. Now do your part and let what he names you override all the other names. Your assignment is too important to go through life we’re in names like inferior, unqualified, average. I’m asking you to change those names and get an agreement with God.

A friend of mine grew up in El Salvador, his father was an alcoholic, would become very violent when he was drinking. His mother moved to the United States when he was a small child, and he was raised by his grandparents. As a young boy he felt lost and confused, he did very poorly in school, he didn’t interact socially with people. And one day he overheard his grandparents talking about how he was mentally impaired, how he was a slow learner, how he needed help. They sent him to a psychiatrist and he confirmed that the little boy had all these learning disabilities. He was told again and again he would never amount to much, he wasn’t talented, he wasn’t smart enough.

At ten years old he was about to move back to the States with his mother, he told his grandfather that he needed an American name. He had never heard his grandfather say one good thing about him, but his grandfather looked up in the air and started thinking. He said: okay son, this name needs to be something very strong, something that says honor, something that says valor, it needs to be the name of a great leader, of a genius, of someone that will impact the world. He said: I’ve got, it your new name will be Erwin.

Well, the little boy had never heard the name Erwin, he didn’t like that name, he wanted a normal American name like John or Bill. Over the years he moved from state to state with his mother, he could have changed his name at any time, but he wouldn’t do it. As much as he didn’t like his new name, what made him keep it, is that was the only time he’d ever heard anyone say he was going to do something great. His grandparents, teachers, counselors, never encouraged him, but that day he heard that he was going to impact the world, that he would be a person of honor and valor, that that was the name of a genius.

He knew all the negative things said about him, but this day someone was saying he was exceptional, that he had seeds of greatness. And every time he was tempted to sweep back, settle for mediocrity, he would remember what his grandfather said the name Erwin represent. Today our friend Erwin McManus is an amazing pastor, author, filmmaker, one of the brightest minds around. But I wonder, if we would have ever heard of Erwin, I wonder if his gifts would have ever come out if he had not changed his name, if his grandfather had not reminded him who he really was, not who people he was, not who the experts said he was, not who the environment said he was, but who God said he was: a masterpiece, valuable, talented, with seeds of greatness.

Maybe like with Erwin, no one has ever told you who you really are. Life has put some names on you, told you what you can’t do, what you’re not, how you’ve made too many mistakes. God has you hearing this, because he wants you to change your name. No more mediocre, no more born to lose, there is greatness in you. When God created you, he put a part of himself in you, he’s equipped you, empowered you and anointed you. He crowned you with his favor. Your new names are blessed, prosperous, well able, forgiving, talented, one-of-a-kind, a masterpiece.

When God gave Abraham and Sarah the promise that they were going to have a baby, they were both way too old. It looked impossible, but God did something unusual: he didn’t just give them the promise, he changed their names from Abram to Abraham. Abraham means father of many nations. When God changed his name, they didn’t have one child. Yet, every time someone said, “Hello, Abraham”, they were saying, “Hello, father of many nations”. They were speaking faith into his destiny. What you continually hear starts to get down on the inside. That’s why it’s so important to have the right names: I am blessed, I am talented, I am healthy.

“Well, Joel, I don’t feel healthy”. Well, keep calling yourself that, that’s what allows it to happen. “I don’t feel blessed, I’m in debt, I’m struggling, I’ve got these bills”. You’re right where Abraham was. He could have said, “We don’t have any children, we’re not gonna have a baby. God my wife has gone through the change of life”, that’s why God changed his name, so he would hear it again and again: you’re the father of many nations. You may not feel blessed, you’re tempted to talk about what you don’t have, how it’s not going to improve. That’s why you’re here, God is changing your name from lack, from struggle, from not enough – to blessed, to prosperous, to more than enough.

Now you have to keep calling yourself what God says about you. May not happen overnight, Abraham waited for years, but every time you call yourself what God named you, it’s getting deeper on the inside, it’s changing your self-image, it’s reprogramming your thinking. I’m sure many times Abraham thought, “We’re never going to have a baby”. About that time someone would walk up and call his name, “Hey, Abraham”, he would be reminded, “You’re the father of many nations”. You have to call yourself blessed, before you’ll ever be blessed. You have to call yourself healthy, while you’re still fighting the illness. Call yourself free, while you’re still struggling with the addiction. Having the right names is what’s going to help you to stand strong, so you can become what God says about you.

