Archive for March, 2014

from JO’s sermon tonight:

there is an underlying pressure in our society to be number one.  if we’re not the best, the leader, the fastest, the most talented, the most beautiful, the most successful, then we don’t feel good about ourselves;  we’ve got to work harder, run faster.  a neighbor moves into a new house;  instead of being inspired, we’re intimidated, thinking, “that’s making me look bad, I’ve got to keep up.”  a coworker gets a promotion; we feel like we’re falling behind.  a friend is going to Europe on vacation; we’re going to our grandmother’s four miles down the road.  if we’re not careful, there’s always something making us feel like we don’t measure up, we’re not far enough along.  as long as you compare your situation to others, you will never feel good about yourself, because there will always be somebody more talented, more beautiful, more successful.  you have to realize, you’re not running their race, you’re running your race.  you have a specific assignment;  God has given you exactly what you need for the race that’s been designed for you.  a friend, a coworker, a relative, may seem to have a more significant gift;  they can outrun you, outperform you.  that’s okay;  you’re not competing with them.  they have what they need for their assignment;  you have what you need for yours. if you make the mistake of trying to keep up with them, wondering, “why can’t I sing like that?  why can’t I be the manager?  when am I going to reach their level?”  if you’re not content with your gift, comfortable with who God made you to be, then you’ll go through life frustrated, envious, thinking, “I wish I had her looks, I wish I had his talent, I wish I owned their business.”  no, if you had what they have, it wouldn’t help you, it would hinder you;  they have a different assignment.

quit trying to outperform someone, and then you’re going to feel good about yourself.  “soon as I move into their neighborhood, soon as my business catches up to theirs, soon as I get that promotion”;  no, one of the best things I’ve learned is to be comfortable with who God made me to be.  I don’t have to outperform you to feel good about myself;  I don’t have to outbuild you, outdrive you, outrace you, out minister you, outproduce you.  it’s not about you, it’s about becoming who God made me to be.  and I’m all for having goals, stretching, believing big, that’s important, but you have to accept the gifts that God has given you.  you shouldn’t feel less than if someone seems to have a more significant gift.  it takes a secure person to say, “I’m comfortable with who I am.  this is what I’ve been given;  I can improve it, I can develop it, I can cultivate it, but there’s always going to be somebody that can do it better, further along, more experienced.  that doesn’t bother me;  I know I have the gifts I need for my assignment.”  you don’t have to have a great gift for God to use it in a great way.  do you know what the gift was that David had that put him on the throne?  it wasn’t his leadership skills, wasn’t his dynamic personality, wasn’t his ability to write and play music, it was his gift to sling a rock;  he was a sharpshooter with the slingshot.  he could’ve thought, “oh great, big deal, I’m good with the slingshot;  this is not going to get me anywhere.  I’m out the shepherds’ fields, alone, no people, just a bunch of sheep.” but it was that slingshot, that seemingly insignificant gift, that enabled him to defeat Goliath:

1 Samuel 17:49 (ERV)

49 David took out a stone from his bag. He put it in his sling and swung the sling. The stone flew from the sling and hit Goliath right between the eyes. The stone sank deep into his head, and Goliath fell to the ground—face down.

and eventually put him on the throne.  quit discounting the gift that God has given you.  it may seem insignificant;  “I’m not as smart as my sister, not as talented as my coworker, can’t write software like my colleague.”  maybe not, but there’s something God’s given you that you need, something that will propel you into your destiny, something that will cause you to leave your mark on this generation.  don’t believe the lies that, “you’re average, there’s nothing special about you, you don’t have the personality like your cousin, you don’t have the talent like your friend.”  no, but you’ve got a slingshot.  it’s not so much what you have, it’s the anointing that God puts on it.  that slingshot, your gift, may seem ordinary, but when God breathes on it, you’ll defeat a giant twice your size, you’ll be promoted beyond your talent, you’ll go places where you weren’t qualified, you didn’t have the experience, you weren’t next in line, but suddenly a door opened, suddenly you defeated the giant, suddenly the dream comes to pass. too often, we look for titles and positions, then we’re going to feel good about ourselves; “when I make it to sales manager, when I get on the varsity cheerleading squad, when I’m the head usher, the senior partner, lead supervisor.”  that’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with titles, but you don’t need a title to do what God’s called you to do.  don’t wait for people to approve you, affirm you, validate you;  use your gift and the title will come.  if David would’ve waited for a title, we wouldn’t be talking about him today.

when he went out to face Goliath, the whole army was watching him.  what’s interesting is;  David wasn’t a general, he wasn’t a corporal, he wasn’t a sergeant, he wasn’t even enlisted.  he didn’t have a title, a name badge, a uniform, any credentials;  he could’ve said, “I can’t do anything great; I don’t have a position, nobody’s celebrating me, validating my gifts.”  in fact, it was just the opposite;  people were telling him how he was not qualified, he was too small, he was going to get hurt.  that didn’t bother David;  his attitude was, “I don’t need a title, I don’t need a position;  you didn’t call me, and you don’t have to approve me.  God called me;  He gave me this gift.  it may seem small, insignificant to you, but I’m not here to impress you, I’m not here to please you, I’m here to fulfill my destiny.”  he went out and defeated Goliath.  in a few years, they gave him a title;  king of Israel.  use your gifts, and the titles will come.  “as soon as they crown me king of the office, then I’ll start being my best.  as soon as they make me the head usher, then I’ll show up early, give it my all.”  no, it works the other way around;  you’ve got to show them what you’ve got, then the approval, then the recognition, reward, will come.  you can’t wait for people’s approval to do what God’s called you to do.  what you have may seem small;  you could feel intimidated, thinking that you don’t have the qualifications, the title, the position.  that’s okay, neither did David;  if you’ll use what you have, God will breathe on it;  His anointing on that simple gift will cause you to step into the fullness of your destiny.

in the scripture, there was a little boy;  all he had was a lunch, 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. nothing much, not very significant, yet when thousands of people were hungry, Jesus took his lunch, multiplied it, and fed the whole crowd:

John 6:5-11 (NIV)

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip,“Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” 8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

think about this:  the little boy’s mother got up early that morning to make the lunch.  she baked the bread, she cooked the fish.  she could’ve been considered insignificant;  she was a homemaker, raising a child.  other people were out doing more exciting things, being celebrated, making a splash. if she wouldn’t have been comfortable with who she was, accepting her assignment, secure in her gifts, she would’ve been out competing, trying to outperform others, thinking, “I’m falling behind, they’re making me look bad. I’m just making a lunch, I don’t have an important title.”  no, titles don’t bring fulfillment, keeping up with your neighbors doesn’t bring happiness, trying to impress all your friends will make your life miserable, but running your race, understanding your assignment, being comfortable with who God made you to be, that what brings true fulfillment. we hear a lot about the little boy being willing to give the lunch, but it all started when his mother took time to make the lunch;  she used her gift that seemed small, just making a lunch, but God took the lunch, multiplied it, fed thousands, and we’re still talking about it many years later.

don’t discount the gift God has given you.  it may seem small, just making a lunch for your children;  you don’t know how God’s going to use the child that you’re making the lunch for.  you may be raising a president, a world leader, a great scientist, an entrepreneur, a business leader, a pastor.  you may not touch the world directly, but your child may change the world;  your assignment may be to help your seed go further.  are you secure enough to play the role that God has given you?  are you comfortable enough to not have to be number one, to be in the front, to have the title, the position, to keep up with others? we put so much emphasis on rising to the top, on being the leader, and yes, I believe in excelling, and having big gifts and big dreams, but I also know that everyone can’t be the leader, everyone can’t run the company, everyone can’t be on the platform;  somebody has to open the doors, somebody has to play the music, somebody has to show people where to sit, where to park.  the beauty of our God is, He’s given us all an assignment;  every one of us has a specific gift, a specific purpose.  think about this;  who was more important, the little boy with the lunch, or the mother that made the lunch?  without the mother, we wouldn’t be talking about the miracle.

