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Archive for January, 2014

The rain is coming

from JO’s sermon tonight:

every person goes through times of drought, dry seasons when we don’t see anything happening.  we’ve got big dreams, we’re standing on God’s promises, but we just don’t see anything changing;  it’s dry and barren.  you can be blessed in one area and in a drought in another;  have a successful career but be struggling in your marriage, a drought in a relationship, or you can have a great marriage but you just don’t feel well, a drought in your health.  it’s easy to think, “this is the way it’s always going to be;  I’ll always be lonely, have to deal with this depression, struggle in my finances.”  no, I want to announce that in 2014 that drought is coming to an end.  any area of brokenness, dryness, loneliness, every empty place, if you will stay in faith, God is going to rain down favor, rain down healing, rain down restoration.

Psalm 68:9 (TLB)

You sent abundant rain upon your land, O God

why don’t you get that in your spirit;  you’re about to see an abundant rain.  every drought is only temporary;  that dry season is not going to last forever.  why?  the rain is coming.  that addiction is not going to be with you your whole life;  rain is coming.  struggle and lack is not your destiny, it’s temporary;  rain is headed your way.  some of you have been in a drought in your health;  chronic pain, you don’t feel well, you could easily settle there. no, you need to get your umbrella;  I see clouds starting to form.  maybe in your career you feel stuck and can’t seem to get a good break, you got passed over for the promotion, don’t get discouraged;  God has something better for you.  it’s not going to be a drizzle, not a sprinkle, but a downpour, an abundance of rain.  when you get up in the morning, you need to declare it;  “Father, thank you that the drought is ending and the rain is coming.  thank you that in 2014 I’ll see an abundance of Your goodness in my life.”  the drought may come, there are dry seasons when we feel empty, but that is not the end of your story;  rain is coming.

Psalm 30:5(AMP)

… Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

rain can take a dry, barren place and bring new life.  it may have been that way for a month, for a year, or for 20 years, but when the rain comes, things that seem dead begin to bloom,  blossom, flourish;  they just needed some rain.  what you may think is over and done, the loss of a loved one, loss of a dream, loss of a relationship, you feel lonely, empty, like it could never change, no, to change all you need is some rain.  the God we serve is saying, “I’m going to send rain to your barren places.  it’s not over;  I’m going to rain down new opportunities, relationships, new ideas, new dreams.  some of you are in that dry place, things haven’t turned out the way you’ve hoped, been through some difficulties, but that is not the end;  joy is coming.  you may be in a drought, but rain is headed your way.  this is your year to bloom, blossom, flourish.  it’s your year to see new growth, opportunities; God is about to rain down his favor in abundance.  He is going to turn your mourning into dancing

Psalm 30:11-12 (NRS)

11 You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

your sorrow into joy, your loneliness into love.  He’s going to give you beauty for those ashes;  the drought is coming to an end.

1 Kings 18:1-41 (NKJV)

18 And it came to pass after many days that the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth.”

2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab; and there was a severe famine in Samaria…

41 Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.”

when he said that, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, no sign of rain, yet he chose to believe what he heard his spirit in spite of what he saw with his eyes.  he saw drought, famine, barenness, but down in here he heard the sound of an abundance of rain.  this is what faith is all about;  you gotta believe what you hear in your heart even when what you see is just the opposite.  you hear abundance, but you may see lack.  you hear health, but you may see sickness.  you hear rain, but you may look around and see drought.  It’s easy to talk yourself out of what God wants to do.  God is saying, “there’s about to be an abundance of favor in your life;  the drought is coming to an end.  you’re going to see healing, restoration, new opportunities, new growth.  don’t say, “I don’t think so, the medical report’s still bad, my child’s still acting up, I’ll never meet the right person.”  no, why don’t you be like Elijah and have a boldness to believe what God’s put in your heart?  why don’t you start declaring, “the rain is coming, favor is coming.  2014 is my year to bloom, to blossom, to flourish, to see new growth.”

1 Kings 18:42-43 (NKJV)

42 … Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, 43 and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.”…

he put actions behind his faith;  he was expecting it to change.

1 Kings 18:43 (NKJV)

43  … So he went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.”

Elijah didn’t get discouraged.  he didn’t think, “well, I must have heard God wrong,” he told him to go back and look again.  if you’re going to see abundance, you can’t let people talk you out of what God put in your heart.  don’t let words of doubt and discouragement take root.  people may tell you things like, “you really think you’re going to get well?  my grandmother died of that same disease.  you think you’re gonna get that position?  I don’t think you’re really qualified.”  let that go in one ear and out the other.  people don’t determine your destiny, God does.  what you hear in your spirit is more powerful than any negative words that have been spoken over you.  if you’ll listen carefully, you’ll hear the sound of abundance, the sound of increase, the sound of new levels;  that’s the Creator of the universe calling out your seeds of greatness.  God does not want you to stay where you are;  He’s got new levels, but you’ve got to get into agreement with Him.  you gotta ignite this moment and say, “yes, this is for me today.  my child may be off course, but I’m not worried;  I hear the sound of restoration.  I know the rain is coming.  I may not feel well;  I’m not discouraged, I hear the sound of healing.  I went through a loss;  I’m not living depressed, I hear the sound of new beginnings. I know the drought is ending and the rain is coming.”  when I look out at you, you know what I hear? the sound of dreams come to pass, the sound of marriages being restored, the sound of that baby you’ve been believing for, the sound of divine connections, you meeting the right person.  I hear the sound of new opportunities;  it’s the sound of abundance.

1 Kings 18:44 (NKJV)

44 Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!…

one thing I love about God is He can take something small and turn it into much.  God doesn’t need the whole sky to be filled with clouds, He can take a tiny little cloud, most people would dismiss it, it’s nothing, it’s insignificant, yet God can bring a downpour out of it.  you don’t need a bunch of people behind you, you just need the right Person behind you.  you don’t have to be the most powerful, the most influential;  God used a teenage girl named Esther, an orphan, to save all of Israel.  God used a donkey to speak to a prophet;  no offense, but most of us don’t pay any attention to a donkey, it’s insignificant.  God used a slingshot and a few stones to defeat Goliath, and put David, a shepherd boy with no training, on the throne of Israel.  don’t discount the little cloud;  God can take something small and turn it into something great.  don’t despise the day of small beginnings.  some of you, all you can see is a little cloud, a little glimmer of hope;  it doesn’t look like much.  every voice tells you, “don’t get your hopes up, you’re going to be disappointed again, nothing’s going to change.”  I want to tell you just the opposite;  get your hopes up, find your umbrella, put your raincoat on, God’s about to rain down an abundance of favor, there’s going to be an abundance of goodness in your life.  God has done it in the past;  He’s going to do it in the future.  that drought is coming to an end.  Elijah told King Ahab:

