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Archive for June, 2014

It’s too small

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all have dreams and goals. we do our best to stretch our faith, and believe that one day if we work hard enough, get the right breaks, meet the right people, we’ll see that dream come to pass. in our mind, that would be big, a great accomplishment, but what’s big to us is not big to God; He created the universe, spoke worlds into existence. God’s dream for your life is so much bigger than your own. we think, “if I could just pay my house off, that would be a dream come true”; God says, “that’s too small! I want to bless you so that you not only pay your house off, but so you can help others pay their houses off.” or we think, “if I could just get that promotion at work, be able to run my department”; God says, “that’s too small! I want you to run that whole company.” or, “if I could just overcome this illness, just get back on my feet again, that would be so great”; God says, “that’s too small! you’re not only going to get back on your feet, you’re going to run again. you’re going to feel better than you’ve ever felt.” we think ordinary; God thinks extraordinary. whatever you’re dreaming about, whatever you’re believing for, God, is saying, “it’s too small.” He’s going to supersize it. He’s an overflow God. Ephesians says:

Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV)

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us

why don’t you take the limits off of God? you may not see a way, but God has a way. one touch of God’s favor can take you further than you could go on your own in a lifetime. God did not create you to live a little life, with little dreams, little goals, little passion, little influence, little house; God thinks BIG, He thinks abundance, He thinks expansive. He told the Israelites:

Exodus 3:8 (NIV)

8 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

God has something bigger, something better, something more rewarding in front of you. don’t get comfortable where you are. it’s easy to think, “God’s blessed me, I’m happy, I’m healthy, I have no complaints”; that’s good, always be grateful, learn to be happy where you are, but don’t settle where you are. God never performs His greatest victories in the past; they’re always in the future. what God has done, the promotion, the good breaks, the favor, in God’s mind that was a small thing. you haven’t touched the surface of what God has in store. He’s going to open doors you never dreamed would open. He’s going to bring talent out of you that you didn’t know you had. you’re going to see explosive blessings, blessings that thrust you to a new level. what you think is big right now: that house God blessed you with, the scholarship, the promotion, the contract, one day you’ll look back and realize that was a small thing. in the scripture, Joseph was falsely accused and put in prison:

Genesis 39:6-20 (NIV)

6 … Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”
8 But he refused… 19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison

I can imagine him praying year after year, “God, please get me out of this prison. God, you know I didn’t do anything wrong”; that was his dream, to one day be free. but God said, “Joseph, that’s too small. I’m not only going to bring you out of prison, I’m going to make you ruler over the whole nation.” in a few years, when Joseph was in charge over all of Egypt, I’m sure there were nights he went outside, looked up at the stars and thought, “God, I never dreamed You would put me here. I was just praying to get out of prison, but God, you supersized what I was dreaming about.” he realized he was thinking way too small. like Joseph, no matter what you’re praying about, whatever you’re believing for, it may be big in your mind, but in God’s mind it’s a small thing. “God, just help me to pay my bills, help me to make it through this month”; God says, “that’s too small.” He wants to bring you into overflow. He wants you to lend and not borrow. “God, I’m so lonely, just bring somebody into my life, I don’t care at this point, I’ll take anybody”; no, you may have settled, but God didn’t settle; He’s going to bring somebody into your life greater than you imagined, someone that honors Him, somebody who loves you, that’s fun, talented, well-off, good-looking. you’ve got to stir your faith up; the only way this is going to help is if you let the seed take root. it’s easy to think, “this isn’t for me today, you don’t know my situation, I’ve been through a lot of disappointments, my dreams look impossible”; no, don’t talk yourself out of it. you don’t have to figure it out; all you have to do is believe. just say, “yes, God, this is for me. I believe Your plans for me are bigger than I could imagine, that you have something amazing in my future, so I’m taking the limits off of You.” when the Israelites were in slavery, they were forced to make bricks all day long:

Exodus 5:6-8 (NIV)

6 That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: 7 “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. 8 But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota.

no doubt they prayed, “God please give us straw.  God, You know these supervisors are going to get upset, we’re not going to make our quotas.” they had been pushed down for so long, they had such a limited vision, when they were praying for more straw, in effect they were praying to become a better slave. God said, “that’s too small. I don’t want to make you a better slave, I want to bring you totally out of that bondage. I created you as the head and not the tail, the victor and not the victim.” too often, like them, we’re praying to become a better slave: “God, just help me to endure this sickness. God, just give me a roof over my head and I’ll be happy. God, just help me to learn to live with my depression.” no, it’s not your depression. quit praying to become a better slave; that’s too small for you. God want you the reign in life. you have seeds of greatness on the inside. you are destined to leave your mark on this generation.

you have to enlarge your vision. what God has planned for you is not little, to get by, to endure, to take the leftovers, to be second class; God has a big life for you. He’s bringing you into a wide land, a place of abundance, something that you’ve never seen. He’s not going to just make you a better slave, He’s going to set you totally free: free from addictions, free from sickness, free from depression, free from poverty and lack. no matter what level you’re at, no matter where you are, receive this into your spirit; it’s too small. God has something better, something bigger: more influence, creativity, connections and resources. He’s going to release the favor that’s going to thrust you into a new level of your destiny. the reason you feel something igniting on the inside, that stirring in your spirit, is God speaking to your destiny; that’s your spirit bearing witness with the greatness God’s placed in you. in Isaiah 49, God was telling Isaiah about his future and all He had planned for him:

Isaiah 49:5 (NIV)

5 And now the Lord says—
 he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
 and gather Israel to himself,
for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord
 and my God has been my strength—

and how he would be a great prophet. Isaiah was so honored;  he said, “yes, God, I’ll do it, I’ll help bring all of Israel back together. God said:

Isaiah 49:6 (NIV)

6 he says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
    to restore the tribes of Jacob
 and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Isaiah’s vision was limited. when he said, “God, I’ll do it, I’ll help my own people, no problem, that’s awesome,” God said, “that’s too small. I’ve got something bigger planned. I’m going to supersize what you’re thinking about; I don’t want you to just help the Jews, I want you to help all of the Gentiles too.” in other words, Isaiah thought he could touch a nation; God was thinking nations. sometimes, like Isaiah, our vision is limited; “God, if I can just go as far as my parents, God if You just help me get out of this old neighborhood, help me to make it to sales manager.” God is saying to you what He said to Isaiah; “what you have in mind is too small.” your plans, your goals, that’s a part of it, but what God has planned for you, if He showed you right now, it would boggle your mind; the doors He’s going to open, the places He’s going to take you, the people you’re going to impact, is going to be much greater than you imagine. it’s too small a thing for you to just accomplish your own dreams; there are God-sized dreams you haven’t even thought about. it’s too small a thing for you to just go as far as your parents; God is a progressive God, He wants you to go further. He’s already designed you to supersede previous generations. don’t put it on autopilot, “well, I’m doing good enough”; good enough is not your destiny. it’s too small a thing for you to just get out of debt; that’s one part, but the next part is to be blessed with such abundance that you can be a blessing to others. the scripture says:

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.

my encouragement; don’t get stuck in this glory, there’s another glory coming. if you’ll keep honoring God, living with expectancy, His blessings will chase you down. the right people will show up, doors will open for you that you never dreamed would open, God will bring talent out that you didn’t know you had; He’ll get you to where you’re supposed to be. God loves you too much to let you stay in mediocrity. God can see what you can’t see: He sees potential, gifts, talents. He’s already lined up an incredible life for you.  it’s easy to get satisfied, “I’ve reached my limits, this is as good as it gets,” no, God is saying, “it’s too small. I’ve got more in store.” don’t put your stakes down; you wouldn’t be alive unless God had something amazing in your future. think about David. as a shepherd boy, he was out in the fields taking care of his father’s sheep, day in and day out, feeding them, protecting them, fighting off the wild animals; he was faithful, he didn’t slack off, he just kept being his best. God said, “David, this is too small a thing for you. it’s part of your destiny, but it’s not the end of your destiny.” he went out and defeated Goliath, became a national hero.