who is more important, me being up here in front of all of you, or is the most important person really the ones that opened the building?  without them, we couldn’t get in.  or is it the ones that turned on the lights, the sound system, the cameras?  or perhaps the ones that paid the bills during the week?  or maybe it’s the ones that poured the foundation some 40 years ago and built this beautiful facility? or maybe it’s the ones that have supported the ministry down through the years, many of you. the answer is;  they’re all equally important.  without one, the whole thing wouldn’t function properly.  be secure enough to play your role.  we look at who’s in front, getting the credit, the recognition;  they’re the leader.  a lot of times, we look up to them, admire them;  that’s where we want to be.  but if that’s not where we’re called to be, if it’s not where we’re gifted, if it’s not a part of our assignment, then we’re going to be frustrated because it’s not happening.  if we do get there, we’ll be frustrated trying to keep ourselves there, because if you promote yourself, manipulate your way into a position, then you will have to constantly work to try to stay in that position.  but where God takes you, He’ll keep you;  where you force your way, you have to keep yourself.  it’s much better to have the attitude, “I don’t have to be ahead of my friend to feel good about myself.  I don’t have to be on the main stage;  I’m happy being in the background.  I don’t have to be the little boy with the lunch;  I’m happy to be the mom that made the lunch.  I’m happy to singing in the choir. I’m happy to make my company look good.”  when you’re not competing, not comparing, not trying to be something that you’re not, life gets a lot more free;  it takes all the pressure off.

and yes, I realize there are some positions that carry more weight and more importance, but in God’s eyes the usher is just as important as the pastor.  the people that clean the building are just as important as the people that own the building.  the secretary is just as important as the supervisor. God is not going to judge you based on your neighbor’s gift, or your brother’s gift, or by how high you rose in the company;  He is going to judge you based on the assignment that He’s given you.  did you run your race?  not, did you outperform your neighbor, were you more successful than your cousin, did you get more credit, more recognition than your colleague?  you’re not competing with them;  they’re running a different race.  God is going to say to Esther, “did you have the courage to step up and save the nation like I gifted you to?”  He’s going to say to the little boy’s mother, “did you get up early and make the lunch like I gifted you to?”  two different assignments, two different giftings.  God’s not going to compare:  “Esther, I’m prouder of you, you did so much more.”  to the mother, “all you did was make a lunch?  lady, you need to get with it.”  no, it’s all going to be depending on, “did you fulfill your assignment?”  you have to be big enough to accept, “I may not be a racecar, I may not be as fast as my coworker, as smart as my sister, as talented as my neighbor, but that’s okay;  an SUV is just fine.  there’s a place where I fit perfectly, where my gifts, my talents, my skill, my personality, will shine.”  every once in a while, you’ll see an SUV out on the Indy track, thinking, “I’m not gonna be happy unless I’m the fastest, out in front, getting all the credit.”  no, stay in your race.  there is nothing wrong with not being a racecar, nothing wrong with not being the fastest, most beautiful, most talented.

don’t get distracted competing in a race that you were never supposed to be in, trying to outperform your cousin, no, they’re in a different race.  feeling less than because a friend is being more celebrated, frustrated because your neighbor is further along;  no, stay in your race.  be comfortable with who you are.  ladies, you may have a friend that’s a size 4;  she’s naturally small, thin.  she doesn’t have to work out, watch what she eats;  that’s just who she is.  maybe you’re a size 14;  you could work out four times a day and not eat for three years and not get down to a size 4. you better keep your SUV off that Indy track;  quit comparing yourself to her, competing with her, just run your race.  there’s nothing wrong with being a size 14;  you’ve gotta accept what God has given you.  a lot of times, we think, “if I had their talent, if I had their looks, if I could do what they’re doing, then I’d be happy, feel good about myself.”  no, they may be doing something that seems more exciting, more appealing, but the truth is, if you traded places you wouldn’t be happy, you wouldn’t be fulfilled, because their gifts, talents, skills, personality, has been uniquely designed for their assignment.  you could try to do what they’re doing, but the problem is, the anointing on your life is for your gifts, for what you’re called to do.

if you’ll learn to accept your gifts, not competing, comparing, “wish I looked different, wish I had different talents,” no, just be the best that you can be with what you have, and there will be a fulfillment, a satisfaction.  God will open up doors;  He will get you to where you’re supposed to be.  when you’re comfortable with who you are, walking in your anointing, it takes the pressure off;  you enjoy life.  but when you’re always competing with a friend, trying to outperform a colleague, impress all your relatives, that is a frustrating way to live;  you’re competing with someone that’s not even in your race.  what happens when we’re competing with someone, trying to outperform them, dress better than them, make sure we’re more successful?  we end up competing in a race that we were never supposed to be in.  it takes a lot of energy, physical and emotional, to try to keep up with a coworker, dress better than a neighbor, be more successful than your cousin.  no, take the pressure off;  it’s very freeing to say, “I’m okay with you being ahead of me, getting more recognition, doing something more exciting. I’m not going to feel bad about myself if you have a bigger house, a better car, are more successful;  you have what you need for your assignment, I have what I need for mine.  I don’t have to keep up with you;  I’m not in the same race.”  you’re not really free until you know you’re not competing with anyone else.  this is one of the reasons that King Saul lost the throne;  he was happy, running his race, life was good, until he heard some women saying:

1 Samuel 18:7-8 (NIV)

7 As they danced, they sang:
“Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands.”
8 Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly.

from that moment on, he never looked at David the same way.  what was his problem?  he couldn’t handle somebody getting ahead of him.  he was fine as long as he was number one, but he couldn’t handle being number two;  he got distracted, and spent months and months trying to kill David, all because he wasn’t comfortable with who he was.  maybe like Saul, you’re a 1000 level person, but you have a friend that’s a 10,000 level person;  the real test to see if God can promote you is, can you celebrate people that pass you by?  can you be happy for them, and stay focused on your race, or does it frustrate you, and you think, “I’ve got to catch up with them?”  no, our attitude should be, “I may not be a 10,000 level person, God may have made me to be a 1000 level person, but I can promise you this;  I’m going to be the best 1000 level person you’ve ever seen.  I’m not gonna stop at 950, 980, 999, I’m gonna become all that God has created me to be.”

your race is made up of one person;  you.  don’t get distracted competing against a neighbor, a friend, a coworker;  just run your race.  you have exactly what you need for your assignment.  learn to accept your gifts;  there’s nothing wrong with not being the fastest, the most beautiful, the most talented.  don’t compare yourself; celebrate yourself. somebody else may have conquered 10,000, you conquered 1000, but you know what?  a thousand is still good;  celebrate what you’ve accomplished.  very few people today can say, “I like myself. I’m happy with my gifts. I am satisfied with who God made me to be.”  remember, you don’t have to have a great gift for God to use it in a great way.  it may seem small, making a lunch, slinging a rock like David,  but if you’ll use what you have, God will breath on it and do amazing things.  if you’ll learn this simple principle, being comfortable with who you are, you’ll not only enjoy your life more, you will rise higher, your gifts and talents will come out to the full, and you will become everything that God’s created you to be.

