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Archive for November, 2014

Generational blessings

from JO’s sermon tonight:

every right choice you make, you’re making it easier on those that come after you. when you live a life of excellence and integrity, being your best, helping others, those are seeds that will not only make your life fuller and more rewarding, but your children and grandchildren will be better off because of the way you live. no person lives or dies unto himself; the choices you are making will affect your family line for generations to come. I want my relatives to do great things in life because of me, not in spite of me. our children have enough things to overcome without having to deal with our negative baggage. your life can either be a stepping stone for your family to go higher, or a stumbling block that causes them to struggle. negative things may have been passed down to you, but God raised you up to put an end to it; you can be a difference-maker.

we hear a lot about the generational curse, but there’s something called a generational blessing. the scripture talks about how you can store up mercy for your children and future generations. is there anything you’re doing that’s going to cause your children to say, “thank you daddy?” are you sowing seeds of kindness? being a blessing? putting an end to negative things that’ve been passed down? there are some seeds that you sow, some people that you’re helping, where you won’t reap the fullness of that harvest; God designed it for your children, your grandchildren, it’s a generational blessing. you didn’t get to where you are by yourself; somebody prayed, somebody made sacrifices, somebody sowed a seed of kindness and you got that good break. you thought you were lucky, it was a coincidence, no, it happened because you had a praying mother, you had a grandfather that was always helping people, a great-grandfather you never met, he sacrificed, persevered, now you’re reaping from some of those seeds.

the scripture talks about how having a godly heritage is better than having great wealth. you can leave your children money, cars, houses, that’s great, I’m all for that, but when you leave them a Godly heritage, when you model a life of excellence and integrity, that’s worth more than any material thing you could ever leave them. God’s blessing on their life will cause them to go further than if they had all the money in the world. you can have less resources, but with this generational blessing, opportunity, increase, the right people will be attracted to you. you’ll look up and think, “how did I get to where I am? I didn’t have the connections, the resources, talent”; what happened? you stepped into a generational blessing. in the Old Testament, Joshua and the Israelites were fighting a battle with the Amalekites. Moses was up on a hill:

Exodus 17:11-13 (NLT)
11 As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. 12 Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. 13 As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.

Joshua was down there winning; he didn’t realize that the only reason he was winning was because Moses had his hands in the air. if Moses hadn’t done his part, the Israelites would’ve been defeated. it’s easy to think, “I’m successful because I’m smart, I have a good life because I work hard, because I’m talented, that’s why I’m blessed.” and yes, that’s true in part, but you didn’t do it all on your own; you’re smart because you have the wisdom of your fathers. it was passed down to you. you’re talented because your mother and grandmother worked hard to develop their gifts. they took time to teach you, to build your confidence.

you got that good break, that promotion, that new house, not because those people just decided to be nice to you; somebody in your family line honored God, somebody you can’t see is holding up their hands. it may have been 100 years ago; they stored up mercy. now you’re reaping the benefits. they won, so that you could win. my challenge to us is to live your life in such a way that you cause others to win. every right choice you make, you’re holding up your hands. every time you resist temptation, you’re winning for your children. every time you help others, you come to church, give, serve, you’re storing up favor. it may be for your children, grandchildren, or even years down the road; somebody in your family line will see God’s goodness because of the way you lived. the book of Hebrews talks about:

Hebrews 7:9-10 (NASB)
9 And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, 10 for he was still in the loins* of his father when Melchizedek met him.

(*in other words, before he was born) before he showed up, God credited tithes and offerings to him, all because his grandfather was a giver. when you give, God will not only bless you, but He will credit your children and grandchildren. we didn’t get here by ourselves. God had people watching after you before you even showed up; while you were still in your mother’s womb, doctors and nurses were taking care of you. most likely your parents believed and prayed many years before you were even conceived, waiting for you. you had grandparents and relatives that worked hard, make sacrifices, knowing one day their granddaughter, great-grandson, would show up; you are the answer to their prayer. you’re living in the day they dreamed about. they wanted your life to be better. don’t take for granted the price that they paid; because of them, you’re experiencing generational blessings.

this should inspire us to be our best, to break free from things that are holding us back, to dream bigger, to see each day as a gift. they passed the baton to us; let’s not drop it. let’s not settle, live mediocre; let’s push forward, take new ground, break barriers that have held us back. you may not be able to see them, but right now up in heaven your relatives are cheering you on. in that great cloud of witnesses, there are parents, grandparents, generations that have gone before you; they’re saying, “go further, climb new mountains, set a new standard, this is your day, this is your time, all of what we are has been poured into you.” don’t let the sacrifices they’ve made go to waste; make them proud. they’re watching you.

