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Sooner than expected

from JO’s sermon tonight:

God has some deliveries for you that are going to come sooner than you think. every circumstance may say, “it’s going to take years to get out of debt, meet the right person, accomplish a goal,” but get ready for some unexpected deliveries; God has favor, good breaks healing, divine connections, that are going to show up sooner than expected. yes, I know, there are times that God does things slowly, little by little, over a period of years, but there are also times God will do things suddenly, unexpectedly, quicker than you thought. you may have been told by the experts that it’s going to take a long time to get well; you’ve done everything you can, tried your best, but now you’ve accepted the fact that it’s going to be a long, drawn-out process. no, get ready for a knock on the door; God has your healing already en route. it’s going to be there sooner than expected. perhaps you’ve struggled with an addiction since high school;  you’ve tried to break it, gone through treatment, not able to do it. now, you think that’s the way it’s always going to be.  no, get ready, freedom is coming. a breakthrough is on the way. it should take years, but God is speeding things up.  that’s what it says in Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 1:12 (KJV)

12 … I will hasten my word to perform it.

that means God will do it quicker, faster, sooner than you think.

in Acts 12:

Acts 12:1-3 (NIV)

1 … King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church… he proceeded to seize Peter also. 

Herod didn’t like the church, he was against believers:

Acts 12:2 (NIV)

2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.

it didn’t look good for Peter.

Acts 12:4-6 (NIV)

4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each… Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 

Acts 12:4 (NIV)

4 …Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover

Acts 12:5-12 (NIV)

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him… the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 

they knew this was a very serious situation; he was just a few hours away from possibly losing his life.

Acts 12:6-15 (ESV)

6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out… an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself… he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!”

they were praying for Peter’s release, but they almost couldn’t believe it because it happened sooner than expected; that was one of those deliveries that they didn’t see coming. all the circumstances said, if he did ever get out, if some way he was ever freed, it would take months, possibly even years.

God has some unexpected deliveries coming your way;  He knows how to do it faster than you think. some of the things you’ve been praying about, you think it’s going to take years and years; no, just like with these people, God is going to do it suddenly, unexpectedly, quicker than you thought.  you’re still praying about it, and the answer comes knocking at the door: while you’re praying for your healing, healing is already en route. you’re praying for the breakthrough, and the angel has already loosed the chains. you’re praying for the child who’s off-course; God has already set the miracle into motion. you’re going to hear a knock on your door sooner than expected. don’t talk yourself out of it; “that’s impossible, have you seen my circumstances, looked at my bank account, heard what the specialists say about my health situation?” no, the delivery is already en route. the scripture says:

Psalm 56:9 (CEV)

9 When I pray, Lord God,

    my enemies will retreat

Psalm 56:9 (TLB)

9 The very day I call for help, the tide of battle turns

God set the miracle into motion. every circumstance may say, “you’ll never get free, never get well, never accomplish a dream,” but know this; chains have already been loosed. the right people are already headed your way. favor, healing, vindication, is about to come knocking at your door. in this year of acceleration, you’re going to see doors open of their own accord. things that you couldn’t make happen, you didn’t have the talent, funding, connections, God will supernaturally make happen: breaks that you didn’t deserve, favor chasing you down, unexpected deliveries.

like Peter, you may have obstacles that look insurmountable, problems that look too big: sickness, family difficulties, depression. God is going to do for you what He did for him.  God is going to supernaturally open those iron gates, and bring you into freedom. suddenly, things are going to fall into place. you’re going to be so amazed, thinking, “I never thought it would happen this fast. I was just praying, and the answer showed up.  I was just dreaming about it, and the door supernaturally opened.  I was just honoring God, being my best, and the blessing chased me down.” 

it may look like you’ve come to a dead end in your dreams, health, a relationship; every voice says, “it’s never going to happen.” but there are some doors that God has already ordained for you; they’re going to open of their own accord. you couldn’t make it happen;  it’s simply the goodness of God. you’re going to see some of these doors open sooner than expected. everything in the natural says it’s going to be years and years; God is saying, “it’s already en route. it’s closer than you think.” it’s so important in those tough times to not dwell on all the negative thoughts: “it’s never going to happen, I’ll never get better.”  no, turn it around;  “Father, I want to thank You that the miracle is already in motion. thank You, Lord, that the delivery’s already en route. I may not see how it can happen, but God, I know You can cause doors to open on their own accord.” stay in faith; you’re going to see times when it happens sooner than expected.

this is what David did. he’d just gone through the worst defeat of his life; while he and his 600 men were out protecting the borders of Israel:

1 Samuel 30:1-4 (NLT)

30 Three days later, when David and his men arrived home at their town of Ziklag, they found that the Amalekites had made a raid into the Negev and Ziklag; they had crushed Ziklag and burned it to the ground. 2 They had carried off the women and children and everyone else but without killing anyone.

3 When David and his men saw the ruins and realized what had happened to their families, 4 they wept until they could weep no more.

it looked like it was over, but instead of staying defeated:

1 Samuel 30:16-18e (HCSB)

16 … the Amalekites, spread out over the entire area, eating, drinking, and celebrating because of the great amount of plunder they had taken from the land of the Philistines and the land of Judah. 17 David slaughtered them from twilight until the evening of the next day. None of them escaped, except 400 young men who got on camels and fled.

18 David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken

that in itself was a great victory.  but what’s even more significant is, that same day, King Saul was killed in a battle, and David took the throne. this all happened three days after David’s greatest defeat. 3 days from his darkest hour, he was put on the throne of Israel. I’m sure, if you would’ve asked David three days earlier, when he was sitting in the ruins of his city, depressed and discouraged, if he thought that in a few days he would be taking the throne, he would’ve said, “are you kidding? this is the worst time of my life!” every circumstance said that it was a long way off, that his best days were behind him. but what David couldn’t see was that it was all a part of God’s plan; that setback was really a setup to move him into his destiny. it looked like that defeat could be a big delay, maybe even keep him from the throne.  in reality, it was just the opposite; it was instrumental in putting him on the throne.

there was a key to all of this happening; if David would’ve sat there in self-pity, bitter, “God, why did you let this happen? I was out doing the right thing.” if he would’ve stayed negative, defeated, he could’ve missed his destiny. in those difficult times, things you don’t understand, it’s easy to get discouraged, bitter, but remember; like David, you could be just 72 hours from your greatest victory. you could be just a few days from seeing God shine out in your life in ways you’ve never seen. “it’s going to take me years to get out of this mess, recover from this bad break, get over this illness”; no, God is going to do for you what He did for David. it’s going to happen sooner then you expected. that setback is not a surprise to God. He’s already dispatched the angel with the answer; it’s already en route. it may be dark right now, but one day, you’re going say like David, “wow, God, I never dreamed that it would turn around this fast.”

some of the things that you could be discouraged by, bad break, disappointment, loss, looks like a dead end, like it’s going to hold you back; in reality, that setback is going to propel you into the next level of your destiny. if you will stay in faith, you will see some of these unexpected deliveries. God will cause doors to open on their own accord. He’ll make things happen that you could not make happen;  suddenly, unexpectedly, quicker than you thought. what you’ve been dreaming about, praying for, may look like it’s a long way off, but God has already put it en route. it’s already headed your way. you are close to your breakthrough, healing, promotion; it has your name on it. keep honoring God: it’s going to show up sooner than expected.

John 4:46-50 (NIV)

46 … there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death… 49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.”

Jesus didn’t pray, didn’t take any time, he just declared that healing was coming. this man could’ve been a little offended, thinking, “I came all this way, and he didn’t even take time to pray.” no, his attitude was, “if he says my son is going to live, if he says healing is on the way, then I believe healing is on the way.”

John 4:50-53 (NIV)

The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.”