King Saul asked him to come work in the palace; a dream come true. I’m sure David thought, “this is it, this is fantastic, I’ve made it,” but God did not create us to reach one level and stop. when we think, “Oh God, thank you, I’ve accomplished my dreams,” God says, “I appreciate your thanks, but I’m not finished with you. it’s too small a thing for you to stay there, I’ve got something bigger.” in our mind it could be huge; “just got the promotion, just met the person of my dreams, God did more than I could ask or think”; the whole time, God’s in the heavens saying, “you haven’t seen anything yet. I’m glad you’re happy, but that’s a small thing.” God’s idea of big is much different than our idea of big. David not only ended up serving the king, he became the king. he thought, “God, wow, you’ve amazed me with your goodness.” God said, “still, it’s too small a thing, David. I’m going to put one of your descendants on the throne for the next 1000 generations.” where you are, in God’s eyes, is a small thing. whatever level you’re at, God has something in your future so much bigger, better, more rewarding;  God loves you too much to let you stay where you are going. He’s going to keep pushing you, stretching you, even at times making you uncomfortable, to get you into the fullness of your destiny. God’s big is much different than our big. scripture says:

Isaiah 55:9 (NIV)

9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
 and my thoughts than your thoughts.

my big was to maintain; God’s big was to multiply. my big was to hold on; God’s big was to propel forward. our big is to pay our bills; God’s big is to be debt-free and have plenty left over. our big is to get that promotion; God’s big is to own your own company. our big is to just make it through the illness; God’s big is to come out better than you were before. I’m asking you to stir your faith up; get ready to go where you’ve never been. God told the Israelites:

Joshua 3:4 (AMP)

4 … you have not passed this way before.

there are new mountains to climb, new opportunities coming your way. where you are may be big in your mind; you feel blessed, you’ve reached a certain level, but in God’s mind, that’s too small to stay. whatever you’re dreaming about, God’s going to supersize it. He’s going to do more than you can ask or think. the real question is; are you ready? are you in agreement? there’s about to be a downpour of God’s favor, an abundance of rain; like a flood, it’s going to thrust you where you could not go on your own. God knows how to supersize your dream. what you’re believing for, it may be big to you, but it’s not big to God. no matter where you are, you haven’t touched the surface of what God has in store. why don’t you take the limits off of Him? “this would never happen for me, I don’t have the connections”; you may not, but God does, you have friends in high places. “I come from the wrong family, we never get any good breaks”; no, you come from the right family, you’re a child of the most high God, your heavenly Father owns it all. He makes streets out of gold. start taking steps of faith; do what you can, and God will do what you can’t. do the natural, and God will do the supernatural: He’ll bring the right people, give you the right breaks, cause things fall into place. there’s a young lady in the scripture named Ruth. her husband was killed in a battle, and she and her mother-in-law Naomi moved to another city:

Ruth 2:2-3 (NIV)

2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.”
Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” 3 So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek.

they were sustained that way, it was fine for a season, but God had something better. Boaz noticed Ruth, he liked her:

Ruth 2:15-16 (NIV)

15 … Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. 16 Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.”

now, when she went out in the morning, she didn’t have to work nearly as hard; the wheat was right there in her path. she could’ve lived that way the rest of her life. but this shows us the heart of God; God said, “Ruth, that’s too small a thing for you; I’ve got something bigger in store.” Boaz and Ruth fell in love and got married.

(NB: more precisely, she asked him to “redeem” her, and he agreed, which included marriage:

Ruth 3:9-11 (NIV)

9 …“I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.”
10 “The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied… 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask.

Ruth 4:9-10 (NIV)

9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!” )

from that point on, Ruth never had to go pick up the leftovers again; she came into an explosive blessing. she went from working in the field to owning the field. that’s God’s dream for you, to bring you into overflow, to where you have more than enough. here’s the key: Ruth was content picking up the leftovers, she didn’t complain, she was faithful where she was, but she didn’t settle where she was. deep down, she knew God had something bigger, and that sustained she and Naomi for a season. but God doesn’t want you to live off the leftovers. He didn’t create you to constantly struggle; He created you to live an abundant life. you have royalty in your veins. you may be there for a season, but don’t let it become permanent in your thinking; that’s too small for you. you have greatness on the inside. you have the favor of God. the forces that are for you are greater than the forces that are against you. keep helping others, being your best; you’re not only going to come into your handfuls on purpose, but you’re going to see these explosive blessings, where you go from working at a company to owning your company, from teaching at the school to running the school. have a big vision. make room for God to do something new. one thing I’ve learned is, you cannot out-dream God. God thinks big. He thinks overflow. He thinks more than enough. whatever you’re dreaming about, you need to get ready; God’s going to supersize it. my prayer for you:

Deuteronomy 1:11 (GNT)

11 May the Lord, the God of your ancestors, make you increase a thousand times more and make you prosperous, as he promised!

can you receive it? 1000 times more creativity, influence, resources. we think, “God, if you’ll just give me that $1.20/hour raise, I’ll be happy. God, if You just keep my children out of jail”; that’s too small. God wants your children to be mighty in the land, and He wants you to set a new standard for your family. I’ve learned to take the limits off of God; you may not see a way, but God has a way. scripture talks about:

Deuteronomy 6:10-11 (NLT)

10 “The Lord your God will soon bring you into… a land with large, prosperous cities that you did not build. 11 The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant.

God knows how to line up your handfuls on purpose. now don’t go around praying to become a better slave; God wants to bring you totally out. He’s not thinking addition; He’s thinking multiplication. and if you’ll keep honoring God, you’re going to come into explosive blessings. God is bringing you into a wide land, a place of abundance, 1000 times more than you are.

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I don’t know if Rachelle Friedman is a Christian or not;  she never mentions God in the article I read about her, but some people are unwilling to risk anti-Christian backlash by mentioning Him to the general public, and of course news agencies decide which quotes to use and which to ignore…  in any case, there’s no confusion about her attitude being one to strive for.

The article is called “Paralyzed at her bachelorette party, bride to marry Friday.”  Here’s how she became paralyzed:

“Friedman was celebrating with her girlfriends in Virginia Beach, Va., about a month before she was supposed to be married last year when she was injured. After being pushed into the pool, she awkwardly hit the cement bottom. She knew immediately something was wrong.”

Take a moment and imagine that this tragedy happened to YOU.  What would your attitude be towards the person that pushed you?  Be honest;  only God can hear your thoughts, and He knows the truth.  Now check this out:

“The horseplay was no different from the way her friends had goofed around many times. Friedman could have just as easily pushed her friend in the water, she says. She refuses to even call the act a prank because that would imply some devious intent.”

That’s way better than *I* would have handled it;  I’d have been enraged at the thoughtless friend pushing me into the SHALLOW end of the pool where you could reasonably EXPECT the victim to bounce off the bottom.  Yes, I’d forgive her, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t see her as having done wrong.  But wait, there’s more:

“”People look at it like this is something that happened to me, but it happened to both of us,” Friedman said of her friend.”

Whether or not Ms. Friedman is Christian, that is an extraordinarily Christian attitude.  But wait, there’s MORE;  she says this about her friend:

“”She was tragically hurt, mentally and emotionally. And I was tragically hurt, physically,” Friedman says… “It’s harder to deal with when you’re hurt emotionally sometimes than when you’re hurt physically.”

Here this woman has been totally disabled, and her focus is on what the one who did it to her has suffered!!  She is more concerned with what this other woman has endured than her own devastation;  this is exactly what Jesus would do, and what WE should make it our goal to do…  although it won’t be easy.  God doesn’t just ask us to do what’s easy though;  if we want radical blessings, we have to first demonstrate radical obedience.  This 2nd message about being more concerned about those that harm you than about your own pain (the 1st is described in the post “Beyond forgiveness” on 4-24) is NOT being ignored;  this is where my current spiritual struggle is.