God changed Sarah’s name from Sarai to Sarah. Sarah means princess. If anyone didn’t feel like a princess, it would have been Sarah. She had been barren for over 80 years. She didn’t feel attractive, didn’t feel special, everything told her: you’re finished, you’ll never have a baby. She could have said, “Don’t change my name, just call me Sarai, I’m not a princess, that’s not going to do any good”. No, she accepted the name-change, she said in effect, “This seems impossible, the odds are against me, but if God says I’m a prince’s, then I’m going to get an agreement with him”. And every time someone said, “Good morning, Sarah”, they were saying, “Good morning, princess”. She heard that so many times, something began to come alive on the inside, faith started to rise up. It wasn’t long after that before the promise came to pass.

You may have situations, that you don’t see how it could work out in your health, your career, a relationship. What you’re up against looks permanent, like with Abraham and Sarah, God is changing your name. You’ve had that addiction for years, God is calling you free. You haven’t been able to have a baby, you’ve been barren, God is calling the fruit of your womb blessed, he’s calling you a mother. Your dream seems too big, you don’t have the experience, the training, God is calling you successful, he’s calling you bountiful, flourishing, abundant. Now, the whole key is: will you do like them and accept the name-change? Will you keep calling yourself what God calls you, even when it doesn’t make sense? Every time you do it it’s getting stronger on the inside, and eventually you’re going to become what God named you.

Luke chapter 1 and angel appeared to Zechariah, and told him that his wife Elizabeth was going to have a baby, that they were to name John. Well, like Sarah, Elizabeth was way too old. Zechariah questioned the angel and asked: how it was going to happen? The angel told him, that what God promised, would come to pass, but because Zechariah doubted, he would remain silent until the baby was born. From that moment on he couldn’t speak. Nine months later, Elizabeth gave birth to a baby boy. The family, the relatives were so excited they came over to the house to celebrate. Verse 59 says, “They wanted to name the son Zechariah after his father”.

God said his name is John, but they wanted to name him something different. We all have some “They’s” in life, people that will try to name you something that you’re not. They may be well-meaning. When my father was a teenager, his parents told him that he couldn’t become a minister, that all he knew how to do was pick cotton. God named him a pastor, but they named him less than, not up to par. If he would have accepted their names, he would have never impacted the world. Don’t let they name you, let God name you.

Elizabeth said to them, “No, his name will not be Zechariah, his name will be John”. They said, what do you mean? Nobody in your family is named John, that doesn’t make sense. They went to Zechariah, the father, to ask him what the baby’s name would be. He still couldn’t speak, so he wrote on a tablet, his name is John. Suddenly he was able to speak again. But what’s interesting is, the mother couldn’t name the baby, women in those days didn’t have the influence that they have today. The family, the friends, the neighbors, they couldn’t name the child. The only one that had the authority to name the baby was the father. They had to go find Zechariah to see what the child’s name would be.

The principal is your Heavenly Father is the only one, that has the right to name you. Don’t go through life letting other people put their names on you. They’ll try to name you addicted, struggling, defeated. God names you free, whole, victorious. The “They’s” will name your average, mediocre. God names you a masterpiece, one-of-a-kind, exceptional. People will try to name you washed up, too many mistakes. God names you forgiven, redeemed, and restored.

Have you let the “They’s” name you? Have you let life convince you who you are, letting those negative thoughts tell you that there’s nothing good in your future? Like with Abraham and Sarah, right now, God is changing your name. Your new names are blessed, prosperous, one-of-a-kind, valuable, child of the Most High. Now, do your part and accept the name-change. Tune out all the negative and keep calling yourself what God calls you. If you’ll do this, I believe and declare, strongholds that have held you back are being broken, you are about to step up to who you were created to be, new levels of influence, favor, restoration, healing, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name.

Everything Serves His Plan

(Now that I know about the website that’s publishing full transcripts of JO’s sermons, and it just takes me a couple of minutes to make a post about it rather than half the week, I thought it would be nice to start posting sermons again. You’ll notice that these are full transcriptions, including personal stuff that I would always edit out because it’s not part of the message per se; to make this as quick and easy as possible, so that I’ll be more likely to keep up with it, I’m just going to give you the whole thing from now on. I do still want to get back to making some posts about my personal spiritual journey, too, although that might not start until the first of the year.)

I want to talk to you today about how everything serves his plan. We all have things happen to us in life that we don’t understand, things that are taken longer than they should, doors that have closed. We did the right thing, but we didn’t get the promotion, or people that have turned on us, a co-worker said untrue things and now it’s set us back. It’s easy to live frustrated and fight against everything we don’t like. “God, why is this happening? When are you going to turn it around”? We think that it’s holding us back, but Psalm 119 says, “Everything serves his plan”.