53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” 

just like with this man, there are promises that God has spoken to you, things that He’s put in your heart that you know are going to happen: dreams, goals, divine connections, turnarounds. the moment God spoke it, He released it.  it’s already in your future; it’s just a matter of time before you walk into it.  when Jesus told this man, “your little boy will live,” the scripture says:

John 4:50 (NIV)

50 …The man took Jesus at his word and departed

walking back home, he could’ve thought, “I don’t think it’s going to happen, he didn’t even pray, I think I’m wasting my time”; that would’ve stopped the miracle. you have to do like this man; take God at His word. make a decision; you’re not going to go around worried, doubting, discouraged, thinking it’s never going to happen. no, stay in faith, knowing that what God promised you has already been released; it’s already en route, headed your way.

we see this principle with Daniel. one time in the scripture, he prayed, and an angel came, and said:

Daniel 10:12-13 (NIV)

12 …“Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days.

just like with Daniel, the moment you prayed, God released the healing, promotion, it’s already en route. now do your part, all through the day;  “Lord, thank you that it’s on the way. I know You’re a faithful God. I know You’ll hasten Your word to perform it.  I believe that it will happen even sooner than expected.”

2 Kings 6:24-25 (NIV)

24 Some time later, Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. 25 There was a great famine in the city

they were waiting for the Israelites to starve to death, and then they were going to go in and take their belongings.

2 Kings 7:1 (CEV)

1 Elisha answered, “I have a message for you. The Lord promises that tomorrow here in Samaria, you will be able to buy a large sack of flour or two large sacks of barley for almost nothing.”

God was saying, “things are about to turn around, and it’s going to happen faster than you think. overnight, in 24 hours, there’s going to be abundance.”

2 Kings 7:2 (NIV)

2 The officer on whose arm the king was leaning said to the man of God, “Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?”

instead of taking God at his word, like the first government official, he did just the opposite.

2 Kings 7:3-10 (NIV)

3 Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die?… let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.”

5 At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, no one was there, 6 for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!” 7 So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives 8 The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp, entered one of the tents and ate and drank… 10 So they went and called out to the city gatekeepers and told them, “We went into the Aramean camp and no one was there—not a sound of anyone—only tethered horses and donkeys, and the tents left just as they were.” 

just like God promised, there was so much food and supplies, you could buy them for almost nothing.  it happened suddenly. it happened overnight. 

it may look like your situation is going to take years to turn around; years to get well, years to get out of debt. no way in the natural. the good news; we serve a supernatural God. He’s saying, “it’s going to happen suddenly, unexpectedly, quicker than you thought.” God has ways to turn it around that you’ve never thought of. He specializes in unexpected deliveries. David never thought, sitting in his darkest hour, that he was only three days from the throne. these people never thought that in their greatest need, they were only one day from abundance. God did it for them; He can do it for you. you’re about to see some of those blessings that have already been en route.  like Daniel, the moment you prayed, God released it. you’re about to see the healing, promotion, breakthrough. do like this government official; take God at His word. keep thanking Him that the answer’s on the way. keep thanking Him for unexpected deliveries. if you’ll do this, God is going to hasten His word to perform it. like these people, you’re going to see some overnight turnarounds. like David, you’re going to see some 72 hour breakthroughs. get ready; it’s going to happen sooner than expected.

Acceleration

from JO’s sermon last night:

we all have dreams that we’re believing to accomplish, problems that we’re hoping will turn around, but many times, in the natural, it looks like it’s going to take years for this to happen:  years to get out of debt, overcome an illness, reach a goal. but God doesn’t always follow a natural timeline; He knows how to speed things up. I can sense in my spirit that this is going to be a year of acceleration; God is going to make things happen quicker than you thought. in your career, it should take you 20 years to get into management, 20 years to build that business up, but in this year of acceleration, God is going to give you breaks that propel you forward; He’s going to open up doors that thrust you years ahead. in your finances, it may look like it’s going to take years to get out of debt, pay your house off, but get ready, acceleration is coming your way. God knows how to open the windows of heaven; one good break can put you into overflow. perhaps the medical report says it’s going to take five years to get well, five years of chemo, treatment. that’s one timetable, but God has another timetable; He’s saying, “I’m going to speed up the process, accelerate your healing, promotion, dreams, coming to pass.” the scripture says:

Amos 9:13 (MSG)

13 … Things are going to happen so fast your head will swim, one thing fast on the heels of the other. 

you won’t be able to keep up. everything will be happening all at once; everywhere you look, blessings. this is going to be a year of what Amos prophesied; things are going to happen so fast, healing, promotion, breakthroughs, that our head will swim. the scripture talks about:

Romans 9:28 (MEV)

28 … the Lord will make a quick work upon the earth

and yes, I know, there are times we have to be patient, seasons of waiting, passing the test, being faithful, but there are also seasons where God will do a quick work, where He will accelerate, and do things so fast, so amazing, that our heads will swim.  I believe this year, you’re going to see some quick works, some unusual things, things that you’ve been dreaming about, looks like it’s going to take years, suddenly they’re going to fall into place. you’re going to look up, and say, “I didn’t see it happening that fast. I didn’t know I’d get well this quickly, the problem would turn around that suddenly.” God wants to do some things that make our heads swim. “this sounds good, but I don’t think it’s going to happen for me, my prayers never get answered, I never get any good breaks”; you’re right, it won’t happen, your negative attitude is canceling it out. negative thoughts, doubts, unbelief; that ties the hands of Almighty God. God works where there’s an attitude of faith, expectancy.  why don’t you take the limits off of God? dare to say, “God, I’m asking for You to do for me what You promised to the prophet Amos, and make my head swim, amaze me with Your goodness, God, accelerate Your blessings in my life.” the scripture, in another translation, says:

Amos 9:13 (NASB)

13  “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord,

“When the plowman will overtake the reaper

Amos 9:13 (NLT)

13 “The time will come,” says the Lord,

“when the grain and grapes will grow faster

    than they can be harvested.

this is saying, the time was coming when a man would be out plowing the field, sowing the seeds, but the harvest would come up so fast, the growth would be so sped up, that as soon as he sowed, the harvest would pop right up; the plowman couldn’t keep up with him. in those days, typically, the plowman would have to wait at least seven or eight months to see any kind of harvest, but Amos said, “the day is coming when it will happen simultaneously; as soon as you sow the seed, the harvest will begin to spring forth.” I believe we are living in the day that Amos talked about; you’re sowing the seed, doing the right thing, it should take months, maybe even years, but as you sow that seed, the harvest is already coming. blessings chasing you down, favor that you didn’t deserve.  it’s not going to be the usual process, like it’s been in the past; God is speeding things up. Amos said it’s going to happen simultaneously; as you bless others, blessings are going to pop up. as you sow the seed, the harvest will already be there. God is in the business of speeding things up. His timetable is not a natural timetable.  if you’ll dare believe, God will accelerate your harvest, healing, freedom. God is in the accelerating business.

one time, Jesus was at a wedding.  the ceremony was over, and they were all at this big reception afterwards:

John 2:3-10 (NIV)

3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”… 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine… he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

normally, making wine is a very lengthy process:  it starts of course by planting the seeds in the ground. the vines have to grow, and eventually produce grapes. when the grapes get mature enough, they pick them and make them into wine. the process from the time you plant the seed to the time you have wine is typically 3 or 4 years.  and that’s just average wine; better quality wine can take 5 to 7 years.  on top of that, to make it even more valuable, many times they’ll age the wine 20-30 years; that would be considered the best wine.  the first miracle Jesus ever performed, turning water into wine, was a miracle of acceleration; what should’ve been a 20-30 year process, God did in a moment of time.

you may think, “I could never get to where I’m supposed to be, I am so far behind”; no, God can take what should take you 20 years and get you there in an instant. maybe it should take you years to get well; but just as God sped up the process of making wine, He can speed up the process of you getting well. on paper, it may say that it’s going to take 30 years to get out of debt; the good news is, God knows how to turn your water into wine. He can take a 30-year process and do it in a fraction of the time. right now, God’s working behind-the-scenes in your life. you know what He’s doing? gathering the pots, filling up the water; the process has already been started.  suddenly, it’s going to change. suddenly, you’re going to find yourself where you couldn’t go on your own.