If you want to read the entire article, it’s here:

http://www.today.com/id/43793271/ns/today-weddings/?gt1=43001#.U6y3JN2cuH9

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Nothing is Wasted

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all go through some things in life that stink; we don’t like it, it wasn’t fair.  “why did my relationship not make it, why did I come down with this sickness, why did I lose my main client? that stinks.” no, you need to have a new perspective; that’s fertilizer. it may smell bad right now, it may seem like a bunch of manure got dumped on you, but if you will stay in faith, that’s not going to hinder you, that’s going to strengthen you. the stinky stuff, the loss, disappointments, betrayals, it’s preparing you for new growth, to bloom, to blossom, to become all you were created to be. the truth is, you cannot reach your highest potential without fertilizer. the stinky stuff is not working against you, it’s working for you. it may smell bad right now, but if you’ll keep doing the right thing, you will come into a new season of growth. I would love to tell you that if you have faith, you trust God, you be your best, you’ll sail through life with no difficulty, but that’s not reality. you’re going to have some manure; there’s going to be some stinky stuff.

what I want us to see is that God wouldn’t have allowed it unless He was ultimately going to use it for your good. and instead of complaining, thinking, “oh man, this stinks. I can’t believe this happened,” no, have the attitude, “it’s just more fertilizer; God’s getting me prepared for something greater.” if you’ll go through the stink with the right attitude, God will take what was meant for your harm, and He’ll use it to your advantage. you may feel like you’ve had more than your share of stinky stuff: bad breaks, disappointments, broken dreams. be encouraged; that just means you have a lot of fertilizer. God’s getting you ready to go where you’ve never been. and this is not the time to be discouraged, have a chip on your shoulder; this is the time to get ready. God allowed that fertilizer to get you prepared for where you could not go on your own. you may not have liked it, but it deposited something in you that you could only gain by going through it; you couldn’t learn it by reading a book, listening to a message, taking a class.  you could only learn it from experience, through the trial of faith; that’s where we’re really developed. David said:

Psalm 4:1 (AMP)

1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness (uprightness, justice, and right standing with You)! You have freed me when I was hemmed in and enlarged me when I was in distress

he didn’t get enlarged in the good times; he got enlarged in the tough times. that difficulty is strengthening you; it’s getting you prepared. now you’re in position to go to a new level. quit complaining about the fertilizer. quit talking about who hurt you, what didn’t work out, all the manure that got dumped on you. without the stinky stuff, you couldn’t reach the fullness of your destiny. it’s not hindering you, it’s helping you. if it was too much, God would have never allowed it. you’ve got to dig your heels in, and say, “I am in it to win it. I am not going to let this stinky stuff, this stuff I don’t understand, cause me to give up on my dream. I know it’s fertilizer. it’s strengthening me, enlarging me, getting me prepared for new levels.” just because something unfair has happened, it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have an amazing future still in front of you. it may stink right now, but remember, manure has a lot of helpful ingredients; it’s fertilizer. used the right way, it gives you an advantage, causes growth. why do some people in a bad situation struggle through life, defeated, discouraged, always overcome by problems, and yet others overcome the odds, and see God’s blessing and favor in great ways? it’s in our approach to life. we all have stinky stuff, unfair things that we don’t like; we can get bitter, sour, discouraged, or we can see it as fertilizer, and say, “this difficulty is not going to defeat me, it’s going to promote me. God wouldn’t have allowed it unless He had a purpose.”

don’t just go through it, grow through it. recognize that it’s making you stronger. you’re developing trust, confidence, determination. you’re well able; if God be for you, who dare be against you? you’ve got to put your shoulders back, hold your head up high. you were never created to live defeated, overcome by problems, always having bad breaks; you were created to be the overcomer, not the victim but the victor. you have the most powerful force in the universe on the inside. winning is in your DNA. life may not have treated you fair, but God is fair, and in those stinky situations, you have to remember; it’s fertilizer. that’s an opportunity to grow. it doesn’t have to keep you from your destiny; just the opposite, it can propel you into your destiny. and what stinks in your life right now, what you don’t like, can be the very thing that promotes you and causes you to blossom. don’t complain about the stink; there’s promotion in that stink. don’t be discouraged by the sour stuff, the stinky situations; there’s a new level in that stinky situation. don’t be put off by the fertilizer, by the manure; it may not smell good, but it’s helping you to grow, it’s developing something on the inside.

when I look back at my life, I realize, I didn’t grow much in the good times; I grew in the difficult times. that’s what’s getting us prepared for the amazing future God has in store. and you may feel like you’ve had more than your share of fertilizer, of stinky stuff. here’s why: because God has a big destiny in front of you. He’s about to take you someplace that you’ve never dreamed. He’s getting you prepared. your roots are going down deeper. the manure doesn’t smell good, but it’s giving you valuable nutrients that you could not get otherwise. that person at the office that gets on your nerves, doesn’t treat you respectfully; next time you see them, just smile, and say to yourself, “you’re just fertilizer. you stink, but you’re helping me to grow. you think you’re pushing me down, but really, you’re pushing me up.” don’t say it to their face! when you go through a bad break, a disappointment, the medical report wasn’t good, it’s okay to be honest; “this stinks, I don’t like it, but I know a secret; it’s fertilizer. it’s going to cause me to grow, to bloom, to blossom, to flourish.” this is what Joseph did in the scripture. his brothers were jealous of him, and they threw him into a pit:

Genesis 37:23-24 (ESV)

23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. 24 And they took him and threw him into a pit.

he could have gotten discouraged, “God, I’m a good person, why did this happen to me?” no, he realized it’s just fertilizer; “they’re trying to stop me, but God’s going to use it to increase me.” one bad thing after another happened to him: they sold him into slavery, Potiphar’s wife, his boss’s wife, lied about him, falsely accused him, and he was put in prison, he spent 13 years in prison for something that he didn’t do. they were trying to hold him back; they didn’t realize they were putting fertilizer on him. Joseph was getting stronger, growing, his roots were going down deeper. they thought they were stopping him; in reality, they were strengthening him. that injustice, that stinky situation, looked like it wasted years of his life. but just like fertilizer gives plants vital nutrients, that difficulty was doing a work in Joseph, getting him prepared for the next level of his destiny. one day, Joseph interpreted a dream for the Pharaoh:

Genesis 41:25 (ESV)

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.

Pharaoh was so impressed with Joseph, he brought him out of prison and put him in charge of the whole nation:

Genesis 41:40-41 (ESV)

40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command.  Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”

if you’ll stay in faith in the stinky times, the times you don’t understand, you’re doing the right thing but the wrong thing keeps happening, then when it’s your time to be promoted, to be vindicated, to bloom, to blossom;  all the forces of darkness cannot stop you. people don’t have the final say; God has the final say. He will get you to where He wants you to be. Joseph went from the pit, to the prison, all the way to the palace. you may kind of feel like you’re in the pit today; you’ve had some bad breaks, dealing with an illness, lost a loved one, a dream died. like Joseph, that pit is not the end of your story, the prison is not your final chapter; your story ends in the palace. you are destined to live a victorious life. David said:

Psalm 40:2-3 (NIV)

2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth

you may be in the pit, but you need to get ready; you’re about to come out. that sickness is not the end, that depression is not the end, that person that left you, the one that broke your heart, is not the end of your story; if they left you, you didn’t need them, if they walked away, they were not a part of your destiny. God has somebody better; He’s about to put a new song in your heart. now don’t get comfortable in the pit; don’t let self-pity and discouragement steal your passion. you’ve got to get your fire back. everything God promised you, He still has every intention of bringing it to pass. the palace is in your future. dreams coming to pass is in your future. victory, restoration, abundance, health, and wholeness; that’s what’s up ahead of you, that’s how your story ends. yes, it stinks right now, but don’t worry, fertilizer stinks; that just means you’re about to see new growth. when you stay in faith, one touch of God’s favor, you’ll go from the back to the front, from the pit to the palace.

we all have stinky situations, things that are unfair, people that are not treating us right, but you’ve got to do like Joseph and see it as fertilizer; it’s not going to defeat you, it’s going to promote you. that person that lied about you, tried to make you look bad, don’t get upset, they just put fertilizer on you; they think they’re pushing you down, but really, they’re pushing you up. you’re one step closer to your palace. or that mistake you made, you feel like you blew it, you’re all washed up, “I had my chance,” no, God uses the stinky stuff. you can’t blossom into all you were created to be without some fertilizer. sometimes, we bring trouble on ourselves, we make poor choices. the accuser constantly whispers in our ear, “God’s not going to bless you, you had your chance, you blew it, you don’t deserve it.” no, God does not waste anything that you go through; it may not have been good, but God knows how to bring good out of it.

John 4:6-18 (NIV)

6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water… 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”… 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

she was amazed at how this stranger could know everything about her. she got kind of spiritual, and said to Jesus:

John 4:25-26 (NLT)

25 The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”

the first person Jesus ever told that he was the Messiah was this woman, a woman that had had a rough past, made mistakes, had some stinky stuff.

