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Archive for October, 2013

from JO’s sermon tonight:

it’s easy to love people that are just like us, look, dress, worship like us;  that doesn’t take a lot of effort.  but what about people that are different than us, people that we don’t understand, agree with?  as far as we’re concerned, they’re making poor choices. it’s easy to size them up from the exterior, to put them in a box and think, “they’re not for me. they’re odd. I’m going to keep my distance.”  but God’s love is not exclusive, it’s inclusive;  it doesn’t exclude people that are different, write people off because they’re not where they should be in life, ignore someone because they’re not meeting our standards.  unconditional love says, “I’m going to love you even if  I don’t agree with you.  I may not agree with your lifestyle, doctrine, how you’re raising your children, the friends you’re choosing, but I know this;  you are made in the image of almighty God, and I’m not called to judge you, but to love you.”  we have to realize that every person is on a journey;  where they are right now is not where they’re  going to end up.  they’re not a finished product;  they’re still on the potter’s wheel.  but so often, we judge people for where they are today.  we write them off and think, “I’m not going to associate with them, they’re a mess.”  no, God will use you to plant seeds in their heart;  your love, friendship, encouragement is a part of the plan God has designed for their life.  God is counting on us to make a difference.

don’t have a holier than thou attitude.  take off the judgmental glasses; if not for the grace of God you could be right where they are.  the same things that we’re tempted to be judgmental and critical about, if not for God’s goodness, we could be struggling with as well.  if you’d walked in their shoes, been raised in their family, fought the battles that they fought, you’d understand why they are where they are.  the areas that you’re strong in, you don’t just happen to be strong, that’s the mercy of God on your life.  when we show this unconditional love, people may not respond right away;  it may not seem like it’s doing any good, they keep making poor choices.  but here’s the key:  those seeds never die.  the seeds of hope, mercy, encouragement that you plant in other people never die.  it may look like it’s not doing any good, but the reason they’re not growing is because  the soil of their heart is hard and rocky, and that seed could not take root.  the good news is;   the seed is still alive.  at the right time, God will soften their heart, loosen up that soil, and the seed you’ve sown will take root and bring a harvest.  nothing you’re doing has been wasted.  every time you show love, you are sowing these seeds.  sometimes we think that we have to convict people, tell them what they’re doing wrong, point out all their faults, make sure they really feel guilty.  no, the holy spirit is the one that convicts;  you just keep sowing these seeds, showing unconditional love, and at the right time they will come to life.  Jesus said:

Mark 2:17 (NIV)

17  … “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

I’m not here to judge, I’m here to love.  we don’t have to straighten everybody out;  all we have to do is sow seeds.

1 Corinthians 13:8 (NIV)

Love never fails.

when you show love, you’re showing God.  when you’re merciful, understanding, accepting, that heals, restores, brings new life.  for too long, the church in general has been known for what we’re against;  “we’re against this, against that, and if you live like this you’re not welcome here.”  we’ve been good at telling people what we don’t like.  but I don’t want to be known for what I’m against, I want to be known for what I’m for:  I’m for people, new beginnings, 2nd chances, and you becoming everything God’s created you to be.  our part is to keep showing this unconditional love;  not, “I’ll love you if I agree with you, I’ll accept you if you fit into my little box.”  no, our attitude should be, “if you have good or no morals, are clean and sober or strung out and addicted, gay, straight, Republican, Democrat, black or white, Muslim, Christian, believer, atheist, it doesn’t matter, I’m still going to love you.”

John 13:35 (NASB)

35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

notice, he didn’t say, “by how spiritual we are, how many times we come to church, how many scriptures we can quote, how many miracles take place.”  no, they’ll know by our love for other people. what would this world be like if, instead of judging people, we’d really start loving people?  so, they don’t look like you;  they’re not supposed to, God made them different. maybe they’re not where they should be in life right now;  that’s ok, they’re on a journey, they’re not a finished product.  perhaps they don’t worship like you, they come from a different denomination, culture, faith;  that’s ok, don’t shut them out, our God is the God of the whole Earth.  He’s not a white, black, Mexican, Korean God, He’s simply God.  the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob loves the Muslims, Hindus, atheists just as much as he does the Christians;  He is the God of all flesh.  so many times, we have this narrow view of God;  we have our little circle of what we believe, who we think is right, and we exclude everyone else.  we point out their faults, what they’re doing wrong, where we don’t agree;  “they don’t baptize, take communion like we do.”  we focus on the things that separate us.  but, I realize how big God’s circle is, how wide His mercy extends.  when we get to heaven, we’re going to be surprised at who’s there;  “what about their false doctrine?”  what about your false doctrine? nobody is correct 100%.