when you honor God, when you live a life of faith, you’re storing up favor for your children. God will always show you further than you can go. He will give you a vision that may not be able to be accomplished only in your lifetime; a generational vision. some of the things you’re dreaming about, that you see through your eyes of faith, God put that in your heart so you could lay the foundation. pray, believe, stretch, be your best, but don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t all come to pass; it’s for your children. just as you received generational blessings, favor and increase that you didn’t work for, you are sowing seeds for generational blessings.  this is what happened with David. he had a dream to build the temple. he cut down the cedars of Lebanon, raised the funds, got everything lined up, but God said:

1 Chronicles 28:6 (ESV)
6 He said to me, ‘It is Solomon your son who shall build my house and my courts

David saw further than he could go. Solomon stepped into a generational blessing, and he built the temple. I don’t know of anything that would make me any happier than to see my children go further than I’ve gone, supersede anything that I’ve done. every time you pray, believe, help others, make sacrifices, that’s being credited, not only to your account, but to your children and your grandchildren. this is why the enemy fights our children so hard; he knows they’re next in line for the blessing. young people, you have a responsibility; your parents, your grandparents, they worked hard. there are blessings they did not receive because God has been storing them up for you. they’ve been accruing in your account. wherever you’re 8 years old or 80 years old, don’t be lazy, indifferent, compromise; your family worked too hard for you to not take care of and appreciate what’s coming your way.

some of them worked out in the fields; they weren’t treated right, they went through great injustice, sleepless nights, made sacrifices that we don’t have to make today. don’t take for granted the price that they paid; you have a responsibility to not just enjoy the blessing, but to go further. God’s dream is that every generation will increase. it’s not enough to just settle where your parents and grandparents are; that’s the easy way out. you have generations of wisdom, perseverance, hard work, that’s been passed down to you. after all, our ancestors made it without air conditioning, without smart phones, without beautiful buildings, without the internet; we have no excuse to not go further.

you don’t have to apologize for God’s goodness; wear your blessings well. you too have family members that endured great hardships; they struggled so that your life could be better. a mom that sacrificed her dream so she could pour into you. parents that didn’t buy what they wanted so they could send you to college. a dad that worked two jobs to make ends meet. don’t apologize for what God has done; your relatives put blood, sweat and tears to get you to where you are. wear your blessings well. sometimes, it’s like people coming at the end of the movie; they see that you’re blessed, prosperous, living your dreams, and they judge you by where you are right there. the problem is, they didn’t see the first part of the movie. Isaiah said:

Isaiah 61:3 (NIV)
3  … bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes

sometimes, people see your beauty, and they get jealous, envious, “I don’t think they deserve that.” but I’m convinced that if they ever saw your ashes, they would be happy for your beauty. if they could see how the generations before you sacrificed, gave when they didn’t have much, came when they didn’t feel like it, helped others when they really needed help; if they could see your ashes, they would celebrate what God has done in your life.  the book of Joel talks about how we should receive the former rain and the latter rain:

Joel 2:23 (WEB)
23 … he causes the rain to come down for you, the former rain and the latter rain

the latter rain is God blessing you because you’re using your gifts and talents, making the most of your opportunities, doing your part. but it’s time to start believing for the former rain; that’s all the blessings that are stored up in your family’s account, the favor that should’ve been your relatives’ but they never saw it. I know that right now I’m being paid back for my grandparents working so hard but receiving so little. they didn’t get what they deserved, but God is a God of justice; now, their grandson, and their great-grandchildren, are receiving what belonged to them. you too had family members that honored God; you may not have ever met them, but you had people that stored up mercy, favor, honor, increase; it’s been accruing in your account. our attitude should be, “Lord, I want to thank You that You’re releasing everything that belongs to my family.”

Deuteronomy 1:11 (NKJV)
11 May the Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times more numerous than you are

notice; the God of your fathers. when you have a godly heritage, God can increase you in ways you’ve never imagined. if you had a praying mother, you should thank God every day. if you had grandparents that took you to church when you were growing up, you might not have liked it, thought it was wasting your time; the truth is, it was storing up favor in your account. those are the seeds God’s going to use to increase you 1000 times more than you are. in the coming days, you’re going to stumble into blessings, favor. you’ll think, “where did that come from? I didn’t deserve that.” that’s the former rain, God releasing generational blessings. you’re going to have wisdom beyond your years. people are going to ask, “how’d he get so smart? how’d she know that?” it’s not just the books, not just the university; that’s the wisdom of your fathers helping you to go to a new level of your destiny. you’re going to accomplish dreams that didn’t originate with you, receive an increase in favor because your loved ones laid the groundwork. those are the houses that you didn’t have to build, the vineyards that you didn’t have to plant:

Deuteronomy 6:10-11 (NIV)
10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant

God has generational blessings stored up that He’s about to release in your life. you say, “this all sounds good, but I don’t know any family members as far back as I can see that honored God; I don’t think this is going to happen for me”; no, you could be the first. God raised you up to get it started. here’s the beauty; the one that breaks the curse gets paid back for everything that should’ve been yours. don’t settle for things that you know are holding you back: addictions, compromising, taking the easy way out. be a difference maker; draw the line in the sand and say, “that’s it, this is a new day; as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”  in the Old Testament, it talks about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; they understood the power of generational blessing. there’s something significant about three generations honoring God; the scripture says:

Ecclesiastes 4:12 (ESV)
12 … a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

if you can get your father and your son along with yourself, or your mother and your grandmother, when there’s 3 in a row, that’s a powerful thing. when you need favor, a breakthrough, you can say, “God, my father honored You, I honor You, my son honors You,” that gets God’s attention. you may have to start this for your family, or your job may be to keep it going for your family. your parents and grandparents honored God; are you going to break it? are you going to make it more difficult on your children? don’t drop the ball; too much is at stake. they worked too hard to get you to where you are. with the decisions you make, your children, future generations, are either going to be better off, further down the road, or they’re going to have to struggle and try to overcome things that you can defeat right now. you have the power to put a stop to anything that’s holding you back. no addiction’s too strong for you. no enemy is too powerful. no obstacle is too high. you have the most powerful force in the universe on the inside. take a stand for your family; somebody did it for you. just like Moses held up his hands for Joshua, hold up your hands so that someone else can win. the scripture says:

James 4:14 (NCV)
14 … Your life is like a mist. You can see it for a short time, but then it goes away.

James 4:14 (GW)
14 You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. What is life? You are a mist that is seen for a moment and then disappears.

you can’t afford to put this off; this is the time to step into your destiny. your relatives are cheering you on, saying, “you go girl! you go boy! make me proud! do something great! give it your best!” I know that many of you have honored God, you’ve been faithful. you’ve seen the latter rain, but you haven’t seen anything yet; God is about to release the former rain. the increase, the favor, the good breaks that have been stored up in your family’s account; generational blessings are coming your way. get ready for increase, get ready for new levels, get ready for the fullness of your destiny.

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Blessed In The Dark Places

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all go through situations in life that we don’t understand: company was downsizing and we got laid off, a friend walked out of a relationship, now we’re having to start all over. all of us at some time will go through dark places: a loss, sickness, divorce, child that broke your heart. it’s easy to get discouraged, give up on your dreams and just settle there, but God uses the dark places; they are all a part of His divine plan. think of it as a seed; a seed cannot germinate in the light. as long as the seed stays up on a shelf, it will never become what it was created to be. you have to plant the seed in the soil, in the dark place, so that what’s on the inside will come to life. in the same way, there are seeds in you: dreams, goals, talent, potential, that will only come to light in a dark place. if you study the scripture, every person that did something significant went through one of these dark places. Moses made a mistake and killed a man; he spent 40 years on the back side of the desert, alone, feeling like he had blown it. in that dark place, something was happening on the inside; it was getting him prepared. he was developing patience, humility, confidence. without the dark place, he would have never held up the rod and parted the Red Sea.

the dark place is a prerequisite to stepping into the fullness of your destiny. Esther was an orphan, a lady who had lost both of her parents. she felt alone, forgotten; a dark place. but God used her to help save the people of Israel. Elijah was so depressed he wanted to die; a dark place, yet he’s one of the heroes of faith. or David; he had an affair with married woman, had her husband killed. for one year he was broken, sick, guilty, yet he’s called a man after God’s own heart. God doesn’t send the difficulties, but He will use anything that comes into our lives. in those dark places is where we really grow, where our character is developed. we learn to trust, persevere; our spiritual muscles are getting stronger. in the dark places, you pray more, draw closer to God, get quiet and listen to what He’s saying. in those dark places, you reevaluate your priorities, spend time with your family, have a new appreciation for what God has given you. you may not realize it, but in the dark places you’re being blessed. something is happening on the inside; it’s helping you to realign your vision.

when you go through enough dark places, you don’t complain about small things. you don’t get upset because you didn’t get your parking spot. you don’t lose your joy because you got stuck in traffic. you’re not offended because a coworker was rude to you. you’ve been through too much to let that sour you; you’ve got a backbone made of steel. when you go through a few dark places, it toughens you up. the dark places are what have made me into who I am today; I like the good times a lot better, I prefer everything going my way, but it wasn’t the good times that brought out the best in me, it was the lonely nights, the times I didn’t think I could do it on my own, the times that I didn’t see a way.  that’s when I really learned how to pray, that’s when I developed an unshakable confidence in God, that’s when my faith was stretched and increased. don’t complain about the dark times; there are blessings in the dark places. God is doing something that can only happen in the fire of affliction. I never prayed as much in the good times; I never went out of my way to draw closer to God when everything was going my way. it was the dark places that helped me to really develop my spiritual muscles. even though I didn’t like what I was going through, I didn’t like having to stretch, I was uncomfortable, I wouldn’t change it; it made me better.