1 Kings 18:44 (NKJV)

44 …So he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’

he meant, “the sound of abundance that I’ve heard on the inside is about to come to pass on the outside.”  this was before there was any sign of rain.  notice Elijah’s faith;  he was making plans for abundance when all he saw was a little cloud.  if you wait around discouraged, negative, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” you’ll be waiting your whole life.  you got to do like Elijah and start making plans for abundance, start making plans for increase, start talking like it’s going to happen.  not “if I get well” but “when I get well.”  not “if I break this addiction” but “when I break this addiction.”  not “if I start my new business” but “when I start my new business.”  you’ve got to show God that you’re trusting Him.  this is what Elijah did; as he was heading out, the heavens opened up the rains came pouring down:

1 Kings 18:45 (NKJV)

45 Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel. 46 Then the hand of the Lord came upon Elijah; and he girded up his loins and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

“that sounds great, but I don’t even see a little cloud in my sky.  I’ve been believing to meet the right person, but I haven’t had a date in 27 years. I don’t see how it could happen.”  no, just because you don’t see anything doesn’t mean God’s not working;  you don’t know what God is up to behind-the-scenes.  “When I say rain, I don’t need a cloud.  when I say healing, I don’t have to have medicine.  when I say promotion, I don’t need your boss’ approval.  when I say abundance, I don’t need a bank.  I’m not limited by the natural;  I’m a supernatural God.”  all of your circumstances may say, “you’ll never get well, you’ll never get out of debt, never accomplish your dreams, there’s not a cloud in the sky”;  but take heart;  He’s still God, He’s still on the throne.  He doesn’t need a cloud to make it rain.  God can do what medical science cannot do.  don’t talk yourself out of it.  don’t let your circumstances discourage you.  everything doesn’t have to look the way you think it should look.  God’s ways are not our ways:  God brought water out of a rock.  Jesus told Peter to go catch a fish, open its mouth, and there was the money he needed for taxes. God called a young lady named Mary to have a baby without knowing a man.  He’s God:  He can use those things, or He can do it another way, without a cloud, without a bank, without the treatment, without the experience.  God has ways to make it rain in your life that you’ve never dreamed of.  you don’t have to figure everything out;  all you’ve got to do is believe.  in fact, it says in Proverbs:

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding

sometimes, there is no logical solution;  you’ve gotta turn your mind off.  if you’re constantly trying to figure it out, that’s just going to make you discouraged, depressed, frustrated. just because you don’t see a way doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have a way.  Friends, God knows how to make it rain in your life.  He doesn’t need a cloud.  He may not do it an ordinary way;  quit trying to figure out how it’s going to happen, and just believe that it will happen.  you may be in a drought today, you don’t see any clouds in the sky, but remember, God doesn’t need a cloud.  now you’ve got to get in agreement with God, and start saying, “Father, thank you that the rain is coming, healing is coming, restoration is on its way.”  dare to make some declarations of faith;  “the God I serve is a rainmaking God.”  this is what Abraham did when he was waiting for the child God promised him.  he was way too old, it looked impossible, but the Scripture says:

Romans 4:20 (TLB)

20 But Abraham never doubted. He believed God, for his faith and trust grew ever stronger, and he praised God for this blessing even before it happened.

he got up every morning and said, “Lord, thank You that Your rain is coming, thank You that my baby is on his way, thank You that You’re faithful to Your word.”  he kept thanking God for what he heard in his spirit.  like with Abraham, God has put dreams in your heart.  He’s spoken promises over you.  deep down, you know you’ll get well, you know you’ll break that addiction, you know you will accomplish your dreams.  but in the natural, it looks impossible;  you don’t see how, the odds are against you, it’s been so long.  no, God is saying, “what I started in your life, I will finish.  rain is coming.  the clouds are starting to form.  I can hear some thunder rumbling in the distance.”  now keep praying, keep believing, keep expecting;  one touch of God’s favor, one downpour, and like with Abraham the baby will suddenly be conceived, the drought will come to an end.  you need to get ready;  in 2014, rain is going to come looking for you.  you’re not going to have to go after it:  good breaks, opportunities, restoration, divine connections are going to track you down.  friends, I hear the sound of an abundance of rain. you need to get your umbrellas;  God is about to show you a downpour of his favor.  every drought in your life is coming to an end.  the dry places, the barren spots, are about to see new life;  this is your year to bloom, to blossom, to flourish.  now get up every morning expecting it;  “Lord, thank You that Your rain is coming.”  if you do this, I believe and declare, you’re going to see, not a trickle, not a sprinkle, but a downpour of God’s goodness, an abundance of rain in 2014.

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One more time

from JO’s sermon tonight:

when God laid out the plan for your life, it wasn’t dependent on you never making a mistake.  He didn’t say, “here’s My best plan;  if you perform perfectly, never make a mistake, wrong turn, lose your temper, give in to temptation, then I’ll bless, guide, protect you.”  no, God knew every wrong turn that you would make:

Mark 14:30 (NIV)

30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”

he already knew that Peter wouldn’t be there when he needed him the most.  nothing you’ve done is a surprise to God;  God had already lined up mercy for every mistake.

Romans 5:20 (NKJV)

20 …  where sin abounded, grace abounded much more

God’s mercy will always supersede any mistake;  if sin abounds at level 500, mercy shows up at 5000.  “I’ve made a lot of mistakes.  I got away from God, running with the wrong crowd, unfaithful, dishonest in business;  I blew it big time.”  God has bigger time mercy.  it supersedes every failure, weakness, mistake.  “I blew God’s plan for my life.”  you’re not that powerful.  you think your mistakes, weaknesses, shortcomings, failures can stop what the Creator of the universe has destined you to do?

Romans 11:29 (NIV)

29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable

that means God never disqualifies us.  if that mistake, weakness was going to keep you from your destiny, God would never have permitted it.  it may have taken you a different route than you expected, but God knows what He is doing;  He can still get you to your final destination.

Psalm 37:23-24 (NKJV)

23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the Lord upholds him with His hand.

even though God is directing our steps, there will be times that we fall.  we don’t perform perfectly.  we lose our temper, make a poor choice;  God promises that is not the end.  that failure, addiction, divorce is not the end.  why?  God is holding you in the palm of His hand.  He is not going to let you  go.  if you  fall, don’t stay down, wallow in guilt, go through life feeling wrong on the inside, thinking that you’ve got to pay God back for your mistakes.  no, the price has already been paid 2000 years ago.  learn to receive God’s mercy.  start believing that He is going to be good to you one more time.

