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Archive for June, 2013

One of the things I love the most as I study scripture is when someone explains the meaning of a story in great depth, using their knowledge of historical facts of the period and/or subtle shades of meaning “hidden” in the original languages of the Bible (Greek and Hebrew with a little Aramaic).  The Biblestudytools.com email series called “Today’s Topical Bible Study” had a bang-up essay on 6-21 that I wanted to share.  It was about this familiar story:

 

Mark 5:25-29 (NIV)

25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

Some of what is said in the essay actually refers to Luke’s version of this event:

Luke 8:43-48 (NLT)

43 A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. 44 Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” 47 When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. 48 “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

 

And here’s the fascinating stuff:

 

“The NLT states that she touched the fringe of His garment…  The tense of the phrase in verse 28 means that she kept saying this to herself as she pressed her way through the crowd.”

“We can’t know what led this woman who had suffered so to believe that she would be healed by Jesus like this; possibly there was a notion held by some that a healer had power in his clothing, so she reached out to Jesus by faith.”

A RISK-TAKING WOMAN

 Why was what this woman did so risky? There were two important reasons:

She was Considered Unclean

A menstruating woman or one with other bleeding was considered to be unclean as long as they continued to do so (Leviticus 15:25-27). This meant that anyone that touched her or that she touched would also be unclean. Being in this crowd would have made many unclean, including Jesus. A woman in her condition would be unable to go to the temple to worship, or be around anyone she might touch. She would be a social outcast. “In her extremity of need—incurable illness and socio-religious isolation—she was a living ‘dead’ person for 12 years. Her restoration to wholeness of life anticipated the dramatic raising of Jairus’ daughter who died after living for 12 years.”

She Dared Touch a Prayer Shawl

The woman touched the fringe of Jesus’ prayer shawl, or Greek kraspedon; a margin, i.e., a fringe or tassel, border, hem. According to the Mosaic law every Jew was obliged to wear a fringe or tassel at each of the four corners of the outer garment, one thread of each tassel to be blue. These tassels were to be to them a perpetual reminder of the law of God, and of their duty to keep it (Numbers 15:38-39; Deuteronomy 22:12.) This was the “hem” that the woman touched, perhaps supposing there was some peculiar virtue in it.

The Torah requirements stated that they needed to wear blue tassels to remind them of the sky; this dye was tremendously expensive (about $10,000 an ounce in today’s value), so having only one of these tassels dyed was acceptable. The number of dyed tassels then would represent status, authority, and holiness—the more blue tassels, the more status. It was against the law to touch a man’s prayer shawl unless one was a member of a man’s family. Thus this was a desperate act of this woman, because this would have serious consequences if she were not healed.”

“Jesus wouldn’t take the disciples’ sarcasm for an answer, but knew what had happened. He sought out the woman (Greek, he kept looking and scrutinizing the crowd; the article and participle in Greek in vs. 32 are feminine in nature, further indicating He knew who did it) who had hidden in the crowd.”

“When Jesus called her “daughter,” He made her a part of His family, which meant there was no penalty for touching his prayer shawl, and took away her fears. This is the only time in the gospels that Jesus directly called someone “daughter.””

 

Pretty cool, huh?  I wonder if the woman was hedging her bets when she touched Jesus’ prayer shawl, because if she actually touched HIM she’d be making him unclean;  in that frenzied crowd she could be fairly certain that no one would notice she had touched the hem of his garment, so it might not seem risky, but actually touching Jesus, making him unclean (which I’m guessing is actually impossible, but she would not have known that), THAT she’d have to be certain that he would notice, and the already excited crowd might be easily be swayed to harm or kill her once they realized she had made both the healer and everyone she had touched to reach him unclean.  I’m no expert in these matters, it just seems to fit the facts.  Either way;  verrrrrrrrrry interesting.

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from JO’s sermon tonight:

we receive our DNA from our parents;  these genes that are passed down tell us what we’re going to look like, how tall we’re going to be, what color our hair is.  not only our physical traits are passed down through genes, but even personality traits:  our demeanor, attitude, sense of humor.  just as good characteristics can be passed down, so can negative characteristics;  if one of your parents was an alcoholic, there’s a 10x greater chance of you becoming an alcoholic.  for years we thought, “well, too bad, it’s in my genes:  depression, addictions, low self-esteem, nothing I can do about it.”   but recently researchers have discovered epigenetics

http://theweek.com/article/index/238907/epigenetics-how-our-experiences-affect-our-offspring

that word means “on top of the genes.”  what they found is just because a gene has been passed down doesn’t mean that it has to be activated;  it can be affected by your decisions, environment, experiences.  while we cannot deactivate what color our hair will be, or the shape of our eyes, there are certain genes that we can, in effect, turn on or off,  they’re discovering what the scripture says, that just because you inherit something doesn’t mean you have to pass it down (NB:  I looked for this but couldn’t find it);  you can deactivate the negative genes that have been passed down to you.  just because your mother was depressed doesn’t mean you’re supposed to be depressed.  you may have a natural tendency towards that;  what you have to do is turn off that gene, deactivate it, don’t pass it down to your children.  it’s easy to use it as an excuse, “momma was depressed, grandmother was negative, great-grandmother was a complainer, that’s just who I am”;  no, that is not who you are, you are a child of the most high God.  and just as you got your physical DNA from your Earthly parents, you got your spiritual DNA from your heavenly Father;  He put in you genes of joy, strength, peace, victory.

