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Beating bitterness

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all go through things that are not fair: people do us wrong, we didn’t get the promotion, came down with an illness. you can’t stop life from happening to you, but you can choose how you respond. if you hold on to the hurt, dwelling on the offense, thinking, “why did they say that about me, why did I lose my loved one, why did that friend walk away?” then you’re opening the door to bitterness. when you’re bitter, it affects every area of your life; bitterness poisons your attitude, to where you see things in a negative light. bitter people don’t have good relationships, they’re easily offended, jump down your throat for the smallest thing; it’s not you, it’s the bitterness coming out.

you may have a good reason to be bitter, something was unfair, but holding onto it is only going to make it worse, steal your dreams, rob you of joy. bitterness can keep you from your destiny. you have to let it go. God sees what’s happening, knows what wasn’t fair, who walked away, and how to make it up to you, bring you out better. let it go, and trust Him to be you vindicator. the longer you hold on, the harder it is to get rid of. the more you dwell on it, relive it, let it bother you, the deeper it gets planted. the key is, forgive, let go of things you don’t understand, quickly. when the questions come up, “why did this happen, this isn’t fair?” when you feel the bitterness trying to take root, right then, “God, I’m turning this over to You, You’re my vindicator, You’ll make my wrongs right. You said You’d give me beauty for these ashes.”

bitterness is always knocking at the door. you didn’t get the contract, bitterness will come; you’ll have a chip on your shoulder, “it’s not fair.” the medical report wasn’t what you wanted, bitterness will show up; you prayed, believed, why didn’t God answer your prayer? that’s bitterness trying to come in. at the office, a coworker says something to try to make you look bad in front of people, just a little offense, if you ignore it, no big deal, but if you start dwelling on it, thinking how you can pay them back, next time you see them, give them the cold shoulder, then that little seed will begin to take root; before long, it will grow, and pollute other areas of your life. it says in Hebrews:

Hebrews 12:15 (CJB)
15 See to it that no one misses out on God’s grace, that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble and thus contaminates many

notice, it refers to bitterness as a root. you can’t see a root, it’s hidden underground, but here’s the problem; a bitter root produces bitter fruit. if you have a root of bitterness, it will contaminate your life. Proverbs says:

Proverbs 4:23 (AMP)
Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.

one of our most important responsibilities is to keep our heart pure. life is too short to live offended, not forgiving, bitter over what didn’t work out. you have to guard your heart. it’s easy to let what’s on the outside get on the inside. it takes discipline to say, “I’m not going to dwell on that offense, go around feeling sorry for myself because something didn’t work out.” you only have so much emotional energy each day; it’s not an unlimited supply. do you know how much energy it takes to hold a grudge, go around offended? that’s wasting valuable energy that you need for your dreams, children, destiny. quit letting what’s on the outside get on the inside; start guarding your heart.

the apostle Paul had plenty of opportunities to live offended. he said in one place:

2 Timothy 4:14 (AMP)
14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; [but that is no concern of mine, for] the Lord will repay him according to his actions.

that’s a mature attitude; “somebody did me a great wrong, but I’m not upset, bitter, I know God is fighting my battles and will be my vindicator.” when your roots are healthy, positive, hopeful, that’s feeding you encouragement, strength, hope. the problem is, if you have bitter roots, you’re not being fed the right things. you wonder why you don’t have energy, laugh, dream like to used to; it’s because those bitter roots are feeding you bitterness, self-pity, anger, that’s draining all the strength, passion, joy.

you don’t have to live with bitter roots; ask God to show you what’s causing you to be bitter. maybe there’s somebody you need to forgive, a dream that didn’t work out, you’re still sour about it, a mistake you made, you’re still beating yourself up. if you’ll be honest with yourself, and say, “God, help me to get rid of this root of bitterness; I’m still angry over what happened when I was 10, sour over the person that left, grieving over my loved one. God, I don’t want to be bitter, I want my passion back, to love, dream again; help me to let it go and move forward.” that’s the first step to getting rid of a bitter root; find out what it is, and ask God to help you. you can’t do it on your own; ask Him to help you forgive the person that hurt you, release the bitterness, resentment. when you get those contaminants out, you’ll not only feel the weight lift off of you, but you’ll get your joy back, start dreaming again, see the new things God has in store.

we all have unfair things that happen, things we don’t understand. too often, instead of forgiving the people that hurt us, letting go of the wrong, we’ve held onto it. it’s contaminated us. we wonder why we’re negative, can’t get along in relationships, keep losing our temper; we think, “this is just who I am.” no, that is not who you are; you were created in the image of God. He made you to be happy, healthy, whole, secure, not bitter, angry, resentful. you need to get rid of what’s contaminating you. you need to forgive the people that did you wrong. they hurt you once; don’t let them continue to hurt you. they can’t stop your destiny unless you allow them to. you’re not forgiving for their sake, you’re forgiving for your sake.

quit reliving that dream that didn’t work out, that business that failed, the contract that didn’t go through; let it go. that was a test. you had to endure those closed doors before you could come to your open doors. it may not have been fair, but God saw what happened. if you’ll turn it over to Him, start dreaming, believing, hoping again, God will pay you back for what didn’t work out. He’s going to open doors you never dreamed would open, bring people better than you ever imagined. what’s in your future is much greater than anything you’ve lost.

don’t let a bitter root contaminate your life. it’s time to move forward. it’s very freeing when you can let things go; “God, they did me wrong, but You’re my vindicator. I had a disappointment, but I know You’ll turn what was meant for my harm and use it to my advantage. I lost a loved one, I still miss them, but I’m not going to live bitter the rest of my life; I know they’re with You, and You have a new beginning for me.” that’s how you beat bitterness; you guard your heart, don’t let what’s on the outside get on the inside.

in the scripture, a lady called Naomi had some tough times. she was living in a city called Moab, and she was a widow. years later, both of her sons were killed. sometimes, life doesn’t seem fair, you have more than your share of bad breaks. it’s easy to get bitter, give up on your dreams, but God wouldn’t have allowed it if it was going to keep you from your destiny. yes, it’s difficult, but God promises He will give you grace for every season. He won’t let you go through more than you can handle. when that bitterness comes, you have to put your foot down, and say, “no, I’m not going there. I know God is still in control, His plans for me are for good.” what you’re going through may not be good, but God knows how to bring good out of it. every thought will tell you, “it’s never going to get better; you might as well be bitter.” don’t believe those lies. you wouldn’t be alive unless God had something amazing in front of you; He has a purpose for you to fulfill.

Naomi had gone through so much, she thought she was done. she even changed her name. “Naomi” means “my joy”; she changed it to “Mara,” which means bitter:

Ruth 1:20 (NIV)
20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.

she let the bitterness get on the inside. maybe she had a reason, she’d been through a lot of losses, but just because you’ve been through loss doesn’t mean you’re not going to win again, that you’ve seen your best days. you may have had bad breaks, but don’t change your name; God is not finished with you. the enemy doesn’t have the final say, God does. have you ever had big dreams, big goals, but things didn’t work out the way you had planned? marriage didn’t make it, pregnancy didn’t last, contract didn’t go through? like Naomi, you could easily be bitter.