John 4:28-29 (NIV)

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”

God used her as the first evangelist to get the word out. here’s my point: this lady was comfortable around men, married five times. if she would’ve been intimidated, insecure, quiet, reserved she wouldn’t’ve told many people. but God took what the enemy had used against her, her boldness, her straightforwardness, and not only turned it around, but God said, in effect, “this has gotten you into trouble in the past; I’m going to make the enemy pay, I’m going to use this to advance My kingdom.” it had worked against her, now it was working for her. God knows how to use what you’ve been through. He doesn’t waste any experiences. you may have made poor choices, but God can take your mess and turn it into your message. He can use what you’ve been through to help others that are going through the same thing. nothing is wasted, the good, the bad, the painful; God knows how to use it. if you will stay in faith, it will not only act like fertilizer and make you stronger, but somewhere down the road you’ll be instrumental in helping others. one time in the scripture, David was on the run; King Saul was jealous of him and trying to kill him. he left in in such a hurry that he didn’t take his sword. he got to the next town and told the leaders:

1 Samuel 21:8-9 (NIV)

8 David asked Ahimelek, “Don’t you have a spear or a sword here? I haven’t brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king’s mission was urgent.”
9 The priest replied, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.”
David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”

he left that day with the sword that was meant to defeat him; now, he is using the same sword to defeat others. the enemies that have tried to defeat you: the depression, the sickness, the bad breaks, the injustice, you’re not only going to defeat them, but you’re going to use those same experience to defeat others. you have some swords in your future; battles you’ve won, enemies you’ve defeated, challenges you’ve outlasted. those victories are going to be there for when you need them. they were meant to defeat you, to harm you, to keep you from your destiny;  God knows how to not only turn it around, not only give you the victory, but He’ll put that same sword in your future that will help you overcome other obstacles. that’s the way our God is; He can take the broken dreams, the mistakes, the failures, the injustice, seems like nothing good is going to come out of it, it looks like this is all a waste, no, God knows how to make music out of your mess.

He’s you got in the palm of His hand; nothing that’s happened to you has been wasted. it’s all been a part of making you into who you were created to be. it may not have been good, but God can use it for your good. He can take the very thing that was meant to defeat you, and instead cause it to propel you. no obstacle is too big, no enemy is too powerful; the forces that are for you are greater than the forces that are against you, the greatest force in the universe is on the inside of you. you may be in a tough time, but like David, you’re about to see one of your swords. God is going to use what you’ve been through to catapult you forward. people can’t stop it, bad breaks can’t stop it, trash can’t stop it, injustice can’t stop it. like Joseph, you’re about to rise to the top. you may be in the pit, but you need to get ready, you’re going to come into the palace. shake off the self-pity, disappointments, what didn’t work out; this is a new day. your best days are not your yesterdays, they are still out in front of you. the enemy wouldn’t be fighting you so hard if he didn’t know God has something amazing in your future. it might be difficult, it may smell bad right now, but remember, it’s fertilizer. it’s working to your advantage; you’re getting stronger, growing. you’re going to flourish, to bloom, to blossom. I speak victory over you, abundance, increase, vindication, restoration, health, wholeness, and the fullness of your destiny.

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It’s already yours

from JO’s sermon tonight:

the scripture tells us how God has already blessed us, already forgiven us, already favored us, already approved and accepted each one of us. He is not waiting to do it, He’s already done it. there are blessings with your name on them, healing with your name on it, promotion, good breaks, businesses, houses, contracts;  as far as God is concerned, they already belong to you. the real question is; when are you going to go get what’s already yours? God has already said yes to you being blessed, yes to you living healthy and whole, yes to you accomplishing your dreams. why don’t you have the boldness to go get what already belongs to you? what if we believed that our heavenly Father loved us so much that we had such a boldness, such a confidence, that we would go get what already belongs to us? there’s favor with your name on it; it’s already yours.

Psalm 5:12 (WYC)

12 … Lord, thou hast surrounded us with thy favour, yea, like with a shield

it doesn’t say He’s going to do it one day, He’s already done it. are you bold enough to go get your crown, start carrying yourself like a king, a queen, confident, secure, knowing that you’re one-of-a-kind, a masterpiece, fearfully and wonderfully made? don’t go your whole life with your crown up on a shelf, thinking, “I never get any good breaks, I’ll never get ahead.” God has already said yes. get rid of that defeated mentality. go get your crown. you have the favor of God. blessings are chasing you down. goodness and mercy follow you everywhere you go. when you have this boldness to go get what belongs to you, you’ll step into a new level of your destiny. God told Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 1:5 (AMP)

5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew [and] approved of you

some people go their whole life trying to gain approval so they can feel good about themselves; they think if they work hard enough, have enough success, move into the right neighborhood, convince a certain person to like them, then they can be happy. the good news is, you’ve already been approved; quit trying to work for something that you already have. you’re not waiting to get it: if you get good enough, if you lose 20 pounds, if you have the right friends, no, God has already approved you. when God created you, just like He did with Jeremiah, He looked at you and said, “that was good; another masterpiece.” don’t live intimidated, insecure, trying to play up to people, convince them to be your friend. if they don’t want to be your friend, let them go; it’s their loss, not yours. you don’t need their approval; you have Almighty God’s approval. there is a freedom when you realize, “I’m not waiting for it, I’m not hoping to get it, I’m not trying to talk people into it; I have already been accepted, approved, redeemed, forgiven. the Creator of the universe calls me a masterpiece.” Paul said:

Ephesians 1:3 (NIV)

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

again, past tense. He’s not thinking about doing it, He’s already done it. you may not feel blessed: your checking account may not say you’re blessed, business may be slow. it’s easy to think, “when I see it, I’ll believe it.” but faith is just the opposite; you’ve gotta believe it, and then you’ll see it. instead of talking about how bad it is, start the declaring, “I am blessed, I am prosperous, I’m the head and not the tail, I lend and I don’t have to borrow.” you have to talk like you’re blessed, think like you’re blessed, walk like you’re blessed, act like you’re blessed, live like you’re blessed; that’s what activates the blessing. not dragging around, if somebody ask you how you’re doing, “I’m just hanging in there, it’s really, really bad.” no, you’ve got to notify your face; put a smile on, your shoulders back, hold your head up high, walk with confidence. you’re a child of the most high God, you have royalty in your blood, you were created to reign in life.

you’ve got to do your part and go get what’s already yours: go get your dreams, go get the abundance, go get your health, go get the victory, it has your name on it. “I’ve been praying for favor. I’ve been asking God to bless me.” no, here’s a key; you don’t have to pray about something that you already have, just start acting like it’s true. I don’t always feel anointed, but I know that God has already anointed us, He’s already equipped and empowered us. I never pray, “God, please give me your anointing.” I always say, “Lord, thank you that I am anointed. thank you that I am well able.” you may not feel blessed, confident, strong or talented, but don’t fall into that trap, go through life with a “poor old me” mentality; get in agreement with God. God says you are blessed, you are strong, you are talented, you are victorious. not going to be one day, not in the sweet by-and-by; God has already blessed you. He’s already made you more than a conqueror. He’s already crowned you with that favor.

Joshua 18:3 (GNT)

3 So Joshua said to the people of Israel, “How long are you going to wait before you go in and take the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?