it may look like it’s going to take you years to get well, get out of debt, reach a goal, but don’t ever rule out the God of acceleration; He has healing, favor, breakthroughs that can propel you years ahead. you may be fighting a battle in your health; don’t believe those lies that it’s never going to get better. your attitude should be, “Father, I want to thank You that You are accelerating my healing, that I’ll get well quicker than I’ve been told, that I’ll defy the odds.”  The financial report may say, “you’ll never be able to afford a nice place to live, send your children to college.” instead of letting that defeat you, turn it around; “I know I serve the God of acceleration. it may look impossible, but Lord, I want to thank You that You’re turning my water into wine.”  yes, we have to be patient, wait for God’s timing, but it’s also important to believe for quick works, acceleration; that’s what it’s going to take to reach the fullness of your destiny. you’re going to need some times where God speeds things up, takes you where you could not go your own. in the scripture:

Ezekiel 37:1 (MEV)

37 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He carried me

that word “carried” in the original Greek means “to shoot forth”; 

(yes, it does, but it’s one of the minor translations, not one of the primary ones:

http://biblehub.com/hebrew/3318.htm

the point is still valid; Ezekiel would certainly have taken a long time to walk the distance that God carried him.)

it implies acceleration. as God carries you through life, it’s not always going to be routine, predictable, little by little; there are times when God is carrying you that He’s going to shoot you out, propel you years down the road. all of you can look back and see times where God shot you: He gave you a break that you didn’t deserve, opened a door that you could’ve never opened, turned a problem around when you didn’t see a way. now you’re healthy, happy, blessed, further along than you ever imagined. if somebody asks you, “how did you get here so quickly?” just tell them, “I got shot; God propelled, promoted, vindicated, freed me.”

this is what David did. He felt like he was falling behind, out in the shepherd’s fields, taking care of sheep; no one paid attention to him. he had big dreams, but he didn’t have any connections. His own father didn’t really believe in him.  but all those years out in the lonely shepherd’s fields, God was carrying him. one day, his time came; he went out and defeated Goliath, and overnight he became a national hero. he went from being an unknown shepherd boy to being an admired, respected leader. that should’ve taken him years, but God caused it to happen in a fraction of the time; just a few minutes of destiny, defeating that giant, propelled him years down the road. what was that? God shooting him out.

“I don’t think God’s ever going to shoot me out. I’ve had a lot of bad breaks, I’ve gone through a lot of disappointments in life.” think of it like this; when you have a bow and arrow, the more you pull the arrow back, the further it’s going to shoot. if you just pull it back a little ways, no pressure, no tension, it’s not going to go very far. the reason you’ve been pulled back, it’s not because God’s trying to punish you, not because there’s nothing good in your future; God has allowed you to be pulled back because He’s about to shoot you further than you can imagine. your destiny is much bigger than you realize. like David, you may feel like you’re falling behind because of disappointments, bad breaks, losses, setbacks; you don’t think you could ever get to where you’re supposed to be. when God shoots you out, it’s going to make up for lost time; the doors God’s going to open, the people you’re going to meet, the opportunities that are going to come across your path, are going to be bigger, better, more rewarding, than you ever thought possible.

when you’re being pulled back, don’t get negative, bitter, “God why is this happening?” turn it around; “God, I may not like it, I may be uncomfortable, these people aren’t treating me right, but God, I know it’s just a matter of time before You release me, and shoot me further than I ever dreamed.” when God is ready to shoot you, He doesn’t ask for your permission, check with the critics, get approval from your friends, family members, coworkers. He doesn’t look at your bank account, degrees, confidence, connections. when it’s your time, God simply propels you into your destiny. no person can stop you, no bad break, no organization; God has the final say. He breathed His life into you. He’s planned out your days.  He’s already lined up these times of acceleration, where your water will be turned into wine, where you’ll sow and reap simultaneously.

you may feel like you’re being pulled back right now; tension, doesn’t seem like you can get ahead.  know this; you’re being pulled back for one reason, so God can shoot you further. you need to get ready; this is a year where God is going to launch you forward. you’re going to see acceleration; it’s going to happen faster, be so amazing, like Amos prophesied, that your head’s going to swim. you’re gonna think, “I didn’t see this coming. I never dreamed I’d be this blessed, happy, health, fulfilled.”  that’s the God of acceleration taking you where you could not go on your own.

in the Old Testament, there’d been a drought in the land for 3.5 years. the prophet Elijah went on top of a mountain and began to pray for rain:

1 Kings 18:43-45 (NLT)

43 Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.”

The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.”

Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. 44 Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.”

Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’”

45 And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel.

the scripture says:

1 Kings 18:46 (AMP)

46 Then the hand of the Lord came upon Elijah [giving him supernatural strength]. He [a]girded up his loins and outran Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel [nearly twenty miles].

God gave him supernatural ability, caused him to go faster than he should’ve been able to. the average horse can sprint 35 miles an hour, and the average person 15 mph; how could Elijah possibly outrun a horse, a chariot? that doesn’t seem like it makes sense.  here’s how; God shot him out. 

in this year of acceleration, God is going to speed you up, shoot you into promotion, influence, new opportunities. like Elijah, you’re going to discover abilities that you didn’t even know were in you. 

the more accelerant you put on a fire, the faster it’s going to burn. in the same way, faith is the accelerant; thanking God that the answer’s on the way, living with expectancy, meditating on His promises, that’s putting accelerant on what you’re believing for. when we go around negative, discouraged, “this is never going to happen, I’ll never get well,” that’s like putting water on your fire; it’s going to keep it from spreading. why don’t you start putting accelerant on your dreams? “Father, thank You that You’re opening doors that no man can shut, turning my water into wine.” put accelerant on your healing;  “Father, thank You that You are restoring health back unto me, that the number of my days You will fulfill.” put some accelerant on your finances; all through the year, “Father, thank You that whatever I touch will prosper and succeed, that I’m the head and not the tail.” put a whole lot on; all through the day, keep thanking God that it’s coming, living with expectancy, speaking words of faith and victory.

friends, this is the year God is speeding things up. you’ve entered into a time of acceleration, like Amos prophesied, where you’ll sow and reap simultaneously. like Ezekiel said, where God is going to shoot you out.  you may have been pulled back, you feel stuck, you’ve had some disappointments; you better get ready, this is a new day. God’s about to shoot you further than you can imagine. keep putting that accelerant on. if you’ll do this, God is going to accelerate your dreams coming to pass, healing, promotion.

Joy… and comfort

(No new sermon this week.)

I know, it’s normally the other way around, but not for me.  For me, 2015 was the year of joy…  and 2016 will be the year of comfort.

At first glance, comfort doesn’t seem to be as good of a thing as joy, but trust me, when your life has been lacking in comfort for a long time, finally getting that comfort looks like paradise.  

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about comfort in the sense of having a decent place to live and enough money to provide for my needs, I mean a combination of 2 things:

Emotional comfort, the feeling of warmth, safety, and security from having people that I’ve loved and trusted for a long time as a daily part of my life, showing interest in my doings, sharing my emotional experiences, cushioning the lows and celebrating the highs, providing assistance and support when necessary, giving me the certainty that whatever comes up will be handled, and providing a connection to my past and my future.

Mental comfort, the peace of mind and relaxation that come from not having any significant problems or unhandled issues that need my time, attention or energy, especially those that create stress or other negative emotional states, so that I can fully enjoy the good things in life without interruption or distraction, and live life in general feeling contented and even happy.  

As I think is the case for most people, the primary source of my comfort had been my local “long-term loved ones.” Sadly, it is these people whose departures devastated my life for YEARS. I can only imagine that the year of comfort means that these people will start returning soon.

So, how do I know that 2016 will be the year of comfort? I periodically get asked how you can tell when something is a sign from God, and my answer to this question will provide a great example:

On New Year’s Day, I was watching a Twilight Zone marathon.  The FIRST episode I saw after I got up that day was the one where the female interest in the story is called Comfort. I was thinking about how unusual that was, you hear of faith, hope and joy used as names, but not COMFORT, and thinking further that if I were a man, I would consider Comfort to be a good-luck name, a name that would cause me to seek that woman out in the half-magical belief that she might be influenced by her name to be a real and constant source of comfort, and wouldn’t that be great. I had never thought this any of the other many times I have seen this episode.  God found a way to bring the concept of comfort into my mind right off the bat, and as something highly desirable, from the moment my day began in this new year!!