Naomi moved back home to Bethlehem; her daughter-in-law Ruth went with her. here’s how merciful God is; even though Naomi thought she was done, gave up on her dreams, God said, in effect, “Naomi, you started in joy, and you’re going to finish in joy. you may have changed your name, but I didn’t. you had trouble in Moab; don’t worry, I have a blessing waiting for you in Bethlehem.” what’s interesting is, even though she changed her name, the scripture never refers to her as Mara; it keeps calling her Naomi.

have you changed your name, so to speak, to Mara? are you living bitter, negative, thinking about everything that didn’t work out? do yourself a favor; get rid of those names you put on yourself, and go back to being who God created you to be. God didn’t change your name; He still calls you blessed, prosperous, favored, healthy, strong, victorious. go back to your original name. you may have had trouble, but get ready; God has a blessing waiting for you.

instead of sitting around bitter, Naomi started helping her daughter-in-law Ruth. there was a man Ruth was interested in; Naomi started giving her advice:

Ruth 3:3 (NIV)
3 Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor

Naomi turned her focus away from her own problems and started helping somebody else; her joy began to come back. when you’re tempted to be bitter, one of the best things you can do is get your mind off yourself and go be a blessing to others. Ruth ended up marrying Boaz; they had a baby, Obed. when Naomi saw that little baby she was so excited; it was like something breathed new life, purpose, back into her spirit. the scripture says:

Ruth 4:17 (NIV)
17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!”

it wasn’t even her baby. this once bitter woman was now more fulfilled than ever; she never dreamed she would be that happy again.

God is saying, “My blessing is going to override your bitterness. My favor is going to make up for your pain.” what God has planned for you cannot be stopped by people, bad breaks, loss. He’s still going to do something amazing, get you to where you’re supposed to be.

in Mark 16, Jesus had just been crucified:

Mark 16:1-7 (NIV)
1 … Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body…3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”4 But… the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe… they were alarmed. 6 … he said. “You are looking for Jesus… He has risen! He is not here… 7 … ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him

the angel was saying, in effect, “I know you’re disappointed, but don’t stay here; something better is waiting for you there.” in other words, here is the disappointment, bad medical report, dream that didn’t work out; if you stay here, you’ll be discouraged. you have to go there.

sometimes, the reason God doesn’t comfort us in the here, in the disappointment, is because He doesn’t want us to stay where we are. yes, the loss is painful, setback wasn’t fair, but God is not here; He’s gone ahead, He’s waiting for you there. God is not in your past, in what you lost, didn’t work out, He’s in your future. don’t get stuck in here; move forward into there. there is where vindication, new beginnings, healing are.

if the two Mary’s would have stayed at the tomb, in self-pity, “I can’t believe this happened,” they would have never seen the there, the Lord.

are you living in the here, while God is waiting for you there? are you stuck in a disappointment, bitter over a bad break, angry over what didn’t work out? it’s time to leave here, and go there. there is where God is waiting for you, where the blessing is. the disappointment is simply a season, not the rest of your life. God has already gone ahead; He has restoration already lined up.

the here is not the end. the disappointment, loss, betrayal, that’s temporary. God has already gone ahead. don’t let bitterness hold you back, sit around in self-pity; move forward into there. there is where God will pay you back, do more than you can ask or think.

Luke 15 is the story of the prodigal son:

Luke 15:11-30 (NIV)
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living… 17 “When he came to his senses… 20 So he got up and went to his father… his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him… 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate… 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

you can hear the bitterness in his spirit, “it’s not fair, you haven’t treated me right, I’m not coming in to your party.” the party went on without him; his bitterness didn’t stop the party, it just kept him from going in to the party.

sometimes, we’re holding on to unforgiveness, anger, resentment, thinking that it’s hurting the other person; the truth is, the party’s still going on, it’s just hurting us. are you letting bitterness, disappointment, keep you from enjoying today? why don’t you let it go, and come on into the party? life is happening. there’s a celebration going on. today is a gift. don’t let a bad childhood, divorce, breakup, cause you to be sour and sit on the sidelines; come in to the party. start dreaming, loving, believing again. we have no guarantee that we’re going to be here tomorrow; time is too short to live offended, bitter, in self-pity. God knows what you didn’t get; quit trying to get people to pay you back, and go to God, and He’ll make it up to you. if you’ll come in to the party, get rid of what’s contaminating you, you’re going to experience a new sense of freedom; better relationships, greater joy, clearer vision. every root of bitterness is coming out right now. you’re going to rise higher, live happier, and reach the fullness of your destiny.

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(No new sermon this week.)

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I see multiple angels every single day, usually in various forms of light. I’m a believer and not a doubter, but I also understand that even believers can have a variety of illnesses that cause them to see lights, from detached retinas to brain tumors to… well, to being crazy. To completely resolve this issue for me, God permitted one of my angelic visitors to manifest in a more physical way.

I often see angels as if they were bright sparks of light, sort of like embers from a fire, a tiny bright area with no glow around it. You know what a jar for petroleum jelly looks like, that translucent yellowish plastic? A “red spark angel” appeared against the side of my jar of petroleum jelly… and the INSIDE of the jar all around that spot also took on a red glow! I never saw ANYTHING like that before. I did a test with a red laser pointer, and when that is shone through the side of the jar, it lights up the interior of the jar, so some law of physics is involved here; just FYI, I tried shining the light into a variety of other sorts of containers with clear or translucent sides, and did NOT see this effect with any of them… there’s something special about that particular kind of translucent plastic.

Here’s the thing; this CAN’T have been a hallucination, because I had never even imagined that this effect existed, and hallucinations come from our imaginations… and it’s beyond the bounds of probability that I would hallucinate something I never saw before that turned out to exactly match what occurs in ONLY this specific container. AND, the light I saw could not be from illness in my eyes or brain, because those lights do not actually exist, and therefore could not have filled up the jar. The only explanation for what I saw is that that light was REAL, either a manifestation of light in the physical world, or a supernatural manifestation that was allowed to behave like light behaves in the natural world. And therefore, I actually saw an ANGEL, not a figment of illness or my imagination… which is a HUGE relief, since I see angels more and more frequently as time passes.

Angels are REAL. You know that because they’re in the Bible. They are nothing like what you see on greeting cards and Roma Downey TV shows, but they are REAL. The Bible is a little bit vague on what their exact duties are, but we know that they are sent by God to guard us and to help us. Even if you can’t see them yourself, take comfort in the fact that they are there, and they are 100% on your side. God is GOOD!

Hebrews 1:14 (AMP)
14 Are not all the angels ministering spirits sent out [by God] to serve (accompany, protect) those who will inherit salvation? [Of course they are!]