you get to choose which genes come alive.  you may have had a lot of baggage passed down to you;  in your family line are addictions, divorce, depression, low self-esteem.  don’t be passive and just accept it;  God has raised you up to put an end to it. you’ve gotta draw the line in the sand, and say, “that’s it, I’m turning off the depressed gene.  I am not going to live my life discouraged.  this is the day the Lord has made, I am gonna choose to be happy.”  what are you doing?  deactivating the depressed gene;  you’re turning it off.  why don’t you turn off the negative, alcoholic, self-pity genes?  this is a new day. don’t blame the past, momma, granddaddy, take responsibility and start activating the right genes.  if you’ll start making right choices, you can override the negative things you inherited;  you can break a generational curse.  you have the power to not only put an end to it, but you can start a generational blessing, pass down things that will make it easier on your loved ones.  our children have enough to overcome without carrying around all of our negative baggage;  even if you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your children, do it to make it easier on those that come after you.  the scripture call this negative baggage an iniquity:

Exodus 20:5 (ESV)

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me

the things you struggle with, they didn’t just happen to show up;  somebody in your family line opened the door.  if an iniquity is being passed from generation to generation, it will continue until somebody rises up and puts a stop to it.  somebody has to deactivate that gene.

Deuteronomy 30:19 (HCSB)

19  … I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live

your decisions don’t just affect you, they affect future generations.  no man lives and dies unto himself.  we’ve heard a lot about the generational curse, but what’s more important is our generational choice;  every right choice you make, you start to override the wrong choices of those that have gone before you.  when you choose life, blessing, victory, you and your descendants will see God’s favor.  you could easily settle where you are, let the negative genes get passed down, make it harder on those that come after you, or you can make a much better choice, and say,  “no, enough is enough, I am not going to live my life addicted, angry, defeated, depressed, I am not passing down that negative baggage.  I’m choosing life, blessings, I’m going to make choices that help my family and not hinder them.”

1 Samuel 15:3-4 (NIV)

This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” So Saul summoned the men…

1 Samuel 15:9 (NIV)

But Saul and the army spared [King] Agag…

fast forward hundreds of years;  Esther is in the palace.  a man called Haman is trying to get rid of her and all of her people.  it says that Haman was an “Agite” (actually, the term is either “Ag’agite” or “Agagite” depending on which translation you use):

Esther 9:24 (RSVCE)

24 For Haman the Ag′agite…

an “Agite” is a descendant of King Agag

(maybe:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agagite )

if Saul would have taken care of his enemy when God gave him the power to do it, Esther wouldn’t be having this problem 500 years later.  could it be that if you don’t put an end to what you’re dealing with, your family will still be struggling with it hundreds of years from now?  God is saying, “this is your time, your moment, your destiny is calling out to you.”  you can either put up with it and let it conquer you, or you can say, “no, the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives on the inside me. I will conquer this addiction, depression, low self-esteem.  I will not allow it to linger for future generations to have to deal with.”  you were never created to live addicted, angry, constantly having to struggle.  those genes may have been passed down, but you have the power to break negative cycles. they may have been in your family for hundreds of years, but when you gave your life to Christ you became a new creation.  He put new genes in you;  you have the DNA of almighty God.  there is strength, power, freedom in your genes.  don’t settle where you are;  “everybody in my family gets divorced, looks like I’m headed that way.  everybody struggles with these addictions, has financial problems,” no, you’re not everybody;  God has called you to put an end to it.  you are equipped, empowered and well able.

Ezekiel 18:1-3 (NKJV)

A False Proverb Refuted

18 The word of the Lord came to me again, saying, “What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying:

‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
And the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

“As I live,” says the Lord God, “you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel.

this is a proverb they were living by.  their attitude was, “since the father had problems, the children will as well.  nothing we can do about it.  since the father ate the sour grapes, the parents had addictions, the grandparents were depressed, then the children will struggle in those same areas.”  that was their philosophy.  then God showed up and said through Ezekiel,  “stop saying that.  why do you keep using your relatives as an excuse?  why do you keep using what your parents did and the way you were raised as the reason to stay where you are?  as long as the sovereign Lord lives, you don’t have to be held bondage by the negative things in your past.”  your parents may have eaten the sour grapes, your relatives may have made decisions that put you at a disadvantage, but God is saying, “it doesn’t have to affect you.  it may have held you back temporarily, but this is a new day.”  if you will start deactivating those genes, pressing forward, then all the forces of darkness cannot hold you back.  you don’t have to eat the sour grapes;  you’ve been redeemed.  you’re not under the curse, you’re under the blessing.  you have stepped into a new bloodline.  there’s no defeat, lack, addictions, mediocrity in this bloodline;  you are a child of the most high God.  the sovereign Lord is still alive, God is still on the throne;  that means you don’t have to eat the sour grapes.  shake off the self-pity.  don’t make excuses.  don’t blame the past, your parents, circumstances;  that may be the reason you are where you are, but that doesn’t give you the right to stay there. start dealing with the issues that are holding you back, activating the right genes.  just because you’re dealing with a tough issue doesn’t make you a bad person.  most likely, somebody in your family line opened the door, somebody allowed that iniquity, and they refused to deal with it.  don’t be like them.  don’t sweep it under the rug, ignore it, hope that it’ll go away;  that’ll keep you in bondage.