And then, on the evening of 1-1, I got a new subscriber, the first one of 2016, and part of this person’s email address was… COMFORT!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(If you’re that person, I’d love to hear the story behind your email address, and/or what brought you here.)

I got that head-swimmy feeling that often accompanies the realization that God is communicating with me.  I wondered if this meant that comfort was my word for 2016 (as opposed to just meaning that SOME comfort was coming my way, which would still be awesome, but not on the same level as it being the theme for the entire year).  

Making the obvious connection of comfort with joy, I looked up “comfort and joy” on 1-2, and found:

Psalm 94:19 (NIRV) 

I was very worried. But your comfort brought joy to my heart.

Then, on 1-3, goTandem sent me this verse:

2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 

Pretty nice timing!!  I looked for another verse, and found:

Philippians 2:1 (GNT)

1 Your life in Christ makes you strong, and His love comforts you. 

I already had enough to constitute a solid sign, but there’s more: On 1-21, I wanted a verse to send to a friend, and found this one:

2 Corinthians 1:3 (NIV)

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort

As soon as I sent it, I got email notification of a new comment, which said:  I am encouraged and comforted by your message.

And here’s the big payoff, still on 1-21:

I went to bed, and then had a dream, in which God spoke to me from overhead in the sky, and said what I realized was a scripture verse…  this one:

Isaiah 51:12 (NLT)

12  I, yes I, am the one who comforts you

I had NEVER had a dream before in which God spoke to me!!  He had previously appeared in dreams as a feeling, or by taking an action that I had asked Him for, and once in a display of what looked like fireworks made of molten gold, and another time I felt His hand pick me up and carry me, but never before did He speak to me in words, much less SCRIPTURE.

So… Comfort it is!! All I can imagine at this point is that God will be bringing back at least some of the people whose reinstatement in my life would bring me comfort.  Of course, my wildest dreams of how God could bring me joy would not have come close to what He did in my life last year, so He might do something wildly different and unexpected instead… or of course BOTH.  

If you maintain unwavering faith, center your life around God, and live your life as a wo/man of God, He will bring you extraordinary blessings, including signs of good things to come.  I’ve discovered from people at my church that it’s not uncommon for God to give words or phrases to alert us in advance of what is coming in a new year, a new venture, etc; I’m thrilled and deeply moved to have received this sort of message myself. Now more than ever, I live each moment in anticipation of explosive blessings, unprecedented favor.

Drop it

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all have had negative things happen to us: people did us wrong, the company laid us off, a clerk was rude to us. it’s easy to go through life offended, in self-pity, blaming others, blaming ourselves, even blaming God. and because we’re always looking back, reliving the negative, we end up carrying around all this baggage that weighs us down; one of the best things we can learn to do is drop it, let it go. whether it happened 20 years ago or 20 minutes ago, don’t carry negative baggage from yesterday into today. you won’t live a victorious life if you’re always reliving what didn’t work out, who hurt you, the mistakes you’ve made. the reason it’s called “the past” is because it’s over, it’s done, it’s history; now do your part, and let it go. “they betrayed me, they walked away, broke my heart, that’s why I’m bitter, upset.” they hurt you once; don’t let them continue to hurt you by always thinking about it. as long as you’re dwelling on that, it’s going to keep you from the new things God wants to do.

God said He would give you beauty for those ashes, pay you back for that injustice, but you have to drop the hurt; quit dwelling on it, reliving it, and move forward. there is a new beginning in front of you, but God will not release new opportunities as long we’re holding onto old hurts, failures. you may have a lot of negative things in your past: you had a rough childhood, lost a loved one, your business didn’t make it. you could easily go around with a chip on your shoulder, not trusting anybody, bitter, resentful, but everything you’ve gone through has deposited something on the inside; you’re not defined by your past, you’re prepared by your past. you may not realize it, but you came out stronger, with more confidence, greater experience; if that hadn’t have happened, you wouldn’t be prepared for the new levels that are coming your way.

don’t have that “poor old me, look what I’ve been through” attitude. I’ve heard it said; you can be pitiful, or you can be powerful, but you cannot be both. you may have made a lot of mistakes, you have a lot of regrets: you blew your marriage, didn’t raise your children right. but you can’t do anything about yesterday; living guilty and condemned doesn’t make it any better.  you have to drop it; if you’ll get rid of that negative baggage, you’ll not only feel that heaviness release off of you, but then you’ll step into the new things that God has in store. the scripture says:

2 Corinthians 3:17 (NIV)

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

not where the Spirit of the Lord WAS. if you’re always thinking about yesterday, last month, last year, there’s no freedom there; that’s where the Spirit of the Lord was. this is a new day; there are new victories, opportunities, relationships. quit living in what was and come over into what is. right now there is freedom for you, new beginnings, joy, peace, victory. crying over what happened yesterday doesn’t bring freedom. living in regrets of what you could’ve been, what you should’ve done, doesn’t do anything productive. being offended, angry, upset over what didn’t work out will only keep you in mediocrity. it’s time to drop it and move forward. you may be a product of your past, but you don’t have to be a prisoner of your past.

nothing that’s happened to you is a surprise to God; before He laid out the plan for your life, He already knew every person who would hurt you, every mistake you would make, every loss you would go through. the good news is, for every setback, God has already arranged a comeback. for every disappointment, a new beginning. for every failure, restoration. for all the ashes, He has beauty. you have to put your foot down, and say, “that’s it! I may have gone through some disappointments, made some mistakes, but I’m not going to waste the time I have left worried about what I could’ve done better, bitter over who hurt me, upset over what didn’t work out; I’m stepping out of the was, and I’m coming over into the is. I’m dropping the offense, guilt, failure, hurt. I’m not living my life with any more baggage; I’m going to live my life free.” 

here’s the key; if somebody hurt you, if you’ll give it to God, He’ll be your vindicator. or if you’ve made mistakes, and we all have, quit beating yourself up, and receive God’s mercy; it’s new every morning. if there’re some things you don’t understand, you worked hard but you didn’t get the promotion, you did your best, but your marriage didn’t make it, instead of carrying around that baggage, you have to be mature enough to say, “God, I don’t understand it, but I trust You. I’m not going to live bitter, go through life looking in my rearview mirror; I’m going to keep moving forward, knowing that my best days are still up ahead.”

Ecclesiastes 7:8 (AMPC)

8 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning 

you may have had a rough start, but you don’t have to have a rough finish; better is the end. maybe you went through a disappointment, somebody broke your heart, the medical report wasn’t good; don’t get stuck on what happened yesterday. God is saying; something better is coming. there may be some rough places in the middle, but don’t stay focused on the betrayal; better is coming. the loan didn’t go through, don’t go around in self-pity; better is coming. you prayed, believed, but the medical report wasn’t good. that’s one report, but God has another report;  He says something better is coming. now don’t cancel out the better by living in yesterday, reliving your hurts, your failures, the disappointments. if your mind is always in yesterday, you’re going to move in that direction; you can’t go forward looking backwards. if you’re always thinking about who hurt you, what didn’t work out, reliving your failures, calling people, telling them how bad the medical report is, you’re going to get stuck. receive this into your spirit; better is coming. joy, healing, breakthroughs, victory is coming. Paul said it this way:

Philippians 3:13 (TLB)

13 … I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead

Philippians 3:13 (NASB)

13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead

here’s a man who wrote almost half of the New Testament; he could’ve said, “I focus all of my energies on being a better writer, developing my leadership skills, impacting the culture in a greater way.” he said, in effect, “what’s more important than all of that is forgetting what lies behind.” he knew, if we went through life carrying negative baggage, we would miss our destiny. Paul had a lot of adversities: he was falsely accused and put in prison, he was beaten with these rods, shipwrecked, gone without food and shelter, on and on. if he had not learned this principle, he would have become bitter, angry, “God, why is this happening to me? it’s not fair.” no, he was saying, “I’m not all I should be, but one thing I have down, one thing I’m good at; I know how to let go of the past.” he was an expert at dropping it.