Sleep on

from JO’s sermon tonight:

it’s easy to live frustrated because somebody is not doing what we want, discouraged because of a disappointment, upset because a dream hasn’t come to pass. God doesn’t remove every frustration, change every person we don’t like, take away everything that’s bothering us. the scripture says:

Psalm 46:10 (NIV)
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God

this implies if we’re not still, if we’re upset, worried, frustrated, we’re not going to know that He is God. most of the times I’m frustrated, I’m trying to change things that only God can change, to be God and fix things that I can’t control. you can’t make people do what’s right, make yourself do well. if you’re trying to control everything, you’re going to be frustrated; you have to turn it over to God, do what you can, let Him take care of the rest.

life is too short to live frustrated because we’re not getting our way, something unfair has happened; God wouldn’t have allowed it if it was going to keep you from your purpose. it’s a test; are you going to let it steal your joy, live stressed out, or are you going to be still and know that He is God? if God is not changing it, you have to be mature enough to say, “God, I don’t like it, but I know You’ve allowed it, and until You change it, I’m going to stay in peace, and enjoy my life.” the real victory is not when God does everything you want, removes all your frustrations; the real victory is when those things happen, but it doesn’t bother you anymore, you’re at peace, you know God is still in control.

in Matthew 26, Jesus was about to be betrayed and go to the cross:

Matthew 26:36-44 (NIV)
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”… 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” 40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray… 42 He went away a second time and prayed… 43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time

he came back to check on them a third time, but they were still sleeping. this time, he said:

Matthew 26:45 (TLB)
45 … Sleep on

he came to the point where he didn’t let it bother him anymore. he could’ve kept waking them up, trying to make it happen, being frustrated; instead, he accepted that he wasn’t going to have their support, it wasn’t going to work out his way. he didn’t fight it, let it frustrate him anymore, he said, “sleep on” and moved forward.

there are times in life when things don’t work out the way we want: the people we were counting on weren’t there for us, the medical report wasn’t good, the dream isn’t happening on our timetable. we could be frustrated; we did the right thing, we stayed in faith, but it’s not working out. you have to do what Jesus did; tell the disappointment, delay, frustration, “sleep on. you’re not going to bother me anymore. I know God is still on the throne, fighting my battles, and will get me to where I’m supposed to be.”

are there some things you need to tell, “sleep on”? that person you’ve been trying to change, no matter how hard you try, they won’t do what you want; it’s time to say, “sleep on.” you can’t control people, make them do what’s right; pray for them, be respectful, but don’t go the next thirty years letting them frustrate you. two simple words can change your life; sleep on.

Jesus wanted His disciples’ support, he deserved it, he’d been good to them, but sometimes God will pull back people’s support; He knows if they’re there all the time, you would become dependent on them, think they were your source, your savior. you don’t need everyone you think you need; God has already lined up the right people to come into your life to help you reach your destiny. the right people, you don’t have to play up to, manipulate, convince them to be for you; they’ll be for you through thick and thin, show up when you didn’t ask, encourage you when nobody else is around.

but sometimes, we’re being frustrated by people that are never going to be for us, spending all this energy trying to win them over; no matter how good we are to them, every time we need them, they’re busy, not interested. quit swimming across an ocean to be good to someone that won’t walk across a puddle to be good to you. I’m all for overcoming evil with good, blessing our enemies, but the scripture says:

Matthew 7:6 (NKJV)
6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine

your pearl is your personality, anointing, who God made you to be. some people won’t value your pearl, respect your gift, or recognize what you have to offer; the calling, favor on your life. your time is too valuable to waste it with people that discount your pearl; don’t hang around people that try to lessen you, or you feel like you have to prove to them who you are, why they should be your friend. you don’t need their approval; you have almighty God’s approval. He breathed His life into you, crowned you with favor. you have royal blood flowing through your veins; hang around people that celebrate, polish, respect your pearl.

too often, we’re trying to drag someone along, convince them to like us. do yourself a favor; tell them, “sleep on.” if you’ll let go of the wrong people, God will bring the right people, divine connections, people that will love for who you are and not for what you can do for them, inspire you to go further, bring out the best in you, cause your pearl to shine.

Jesus was wise enough to recognize that the disciples couldn’t stop the plan of God for his life; their lack of support couldn’t keep him from doing what his Father called him to do. they were good people, they loved him, but sometimes good people won’t be there for you. it’s a test; are you going to get frustrated, or are you going to recognize it’s a new season, and say, “sleep on”?

here’s the key; if they didn’t wake up, you don’t need them for this season. if they’re not giving you what they used to give you, that means God has taken you to a higher level, weaning you off the support, encouragement. when we take the bottle away from our children, they don’t like it, they’re uncomfortable, but we do it so it won’t limit their growth. sometimes, God will make you uncomfortable, take something away that you’re used to: a friend that always called and encouraged you, a coworker that always helped you with the reports, a neighbor you could always count on to go somewhere together. it’s because God is weaning you off that bottle, so to speak as long. as you’re dependent on people, it will limit how high you can go.

when God removes the support, takes away someone that you were used to, don’t get mad at them; you can’t open a door that God has closed. that friend that’s not there anymore, the disappointment, you may not like it, it may be painful, but it’s ordained by God. you have to recognize; that’s a sign you’re coming up higher. that discomfort means you’re going to a new level. everyone that’s with you now may not be able to go where you’re going. some people are like scaffolding; they come into your life for a season to help you reach a certain level, but at some point, God is going to remove the scaffolding so you can shine. it’s not that they’re not good people, but their part in your story is over. God’s taking you to a higher level.

quit being frustrated by somebody that’s not supporting you like they used to, “why don’t they call me anymore, compliment me?” the right attitude is, “I love you, respect you, but I don’t have to have your support, compliments, encouragement.” we spend too much time trying to get people’s approval, get them to validate us, then we’ll feel good about ourselves. the problem with getting your validation from people is, people can change their minds; one moment people were cheering for Jesus, a few days later those same people were shouting, “crucify him.” people can have a short memory. if you’re getting your value based on what people give you, how much they compliment you, then if for some reason they stop doing that, you’ll forget who you are, because your self-worth is coming from them. quit relying on people, and go to God. you don’t need their approval, you have God’s approval.

in life, we all go through Gethsemane, have disappointments and things we don’t understand; God gives us grace for every Gethsemane, unfair situation. it’s very freeing when you can look at the people that have left you, the disappointment and say, “sleep on.” amazing things are up ahead if you don’t give up in Gethsemane. yes, there will be crosses to bear, betrayals, setbacks, but if you keep moving forward, there will be resurrections, new beginnings, times where God pays you back for what was unfair, catapults you years ahead.

don’t get stuck in Gethsemane. don’t let the sickness cause you to become bitter, you don’t understand it, it’s not fair, “God, why, this doesn’t make sense?” or you can look at the frustration, discouragement, fear, and say, “sleep on. I’m not going to drag through this day defeated. I may be in Gethsemane, but I know a resurrection is coming.” Gethsemane doesn’t have to stop you; God wouldn’t have allowed if it wasn’t going to somehow move you toward your purpose.