Not just the good things, not just the times where you’re being promoted, you’re seeing things change in your favor. We know that serving God’s plan, we’re moving forward, but what we don’t always realize is the delays are serving his plan, the betrayals are serving his plan, the person that walked away is serving his plan. That door that closed, the contract that didn’t go through, if that wouldn’t have happened, you couldn’t reach your destiny. You wanted it so badly, what you couldn’t see is God had something better. He loves you too much to let you miss your purpose. You may not like it, it doesn’t seem fair, but it’s serving his plan.

That silent season, where you’re doing the right thing, but nothing’s improving: you’re being overlooked, people with less experience, less talent are passing you by – that’s an important time, you’re being developed, you’re getting stronger. Without that season you wouldn’t be prepared for what’s coming. When you understand that everything serves his plan, then you don’t live frustrated, when things are unfair. You don’t get upset, when you don’t get your way. You realize, the closed door wasn’t a bad break, it was God shutting the door. The person that walked away wasn’t a coincidence, it was God moving them away, they were serving his plan.

When someone serves your dinner, they’re doing you a favor, they bring you the food, make sure you have water, clean the dishes when you’ve done. They’re helping you, working for you. We need to see difficulties in a new light, that person at the office that’s against you, always trying to make you look bad, next time they do something unfair, instead of getting upset, under your breath just whisper, “Thank you, you just served me”. You can’t reach your destiny without opposition, without delays, without closed doors. Why are you upset over something that’s designed to move you forward? It may be uncomfortable, you may not like it, but it’s serving you. God wouldn’t have allowed it, if he didn’t have a purpose. Nothing can happen to you without his permission.

Before Jesus could be crucified and rise from the dead, he had to be betrayed, somebody had to lie about it, make things up, he had done no wrong. If everybody would have loved Jesus, if everyone would have celebrated him, we wouldn’t have salvation. Part of the plan for Jesus life was to have opposition, people that didn’t understand him. It’s not a coincidence that Judas, one of his 12 disciples, a person Jesus handpick decided to betray him. Judas didn’t come up with that on his own, he was a pawn in the hand of God, he was serving Jesus destiny.

What if Jesus would have said, “Father, this isn’t fair. I’m doing the right thing and my own disciple betrays me”. No, Jesus understood, without the betrayal he couldn’t fulfill his purpose. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, they didn’t know what he looked like, Judas said, “I’ll identify him by giving him a kiss”. Judas walked over like nothing was wrong and greeted Jesus the kiss. That kiss was a significant moment, that helped unlock Jesus destiny.

You could say, that Judas did more for Jesus, than any of the other disciples. Without the betrayal, we wouldn’t have salvation. But none of us like opposition, especially people coming against us, trying to make us look bad. How do you know that Judas Kiss is not about to unlock your destiny? How do you know the bad break, the disappointment, the betrayal is not setting you up for something you’ve never seen? You may not like it, but it’s serving his plan.

When Judas Kissed Jesus, I can hear Jesus under his breath saying, “Thank you, Judas, you just served me, you just move me closer to my destiny”. That co-worker that keeps getting on your nerves, you’ve been praying for God to move them away for six years, you know why they’re not moving? They’re serving you, God is using them like sandpaper to rub the rough edges off of you. You’re learning to be patient, learning to be kind, learning to overlook an offense.

The scripture says, our steps are being ordered by the Lord. It doesn’t say they’re being suggested. If you weren’t supposed to be there, you wouldn’t be there. God allowed it, because it’s necessary to move you into your purpose. Now, quit being upset because of that person that’s trying to make you look bad, you need them to reach your destiny. Don’t be discouraged over the door that closed, wasn’t a coincidence, it’s positioning you for something bigger. See, God doesn’t take us in a straight line from a to b to c. Sometimes he’ll take you from a to b, and then up to m, and then back to d, and then up to r, it may not make sense. Sometimes it’s going to feel like you’re going backwards, you have to trust him, when you don’t understand. You have to know, everything is serving his plan.

That’s why Paul said, “All things work together for good to those that love the Lord”. All things may not be good: the sickness is not good, the loss is not good, but the promise is, it’s going to work for your good. Now the test is: while God is working it out, while it’s not good, will you stay in faith? When you don’t see any improvement, when it’s uncomfortable, unfair, will you believe that God is still on the throne, that he’s working behind the scenes, that what he started in your life he will finish?

This is what Joseph had to do. For years he went through bad breaks, betrayals, disappointments. As a teenager his brothers were jealous of him and threw him into a pit. They were going to leave him there to die, but they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming and decided to sell him. Joseph never dreamed he would become a slave, working in a foreign country, felt like God had forgotten about him.