sometimes, we spend more energy holding onto the negative than we do letting it go. what if we were to do like Paul, and start focusing our energies on moving forward, dropping the offense, guilt, hurt?  how do you drop it? stop thinking about it, and stop talking about it; don’t relive the negative things that have happened to you. the reason some people never see the better is because they’re always opening up old wounds. every week, they call their friend; “can you believe what they did to me?” that happened 27 years ago; they’re still dragging it up like it happened yesterday. if you’re going to get free, you need to not only drop it, you need to bury it, have a funeral for it, put it away once and for all. make a decision; you’re not going to talk about it another time. when you’re tempted to, just zip it up. that betrayal, failure, disappointment, is dead; you buried it, you had a funeral, it’s over, it’s done, it’s in the past.

if you go dig it up, it’s going to stink; it’s not only going to make your life sour, but nobody is going to want to be around you. when you carry around stinky stuff, you may not realize it, but that makes you unpleasant. when you’re bitter, you push people away. when you’re offended, angry, living guilty, it pushes opportunities away. you have to get the stink out of your life, leave the baggage behind.  sometimes, when we stink, we don’t know it. when we carry around bitterness, unforgiveness, guilty, angry at our neighbor, you may not realize it, but that’s stinking up your life, pushing people and opportunities away. why don’t you get the stinky stuff out? there’s an amazing future in front of you: beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, dancing for happiness, but you’ve got to move forward.

maybe you need to bury a mistake that you’ve made. you’ve lived guilty, condemned, down on yourself long enough; have a funeral for it, and put it behind you. no more talking about it, letting the accuser convince you that you’re just a failure, you don’t deserve to be blessed, you’re unworthy; those lies will stink up your life. don’t let the defeat play in your mind. when the failure, mistake, guilt, disappointment, comes back up on the movie screen in your mind, do yourself a favor; change the channel. have the attitude, “I’m not going backwards, living in regrets, rehearsing my failures; I’m moving forward. I may have made some mistakes, but I’ve got a promise; better is the end.” if you’ll get your mind going forward, your life will go forward.

how much time and energy are you giving to the negative things of your past: hurts, wounds, failures, disappointments? you only have so much emotional energy each day; when you’re spending that energy on negative things, calling a friend, talking about how bad somebody treated you, reliving your failures, down on yourself, that’s energy you should be using to move forward. you have to come out of what was and come into what is. don’t say another word about that breakup, that disappointment you went through. don’t tell another person about the mistake you made, that’s over and done; you buried it, you had a funeral, now don’t talk about it anymore. you can’t have your mind in yesterday and expect to go forward.

the truth is, every person has baggage, we all have things that could cause us to be bitter, live with a heaviness. the difference between the people who are positive, happy, expecting good things, and people that are bitter, discouraged, negative, is that second group, they hold on to all the baggage; the first group have learned this principle, to drop it, to let it go.

in Mark Chapter 11, Jesus was talking about what we should do when somebody does us wrong: 

Mark 11:25 (AMPC)

25 …  forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go)

notice the principle; drop it, leave it, and let it go. maybe somebody’s talking about you, trying to make you look bad; you could easily be upset, offended, try to pay them back. why don’t you try different approach; drop it, leave it, and let it go. God will fight your battles. “they betrayed me, they walked away”; don’t waste another minute being bitter. drop it, leave it, let it go. you took a step of faith, but it didn’t work out; the business didn’t make it. you could easily be sour, no, 3 simple things: drop it, leave it, let it go. the reason it says “leave it” is because you’ll be tempted to go pick it back up. you may drop it at first, and that’s good, that’s the right thing, but tomorrow morning, when you think about what they said, how rude they were, you’ll want to pick up the hurt, the bitterness. I know people that have been picking up the same offense for 47 years; it’s no longer a bag, it’s attached to them, it’s a part of who they are. you have to leave it.

it may not have been fair, but God saw what happened; He is a God of justice, He’s promised that He will make your wrongs right. when you leave it, that doesn’t mean you’re weak, giving up, don’t care what they did to you; no, you’re saying, “God, I trust You to be my vindicator, open the right doors, get me to where I’m supposed to be.” maybe at 10 o’clock in the morning, a coworker is rude to you; you drop, it leave it, and let it go. but when you see them at noon again, you’re going to be tempted to pick it back up; just say, “no thanks, I’m leaving that offense where I dropped it. I’m not carrying any negative baggage.” so many people are just the opposite; somebody cuts them off in traffic at 8 in the morning, at noon they’re still upset. instead of dropping it and leaving it, they keep picking it back up again and again, put it in their bag, take it wherever they go. life is too short to carry around negative baggage. your destiny is too important, your time is too valuable, to go through the day weighted down by offense, guilt, disappointments, hurts. you have to make this decision to not only drop it, but to leave it; don’t give in to the temptation to pick it back up.

there was a man in the scripture by the name of Ahithophel; he was one of King David’s right-hand men. for over 25 years, he served as an advisor and close counselor to David. but when David’s son Absalom made an attempt to take the throne:

2 Samuel 15:31 (NIV)

31 Now David had been told, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.”

he started advising Absalom, telling him what he should do to overthrow his father. this revolt wasn’t successful; eventually, Absalom was killed. the scripture says:

2 Samuel 17:23 (NIV)

23 … He put his house in order and then hanged himself.

but why would a trusted adviser of King David for so many years suddenly turn on him? Ahithophel was the grandfather of a lady called Bathsheba:

2 Samuel 23:34 (NIV)

34 … Eliam son of Ahithophel the Gilonite

2 Samuel 11:3 (NIV)

3 … Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam

she was the woman that David had an affair with, and had her husband Uriah killed, then David took her as his wife. could it be that Ahithophel turned on David so quickly because he never got over what David did to Bathsheba and Uriah? instead of forgiving David, dropping it, leaving it, letting it go, all those years, that poison was simmering on the inside.  on the outside, he looked fine, everything looked like it’s ok, he was advising King David, but on the inside, something wasn’t right;  tragically, he ended up taking his own life. and of course, what David did was wrong;  Ahithophel, in the natural at least, had a reason to be bitter, angry, upset. but when you carry around negative baggage year after year, you’re not harming the other person, it’s contaminating your own life: you won’t have the creativity, the blessing, the favor that you should.

like with Ahithophel, what they did to you may have been wrong, it may not be easy, but for your sake, not theirs, you need to drop it, leave it, let it go. when you do, God will heal your hurts, restore your broken places, pay you back for the injustice.  but when you hold onto bitterness, unforgiveness, guilt, actually, you’re not holding it, but it’s holding you. that poison will lead you down the wrong path. Ahithophel had everything going for him:  a successful career, working for the king, respected. but because he wouldn’t deal with his negative baggage, he missed his destiny, it cost him his life. don’t let that be you. don’t play games with negative baggage: bitterness, unforgiveness, guilt. drop it, and let it go.  “I don’t understand why this happened to me; why did these people do me wrong, why did I come down with this illness?” people ask me, “why did your mother get healed and my mother didn’t?” we’re never going to understand everything; don’t get caught up in the whys of life. the scripture says:

 1 Corinthians 13:12 (MEV)

12 For now we see as through a glass, dimly, but then, face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know, even as I also am known.