the next time that coworker is rude to you, instead of being upset, just smile and say, “sleep on.” when that car cuts you off in traffic, instead of saying what you normally say, try a new approach; “sleep on.” you’re not approving their behavior, enabling them, you’re simply saying, “your actions are not going to control my life. this traffic is not going to ruin my morning. this setback is not going to sour the rest of my future.”

maybe you need to tell your past, “sleep on.” you had a tough childhood, went through a rough divorce, lost a loved one; tell the hurts, questions, failures, “sleep on.” you’re either feeding your history or your destiny, but you can’t feed both. you’re either looking back, living in regrets, thinking about everything that went wrong, or you’re looking ahead, saying, “God, I know what was meant for harm, You’re turning to my advantage. You have beauty for these ashes. weeping endures for a night, but joy’s coming in the morning.” if you’re always feeding your history, you’re going to be frustrated, guilty, angry, in self-pity. do yourself a favor; tell your history, “sleep on.”

you can’t go forward if you’re always looking backwards. you can’t see the new things on the horizon if you’re focused on what’s behind. start feeding your destiny: “Father, thank You that Your plans for me are for good, the path of the righteous gets brighter and brighter, You hold victory in store for the upright.” if you’ll get your mind going in the right direction, your life will go in the right direction.

if you feed your history long enough, it will pull you into depression. the enemy would love to keep you so focused on your hurts and what didn’t work out that you’re too discouraged to move forward. don’t fall into that trap; you wouldn’t be alive unless God had something amazing in front of you. you may be in Gethsemane, a place of discouragement, frustration, but if you’ll say, “sleep on,” and start thinking some new thoughts, then you’re headed for a resurrection, new beginning, place of restoration.

sometimes, what we’re frustrated about is God keeping us from real frustration. if God answered all of our prayers, opened every door we asked Him to open, brought every person we begged Him to bring, we wouldn’t reach our destiny. God is smarter than I am; He can see things I cannot see. He knows what He’s doing. what’s frustrating you, you don’t understand why God won’t answer the prayer, why the dream has taken so long, why that guy you like so much hasn’t even noticed you; maybe it’s because God can see something you can’t see. God has your best interests at heart; if He’s not giving you what you want, that means He has something better. He loves you too much to let you miss your destiny.

the things you’re tempted to be frustrated about today, if you will stay in faith, one day you’ll look back and say, “wow, God, You outdid Yourself. I never dreamed that I’d meet somebody this great, feel this healthy, You’d take me this far.” God’s plan for your life is so much bigger than your own. what will you do in Gethsemane, when it’s not working out your way, your friends aren’t there for you, the contract doesn’t go through, the medical report is not good? too many people don’t see their resurrection because they get bitter in Gethsemane; “God, why did they fall asleep?” Gethsemane is the real test. we like when everything’s going great, but that’s not when we grow the most; Gethsemane is where you can be promoted. God is seeing what you’re made of, if you’re ready. if you’ll stay in peace, be still and know that He is God, He’ll take you into your resurrection.

the way you know that you’re ready to be promoted is not that God has removed all your difficulties, but you don’t let them frustrate you anymore. you’ve learned this principle, two simple words; “sleep on.” maybe these two words could help you get your joy back, sleep through the night, bring you peace.

I read about a lady that was complaining about everything that went wrong that day. she said, “God why did You let so many bad things happen? my alarm didn’t go off, and I was late to work. at lunch, they made the wrong sandwich, I had to send it back. driving home, my cell phone dropped the call in the middle of the conversation. to top it off, when I got home, I wanted to put my feet in the foot massager, but it wouldn’t turn on.” God said, “your alarm didn’t go off because there was a drunk driver on the road; I delayed you on purpose so you wouldn’t be harmed. you had to send your sandwich back because the first person that made it wasn’t feeling well; I didn’t want you to catch what they had, so I had somebody else make a new one. the cell phone dropped the call because that person was about to fill you with gossip, and I didn’t want you to be contaminated. and the foot massager had a short in it; if you would have turned it on, it would’ve knocked out the power, and I didn’t think you wanted to sit around in the dark all night.”

could it be what’s frustrating you is really the hand of God, behind the scenes doing things you can’t see for your good, protecting, guiding, positioning you? nothing happens without God’s permission. we’re not always going to understand it; this is when we have to trust Him. you may be in Gethsemane today; you have a good reason to be upset, frustrated. I’m asking you to do what Jesus did; tell the frustration, past, disappointment, “sleep on.” it may not be fair, but God sees what’s happening; He has you in the palm of His hand. He’s breathing in your direction right now. don’t give up in Gethsemane; you are close to your breakthrough, new level. if you will pass this test, you’re going to come out of Gethsemane into your resurrection. you’re going to see promotion, healing, restoration, vindication. God’s going to turn the frustration into favor. you’re going to rise higher, accomplish dreams, and become everything He’s created you to be.

A surge is coming

from JO’s sermon tonight:

when you go through a storm, you feel like you’re being pulled back. you know what God promised, that He would use it for your good, you know what’s been predicted, but in the storm you’re going the wrong way, you’re being decreased, it’s not like what He said. but what you can’t see is, a surge is coming: a surge of favor, strength, healing. if you will stay in faith, God will always follow up the storm with the surge.

the enemy doesn’t have the last word, God does. that difficulty is not going to leave you pulled back, less than, it’s going to surge you ahead. that opposition is not going to keep you from your destiny, it’s going to propel you into a new level of your destiny. without the storm, you couldn’t see the surge: the new level, the promotion, the new house. the storm is setting you up to go where you have not gone. when you have a big storm, that means a big surge is coming; the stronger the opposition, the stronger the surge. the more you get pulled back, the more you’re going to be shot forward. the more people try to push you down, the higher you’re going to go.

the key is, stay in faith when you’re being pulled back. keep a good attitude when you’re doing the right thing, but the wrong thing is happening. every voice will tell you, “it’s never going to improve, you’re stuck, just accept that you’ll never get well, meet the right person.” the circumstances may look permanent; don’t be fooled, the surge is coming. something is happening that you can’t see. the forces that are so strongly against you, all you can see is how it’s pushing you back, limiting you, causing you heartache; what you can’t see is, the same opposition is creating the conditions for a surge. what was meant for harm, God is turning for good. it’s just a matter of time before you see a surge of God’s favor. as much as you were pulled back, it’s going to propel you that much more ahead.