James 5:16 (KJV)

16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

there are some issues you cannot overcome on your own.  you have to swallow your pride and find somebody you can trust:  a pastor, counselor, friend.  tell them what you’re dealing with.  let them pray with you, stand with you, bring accountability into your life.  when you get it out in the open, and say, “God, I need help with this anger,” when you take steps to overcome, attend the celebrate recovery classes, that’s when the scripture says you will be healed. you don’t have to keep eating the sour grapes.  there is no addiction that is too much for you to overcome;  no iniquity, nothing that has been passed down, has to keep you from your God-given destiny.  the power in you is greater than any power that’s coming against you. don’t learn to function in your dysfunction;  God didn’t create you to have issues and things you have to hide, and feel bad about yourself, He created you to be totally free. but some of you, what you saw modeled growing up wasn’t healthy;  it’s easy to think that that’s normal.  maybe your parents didn’t show much affection to you, and now you’re not showing much affection to your children.  or maybe there was violence, anger, disrespect in the home.  don’t pass that down;  deactivate that gene.  be affectionate to your children.  “I’m a man, I don’t hug my son, after all, he’s grown”;  no, a real man still hugs his son, treats his wife with respect and honor.  men, the scripture says:

1 Corinthians 11:7 (NLT)

A man should not wear anything on his head when worshiping, for man is made in God’s image and reflects God’s glory. And woman reflects man’s glory.

if she’s beaten down, discouraged, worn out, then you’re not shining too brightly;  she’s reflecting your glory.  you need to step it up a notch;  do something to put the spring back in her step, the smile back on her face.  take her to the mall, buy her something new, send her some flowers, write her a note, tell her how great she is.  the brighter she shines, the better you look.  fathers, your daughter is going to  marry somebody just like you. if you treat your wife lousy, don’t give her the time of day, put her down, that’s the kinda man your daughter is going to be attracted to.  our children follow our example more than they follow our advice.  they’re constantly taking everything in;  they’re like a video camera with legs, they’re always in the record mode. they’re watching how you treat people.  when you treat your wife like a queen, you give her compliments, encourage her, when you bring her coffee in bed, open the car door, you bring her gifts, make her feel loved, valued, respected, honored, your daughter is gonna marry a winner, somebody just like that.  you may not have seen this growing up, you may have seen just the opposite;  you can set a new standard, chose life, honor, respect.  pass that down to future generations.

sometimes in life, what we’ve seen modeled growing up is not the best route.  “my mother was a worrier, now I’m a worrier”;  that’s the long way.  “my dad always lost his temper, like father like son, I can’t control my temper either”;  that’s the long way.  you need to examine what you do, ask yourself, “am I taking the long way, holding onto a grudge, not forgiving, because that’s what I’ve seen modeled?  am I living insecure, feeling less than, because that’s the way the people were that raised me?  am I making poor choices, giving into temptation, compromising, because that’s all I’ve ever seen?  that’s the long way.  don’t get stuck in a rut and go that way year after year;  recognize what’s happening and make the right adjustments.  too often we keep repeating the same mistakes, making excuses, “it’s not my fault,” blaming the past, our parents, no, take responsibility.  don’t go down that same path again and again, losing your cool, compromising, worried, negative.  if you’ll break those cycles of repetitive behavior, you will go to a new level of your destiny.

it makes a difference what you’re passing down;  your decisions are affecting future generations.  you may have some negative things in your family line;  they will continue until somebody rises up and puts a stop to it.  you can be that person.  God has raised you up for such a time as this.  you have the most powerful force in the universe on the inside of you.  don’t be complacent and learn to live with things that are less than God’s best.  you will never change what you tolerate;  you’ve got to put your foot down and say, “that’s it.  I’m not going to live my life addicted, angry, depressed, defeated.  I’m deactivating those genes, and I’m going to start making choices that help my family, and not hinder it.”  you can be the one to start a Godly heritage for your family line, break any generational curse, and start a generational blessing.  you don’t have to eat the sour grapes.  the sovereign Lord is still alive.  if you’ll learn to activate the right genes, make choices that honor God, you will break every negative cycle that’s held you back.  you and your family will rise to a new level of honor;  you will always live under the blessing and never the curse.

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A man whose words I have long admired, both because of his kindness and because he is a brilliant poet, had offered up his phone # on the DAB.  I had left a message for him when his mother recently passed away, but had the strong urge to speak to him directly.  I had a good timeframe in which to call today, and I did…  and he is, as the title says, AMAZING.  A true man of God, with the spirit in him so powerfully that I could feel it right over the phone.  He said a prayer for me out loud;  no one had ever done that for me before.  Tears were pouring down my face, and not for the only time in that conversation;  that’s how deeply touched I was.

I had always thought that the loss of his sight (oh, did I mention that he is not only overflowing with the spirit but BLIND?) might have led to him having greater “true vision”;  he said the same thing about himself in our conversation.  And then, tonight, I watched Reflections a little too long, it went past the top of the hour when I had something else to watch, but this allowed me to non-coincidentally catch the following verse:

2 Corinthians 5:7 (KJV)

(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

The Lord never ceases to astonish me.  This was His conformation that starting up a friendship with this man was the right thing to do…  and it’s not hard to see how it will benefit me to learn from his example.  I ask God that I be able to bring blessings to this man’s life as well.

And something else spiritually powerful happened, too:   I was checking the tracking for an Amazon order, and at the bottom of the page they had a section for “Customers Who Bought Items in Your Recent History Also Bought,” in which, because I’ve been looking at crosses, they had a cross.  It was made of Hawaiian koa wood, which had no connection to any of the crosses I’d looked at, since I hadn’t looked at any wooden ones…  but is powerfully connected to a spiritual experience my mother had a couple of months before her death, that involved some wonderful native Hawaiian people…  a story that I told the man described above in that conversation!!!!!  In what universe is THAT a coincidence?  (On TV, Natalie in “Monk” just said “that can’t be a coincidence”!!)  So, I guess I’ll be buying a koa wood cross!!