God uses the dark places.  when Joseph was falsely accused and put in prison for 13 years, the scripture says:

Psalm 105:18 (AMP)
18 His feet they hurt with fetters; he was laid in chains of iron and his soul entered into the iron

he developed a strength, a perseverance, that he could not get any other way. there are some things you can only learn in the dark places. quit complaining about what you’re going through, who hurt you, how bad it was. it may be uncomfortable, you may not like it, but it’s working for you. you’re getting stronger. it’s developing something that you could only get in the dark. you cannot reach your highest potential being in the light all the time, no adversity, no problems, nobody coming against you. that sounds good, but it will stunt your growth. David said:

Psalm 4:1 (AMP)
1 … You have freed me when I was hemmed in and enlarged me when I was in distress…

he wasn’t enlarged in the good times, he was enlarged when things weren’t going his way. as a teenager, he wanted to be out having fun with his friends, but he got stuck taking care of his father’s sheep. month after month, he was out there alone, nobody to talk to; didn’t look like he could ever accomplish his dreams. but those years in the lonely shepherd’s fields are what helped prepare him to become a champion. when he went out and defeated Goliath, people called him an overnight success, but the fact is that it didn’t happen overnight; it happened because he went through the dark places with a good attitude. when he didn’t get his way, when he didn’t understand it, when he felt like God had forsaken him, he just kept doing the right thing. David understood this principle. his attitude was, “God, this is a dark place. I may not see it, but I believe that it’s working for my good. I believe I’m getting stronger, developing character, patience, learning to trust.”  at the right time, he not only came out, but he came out increased, promoted, better than he was before. it’s not a coincidence that David said:

Psalm 23:1-4 (KJV)
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me

David was saying in effect, “the God that leads me to the green pastures and beside the still waters is the same God that leads me through the valley.” we can all trust Him in the green pastures, that’s easy, and we can trust Him beside the still waters; I’m asking you to trust Him even in the dark valleys. He hasn’t left you. you may feel alone, forgotten, life hasn’t turned out the way you wanted, but God is still leading you. the dark places are all a part of the plan to make you into who you were created to be. it may not be easy, you may not understand it, but faith is trusting God when life doesn’t make sense. dare to believe that He’s blessing you even in the dark places, that what’s meant for your harm, He’s going to use to your advantage. David went on to say, “after you go through the valley, the dark places”:

Psalm 23:5 (NIV)
5 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.

notice, you’ve got to go through the valley to get to the table that’s already set before you. you’ve got to go through the loneliness, betrayal, sickness, to get to the fresh anointing, new beginning. you’ve got to go through the shepherd’s fields, doing the right thing when the wrong thing is happening, through the struggle, lack, debt, before you come to your cup that runs over. too often, we want the overflow and not the valley; “God, give me more favor, resources, influence,” God says, “Ok, fine, but you’ve got to be willing to go through the valley with Me.” in the dark times is where we prove to God what we’re really made of. can God trust you with more favor, influence, resources? you have to be faithful in the shepherd’s fields, when you’re not getting your way, when it’s lonely. “I don’t like my boss, that’s why I show up late to work, he doesn’t treat me right, that’s why I slack off”; no, if you’re not faithful in the wilderness, how can God trust you to be faithful in the promised land?  have a new perspective; the dark places are opportunities to grow. you’re not there by accident. if God wasn’t going to use that for your good, He would’ve never allowed it. you may not understand it, may not make sense, but God knows what He’s doing. pass that test.

sometimes when you go through a loss, it’s easy to get discouraged and feel like God let you down, there won’t be any more good days. but anytime something is dying in your life, something else is coming to life. it looks like the end, but God has a new beginning. a friend betrayed you, walked away; that relationship died. at the same time, God is birthing a new relationship, He’s got another friend already destined to come across your path. you lost a position, a client, an opportunity; that may have died, but God’s already lined up a new position, opportunity, level. if you’ll go through the valley trusting, believing, knowing that God is still in control, then you’ll come into the table that’s already prepared for you, to the fresh anointing, to increase to where your cup runs over. you’ve got to go through it to get to it. don’t get stuck in your valley, get bitter, lose your passion, “I don’t understand why this has happened to me, they laid me off after all these years, they broke my heart, I’m dealing with this sickness, I just don’t…” no, if you’re always trying to figure it out, you’re going to get stuck.

think about this; in punctuation, an exclamation point is simply a question mark straightened out. if you want God to take your question marks, the things you don’t understand, and turn them into exclamation points, you have to trust Him. in those dark places, where it wasn’t fair, instead of wondering, “why did this happen to me?” no, turn it around; “God I know You’re still on the throne. I may not understand this, but I believe on the other side of this valley is my exclamation point, the table that’s already prepared for me, the fresh anointing, the right people, the new beginning, the new level.” if you’ll go through the dark valleys like that, you will come into those exclamation points; you’ll see God amaze you with his goodness. you may be in a dark place right now: you went through a breakup, somebody broke your heart, you’re hurting, lonely, wondering if you’ll ever be happy again. if you’ll keep honoring God, keep moving forward, God will bring somebody into your life better than you ever imagined. somebody kinder, friendlier, who will treat you like a queen, like a king; you won’t even miss that person that left you.