God had already promised them the land, it had their name on it. God was saying, “when are you going to go get what’s already yours?” my question; how long are you going to wait before you put on your crown of favor? how long are you going to wait before you start believing you’re blessed, healthy, strong, talented, equipped, one-of-a-kind?  this is your time, this is your moment. the prophet Joel said:

Joel 3:9 (KJV)

9 … wake up the mighty men

that’s who I’m looking at. you’ve got to shake off the doubt, the fear, the intimidation, and go get what belongs to you. just like with the Israelites, God has put promises in your heart. He’s spoken dreams to you. maybe things you haven’t told anyone about. it seems so big, so unlikely. you don’t think you have the talent, the connections;  you may not, but God does. He’s already put your name on that dream. your name is already on that song, that movie, that book you’ve been wanting to write. your name is already on that business, that charity that you’ve been wanting to start. couples that are believing for a child, be encouraged; there’s a baby that already has your name on it. single people, there’s a husband, a wife, that has your name on them. David said:

Psalm 31:19 (TLB)

19 … For you have stored up great blessings for those who trust and reverence you.

you have no idea the amazing things God has stored up for you; they’re already yours. my challenge is; don’t leave them stored up. be bold and believe that you’re highly favored, believe that you’re well able, believe that you can become all God’s created you to be. this is what Abraham had to do. 20 years before he had a child, God said:

Genesis 17:5 (NIV)

5 … I have made you a father of many nations

God said it in the past tense; “I have made you,” like it had already happened. at that time, he didn’t have one child. Abraham could have thought, “God,what are you talking about? I’m not a father. I don’t have any children.” “I’m not blessed, I’m not healthy, I’m not strong.” he could’ve talked himself out of it, but he chose to believe. when God says you’re blessed, don’t try to figure it out, just say, “God I agree with you; I am blessed.” God calls you prosperous; don’t go check your bank account, don’t go look at the stock report, just say, “God, I agree with you;  I am prosperous.” God says He is restoring health back unto you, you will live and not die. the medical report may say just the opposite;  that’s okay, that’s how Abraham felt. just say, “God, if you say it, I agree: I am strong, I am healthy, I will live and not die.” when you get in agreement with God, that’s what allows Him to release those blessings that have been stored up:

2 Corinthians 1:20 (NKJV)

20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen

God says, “yes, you’re blessed, healthy, strong. yes, you will accomplish your dreams.” I’ve learned that “yes” alone is not enough; if you want it to become a reality, you’ve got to add the amen to it. amen means, “be it unto me. God, I agree; let it happen.” it’s got to become personal, it’s got to take root in your spirit. it’s one thing to know that God can bless; it’s another to say, “I am blessed.” it’s one thing to know that God can heal, yes, God can restore, but it takes on a new meaning when you say, “I am healed, I am restored, I will live and not die.” it’s one thing to know that God made you, but it does something different when you say, “I am a masterpiece, I am one-of-a-kind, I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” God says yes; make sure you add your amen to it. this is what Abraham did; he got in agreement with God. some 20 years later, the promise came to pass. I wonder how many blessings that have been stored up for us that we miss out on? how many dreams that have our name on it, but because we get discouraged, it’s taking so long, we settle where we are, we don’t see them come to reality. go get what already belongs to you. go get the healing, go get the children, go get the dreams, go get the victory that has your name on it. when you rise up with a boldness and say, “God, I know You love me, I know You want to be good to me. God, I want to thank You for bringing my dreams to pass. thank You that I’ll live healthy and whole, that I’ll live debt-free, that You’re bringing the right people across my path. Lord, thank You for giving me the desires of my heart.” when you believe like that, it puts a smile on God’s face. the scripture says:

Luke 12:32 (KJV)

32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

there’s nothing that brings Him any more joy then to see you flourish and become who you were created to be. but sometimes, a religious spirit makes us think, “I can’t ask for too much, for my dreams, that wouldn’t be right, I’ve got to stay humble.” no, you are not inconveniencing God by believing big. He’s the one that put the dream in your heart. God never created you to reach a certain level and then get stuck; He created you to excel, to take new ground for the kingdom, to set a new standard for your family. take the limits off of Him. get rid of little dreams, little goals, little plans; God wants to show you the greatness of His power. He’s not limited by your circumstances, education, background, talent; He’s limited by our thinking. if we think, “I’ve gone as far as I can, nothing good is in my future, and I don’t deserve it, I’ve made too many mistakes,” that will keep us from the fullness of our destiny. you have to enlarge your vision; make room for God to do something new. He’s about to rain down favor, rain down promotion; you’re going to see an abundance of His goodness. He’s going to take you someplace that you’ve never been. He’s going to show you what you’ve never seen. it’s going to be:

Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV)

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think

“this sounds good, but God’s got bigger things to deal with than me, my challenges, my dreams, my goals,” no, understand, you are God’s biggest deal, you are the apple of His eye, you are His most prized possession. He created you in His own image. He didn’t breathe life into the water, into the sky, into the trees, He breathed His life into you. He put his DNA on the inside. you weren’t created to be average, to be mediocre; you are royalty. God has destined you to leave your mark on this generation. there are boxes on the shelf right now that have your name on them; they already belong to you. God’s waiting for you to come pick them up. I’m asking you to stir up your faith; start believing bigger, start expecting God’s goodness, start declaring God’s favor. it may not have happened in the past, but this is a new day;  it can happen in the future. when you believe, new doors open, promotion comes, the right people show up. when you believe, the angels go to work, God begins to fight your battles, negative situations will turn around. when you believe, all things are possible. if I had a $100 bill in my hand, that bill in itself doesn’t do me any good; in other words, I can’t wear the bill, I can’t eat the bill, I can’t drive the bill, it’s simply a piece of paper that’s hardly worth anything. but if I take that $100 bill to the store, I can exchange it for some groceries, I can exchange it for new shirt, I can exchange it for gasoline for my car. it’s called legal tender; that piece of paper can be exchanged for goods and services.

Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

you could say faith is the currency of heaven. if I need groceries, then I need to take some cash down here on the Earth, but in the unseen spiritual realm, that cash is not going to do me any good; the substance I need for exchange in the unseen realm, for God to work, is faith. the scripture says:

Genesis 15:6 (ESV)

6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

Abraham wasn’t necessarily righteous. if you read the story, Abraham made plenty of mistakes:  he had a baby out of wedlock, lied about his wife, told people she was his sister. he didn’t live a perfect life, but we see this principle at work; Abraham believed, he had faith. God said in effect,  “alright, Abraham, you’ve got the faith, let’s make an exchange; I’ll give you My righteousness.” if we had to choose, and we don’t, but if we had to choose between being wealthy with money or being wealthy with faith, I would always choose faith, because when you have faith, you’re connected to the Hands that rule the world, you’re connected to the God that can make anything happen. when you have faith, God can rain down abundance, give you explosive blessings, blessings that thrust you to a new level. God can take you where you could not go on your own; faith is the exchange.

when you say, “God, I believe what You promised, that my children will be mighty in the land. I believe they will surpass anything that I’ve done,” God says, ”alright, you’ve got the faith, let Me breathe on your children, let Me make it happen.” “God, I believe that You’re greater than this sickness. medically speaking, I don’t see a way, but God, I know You have the final say, and You said the number of my days You will fulfill. You said when darkness overtakes the righteous, light will come bursting in. so Lord, I believe You’re my healer.” God says, “alright, you’ve got the faith, let’s make an exchange; let Me heal, restore, do what medicine cannot do.” “God, I believe You can give me that property, that new building to expand my business. in the natural, I don’t see how, but God, I know You can do anything.” God says, “alright, you’ve got the faith, let Me open some new doors, arrange things in your favor, cause the right people to like you.” faith is what you need to exchange for God’s goodness, for His blessing, for His favor. that’s why the scripture says:

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

6 And without faith it is impossible to please God

it’s because when we don’t have faith, God can’t do much for us; it limits Him. Isaiah said:

Isaiah 30:18 (NIV)

18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you…

He wants to bring your dreams to pass, but he goes on to say:

Isaiah 30:18 (AMP)

18 … Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]!

your faith is increasing; you’re getting wealthier, you’ve got more to exchange. Jesus said:

Matthew 9:29 (VOICE)

Jesus (touching their eyes): 29 According to your faith, it will be done to you.

when you go to God believing big, believing for your dreams, believing that the problem will turn around, knowing that He’s all-powerful, that’s not just being positive, that’s not just hoping that it happens, it’s deeper than that; an exchange is taking place. you’re trading your faith, the currency of heaven; that allows God to do amazing things. but too often, we go to God with our doubts:  “God, I’ve got this big dream, but I don’t know how it can happen. I don’t think I have the talent, I don’t have the connections, God, I never get any good breaks. my car broke down last week, my dog ran away, my goldfish died, my neighbor won’t talk to me, God, it’s really, really bad, but I need your help.”