1 Corinthians 13:12 (HCSB)

12 For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.

one day it will be clear, but if you’re always trying to figure out why everything happens, you’re going to end up bitter, frustrated. the best thing you can do is just leave it alone. if God wants you to understand why, He’s God, He’ll tell you why. but if He’s not revealing that to you, you need to be smart enough to let it go; some things God doesn’t want us to know. the scripture says:

Proverbs 25:2 (NLT)

2 It is God’s privilege to conceal things

if you’re going to trust God, you have to accept that there’re going to be unanswered questions. we have to be big enough to say, “God, I don’t understand why this happened, but I’m ok with not understanding why; I don’t have to have all the answers. you’re God, and I’m not; I trust that Your plans for me are for good, that You know what you’re doing.” maybe you’ve gone through some things that don’t make sense; it’s bothering you, causing you to be bitter, discouraged, upset.  quit trying to figure it all out, and go back to what you do know: God has you in the palm of His hand, God wouldn’t have allowed it if somehow, some way, He wasn’t going bring good out of it. the truth is, everything is not going to fit perfectly into our theology; we all need to have a file in our thinking called an “I don’t understand it” file. when something comes up that doesn’t make sense, you can’t find an answer to, instead of getting bitter, frustrated, just put it in your “I don’t understand it” file, and keep moving forward. if you make the mistake of going through life trying to figure out why everything happened, “why did I get sick, why did my loved one not make it?” that’s going to poison your future.

sometimes, it’s better to leave things alone. if you’re always probing around your hurts, wounds, failures, because you’re keeping it so stirred up, you’re never going to get well. you have to turn it over to God;  “God, I don’t understand it, but I’m not going to keep probing all around. God, I trust You; my life is in Your hands.” I’m asking you to quit looking back.  God wants to do something new, but you have to let go of the old. don’t be like Ahithophel and hold on to things that are going to poison your future.  do like the apostle Paul; focus your energies on forgetting what lies behind. is there something you need to drop, an offense, hurt, failure? there’s no better time than now. today can be a turning point.  make this decision with me; you’re going to get rid of your negative baggage. you’re not only going to drop it, but you’re going to leave it. if you’ll do this, God is going to give you beauty for ashes.  He’s going to heal your hurt. like Ecclesiastes says, something better is coming: joy, favor, the fullness of your destiny.

Use it or lose it

from JO’s sermon tonight:

God has placed gifts and talents on the inside of each one of us. there is potential in you that you’ve not yet tapped into; it wasn’t designed to come out all at once. you don’t become everything you were created to be overnight. these gifts were put in you on a time release; they are destined to open up at certain points throughout your life.  you will come into seasons of new growth, new opportunity, seasons where you discover talent and ability that you didn’t know you had. we weren’t created to reach one level and get stuck: you might have finished your education, but you haven’t finished learning. you might have that position you’ve always dreamed of, you’re satisfied, but that’s not your final step; God is not satisfied. He’s put more in you;  He has new talents, new abilities, even new levels.

but too often, we have gifts lying dormant because we’re not taking time to develop them, we’re not being disciplined to study, grow, become better. we have talent that’s being underutilized because we’re comfortable;  we don’t want to have to stretch and do something out of our routine. we think, “I’m doing good enough,” but good enough is not your destiny. sometimes, we’re stuck because we’re intimidated; we let thoughts of fear and doubt talk us out of it. things like, “you can’t take that management position, write that book, you can’t lead that class, you’re not qualified, you come from the wrong family.” all the what-if thoughts come; what if you try and fail?  what if it doesn’t work out? what if you get up there and you’re embarrassed?

well, what if you get up there and you succeed? what if you go to go to a new level, set a new standard for your family? don’t let fear keep you from your destiny. that is a time-release gift trying to come out.  don’t miss your season. you look up, and another year is gone. life is flying by. you don’t have time to waste being unfocused, intimidated, letting opportunities pass you by. we have to draw that line in the sand, and say, “that’s it; I’m going to get focused, be intentional. I’m not going to play it safe my whole life; I’m going to start stretching, taking steps of faith, to release these gifts that God has put in me.  Paul said:

Romans 12:6 (TLB)

6 God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well

you have a gift, there’s something you’re good at; find out what it is, and do it well. maybe you can sing, and you’ve never had a lesson.  or, you can figure out how things work technically, nobody had to teach you. or, you can stand up in front of people, lead that class, you don’t even think twice about it, it’s just who you are. those are gifts that God has invested in you. here’s the key; God is expecting a return on His investment. do you have gifts that are being underutilized? you’re not taking time to develop them, you’re too busy to put forth the extra effort to stretch, to learn, to become better. or, perhaps you can feel that stirring on the inside, you can feel that desire in your spirit, you know you should, but you keep talking yourself out of it, letting it intimidate you. Jesus said:

 Matthew 25:29 (TLB)

29 For the man who uses well what he is given shall be given more, and he shall have abundance. But from the man who is unfaithful, even what little responsibility he has shall be taken from him

if you don’t use well what you’ve been given, if you’re not taking time to develop your talents, to maximize your potential, then it can be taken away. but when you use well, you’re responsible, focused, passionate; you study, grow, get better. because you’re using well, even more will be given to you. this scripture came from the parable that Jesus told about the talents (a talent back in those days was about $1000):

Matthew 25:14-25 (ESV)

The Parable of the Talents

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

this owner, who represents God, could’ve said, “I understand, you played it safe, at least you didn’t lose when I gave you,” but instead:

Matthew 25:26-28 (NIV)

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.

you would think, since God is so loving, merciful, He would’ve said, “look at this poor guy, he only has one talent, he’s afraid, insecure. go get a few talents from that man that has 10, and give them to him.”  it was just the opposite. God was showing us this principle; if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. if you’re always making excuses, waiting for the perfect time to take a step of faith, “one day I’ll get out of my comfort zone, step up and teach that class, hone my skills,” your one day may never come. friends, today is your day. don’t put it off another year. don’t live life in neutral, not passionate, not intentional, not focused. stir up what God has given you. dare to take those steps of faith, develop those talents. God is expecting a return for what He’s invested in you.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want anyone else getting what should’ve been mine. I’m not greedy, I love to give, but I don’t want God to have to say, “you’re not using that talent, gift, you’re not staying passionate, not taking steps to move forward, so I’m going to take what should have been yours and give it to someone that’s being a good steward over what I’ve given them.”  no, make this decision with me: you’re going to stretch, grow, pray bold prayers, dream big dreams. you’re not going to live intimidated, letting thoughts of defeat talk you out if it; “you can’t do it, you don’t have what it takes.  this is as good as it gets.”  no, let that go in one ear and out the other. keep using what you have, and God will give you more. I want to light a new fire under us today, because we’re not always going to be here. the scripture says:

James 4:14 (GW)

14 … What is life? You are a mist that is seen for a moment and then disappears.

when you’re tempted to be indifferent, to not pursue what you know is in you, you have to remind yourself of this principle;  “if I don’t use it, I’m going to lose it. if I’m not giving God a return on His investment, if I’m not being a good steward, then He’s going to take what should have been mine and give it to someone else.”  this is not so that you will live pressured, but so that you will live passionate, stir up gifts that are being underutilized, take steps of faith to become all you were created to be.  here’s the key: it’s not important how many talents you have; what’s important is, are you using what you have. I may have 4, she has 9, he has 3;  God has given to every person different talents, amounts. He’s not going to judge us by, did you go as far as your neighbor, were you as smart as your co-worker, were you as talented as your cousin? none of that matters to God.

He didn’t say to the man who brought Him 2 extra talents, “I’m disappointed in you.  why didn’t you bring me 5 like the first man?” no, He told him, “well done,” just like He told the 1st man. don’t compare your talents with somebody else. you may have received 3, and they received 6; that’s not up to you to decide. you don’t have to keep up with them, just run your race, be the best you can be with what God’s given you. if you’ll be faithful with the 3, God will increase you. but when we compare our talents to somebody else, we’ll end up competing with them, trying to out-perform them, out-dress them, out-drive them, out-build them, competing in a race we were never designed to be in.  when we compare, we end up discouraged, because there’s always somebody more beautiful, talented, successful.

take the talent that you have, and hone that skill, develop it, grow, learn, study, and God will give you more.  you don’t have to have a great gift for God to use you in a great way.  if you’ll be faithful with what God has given you, He’ll entrust you with more.  are you using well what you have, or are you comparing what you have? being discouraged, competing with someone that’s not even in your race?  are you hiding your gifts, burying your talents, too busy to invest in what God’s given you? developing your gifts is not an option; if you don’t use it you can lose it.

we see this principle in the book of Genesis.  Isaac said to his son Esau:

Genesis 27:35 (TLB)

35 Isaac: “Your brother was here and tricked me and has carried away your blessing.”

that doesn’t seem fair; surely God wouldn’t let someone take his blessing. but there’s a reason:  Esau was the firstborn son. his twin brother Jacob was born right after him:

Genesis 25:26 (NIV)