At one point, the wife of the man he worked for falsely accused him, lied about him, Joseph was put in prison for something he didn’t do. He had plenty of reasons to live bitter, but you never read where Joseph had a bad attitude, you never read where he complained. He understood this principle, that everything is serving his plan, not just the good things, not just when he had a dream that people would bow down before him, not just when his father favored him and gave him the coat of many colors, but even the bad breaks, even the unfair situations.

Thirteen years later, after all the disappointments, delays, betrayals, just like God promised, Joseph became the prime minister of Egypt. But what interesting is, if any of those bad breaks had not happened: if his brothers had not been jealous, if he had not been thrown into a pit, if he had not been sold as a slave, if the wife had not lied about him, if he had not been put in prison, he wouldn’t have made it to the throne. Every step was necessary, they were all instrumental. The things you don’t like, the things that are unfair, the things that are taken longer than you thought, like with Joseph is serving his plan, it’s moving you towards your destiny.

Years later, his brothers came back to the throne, looking for food during a great famine. Joseph was in charge of the food supply, he said to his brothers, “Don’t worry. I’m not going to harm you. You meant this for evil, but God intended it for good”. God will use people being against you, to move you into your purpose. That’s why you shouldn’t take it personally, you need a Judas Kiss to reach your destiny, you need people that try to throw you into the pit so to speak, try to discredit you, push you down, so you can take your throne. If Joseph’s brothers betraying him would have kept him from being the prime minister, God would have never allowed it. People can’t override what God has ordained for you, bad breaks, detours, delays, injustice, that doesn’t stop your destiny, just the opposite, it’s moving you into your destiny.

Few years after Victoria and I were married, we received an unexpected tax bill in the mail. The person that was doing our tax returns lived in another state, he wasn’t familiar with a certain law in Texas. Now, we owed thousands of dollars. We were a young couple, saving up for a down payment for a house, this was going to take all of our funds. Not only that, about half of what we owed was in penalties. I thought, “God, this is not fair. I hired a professional, he messed up, I’m having to pay for his mistakes”. We ended up finding a man to help us get it straightened out, he’s a tax attorney. For several weeks he was at our house every night for hours: we were going over documents, filling out new forms, we became good friends.

About 10 years later, when I was working at Lakewood for my father here in the television department, someone offered us a construction permit for the last full-power commercial television station in Houston. A tv station in a big market is very valuable, but I was young and didn’t know how to buy a construction permit. Then I thought: I’ll call my attorney friend, the one I met during the tax issue. Six months later we had a signed contract, we owned the station. We put it on the air and everything was great.

Eventually my father went to be with the Lord and I became the pastor. Three years after that, we acquired the Compaq Center. It was going to cost a hundred million dollars to renovate, we decided to sell the station. We sold it for a significant profit, those funds were instrumental in us renovating this place. But it all started back with the tax issue. I couldn’t see it at the time, I thought it was a bad break, now I realize, it was all serving God’s plan. If I had not had the tax problem, I would have never met my attorney friend. Without the attorney, I would have never pursued the station. Without the station, we may not have had the funds to renovate the Compaq Center.

I wonder if you’re upset over something that’s serving God’s plan: a closed door, a person that walked away, a delay that’s taken longer than you thought – it doesn’t make sense. Stay in peace, it’s all a part of the plan. It may feel like it’s hindering you, really it’s helping you. It looks like it’s setting you back, but really it’s setting you up for something you haven’t seen. God knows what you’re going to need in the future. I never dreamed I would be a pastor, I never dreamed one day we would own the Compaq Center, but God knew. That tax issue that was somebody else’s fault, that looked like a bad break, the truth is, it was God ordering my steps into something that was unfair.

If you don’t understand that everything serves his plan, you’ll get bitter, discouraged, give up on dreams. This is what keeps many people from seeing what God was doing behind the scenes. The reason Joseph saw it all come together, is he kept doing the right thing, when the wrong thing was happening. He kept being good to people, who weren’t being good to him. He passed the test. And some of the challenges that you’re facing now, the things that don’t make sense: it doesn’t have anything to do with now, it’s setting you up, it’s positioning you for something in the future. If you will stay in faith, you’re going to see how God begins to connect the dots, how it was all strategically orchestrated, all part of God’s plan.

There was a man on a boat, a big storm came up and his boat capsized. He was able to swim to the shore, but he ended up stranded on a deserted island all by himself. Week after week went by, he was so miserable, he didn’t think it’d ever be found. He kept praying for God to send someone, but it seemed like the heavens were silent.