God says in effect, my words not His, “show Me the money. I work by faith; that’s the substance I need for the exchange.” here’s what I’m saying; it’s much better to go to God and say, “God I’ve got this big dream, it looks impossible to me, but God, I know with You all things are possible. I know You can make a way where I don’t see a way. I know You can open doors that no man can shut. I know You’re supplying my needs according to your riches, not mine. I know you have blessings stored up for me, and all those that love the Lord.” God says, “alright, that’s what I’m looking for; that’s the currency of heaven. let Me go to work.” you have to stay in agreement. instead of complaining, one of the best things you can do is remind God what He said;  “God, you said:

Psalm 113:9 (NET)

9 He makes the barren woman of the family
a happy mother of children

“God, You said the fruit of my womb is blessed.” “God, You said that children are a reward from the Lord. I want to thank you that that baby that has my name on it is coming in.” some of you, there’s a business that has your name on it. you’ve been dreaming about it, praying for it; it’s time to rise up and go get what belongs to you. “Father, You said You would give me the desires of my heart. Lord, I want to thank You that that business that has my name on it is coming in.” maybe you’re in a legal battle; it doesn’t look good, you’re tempted to give up. no, “Lord, You said:

Psalm 75:10 (TLB)

10 “I will cut off the strength of evil men,” says the Lord, “and increase the power of good men in their place.”

“You said when the enemy comes against me one way, You would defeat them and cause them to flee 7 different ways. so Lord, I want to thank You that the vindication that has my name on it is coming in.” you’ve got to go get what already belongs to you; I don’t want to be greedy, I just want everything that has my name on it. friends, healing belongs to you, children that are mighty in the land belong to you, a beautiful debt-free house belongs to you, joy, peace, happiness, abundance, lending and not borrowing, belongs to you. what would happen if we’d all go to God with the currency of heaven: faith, boldness, confidence, expectancy?  that’s what gets God’s attention;  knowing that He loves us, knowing that He wants to be good to us. that’s what causes God to do more than we can ask or think. why don’t you stir your faith up? remember, you’re not going to be blessed, you’ve already been blessed. you’re not going to have a crown of favor, you already have a crown a favor; make sure you put it on each day. God says yes; now add your amen to it. if you’ll do this, everything that has your name on it is coming in, the health, the children, the contracts, the businesses, the houses. you need to get ready. you’re going to see God’s goodness in a new way; new opportunities, explosive blessings. you’re going to step into the fullness of your destiny.

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Here’s what happened:

Acts 7:57-58 (NIV)

The Stoning of Stephen

57 … they all rushed at him,58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

Acts 8:1-3 (NIV)

And Saul approved of their killing him.  On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.

The Saul mentioned here is Saul of Tarsus aka Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament.  He started out as what we can only call a horrible person, but God can redeem ANYONE:

 

Acts 9:3-22 (NIV)

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”… 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”… 19 … Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

 

This is probably the biggest turnaround in history!!  But it was made possible, not just by God’s grace, but by Stephen’s forgiveness;  right before he died in agony, Stephen said:

Acts 7:60 (NIV)

60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” 

Yes, this is very similar to what Jesus said when he was dying:

Luke 23:34 (ESV)

34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

 

This shows us Stephen’s level of  “holiness”…  a word I hesitate to use for any man other than Jesus, but various churches view him as a saint, and in any case you know what I’m trying to say about him;  he was at the highest spiritual level.  So, imagine that with his dying breath he had asked God to avenge him instead;  would God have shrugged off the dying request of the first Christian martyr?

If He did not ignore it, then Saul would be dead, and there goes most of the New Testament!!  Yes, God would have found someone else, but Saul was God’s 1st choice for good reasons;  would YOU want His *2nd* choice writing so much of the Bible?

If He did ignore it, people would see that as “proof” that God did not support this new religion;  that would be a disaster.  Yes, God would find a way to make it work, but it would be a longer and harder process…  and who knows how many people would have failed to be converted during that time because of that one evil message.

And what if Stephen had died in some other way, any of the other possible ways that lacked his extraordinary spiritual nobility?  At the very least, whatever positive effects that were gained from his courage and unwavering love and trust in God by the people present and those they passed the story onto would have been lost;  I’ve also read that the effect this had on Saul was important, that it touched his heart…  maybe helping to make it possible for God to use Him later?  And, if Stephen died in anything other than stoic silence, that could have been used to criticize him, and the new religion.  A more subtle effect, but still doing potential harm to the fragile new faith.

I don’t know how much psychology Stephen understood, or how much if any of this he had thought through in those few moments between when they seized him and when he was stoned, but I’m guessing not much, so he did not handle his final moments the way he did in order to create a certain effect;  he knew via Jesus’ example that God wants us to forgive, always, and so he did…  and this one act shaped the entire history of Christianity.

I’m not suggesting that any of us will ever have the chance to do something of that magnitude, but if we are full of vengeance, we might do harm that we can’t foresee, and if we are full of forgiveness we might create benefits that we can’t imagine.

I know it’s hard to forgive when you’re suffering…  but you HAVE TO.  Push yourself as hard as you can, and if it’s still not enough, God will help you the rest of the way like He did for me.  The relief when you can do it, when you KNOW you can do what will make Him happy, will make it well worth the effort.

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One of the challenges of trying to be a good Christian is balancing the importance of tolerance and forgiveness with the equal importance of not letting people take advantage of this and treat you consistently badly, aka not being a doormat.  I clearly failed at this balancing act with my ex-group, and with my roommate as well. God FINALLY got me to start seeing this, and I dug in my heels and have started demanding some respect from the latter, over his wild resistance, lol.  As I prepare for the return of absent people into my life, part of what I’m doing is establishing a social structure that does not include them, so that they won’t have the power over my life and peace of mind of being my entire social and emotional existence, and won’t feel like they’re expected to be my entire life, which even the bravest people often fear.

On my post “God gave me a friendship miracle” of 5-30, reader Gil Bar-On from Israel left me a lovely comment, which included these incredibly powerful and TIMELY lines (the ellipses are mine):

“It’s so nice how you appreciate the value of your friends… Just remember that You are important and valuable to them too, it’s not like you’re the only one benefit from the friendship here. Value yourself and others will do it too.”

Given the timing, and that I have shared other friendship-related progress and miracles many times without anyone ever saying anything, I think God may have chosen this kind and caring man to send me a message. I had been thinking of using the 2nd and 3rd lines of the ones quoted above to make myself a paper sign to remind me of what my attitude should be. I wanted to share this idea with a friend, so I copied the quote into the email I was composing for her.  It was the wrong font and a much smaller font size, so I highlighted the message and used the inbox controls to switch it to my normal font, which is a “smaller” one, and then to my normal font size.  The next time I glanced at the message, the text of the 2 lines that I was thinking of using had returned to its original font and thus gotten much bigger than the line that I was not planning to use!!  I had never seen anything like this before, and it should not even be possible, but there it was;  the part of the message that I thought God might want me to focus on was much bigger than, and a different font than, anything else in the entire email.

But wait, there’s more: I took a screen cap of this to have for my records, and then tried to “fix” it to all be the same font and size… and it wouldn’t do it!!! I tried over and over, but the controls wouldn’t work; the message stayed the way it was. I tried using the controls on the text before and after the message, and they worked just fine, but when I tried them on the message again, they failed again. Could there be some freakish HTML code in the original text making this happen? I copied the message again from the original source, pasted it into a new compose box, and tried doing the exact same things to it; the controls worked totally normally.

But wait, there’s MORE: I gave up and went back to writing. When I looked back at the text a while later… it had all turned the same size and font as the rest of the email!!!! I don’t think that God could’ve made it any clearer that it is time for me to be the head and not the tail in my relationships with others (Deuteronomy 28:13).

God gives us signs all the time.  Often, they are subtle;  sometimes, they are not.  If you devote yourself unswervingly to Him, the signs can be miraculous.