26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob

he was trying to get ahead from the very beginning. Jacob made a lot of mistakes:  he didn’t have integrity, he cheated people. but despite all these weaknesses, he had a boldness to become who he was created to be.  one time, he even wrestled with an angel  he told the angel:

Genesis 32:26-29 (NIV)

26 … Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” … 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” … Then he blessed him there.

he went about it the wrong way, especially at first, but he was passionate about fulfilling his destiny. on the other hand, his brother Esau was just the opposite;  Esau knew he had the blessing that came from being the firstborn son. he knew he would get double the inheritance from their father. back in those days that birthright was extremely valuable.  One day:

Genesis 25:29-31 (NIV)

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” … 31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

it was a ridiculous offer. today, it’d be like saying, “I’ll give you my house and my car for one meal.” he shouldn’t have even entertained it. but Esau was so indifferent about what he had, so nonchalant, he thought:

Genesis 25:32 (VOICE)

Esau: 32 Look! I am about to die of starvation! What good is my birthright to me if I am dead?

he traded something extremely valuable for a pot of stew.  God could have stopped him;  He controls the universe, He didn’t have to let Esau’s brother carry away his blessing. why did it happen?  when God sees someone that has the blessing and doesn’t value it, they’re not passionate about what God has given them, they take it for granted, “this birthright, no big deal, these gifts, talents, I’ll develop them later,” if we’re nonchalant, like Esau, not disciplined, not focused, then someone can carry away our blessing. God is saying, “I’d rather have someone like Jacob that makes mistakes, has weaknesses, but at least they’re passionate about serving Me, they recognize their gifts, they’ll go wrestle with an angel if they have to to become who I’ve created them to be. I’d rather have someone like that than someone like Esau, that has the blessing and doesn’t value it.”  what did Esau do that was so bad?  Kill someone, lie, cheat, steal? What made God so displeased was that he had the blessing and didn’t value it;  he wasn’t focused, disciplined, passionate. that’s why the apostle Paul told Timothy:

2 Timothy 1:6 (NLT)

6 This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.

2 Timothy 1:6 (NKJV)

6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

don’t be an Esau. don’t let someone carry away your blessing.  if you don’t value and use it, it can be taken away. “I’ve missed a lot of opportunities, made a lot of mistakes, I guess it’s too late for me.”  no, just the fact that you’re here today, listening, is a sign that you have a heart after God. what’s happened in the past is not important; what’s important is right now. you can do like Timothy, and start stirring up your gifts, start using well what God has given you. if you do this, you don’t have to worry; nobody can carry away your blessing. God has a hedge around you and your future that cannot be penetrated without His permission. the only reason Esau lost his blessing is because God pulled back that hedge. He said, “alright, Esau, you’re not going to use it, so I’m going to give it to somebody that will use well what I’ve given them.” 

when the prophet Samuel came to Jesse’s house to anoint one of his sons as the next king, Jesse didn’t even bring his youngest son, David, into the house.  when David eventually came in:

1 Samuel 16:13 (CEV)

13 Samuel poured the oil on David’s head while his brothers watched

you don’t have to live worried, thinking, “I’m falling behind, other people are getting my blessing, I’ll never get the break I need.”  no, as long as you keep honoring God, stirring up your gifts, developing your talents, the oil that belongs to you will not flow to anybody else; God will get you to where you’re supposed to be. 

when David was out in those shepherd’s fields as a young man, it was lonely; his father didn’t believe in him, he had big dreams, but all he did, day in and day out, was take care of sheep.  instead of sitting around, complaining, he would get his slingshot out and sling rocks. he became an expert. compared to his dream, it was a small talent, no big deal, but because he developed the small, one day that small talent led him to defeat a big giant; that took him to the throne of Israel. what if he’d been out in the shepherd’s fields saying, “God, it’s boring out here. how come I didn’t get a big gift, God? I don’t want to mess with this slingshot, I want to lead an army.”  if he would’ve been indifferent like Esau, not valued what God had given him, that oil could’ve flowed to somebody else. this is where many people miss it; you have to be productive right where you are. whatever God’s given you, even if it’s small, develop that gift. God invests the most in people who are productive; if you’ll show God increase, God will increase you more. 

when the Israelites were in slavery, God said to Moses:

Exodus 3:10 (NIV)

10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

Exodus 4:10 (VOICE)

Moses: 10 Please, Lord, I am not a talented speaker. I have never been good with words. I wasn’t when I was younger and I haven’t gotten any better since You revealed Yourself to me. I stutter and stammer. My words get all twisted.

he was saying, “God, I didn’t get a big gift, I just got one talent.” the scripture says:

Exodus 4:14 (NLT)

14 Then the Lord became angry with Moses

He wasn’t angry because he stuttered, had flaws, He was angry because he didn’t see his gift as being enough. he was like the man with the one talent, hiding it, afraid, thinking he didn’t have what it takes. God is not displeased with us because we still have weaknesses, shortcomings, He’s displeased when we’re not using what He’s given us, when we’re making excuses, discounting our gifts. God wouldn’t have asked you to do it if He hadn’t already given you exactly what you need. quit discounting yourself: “if I had his talents, if I had her looks, if I had their gifts, then I could do something great.” no, take the talent that you have, whether it’s 5, 2, or 1, and make the most of that. if you’ll use what God’s given you, He’ll give you more. God said:

Exodus 4:11 (NIV)

11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 

he was saying, “Moses I created the universe.  I flung stars into space. I spoke worlds into existence. I know what I’m doing. you didn’t get shortchanged.  you’re not lacking; I’ve given you exactly what you need.”  

Exodus 4:13 (NIV)

13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

Exodus 4:2-3 (NIV)

2 Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

“A staff,” he replied.

3 The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”

Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake…

Moses, this mighty man of faith, the one who eventually parted the Red Sea (with a little help from God), delivered the Israelites from slavery, when he saw that snake:

Exodus 4:3 (NIV)

3 … it became a snake, and he ran from it.

sometimes, we see these heroes of faith in the scripture as being superhuman. it’s good to know that they were just like us; he was talking with God, saw a snake, and took off running.  God told him to do something interesting:

Exodus 4:4 (NIV)

4 Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand.

sometimes, God will ask us to do things that we’re afraid of. but just because you feel fear, doesn’t mean you’re not supposed to do it. if you have all the confidence, courage, strength, to do it on your own, it doesn’t take any faith.  faith says, “God, I’m afraid, I don’t know if this new business I’m starting is going to make it, but God, I believe you put it in my heart, so I’m going to take a step of faith, knowing that You’re with me every step of the way, and that You will get me to where I’m supposed to be.” you have to get out of your comfort zone, and do it afraid.  if you play it safe your whole life, you’ll never reach your full potential. Jesus gave an illustration:

Luke 13:6-9 (NIV)

6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

the owner of the tree represents the justice of God. He was saying, “this tree should be further along for its age; at 3 years old, it should be producing fruit.” Justice says, “cut it down, it’s taking up valuable space. something could be put there that would make better use of the soil, nutrients, sunshine.” the gardener represents the mercy of God.  He said, “Sir, give it one more chance. yes, it’s barren, but I still believe that it can produce fruit. I still see some potential in it.  it’s not as far along as it should be, but I know it can catch up.  leave it for one more year.”  if God came to take a look at your fig tree, when He looks at your life, will He see any fruit? are you producing any figs, developing what He’s given you, or would that tree be barren? “you said, ‘use it or you’ll lose it.’ I can tell you, I’ve lost it, I’ve made mistakes, it’s too late for me.” Justice says, “you’re right, you should be further along; too bad, you’re done.” the good news is, the God of mercy says, “I’m going to give you another chance, work with you another year. I’m going to give you special attention… the grace, favor, wisdom, strength, breakthroughs, to step up to become who you were created to be.”

my challenge is: do your part, and get focused. be intentional. don’t waste another moment making excuses. don’t be like Esau, and not value what God has given you, live indifferent, nonchalant. no, stir up those gifts, be passionate about your dreams, dare to take some steps of faith, getting out of your comfort zone. if you will use well what God has given you, God is about to increase you with more. you’re about to step up to a new level. you’re going to see new gifts, new talents, new opportunities, the fullness of your destiny.