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Keep growing

from JO’s sermon tonight:

too many people suffer from “destination disease”;  they’ve reached a certain level, attained a goal, now they’re coasting off of what they’ve already learned.  studies tell us that 50% of people, after they graduate from high school, will never read an entire book the rest of their life.  one reason is we see learning as a period of life instead of a way of life.  we learned when we were growing up, in school;  we had teachers, coaches, parents, that taught us, expected us to learn.  but now we think, “I’m out of school, I’m done with my training, I’ve got my job,” but God never created us to reach one level and stop.  we should constantly be learning, improving our skills, getting better at what we do.  you have to take responsibility for your growth;  growth is not automatic.  what steps are you taking to get better?  are you reading books, listening to teaching CD’s, taking any courses on the internet, going to any seminars, do you have any mentors, are you gleaning from people that know more than you?  don’t just coast through life relying off of what you’ve already learned.  you have treasure on the inside;  there is skill, talent, potential put in you by the Creator of the universe, but it’s not going to automatically come out, it has to be developed.  I read where the wealthiest places on Earth are the cemeteries;  buried in the ground are businesses that were never formed, songs that were never sung, books that were never written, potential that was never realized, dreams that never came to pass.  don’t let that be you;  don’t go to your grave with your treasure still in you.  keep growing, keep learning;  when you stop learning, you stop growing.  whatever you do, get better at it;  sharpen your skills, don’t you dare be at the same place next year as you are right now.

there is so much opportunity to learn, there is more knowledge available today than any time in history;  we have no excuse to not improve.   we don’t even have to go to the library like we did in the old days, the internet comes right into our living rooms.   it wasn’t created just to share pictures, to look up movie times, play games;  that’s all fine, but it is a tool to help you learn, increase.  you have a responsibility, not only to God, your family, but you owe it to yourself to develop what God’s put in you.  if you’re in sales, get better at it;  read books to learn how to communicate more effectively.  people have gone where you’re going;  listen to what they have to say.  take at least 15 minutes a day, turn off the television, invest in yourself.  you should be doing something strategic, and something intentional, every day to improve your skills.  not vague, “I’ll do it if I have time,” no, you’re better than that.  you have too much in you to stay where you are.  your destiny is too great to get stuck.  a lot of times, we’re sitting back, saying, “God, I’m waiting on You, waiting for my big break.”  let me tell you who gets the big breaks;  people that are prepared, that have developed their skills.  you’ve gotta be proactive and take these steps to grow;  when God sees you doing your part, developing what He’s given you, then He will do His part, and open doors that no man can shut. “I’m busy, I don’t have extra time to take training courses, read books, learn something new, I’ll fall behind”;  sometimes, you need to take a break and sharpen your skills. you’ll get more done in less time, you may not have to work so hard.  don’t settle where you are and just coast off of what you’ve already learned, stir up what God’s put in you and get better at it.  this is a call to action;  there are amazing things in your future, God has shifted things in your favor.  now, God is looking for people who are prepared, taking steps to grow, serious about fulfilling their destiny.

this is what David did.  he was in the fields taking care of his father’s sheep;  it was boring, no opportunity for growth.  David could have slacked off, been sloppy, unmotivated, no, while he was out there all alone, instead of being lazy, killing time, he practiced his slingshot day after day, month after month, getting better, sharpening his skills.  when a wild animal tried to attack one of his sheep, he took that sling and stone and nailed it;  he was a sharpshooter, marksman.  when God needed someone to slay a giant, lead His chosen people, He looked to see who was prepared;  He chose a skilled marksman that could hit a target with exact precision.  when God is looking for people to promote today, He doesn’t close His eyes and randomly pick;  God looks for people who have developed their skills.  God didn’t sling the stone, it was the skill God gave David that he had developed.  God has put in each one of you skill that can slay a giant, open new doors, lead to an abundant life;  they key is that skill has to be developed.  every day you spend growing, learning or improving, you’re getting prepared for that new level.  you may be at a lower position now, doing something that feels insignificant;  you know you have so much more in you.  you could easily slack off and think, “there’s no future here, I’ll get prepared after I get that promotion, sharpen up after I get that big break, then maybe I’ll take some courses, lose a few pounds, have a better attitude”;  no, you’ve got it backwards, you’ve gotta start improving right where you are.  start sharpening your skills while you’re waiting.  study your boss, manager;  learn that position, be able to step into their shoes.  when God sees you’re prepared, then He can open new doors.

Proverbs 18:16 (NKJV)

16 A man’s gift makes room for him,
And brings him before great men.

if no new doors are opening, don’t get discouraged, just develop your gifts in a greater way;  improve your skills.  “my supervisor has 10 years seniority, they’re not going anywhere.”  no, if you’ll outgrow your position, outperform, out-produce, know more than them, then God will somehow, some way get you to where you’re supposed to be;  your gifts will make room for you. don’t worry about who’s in front of you, how long they’ve been there, how it’s never gonna work out;  you just keep growing, learning, getting prepared, and the right doors will open. God may not want you to have your supervisor’s position;  that may be too low for you.  God may be about to thrust you right past them into a whole new level.  you develop what God’s put in you, and He’ll take you further than you can ever imagine.  but it’s easy to fall into destination disease;  we’re comfortable, not stretching, learning anything new.  there’s nothing wrong with this, but you have so much more in you;  you were created to increase.  maybe you’re an accountant, that’s good, but don’t settle there;  get your CPA license. there’s a new skill you can develop;  that gift will make more room for you.  maybe you’re an electrician, mechanic, plumber;  that’s great, but what steps are you taking to improve?