2 Chronicles 33:1-11 (NIV)

33 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” … He took the image he had made and put it in God’s temple, of which God had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever… 11 So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.

It looked like his life was over, like he was getting what he deserved.    after 55 years of not honoring God, of doing nothing but wrong, what did he do?

2 Chronicles 33:12 (NIV)

12In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors.

surely, God would say, “Manasseh, you don’t acknowledge me for 55 years and now you want my help.  you’ve been the most wicked ruler;  it’s payback time.  you’re on your own.”  no:

2 Chronicles 33:13-16 (NIV)

13 And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God…  15 He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. 16 Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel. 

that’s the mercy of our God.  we think, “I haven’t lived the right kinda life.  God is not going to help me.  I’ve got this addiction, blew a relationship, didn’t raise my kids right.”  no, you’re not worse than Manasseh.  be bold and say, “God, I’ve made a mess of things, but I know:

Romans 5:20 (NKJV)

20 …  where sin abounded, grace abounded much more

you are full of mercy, I’m asking you to help me.”  “God is not ever going to help me, listen to me”;   he listened to Manasseh.  55 years of doing nothing but wrong, but he was bold enough to ask.  God turned it around and brought him out of the mess that he made.  have you ever asked God to bring you out of the problem that you brought on yourself?  do you have the boldness to ask God to bless you in spite of your mistakes, to show you favor in spite of your failings?  every voice will tell you, “you don’t deserve it, it’s not right, God is not going to listen to you.”  when you start shaking off guilt and condemnation, the enemy goes into overtime.  he is called “the accuser”;  he will remind you of every mistake, weakness.  he wants you to go around feeling unworthy, carrying a heavy load of guilt, thinking about how undeserving you are.

Hebrews 4:16 (KJV)

16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

if you’re going to reach your highest potential, you’ve got to shake off the guilt, accusing voices, and come boldly to the throne. dare to say, “God, I’m asking for your blessing, goodness, mercy, in spite of my mistakes.” this is what Samson did:

Judges 13:3-5 (NIV)

The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son…  He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”

the plan for Samson’s life had already been laid out.  he grew up and had supernatural strength:

Judges 15:14-15 (NIV)

14 As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. 15 Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.

Judges 16:1-3 (NIV)

16 One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. The people of Gaza were told, “Samson is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.”

But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.

but Samson started running with the wrong crowd, compromising, making poor choices, doing things that he knew he shouldn’t do.  he let his guard down:

Judges 16:17-21 (NIV)

17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”

18 When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. 19 After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him.  And his strength left him… 21 Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison. 

this once powerful man, destined to do great things, had God’s blessings and favor, was blind, chained, living like an animal.  it was his own fault;  he brought the trouble on himself.  it seemed like he was done, like God was finished with him.  but:

Judges 16:22-27 (NIV)

22 But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved… 

25 While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them.

When they stood him among the pillars, 26 Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.”27 Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. 

you’d think that Samson would feel condemned, washed up, thinking, “I’m getting what I deserve.  I made some really bad choices.”  no, Samson understood  this principle:

Judges 16:28 (NLT)

28 Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me just one more time. 

imagine the nerve boldness that took.  after all the mistakes he made, he had the audacity to believe that God would hear him and give him the strength, favor, blessing that he had before he made those mistakes.  God could have said, “Samson, you had your chance, you blew it again and again.”  no, when you come to the throne with boldness, receive God’s mercy, and take it one step further and ask God to bless you in spite of your mistakes, help you clean up a mess that you made, show you favor even though you don’t deserve it.  God doesn’t say, “too bad, no, I’m not going to do it.”

Judges 16:29

29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other,30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

what if he hadn’t had the boldness to say, “God, strengthen me one more time”?  the story wouldn’t have ended like it did.  maybe you’ve made mistakes, you’re not where you want to be in life.  you could say like Samson, “a lot of it’s my own fault.  I was undisciplined, did things that I knew I wasn’t supposed to do.”  that’s fine.  will you have the boldness to shake off guilt, accusing voices, and say, “God, bless, restore, deliver me, show me favor one more time”?  here’s the beauty about our God;  if you’ll have the boldness to ask, God will do it one more time.  God never runs out of the one more times.  but too often, we believe that God forgives us, we know He is merciful, but we don’t think that God will bless us, not after what we’ve done.  “He will forgive me, be merciful, but He won’t restore my marriage, give me that promotion.”  He showed Samson mercy and strengthened him one more time.

some of you are sitting on the sidelines, focused on your mistakes, living guilty, letting the accuser keep telling you that you’re all washed up.  no, God is saying, “I’ve got a one more time for you.”  if you will go boldly to the throne, not condemned, thinking, “I’ve blown it so many times,” no, go to God and say, “God, I don’t feel worthy, but I come to you with boldness, not because of how good I am, but because of how good You are.  You said where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.  I’m asking You to bless, strengthen me, bring me out one more time.”  God did it for Samson;  He will do it for you.  but when we make mistakes, the last thing we want to do is go to God;  “God is not going to help me.  He saw me make the poor choices.”  no, God doesn’t judge you by one mistake or your last mistake.  God is not holding your faults against you.  think about Thomas:

John 20:24-28 (NKJV)

24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

what’s interesting is that Jesus headed straight toward Thomas.  he didn’t go to the other believers.  Jesus bypassed all the people with faith and went to the one that had doubt. he could have thought, “Thomas, I told you I was going to rise from the dead.  if you don’t believe that’s your own problem.”  no, God doesn’t judge you by one mistake, weakness, bad season, failed marriage, addiction.  God is not holding your faults against you.  that voice that’s always telling you what you’re not, making you feel condemned, trying to get you to live guilty, saying God wouldn’t have anything to do with you;  that’s the accuser.  you know why he wants you to feel condemned, bad about yourself?  so you won’t go boldly to the throne.  he knows God always has a “one more time,” and will help you out of the mess that you made.

as long as you believe, there’s always a “one more time” for you.  55 years Manasseh lived off course, but God had a “one more time,” didn’t hold that against him.  Thomas travelled with Jesus, but he still blew it;  God had a “one more time” for Thomas.  we call him “Doubting Thomas”;  God calls him “Believing Thomas.”  the enemy will try to label you with everything that you’ve done wrong:  doubter, failed, divorced, addicted, poor choices.  God labels you forgiven, redeemed, restored, overcomer, more than a conqueror, victorious.  when you make mistakes in life, fail, have moments of doubt, don’t let the accuser keep you from going to your Father for mercy.  God is not judging you, holding a grudge, finding fault.  your job is to go boldly to the throne and say, “God, I need your mercy.  I’m here knowing that you are a good God, and you’ve got a “one more time” for me.”  Jesus said:

Luke 18:17 (NIV)

17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

when children make mistakes, have you noticed that they don’t sit around guilty for 6 months?  they don’t go around condemned, thinking that they’ve missed their destiny;  they let it go and move forward.  just like them, don’t go around dwelling on your mistakes and all the times that you’ve failed;  let it go and move forward with your life.  you’re not a failure unless you quit;  you’re a learner.  when a child that’s learning to walk takes 2-3 steps in a row, we call our family; “he’s walking!!”  we don’t tell them the 7000 times he’s fallen.  in the same way, God is not focused on all the times that you’ve fallen;  as long as you get back up and keep moving forward, God is pleased with you.  you don’t have to have a perfect performance.  if your heart is perfect toward God, if you’ve got a desire to please Him, your performance will catch up.  don’t go around beating yourself up over past mistakes.  learn to receive God’s mercy.

children know how to receive.  as adults, we start accumulating all this negative baggage:  mistakes, failures, missed opportunities.  we live under a heavy load of guilt, regrets.  the accuser keeps saying, “you had your chance.  you blew it.  just settle where you are.”  no, you’ve got to shake that off.  God is saying, “I’ve got a “one more time” for you.  one more time I’m gonna bless, restore you, show you My favor.”  will you receive this mercy, shake off the guilt and get a new vision for your life?  God is saying, “I  want to be good to you.  I have mercy, forgiveness, new beginnings, restoration.”  are you  gonna be like a child, and say, “God, let’s go.  I believe you love me, I’m forgiven, your mercy is bigger than any mistake”?  or are you going to say, “no, I don’t deserve it, I’ve been struggling with this same thing again.  I didn’t go to church, I lost my temper”?  no, God is not finding fault with you;  stop finding fault with yourself.  you’re not a finished product;  God is still working on you.  this is what Jonah did (I don’t see the connection, but it’s a good story):

Jonah 1:1-17 (NIV)

1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port.  After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.  Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god..11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” … 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm… 17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah should have drowned, but right on cue God sent a whale to swallow him up.  friends, you can’t outrun the mercy of God.

Psalm 139:7-10 (NLT)

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.

it’s one thing to get into trouble and you didn’t really know better, but Jonah knew, and chose to do wrong.  it seems like God would say, “fine, Jonah, have your own way;  watch what happens.”  no, God has already taken into account every wrong turn, mistake.  don’t write yourself off;  get up and do better next time.

Jonah 2 (NIV)

1From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me…  10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

God spared his life.  that’s the God we serve;  He doesn’t judge you by past mistakes, hold a grudge, write you off because you went left and He said go right. even when you make mistakes, if you’ll be bold like Jonah and go to God, ask Him to help you, God will show up one more time and heal, deliver, bring you out.  but some of you think it’s been too many times;  “I’ve blown too many chances, I’m still struggling with this same thing, I said I wouldn’t do it again.”  that’s ok;  this is a new day.  God’s mercy is new every morning;  He has a fresh batch of mercy just for you.  will you do like Jonah and say, “God, I made a mess, but I’m coming to you boldly, knowing that you have mercy.  God, I’m bold enough to believe that you will help me one more time”?  Jacob was known for his poor choices;

Genesis 25:29-33 (NIV)

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)

31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

 the birthright was extremely valuable.  Jacob knew it was wrong, that he was cheating his brother, but he did it anyway;  that’s the way he was.

Genesis 27:1-27 (NLT)

27 One day when Isaac was old and turning blind, he called for Esau, his older son… I will pronounce the blessing that belongs to you, my firstborn son, before I die.”… 15 Then she took Esau’s favorite clothes, which were there in the house, and gave them to her younger son, Jacob. 16 She covered his arms and the smooth part of his neck with the skin of the young goats… Isaac answered. “Who are you—Esau or Jacob?”  19 Jacob replied, “It’s Esau, your firstborn son… 25 Then Isaac said, “Now, my son, bring me the wild game. Let me eat it, and then I will give you my blessing.”… and he blessed his son.

 time and again he went around deceiving;  no integrity.  one day, Jacob got tired of living like that:

Genesis 32:24-26

 (NKJV)

24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.”

But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”

imagine the nerve of Jacob asking God to bless him after living a life of cheating, taking advantage of people, stealing his brother’s birthright.  surely, God would say, “Jacob, you’re the last person on Earth that I’m ever gonna bless.  you can forget about it.”  no, God said in effect, “Jacob, I like the fact that you’ve come boldly to the throne, that you know I’m full mercy, that where sin abounds grace does much more abound.”  God not only gave him the blessing:

Genesis 32:28 (NKJV)

28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

Jacob means “deceiver”:  Israel means “Prince with God.”  from that day, Jacob went out with the blessing, a changed man.  God is not holding anything against you.  some of you have been carrying the heavy load of guilt, condemnation, thinking that God would never be good to you.  have you ever asked?  have you ever said, “God, I haven’t performed perfectly, I’ve made a mess out of things, but I’m asking you to bless me in spite of my mistakes, strengthen me one more time”?  God will do it for you;  He is a one more time God.  one more time He is going to bless you, restore you.  He’ll never run out of the “one more times.”  shake off the guilt and go boldly to the throne;  you won’t be disappointed.  God will restore you, bless you, bring you out, and you will still fulfill the best plan that He has laid out for your life.

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Knowing who you are

from JO’s sermon tonight:

it’s easy to go through life thinking that we’re average, ordinary,” there’s nothing special about me.”  no, when God created you, He put a part of Himself in you;  you could say that you have the DNA of almighty God.  you are destined to do great things, leave your mark on this generation;  there is nothing average about you.  but too many times we don’t realize who we are.  we focus on our weaknesses, what we don’t have, the mistakes we’ve made, the family we come from;  we end up settling for mediocrity when we were created for greatness.  if you’re going to break out of average, every day you need to remind yourself, “I have the DNA of the most high God.  greatness is in my genes.  I come from a bloodline of champions.”  your heavenly Father spoke worlds into existence, made man out of dust and breathed life into him.  you have His DNA;  imagine what you can do.  when you realize who you are, you won’t go around intimidated, insecure, thinking, “I’m lacking, not that talented, come from the wrong family,” no, you come from the right family;  your Father created it all.  when you know who you are, it changes your thinking, from, “I’m unlucky, I never get any good breaks,” to, “I have the favor of God.  blessings are chasing me down.”  from, “this obstacle is too big, I’ll never overcome it,” to, “I can do all things through Christ.”  when you know who you are, you’ll start thinking, talking, carrying yourself like a winner.  when you gave your life to Christ:

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation

you were born into a new family.  don’t you dare go around thinking that you’re average;  “I could never accomplish my dreams, I’ll never get outta debt.”  do you know who your Father is?  there’s nothing too much for you.  you can overcome that sickness, run that company, take your family to a new level.  quit believing those lies:  “you’ve reached your limits, gone as far as you can go.”  no, start talking to yourself like a winner.  you’re expected to succeed, get well, live debt free;  it’s in your blood, because of who your Father is.  it’s no big deal for you to accomplish your dreams, live healthy and whole, lead the company in sales;  it’s in your spiritual DNA.  you didn’t come from ordinary stock;  you came from the best of the best.  it doesn’t matter what we look like on the outside, what color we are, how tall or short, attractive or unattractive, how many weaknesses we have.  you may struggle with an addiction, or have made some mistakes;  what supersedes all of that is on the inside you have the DNA of a champion.

you come from a long list of winners:  Moses, David, Samson, Nehemiah, Esther.  there’s victory, faith, favor, supernatural strength, power, increase, promotion, abundance, courage in your bloodline.  don’t go around thinking, “I could never break this addiction, afford college, see my family restored.  no, you come from a bloodline of champions.  it’s in your DNA.  you were born to win, overcome, live in victory.  it doesn’t matter what your present circumstances look like.  that addiction didn’t come to stay;  freedom is in your DNA.  that sickness is not permanent;  health and wholeness is in your DNA.  lack, struggle, barely getting by is not your destiny;  abundance, increase, opportunity, good breaks is in your DNA.  when thoughts tell you that it’s never going to happen, check your spiritual birth certificate;  remind yourself who you are.  when that thought says, “you’ll never accomplish your dreams, get well,” say, “no thanks, you’ve got the wrong person.  I’ve already checked my birth certificate, I know who I am.”  am I supposed to live average, lonely, struggling, always getting the short end of the stick?  no, scripture says:

Psalm 5:12 (HCSB)

12 For You, Lord, bless the righteous one;
You surround him with favor like a shield.

Isaiah 54:17 (NKJV)

17 No weapon formed against you shall prosper

Exodus 23:26 (KJV)

26 … the number of thy days I will fulfill.

Joshua 24:15 (KJV)

15 … as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Deuteronomy 15:6 (AMP)

…  you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow

Psalm 23:6 (NKJV)

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life

Deuteronomy 28:2 (AMP)

And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you if you heed the voice of the Lord your God.

that’s what’s in your DNA.  when thoughts tell you otherwise, don’t get discouraged, just keep reminding yourself who you are.  a lot of people have never been told who they are.  they’ve had negative voices playing over and over;  “you’re not talented, you’re not going to ever get married or out of debt, you come from the wrong family.”  as long as those voices are playing, it will keep you from your destiny.  maybe nobody told you who you are;  you’re a child of the most high God.  you are strong, talented, beautiful, wise, courageous;  you have seeds of greatness.  you can do all things through Christ.  you didn’t come from ordinary stock;  you’re a thoroughbred, destined to do great things.  that’s who almighty God says you are.  in the Old Testament, people understood the power of the bloodline more than we do today.  God started the 1st covenant with Abraham, a Jewish man.  in those days, if you weren’t Jewish you didn’t have a right to God’s blessings and favor;  it was limited to one bloodline, the Jewish people.

Luke 13:10-16 (NKJV)

10 Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. 12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” 13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

14 But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”

15 The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? 16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”

Jesus was saying, “she comes from the right family;  healing is in her DNA.  she has a right to be well.”   in another place just the opposite happened:

Mark 7:25-27 (NIV)

25 … a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia (and therefore NOT a Jew). She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

Jesus said in effect, “I can’t do it, you come from the wrong family.”  it didn’t seem fair, but that’s how powerful the bloodline was.

(don’t worry, Jesus didn’t actually refuse to help an innocent child:

Mark 7:28-29 NIV)

28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”)

now here’s the beauty;  when Jesus died and rose again, he made a way for all people to come to him, both Jews and gentiles.

Galatians 3:29 (NIV)

29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

don’t go through life believing the lies that you’ve come from the wrong family, “your father was an alcoholic, so you’ll be an alcoholic”;  no, you have  entered into a new bloodline.  if God was standing before you today, he would say, “should not this man be free from this addiction, seeing that he is a son of Abraham?”  you have a right to be blessed, free, healthy, happy, whole;  it’s in your DNA.  your natural bloodline may have some negative things in it, but the spiritual bloodline will always overpower it.  the spiritual is greater than the natural.  “I’ve got a lot of dysfunction in my family,” no, your spiritual bloodline says you can overcome every obstacle, break that addiction, beat that sickness, set a new level for your family.  why?  you come from the right bloodline;  you have the DNA of a champion.

Judges 6:3-12 (NLT)

Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, marauders from Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east would attack Israel,camping in the land and destroying crops as far away as Gaza… So Israel was reduced to starvation by the Midianites. Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help…  11 … Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”

Gideon wasn’t strong and courageous, he was afraid and intimidated, yet God called him a mighty hero.  like Gideon, you may feel weak, intimidated, inadequate, average, but God calls you strong, courageous, well able, a mighty hero.  when you get up in the morning, and the negative thoughts come, reminding you of what you’re not, telling you of all your flaws, weaknesses, put your shoulders back, hold your head up high, dare to look in the mirror and say, “good morning you mighty hero.”  let these thoughts play all through the day;  “I’m strong, courageous, I have the DNA of a champion, I am who God says I am, I can do what God says I can do.”  you’ve got to remind yourself who you are;  not weak, defeated, you are a mighty hero.

Judges 6:14-15 (NLT)

14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!”

15 “But Lord,” Gideon replied, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”

what was the problem?  Gideon didn’t know who he was.  God had just called him a mighty hero.  a couple of chapters later:

Judges 8:18 (NLT)

18 Then Gideon asked Zebah and Zalmunna, “The men you killed at Tabor—what were they like?”

“Like you,” they replied. “They all had the look of a king’s son.”

here Gideon felt like he was the least, inadequate, not able to, but even his enemies said, “you look like a king’s son.”  if you allow the wrong thoughts to play in your mind, you can have the talent, opportunity, strength, looks, but you’ll make excuses and talk yourself out of it.  not only does God call you a mighty hero, even the enemy sees you as a king’s son/daughter.  he knows who you are, now make sure you know who you are.  carry yourself like a king, queen, mighty hero;  you come from the right family.  when God called Gideon a mighty hero, up to that point Gideon had not done anything significant.  I can understand God calling him that it he had done something amazing, but it seemed like he was just ordinary, insignificant, nothing special about him.  but God saw something in Gideon that people did not see;  God saw his potential, what he could become.  you may feel like you’re average, ordinary, but God sees the mighty hero, king’s son/daughter, the DNA of a champion, in you.  turn off the negative recording that’s reminding you of what you’re not, and get in agreement with God;  start seeing yourself as that mighty hero.