 

 

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You are anointed

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we don’t have to go through life doing everything on our own:  trying to accomplish our dreams only in our own ability, trying to overcome challenges in our own strength, our own intellect, our own hard work. we have an advantage; God has placed His anointing on you. the anointing is a divine empowerment; it enables you to do what you could not do on your own. it will cause you to accomplish dreams even though you didn’t have the talent. it will help you to overcome obstacles that look insurmountable. Isaiah said:

Isaiah 10:27 (KJV)

27 … the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.

a yoke is anything that’s holding you back: addictions, bad habits, people pushing you down, unfair situations. in the natural, you may feel stuck; thoughts will tell you, “just accept it, just learn to live with it.” no, the anointing on your life can break every yoke. the anointing is more powerful than any addiction, it’s stronger than any person trying to push you down, it’s greater than any injustice. in your own ability, you may not be able. in your own might, you may not have the strength. what I want you to see is you’re not on your own; the most high God has anointed you. He has put a power in you that cannot be defeated. it can break every yoke, it can take you where you could not go on your own. but here’s the key; the anointing doesn’t do any good if you go around thinking, “I’ll never break this addiction, I can’t raise these children, it’s too much, I’m stuck in my career, I never get any good breaks.” when you think like that, you are making the anointing ineffective; you’re taking away all of your power. the anointing to us is like gasoline to a car; you can have the most expensive car, with a huge engine, beautiful exterior, fine on the inside, but if you don’t put gasoline in it, it’s not going to do much good.

in the same way, you’ve been made in the image of Almighty God; you are full of incredible potential. you have seeds of greatness; the fuel you need to release your greatness, to overcome obstacles, to accomplish dreams, is the anointing on your life. the anointing is only activated where there’s faith. instead of complaining about how it’s not going to work out, how you’ll never accomplish your dreams, turn that around and start declaring, “I am anointed, I am equipped, I am empowered, I am well able.” when you have this attitude of faith, speaking words of victory, you are putting fuel in your car; you’re stirring up your anointing. that’s when you’ll go places that you couldn’t go on your own, that’s when you’ll see breakthroughs, situations suddenly change in your favor. you may work around people that are negative, hard to get along with. it’s easy to think, “I can’t stand going to work, these people get on my nerves”; that’s draining your fuel, your car is not going to run properly.

God wouldn’t have you there if you couldn’t handle it. have a new perspective; you’ve been anointed to work in that difficult environment. you’re anointed to put up with cranky coworkers. you’re anointed to deal with the grouchy boss. quit telling yourself how difficult it is, and start declaring, “I am anointed. I’m going to enjoy my job. I’m going to put a smile on my face. I’m going to be good to people. this is the day the Lord has made; I will choose to be happy.” when you do that, God will fight your battles, God will move the wrong people out of the way; He’ll get you to where you’re supposed to be. maybe you’re raising a child that’s difficult, it’s taking a lot of time and effort; you don’t see how you can keep doing it. you have to remind yourself that you are anointed to raise your child; God didn’t just put you there, and say, “alright, good luck, you’re on your own, let’s see what you can do.” no, He’s already equipped you and empowered you for every situation. stop talking about how hard it is, and start declaring, “I can do all things through Christ. I am strong in the Lord, I’m well able to raise my children.”

you’ve gotta stir up the anointing; that’s what keeps you moving forward. perhaps you’re dealing with an illness; it hit you unexpectedly. you could be discouraged, let it overwhelm you, “I can’t believe this is happening.” no, have a new perspective; that sickness is not a surprise to God. it didn’t catch God off guard; He’s already anointed you. you have the strength you need, you have the peace, the determination, the confidence. you’re not lacking; you’re anointed. the forces that are for you are greater than the forces that are against you. in those difficult times, you have to say like Isaiah, “the anointing on my life is breaking every yoke. the anointing is greater than this cancer. the anointing is greater than this depression. the anointing is causing me to overcome. every time you say, “I am anointed,” chains are broken, fear has to leave, depression has to go, healing comes, strength comes, faith comes. when David was a teenager, the prophet Samuel came to his house and anointed him to be the next king of Israel:

1 Samuel 16:1-13 (NIV)

1 The Lord said to Samuel… “I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” … 12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.
Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”
13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.

out of all of his older brothers, Samuel picked out David, poured the anointing oil on his head. what’s interesting, is after he anointed him, he sent David back to the shepherd’s fields to take care of the sheep. David lived as a shepherd for years, even though he had a king’s anointing. scripture tells us:

Romans 5:17 (AMP)

17 … reign as kings in life through the one Man Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).

every one of you has a king’s anointing, you have a queen’s anointing; maybe not to physically sit on the throne, this means to live an abundant life, to accomplish your God-given dreams, to raise children that will be mighty in the land, to leave your mark on this generation. but like David, even though you’ve been anointed, on the way to your destiny they will be times of testing, where you don’t see anything happening, times of waiting, where you have to be patient and keep doing the right things, times where it doesn’t look like it’s ever going to change, but you have to stay in faith and keep believing, “my time is coming. God has spoken it over me, He’s put the promise in my heart. I may not see how it can happen, the odds may be against me, but I have a secret weapon; the anointing is on my life.” if you will stay in faith and not get discouraged, not talk yourself out of it because it’s not happening on your timetable, God will get you to where you’re supposed to be. God knows what he’s doing. God hasn’t forgotten about you. you may think you don’t have the skill, the talent, the experience to accomplish what’s in your heart; that’s okay, the anointing on your life will make up for what you don’t have. you can have less talent, but with the anointing you will go further than people that have more talent. it is not just your intellect, your expertise, your experience, that determines how high you’re going to go; it’s the fact that Almighty God is breathing on your life. the anointing will cause you to accomplish dreams you could never accomplish on your own. it will propel you into your destiny. this is what happened to a young lady in the scripture named Deborah:

Judges 5:7 (NIV)

7 … I, Deborah, arose,
until I arose, a mother in Israel.

this was significant; it was saying she wasn’t working in the corporate world, she didn’t have an impressive position, title, influence, prestige. she wasn’t necessarily super-talented or highly educated; she was a mother raising her children. back in those days, women didn’t have the leadership roles that they have today; they were seen as secondary, no influence. Deborah would’ve been considered just a mother; but can I tell you, you’re not just anything, you are a child of the most high God. people may try to dismiss you, discount you, push you down, “you don’t have the talent, the training, the position, the title, you come from the wrong family.” what they can’t see is that God has put something on you that supersedes all of that, something that causes you to break barriers, to excel, to accomplish dreams, to do what you could not do. and it’s good to have education, I’m all for that, develop your talents, improve your skills, but you are not limited to your own ability, your own education, your own intellect, your own experience.

that will take you to a certain level, but to reach your highest potential, you need the anointing on your life; you need God to open doors that you could not open, you need favor that you didn’t have to work for, good breaks that you didn’t deserve, wisdom that you didn’t learn in school. that’s what the anointing does; it takes you where you could not go on your own. this mother Deborah was living in a city that was overcome with violence and all kinds of mayhem; the main roads had gotten so bad you couldn’t even travel on them; people, were constantly being attacked and robbed, no order. it looked like that’s the way it would always be, but God put a dream in Deborah’s heart to do something about it. she could’ve come up with plenty of excuses: “God, I’m a woman, nobody is going to listen to me. I’m a mother raising my child, I’m not in the government, I don’t have anybody backing me up, a police force, an army.” no, Deborah understood this principle; she knew God had put something on her that would cause her to excel. the scripture says:

Judges 5:6-7 (NIV)

6 “In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,
in the days of Jael, the highways were abandoned;
travelers took to winding paths.
7 Villagers in Israel would not fight;
they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
until I arose, a mother in Israel.