in today’s competitive marketplace, with the economy so tight, business so bottom-line oriented, if you’re not improving, you’re falling behind.  if you’re at the same skill level today as you were 5 years ago, you’re at a disadvantage.  you need to develop your gifts in such a way that your company cannot make it without you, or at least things don’t run nearly as smoothly when you’re not there.  if you take a week off and nobody misses you, all the work gets done, sales are just as good, if you’re an owner that’s a good thing, but if you’re an employee I need to sound the alarm;  if you’re not being missed, maybe you’re not needed, you need to kick it into a new gear, produce more than you’re producing, take classes to improve your skills, step it up a notch.  “I’m at a lower position, nobody would ever miss me”;  don’t use that as an excuse to slack off.  you have treasure in you;  you have skill, talent;  once it’s developed, it will cause you to be noticed.

Proverbs 22:29 (NIV)

29 Do you see someone skilled in their work?
    They will serve before kings

you keep sharpening your skills, and like cream you will rise to the top;  God will cause you to be noticed.  this is what Joseph did;  he started at the very bottom, sold into slavery by his brothers.  he didn’t wait until he was vindicated before he decided to be his best;  he developed his skills as a slave.  he was so valuable that he was put in charge of all of his master’s house.  when he was falsely accused and put into prison, he was so valuable there that they the put him in charge of the whole prison.  what is that?  cream rising to the top.  when the Pharaoh needed someone to run the country, and administer the nationwide feeding program, he chose Joseph, a prisoner, a slave, because Joseph developed his skills right where he was, and his gifts made room for him.  don’t let where you are be an excuse to not grow. “I don’t like my job, these people don’t treat me right, I’m uncomfortable, I’ve had unfair things happen”;  no, the treasure is still in you.  God is saying, “it’s time to get it out, start stretching, take some new courses, sharpen your skills.”   we should be so productive, full of wisdom, that no matter where we are, like cream we always rise to the top.  one way you will be invaluable is learn to be a problem solver;  that’s what Joseph was, solution-oriented.  don’t go to your boss and say, “our department is falling apart,what do you want us to do?” no, you’re not gonna get promoted like that;  if you’re ever going to present a problem, always present a solution as well.  if you don’t know the solution, then don’t present the problem just yet.  if you wanna be invaluable to your organization, present solutions, not just problems.

what steps are you taking to better yourself so you can go to the next level?  are you reading books, trade magazines so you can stay up to date?  can you take a course that would give you an advantage?  you have to stay on the offensive.  “I got my degree, I did my part”;  do you know how many degrees are outdated in as little as 5 years?  the world is changing so fast;  if you don’t have this attitude to continue learning, taking these step to grow, then you’ll fall behind.  some of you need to be set free from destination disease;  you’ve reached a certain level, God has blessed you, now you’re coasting. but you were not created to stay there;  break out of the box and learn something new.  God has great things in your future;  He wants to take you where you couldn’t go on your own, but if you’re not prepared, if you haven’t developed your skills, it can hinder you from the fullness of your destiny.  every one of us should have a personal growth plan.  not something vague, “I’ll take the training every once in  while,” no, you need a specific plan that lays out how you’re going to grow;  “These are the steps I’m going to take this year, 2013, to help me improve.”  driving to work each morning, instead of listening to the radio, put on some good teaching CD’s, training materials that will help you improve in your field.  the average American spends 300 hours a year in their car;  you can turn your car into a university.  think about how much you can learn in 300 hours;  that’s invaluable time, take advantage of it.  while you’re working out, make sure you have good information going into you.  I’m not asking you to go study an extra 3 hours a day, I’m saying take advantage of the time that you’re not using right now.  with podcasts you can download these messages that you hear every week and listen to them wherever you want to.  that’s a growth plan.

if you’re going to continue growing, you need to have good mentors, people that know more than you, have gone where you’re going;  let them speak into your life, listen to their ideas, study them, find out how they think and how they do what they do, you can even learn from their mistakes.  there are people all around us that God has put in our path on purpose, so that we can gain wisdom, insight, knowledge, but we have to stay open.  look around this week and see who God put in your life that you could be learning from.  don’t waste your valuable time with people that are not adding anything to your growth.  life is too short to hang around people that are not going anywhere.  destination disease is contagious;  if you’re around them long enough, it’ll rub off on you.  you need to associate with people that inspire you, challenge you to rise higher, make you better, not people that are constantly dragging you down, trying to convince you to settle where you are.  your destiny is too important for that.

young people, you may not be the most popular person in school;  after 20 years, no one really cares who the most popular person was, what matters is did you get a good education, foundation that you can build your life on.  some of my friends that played sports made fun of people that were on the debate team;  now, they work for people that were on the debate team.  high school, junior high, those are critical formative years.  these days there’s so much emphasis on sports;  they teach us teamwork, discipline, camaraderie.  that’s all great, but we need to keep it in perspective;  most people are not going to play sports for a living.  the average pro football career is 3.5 years, and even if you do make it you still need a good foundation.  when you study, learn, take school seriously, other students may call you a nerd;  don’t worry about it, in a few years, they’ll call you “boss.”  it matters who you associate with.  are they adding anything to your growth?  the scripture says to redeem the time

Ephesians 5:15-16 (NKJV)