God always makes the enemy pay for bringing the trouble. God never brings you out the same; God’s idea of restoring is to bring out you increased, promoted, healthier, better relationships. you may be in a difficult time; this is not the time to get discouraged, “I don’t understand it, why did this happen?” no, the right attitude is, “I’m coming back stronger. Father, thank You that a surge is on the way, propelling me to a new level.”

the same winds that were meant to stop you, God uses to propel you. the enemy meant it for harm, but God shifted the winds. the decrease is a sign that you’re about to go where you’ve never been. the enemy wouldn’t be fighting you so hard if he did know there is something amazing in front of you. stay encouraged; the surge is coming.

too many people, their thinking is keeping them from seeing a surge of God’s favor; “I’ll never get over this sickness, I’ve had it so long, these people at work don’t like me, I’ll never be promoted, never get ahead.” do yourself a favor; quit thinking of all the reasons it’s not going to happen. the storm may be powerful, but our God is all-powerful. if you will take the limits off of Him, start believing for increase, talking like it’s going to happen, thanking Him that it’s on the way, that’s your faith being released; that’s what allows God to show you a surge of His goodness.

the scripture says:

Psalm 46:1 (NASB)
1 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.

we know that God is always with us, but you will never see the fullness of Who God is if you’re in the light all the time; it’s in the darkness that God is most present. in the difficulties, you may not see what He’s doing, it may not feel like He’s there; this is what faith is all about. you have to say, “God, I don’t understand it, I feel like I’m being pulled back, but I know you’re right here with me. I believe You’re fighting my battles, You’re bigger than this sickness, a surge of Your goodness is coming my way.”

the psalmist said:

Psalm 112:1-4 (TLB)
1 Praise the Lord! For all who fear God and trust in him are blessed beyond expression… 4 When darkness overtakes him, light will come bursting in.

it’s not going to happen gradually. when you’ve been overcome by darkness, a negative medical report, people trying to stop, you it’s going to happen suddenly. suddenly, a surge of favor, healing. you didn’t see it coming. one moment, you were struggling, trying to get back on your feet, and suddenly, one contract, promotion, good break, and you have more than enough. one moment, you were discouraged, you didn’t see how it could work out, then suddenly, the right people showed up, things changed in your favor. what happened? the light came bursting in.

you may have a lot coming against you, forces trying to stop you; God is saying, “you’ve been pulled back long enough; it’s time for your surge.” God is about to propel you into a new level, out of sickness into good health, out of lack into abundance, out of injustice into honor, influence, new opportunities. get ready; the surge is coming.

in the scripture, Job saw this surge. when the bottom fell out, he lost his business, children, health, he had boils all over his body, it was very painful. Job was a good man; he honored God, lived a life of excellence and integrity. I wish I could tell you, if you did all the right things, you wouldn’t have any storms, but that’s not the truth:

Matthew 5:45 (NLT)
45 … he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

the good news is, for every storm, God has a surge. we don’t like the storms, but God uses difficulties to push us to a new level. He won’t let you go through something that He can’t bring good out of. the reason we don’t see the good all the time is, we get negative, bitter, “God, I was doing the right thing, why did I come down with this illness, my child get off course, these people turn on me?” we’re never going to understand why; God’s ways are not our ways. but if you’ll stay in faith, that storm is not going to leave you pulled back, it’s going to propel you ahead.

when Job’s wife saw everything he was going through, how unfair it was she said:

Job 2:9 (NIV)
9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

she was saying, in effect, “Job, you’re a good man, you’ve done the right thing, and this is what happens?” it’s easy to make a judgment based on one season of your life; because of one divorce, betrayal, bad break, it’s easy to lose our passion, give up on our dreams, live bitter. but what you’re going through is not permanent, it’s just a season.

Psalm 30:5 (MEV)
5 … weeping may endure for a night,
but joy comes in the morning.

every person goes through discouraging, unfair seasons; if you are never pulled back, you couldn’t be shot ahead. you have to remind yourself, it’s just a season, not the rest of your life. don’t make a judgment based on something that’s temporary. the storm may be difficult, but the surge is coming; the new relationship, opportunities, beginnings. God wouldn’t be pulling you back if He wasn’t about to propel you forward.

Psalm 139:16 (NIV)
16 … all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

when we go through things we don’t understand, that are not fair, it’s easy to get stuck on that page, and think that’s the way it’s always going to be; that’s just a chapter, not your whole book. you have to turn the page. if you’ll keep moving forward, being your best in spite of what didn’t work out, how unfair it was, you will come to another chapter, that has a surge already lined up, a sudden increase of God’s favor, the light comes bursting in. the God who is very present help in trouble doesn’t just show up but shows out, does more than you can imagine. one day, you’ll look back and say, “God, I didn’t like it, the storm was difficult, but without the storm I wouldn’t have seen the surge, the new beginning, new levels, the new relationships.”

God didn’t just bring Job out, he made the enemy pay:

Job 42:10-16 (NIV)
10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before… 16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation.

when we think of Job, many times we think he got a raw deal, had to endure all that suffering; the truth is, it wasn’t his whole life, it was a 9 month period, a season.

are you judging the rest of your life by a storm that you’re in now? have a new perspective; this too shall pass. God is still on the throne. when you come out, you’re not going to come out the same; dare to believe like Job to come out with double the joy, strength, peace, resources, influence. Zechariah said:

Zechariah 9:12 (NIV)
12 Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

that’s talking about the surge, coming out of the storm increased to a new level. what you’re saying in the storm will determine whether you come out of the storm. if you’re talking about how bad life is treating you, “I can’t believe this happened,” you are delaying your surge. your words can limit or increase your life, curse or bless your future. don’t talk about how big the problem is; talk about how big your God is. in the middle of the difficulty, “Lord, thank You that favor, health, abundance, promotion, vindication is in my future.” in sickness, you need to talk about health. in weakness, talk about strength. in lack, talk about abundance.

if you have a poor mouth, you’re going to have a poor life. if you have a defeated mouth, you’re going to live a defeated, mediocre life. but if you have a victorious, faith-filled mouth, then you’ll live a blessed, abundant, faith-filled life. in the middle of the storm, dare to declare, “I am blessed, healthy, strong, an overcomer, more than a conqueror.” you are prophesying your future; make sure what you’re saying is what you want.

David had all kinds of things come against him: armies, people, his own family. he said:

Psalm 3:1 (NKJV)
3 Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!

he was saying, “God, I’m surrounded by enemies, I’m in this storm.” if he would have stopped there, he would have gotten stuck, but:

Psalm 3:3 (NKJV)
3 But You, O Lord, are a shield for me

he was saying, “God, I’m surrounded by enemies, but I know You’re bigger, stronger, if You be for me, who dare be against me?” don’t cancel out your surge with negative words; get in agreement with God. all through the day, “Lord, thank You that favor, double is on the way, You are a shield unto me.”

in 1 Samuel 30, David was 30 years old. he was anointed to be king at 17, but because Saul was so jealous of him, for the last few years he had been living in a city called Ziklag:

1 Samuel 30:1-2 (NIV)
30 David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it, 2 and had taken captive the women and everyone else in it, both young and old… 4 So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.

when a storm knocks the wind out of us, there’s nothing wrong with weeping; when you weep, you’re not weak, you’re human. you don’t have to be strong all the time; even Jesus wept when he heard his friend Lazarus had died:

John 11:35 (NIV)
35 Jesus wept.

David was a skilled warrior, strong, courageous, but when he saw all the destruction, he was so overcome that he wept. the scripture says:

Psalm 56:8 (NLT)
8 … You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

God sees the heartache, hurts, disappointments.

just when David didn’t think it could get any worse:

1 Samuel 30:6 (NIV)
6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him

this could’ve been the end of David’s story; he could’ve become bitter, faded off into the sunset. but David understood this principle; he knew that the same God that allowed the storm had a surge already lined up. he knew the setback was a setup for God to take him where he had never been. David didn’t have anybody to encourage him, he couldn’t turn on the TV, find the nearest church, everybody around him was complaining, negative. when he looked at the circumstances, smoke, ashes, ruins, that was depressing. what did David do?