God has an exclamation point waiting for you. maybe in your health, it’s a dark place, you don’t see how you’re going to make it, the medical report is not good; stay in faith. or perhaps it’s in your finances, a dark place, you had a bad break, a disappointment, lost a client, you’re wondering, “is it ever going to get any better?” yes, on the other side of the valley is your cup that runs over; increase, abundance, a new level of your destiny. you may have been in the valley for a long time, but you need to get ready, this is a new day. you’re about to see the breakthrough, the overflow. that problem is about to turn around. don’t quit believing; God didn’t bring you this far to leave you. He has an exclamation point coming your way. God will put you at the right place at the right time: God knows how to get you to your destiny. people don’t determine your destiny, God does. a bad break, rumors, injustice can’t stop you; God has the final say. if you’ll go through the dark places with the right attitude, you’ll see exclamation points coming your way, the surpassing greatness of God’s favor. in the scripture:

John 6:5-9 (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?”

Mark 6:41-44 (NIV)
41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

notice the blessing was in the breaking; the more he broke it, the more it multiplied. there are times that we all feel broken; broken dreams, broken promises, a broken heart. when you feel broken, you go through a disappointment, don’t get bitter and give up on your dreams; the brokenness is not the end, it’s a sign that God is about to multiply. that’s what David said:

Psalm 4:1 (AMP)
1 … You have freed me when I was hemmed in and enlarged me when I was in distress…

that brokenness, it may have been meant to stop you, but God’s going to use it to increase you. the loss, the disappointment, the person that didn’t keep their word, they thought they were hindering you, but in fact they were setting you up for God to multiply. you may have gone through more than your share of bad breaks, but take heart; the more broken you are, the more God’s going to increase. the bigger the disappointment, the bigger the blessing. God has beauty for your ashes, joy for the mourning.  the brokenness is only temporary. don’t settle in the valley, don’t get comfortable there; the valley is not your home, the Shepherd is leading you through the valley. on the other side, there are new beginnings, fullness of joy, great relationships, health and wholeness, dreams coming to pass. Jesus said:

John 12:24 (CEB)
24 I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.

he was using an example of a seed; you can have a seed on your desk for a lifetime, it won’t do any good until you plant it. as long as it’s where it’s comfortable, it doesn’t have to stretch, deal with adversity, then its potential will remain locked up on the inside. only after it’s planted, and it goes through a process of germination, the outer shell breaks off, new growth begins, that’s when it will blossom and produce much fruit. the problem with some people is that they want the fruit, but they don’t want to go through the process. they don’t want to be uncomfortable, they don’t want to stretch and have to deal with adversity, betrayal, opposition, but without the dark place, your potential will not be fully released. the seed can’t germinate in the light. I’m sure if you were to ask the seed, it would say, “I don’t want to go in the dirt!  it’s dark, lonely, uncomfortable. I don’t want people walking on top of me.” it looks like it’s buried, like it’s the end, but what the seed doesn’t realize is, it’s not buried, it’s planted; it has the life of Almighty God on the inside. those dark places, even though it’s uncomfortable, it’s a critical part of the process. over a period of time, as the seed germinates and grows, instead of just being one seed buried, it can become a beautiful flower, blossoming, producing much fruit. if you were to ask the seed after the process, it would say, “I didn’t like the dark place, but I realize now that it was a blessing; look what I’ve become, blossomed into.”

we all go through these dark places; it feels like at times we’re buried, thoughts will tell you, “you’ve seen your best days, that layoff ruined your career, that divorce tainted your future, that sickness is going to be the end of you”; no, have a new perspective. you’re not buried, you’re planted. if you would have never had the loss, disappointment, dark place, you would never discover what’s on the inside. your potential is about to be released. you’re not only going to come out, you’re going to come out bearing much fruit: better, stronger, fully in blossom. none of us like to be planted; it’s lonely, uncomfortable.  but in the dark places, you have to remind yourself, “new growth is coming my way.  even though it feels like something is dying, something else is coming to life.”  you’re not buried, you’re planted; when you come out, you’re going to bear much fruit. my challenge to us today is; be willing to go through the process. too many people get bitter, discouraged, “if God was good, how could He let this happen to me?” no, dare to trust Him; God knows what He’s doing. there may be dirt all around you right now, it’s uncomfortable; that dirt is not there to bury you, it’s there to bring out the seeds of greatness on the inside. it’s just a matter of time before you break out and blossom into who you were created to be. if you will go through these dark places with the right attitude, God is going to turn your question marks into exclamation points. you will go through every valley to the table prepared for you, to the fresh anointing, increase, where your cup overflows. you’ll be able to say, like David:

Psalm 4:1 (AMP)
1 … You have freed me when I was hemmed in and enlarged me when I was in distress…

He blessed me, even in the dark places.