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Miracle redux

Yesterday, I got a rare hit to a forgotten post, “”Now faith” worked FAST” from 7-20-10, and curiosity lead me to read it.  It said, in part:

“One of the things I had faith that God would do for me today was something unusual; that a friend (any friend) would contact me today, preferably by phone. And someone DID call”

When I saw that, it inspired me to ask Him to have someone contact me today;  I said a call would be nice, but email or IM would be great too.  When I got up today, I had an email from a friend who hadn’t responded in a MONTH, saying that she wanted to schedule a call.  And then someone I hadn’t chatted with in a while messaged me on the IM.  God is amazing!!


Edit 3-28:  I had to get rid of some messages on a forum I participate on to make room for new ones, and this caused me to see the names of long-forgotten people who used to message me in years past.  I vaguely wondered about what had happened to them, and how or why their messages had stopped coming;  yes, I understand how ephemeral online life is, and how anonymous correspondents don’t become lifelong friends, but I’d just never consciously realized how long it had been since I’d heard from any of those people.

And then this morning…  you guessed it!!  A woman that I’d last heard from 3.5 YEARS ago sent me a message, just to say “hi”!!  I sat there looking at the message-alert banner wondering if I was DREAMING.  No matter how many miracles God gives me, He still knocks my proverbial socks off.

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from JO’s sermon tonight:

anytime you show honor, you are sowing a seed;  the honor you give away will always come back to you.  in the scripture:

(NB:  the 4 Gospels have significantly different versions of this story, and JO mixes them together in his description. I’ve included the most relevant verses, but if you want the full spectrum, you can compare them all here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anointing_of_Jesus )

Luke 7:38 (NKJV)

38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.

oil represents honor;  you could say she poured her honor on him.  and then:

Matthew 26:8-9 (NKJV)

8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.”

Mark 14:6 (CEV)

6 But Jesus said:

Leave her alone! Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing for me.

Luke 7:39-48 (NKJV)

39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”…  47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

because she showed honor, favor came into her life.  the honor you pour on others will become the blessing that comes back to you.  but with no honor, there will be no blessing, no promotion, no increase, no breakthrough. you will never receive what you’re not willing to give away.

Romans 12:10 (TLB)

10 Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other.

everywhere we go, we should look for opportunities to pour out the oil of honor, to encourage people, to compliment them, to make them feel better about themselves.  this should be a priority, on the forefront of our minds;  “who can I honor today?  who can I put in a good word for?  how can I make them feel special?”  the amount of honor you show others will be directly related to the amount of favor God shows you;  if you’re stingy with your honor, you won’t see a lot of honor coming back.  but if you’ll learn to be generous with your honor, and when it’s appropriate, tell the manager how great the waiter is, tell your supervisor what a great job your coworker did, tell your spouse, your children, how proud you are of them.  those are not just nice words, compliments, it’s deeper than that;  you’re pouring honor in.  the scripture talks about how, when you honor others, there is a commanded blessing on your life.  it’s like the oil that was poured on Aaron’s head, the high priest, and it flowed down to the rest of the body;  when you pour out the oil of honor on others, it always flows right back to you.  God commands you to be blessed.  some of you would see more favor, new doors open up, if you’d just take time to start honoring others.  look for ways to pour in the oil of honor.  if you’ll develop this habit of honoring others, you’ll find that you’ll be more rewarded than the person you’re honoring;  it’ll lift your spirits, brighten your day.

Acts 20:35 (TLB)

35 … ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

but the way God works is, you can’t give away something without God giving you more in return. when you pour out the honor, you give the compliments, the kind words, the encouragement, it’ll always come back to you.  it’s easy to live ingrown, thinking about “me and my goals, my dreams, I’m busy, I’ve got my own problems, my own challenges”;  when you lift up others, God will always lift you up.  when you make other people’s day, God will always make your own day.  every one of us has an honor supply to give out;  it’s not going to do you any good to hold on to it, it’s not for you, it’s for others.  if you will start giving it away, then you will see the honor, the promotion, the blessing that God has in store for you.  when you go out of your way to make people feel special, to let them know they’re loved and appreciated, all that honor you’re pouring out, one day is going to come back to you or to your children.  honor activates the commanded blessing.  when you have a spirit of honor, it gets God’s attention.

who are you lifting up?  who are you celebrating?  who are you making look good?  make sure you’re generous with your honor.  be free with your compliments.  take time to write the note, to send the text, call the friend and congratulate them;  don’t be too busy.  make honoring others a priority.  the scripture says:  “”David set out to honor Jonathan’s son.”  that should be our goal;  “I’m setting out to honor someone today.”  start with your family;  “I’m setting out to honor my wife, my children.”  “I’m setting out to honor my coworker, coach, friend, pastor.”  “they know I love them, I think they’re great”;  no, tell them again.  make them feel special.  nobody can hear “I love you” enough.  husbands, your wife will never get tired of you telling her, “honey, you are so beautiful.” set out to honor your parents.  maybe you’re older, you don’t live at home;  take them to dinner, call them, bring them a gift for no reason.  make them feel loved. the scripture says:

Deuteronomy 5:16 (VOICE)

16 Honor your father and mother, as I have commanded you. If you do, you will be blessed with long life and all will go well for you

I believe this principle is true even in general;  when you’re generous with your honor, all will go well with you.  when you take time to honor a man you hardly even know, you’re kind, you let him know that you believe in him, then somewhere down the road, when you need a good break, or when your children need favor, all will go well with you.  that wasn’t a lucky break, it wasn’t a coincidence, it was all connected to the honor you showed.  it was all directly related to the seeds of encouragement, the seeds of kindness, the seeds of loyalty.  it was the commanded blessing on your life.  if you’re not seeing a lot of favor, you’re not seeing many good breaks, you need to check up on your honor;  are you setting out each day to make somebody feel better about themselves?  are you missing opportunities to show honor?  it’s easy to be competitive, and think, “I’m not to give them a compliment, especially in front of my family, my coworkers, that may make me look bad.”  or, “she got engaged, but I’m not going to call and encourage her, I’m still single, that makes me depressed.”  no, more than ever, you need to pour out the oil of honor;  that’s what releases the favor.

husbands, wives, set out to honor your spouse;   “if he’d start honoring me, maybe I’d honor him.” no, you make the first move.  don’t let someone’s lack of honor keep your honor supply bottled up.  your honor is not dependent on what they do, it’s dependent on what you do.  set out to honor our your coworker;  bring them a cup of coffee in the morning, stay late and help them finish that project.  make them feel special.  this is not something that naturally comes to us, because we’re all busy, we’ve all got our own concerns.  that’s why David said made it a priority.  his attitude was, “I’m on a mission from God.  I’m going to honor somebody today.  I’m going to brighten their day.”  I wonder what kind of world this would be if we would all set out each day to honor someone.  set out to honor your relative, your friend, your boss.  it doesn’t have to be something big;  a phone call, “hey, I’m thinking about you, I want to tell you, you mean the world to me.”  you just poured honor in.  that friend at the office that works so hard, tell your supervisor what a great job they do, put in a good word for them.  simple things can honor people.  when you pour the oil of honor on, it will always flow back to you.  it’s not all about the other person, it’s about what I’m supposed to do;  I’m supposed to take delight in honoring others.

don’t miss opportunities to be good to people.  you can think honoring thoughts all day long, and it’s not going to blessing them. every so often, we have stored up honor;  we think about it, but we’re not releasing it, pouring it out. don’t miss opportunities to show honor.  if a coworker looks better than normal, tell them, “you look great today.”  that’s not just a compliment;  you’re pouring honor in.  you see the security guard walking out of the building;  “thanks for what you do, I appreciate you.”  pouring in more honor.  that friend you work with, “I sure enjoy working with you each day, you’re a pleasure to be around.”  that’s a spirit of honor.  some people today would be quicker to say, “you’re a pain to work around” than to give a compliment.  they’re quick to express the negative, but they withhold the positive.  we should be just the opposite;  be generous with your compliments, be stingy with your complaints.  be free with your honor;  withhold the dishonor.  there’s enough gossip, slander, talking badly behind people’s back;  let’s develop the habit of talking good behind people’s back.  if a person’s name comes up that you know, and you can put in a good word for them, don’t be passive;  pour in some oil of honor.  “hey, I know them, and they’re great, I think the world of them, they’re the real deal.”