the reason denominations were established in the 1st place was to try to protect the doctrine that they believed was right.  Galatians 5  says, “don’t think that your group is the only one that’s right.”  (NB:  it does not, but I don’t know what the right verse is.)  we’re all missing it somewhere;  the main thing is that we agree that Jesus is the son of God, He rose from the dead, and now he’s our savior.  my love for you is bigger than a theological difference, what church you belong to, what faith you practice, political or philosophical differences.  I don’t have to see eye to eye with you in order to love you.  if you draw a circle to shut me out, I’m gonna draw a bigger circle to shut you in.  when you love unconditionally, you have a wide circle;  you’re not judging everybody to see if they fit into your little box.  we might as well learn to like people down here;  that person you think has so much false doctrine, they’re so far off course, you better learn to like them, they’ll probably be next door to you in heaven.  there’s going to be a lot of people there we weren’t expecting.  God’s mercy is from everlasting to everlasting;  it’s bigger, broader, far-reaching.  but a lot of times, religion tries to push people away;  God is always pulling people in.  it’s not about, “do you keep all the rules, have you performed perfectly your whole life?”   it’s about the condition of your heart;  do you have a heart to please God?  do you believe in this resurrected savior?

Luke 23:32-43 (ESV)

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left...

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

that criminal, he didn’t pray a long sinner’s prayer, he never got baptized in water, attended church;  that was simply the mercy of God.  it doesn’t always fit into our theology. the mercy of God is wide;  why do we try to make it so narrow, and think, “my loved one’s never going to make it, my co-worker doesn’t have  chance, you should hear him talk”?  no, they’re on a journey;  God is using you to plant seeds in their heart.  they don’t need to hear another sermon.  you don’t have to tell people what they’re doing wrong;  they already know that, just love them.  let your life be the sermon, and at the right time, those seeds will come to life.  we don’t know, some people may be on their deathbed and God will reveal Himself to them;  they will feel this unconditional love pulling them in.  we can all say, “where would we be without the mercy of God?” when we didn’t deserve it, when we made mistakes, God showed us His unconditional love.  He’s asking us to show this same love to other people.

don’t look at them through eyes of judgment, but through eyes of mercy.  “I don’t think she should be wearing that in church, that’s not appropriate”;  maybe not, but I would rather she be in here than out in the clubs.  you don’t know what she’s been through.  you haven’t walked in her shoes.  before you judge her, get to know her.  before you write her off, listen to her story.  there’s usually a good reason people are the way they are;  we’ve gotta give them room while they’re in the process of changing.  if we’re judgmental, holier than thou, look down on them, that’s not going to help them to move forward.  that’s conditional love;  “if you meet all my demands, then I’ll love, accept you.”  no, God freely gave us mercy;  let’s freely give other people mercy.  my prayer is, “God, help us to have the same innocence as a little baby and not judge people by the exterior, what they wear, the mistakes they’ve made, but God, let us see people through eyes of love.”

Titus 1:15 (NASB)

15 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.

one way to know how pure your heart is is how much do you judge?  when your heart is pure, you don’t have a critical spirit, a holier than thou attitude;  you’re full of mercy, you give people the benefit of the doubt.  much of our judgement is simply the culture we were raised in;  cultures change.  too often, we judge what we don’t understand.  before you judge that young person that has wild hair, crazy clothes, no, you don’t know how God is going to use them;  they may be your next pastor, doctor,  president.