Exodus 3:10-11 (NLT)

10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”

11 But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”

he was saying, “God, I’m ordinary.  Pharaoh is the leader of a nation;  he’s not going to listen to me.”  Moses forgot who he was;  he didn’t see himself as a king’s son but as inadequate.  he focused on his weaknesses, limitations, started making excuses:

Exodus 4:10-11 (NLT)

10 But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”

11 Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord?

God was saying, “Moses, I breathed my life into you, put my DNA on the inside.  you may feel weak, inadequate, insecure, but I don’t want to hear your excuses.  quit telling me what you’re not.  I have the final say, and I say you’re a king’s son, a mighty hero, you can do all things through Christ.”  (technically, God wouldn’t have said anything to Moses about Jesus!!)  that’s what God is saying to us today.  some of you have been like an eagle raised in a chicken coop for far too long.  you’re not a chicken, you’re an eagle.  don’t let that limited environment rub off on you.  don’t let how you were you raised or what somebody said keep you from knowing who you really are.  check your spiritual birth certificate;  you’ll find that you’ve been made in the image of almighty God.  He has crowned you with favor.  you were never created to be average, mediocre;  you were created to soar.  abundance, opportunity, good breaks;  that’s in your DNA.  now get rid of a chicken mentality and start having an eagle mentality.  you may work or live around a bunch of chickens;  you’ve got to say, “I may be in a limited environment, but I am not settling here.  I know who I am;  I’m an eagle, king’s son, mighty hero, thoroughbred.  I’ve got winning in my DNA.”  You come from a bloodline of champions.  get up every morning and check your spiritual birth certificate.  remind yourself who you are.  if you do this, you’re going to soar to new heights, rise above every obstacle, set new levels for your family, and become everything God’s created you to be.

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I’ve just realized that I forgot to mention;  this year I will  read the entire Bible for the 1st time.  I will furthermore be looking up everything I don’t understand…  and that will be PLENTY, believe me.  On the morning of 1-9, I belatedly read the BibleStudyTools.com Daily Bible Reading for 1-8, which included:

Genesis 15:7-18 (NIV)

He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates

I didn’t know what the significance of the “passed between the pieces” thing was, so I looked it up, and found:

“B. CUTTING OF ANIMALS IN TWO

1. The cutting of animals in two was one of the oldest rites of the covenant, emphasized by its very name “to cut.” The bloody halves were laid upward.
2. The covenanting parties would walk between the cloven animals invoking the curse; “If I fail to fulfill this covenant, may God do to me as is done to these animals.”
3. Binding one’s self with a curse was considered one of the strongest assurances that the covenant would be fulfilled. For another instance, see Jeremiah 34:18-20.”

I got a shiver just reading that!!  That’s how deeply involved I am in scripture right now.  It’s an incredible experience!!  I highly recommend it.

I get a TON of religion emails every day.  Normally I read them all, but for the past few days I’ve been deleting all except the ones with verses and the 2 that are part of my reading plan, because I’ve been swamped.  Very early on 1-10, I was trying to click on an email in my Yahoo inbox, but one of the many flaws of their new system is that if an email has come in but not yet been loaded, what you click on isn’t what you actually get, because the list has been incremented downwards without your being able to see it.  Because of this, I ended up loading an email that I would not otherwise have seen;  one of several newsletters I get from pastor JP.  My initial thought was to delete it, but something made me read it even though I don’t have the time, and look what it said:

“When Abraham asked God how he would know for sure that he would inherit the land that God had promised him, God made a covenant with him. (Genesis 15:8–21) But instead of cutting the covenant with Abraham by walking in between the animal pieces with him, God put Abraham into a deep sleep and cut the covenant with Jesus instead.

Jesus, the light of the world, appeared as the pillar of fire and cut the covenant with God the Father who appeared as the pillar of cloud. In other words, Jesus took Abraham’s place. He was perfect Man representing Abraham when He cut the covenant with His Father.

By substituting Abraham with Jesus, God was being gracious because if Abraham had done it, he would also have been responsible for keeping the covenant. And Abraham, being a mere man, would fail. But God the Son can never fail! Abraham’s blessings were therefore guaranteed because they did not depend on his performance but Jesus’ performance. Abraham was literally a sleeping partner, a beneficiary of the covenant.”

!!!!!!!!! I had no idea that this was supposed to be God and JESUS  “cutting the covenant”!!  Within less than 24 hours of my reading that passage and not understanding what it meant, and not even realizing I was missing the point, God made sure that out of the thousands of verses JP could have chosen to send out an explanation of, he sent that specific thing.  God is clearly in favor of this project, and with His help I am guaranteed to succeed.  Amazing!!

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A sign x 3

I have serious issues with my roommate going back 3 years, to when my mother died.  I asked God yesterday to give me a sign that any of the problematic relationships in my life were getting better “behind the scenes.”  Last night, I listened to a Christian podcast, and there were 2 women IN A ROW talking about relationship problems going back THREE YEARS!!  But wait, there’s more:  When I got to my inbox today, there was a comment notification from WordPress.  I should say for the benefit of those unfamiliar with WordPress that they have a VERY good anti-spam setup, and I have VERY rarely gotten a spam comment sent as a valid one.  This comment was that rare exception, and it purported to be from a woman talking about…  you guessed it, a relationship that has been a problem for THREE YEARS!!!!!!!

God is under no obligation to give us signs, and ideally we probably shouldn’t ask, but He understands that we need a little encouragement now and then to help counter the stresses and other negative effects of waiting a long time for a bad situation to turn around, so I don’t think He minds doing it.  I’m grateful, as always, for His willingness to give me a boost when I need it;  I know that He will make it all come out right.

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from JO’s sermon tonight:

God’s dream for your life is that you would be blessed in such a way that you could be a blessing to others.  David said:

Psalm 23:5 (KJV)

… my cup runneth over.