talking good behind people’s back makes a huge deposit.  just like the bad always gets back to people, the gossip and slander, the good will get back to them as well. a secondhand compliment can be more powerful than a direct complement. for you to talk good about people in front of your friends, your family, your peers, your coworkers, without them being there, that honor you’re pouring in carries more weight.  put a good word in for somebody by talking good behind their back.  it’s easy to talk badly behind people’s back, to find fault, be critical;  but when you have this spirit of honor, you see the best in people, you focus on the good, you magnify what’s right.  if you hear somebody talking negative about a person you know, don’t just sit there and take it all in, “yeah, let me tell you what I know too,” no, be a part of the solution and not the problem. “yes, they’ve got a few shortcomings, but here’s what I like about them.”  that honor not only quiets the negative, not only helps the other person, but it’ll always come back to you.  you have to ask yourself, “am I sowing honor or dishonor?”  you can’t talk badly behind people’s back and not expect people to talk badly behind your back.  you can’t sow dishonor and expect to have honor.

Galatians 6:7 (PHILLIPS)

7 Don’t be under any illusion: you cannot make a fool of God! A man’s harvest in life will depend entirely on what he sows

this is especially important in our homes;  don’t talk badly about your family members.  you may not agree with them, your crazy uncle might get on your nerves, but don’t air out all your dirty laundry, putting that man down, telling all of his faults;  that doesn’t make you look good, nor him look good.  protect your family, protect those reputations;  stick up for your family.  don’t be dishonoring to your ex-spouse.  you may not like them, they may not have treated you right, but don’t fall into the trap of sowing seeds of dishonor.  if you have children, that man or woman is still the father or mother of your children;  it confuses a child to hear one parent disrespecting the other.  you can show honor by not being critical, not making them look bad.  they may have done 1000 things wrong, but you know what, you’re not the judge, God is. it’s in His hands.  you’ll never go wrong by sowing honor.  in the scripture, Miriam was disrespectful to her brother Moses (and so was Aaron):

Numbers 12:1 (NKJV)

12 Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman.

she didn’t like the fact that he married an Ethiopian woman, someone from a different nationality;  this went outside of what she was used to.  she started talking badly behind Moses’ back, being critical of him, getting the whole family stirred up.  the scripture says:

Numbers 12:2 (NKJV)

2 … And the Lord heard it

God hears us when we honor people, and He also hears us when we dishonor people.  Miriam could’ve disagreed respectfully with Moses, without becoming bitter and negative.  sometimes the way you show honor is you just don’t stir it up, you just stay quiet. but she kept being critical, getting the whole family riled up.  here’s the problem:  what you sow, you’re going to reap.  the scripture says:

Numbers 12:10 (NKJV)

10 And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper.

(don’t worry;  Moses saved her:

Numbers 12:13-15 (NKJV)

13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “Please heal her, O God, I pray!”

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and afterward she may be received again.” 15 So Miriam was shut out of the camp seven days, and the people did not journey till Miriam was brought in again.)

(why was Miriam punished, but not Aaron?

“Miriam was struck with a leprosy, but not Aaron, because she was first in the transgression, and God would put a difference between those that mislead and those that are misled.”

http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/numbers/12.html )

you shouldn’t dishonor anyone, but especially don’t dishonor your own family;  show honor by covering some faults, protecting some reputations.  when you have this spirit of honor, you go to work each day, and you don’t just perform your duties, but you do it with the right attitude;  that’s how you honor your boss, you honor that company.  you can go to work and do everything you’re told, accomplish all of your tasks, but if you do it sour, “I don’t like these people, I can’t stand this company,” you’re doing your job, but that dishonoring spirit will keep you from rising higher.  promotion doesn’t come from people, it comes from God.  the environment may not be fair, the people may not be treating you right, but don’t let that be an excuse to be sour;  you are not working unto people, you are working unto God, and if you will do your job with a spirit of honor, God will get you to where you’re supposed to be.

Isaiah 1:19 (NIV)

19 If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the good things of the land

it’s not enough to just be obedient, the question is;  “are you willing?  do you have a good attitude? do you do it with the spirit of honor?”  young people, this is so important;  if you will learn to honor your leaders, your teachers, your parents, do your work with a good attitude, then God can continue to promote you.  but if there’s a spirit of disrespect, and “I don’t know why I’m here, I know more than these people,” that will limit how high you can go.  but when you go to work, and you get there on time, you do more than you have to, you make that company proud that they hired you, all the honor you’re pouring out one day will come right back to you.  I’m sure at times, in the scripture, Joseph thought, “this is a waste, treating these people good that are treating me badly.  doing the right thing, and the wrong thing keeps happening to me.  it’s never going to pay off.”  no, some 15 years later, all the honor he showed Potiphar, the master that he worked for as a slave, all the honor he showed the prison officials when he was falsely imprisoned, all the honor he showed his brothers, the ones that threw him into a pit, all that honor eventually came back to him;  he was put in charge of the whole nation.

you keep having that spirit of honor, keep being your best, and like Joseph, you better get ready;  your time is coming, the honor is on its way.  what you sow, you will reap.  when you have a spirit of honor, being your best with a good attitude, talking good behind people’s back, taking delight in honoring others, then God will take you places that you’ve never even dreamed.  my challenge:  set out each day to honor someone.  look for opportunities to be good to people.  take time to write the note, to send the text, to make them feel better about themselves.  if you’ll do this, the honor that you send out will always come back to you. I believe and declare, you will accomplish every dream, overcome every obstacle, and become everything God’s created you to be.

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Keeping your walls up

from JO’s sermon tonight:

it’s easy to go through life letting everything get on the inside: offended by what somebody said, worried about a problem at work, upset because of a negative report. we can’t stop all these things from happening; the key is to have walls built up, so we don’t allow everything in. the scripture says:

Jude 1:20 (ERV)

20 But you, dear friends, use your most holy faith to build yourselves up even stronger. Pray with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Jude 1:20 (GNV)

20 But, ye beloved, edify yourselves in your most holy faith, praying in the holy Ghost.

the word “edify” is where we get the word “edifice,” meaning building. this is saying, if you’re going to stay encouraged, if you’re going to enjoy your life, you have to build up these walls to where you don’t allow the negative, the offense, the worry, the frustration, into your spirit person. we only have so much emotional energy each day.  you will have opportunities to spend it on things that don’t matter: stuck in traffic, stressed-out, frustrated. you are spending emotional energy that you need for your own goals, dreams.  or upset about what somebody said about you, thinking about how you’re going to pay them back, calling a friend, “can you believe they said that?”;  that’s emotional energy you’re not going to have for your own family, to play with your children. it’s not only doing you a disservice, you’re doing them a disservice. you’ve got to put some walls up;  quit allowing everything on the inside.

if you’ll stay in peace, God will fight your battles for you. this is the reason many people don’t enjoy life: coworkers not treating them right sours the whole day, a problem at home, they’re so worried, it’s constantly on the forefront of their mind. there’s always something keeping them offended, frustrated, stressed; it’s like a dark cloud follows them everywhere they go.  that cloud would leave if you would quit letting that get into your spirit person.  it may come to your mind, you can’t stop people from saying things, you can’t prevent all the negative, but you don’t have to allow that to get into your spirit.  you can dismiss it, and say, “you know what? I’m not dwelling on it.  I’m not going the next 3 days worried, playing out all the what-ifs, wondering why they said that.”

Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

23  Above all else, guard your heart

you can’t be passive and let everything in.  you’ve got to be proactive and put some walls up.  guard what you dwell on.  be selective what you give your time and attention to.  your destiny is too important to allow poison in.  the truth is, we all have challenges, we all have things that come against us, but there are certain problems and situations I tell my family, my staff, “I don’t want to know all the details;  don’t give me the two-hour version, give me the 20 second version.” I don’t need to know what they said, how upset she was, how it’s not going to work out, and they think you’re too much of this.  my attitude is, “leave me in my ignorance. just give me the bottom line;  we’ve got a problem.” that’s fine;  God knows all the details. you can’t put poison into you over and over and expect to live a positive, faith-filled life.  and I know we make good decisions when we have good information, but sometimes we’re getting too much information; we like the juicy details, it feeds our flesh, but it poisons our spirit.  it’s not going to benefit me in any way to hear the negative details;  I put some walls up.

I’m going to guard my heart. I need my emotional energy for my assignment, to fulfill my destiny. I’m not going to let that poison in;  my philosophy is, “just give me the bottom line.”  here’s why:  it’s a lot easier to keep the poison out if you never hear it in the first place. don’t get on social media and the internet and read every negative comment about you written by people that have to hide behind a computer screen to remain anonymous.  students, don’t read everything written about you at school. there’s a lot of bullying these days through the internet, social media; you’ve got to be disciplined to not go there. it’s very tempting to think, “well, let me just see what they’re saying about me.”  one phrase can poison you.  you end up defensive, trying to over-compensate, insecure; no, don’t even go there. there are enough issues to deal with where we don’t have a choice; don’t make it harder on yourself by taking in things that are unnecessary.

if you do hear people talking about you, pay it no mind, give it no attention;  it’s a distraction. instead of getting upset, instead of feeling badly about yourself, remember;  they don’t talk about ordinary people, they talk about exceptional people. they wouldn’t be talking about you unless you were a cut above;  take it as a compliment. in a race, nobody focuses on the people in last place, nobody finds fault, and criticizes those that are bringing up the rear;  all the focus is on the winners. that’s where the attention, the studying, the analyzing, the critiquing is.  if people are critiquing you, finding fault, trying to discredit you, it’s because you’re winning, you’re out front, making a difference.  I’ve learned, the more favor on your life, the more opposition it will stir up.  some people won’t like you simply because of the blessing God put on you.  this is what happened with Cain and Abel. they were Adam and Eve’s two sons. Cain ended up killing Abel.

Genesis 4:8 (NIV)

8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

what’s interesting is, Abel honored God with his life.  he was a person of excellence. he went around being his best.  he had God’s blessing and favor on him.  he never did anything wrong to his brother Cain.  he didn’t disrespect him, didn’t cheat him, didn’t lie about him;  Cain hated Abel simply because of the favor on Abel’s life.  you have to accept the fact that some people will not like you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  it’s not about you, it’s about the favor God put on you.  can you deal with the fact that not everybody can handle your success, not everybody will celebrate God’s blessing and favor on your life?  you have to be wise enough to realize, “these people don’t like me, but it’s not about me.  I’m not going to be offended, I’m not going to spend time seeing how I can win them over, lose sleep thinking about what they said about me.  no, I’m not going to waste my emotional energy on something that I cannot change;  I know it’s because of the favor of God on my life.”  that’s how you keep your walls built up.  think about Mary, the mother of Jesus;  when she said yes to the angel, that she would have a baby without knowing a man:

Luke 1:30-38 (NIV)

30 But the angel said to her… 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus… 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…  38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

she had to accept the fact that she would be misunderstood by some people the rest of her life.  the blessing, as great as it was, brought controversy, it brought opposition. she was celebrated by some, and looked down on by others. there are times, like Mary, when you have to accept the fact, “I may be misunderstood by certain people, they may try to push me down, make fun of me, but it’s not about me, it’s about the blessing God put on my life.”  the real question today is, “can you handle being blessed?”.  David faced this as a teenager.  he was out in the sheep fields taking care of his father’s sheep.  one day, his dad asked him to take lunch to his brothers that were out in the battlefield.  they had a much more prestigious, exciting position;  David was stuck taking care of sheep. when David arrived with the food, you’d think the brothers would be appreciative;  he was doing them a favor.  but:

1 Samuel 17:28 (NIV)

28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

he was trying to belittle David, make him feel small, discredit him.  he was saying in effect, “David, you’re not important, you’re a shepherd boy.”  don’t be surprised if God’s favor on your life stirs up opposition in other people.  it will stir up envy, jealousy, criticism.  there was no reason for Eliab to be jealous;  David was younger, smaller, out in the sheep fields, in other words making minimum wage.  Eliab was in the army;  he had training, expertise, influence.  why was he spiteful?  he could sense the favor on David’s life.  and I’m sure David was tempted to be offended, get upset, discouraged, thinking, “I’m going to pay him back.” no, David understood this principle.  the scripture says:

1 Samuel 17:30 (NIV)

30 He then turned away…

he ignored the insult.  why?  he had his walls up.  if David would not have walked away, if he had not keep his heart pure, he would’ve never made it to the throne.  if you don’t learn to walk away from an offense, not dwell on what they said, not be upset because how they treated you, it can keep you from the fullness of your destiny.  here’s the key;  don’t waste your time trying to win over people that are never going to be for you.  don’t waste your energy trying to convince people to understand you that are determined to misunderstand you.  your time is too valuable to try to prove to people that you really are ok, to persuade them to accept you.  no, you’re not the problem, it’s the favor they see on your life;  that’s what they can’t handle.  now you just run your race, focus on your goals;  God will bring the right people into your life.  you don’t have to play up to people, let them manipulate, control you like a puppet, no, if they don’t want to be your friend, let them go;  they’re not a part of your destiny.  if they don’t accept you, blow them a kiss goodbye and move forward with your life.  I read a statistic that I like:  it said that 25% of the people you meet won’t like you and never will, 25% won’t like you but could be persuaded to, 25% will like you but could be persuaded not to, and 25% will like you and stand by you no matter what.

life gets a lot freer when you realize this person that doesn’t like you, they don’t give you the time of day, they’re unfriendly, don’t worry about it, don’t go the next two years frustrated, trying to win them over;  recognize that they’re just one of the 25% that are never going to like you.  you could bring them flowers every day, give them a compliment every hour, mow their lawn every week, but that person is still not going to like you. you shouldn’t waste your time trying to win them over, trying to prove to them that you really are okay;  let it go, that’s a distraction.  you don’t need their approval to become who God has created you to be.  you’ve got to come to the place where you can say, “I’m at peace with them not being at peace with me.  I’m at peace with not being their friend.  I don’t have to be in their group to enjoy my life.” stay in peace, keep those walls up.  too many people allow everything to come in;  they live from offense to stress to frustration to discouragement.  you’ve got to guard your heart;  nobody can do this for you. the scripture puts it this way:

Philippians 4:8 (WEB)

8 Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things.

it doesn’t say, “think on the offense, the people that won’t accept you, your problems, all day.”  no, think on good things; that’s how you keep your walls built up.  if it’s not positive, hopefull, productive, faith-filled, then don’t dwell on it.  you can’t live a positive life thinking negative thoughts.  you won’t have a blessed day thinking about the offense and how unfair it was.  you’re not going to enjoy your life dwelling on your problems, worried, anxious, wondering if it’s going to work out;  no, you’ve got to guard your heart.  and I’m not talking about ignoring problems, acting like they don’t exist, shirking our responsibility;  I’m talking about not letting it get down on the inside.  there are a lot of things that we cannot change;  trust is saying, “God, I’m not going to let this upset me.  I can’t make them like me, I can’t make it work out my way, but God, I know you’re still on the throne, you’re still fighting my battles, so I’m going to stay in peace and enjoy my life anyway.”  when a problem arises, it’s easy to get riled up and think, “well, I’ve got to do something about this right now, I’ve got to immediately solve this.” no:

Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God”

have the attitude, “I’m going to put this on a shelf, I’m going to pray about it, and I’m going to trust God to work it out.” if you allow the panic in, then the worry will come, then the stress, you won’t make good decisions.  God works when we’re in peace;  that’s why you have to constantly guard your heart.  all through the day, stuck in traffic, “no, I’m not going to let this stress in.”  at the office, somebody’s playing politics and leaves you out;  “that’s okay, I’ve got my walls up. I’m staying in peace.”  the grocery store, somebody’s rude to you;  you’re tempted to get upset. “no, I’m guarding my heart, I’m not letting that poison in.” if you will keep your walls up, then when worry comes, offense, negative comments, it’s just like you have a big sign on the outside that says, “you’re not welcome here.”  I believe we can get to the place where nothing offends us;  that should be our goal.  I don’t say this arrogantly, but you cannot offend me.  you know why? I won’t give you that power.  here’s the key;  nothing can offend you without your permission.  people can say whatever they want, but you have the right to ignore it.  they can leave you out, but you have the right to have a good attitude anyway.  they can try to belittle you, discredit you, but like David, you have the right to walk away and enjoy your day.  if you allow someone to offend you, you are giving away your power.

when we’re easily offended, everything is magnified, everything is blown out of proportion.  “everybody’s treating me badly”;  no, it was just Eliab, he was the only one.  “everybody’s talking about me”;  no, everybody doesn’t know you.  put some walls up.  quit giving away your power, letting those offenses in.  start ignoring the negative comments.  don’t pay any attention to the Eliabs;  if the favor of God wasn’t on your life, they would leave you alone.  that opposition is a sure sign God’s hand is on you, He has an assignment for you, there is something amazing in your future.  now do your part, and quit allowing the same things to upset you, the same people to get on your nerves, the same traffic to stress you morning after morning, the same relative at the family reunion to frustrate you.  friends, life is too short to live that way. every day is a gift from God.  what if you found out you weren’t going to be here in six months, you learned that your time was coming to an end?  how many of the things that upset you now would you allow to continue to upset you? how much of the offense, frustration, stress, would you continue to let in?  if you don’t keep your walls up, it can keep you from the fullness of your destiny. when we come to the end of life, I can’t think of anything that would be much sadder then to have to look back and think, “why did I waste so many days worried? why did I live stressed out? why did I let those people keep me offended? why didn’t I guard my heart?” you can make that decision right now.  Jesus put it this way:

John 14:27 (AMP)

27 … Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled

John 14:27 (CJB)

27 … Don’t let yourselves be upset or frightened.

he didn’t say, “I’ll take away the offense, the rejection, the disappointments, the stress.”  no, those things will come;  you can’t allow them to upset you.  in other words, you’ve got to put your foot down and say, “that’s it, I’m done worrying about my finances, my children, my health;  I’m not letting that worry in. I’m done being stressed every time my plans don’t work out;  I’m not letting the stress in.  I’m done living sour because I had a disappointment, I didn’t get the promotion;  I’m not allowing that poison in.” now the thoughts may come to your mind, but don’t let them get into your spirit;  don’t dwell on them.  what we continually think about drops down into our spirit;  that’s when it can poison us. in the Old Testament, when an enemy was going to attack a city, the first thing they would do many times was take these stones and throw them into the wells to try to clog up the water supply.  these people were called “slingers”; they would sling the stones from a great distance.  once the water supply was cut off, the people would have to come out of the city; that’s when they would attack.  in the same way, every one of us has a well of good things on the inside, put there by our Creator;  a well of joy, a well of peace, a well of creativity, a well of victory.  the scripture says:

John 7:38 (NASB)

38 … From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water

the problem too many times is, we’ve allowed the slingers to clog up our wells.  when somebody says something derogatory, tries to discredit you, you know what they’re doing? they’re throwing a stone toward your well.  if you get offended, upset, thinking, “I’m going to have to pay them back,” then that stone lands in your well.  it starts to clog up the joy, the peace, the victory; they’ve accomplished their goal.  but when you keep your wall up, you don’t get offended, you let it go, “no big deal,” that stone hits the wall, bounces off, and causes no damage. we all have slingers in life;  you can’t go through the week without having stones of judgment thrown at you, stones of offense, stones of doubt, stones of self-pity.  we can’t stop the slingers from slinging the stones, but we can choose to have our walls up and not let it affect us.  some of you today, you’re not enjoying your life, you’re enduring your life. it’s because your well has become clogged;  you’ve allowed some of these stones to get in.  now it’s keeping you from experiencing the fullness of life, the fullness of joy.

the good news is, it doesn’t have to stay that way;  you can unclog your well.  if you will forgive the people that hurt you, let go of what didn’t work out, shake off the offense, the bitterness, the disappointment, then the well of good things put in you by your Creator will begin to freely flow once again.  you will experience those rivers of living water.  that’s my prayer for you today;  that you will see God’s goodness in a new way, the abundance of his favor.  now make the decision with me to keep your walls up, guard your heart. remember, you are only have so much emotional energy each day;  don’t waste it on things that don’t matter.  don’t spend it trying to win people over that are never going to be won over.  use it for your own goals, your own dreams.  if you will keep those walls up and, like David, walk away from offense, then no weapon formed against you will ever prosper. you will rise above every challenge, overcome every obstacle, and become everything God has created you to be.

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God gives us signs

This is the simple truth.  The Bible says so in many places, which you can see a listing of here:


JO has a great essay about signs that is no longer on his website, but fortunately I copied it out:

“God Will Give You a Sign

The scripture talks about how God will confirm His Word with signs following. We often think that just means when someone ministers that there will be salvation, healing and miracles. And yes, that’s true. But it also means when God puts a promise in your heart, He will confirm that promise by showing you some kind of sign that the promise is going to come to pass, something to boost your faith and encourage you.

It may be something small. It may be through a dream, another person, nature, His Word, or even something that seems like a coincidence. It looks insignificant to others; but to you, it’s God saying, “I’m in control. I’m directing your steps.”

A friend might make one comment. They don’t even realize it, but it’s exactly what you needed to hear. Something lights up on the inside. That’s a sign from God. You know God is in control. You know He is fighting your battles. That’s a sign from God.

It’s important that we recognize these signs. That’s what is going to help keep us encouraged while we’re waiting for the promise to come to pass.

When we’re tempted to get down, we can go back and say, “No. I’ve got this sign. God confirmed it through a phrase that was spoken to me, through a dream that I had, through His Word when this passage of scripture jumped out to me.” See, God controls the whole universe. He controls nature. He controls animals. If you will be sensitive, you will see the hand of God at work even in the small things.

But I wonder how many times we miss the signs God is giving us? We think, “Oh, wow! The pages on the Bible flipped. That’s a good scripture.” No, learn to be sensitive to what God is doing.

There is no such thing as a coincidence, no such thing as a lucky break. That’s the hand of God at work in your life. It could very well be God confirming a promise that He has placed in your heart.”