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Even now faith

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all face situations that look like they’re never going to work out. we don’t see how we can get well, how we can get out of debt, how we can accomplish a dream; it’s been too long. the odds are again us. too often, we settle where we are; we just accept the fact that it wasn’t meant to be. in the scripture, Martha faced one of these impossible situations:

John 11:1-17 (NIV)
11 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha… 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”… 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”… 14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead… 17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days…

has it ever seemed like God showed up too late? you prayed, believed, but the problem didn’t turn around? the medical report wasn’t good, the business didn’t make it?

John 11:21 (NIV)
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

she was saying, “Jesus, how could you do this to us? we’re your friends, we hang out together, we have you over for dinner; the least you could do is show up when we have an emergency.” Martha could’ve turned and walked away, bitter, angry, complaining; that would be the end of the story, we wouldn’t be talking about it today. but in that dark season, when it looked like it was too late, too far gone, Martha did something extremely significant; it’s a key to seeing negative situations turn around:

John 11:22 (NIV)
22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

notice those two simple words: even now. “it looks impossible, but even now, you can make turn it around. he’s been dead for 4 days, but even now you can raise him back up. I don’t see a way, but even now, you can make a way.”

John 11:43-44 (NIV)
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out

there will be times in life when, like with Martha, you have to have even now faith. “God, the medical report doesn’t look good, but I believe even now You can heal me. my business is hanging by a thread, but even now You can prosper me. my marriage looks like it’s over, but even now You can restore me.” when it looks impossible, the odds are against you, you don’t see how it can work out, don’t complain, don’t get bitter; dig your heels in and have this even now faith. “God, even now You can turn my child around. I’ve had this addiction for years, but even now You can set me free. I’ve been believing to have a baby, the medical report says it’s not going to happen; but God, I’m bold enough to believe that even now, in spite of how long it’s been, what I’ve been told, what I feel, I know You have the final say, You control the universe, nothing is too hard for You. I may not see a way, but I know You have a way.”

when you have this even now faith, God will move heaven and earth to do what He promised. whatever you think is too far gone, the dreams you’ve given up on, the promises you’ve let go of, God is saying, “I can still bring them to pass. I can still restore the relationship. I can still prosper you and put you into overflow. I can still give you the desires of your heart.”  you don’t have to learn to live with things that keep getting passed down. “everybody in my family is depressed”; maybe so, but you could be the turning point. why don’t you rise up and say, “God, I believe that even now You’re freeing me from this depression.” when you do that, the Creator of the universe breathes in your direction. He dispatches angels; you’ll feel a strength, joy, freedom that you didn’t have before. addictions may have been passed down to you; you can’t do anything about that part, but you can put an end to it.

“God, I believe, even right now, You’re freeing me from these addictions.”  “my family, we’re poor, defeated, we never get any good breaks, I come from the wrong side of the tracks”; no, there’s no such thing as the wrong side of the tracks. the most high God breathed His life into you. He’s crowned you with His favor, He put seeds of greatness on the inside. don’t accept lack and defeat as your destiny. it may have been that way in the past, but God raised you up to put an end to it. you’re the difference-maker; your attitude should be, “God, I want to thank you that even now you’re prospering me, opening up new doors, bringing opportunity, divine connections, increase across my path.” He’s an even now God, but you have to have this even now faith. God meets us at the level of our expectations; if you don’t expect to get well, then you won’t get well.  if you don’t expect to accomplish your dreams, if you don’t expect to overcome the addiction, to be free from that depression, then you’ll get stuck where you are.

why don’t you take the limits off of God? dare to say, “God, I don’t see how this can happen in the natural, the medical reports says I won’t get well, business is slow, my marriage is on the rocks, but God, I believe even now, in spite of how bad it looks, the setbacks I’ve suffered, I know that Your power is greater than any power that’s trying to stop me. You said what’s meant for my harm You would use to my advantage. so Lord, I want to thank You that I’m not only coming out, I’m coming out better.” even now faith says, “I still believe, even though the medical report is not good. I still believe that my children will be mighty in the land. I still believe that I’ll live debt-free, pay off my house and be a blessing to others. I still believe that I’ll accomplish my dreams, build that orphanage, start a business, step into the fullness of my destiny.”

this is what Moses did. when he and the Israelites came to a dead and at the Red Sea, they had nowhere to go; Pharaoh and his army were quickly closing in. it looked like they would easily be captured and returned as slaves. but Moses didn’t panic, complain; he understood this principle. he said, “God, it looks impossible, but I know even now you can deliver us”:

Exodus 14:21-22 (NIV)
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground

how about Abraham? God gave him the promise that he would have baby; he and his wife Sarah were way too old, almost 80, this would defy the laws of nature. I can hear Abraham every morning; “God, all the odds are against us, it’s not possible in the natural, but God, I believe even now You can give us this baby. in spite of how old we are, what our natural reasoning is telling us, You can make a way.”