God is an overflow God.  but you can’t go around thinking thoughts of lack, not enough, struggle, and expect to have abundance.  if you’ve been under pressure for a long time, had difficulty making ends meet, it’s easy to develop a limited mindset;  “I’ll never get out of this neighborhood or have enough to send my kids to college.”  no, that may be where you are now, but that’s not where you have to stay.  God is called El-Shaddai, the God of more than enough;  not the God of barely enough, just help me make it through, let me live off the leftovers, no, the God of overflow, abundance.

Psalm 35:27 (NKJV)

 27 … let them say continually,
“Let the Lord be magnified,
Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.”

they were supposed to go around constantly saying, “God takes pleasure in prospering me”;  it was to help them develop this abundant mentality.  your life is moving toward what you’re constantly thinking about.  if you’re always thinking thoughts of lack, not enough, struggle, you’re moving toward the wrong things.  all through the day, meditate on these thoughts:  overflow,  abundance, God takes pleasure in prospering me.

the Israelites had been in slavery for many years.  that was the land of barely enough;  they were just enduring, surviving, barely making it through.   1 day, God brought them out of slavery and took them into the desert;  that was the land of just enough.  their needs were supplied, but nothing extra.  their clothes didn’t wear out for 40 years:

Nehemiah 9:21 (NLT)

 21 For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out, and their feet did not swell!

I’m sure they were grateful, but that’s not my idea of abundance.  it wasn’t God’s, either;  God eventually took them into the promised land, the land of more than enough.  the food and supplies were plenteous;  it’s called “the land flowing with milk and honey.”  “flowing” means it didn’t stop, never ran out, continued to have an abundance.  that’s where God is taking you.  you may be in the land of barely enough right now;  you don’t know how you’re going to make it through next week.  don’t worry, God hasn’t forgotten about you:

Matthew 6:28-30 (NLT)

28 … Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. 

 you may be in the land of just enough;  your needs are supplied, you’re grateful, but there’s nothing extra to accomplish your dreams.  God is saying,  “I did not breathe My life into you to live in the land of barely enough or just enough.” those are seasons, tests;  they are not permanent.  don’t put your stakes down, you are passing through.  it is only temporary.  God has a promised land, a place of abundance, of more than enough, for you, flowing with provision;  not just one time, but you’ll continue to increase, have plenty.  if you’re in the land of barely enough, don’t you dare settle there.  that is where you are;  it is not who you are.  that is your location, not your identity;  you are a child of the most high God.  no matter what it looks like, you have this abundant mentality;  keep reminding yourself,  “God takes pleasure in prospering me.  I am the head and never the tail.”  scripture says:

Philippians 4:19 (KJV)

19 But my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches

so often, we look at our situation and think, “I’ll never get ahead”;  no, it’s not according to what you have, it’s according to what He has.  but God owns it all.  1 touch of God’s favor can blast you out of barely enough and put you into more than enough.  have an abundant mentality;  “this is not where I’m staying.  I’m blessed, prosperous, heading to the land of more than enough.”  God has ways to increase you beyond your income and what’s predictable.  now quit telling yourself, “this is all I’ll ever have”;  let go of all that and have an abundant mentality.  “this is not where I’m staying.  I’m blessed, prosperous, headed to overflow, the land of more than enough.”  if you’re going to become everything God’s created you to be, you’ve got to make up your mind that you’re not going to settle for beans and rice, or get stuck in the land of barely enough or just enough;  you’re going to keep praying, believing, expecting, hoping, dreaming, working, being faithful, until you make it all the way into the land of more than enough.  there’s nothing wrong with surviving, but God wants you to go further, set a new standard for your family.  He is an overflow, more than enough God.  Jesus told a parable (the father represents God):

Luke 15:11-32 (NIV)

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

do you have a fatted calf mentality or a skinny (young) goat mentality?  you can survive in the land of barely enough.  we can endure the land of just enough, “just enough to pay my bills this week,” but that is not God’s best. your heavenly Father is saying, “I’ve got a place for you in the land of more than enough.”  don’t go around thinking that you’ll never get ahead, live in a nice house, have enough to accomplish your dreams.  start having  a fatted calf mentality;  God wants you to overflow with His goodness.  when the Israelites were in the desert:

Exodus 16:11-13 (NIV)

11 The Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

13 That evening quail came and covered the camp

God has ways to increase you that you’ve never thought of;  He shifted the direction of the wind and caused a huge flock of quail to come into the camp.  they didn’t have to go after it;  the food came to them.  quail don’t normally travel that far away from the water;  if there had not been a strong wind, they would never have made it way out there in the desert.  God knows how to get your provision to you.  God doesn’t just want to meet your needs, He wants to do it  in abundance.  are you thinking skinny goat or fatted calf?  “I could never afford a nice place to live, support other families, I can barely support my own family”;  skinny goat.  no, God has a fatted calf, a place of abundance, for you.  He is not limited by your circumstances, how you were raised, what you don’t have;  He’s limited by what you’re believing.  no more thinking, “not enough, barely enough, just enough”;  from now on, I’m thinking more than enough, an abundant mentality.   when you live like this, God will bless you in ways you never imagined.  you’ve gotta be faithful in the wilderness if you’re going to make it into the promised land.  I’m not saying that everything is going to change overnight;  there are going to be seasons of testing and proving.  thoughts are going to tell you, “it’s never going to change,” but you dismiss that and keep being faithful right where you are, honoring God, thanking Him that you’re coming into overflow.  Jesus talked about how when we give:

Luke 6:38 (NIV)

38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

what does “pressed down” mean?  when you look full, think you’re blessed, healthy, all you need is one modest thing, God says, “that’s fine, but I’m an overflow, more than enough God;  I’m about to press it down and make room for more of My increase, to show you My favor in a new way.”  He’s going to give you so much that you’re running over.  you just wanted to get your $ out of the house;  God says, “I’m gonna cause it to sell for double.”  that’s the way our God is.  why don’t you get in agreement and say, “God, I’m ready, I have an abundant mentality.  Lord, I want to thank You for good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over in my life.”

Genesis 18:14 (NIV)

 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord?

there is no telling what God will do if you’ll get rid of the skinny goat.  God is about to press some things down, make room to show you His increase in a new way.