Will there be times when we’re feeling doubtful or distracted and we miss a sign?  Yes.  Will there be times when wishful thinking makes us see a sign where there isn’t one?  Yes.  Is there a way to be 100% sure something is a sign when it’s not a huge, dramatic one?  No.  This is where faith comes into it.  Most of the time, God won’t let us either miss signs or imagine them;  as long as you’re not being deliberately unreasonable about how you interpret what you experience, you’ll get it right most of the time.  And, my personal experience is that God will give multiple signs when you have to wait a long time for His promise to come to pass.  I keep a written record of things that I believe to be signs, and I highly recommend that, because that record will comfort you when you’re bumming out over what feels like an endless wait for your flourishing finish.  God wants us to have unwavering faith, but His mercy is so enormous that He’ll help us out and never hold it against us.

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What a brilliant way to describe our planning vs God’s!!  We’re jumping around thinking we’re accomplishing something, and He’s got an elaborate strategy looking 20 moves ahead.  No, it’s not my line, I got it from this video:


It shows how all Joseph’s sufferings, and what might at first glance seem like delays in his path, were in fact very efficient ways to get him to the right place at the right time with the right training to save his family, his people, and all the people of Egypt with his foresight and wise planning.  If you’re like me, going through difficult times while waiting for God to work things out, this is very encouraging.

And a side note:  My roommate is an atheist, and I have thought many times that God wants me to bring him back to Him.  Since he has a derisive attitude towards all religions and religious people, this seemed like a nearly impossible task, but God can make a way where we can’t see a way.   Yesterday, he was talking about a man he knows who is sick enough that he is slowly dying, and after we both expressed regret that this man is getting sicker, he said something that floored me;  “I found myself praying to a God I don’t even believe exists to save him.”  !!!!!!!!!  And then today,  he announced that he knew of several people who would be DEAD if they had not found Jesus.  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   2014 is already a year of miracles…  with more to come.  Stay tuned.

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from JO’s sermon tonight:

I was in the grocery store, and down one of the aisles was a section called “damaged goods.”  it was mostly canned products that had been marked down because of some kind of flaw:  the can was dented, the label was torn, the color was off.  the store couldn’t sell them for the full price because they had an imperfection;  they were considered less valuable, inferior, damaged goods. what’s interesting is if you buy one of those cans, you open it up, can of corn, can of peas, can of peaches, you’ll find there’s nothing wrong with the inside.  the can may have been dented, but it didn’t affect the contents. the label may have been torn, on the outside it wasn’t perfect, but on the inside where it matters there was no difference.  the “damaged goods” peaches that were sold for half price tasted just as good as the peaches that were sold for full price. the corn, the peas, may have been labeled inferior, less than, but that’s all it was, just a label. it’s the same principle in life;  all of us in some way have been damaged.  you can’t live very long without making a mistake, being hurt by someone, going through a breakup, damage by divorce, damage by an unhealthy childhood, damage by the addiction.

too many people go around wearing the damaged goods label, feeling washed up, less than, focused on their mistakes, focused on what they’ve been through.  no, you’ve got to get out of that section;  that’s not where you belong.  you may have been dented on the outside, but like those cans, there’s nothing wrong with the inside.  that setback did not affect your DNA.  that loss, that disappointment, didn’t change who you are.  that mistake, the failure, the weakness, didn’t stop your destiny.  you may have been bruised on the outside, but on the inside you still have the blood of a winner;  you still have the DNA of almighty God.  you’ve been crowned with favor, you are full of potential, talent, creativity, wisdom;  there is nothing wrong with your contents.  people can’t keep you from your destiny, bad breaks can’t stop you, weaknesses can’t stop you;  the only thing that can really stop you is you.  if you wear the damaged goods label, it can keep you from becoming all God’s created you to be.  I don’t believe in giving anyone the right to feel sorry for themselves;  life happens to us all.  if you get knocked down, get back up and go again.  if you have a bad break, don’t sit around in self-pity;  shake it off and move forward.  if you make a mistake, don’t go through life beating yourself up;  receive God’s mercy and do better next time.  you may have failed, but you’re not a failure.  you may have lost, but you’re not a loser.  you may have had unfair things happen, but you’re not a victim, you’re a victor.

now do yourself a favor;  take off the damaged goods label.  quit thinking about your mistakes, who hurt you, what didn’t work out;  God knows every person that’s done you wrong, every disappointment, every struggle, every bad break, and He’s promised if you will stay in faith He will pay you back double for the unfair things that have happened.  I’ve heard it said, “God can bring greatness out of a great mess.” sometimes we focus on the mess, the dysfunction, the broken dream, the weakness, but in all the mess God sees greatness;  He knows how to take your troubles and turn them into trophies, how to take the test and make it your testimony.  this is what happened to a young boy named Ishmael.  he was the child that Abraham had out of wedlock with Sarah’s maid Hagar.  Ishmael wasn’t the promised child, he was born out of Abraham and Sarah’s impatience;  they got tired of waiting year after year.  they knew they had a promise, but it wasn’t happening as fast as they would like, so Sarah talked her husband Abraham into sleeping with her maid Hagar, and they had this little baby boy named Ishmael.  Ishmael was born into a dysfunctional home;  he was born into distrust, confusion, chaos.  he would’ve been considered damaged goods, a mistake, not the right one.

the funny thing is, it was Sarah’s idea, but she got mad at Abraham for having a baby with another woman.  Sarah turned on Hagar, her once trusted maid, and now she can’t stand the woman. she told Abraham, “you better get your mistress and her son out of my life really really fast.”  you’re talking about a messed-up situation;  they were in a love triangle, they were all living in the same house, and Abraham’s called the father of our faith.  it got so bad that Sarah gave Abraham an ultimatum; “either your mistress and her son leave, or I’m out of here.”  Abraham ended up sending Hagar and his son Ishmael out into the desert. I think about Ishmael;  he is the innocent one in this whole ordeal.  he didn’t get to choose who his parents would be.  he didn’t choose what family he would be born into.  he didn’t do anything wrong;  he just showed up and life threw him out into the cold.  he could have had a chip on his shoulder, “God, this is not fair, why was I born into this mess, why is my mother a mistress, why couldn’t I be Isaac, the promised child, and stay here with my family?”  he had all these disadvantages, he could’ve seen himself as damaged goods and just faded off into the sunset, but here’s the mercy of God;  God said:

Genesis 21:18 (NIV)

18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation

we know God did great things with Isaac;  we don’t always realize that God did something great with Ishmael.  God was saying, “this child that’s been born into dysfunction, this child that’s had bad breaks, been put at a disadvantage, seen as damaged goods, I haven’t written him off, he’s not a mistake, I still have a plan;  I’m going to bring greatness out of this great mess.”  you may be in a situation now that feels dysfunctional, seems like a mess in your family, your health, your finances, your career;  you don’t see how any good could ever come out of it.  but if Ishmael were standing here today, he would say, “hey, let me tell you firsthand, God still has a plan.  it doesn’t matter how you were raised, how many bad breaks you’ve had, how insignificant you may feel;  no dysfunction, no injustice, no disappointment can keep you from your destiny.  God can bring greatness out of a great mess.”  most of the time, we see Ishmael as a mistake, an accident;  Sarah and Abraham didn’t wait for the promised child.  but the truth is, no baby is a mistake;  a child cannot be born without God breathing life into their lungs.  we hear parents say, “we weren’t expecting this baby, they were a surprise,” and yes, they may have been a surprise to you, but they were not a surprise to the Giver of life.  in God’s eyes, there’s no such thing as an unwanted pregnancy.  you didn’t just happen to show up on planet Earth;  God had a plan for you long before you arrived.  God told Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 1:5 (TLB)

“I knew you before you were formed within your mother’s womb; before you were born I sanctified you and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.”