John 7:24 (AMP)

24 Be honest in your judgment and do not decide at a glance (superficially and by appearances); but judge fairly and righteously.

how many times do we look at someone and decide in a split second whether or not we’re going to like them?  “he’s got a tattoo, he’s going to hell.  he’s got long hair, he’s a trouble-maker.”  no, give everybody room to become who God’s created them to be.  don’t judge by the exterior.  I’ve found that whether I wear a suit or jeans, it doesn’t affect the anointing:  it’s not affected by cotton or denim or polyester.   what does affect it is the attitude of our heart;  they don’t act, look, dress like you, that’s alright, they’re on a journey, they’re not a finished product.  Jesus made it really simple:

Matthew 7:1-3 (KJV)

7 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

you may not understand someone, but you don’t have to understand them to love them.  you don’t have to agree with them to accept them.  that’s why it’s called unconditional love.  my challenge to us today:  start covering people with love.  it’s easy to cover people with judgment, condemnation, guilt, but let’s start covering people with love.  love heals, brings down barriers, puts people back on their feet.  and you may not understand someone, but that’s ok;  have a wide circle of love.  remember, they’re on a journey;  where they are is not where they’re going to end up.  God is counting on us to make a difference, push them forward, show mercy, be understanding, give them the benefit of the doubt.  if you’ll have this unconditional love, not only will you help others, but your own life will improve.  you’ll have more joy, better relationships, overcome every obstacle and live the life of victory that God has in store.

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Serving one another

from JO’s sermon tonight:

Jesus said, “if you want to be great in the kingdom, live a blessed life, you have to serve other people.”  he wasn’t talking about an event that takes place every once on a while, he was talking about a lifestyle where you live to help others.  you’re always  looking for ways to serve:  you’re helping a friend, volunteering at the hospital, taking care of a relative.  it’s not something you force yourself to do;  it becomes a part of who you are.  you’ve developed that attitude of serving.  that’s when you’ll have true happiness, fulfillment;  not living to get, but living to give.  this is the reason a lot of people are unhappy;  they’re only focused on themselves:  “my dreams, goals, problems.”  that’s going to limit you.  you were created to give.  God puts people in our path on purpose so we can be a blessing to them.  every morning, we should ask, “God, show me my assignment today.  help me to see the people that you want me to be good to.”  when you serve others, you are serving God.  when you do it for them, you’re doing it for Him.  Jesus said:

Matthew 10:42 (NLT)

42 And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”

every time you serve, help others, go out of your way to pick up that friend, God sees it;  God is keeping the records.  nothing goes unnoticed;  He says, “you will surely be rewarded.”  that word “surely” means you can count on it;  have no doubt, it will happen.  the key:  don’t look for people to pay you back.  people may not say “thank you.”  you may not get the credit you deserve.  nobody may be giving you applause.  but let me assure you;  when you serve others, there is applause for you in heaven.  almighty God sees your sacrifice.  you don’t need people cheering you on, clapping for you;  you’re not doing it for people, you’re doing it for God.  He is the one that matters.  He sees every act of kindness:  He sees you volunteering at the hospital, taking the neighbor to their doctor’s appointment on your day off.  when you serve others, God promises you will be great in the kingdom.  you’re never too important, big, influential to serve.   it takes a big person to do something small.  it takes humility to say, “I don’t have to do this, it’s not required of me, nobody will fault me if I don’t do it, but I know in order to serve God I need to serve other people.”  if you want to have a great life, it doesn’t just come from success, having a bigger house, more accomplishments;   that’s all great, God wants you to be blessed, but if you’re going to be truly fulfilled you have to develop this attitude of serving one another.  you were created to make somebody else’s life better.  somebody needs what you have:  your smile, love, encouragement, gifts.  when you serve others, you will feel a satisfaction that $ cannot buy.  there will be a joy, peace, fulfillment that only God can give.

John 4:5-34 (ESV)

So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.[a]

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)

27 Just then his disciples came back…

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

he was saying, “I get fed by doing what God asks me to do.  my nourishment comes from helping people.  my food, strength, peace, joy, satisfaction comes when I serve others.  sometimes you can work all day, and naturally at the end you’re kind of tired.  but there are times when you serve others, you get up early to help that coworker, swing by the hospital and pray for that friend, you should be tired and rundown, but you leave reenergized, stronger, refreshed.  why is that?  because when you do the will of your Father, it doesn’t drain you, it replenishes you.  many of you today, you serve, volunteer;  you would think you would be tired, rundown, no, just like with Jesus, when you do what He asks you to do, you’re being fed:  strength, energy, joy, peace comes.  you should be rundown, but when you serve others, God recharges, reenergizes, refreshes.  you don’t leave down, you leave up.  God pays you back.  when you serve others, make somebody else’s life better, lift people, help heal those that are hurting, not only are they being blessed, but you’re being blessed, re-fueled, filled back up.  if you never have any energy, joy, strength, one reason may be because you’re not doing anything for anybody else.  you’ve gotta get your mind off of yourself;  go to the seniors home and cheer somebody up, coach the Little League team.  when you lift others, God will always lift you.