1 Samuel 30:6 (MEV)
6 … David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.

there will be times you can’t find a friend to cheer you up, your spouse is in a bad mood. you’ll have to do what David did, and encourage yourself in the Lord your God; “God, I know You’re still on the throne. You haven’t brought me this far to leave me. God, You’ve done it in the past, and I know You’ll do it again.”

David said:

Psalm 34:3 (ESV)
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me

I’m going to magnify the Lord, make my God bigger, talk about His greatness; the bigger you make God, the smaller your problems become, and the more faith rises in your heart. when the enemy hits you with his best shot, his best will never be enough; he may knock you down, but he can’t knock you out, God has you in the palm of His hand. the scripture says:

Proverbs 24:16 (CEV)
16 Even if good people
fall seven times,
they will get back up.

you may be down, but get ready, the Lord is going to raise you up. the storm may have been unfair, but the surge is going to make up for it. where God is taking you is going to pay you back for what the enemy tried to do. David got his fire back:

1 Samuel 30:8 (NIV)
8 and David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?”
“Pursue them,” he answered. “You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.”

you may have lost some things; the storm, betrayal, difficulty has set you back. God is saying, “you’re going to recover all.” you’re not going to come out decreased, you’ll come out better.

1 Samuel 30:17-20 (NIV)
17 David fought them from dusk until the evening of the next day… 18 David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken… 20 He took all the flocks and herds

that would be reason enough to celebrate, but God likes to do more than we can ask or think. the same day David and his men were recovering what was stolen, King Saul was killed in a battle; David not only experienced one of his greatest victories, but he was made king of Israel. this all happened 72 hours after David suffered his greatest attack. the storm was devastating, it pulled them way back; that meant the surge was going to be equally strong.

when you have a big storm, get ready for a big surge. it may look difficult, you don’t see how it could work out; you don’t know what God is up to. like David, you may be 72 hours from your greatest victory. stir your faith up, encourage yourself; a surge is coming, of favor, increase, healing. the light is about to come bursting in; like Job, you will come out with double. that setback is setting you up to surge into the fullness of your destiny.

When the water breaks

from JO’s sermon tonight:

when the water breaks in your life, you face an unexpected difficulty, you didn’t see it coming, you were going along, being your best: you came down with an illness, a relationship didn’t work out, the company had to lay you off. it’s easy to get discouraged, think, “it’s never going to get better.” have a new perspective; when the water breaks, that’s a sign that you’re about to give birth; God’s about to do something new, that you haven’t seen. without the water breaking, you would get stuck, wouldn’t reach the fullness of what God has in store. the trauma indicates that transition is on the way. God never brings you out the same; He’s birthing you into something greater. God is transitioning you into another level. He has new things He wants to birth, not just through you, but in you.

in the difficult times, if you keep the right attitude, you’ll develop a greater strength, confidence, trust in God. don’t complain because the water broke, get ready: favor, increase, new levels are coming. what you give birth to will be greater than anything that you’ve lost. you may have lost a relationship, somebody walked away; you’re going to give birth to a better relationship. the company had to downsize, said they don’t need you, you were loyal, didn’t see it coming; don’t get bitter, God has a better job, in a higher position, with more influence, income. benefits, where your gifts can come out in a greater way. you’re going to give birth to something greater than you imagined. God is going to open doors that you never dreamed would open, give you resources, opportunities, influence.

without the water breaking, you can’t give birth. when we give birth, there will be labor pains; you’re going to have to push, stretch, be willing to be uncomfortable. but when you understand that it’s a part of the process, you can’t go to the next level without it, then you’ll go through it with a good attitude. you could be negative, complaining; instead, you’ll have a smile on your face, a song of praise in your heart, expectancy in your spirit. you’ll know that it’s just a matter of time before you give birth to the new things God has in store. the process may be uncomfortable, but the purpose is worth it; if you could see where God is taking you, the new things on the horizon, the favor, influence, opportunities, friendships, you wouldn’t be bothered by what you’re going through.

Paul said:

2 Corinthians 4:17 (NABRE)
17 For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory

what you’re going through is temporary; the birthing process doesn’t last forever. the discomfort is for a moment, but what you give birth to, the blessings, will last for a lifetime.

you can’t choose where your water breaks, when the disappointment, loss comes; that’s in God’s hands. we may not understand it, but God knows what He’s doing; there is a purpose for every challenge. most of the time, we can see the challenge, but we can’t see the purpose. this is when we have to say, “God, I trust You. I don’t see what You’re doing, it doesn’t make sense to me; my child got off course, my finances went down. I don’t understand it, but I know Your ways are better than mine; my life is in Your hands.”

God will not mismanage your life, allow things to happen that don’t somehow move you toward your destiny. He can see things that we can’t see, knows the end from the beginning. there are times it feels like God’s taken us in the wrong direction; somebody spread rumors and you didn’t get the promotion. we think, “God, where were You? You could have kept me from this rejection.” what we can’t see is that the disappointments, betrayals, bad breaks, are all a part of God’s plan. we don’t like it, it’s uncomfortable, but without it we wouldn’t reach the fullness of our destinies.

we see this in the scripture with Joseph. he was doing the right thing, but he was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused by a lady, put in prison; for thirteen years, it was one bad break after another. but one day, Joseph interpreted a dream for the Pharaoh:

Genesis 41:39-41 (NIV)
39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.”

Joseph was second in command of the nation, one of the most powerful people of that day. but why did God allow Joseph to go through all these difficulties? it didn’t seem fair. but God wasn’t just making his life miserable, He had a plan; God knew, years later, there would be a famine in the land; Egypt would be the only place that would have food. God had to put someone on the inside of Egypt that would be favorable to the Israelites, so they could survive. so God ordained Joseph to be betrayed, falsely accused, put in prison; that whole time, God was ordering his steps. yet if we looked at the steps individually, we would think, “wow, Joseph, you got a raw deal”; the truth is, God trusted Joseph so much, He knew He could count on Joseph to go through the things he didn’t understand with a good attitude. if Joseph would’ve become bitter, angry, held a grudge, he would have gotten stuck; he wouldn’t have made it to the throne.

when you face things you don’t understand, that are not fair, be a Joseph; dare to believe that God is in complete control, directing your steps. it’s all part of the plan to get you to where you’re supposed to be. you can trust God, but can God trust you? can He trust you with difficulties, to be a Joseph, keep a good attitude even when life doesn’t seem fair?

sometimes, we’re trying to pray away what God has ordained. Joseph could have prayed, “God, please keep my brothers from betraying me”; his prayer wouldn’t have been answered, not because God didn’t love him, but because God can see the big picture. God knew that betrayal was an important step that was leading Joseph somewhere amazing. had God kept Joseph from the betrayal, He would have kept him from his destiny.