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

you need to see time as a gift.  God has given us 86,400 seconds each day.  just like you spend $, you are spending that time.  if you’re hanging around people that have no goals, they haven’t grown in 5 years, time wasters, then you’re not being responsible with what God has given you.  it is critical that you surround yourself with the right people.  if you’re the smartest one in your group, your group is too small.  you need to be around people that know more than you, are more talented than you, more experienced;  not to be intimidated, but to be inspired.  God has destined you to do great things;  you have talent, ability, potential on the inside.  but some of you are being limited by the size of your environment.  the people you’re around think small, they’re negative, they’ll pull you down.  you’ve gotta break outta that pot, God has destined you to soar;  surround yourself with people that are going places, inspire you to rise higher.

are you doing anything strategic and intentional to keep growing?   if not, you can get started;  it’s not too late to become all God’s created you to be.  first step, develop your personal growth plan;  “I’m gonna take the 1st 20 minutes every morning and meditate on God’s word, put in a teaching CD driving to work, take 15 minutes before I go to bed and read a book.”  that’s a definite plan;  when God sees you taking responsibility for your growth, He’ll reward your efforts.  in the coming days, you’re going to have an opportunity to step into a new level of your destiny;  God has shifted things in your favor.  there is promotion, opportunities of businesses, divine connections, it’s all in your future.  now is the time to get prepared;  don’t get caught with destination disease.  the treasure is in you;  it’s gotta be developed.  redeem the time.  make a decision to grow in some way every day.  if you’ll keep sharpening your skills, getting better at what you do, God promises your gifts will make room for you.  because you’re prepared, God is going to thrust you to a new level of your destiny;  He’s going to open doors that no man can shut.  you’re going to go further than you can imagine and become everything He’s created you to be.

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Don’t fight it

from JO’s sermon last night:

we all face situations that we don’t like:  somebody’s not treating us right, business is not growing as fast as we had hoped, we’re single and still haven’t met anyone.  it’s easy to live uptight, all wrought up on the inside;  we don’t understand why it’s taking so long, why this person hasn’t changed, why our prayers haven’t been answered.  we end up frustrated, fighting against everything that we don’t like.  just because it’s uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s not where we’re supposed to be.  God uses difficulties to do a work in us;  we grow in the tough times, that’s when our character is being developed.  God will not allow a difficulty unless He has a divine purpose for it.  if we’re going to reach our highest potential, we have to make up our mind;  “I’m not going to live frustrated because I’m uncomfortable. I’m not going to be upset because things are not happening on my timetable.  I’m not going to  fight against everything that I don’t like.”  our attitude should be, “God, I trust You, You’re in complete control, I may not like this situation, but You wouldn’t have me here unless I needed it, so I’m going to keep a good attitude and be my best right where I am.” that’s how you position yourself for promotion.  scripture says:

Exodus 13:17-18 (NIV)

17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.

He took them the long way on purpose because they were not prepared for war;  God knew if He would have taken them in too quickly, they would have been easily defeated;  their enemies were much bigger, much more experienced.  I’m sure they prayed many times:  “God, we’re uncomfortable out here in the desert, we’re hot, tired, let us go in sooner.”  but God didn’t answer that prayer, not because God was trying to make their life miserable, but God knew what was up in front of them;  He had to toughen them up and get them prepared so they could step into the fullness of their destiny.  in the same way, God has already laid out the plan for your life;  He knows exactly what you need, when you need it, who you need.  He knows the battles you’re going to face,  the dreams you’re going to accomplish;  He’s got it all figured out.  that’s why we cannot pray away every uncomfortable situation. “God, this person at work, they’re gettin’ on my nerves, you gotta get Him outta my life”;  no, God will use that person like sandpaper to rub the rough edges off of you.  even if you were to pray them away, God would send you 2 more people just like them.  God is more interested in changing us than He is in changing our circumstances;  God loves you too much to let you stay where you are.  it may be uncomfortable, but you have to remind yourself;  “this is not working against me, this is working for me.  it’s getting me in position for the amazing future God has in store.”  some of the things you may be praying about, if God were to remove them right now, you wouldn’t be prepared for where God is taking you.  you’ve gotta let God do the work in you:  be kind to the people that are not treating you right, keep being your best even though you’re not getting the credit.  pass those tests.  Paul prayed:

Colossians 1:10-11 (CEB)

10 We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way: by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God;11 by being strengthened through his glorious might so that you endure everything and have patience; 12 and by giving thanks with joy to the Father.

he didn’t pray that God would deliver them instantly, remove the difficulty, he prayed that they would have the strength to go through it with a good attitude.  Paul understood this principle, that God uses the tough times to get us prepared for the next level.  David was chosen to be king, anointed by God to be the next leader of Israel;  surely God would answer all of his prayers, make his life comfortable.  no, David had to go through this same process;  for many years, King Saul made David’s life miserable,.  David had done Saul nothing but good;  he would play music when Saul wasn’t feeling well, treated him with respect, but in return Saul tried to kill David, chased him through the mountainside.  I can hear David praying, “God, you gotta get this man outta my life!!  God, you know I haven’t done anything wrong.”  isn’t it interesting;  God didn’t remove Saul.  He didn’t answer that prayer.  here David was doing the right thing, it was an unfair situation, but God knew what He was doing;  He was getting David prepared.  the longer you do the right thing when the wrong thing’s happening, the longer you keep a good attitude in an unfair situation, the higher God is going to take you. don’t be discouraged by it: “I’ve been doing the right thing in this marriage for years, I’m not seeing any results,” “I’ve been volunteering in the nursery for a long time, nobody every says thank you.”  “I go to work, do more than I have to, I’m not being promoted.”  you’re right where David was.  keep being faithful, doing the right thing, God is getting you prepared for something amazing.  your future is so big, God has to get your spiritual muscles, character, maturity, to match the level that God is about to thrust you to.