Exodus 3:8 (NIV)

So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey

notice, not a small land, little place, tight, crowded, not enough room, no, receive this into your spirit;  God is bringing you into a spacious land of more than enough, plenty of room, flowing with increase, good breaks and opportunity, where you not only have enough for yourself, but you’re running over with space, supplies, opportunity.  if you’re not in a good and spacious place, don’t settle there.  don’t let the skinny goat mentality take root.  that is not your permanent address;  it’s only temporary.  God is taking you to a good and spacious land.  prosperity is having health, peace in your mind, being able to sleep at night, having good relationships.  there are many things that $ cannot buy.  I can’t find one place in the scripture where we’re supposed to drag around not having enough, not able to afford what we want, living off the leftovers, in the land of not enough.  we were created to be the head and not the tail.  Jesus came that we might live an abundant life:

John 10:10 (NASB)

10 … I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

we represent almighty God here on this Earth.  we should be examples of His goodness, so blessed, generous, prosperous, full of joy that other people want what we have.  but you’ve gotta fight a  religious spirit that says you’re supposed to be poor, broke and defeated to show God that you’re really humble.  when you’re poor, broke and defeated, all that proves is that you’re poor,  broke and defeated;  it doesn’t bring any honor to God.  when you look good, dress good, live in a nice place, excel in your career, generous with others, that brings a smile to God’s face;  it brings Him pleasure to prosper you.  there’s something on the inside of us that says we’re supposed to be blessed, live an abundant life.  it’s because we are children of the King;  it was put there by our Creator.  but you have to give God permission to prosper you.  you can’t go around with a lack mentality, thinking, “I’ll just take the leftovers to show everyone how humble I am.  after all, God wouldn’t want me to have too much;  that would be greedy, selfish.”  no, get rid of that false sense of humility;  that’s going to keep you from an abundant life.

Deuteronomy 28:11-13 (MSG)

12 God will lavish you with good things…  God will throw open the doors of his sky vaults and pour rain on your land on schedule and bless the work you take in hand… you’ll always be the top dog, never the bottom dog

you need to start seeing yourself as the top dog, not living off of leftovers, not unable to afford what you want, not in the land of not enough.  no, come on over to the land of more than enough.  it starts in your thinking;  give God permission to increase you, lavish you with good things.  we think, “is it wrong to want to live in a nice house, drive a nice car, have funds to accomplish my dreams, leave an inheritance for my children?”  God is saying, “it’s not wrong;  I take pleasure in prospering you.”  if it was wrong to have resources, abundance, wealth, why would God have chosen Abraham to start the new covenant with?  Abraham is called “the father of our faith.”  the scripture says, “Abraham was the wealthiest man in all of the East.”

Genesis 24:34-35 (NIV) 

34 So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant.  35 The Lord has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys.

God could have chosen anyone, but he chose Abraham, a man extremely blessed.  David left billions of dollars for his son to build the temple.  David is called “a man after God’s own heart.”  get rid of that thinking that, “God wouldn’t want me to have too much, that wouldn’t be right, might not look good.”  no, it’s just the opposite.  when you look good, it makes God look good.  when you’re blessed, prosperous, successful, it brings Him honor.  you don’t have to apologize for what God has done in your life.  wear your blessings well.

Deuteronomy 8:18 (ESV)

18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth

God wouldn’t give you power to do something and then condemn you for doing it.  there’s nothing wrong with you having $, just don’t let $ have you, and become the focus of your life.  don’t seek the provision, seek the Provider.  $ is simply a tool to accomplish your destiny and advance His kingdom.  you are not going to bankrupt heaven by believing for an abundant life. when you have this abundant mentality, you have a desire to advance the kingdom, God will lavish you with good things, open up the doors of His sky vaults, to where you not only accomplish your dreams, but you can help be a blessing to the world.

Deuteronomy 1:11 (NASB)

11 May the Lord, the God of your fathers, increase you a thousand-fold more than you are

can you receive that into your spirit?  1000x more favor, resources, income.  most of the time, our thinking goes, “tilt tilt tilt!!”;  it’s because we’ve been hanging out with that skinny goat too long.   it’s time to cut him loose and have a fatted calf mentality.  God is about to press some things down to make room for more of his increase. get up every morning and say, “Lord, I want to thank you that you are opening up your sky vaults today, raining down favor, lavishing me with good things.”  if you’ll have this abundant mentality, you won’t live in the land of barely enough, just enough, but you’ll come into the land of more than enough, overflow, an abundant life.

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From commenter J comes the following important question:

“Are good deeds in vain? Is God keeping a tab
Hi it’s J
Questions for you…this Christmas my mother and I went to see some family and they don’t have much…neither do I, but I found myself paying my mom’s ticket (one way), buying 90% of the food for 4 days for 5 people, buying Christmas dinner for 20 people and I had to buy 95% of the Christmas presents for the family (a lot of people). In return I did not get much (not even a thank you) and the only reason I was able to do all of it, is that God blessed me with a loan that I have to pay back. So, my questions are …why do I feel so used and abused? Did GOD give me the money because he knew my family needed help? I’m not really sure and I hope what I did was not in vain, because I feel like it was. I need your expertise.”

My hopefully at least semi-expert reply was:

“Luke 17:11-19 (NIV)

Jesus Heals Ten Men With Leprosy

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Jesus encountered ingratitude, too… and he was NOT pleased, and he called them on it.

It’s normal to feel outraged in the face of ingratitude; that’s why you feel that way.

God is very efficient with His blessings; He often accomplishes multiple things with each one. With your loan, I think He had 4 intentions:

1) To see if you would use some of the $ to serve others: PASS

2) To give your family the chance to show gratitude and love: FAIL

3) To show you something important about your family: PASS

4) To show you that it’s time for you to be the head and not the tail: ?

Whether you do that last one or not is up to you. Sometimes you need to hear someone else say it before you believe it, so here it is: It is absolutely, positively, NOT OK for your family to lay back and let you finance everyone’s Christmas. It is 1000x more NOT OK that they couldn’t even go to the dollar store to get you some more gifts, or thank you properly.

God NEVER wants us to be doormats. It’s fine for you to pay a fair aka equal share. It’s fine to pay more than your share for people who are teary-eyed with love and gratitude. One-way giving without gratitude is something that not even Jesus was willing to accept.

There are certainly some categories of people that it’s acceptable, and even necessary, for you to do major one-way giving to, such as loved ones who are:  infants, small children, very sick, badly injured, devastated by a major loss, etc, but beyond that, any adult in whom you’re making a serious investment of $, love, time, whatever, needs to be making an equal effort for YOU, even if in a different form, or inundating you with love and gratitude, or there is a BIG problem.

There are more needy and worthy individuals, groups and charities than you could ever help if you spent the rest of your life trying, so don’t waste one single second, one single penny, on takers and users;  follow those wonderful caring and generous impulses and help those who will allow you to feel joy from helping, rather than the ones that make you feel miserable.  This is what God actually wants:

2 Corinthians 9:7-8 (NLT)

You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.

Thanks for another great question, J!!  🙂

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