Farewell to 2015

2015 was the best year of my entire life, by such a gargantuan margin that I couldn’t fully explain it to you without sounding like I was being melodramatic or ridiculous.  The basics are:  After a 4-year nightmare consisting of the systematic loss of every person that I considered to be the bedrock of my life, with the ever-increasing suffering that one would expect to accompany it, God narrowed my life down to one point, one moment… and in that moment, I was brought together with my church, and just like in the descriptions of the Big Bang, a whole new universe exploded outwards from that point.  The people I’ve met and become friends with, the experiences I’ve had, the new dimensions of my relationship to God and my worship of Him, that have occurred as a result have been simply extraordinary, doubly so when you consider that it didn’t take any effort from me; God just dropped it all into my lap.  After 4 long, LONG, years in which my faith never wavered no matter what fresh horror I was enduring, God repaid radical faith with radical blessings… and I’m telling you this so that if YOU or someone you know is going through the desert right now like I was, you can feel certain that the promised land is just around the corner.

During my first-ever Sunday church service in the beginning of January, restoration × 7 was prophesied over me; that seemed overly-extravagant at the time, but if anything, it was actually an understatement.  Restoration was the theme for 2015, by which I mean restoration the way God does it; not taking something in bad shape and bringing it back to almost what it originally was, but taking something even in the worst possible shape and making it better than could ever have been imagined.

There’s a word that no one would ever have applied to me before 2015, that got applied to me many times this past year, a word that has become almost a motto for me; JOY.  There are DOZENS of verses in the Bible that talk about how we should feel joy; when God tells us something so many times, you know He means it!!

After such a world-class year, what can I hope for for 2016? There’s a saying that goes something like,”if you want to make God laugh, tell Him what you’re going to do.”  It’s tempting to make a grand proclamation about 2016 based on what I want or hope to accomplish; instead, I’ll simply say that I intend to continue my focus on God, prayer, church, worship, Bible study, and spiritual enhancement in any form.  

I paused here and checked on my end-of-year post for 2014, to make sure I was being at least vaguely consistent in the sorts of things I included in this post. Hair-raisingly, it included the following:

“2015 is the year that my radical faith will be rewarded with radical blessings.  God tore down my old life, and a new and better life starts…  NOW!!”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Maybe it’s a coincidence… or maybe it was God meeting me at the level of my expectation. In case it was the latter, here is what I’m standing in faith that God will do for me in 2016:

2016 will be the year that my absent loved ones will all return, that my innermost circle will be fully rebuilt, far better and stronger than ever before.  After FIVE years of pivotal areas of my life dangling in endless limbo, everything will be rectified and settled to my best advantage, and earlier in 2016 than anyone could imagine, I’m going to have the other of the most precious things that God promises us: REST.

If you’d like to pray for me, please pray that these things will be included in God’s blessings for me for the year.  :-)

This post won’t be complete unless I toss out the year-end stats, so here they are:

Hits:
2010:  76

2011:  525

2012:  7083

2013:  61,189

2014:  108,274

2015:  171,187

It blows my mind that my # of hits for the entire YEAR of 2011 is now what I would consider a mediocre # of hits for ONE DAY; God is AMAZING!!

At the end of 2012, I had a single-digit # of followers. At the end of 2013, I had 75, and asked God for something extravagant, *100* new followers for 2014…  and He came through, because I ended up with 177 followers. For 2015, I ended up with 318 followers, a gain of 141;  thanks to all of you for joining me!!  

I still haven’t done anything to promote the blog, so only God could have caused these increases.  For 2016, I’m asking for 300 new followers and 300,000 hits.

And what about YOU? What are you hoping that God will do for you in 2016? Ask BIG; God owns it all, controls it all, and He can give you the desires of your heart. Thank Him and praise Him all day long. Tell Him about your love, trust, and faith. His love for you is the size of the entire universe; keep on waiting with expectancy, because explosive blessings, unprecedented favor, a life-changing, jet-propelled upwards surge, are just around the corner!!  Happy New Year!!

God gives me a Christmas miracle

(No new sermons for the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s.)

Flashback to October 20, the week that I was transcribing the sermon “Continual Joy,” and the point at which I had started to be concerned about how my Christmas season was going to go this year, with so many things in my life still disarranged, so many people still missing, and this being my first holiday season with my church. Here is what God did:

I was setting up my prayer closet for early-morning prayer, and as I was rolling the final closet door closed, something happened that had NEVER happened in my 2 decades of living here; something shot out, and I mean it went from completely inside the closet to completely out on the carpet in a split second, from under BOTH doors (they overlap in the middle). It was a strip of 2 Christmas stickers that I had never seen before, and had no idea how they had gotten on the floor of my closet; all my Christmas stuff has always been kept in sealed boxes in other rooms of the house, and everything in my closet is packed up as well. I don’t EVER throw anything down on the floor of my closet, and I don’t have any loose bits and pieces on my closet shelves either.  Nevertheless, somehow the stickers had come into the house, gotten on the floor of my closet in the ONE tiny spot of clear carpet where they could have laid flat and thus gotten sucked out, and stayed there unnoticed until that moment…  when they had suddenly, inexplicably, gone at high speed between 2 metal doors and a metal door frame, surrounded by rollers, without sustaining any damage whatsoever… and these are STICKERS, on thin paper backing and with no protective plastic, not titanium sheets.  I sat there looking at them in utter disbelief, not sure whether to be more astounded by their appearance or by their miraculously perfect condition.  I finally looked at the design on them:

The stickers both said, “Christmas Joy.”  

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I knew immediately that they were sign.  I thanked God over and over. I knew at that moment that this was going to be by far my best Christmas season EVER.

And it WAS!!  Never in any decade of my life, never in any TWO decades of my life, did I ever have as many parties, gifts, and goodies as I did this year!!  I didn’t do anything different, I didn’t make any effort at all, these things just came to me from the people and situations that God has created in my life.  Best of all, though, is that this was the first year I was able to experience Christmas in fellowship with others, rather than alone and having to hide my beliefs from my belligerently atheist roommate.  If that was all there was to the story, it would still be mind-blowing, but there’s MORE:

Fast forward to an ornament exchange party at a friend’s home. This works like a gift exchange, were people can steal any unwrapped one or pick a wrapped one on their turns, and if someone is stolen from, they get to pick again.  I had gone second, and I had THREE ornaments in the bag I got, while everyone else only got ONE. This made it EXTREMELY likely that someone would steal them from me; I had barely glanced at them when I opened them up, because I assumed they would be stolen. God had other plans, though, and once the game was over and they were safe, I took a better look. One of the ornaments was perfect for the church ornament exchange next year, which is all I had been hoping to come out of this party with. The second one turned out to be battery-powered, which I had not noticed previously, and would very likely have guaranteed them being stolen if anyone had realized it; it’s a cute, sparkly snowman… with color-changing LED lights in the base!!  Anyone who knows me knows that I love anything with color-changing LED lights.  The third ornament, in stark and surprising contrast to the ultra-modern snowman, was a very traditional Christmas bell, with a ton of fake pine needles, pinecones, berries, etc, decorating the handle. You’d never expect the same person who was attracted to pick out an LED ornament to also pick out a traditional one… unless God was engineering the purchase. I finally took a good look at the bell:

I got goosebumps from head to toe when I realized that there was a single word painted on it: Joy.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sometimes, God is not subtle.

Of all the words that anyone who ever knew me would’ve used to describe me, throughout my entire life, JOY would never have been one of them… until this year, when the word had been applied to me over and over, and I had adopted it as my…  motto, maybe?  I suppose that a stubborn enough atheist would call all of this a coincidence; you and I know better, though, don’t we?  God continues to repay my radical faith with radical blessings.

If you’re a new reader, let me point out that I went through FOUR YEARS of nonstop loss and suffering, during which my faith never wavered; that is why I’m receiving unprecedented favor.  No matter what you’re going through, no matter how long it has lasted, tell God every day, and tell every person you talk to about your life, that you know that you know that you KNOW that God is going to make good on it, and bring you beauty for your ashes. If you’ll do that, He’ll come through for you.  Count on it!!

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