don’t fight it, just keep being your best;  God is closely watching you.  He sees every time you make a sacrifice, overlook a wrong, take the high road, help someone in need;  that doesn’t go unnoticed.  God is keeping the records, and He’s saying, “payday, breakthrough, reward, new level is coming.”  just like David, you’re going to take your throne and become everything God’s created you to be.  we naturally all like things easier, we’d for love God to remove the difficult people, eliminate the hardships, answer our prayers the first time we pray, but that’s not always what’s best. have a new perspective; those difficulties are not happening to you, they’re happening for you.  the people that are hard to get along with, if you’ll have the right attitude, take the high road, be kind, ignore their negative comments, they’re not holding you down, they’re polishing, refining you, making you shine.  don’t be upset.  you couldn’t go where God wants you to go without them.  they’re doing you a favor;  without that sandpaper, you would stay rough. the next time you see them, instead of thinking, “oh man, I don’t feel like dealing with them,” no, just smile and say, “thank you Lord, I’m gonna be polished a little bit more today, I’m gonna shine a little bit brighter.”  could it be that you are fighting what God wants to use?  you’re spending all your time trying to pray away the difficulty, when you should be spending your time honoring God in the midst of your difficulty?  instead of fighting where you are, try a different approach;  embrace where you are.

it may not be where you wanna stay, I’m not saying to settle there and accept mediocrity, I’m saying to accept where you are, knowing that the Creator of the universe has you in the palm of His hand, He’s directing your steps, nothing that’s happened to you is a surprise to Him.  at the right time, God will change it.  in your due season, when you’re ready, when it’s best for you, God will remove the difficulty and take you to a new level.  but in the meantime, one way we can show God we’re trusting Him is by enjoying our life while God is changing the circumstances.  maybe all your friends are married, you’re still single;  “that’s alright, this is where God has me right now, I’m at peace, happy, I know the right person is already on their way.”  that’s how you pass the test.  not every other minute, “God, I’m begging You, please, send me a man,”  no, “God, I trust you.”  maybe you’re in an apartment, believing for a nicer place to live;  not, “God, I am so sick and tired of this place, I haven’t seen one thing shift in my life,” no, “God, I trust You, this is where You have me right now, I’m content.  but God I know in my future You’re gonna open the windows of heaven, pour out blessings that I cannot contain.  Lord, I wanna thank You in advance that it’s on the way.”

that’s how you see promises come to pass.  some things you can only learn in the struggle.  you can’t learn in the good times, when it’s easy, everything’s going your way;  that doesn’t take any faith.  you can only learn when you’re in the wilderness, not being treated right.  don’t be frustrated because it’s not happening your way, on your timetable;  God knows what He’s doing, He’s getting you prepared.  your destiny is bigger than you think.  you’re going to go further than you can imagine.  God can see the new levels in front of you, He knows what’s up there.  keep passing those tests, stay in faith even when it’s difficult, keep doing the right thing even when the wrong thing’s happening.  don’t fight it, begging God every other minute, “please, God, You gotta change it,” that’s just going to frustrate you.  learn to embrace where you are.  it’s ok to be honest, and say, “God, I don’t like where I am, I’m uncomfortable, it’s taking longer than I thought, but God, I trust You, I know this is not happening to me, it’s happening for me, it’s all a part of Your divine plan.”  when you learn to embrace where you are, it’s a freeing way to live, it takes all the pressure off.

Hebrews 4:3 (NIV)

Now we who have believed enter that rest..

the way to know that you’re really in faith is you’re at rest;  there’s a peace.  you may have a problem, believing for a situation to turn around, it’s taking a long time, you could easily be discouraged, no, the key is to stay in that place of rest, where you know God is in complete control, you’re not moved by what you see, you’re not worried because it’s taking a long time, you’re not disappointed because you went through a setback;  every day you stay in peace, you are one day closer to seeing that situation turn around.  “I don’t understand why God doesn’t answer my prayers, I’m goin’ to church, I’m faithful, I help others.”  maybe what you’re praying about is too small, maybe God has something much better, and He loves you so much that He won’t answer that prayer.  but until you enter into this rest and quit being sour, thinking that Gods letting you down, it’ll keep the new thing from happening.  a prayer that we should all pray on a regular basis is, “God, not my will, but let Your will be done.”  it’s ok to say,  “God, this is what I’m believing for, what I want, what I’m dreaming about, but God, if you have something better, I trust you, You know what’s best for me.”  if you’re only going to be happy if God does it your way, then you’re not really trusting.  we can only see little bit down the road;  God can see the big picture, He can see around every curve.  He knows where the dead ends, shortcuts are.  God knows how to get you to your destiny.