God already had an assignment for him before he got here.  God was saying, “Jeremiah, you didn’t start when your mother gave birth to you;  before you were formed, you were with Me.  in other words, our past didn’t start with our family, it started with our God.  I didn’t come from my mother, and I love and honor my mother, but I didn’t come from her, I came through her;  I came from almighty God.  that means your destiny, assignment, purpose cannot be messed up by who you came through;  you came from the most high God.  He has the ultimate say.  God doesn’t give life to someone without giving them a divine destiny;  if you’re breathing today, if you’re alive, you are not an accident.  no matter how functional or dysfunctional your situation is, God has a destiny for you to fulfill.  you may have had a negative past, but you don’t have to have a negative future.  this is a new day, and if you will take off the damaged goods label, get rid of the victim mentality, and have a victor mentality, God will take what’s meant for harm and He will use it for your good.  I love the fact that with Ishmael God brought something significant out of a child that was considered insignificant;  that tells me you don’t have to come from the most influential family, you don’t have to have a perfect upbringing.  the truth is, there is dysfunction in every family.

here’s the key;  don’t let your heredity stop your destiny.  don’t let how you were raised, what your parents did or didn’t give you, how somebody treated you, set the limits for your life.  they may have put you at a disadvantage, but you don’t have to stay at a disadvantage.  I know people 60 years old, still talking about what mama didn’t give them, how daddy wasn’t there.  I’m not making light of that, because those can be real hurts, but talking about it’s not going to make it any better.  having a “poor old me, damaged goods” mentality is not going to help;  you’ve got to take the hand you’ve been dealt and make the most of it.  your situation most likely is no worse than Ishmael’s. he had all kinds of disadvantages:  kicked out of his home, seen as a mistake.  yet God brought a great nation out of him.  if you’ll remove the damaged goods label, shake off the self-pity, move forward in faith, God will make something significant out of your life.  you will leave your mark on this generation.  don’t let your heredity stop your destiny.  God can bring greatness out of a great mess.

I wonder how many of us would rise to a new level if we quit blaming the past, how we were raised, what somebody said.   if we would take off the damaged goods label, we would see God’s favor in a new way.  I’ve found, there’s always something to try to make us feel badly about ourselves;  it’s because the enemy is called the accuser of the brethren.  he’ll remind you of every mistake you’ve made, every unfair situation, every negative comment about you.  he would love for you to go through life feeling damaged, guilty, less than.  you’ve got to put your foot down and say, “no, I’m not falling into that trap.  I’m not bitter because of what happened, I’m not dwelling on their negative comments, I’m not beating myself up over past mistakes.  I’m going to keep that label off and move forward with my life.”  negative voices will always play the loudest;  if you don’t take control of your thought life, every hurt, every critic, every derogatory comment, will play again and again.  “people may have rejected me, but I know God accepts me”:

1 Peter 2:9 (TLB)

… you have been chosen by God himself

one translation says, “He has hand-picked you.”  that means, you weren’t randomly selected;  God on purpose said, “I choose him, I choose her;  that’s who I want to be on my team.”  people may tell you you don’t measure up, you’re not tall enough, smart enough, talented enough, creative enough;  let it go in one ear and out the other.  you are not who people say you are, you are who God says you are.  God says you’re just the right size, one-of-a-kind, equipped, empowered, valuable.  our attitude should be, “I may not have been chosen by the coach, the teacher, the friend, the supervisor, the boss, but that’s okay;  I know the One who matters most, the One who controls the universe, the One who spoke worlds into existence, has hand-picked me.  I’ve been chosen by the most high God.”  God has the final say;  if you’ll stay in faith, He’ll get you to where He wants you to be.  as long as you feel less than, inferior, washed up, it will keep you from the amazing things that God has in store.  sometimes we feel damaged, not because of how we were raised or what somebody said, but because of our own mistakes, our own weaknesses, shortcomings.  we think, “I can’t expect anything good, God would never use me, you don’t know what I’ve done.”  but if that were the case, if God could only use you if you didn’t have any negative baggage, then none of us would’ve had a chance.

think about Peter, one of the disciples;  he was hot-tempered, used bad language, he denied he knew Christ three times.  when Jesus needed him the most, he turned his back and said, “no, I don’t even know the man.”  surely Jesus would say, “fine, Peter, you turned your back on me, and I’m done with you.  you had your chance, you’re damaged goods.”   no, God never writes anybody off.  Jesus, when he arose from the grave, an angel appeared to Mary at the tomb, and said, “Mary, Jesus is risen, now go tell his disciples.  and Mary, make sure that you tell Peter.”

Mark 16:6-7 (NIV)

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

the only one God specifically called out at that historic time was Peter.  why?  God knew the accuser would work overtime trying to stick that damaged goods label on Peter.  if he’d have worn it, he’d have never fulfilled his destiny, so God specifically called his name.  like Peter, you may have made mistakes, blown it, failed, you’re not expecting anything good.  imagine right now that God is specifically calling your name, saying, “tell James, tell Susan, tell Maria;  I’ve already forgiven you.  my mercy is bigger than that mistake.  I’ve got a destiny for you to fulfill.”  you’ve got to shake off the guilt, quit living condemned, take off the damaged goods label.  you wouldn’t be alive unless God had something amazing in your future.  if you were truly damaged goods, unusable, God would’ve taken you on home.  God has a purpose for you, and your assignment is too important, your destiny too great, your time too valuable, to live another moment thinking that you’re damaged goods.  shake it off and move forward into the bright future God has in store.

sometimes, your own thoughts will accuse you;   other times, the enemy will use people to accuse you.  they’ll tell you all the reasons you could never become what you were created to be.  don’t believe those lies.  God knew every mistake you’d ever make, and He’s already arranged a comeback.  and when you’re tempted, and we all are, to look down on people, find fault, be critical, you need to realize where that’s coming from;  that’s the accuser’s influence.  Jesus always lifted the fallen, restored the broken, showed mercy to those that had failed.  you may have made poor choices, gone through failures, but our God is the God of another chance.  His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting.  His calling will never leave your life.  quit listening to the accusing voices.  quit letting people make you feel washed up;  they don’t determine your destiny, God does.  in the Scripture:

Jeremiah 18:3-4 (NIV)

So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands…

when the vessel became marred that means it was broken, it had flaws, defects.  but the potter didn’t throw it into the damaged goods pile, and say, “too bad, I’ve got to get something better to work with, this is not usable.”  no, it says:

Jeremiah 18:4 (NASB)

… he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

when it was all said and done, it came out stronger, more beautiful than it was before.  the potter of course represents God;  we are the clay.  all of us have flaws and weaknesses.  we go through failures, disappointments, unfair situations.  at times, it’s like we end up broken, hurt, disappointed, but that is not the end of your story;  if you will stay in faith and not get bitter, not get down on yourself, God will take your broken pieces, your hurts, the weaknesses, the unfair situations, and He will use them to not just put you back together, but He’ll make you into something better, stronger, more beautiful than if it had not happened.  any chef can cook something good when they have good ingredients, a good oven, good recipes, good tools, that’s easy;  but it takes a master chef to take ingredients that are not perfect, ingredients that are bitter, sour, and still make something good out of it.  that’s the way God is;  He’s not just a chef, He’s a master chef.  He can take any ingredient that you give Him, anything you’ve been through, your hurts, the disappointments, the unfair situations, and mix them together and still make something out of your life, more than you ever dreamed of.

why don’t you take off the damaged goods label?  you’re not working with an ordinary chef, you’re working with the Master Chef, the Creator of the universe.  at times in life, you may get dented, but you’ve got to remember, just like those cans, there’s nothing wrong on the inside;  you are still a child of the most high God, filled with possibilities.  now do your part;  shake off the guilt, quit listening to the accusing voices, and move forward with your life. if you do this, I believe and declare, God will bring greatness out of a great mess.  like with Ishmael, He will make something significant out of your life.  God will not only restore you, but He’ll bring you out better off than you were before.

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