God loves you too much to answer a prayer that’s going to keep you from your purpose. when it doesn’t happen our way, it’s tempting to get discouraged; “God, why didn’t You turn it around or answer me?” your way may be more comfortable, but it will limit how high you can go; that’s why God won’t let us be comfortable all the time. there will be seasons of stretching, growing, we’re not getting our way, the wrong thing is happening. the good news is, God has given us strength for every battle, grace for every season. there’s nothing you’re facing that’s too much for you. you can handle it; you’ve been equipped, empowered, anointed. just because you have difficulties, doesn’t mean you don’t have favor. while Joseph was a slave, he had favor with Potiphar, who put him in charge of his whole house. in prison, Joseph had favor with the guards; they put him in charge of the prison. he should’ve been at a disadvantage, but because of the favor on his life, it caused him to keep rising to the top. the scripture says:

Genesis 39:3 (NCV)
3 Potiphar saw that the Lord was with Joseph and that the Lord made Joseph successful in everything he did.

you may be in a storm, forces are coming against you that seem bigger, stronger, more powerful; stay encouraged, you have the favor of God. you can shine even in the storm, excel even when people are trying to push you down. God’s favor will cause you to overcome what you could not overcome on your own. you will defeat giants, accomplish dreams where you didn’t have the experience; the favor on your life gives you an advantage.

David said:

Psalm 30:5 (NIV)
5 … his favor lasts a lifetime

the adversity is temporary; the favor is permanent. favor doesn’t come and go; the right attitude is, “I’m favored in the flood, hospital, financial difficulty.” favor doesn’t leave you; you have favor right now. favor is what’s going to help you overcome the challenge. instead of thinking, “look what I’ve been through, it’s not fair,” turn it around; “Father, thank You for Your favor, that good breaks are chasing me down, blessings are headed my way.”

Isaiah 43:2 (TLB)
2 When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up

Psalm 37:19 (NLT)
19 … even in famine they will have more than enough

when you’re in the flood, don’t complain; get ready for favor.

Psalm 44:3 (TLB)
3 They did not conquer by their own strength and skill, but by your mighty power and because you smiled upon them and favored them.

in difficult times, remind yourself that there is something God has put on you that no person can stop. no bad break, no sickness, all the forces of darkness cannot hold you down; you have the favor of God. God wouldn’t have allowed the difficulty if it was going to keep you from your destiny; that difficulty is going to launch you into your destiny. quit losing sleep over what God ordained. He may not have sent it, but He controls the universe; nothing happens without His permission. if it happened, don’t get bitter, try to figure it out; stay in faith. the favor on your life is going to cause you to rise above every obstacle. that opposition is going to be what God uses to birth you into a new level: in your career, relationships, finances, anointing.

sometimes, God will use the storm to push you out of the womb. the womb was designed for a limited time; when the water breaks, ready or not, here you come. the key is to come with a good attitude, knowing that it’s ordained by God, a part of His plan, the favor on your life is going to cause you to succeed.

after all Joseph went through, you never read where he complained, got sour, blamed people. deep down, Joseph knew that God was in control, and would not mismanage his life.

God will not allow negative things just so you can go through them. He’s not up there in heaven thinking, “let Me make their lives miserable, take their loved one away, cause this person to cheat them.” God is our Heavenly Father. if you’re a parent, you know how much you love your children, go out of your way to watch after, protect, be good to them. God is that way, but billions of times more. you are His most prized possession; there’s nothing He cares more about than you. He knows the number of hairs on your head. He’s closely watching over you; He sees every bad break, difficulty, unfair situation. when you go through things you don’t understand, you need to remind yourself that your Heavenly Father is in control, has your best interest at heart. what you’re going through may not feel good, may not be fair, but God knows what He’s doing. when He brings you out, you’re not going to come out the same, you’re going to come out better off than you were before.

1 Peter 5:10 (NIV)
10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

it doesn’t say, “after you’ve suffered your whole life,” it says, “a little while.” one translation says:

1 Peter 5:10 (MSG)
10 The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.

you may feel like you’ve been knocked down; be encouraged, this generous God is about to put you back on your feet for good. God has the final say; the sickness, disappointment, betrayal, it may not make sense to you, but without it, God couldn’t launch you to a new level. it’s setting you up to give birth to something greater than you can imagine. the process may be painful, but the purpose will be well worth it. one day, you’re going to look back and see how God used everything that you went through; you wouldn’t have met this person, moved into this new house, taken this different job, it’s all working for your good. stay in faith; it’s a setup.

Acts 2:1-2 (NIV)
2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.

it was a great sign of God’s blessing and favor. they were excited, they knew God was on their side, they were going to do great things, but:

Acts 8:1-3 (CEB)
1 … At that time, the church in Jerusalem began to be subjected to vicious harassment… 3 Saul began to wreak havoc against the church. Entering one house after another, he would drag off both men and women and throw them into prison.

havoc is a strong word; that means things were thrown into disarray, confusion. in the midst of this calamity:

Acts 7:58-59 (NIV)
58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Acts 8:1
8 And Saul approved of their killing him.

it’s interesting that Saul came to Jerusalem and caused so much turmoil; Jerusalem means “the city of peace.” this was home to many of the disciples, where they felt secure, could relax and be at ease. but now, their city of peace was turned into a city of chaos. where was God? it’s not like God couldn’t stop Saul from wreaking havoc. but God doesn’t stop every difficulty; they’re a part of His plan. because of the persecution in Jerusalem, Philip had to go to Samaria:

Acts 8:5-7 (NIV)
5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed.

Saul was a setup; wreaking havoc was to push Philip into this new level of ministry. sometimes, God will allow your place of peace, your home where you’re comfortable, to be disrupted. this is where you have to know Who God is, and what He’s up to: God is a good God, He is for you, He’s going to use that discomfort to launch you to a new level. you’re going to see things you’ve never seen, accomplish what you’ve never accomplished. when things disrupt your place of peace, be still and know that He is God. He has you in the palm of His hand. the enemy sent that storm to harm, disrupt you; what he didn’t realize is, God saw it coming, and He has a plan to use it to promote, increase, launch you to a new level.

but none of us like to be uncomfortable, under pressure, in situations that are unfair. the birthing process can be painful; we don’t like it, we have to endure. when you give birth to what God has put in you, when you see the new things He has in store, you’re not going to remember all the trauma, what didn’t work out, how unfair it was. when you see your new house, your child back on course, your health restored, you’re going to be so grateful to God, so amazed at His goodness, you won’t have time to think about the process; you’ll be too caught up enjoying the blessings.

keep looking ahead. your baby is coming. it may be painful now, you feel flooded by challenges. have the right perspective; your water broke, that means you’re about to give birth. that difficulty is a setup for God to do something new, that you haven’t seen, so you can take new ground for the kingdom, set a new standard for your family. favor is coming. what you give birth to is going to be greater than anything that you lost. this is not the time to be discouraged; this is the time to stir your faith up. God has not brought you this far to leave you. the flood may have interrupted your life, but it did not interrupt your destiny; God is still on the throne. it’s all a part of His plan. you may not understand it, but God will not mismanage your life. for everything that you’ve lost, God is going to give you back more. for everything that was unfair, you’re going to come out better, stronger, healthier, promoted to a new level of your destiny.