Deborah took a step of faith; other people began to join in. before long, order was restored, everything had turned around; the city was calm and peaceful. how could this mother affect the whole city? it was the anointing on her life. you are not limited by who you know, by how influential you are by, by how much income you have; there is something that supersedes talent, income, experience; it’s the anointing God’s placed on your life. now quit making excuses as to what you can’t do: “I’m just a mom”; listen, a mom with the anointing is more powerful than a CEO without it. “I’m just a student,” “I’m just a businessperson,” “I’m just an accountant, I can’t do anything great.” why not? Deborah, a mother, changed her whole city. there will always being negative voices to try to talk you out of your dreams, try to convince you to settle where you are, but let me encourage you; you’re the man for the job, you’re the woman for the job, you’ve been raised up, you’ve got what it takes, you’re qualified, you’re anointed, you’re approved, you’re talented enough, you’re strong enough, you’re experienced enough. you and God are a majority; quit discounting yourself, quit making excuses. if you will start taking steps of faith, doing what you can, God will do what you can’t. He’ll bring the right people. He’ll open the right doors. He’ll give you the wisdom, creativity, He’ll make it all come together. don’t settle for mediocrity; you were created for greatness. you have a king’s anointing.

you may be in the shepherd’s fields right now, feels like you’re doing something insignificant, but where you are is not where you’re staying; that’s not permanent, that’s temporary. you are going to come out. you haven’t reached your highest potential. you’ve got to start talking to yourself the right way; “I’m the man for the job. this is my moment. I’ve been raised up. I’m going to step into the fullness of my destiny.” David spent years in the shepherd’s fields, but the key was, he never forgot he had a king’s anointing. it would’ve been easy for him to think, “I must have heard Samuel wrong. I know he anointed me, but I sure haven’t become the king; he must’ve missed it this time.” no, every day he kept reminding himself, “I am anointed, my time is coming, I will make a difference with life.” what was he doing? adding fuel to his car. didn’t look like he was going anywhere, looked like he was just wasting his breath, getting his hopes up, but God sees what you’re doing; every day you live in faith, with expectancy, you are one day closer to seeing your dreams come to pass. God knows when the right time is; if it hasn’t happened yet, that means it’s still on the way. God is getting you prepared; you’re growing, getting stronger. sometimes, God knows the blessing is going to be so big, we couldn’t handle it if it happened right now, so he’s getting us matured; what God has in your future is going to be greater than anything you’ve seen in the past. Paul said:

Galatians 6:9 (TLB)

9 And let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up.

Galatians 6:9 (ESV)

9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

your due season is coming. you’re going to step into that king’s anointing, that queen’s anointing. you’re just getting started; God’s dream for your life is so much bigger than your own. if He would’ve done it earlier, you wouldn’t’ve been prepared; now is your time. you’re about to step in to what you were created to do. you’re going to step in to a new level of your destiny. and the disappointments in the past, the delays, the setbacks, they were all a part of the plan to get you prepared for right now; nothing was wasted. it strengthened you; you developed trust, endurance, confidence. now you’re prepared for this time; you’re on the runway, about to take off. you’re going to see the exceeding greatness of God’s favor. David was out in the sheep fields, it didn’t look like anything was happening, but he came into his due season; King Saul sent a message:

1 Samuel 16:19 (NIV)

19 Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.”

David started working for Saul; that was another step on the way to his destiny. he wasn’t on the throne yet, but at least he made it to the palace. notice this phrase: “send David who is with the sheep.” you may feel like you’re with the sheep today, in other words, you’re in that shepherd’s field, you’re doing something that feels insignificant, you know you’ve got more in you, but you’ve been in the background year after year. don’t get discouraged; your time is coming. you’re not going to stay with the sheep; God’s going to take you from the background to the foreground. you may be in the shepherd’s field, but don’t put your stakes down, don’t get comfortable there; you’ve got a king’s anointing. you are destined to do great things. the palace is coming, victory is coming, promotion is coming. people can’t stop it, bad breaks, sickness can’t stop it. Almighty God has anointed you; what He’s spoken over your life will come to pass. poverty, lack, barely getting by, is a yoke; do not accept that as your destiny. Jesus said:

John 10:10 (AMP)

10 … I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).

So that:

Deuteronomy 28:13 (NIV)

13 The Lord will make you the head, not the tail

and yes, we all go through dry seasons, but they are not permanent, they are temporary. at some point, the drought will come to an end, and you will see an abundance of rain, an abundance of favor. I like how David put it:

Psalm 23:5 (NKJV)

5 You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

when you walk in your anointing, knowing who you are and Whose you are, at some point your cup will run over; you will see God pour out blessings that you cannot contain. now don’t you dare settle with the sheep in the shepherd’s field; the palace is coming. you were not created to barely get by, to take the leftovers, to live out in the shepherd’s field; you were created for victory, for abundance, for the palace. God can increase you; the anointing on your life will cause people to be good to you, it will cause you to be at the right place at the right time, bringing favor, promotion, increase. David was in the palace playing the harp for King Saul:

1 Samuel 16:23 (CEV)

23 Whenever the evil spirit from God bothered Saul, David would play his harp. Saul would relax and feel better, and the evil spirit would go away.

it was a temporary position; he wasn’t supposed to be there long. but David was so good at what he did, King Saul created a new position exclusively for David; he became an armor bearer. if you will be your best right where you are, and excel in what you do, the right doors always open for you. there may not be room for promotion at your work, as far you can see right now, but don’t worry, your gifts will make room for you; if there’s not a position, God can cause them to create a new position.

(Note: the verse he’s referring to here is:

Proverbs 18:16 (AMP)

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

He misinterprets it to mean that our SKILLS will accomplish this, but other translations show the true meaning, especially this one:

Proverbs 18:16 (NCV)

16 Taking gifts to important people
will help get you in to see them.

This shows how careful we have to be when there are 2 very different meanings of a word that we know which meaning to choose. Yes, of course our skills can open doors for us, but that’s not what this verse is saying.)

some of you are part time, you’re believing for more work; you need to get ready, you’re going to become full-time, you’ve passed the test, you’ve been faithful in the shepherd’s field’s, you knew you had more in you but you didn’t slack off, you didn’t complain, you stayed in faith, trusting God’s timing, now your due season has come. you’re going to step into that king’s anointing; what God promised you, He will bring to pass. years later, King Saul was killed in a battle; now it was David’s time. he was 30 years old, and about to take the throne. at this time, Israel was divided into two kingdoms, Judah and Hebron.

2 Samuel 2:4 (NIV)

4 Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah.

he served there 7 1/2 years; David brought the two kingdoms together. when he was 37 years old, the men of Hebron joined the men of Judah, and they anointed David again to be the king over all of Israel.

2 Samuel 5:3 (NIV)

3 When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.

what’s interesting is, David was anointed as a teenager to become the king; when the men of Judah came to anoint him again, he could’ve said, “guys, I’ve already been anointed, no need, it happened when I was a teenager, Samuel did it.” 7 1/2 years later, when the men of Hebron came to anoint him king over all of Israel, he could’ve said, “this is not necessary; I was anointed as a teenager, I was anointed when I’m 30 years old, I don’t need to be anointed again.” no, David understood the importance of having a fresh anointing; you can’t win today’s battles on yesterday’s anointing, you need to have a fresh anointing. too often, we’re trying to do things in our strength, it’s a struggle, no promotion, no increase, it’s weighing us down; we don’t realize, all we have to say is, “God, I need a fresh anointing. God, fill me with new strength, ideas, creativity, passion.” when you do that, God will breathe freshness onto your life. the reason things get stale, and we just endure our marriage, endure the job, drag through the day, is we’re not stirring up the anointing. on a regular basis, we need to pray, “God, I need a fresh anointing in my marriage, a fresh anointing on my career, a fresh anointing on my mind, my thoughts. God, help me to see things from the right perspective.” if David would’ve taken the throne without the fresh anointing, he wouldn’t’ve had the success and the favor that he had.

when you humble yourself, and say, “God I can’t do this on my own, I need your help, I need your favor, I need your wisdom, God, I need a fresh anointing,” you’re showing your dependency on Him. when you acknowledge God like that, He’ll give your wisdom beyond your years, He’ll help you accomplish things that you could’ve never accomplished on your own. whenever you start a new job, or even a new position, always ask for that fresh anointing. ladies, when you have a baby, “God, give me a fresh anointing to raise this child.” students, when you start a new class, “God, give me a fresh anointing for this semester.” you’re saying, “God, I’m ready for new opportunities, new abilities, new friendships, new ideas.” maybe you’re facing a challenge today: your health, your finances, a relationship. instead of complaining about it, why don’t you say, “God, give me a fresh anointing to overcome this challenge.” it’s the anointing that breaks the yoke. just like the men of Judah anointed David for his new season, I believe today God is releasing a fresh anointing in your life. you’re going to go where you’ve never been, you’re going to see negative situations turn around, chains of addictions and bad habits are being broken, healing, promotion, restoration is coming. you’re going to step into the fullness of your destiny. you have a king’s anointing, a queen’s anointing; don’t settle for mediocrity, stir up the anointing. every morning, remind yourself, “I am anointed, I am equipped, I am empowered.” remember to always ask for that fresh anointing. if you do this, you’ll make it to your throne, you will defeat your giants, overcome your obstacles, and become everything God’s created you to be.

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