this should be something we do, not every one in a while, if we have some extra time, no, this should be a lifestyle, where it’s a part of our nature.  we’re always looking for ways to be a blessing.  it doesn’t have to be something big, it can be something small;  simple words of encouragement can brighten somebody’s day.   the scripture says, “kind words work wonders.”  all through the day, we can serve God by speaking kind words; giving a compliment, encouragement, “hey, I love you, you look beautiful, I believe in you, I’m praying for you.”  simple things can make a big difference.  this should start in our homes.  it’s great to serve people when you’re out in public, that’s important, but make sure you serve your own family.  husbands, serve your wife:  “honey, I’m going into the kitchen, can I bring you anything back?” “let me go get your car filled up with gas so you don’t have to tomorrow.”  be a blessing to your spouse.  if we would have this servant’s mentality, more of our marriages would stay together. if you want a wife, friend, lover, somebody to make your life great, you’ve gotta serve that woman, make her feel special:  bring her breakfast in bed, pick up your own stinky clothes.  it’s not a dictatorship, it’s a partnership.  “but, the Bible says the wife is to submit to her husband.”

Ephesians 5:22 (NIV)

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

it’s the only scripture a lot of men know.  yes, but it also says:

Ephesians 5:25 (NIV)

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

Jesus modeled a servant’s attitude.  he had all the power in the world, the most influential person that ever lived, yet he bowed down and washed his disciples’ feet.  he could have hired somebody to do it, called an angel down from heaven and said, “wash their feet.”  no, he washed them 1 by 1, as an example so we would know we’re never too important to be good to people.  you’re never too high to where you can’t bow down low and serve somebody else.  the more humility you walk in, the more you serve others, the higher God can take you.  some of you, if you would start serving your wife, husband, you’d see that marriage go to a new level.  who are you serving, lifting up, being good to?  be on the lookout for ways that you can be a blessing.  God puts people in our path so we can brighten their day.  “God, help us to have compassion, to not be so busy, preoccupied with our own affairs, that we can’t serve somebody else.”  God is asking us today, “will you carry someone, help lighten their load, help make their dreams com to pass?  will you go out of your way to be a blessing to them?”  helping less fortunate people is the closest thing to the heart of God.  Jesus said:

Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

40 … whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

many of you are constantly being good to people, going out of your way to be a blessing, making sacrifices nobody knows about;  God sees what you’re doing, your heart of compassion.  nobody may be clapping for you down here, but up there all of heaven is cheering you on.  when you’re not being told thank you, getting the recognition, don’t be discouraged and think that you’re being overlooked;  your reward will be greater.  when people give you credit, that’s part of your thank you, your reward.  but when nobody is giving you credit:

Matthew 6:4 (NIV)

… your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

when it comes time for the rewards to be passed out, some of us that are in the front now are going to have to step back, and the people that were behind the scenes, volunteered year after year with no great applause, the ones that have given time, energy, $ that nobody knew about, those are going to be the greater rewards.  nothing goes unnoticed;  you will be rewarded.  the scripture tells how, when Stephen (the martyr)  went to heaven, Jesus stood up to welcome him.  Jesus is normally seated at the right hand of the Father.  but I believe there are times when Jesus says, “this one deserve a standing ovation.”  he will stand up to welcome you home.  there will be a celebration, reward.  you will hear a band playing like you’ve never heard before;  it will be the angels.  all of heaven will welcome you home.  many of you have been faithful, given, served, volunteered;  be encouraged, God sees every act of kindness.  nothing goes unnoticed. you will be rewarded.  remember, when you do what God asks you to do, you’re being fed, getting stronger, refreshed, reenergized.  so be on the lookout this week for ways that you can be good to people. if you’ll develop this lifestyle of serving, God says you will be great in the kingdom.  because you serve others, you’re coming into your reward, favor, healing, promotion, breakthroughs, new levels of God’s goodness.