Just when he thought it couldn’t get any worse, one day while he was out gathering food, he came back and the little thatched roof hut that he had built, somehow had caught fire. He stood there and watched it go up in flames, like pouring salt on the wound. He said, “God, I give up. I ask you to help me and one bad thing after another happens”.

About an hour later he looked way off in the distance and could see a boat coming. He perked up, it got closer and closer, he couldn’t believe it, it was the coast guard, coming to rescue him. He ran out, gave them a big hug, said “How in the world did you find me”? Captain said, “We saw the smoke coming, from the fire that you built”. Sometimes what we think is a disappointment is really God positioning us for a new level. I didn’t like the tax issue, but I do like being in the Compaq Center.

If your hut is on fire today, instead of complaining, being bitter, have a new perspective: it’s serving his plan. It may not make sense right now, being in the pit is uncomfortable, being falsely accused is not fair, the Judas Kiss, the betrayal, the closed doors, that can be discouraging. You have to keep reminding yourself, it’s not working against you, it’s working for you. Sooner than later, you’re going to see what God was up to.

A friend of mine had a dream to play professional football. He’s extremely talented, very fast and athletic. His father was one of his coaches and was always working with it. In high school he was the star player, a running back that broke many of the school records. His future looked very bright. Started training harder than ever, getting ready for college, coaches from major universities would attend his games. His junior year he was offered a full scholarship to one of the most prestigious football schools. He was excited, his dream was coming to pass. But during the fourth game of his senior year, he was hit below the knee and heard something pop, he tore his acl.

He laid on the field in shock, knowing that his season was over. He had never missed a game, never had an injury, so disappointed. He was raised in a good family, but they didn’t know much about God, they didn’t have any kind of faith, just wasn’t part of their life. A friend invited him to a youth camp. When he heard the minister speak, he felt something so strong on the inside, that night he gave his life to Christ. It was a complete turnaround in his life.

After the surgery he was doing all the rehab, doing his best to get back in shape, but sitting on the sidelines, watching his team play, he begin to feel new desires in his heart. He no longer wanted to play football, he wanted to become a pastor. His friends, his family, they couldn’t understand, didn’t make sense after all those years of training, but deep down he knew he was supposed to go into ministry. So he passed on the big football scholarship and he enrolled in a leadership college.

Today our friend Nick Nilsson is one of our pastors here at Lakewood, a great minister. Nick told me, if he had not had that injury, if God had not put his football career on hold, he would have never pursued ministry. God had to pause what Nick thought he wanted to do and redirect him to what he was created to do. At first, he didn’t understand it, it didn’t seem to make sense, but you don’t know what God is up to. God will never close a door, without opening a bigger in a better door.

What you’re tempted to be upset about, if you’ll keep the right attitude, one day you’ll look back and say like Nick, “Lord, thank you for closing that door. Now I see what you were doing, taking me somewhere better than I ever imagined”. “Lord, thank you for moving that person out of my life, or I would have never met my amazing spouse”. “Lord, thank you that that company wouldn’t hire me or I would have never started my own business”. Nick says, “I still love football, but I wouldn’t change a thing, this is what I was born to do”.

“Well, Joel, why is this challenge taking so long? I don’t see anything happening, when is it going to turn around”? Sometimes God doesn’t remove the obstacle, because he’s using the obstacle to develop us. He’s getting us prepared for where he’s taking us. We don’t grow in the good times, when everything’s going our way, everyone’s for us, things are falling into place. We like that much better, but we wouldn’t reach our potential. We grow when it’s difficult, when there’s resistance, when we’re uncomfortable, when we have to stretch. That’s why you can’t pray away every challenge, you can’t pray away everything you don’t like. If the situation is not changing, that God is using the situation to change you.

After Joshua died, the Israelites were in the Promised Land, they were living their dream. But the scripture says, “God left certain enemy nations in the land. He did this to teach warfare to the next generation of Israelites who had no experience in battle”. God could have had Joshua wipe out all the opposition, clear the path. The problem is, this new generation, when they faced an enemy army, they would have been defeated. They didn’t have the experience, the training the strength, God had to taught them up, so he left obstacles in their path on purpose.

If God made everything easy for us, if we never had a delay, a detour, a Judas Kiss, we wouldn’t be prepared for where we’re going. God has amazing things in your future, things that you’ve never imagined, but to get there you’re going to have to defeat some big Goliath, overcome some big obstacles, outlast some strong opposition. It’s not going to happen if you’re weak, if you get overwhelmed, upset, “God why is this happening”? Now, you have to stand strong and show the opposition, that you’re more determined than they are. God didn’t bring you this far to leave you. That problem is not there to stop you, it’s there to prepare you. The challenge is not going to defeat you, it’s going to promote you.