why don’t you take your hands off the wheel, and let God take you where He wants you to go?  you gotta trust God even when you don’t get the answer that you were looking for.  you gotta believe that God’s in control, directing your steps, keeping you on the best plan for your life.  God knows what He’s doing;  quit fighting against what doesn’t go your way, being disappointed because your plans didn’t work out.  you may not understand it now, but one day you will thank God for those closed doors.  God’s ways are better than our ways.  don’t try to figure it all out, “why didn’t I get the promotion?  I had the seniority, worked the hardest”;  just as God supernaturally opens doors, God will supernaturally close doors.  we all thank God for the open doors, and that’s good, we should celebrate that;  I’ve learned to thank God just as much for my closed doors. what I used to see as a disappointment, now I see as the hand of God.  if God closed it, He has something better in store.  why don’t you trust Him, enter into that rest, “God, You know what’s best for me. I don’t have to have my way to be happy.  I know Your plans are better than my plans.”  God is so merciful, He loves us so much, if it’s not the right thing, God will keep the door closed even when though we’re trying to pry it open.  we see it as a big disappointment, “God, I can’t believe You let me down, You didn’t answer my prayer”;  the truth is, God was doing us a favor, He was saving us from heartache and pain.

how many things are we upset over, wondering why God didn’t answer that prayer, the situation didn’t change, the door closed?  yet if God were to pull back the curtain, and let us see into the future what He can see, we’d realize God knows exactly what He’s doing, God has our best interests at heart.  that promotion you didn’t get, you were so disappointed;  it’s because God has something better.  that door that closed, we couldn’t understand it, seemed like a perfect fit for us, but seeing the big picture, we realize that road was a dead-end, it was leading to nowhere.  that traffic jam you got caught in, you were so stressed out;  it was saving you from an accident.  that person that walked out on you, it’s very painful;  but if they hadn’t left, you wouldn’t meet the right person God has in your future.  quit fighting against everything you don’t like;  it’s not happening to you, it’s happening for you.  when you’re at rest, you’re passing the test.  don’t fight your delays, inconveniences, when you get caught by that train;  you may not understand it, but God knows what He’s doing, He can see the big picture.  dare to trust Him.

Proverbs 20:24 (TLB)

Since the Lord is directing our steps, why try to understand everything that happens along the way?

you may never know why you had a delay, disappointment, setback, but when you really believe that the Creator of the universe has you in the palm of His hand, then you can stay in peace even when you don’t understand it.  that’s what faith is all about.  some of the very things that we fight against, that frustrate us, God has ordained them to keep us from accident and harm;  they’re called divine delays, your plans are interrupted on purpose.  since the Lord is directing our steps, don’t fight it.  it’s not always going to make sense.  some of you are always fighting, worried, uptight, don’t like where you are, don’t like the job, don’t like the people;  why don’t you try a different approach?  this will save you alot of frustration;  embrace where you are, even when it’s uncomfortable, even when you don’t like it, stay in peace, keep a good attitude.  when you do that, God is using it to your advantage.  you’re growing, developing character, it’s positioning you for the amazing future God has in store.  if you will enter into this rest, and not fight against everything, you’ll not only enjoy your life more, you’re going to step into the fullness of your destiny.  God is gonna take you further than you’ve imagined, opening doors that no man can shut.  you’re going to overcome every obstacle, accomplish every dream, and become everything God created you to be.

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God influences people and events, and gives various kinds of signs, but I don’t often see Him directly affect the physical world.  Today He did!!

There’s someone who’s very dear to my heart that I’ve had faith that God would be bringing back into my life.  There have been many of what have seemed to me to be clear signs about this…  but a fanatical enough skeptic can call anything a coincidence or wishful thinking, and because I know how easy it is to see what you want to see, there’s always that little voice saying “maybe you’re kidding yourself.”

Recently, there has been an eye-popping avalanche of this person’s name appearing everywhere I look.  It’s been going on for weeks, and then it took a mind-blowing turn:  On 5-7, at 8PM, I scanned down my Zap2it page to see what would be on my many TV channels;  there are 29 pages of listings, and I scrolled all the way to the bottom.  I had a flash of thought about maybe doing a search for that name in the listings, but declined;  it feels like cheating if I go looking for it.  I went to a different window (my inbox).  I went back to the Zap2it page a little later, and…  somehow it had gone from the 29th page to the 4th page, and lined up right at my eye level was…  a show with that name in it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There was no other living creature in the house.

I had not consumed any alcohol or other psychoactive substances (then or ever).

There is of course no way to scroll around on a page other than the one that is uppermost, either accidentally or on purpose.

It’s physically impossible for that listing to have been shifted even ONE page, much less 25.

For maybe an hour after this happened, I felt…  I don’t really have words to describe it.  A strong feeling of…  perception.  I was saying out loud, “God, I feel you.”  It was different from any of the other feelings I’d had from Him before.  It was a sort of sensitive, chills, trembling feeling, not literally chilled or trembling, but as if I had very heightened perceptions that were strongly picking up on…  well, some aspect of God, obviously, but…  whatever it was, it was so powerful that if there had been any doubt that His hand was behind this the feeling would have eliminated all doubt.

There’s no confusion as to what happened here;  God, Who is not constrained by the limits of technology, chose this method to show me that, yes, the freaky appearances of the name ARE a sign.  Someone I love and miss is coming back.  SOON.

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630 hits!!!!

June 3 was a banner day;  it was only 5 weeks ago that I reported my previous all-time high, 359 hits on April 24, which seemed like it’d be on top for a while, and then today…  well, you read the title, lol.

I don’t have anything profound to say here;  all I can do is keep thanking God.  Google updated Penguin on 5-22, after which my hits started being over 200 per day…  but WHY would that update give this little blog a boost?  Granted that my posts are about the most important topic in the universe, but there are lots of other blogs that can say the same thing, so…?  I’ve gotten more hits from Facebook and Twitter…  maybe that’s the reason? Much as I’d like to know, I have faith that God will reveal it when the time is right.

To all who come here regularly, and/or refer others to visit me;  thank you!!  🙂

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