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Just do it

from JO’s sermon tonight:

sometimes, God asks us to do things that don’t make sense.  it doesn’t seem logical.  it doesn’t fit into our budget, line up with our schedule.  “God, you want me to go back to college?  I’m 40 years old.”  “God, you want me to give them a gift?  I was saving those funds for my own dreams.”  too often, we over-analyze it, debate it, look at it in only in the natural.  we end up making excuses, talking ourselves out of it;  “that couldn’t be God.”  but if you’re going to reach your highest potential, you have to have bold obedience;  that means you obey even when you don’t understand it.  you just do it, even when it doesn’t make sense.  that’s what faith is all about.  If you can understand everything, you have the time, $, it’s all lined up, that doesn’t really take any faith.  God will ask you to do things that seem far out, unusual, not practical;  with every act of obedience, there is  blessing attached to it.  when you do what you know down in here God wants you to do, a blessing will follow;  God rewards obedience.

John 9:1-6 (NIV)

9 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.  “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

Jesus could have just as easily healed the blind man on the spot, but obedience activates God’s power.  he put the ball back in the blind man’s court;  he said, in effect, “if you want to be healed, you’re going to have to do something that doesn’t make sense, that’s not logical.  you’re going to have to show that you trust me, and go wash this off in the pool.”  the blind man could have wiped the mud off with his own hands and thought, “‘I’m not gonna do that, that doesn’t make sense, that’s gonna be a waste of time.”  he could have thought, “I’m blind, I can’t make it down to the pool.”  but instead of making excuses, talking himself out of it, he decided to just do it.  the healing wasn’t in the water, it was in the obedience.  when you obey, dreams come to pass, health is restored, problems turn around.  how many miracles would we see if we would simply do what we know we should do?  are you talking yourself out of something because it’s not practical, doesn’t make sense?  “I know I should volunteer, but I’m too busy.  I know I shouldn’t hang around these friends, but I don’t want to be lonely.”  no, quit putting it off and just do it.  if you’ll have bold obedience, you’ll see God’s favor in a new way.

Joshua 3:7-17 (NIV)

And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”…

13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”…

15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

 they could have sat back and thought, “as soon as God opens it, then we’ll walk toward it;  it doesn’t make sense to go now, the river’s still flowing.”  no, they took a step of faith and started walking toward the water.  what is that?  bold obedience.  the river supernaturally parted, and they walked into their promised land.  in the same way, if you’re going to make it to your promised land, it’s going to take this bold obedience.  you’re not always going to understand what God is doing;  God is not always logical.

Isaiah 55:8 (NIV)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.

sometimes you have to turn your mind off.  if you over-analyze it, look at it only in the natural, you’ll never get off of dead center.  faith is not in your head,  it is in your heart.  down in here, you’ll know the right thing to do;  up here, you’ll have 1000 excuses, reasons why it’s not going to work out.  you’ve gotta turn your mind off and listen to your heart.  some of you are waiting for the waters to part, then you’re gonna take a step of faith, but your obedience is what causes the water to part.  you’re waiting on God, but God’s waiting on you.  if you’ll do what you know God is asking you to do, your obedience will activate the favor, increase, blessing.  much of what happens along the way are simply tests.  God is seeing, “do you trust me?  will you obey even when you don’t understand it?  will you take a step of faith, even when it doesn’t make  sense?”  you can’t out-give God.  when God asks you to do something, just do it.  if you talk yourself out of it, not only is the other person not being blessed, but you’re missing the blessing God has for you.  when you obey, a blessing is always attached to it.