Every day you stay in faith and thank God that he’s working, do the right thing when nothing is improving, your spiritual muscles are growing, you’re getting stronger, more determined, developing a greater trust in God. Instead of complaining about what’s not turning around, see that as an opportunity to develop your faith. Don’t just go through it, grow through it. It’s serving his plan, it’s there to get you prepared. Now, you have to do your part: keep the right attitude, keep being good to people who aren’t being good to you, keep excelling at work when you’re not getting the credit, keep thanking God when it’s not turning around. Don’t worry about nothing’s changing on the outside, something’s happening on the inside, you’re getting stronger.

In the scripture, three times the apostle Paul asked God to remove the thorn from his side, something that was bothering him. God could have easily removed it, he parted Red Seas, he opened blind eyes, but God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you”. His grace doesn’t mean God is going to remove every challenge, doesn’t mean the opposition is going to let up, it means he’s going to increase your strength, so it doesn’t feel as difficult. As you get stronger, what’s against you becomes easier. God didn’t lessen what’s coming against you, he simply added to your strength.

Now you can handle what you normally couldn’t handle, you’re not bothered by what used to bother you. That person at work, that always got on your nerves, sour your day – he didn’t change, he’s still the same old jerk, I mean the same person, but look at you – he didn’t change, but you’ve changed. Now, you don’t let it steal your joy, you don’t pay any attention to it. What’s happening? You’re growing. The obstacle is not changing, but it’s changing you. That’s God’s plan working.

Now, you may have situations you’ve been dealing with a long time that are not improving, you’re tempted to get tired, worn down. I believe right now God’s grace is coming on you in a new way, God is breathing strengthen to you, fresh passion, fresh vision, a second wind, so you can stand strong and outlast what’s trying to stop you. Now, tap into this grace. Don’t go around, “Why did the door closed? Why did they betray me? When is it going to change”? Turn it around, “Father, thank you, that your grace is sufficient for everything I’m facing. I may not understand it, but I know, it’s serving your plan. And I’m not going to just go through it, I’m going to grow through it. Now, I believe, when it’s all set and done, I’m not only coming out, but I’m coming out better”.

The Psalmist said, “All my troubles turned out for the good”. God is saying to you today, “Everything that’s come against you is going to turn out for your good”. The Judas Kiss didn’t feel good, the betrayal, but it’s going to turn out good, it’s leading you to a resurrection, to something you’ve never seen. The pit was uncomfortable, being falsely accused wasn’t fair, but it’s taken you to your throne, to new levels of influence. The football injury was disappointing, the closed doors were discouraging, but God’s about to open the door better than you’ve imagined.

Perhaps your hut is on fire today, the medical report is not good, a child is off course. What you can’t see, is the Most High God is headed your way. Something that looked permanent is about to suddenly turn around. I’m asking you to trust him when you don’t understand, don’t fight everything you don’t like, stay in peace, everything serves his plan. If you’ll do this, I believe and declare, what is meant for your harm is being turned to your advantage. You’re about to see God connect the dots, things you didn’t understand, it don’t make sense are about to come together: new opportunities, new levels, healing, breakthroughs, the fullness of your destiny, in Jesus name.

JO transcripts available now!

Thanks to reader Benito, I have a link to a website that appears to have all the transcripts for all the JO sermons I didn’t have time to do myself… and probably some that I DID take a zillion hours doing myself, I don’t have the heart to look too closely, LOL! If you can get over the shock of getting TWO posts from me in one day after none for so long, go check it out:


Reminder for the holiday season

The holiday season provides us with many excellent chances to honor God by showing our love and compassion for other people. If you have blankets that you don’t use, coats and jackets that you no longer wear, and pantry staples that are just sitting around, it’s time to gather them up and give them to organizations that serve the homeless and other economically disadvantaged folks; you have to be a little bit careful about giving food directly to the homeless in many areas, where it’s unfortunately illegal because of disease issues, but as long as you’re not breaking any laws, by all means pass these items directly to homeless people if you can. Do what Jesus did, and treat them like precious children of the Lord; TALK to them, don’t just throw stuff at them and sprint away, speak kindly to them and offer to pray with or for them, so they don’t feel like they aren’t even human beings anymore. 