(No new sermon this week.)

As you’ve probably realized, part of their job is to try to help you to function at a higher spiritual level; part of how they do that is to use their awareness that the congregation will always lag behind them a little bit spiritually, so they aim for a level ABOVE where they want you to be, knowing that you will collectively rise to where they actually want you to be. So, for example, if your pastors want the congregation to pray before Sunday service, they might pray for half an hour before service, not because they think that many people will want to pray for half an hour, but in the hopes that people will pray for a few minutes.

One of the things that seemed pretty wack-a-doodle when I first joined the church, almost 3 years ago, if you can believe THAT, was that we’re not supposed to have any Halloween imagery, not even cute stuff like a smiling pumpkin. I didn’t think that there was anything to it… Right up until the Holy Spirit asked me to remove some skeleton toys from my bedroom in March. Clearly, there ARE some sorts of images or forms that are problematic, especially when you are enduring attacks from the enemy and the periodic appearances of demons like I and others from the prayer ministry have been. Does that mean that I now think that putting a face on a big fruit, in other words a jack-o-lantern or image of one, is somehow dangerous? No… but I’m where I think my pastors actually wanted me to be, understanding that DEMONIC imagery can be a problem.

A very recent example of how the pastors can be out on the fringe was one of the pastors telling us that there are witches in covens here in my city that are trying to attack the church in the spiritual realm. It seemed a little bit nuts… until I saw a demon in the form of a shadow cat running towards where we were grouped together praying at the meeting of the prayer ministry this week… a form so realistic that my first thought was to wonder when our hosts had gotten a cat. Even then, I didn’t make the connection until the pastor made the point about cats and witches and Halloween. This demon did not do us any harm, I immediately prayed and commanded it to leave, which the Bible tells us that God has given us the authority to do, and asked Him to send angels to surround us, which He did… But what might it have done if it could have actually come into contact with us? Or was it there to spy on us? (Remember, God is omniscient, but neither the enemy nor any of his demons are.) In any case, I don’t think that this very clear and specific form was an accident or a coincidence. Does that mean that I now think that there is some elaborate conspiracy of witches in my city trying to attack my little church? No… but I’m where I think my pastors actually wanted me to be, understanding that there are at least SOME witches in our city that are embracing demonic forces, and trying to attack Christians in whatever way they can… and whether the witches are using the demons, or the other way around, is anybody’s guess, by the way, although I’m sure that the witches believe that they are the ones in control.

Some pastors, ministers, priests, etc, are pretty much just phoning it in, and some are well-intentioned, but not really plugged into the supernatural, with the beings and forces that the Bible very clearly tells us exist; you might not get anything more difficult or dramatic from them than entreaties to pray and read the Bible more frequently, which of course you SHOULD be doing. If, however, you are fortunate enough to have a pastor or pastors who are passionate about the Lord, and very aware of the actions of the angels that the Bible tells us are encamped around the righteous, and the demons that are always present trying to contend against the righteous, LISTEN to them. They might be a little bit far out in left field, yes, but the chances are that the truth of the situation is probably much closer to what they are telling you than to what you might’ve been aware of on your own, so don’t be too quick to dismiss something they tell you that seems a little bit out there. Believe me, there is nothing that the enemy would love more than for you to go through life totally unaware of, or even in denial of, what he and his demons are doing in your life and your church!!

(No new sermon this week.)

I just endured a substantial loss; the woman I was by far the closest to in my church, one of the people that I have been the closest to, who has done the most for me, and has meant the most to me, in my entire life, and was by far the closest person to me within my part of the country, has just moved away. She even moved back several months earlier than she had originally planned. Given my catastrophic loss several years ago, by either death or desertion, of all of the most important people in my life, you can imagine what the loss of my new most important person, and most important relationship of the past 3 years, feels like.

She didn’t want to go. She was caught in the middle, because her family does not live in this area, and she naturally wanted to be with her children and grandchildren, but her heart is in this city with our church. She has repeatedly proclaimed the years that she spent here to have been the best of her entire life, even though she was so far from her family. If God had given her the slightest indication that she should not move away, she would have stayed. We were certainly all praying that this would happen, because she was a pillar of the church, and we didn’t want to lose her. She has an ability to help people, love, support, encourage, comfort people, in a way that few can match, and she works tirelessly to do all of these things for everyone within her orbit. I’m not the only person in our church who has really needed and benefited from that, and no words can describe the service that she gave to the church in general.

Why would God take from me, and from my church, a person who we loved and valued so greatly, and certainly still needed, someone who was pretty much ASKING for Him to give her the ok to stay? Usually, we don’t get to see why God does the things that He does, but sometimes He DOES let us see, so that we have a fresh example of His infinite wisdom:

Even if you don’t live in the United States, you probably know from endless news reports where the most devastated part of the nation is right now; Houston, Texas. The destruction that hurricane Harvey left behind has wrecked countless lives; people lost their homes, lost their businesses, lost everything, and there were 83 deaths as well, leaving grieving loved ones behind. The economic damage is estimated to be as high as $200 BILLION, with a lot of that from uninsured homeowners who have no way to recover what they lost. Imagine the grief, the pain, the suffering, of so many thousands of people in Houston.

Have you guessed where my friend has moved to? HOUSTON!

After Harvey hit, once we overcame the original shock and horror of it, and had a moment for something other than desperate prayers on behalf of the people of Houston, we understood that THIS was why God had pointed her unwaveringly back there; He needs people there who can reach out with their whole hearts to help people rebuild their shattered emotions and lives, and there is no better person for that job than my beloved friend.

I’m still brokenhearted that she is gone, but it brings me great peace to know that she has gone where she is so desperately needed. She will be able to serve God and His children in far greater ways there than she would ever have been able to do here, and this service is the central focus of her life, after her worship of God Himself. I’m so incredibly grateful that God caused her to change her original departure timing, even though that meant my losing precious months with her, so that she can be in Houston sooner rather than later. And equally grateful that in doing this he let us see WHY she had to go, so that we could be comforted in our grief knowing with total certainty what His plan for her is… that’s a rare and precious gift from the Lord.

Most of the time, of course, we will not understand why we have losses. Sometimes, years later, we might be able to look back and see how that loss was ultimately to our benefit… And sometimes we will not know this side of heaven. I wanted to share this difficult story to help you be encouraged the next time someone moves out of YOUR life; whether or not you can see it at the time, God has something waiting for them at their new location… and something new waiting for YOU to fill that gap where the other person used to be.

That’s my challenge now; I need to keep my eyes, mind, and heart open for the new things that God is about to do and bring me. I will continue moving forward with a positive attitude, ready to embrace the new, rather than looking back and dwelling on the old. This is a pretty deep valley, but that means that the next mountain peak will be a high one!