when you have bold obedience, you don’t know where God is going to take you.  you don’t argue with God, reason it out, make excuses;  you just do it.  you can’t imagine the doors God is gonna open, not only for you, but for your children.  we can all obey when it’s easy, makes sense, is logical, doesn’t take any extra effort:  “I’ll go to church, tithe my income, be kind to people, have a good attitude.”  that doesn’t really take much faith.  but what about when it’s out of the ordinary, and God asks you to not only go to church, but swing by and pick up that couple that’s struggling and bring them to church with you each week?  “God, wait a minute, I’ve got a full-time job, I’m raising these children, I’m very busy.  God, they live 20 minutes out of the way.  I’m going to have to get up earlier, that’s going to take extra gas $.  God, they may want to come eat lunch with me afterwards.”  no, when God asks you to do something that takes sacrifice, is out of the ordinary, it’s because God wants to release blessings in your life that are out of the ordinary.  when you radically obey, you will be radically blessed.  God told Isaac to take a step of faith:

Genesis 26:1-3 (NIV)

26 Now there was a famine in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you

that didn’t make sense;  there was no way to water the crops.  it looked like it would be a waste of time.  Isaac could have looked at it just in the natural, logical way and talked himself out of it, but Isaac had this bold obedience:

Genesis 26:12 (NIV)

12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him.

he didn’t talk himself out of it, get discouraged, he just kept planting.  what was he doing? sowing a radical seed.  what happened?  he reaped a radical harvest;  he received a 100-fold return.  he could have held onto those seeds for years, waiting for the conditions to be perfect;  nothing would have happened.  Isaac understood this principle;  the power was not in the seed, it was in the obedience.  that’s when miracles happen.  the conditions don’t have to be perfect;  the economy doesn’t have to be booming for you to be blessed.  you don’t have to have the most education, most talent, live in a certain neighborhood.  all the odds can be against you, but when God asks you to do something, and you don’t argue, make excuses, you just do it;  “God, I don’t understand it, but I’m going to sow a seed anyway,” that’s when you’ll see a harvest in the midst of the famine.  you’ll be blessed, even though others are struggling.  you’ll be promoted even though you weren’t the most qualified.  you’ll see dreams come to pass, even though the odds were against you.

God is looking for people who will have this bold obedience.  if God has to talk you into it, send you 7 signs before you decide to believe, no, make a decision to just do it.  “what if it’s not right and I miss God?”  then God will find you.  God would rather you take steps of faith and miss it every once in a while than play it safe your whole life and never get off dead center.  the only way you’re ever going to really know is by taking a step of faith.  God knows what He’s doing, has information you don’t have, can see what you can’t see, knows the end from the beginning.  don’t argue with God;  you’ll never win.  God knows how to get His way.  trust Him;  even when it seems far out, dare to have radical obedience.  instead of reasoning it out, making excuses, talking yourself out of it, make a decision to just do it.  the quicker you obey, the quicker God can release what He has for you.

Saul was the greatest enemy of the church;  he hated believers, and he was passionate about it:

Acts 9:1 (KJV)

9 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples…

Acts 9:1-14 (NIV)

Saul’s Conversion

9 … He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision,“Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

you can imagine what Anonias must have thought;  “God, you want me to go pray for the man who’s actively trying to kill us, hunting us down?  that’s too dangerous, I’m not going to go!!”

Acts 9:15-18 (NIV)

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized

Saul became the apostle Paul, who went on to write over half of the New Testament.  none of this would have happened if Anonias had not had this bold obedience.  sometimes, God will ask you to do things that don’t make sense;  “God, you want me to do them a favor when they left me out on purpose, help them when they wouldn’t help me?”  your first thought may be, “no way, I’m not gonna do that”;  but if you listen again, you’ll hear God saying, “just do it.”  sow a radical seed.  take a step of faith.  when you do, God will do something radical in your life.  we can all make excuses, “it’s too hard, too big a sacrifice, too inconvenient.”  but if you keep putting it off, that’s causing God to put off what He has in store for you.  when you obey, a blessing is attached.  you may not understand it, it may not make sense;  that’s ok, just do it.  God’s plan is better than our plan.  when you have bold obedience, God will take you into the fullness of your destiny.