This is also the time of year where we should take the social, emotional and spiritual needs of those around us into greater consideration. The holidays are particularly agonizing for people who have no local family, and no local friends who are close enough to be counted on to take them in for holiday celebrations. Even someone who can afford the best restaurant, or who can cook the most fabulous meal, will generally be lonely and sad on Thanksgiving if they have to eat alone, and this becomes 100 times worse during the Christmas frenzy, if they are left alone on Christmas day, with no one to share a meal with, no one to exchange gifts with, no one to share any activities with, and often not even a Christmas tree of their own. 

What can YOU do about it? Look around you. Think about every person you know in your area; friends, acquaintances, people from work or school, neighbors, members of your church or other organizations. Then ask yourself; where will these people be spending the holidays? Focus especially on those who are most likely to be hit hard by the holidays; those who recently moved into your area, those who are separated or recently divorced, anyone who was recently widowed or whose final parent or other local relative has passed away, and people who live alone. If you don’t know what they’re doing for the holidays, ASK; that doesn’t mean you spew a bunch of bragging sentences about the wonderful holiday plans YOU have, and then ask them what they’re doing, but to casually and with love in your heart, outside of the hearing of others if possible, ask them if they’re doing anything interesting for the holidays. If they say no, or they don’t know, or nothing or nothing much… then leap into action! Invite them to whatever dinners or parties or other events, such as Christmas caroling, that you are hosting, or participating in where you think you could invite some guests (if your host is outside of your immediate family, ask them in advance if you can bring one or more “holiday orphans”).

And then follow through! Make sure they know what the events are, and where and when, well in advance. If they need transportation, help them arrange for some. If the attendees will be wearing anything other than casual clothes, be sure and tell them. If everyone will be bringing food, be sure that they know to bring something, and give them the option to bring chips or sodas so that you’re not obligating them to cook or bake or buy something expensive (unless you know for a fact that they are very well-to-do). And if you’re inviting someone for Christmas day, or Christmas Eve if there will be gifts opened, be sure and have a nice gift for them so that they have something to open, or several small gifts if there will be a large amount of gift-opening. Tell them that since they don’t know everyone who will be there, you would all be thrilled if, as a gift to the whole family, they brought something for everyone to share; cookies, cupcakes, a box of candy canes… and make sure and make an announcement that everyone will be enjoying treats brought by this guest, so that their contribution is acknowledged.

Does that sound like a lot of work? Think again; how much work is it really? Remember all the work that Jesus did for us, and it is to honor him, and as a gift for his birthday, that we should do this! And besides, if you or someone you care about was looking at being alone during the holidays, and especially on Christmas day, wouldn’t you hope that some kind-hearted people would step forward and behave like true Christians and pass along some joy?

If you’re still reading this, you’re probably a long-time follower. I’m trying to sort out what I’m going to be doing on this blog from now on. Transcribing sermons was the equivalent of an unpaid part-time job, and there’s just not enough time or energy in my life to do that anymore. I do however want to get back into the habit of posting spiritual experiences and scriptural revelations that could encourage people, and amaze them as to God’s goodness. Please keep me covered in prayer… both for that, and also for the holiday season, since I’m a holiday orphan this year, and I’m hoping for people to take ME in.


Easter is even more important than Christmas. Why? Because EVERYONE has a birthday, but only Jesus has a resurrection day!

The Bible skims over the horror of what Jesus suffered on our behalf, because people in those days didn’t need any details about things like flogging and crucifixion; we should be grateful for this, because otherwise this event would be too gruesome for us to read about. The crucial point to remember is that Jesus knew the horror that awaited him, but he still went through it voluntarily so that we would be saved. Granted that we have a special day for thanksgiving, but I think that Easter is the day we should be the most thankful every year.

I don’t know what’s more extraordinary, that God gave His only son to die in agony for us, or that despite this infinite blessing He continues to give us additional blessings every day. My life has been full of blessings this year, as well as troubles, and I apologize to long-time readers who have been waiting patiently for me to start transcribing sermons again while these things take up all my time. Every time I get close to catching up, I’m hit with something else and get further behind. Please hang in there a little while longer; I’ve started catching up again, and I really hope to get some transcriptions done soon!

Belated Happy New Year! :-)

And a REALLY belated Merry Christmas, too! I REALLY got sucked into the holiday season; I never even thought to post! It ended up going better than I had hoped or imagined, for the most part, and I hope yours did as well!! 🙂

2018 ended up being one of the best years of my life, even though NONE of my ongoing issues have been resolved or even made visible progress to resolution. The most important thing was the huge leap forward in my walk with God; my ability to see angels every day, the Holy Spirit on a regular basis, and even heaven, 4 times so far… and something that appears over my bed and around me when I sleep, forming a protective barrier between me and the unwelcome forces that are trying to get at me, and looks something like this:

I’ve seen this many times, and I’m betting that many people have something similar; maybe ALL of us do. God will go to extraordinary lengths to keep us safe!