Genesis 21:2 (NIV)
2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.

if you want to step into the fullness of your destiny, if you’re going to overcome these challenges, see the greatness of God’s favor, you’ve got to have this even now faith. when it looks impossible, “God, I know You can do the impossible.” when you don’t see a way, “God, I know You still have a way.” when your natural reasoning is telling you that it’s never going to work out,  “God I know You’re a supernatural God.” it’s significant that Jesus waited 4 days to go pray for Lazarus. he knew he was sick, in fact Jesus knew he was going to die. he could’ve gone on the first day, healed Lazarus, and saved them all of that trouble, or at least he could’ve arrived on the second or third day, and they wouldn’t have had to go through so much. but there’s always a reason for a delay. we may not understand it; sometimes, it’s just a test of our faith, are we going to get discouraged and give up? if Martha would’ve gotten bitter, complained, been angry, she could have stopped the miracle.

this is where many people miss God’s best; while you’re waiting for the problem to turn around, waiting for your health to improve, waiting for a child to get on the right course, that’s a very critical time. can you pass the test of staying in faith when you don’t see anything happening? can you keep a good attitude when God is silent? you’re calling out to Him, you’re praying, but He’s not coming. for some reason, He’s delayed, He’s not answering, the situation is not improving. this is when many people get discouraged, and think, “well, too bad, it wasn’t meant to be. I believed five years ago that I could get out of debt, but not now, I’m way over my head.” or, “I used to believe that I’d get healthy again, that I’d meet the right person, accomplish my dream, but it’s been too long, and I’ve had too many setbacks.” no, how you wait will determine whether or not that changes. when Jesus arrived at Mary and Martha’s house, he said to them:

John 11:34 (NIV)
34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied

he was saying, in effect, take me to the place where you quit believing, take me to the place where you gave up on your dreams, where you decided that you wouldn’t get well, that you wouldn’t meet the right person. if you don’t go back to that place, and stir up your faith, get your passion back, it will tie the hands of Almighty God.  you’ve got to go back to that place where you quit believing, and ask yourself, “is my God bigger than this problem? greater than this addiction? more powerful than this sickness? is he still Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord my provider? is he still Jehova-Rapha, the Lord my healer? is He still El Shaddai, the God who is more than enough?” when you remind yourself Who your God is, the all-powerful Creator of the universe, something comes alive on the inside.  one angel in the Old Testament destroyed 185,000 of the enemies of God:

Isaiah 37:36 (ERV)
36 That night the angel of the Lord went out and killed 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp

He’s all powerful; He can turn any situation around, He’s got you in the palm of His hand, He knows how to get you to your destiny. when Jesus:

John 11:38-39 (NLT)
38 … arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”

maybe something has died in your life: you went through a divorce, a bankruptcy, a friend betrayed you, and now, like with Lazarus, it stinks, it’s a mess. but unless you’re willing to deal with your stinky stuff, you probably won’t get your miracle. we make excuses, “they hurt me, he walked out of a relationship, it wasn’t my fault, that’s why I’m angry and bitter.” no, you’ve got to do your part and let go of the bitterness. you’ve got to forgive the people that have done you wrong, deal with the stinky stuff.  but maybe, “my business didn’t make it, I went through bankruptcy, I tried, but I’m a failure.” no, failure is an event; it’s not who you are. don’t put that label on you; you are a child of the most high God.  if one dream dies, you have to dream another dream. if God is going to resurrect that dream, if you’re going to step into the fullness of your destiny, you’ve got to roll away the stone.

those failures may stink, it may not be pretty, but that is not the end of your story. God didn’t put the dream in you to lie dormant. He didn’t give you the promise to just kind of tease you, and take you halfway there. you may have had some setbacks, it may not have happened on your timetable, the heavens may have been silent when you prayed, but don’t take that as a sign that God is not there. He’s closely watching you; this is a test. what are you going to do, settle where you are? get discouraged, bitter, it wasn’t meant to be? no, you’ve got to do your part, roll away the stone, deal with the stinky stuff, and get your passion back. “God, I know that even now You can help me to pass the test. even now You’re changing things in my favor.” God knows how to resurrect dead dreams. don’t talk yourself out of it.

we make excuses; “Jesus, he’s been dead for 4 days, they’ve already wrapped him up like a mummy.” no, get rid of the excuses; we serve a supernatural God. it may be taking a long time, the odds are against you, but keep passing the test, doing the right thing; if you will do what you can, God will show up and do what you can’t. what’s interesting is back in those days, the Sadducees, the people that were against Jesus, were always doubting him; they believed that the spirit left the body after the third day when a person died. it’s not a coincidence that Jesus waited until the fourth day to show up; he wanted to make sure that when he raised Lazarus from the dead, there would be no doubt about it. sometimes, God will delay in your life on purpose, not only so that you will know that it’s His favor, but so that all of your critics, friends, relatives, coworkers, they won’t be able to deny the great thing God did in your life.