Genesis 22:1-2 (NIV)

22 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”…

Abraham didn’t understand it, it didn’t makes sense, but he had this bold obedience:

Genesis 22:9-13 (NIV)

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.

the blessing is not the 1st call;  the first call is obedience.  if you’ll obey, there will be a 2nd call:

Genesis 22:15-17 (NIV)

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

notice, when you radically obey, God promises He will radically bless.  here’s the key:  the 1st call is not the blessing;  the first call is the test;  “will you obey Me?”  if you obey, you’ll pass the test;  then, you’ll hear the 2nd call.  that’s when God will say, “now I’m going to bless you more than you can imagine.”  some of you today, there’s something you know down deep you’re supposed to do.  you’re debating it, analyzing, making excuses;  God is saying, “just do it.”  sow a radical seed.  answer the first call;  be obedient, and you’ll come into the 2nd call, the blessing.  you may not understand it, it may not make sense;  that’s alright, just turn your mind off and listen to your heart.  God knows what He’s doing.  if you’ll make a decision to just do it, because you radically obey, you’re about to come into radical blessings.  because you have bold obedience, God’s going to do something amazing in your life.  the seeds you’ve sown are going to be multiplied back to you.  God’s going to thrust you into the fullness of your destiny, taking you further than you ever even dreamed of.

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If you have found this post because you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, PLEASE get help immediately!!

In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:   1-800-273-8255

There is a live online chat here:    http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

I am happy to answer questions and offer support as best as I can,  but I’m an anonymous blogger;  something this serious needs direct human contact.  Family, friends, doctors, psychologists and pastors all have help to offer, even if you’re sure there’s nothing they can do;  PLEASE let someone know you need help.

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A friend committed suicide a couple of weeks ago;  she had had brain surgery that had left her with brain damage and constant agony that meds could do more than put a dent in, and, after years of struggling with nothing getting better, when she started to deteriorate further she could not bear it any longer.  Her husband (also my friend) has been too distraught to talk, but at 2AM he called me, not only to say and hear the things you’d normally expect, but in the hopes that I could rebut what one of his so-called loved ones had said to him…  that his beloved wife, the light and love of his life, was burning in Hell because she had committed suicide.  Let’s ignore for the moment the cruelty of telling a man who doesn’t even want to live without his wife that she has gone on to even worse suffering.  And we’ll also ignore the obscene idea of a loving God condemning a woman crushed by unending agony to Hell because she sought release.  Here’s what I sent to the devastated widower after our hours-long conversation led me to check out what the Bible had to say:

“I did some scriptural research about suicide, and I wanted to reassure you again on this point:  there is literally NOTHING in the Bible about suicide even being a sin, much less preventing anyone from going to Heaven.  There are 7 suicides in the Bible (Abimelech, Samson, Saul and his armor bearer, Ahithopel, Zimri and Judas), and no condemnation is expressed about any of them.  Neither God, not Jesus, nor any of the great men of the Bible said a word on the subject.  Some of the heroes of the Bible suffered terribly (David, Jeremiah, Job), even expressing the wish that they had never been born, but not one of them ever said that they must not end their own life because it was sinful or would prevent them from going to heaven.  God never showed up to tell them that, either.  When Jonah was sulking in the desert, he said, directly to God, THREE TIMES, that he wanted to be dead, and God did not rebuke him, accuse him of contemplating sin, or threaten him with Hell if he acted out his deathwish;  instead, God questioned him about the plant that He had provided to shade him.  Human beings have created an issue about suicide, although very few churches teach that now…  but God does NOT make an issue of it, and suicide does NOT prevent union with God in Heaven.”

I didn’t want to bog my friend down with a bunch of scripture, but for the sake of completeness here it is:

Jonah 4 (NIV)

Jonah’s Anger at the Lord’s Compassion

4 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant[a] and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

 

I don’t know what church the person who claimed that my friend had gone to Hell belongs to;  even my intensely Catholic uncle assured me that the idea that suicide was “self-murder” and thus as sinful as regular murder stopped being taught decades ago…  and he shared my astonishment and outrage that someone actually claimed it to be valid, and to a grieving widower no less.  I will pray that the people in that church will have their eyes opened and see that God would never do such a thing;  I hate the thought of people going through life seeing our infinitely caring Lord as a …  child pulling the wings off of flies for the sheer joy of cruelty!!

With that said:  I can’t presume to say what God thinks and feels about suicide, other than the obvious observation that our suffering saddens Him.  I don’t have any answers as to what God wants people to do when they have a medical situation that is so horrible that life is unbearable.  I hope that this is one of the things I’ll eventually learn in seminary.

And I want to say again:  If you or someone you know feels suicidal, PLEASE get help!!

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