I also, amongst countless other blessings in 2018, developed TWO new skills so suddenly and dramatically that only the Holy Spirit could have provided them… and think about it, when was the last time you gained an entirely new skill? I don’t mean learning a new recipe when you can already cook, or becoming better at something you’ve been doing for a long time, or figuring out your new cell phone, I mean a TOTALLY new skill, not connected to anything that you’ve done previously? Many people never develop any new skills once they finish whatever education or training they need for their job or career… 2 in one year is HUGE!!

Now we’re into 2019, and hopefully have all made some good resolutions… which hopefully, for all of us, includes daily Bible reading. There are many “Bible in a year” programs, and I highly recommend that you use one of those instead of trying to do random reading on your own and hoping that you make it through the whole Bible in a year; you will REALLY benefit from it. (If you haven’t started yet, don’t worry, you can always catch up, especially if you choose one of the Bible-LISTENING programs, which you can listen to in the car, or while doing housework, with no loss of time from your busy day.) MY intensive Bible study restarted on January 1; I plan to do this every year for the rest of my life.

Another important part of starting the new year is getting a word for that year; if you haven’t gotten one, or think you might have it but want confirmation, pray about it, and try going to some of the many websites that generate random Bible verses, and see if anything jumps out at you. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you get a word, I guess it could also be a phrase but typically it’s just one word, that tells you what the tone is going to be for you for the year. This year, I got a fantastic word: REST. I’ve been knocking myself out to try to square things away in my life for so long, but this year I’m going to just sit back, not stress or obligate myself unless it’s absolutely necessary, which it will rarely be, and let God handle things.

I had an incredibly powerful sign from the Holy Spirit as I was praying in the new year (by which I mean praying nonstop between 11:30 PM and 12:30 AM). I asked for not just a manifestation, but an intense indwelling, like I haven’t had in a while, as proof of the blessings, restoration, and answered prayers that would happen this year… especially the restoration x7 that I was promised 4 years ago, in a prophecy that I was given right on stage the first time I ever went to church. It was really a step of faith, because what if nothing had happened? I needn’t have worried, of course; as I was walking and praying, I suddenly got a feeling like my legs were wrapped in the lead, and I understood that I needed to get on my face, so I did… and I felt the incredible weight and pressure that often accompanies the Holy Spirit. I was down on the floor for 20-25 minutes; a couple of times I tried to raise my head and look around, but the weight on my head was so intense that I put it right back down again. This was INCREDIBLY powerful, and tells me that spectacular things are coming in 2019.

It’s common for people to make dramatic pronunciations of how the new year is going to be so great for EVERYONE; even big-time pastors are guilty of saying that, and/or for claiming a certain sort of blessing is going to be coming to everyone this year… but that’s RIDICULOUS, because there’s no such year thing as a year that’s great for EVERYONE, or when the EVERYONE receives a certain kind a blessing. 2019, like every other year, will be fantastic for some, horrible for others, and most people will fall somewhere in between. The important thing to remember is that God can give you an infinitely better year than you would’ve had without His help, and the way to be sure that you get the most and best blessings is to praise, thank, and pray, with all your heart, every single day!

You might remember my post of October 20, where I described how far behind I’d gotten in my life, including weeks behind with Bible study, which I NEVER allow anything in the universe of to happen normally, concurrent with multiple new things that were sucking up time and energy from the life that did not have a moment to spare. At the time, I was hoping that a couple more weeks would be all I would need to catch up, but as you can see, it ended up being 2 MONTHS!

For the first time in YEARS, I’m both caught up with everything, and without the stress and pressure of undone transcriptions hanging over my head. I still don’t have the luxury of a single day off, or even so much as a single evening, but until after the first of the year, I’m going to give myself a break from the stress… and then, I’ll see what I can do about getting some sermons back up here. I don’t know yet what form that will take, but I’m pretty certain that I will never be able to go back to doing word for word transcriptions every week; that’s just too much time to devote to something that doesn’t provide me with growth or progress in my life as a whole. I might be posting excerpts, or summaries, or alternating weeks… I don’t know yet, and I’m not going to wrestle with it now.

I hope that all of you will have a safe and joyful holiday season! Please keep in mind what I said before Thanksgiving, about gathering in people that have nowhere to go and no one to be with; Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, and the best gift that you can give him is to love and lift up the people he died in agony to save! Let’s finish the year strong, and be willing to have 2019 be the year we give God the most glory, and take the most territory for the kingdom, that we ever have!