Mary and Martha were upset at first that Jesus didn’t get there in time to heal their brother.  their prayer didn’t get answered the way they wanted, but all along, God knew what He was doing. He wasn’t planning a healing, He had something better in mind; a resurrection. if it hasn’t worked out your way on your timetable, don’t get upset; that doesn’t mean that God has failed you, it’s just the opposite, it means God is planning something even better.  stay in faith; God knows what He’s doing. He can see the big picture for your life. He always has your best interests at heart.  is there something you’ve given up on? you think it’s been too long, you don’t see how it can ever work out; all it takes is one touch of God’s favor.

you’ve got to go back to that place where you quit believing. God is saying, “even now, I can turn it around, restore your health, help accomplish your dreams.”  now pass the test of staying in faith when God is silent; keep a good attitude even when it’s not happening on your timetable, God knows what He’s doing. you may be praying for a healing, but He has a resurrection coming your way. if you’ll tap into this even now faith, God is about to resurrect what you thought was dead. He’s going to breathe new life into your health, your dreams, your finances, your relationships. you’re going to see problems turn around, dreams fulfilled, and a new level of your destiny.

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Grace vs law

My reply to reader Sharon ended up including a surprisingly good bunch of verses, illustrating an idea that I think is important enough to be a post:

You can ALWAYS turn to God, no matter what mistakes you’ve made; that’s one of the most important things to understand about Him.  There are endless laws in the Old Testament, so many that no one could ever keep them all, so if we lived under law we would always fall short, always be making mistakes.  Fortunately, thanks to Jesus, we live under a new covenant, under grace, not under law, and because this grace is unearned, unmerited, undeserved favor from God, the result of His infinite love for us, we can ALWAYS receive that grace simply by opening our hearts to Him.  Here are some verses that make it clear that we are NOT under law anymore:

2 Corinthians 3:6 (NIRV)

6 He has given us the power to serve under a new covenant. The covenant is not based on the written Law of Moses. It comes from the Holy Spirit. The written Law kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Galatians 5:4 (GW)

4 Those of you who try to earn God’s approval by obeying his laws have been cut off from Christ. You have fallen out of God’s favor.

Romans 3:20-24 (NIV)

20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known… 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe… all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:14 (NIV)

14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Romans 10:4 (CEV)

4 But Christ makes the Law no longer necessary for those who become acceptable to God by faith.

And thus:

Ephesians 2:8 (CEB)

8 You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed.

In summary, here’s a study note from 1 Corinthians 6  (VOICE)

“In the same way that some seek to reduce Christianity to a philosophy or a set of ideas, others seek to reduce it to a set of rules for living. If true faith is only about eating certain foods, abstaining from others, and avoiding certain practices, then willpower must be more important than the Spirit of God. But following stringent rules is not that easy. Actually, living by willpower is hard—some might say impossible. Paul is preaching about an alternative to a life governed by rules and restrictions, and that’s a life of faith that embraces grace. What Paul is about to describe is a life of freedom that surpasses a life of rule keeping.”

Don’t ever hang back from God because you think you’re not good enough!!  No matter what you have done, there is still grace for you;  God’s arms are held open for you, and all you have to do is take one step towards Him and you will be with Him.

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I met an extraordinary young man who, despite being severely handicapped, is a youth minister at his church and possessed of a deep and solid faith.  He recommended that I see a movie I’d never heard of before, “God’s Not Dead.” The critics gave it the sort of spitefully terrible ratings they usually reserve for Christian movies, but it did well with Christian viewers, so I decided to give it a shot. Although it veered away from realism a little bit too much for my taste in some spots, overall I found it to be a very enjoyable movie. The best part of it for me was: About 88 minutes into it, there is this incredible exchange between an elderly woman in a nursing home and her rotten son who is paying a rare visit to her:

Rotten Son: You prayed and believed your whole life. Never done anything wrong. And here you are. You’re the nicest person I know; I am the meanest. You have dementia; my life is perfect. Explain that to me.

Mother: Sometimes the Devil allows people to live a life free of trouble because he doesn’t want them turning to God.

WOW!! That’s a powerful piece of wisdom!! When people have a distant relationship with God, or none at all, they rarely move towards Him unless they encounter difficulties, hard times, or losses, so if you want to prevent people who don’t have closeness to God from getting it, letting them have a problem-free life would be the way to go. Of course, this would not be the case ALL the time, because God doesn’t want people thinking that NOT being connected to Him is the way to a good life, when in fact the BEST life comes from His blessings, and the best quality of life includes a relationship with Him…  but because God wants us to have both free will and faith, He allows the enemy to play some games and cause some confusion, and lets us choose how to respond.

How do you defeat the enemy? Stay focused on God and strong in your faith. The enemy doesn’t have the final say, God does, and God rewards those who seek after Him.

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