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Archive for January, 2015

It’s your due season

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all have things that we’re believing for, dreams that we want to accomplish, problems we’re hoping will turn around: maybe it’s to see our family restored, to lose some weight, to break an addiction, to start our own business. but sometimes, as it goes on, month after month, even year after year, and we don’t see anything changing, it’s easy to get discouraged, and think, “it’s never going to happen, this is as good as it gets, I’ll just learn to live with it.” while it is good to be content where we are, we shouldn’t lose our expectancy. just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen. there will always be forces trying to convince us to settle where we are. on a regular basis, you have to stir your faith up. God hasn’t brought you this far to leave you; what He started in your life, He is going to finish. you may not see how it’s going to work out, but God has a way. when you believe, the Creator of the universe goes to work. Paul said:

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.

what I sense in my spirit is that we are entering into a due season year, a year where God is going to show out in your life; promises you’ve been standing on, dreams you’ve been praying about, in this due season year, God is going to cause things to fall into place, make things happen that you couldn’t make happen on your own. problems you’ve been believing to turn around, in due season, things are going to change in your favor. you may have had that addiction for 20 years, you’ve tried your best again and again to break it, no success; the good news is, this is your due season, this is your year to be free. or maybe you’ve struggled in your finances, you can’t seem to get ahead, you take one step forward, 2 steps backwards. let this phrase sink down into your spirit; due season is here. promotion is coming. good breaks are coming. lack is not your destiny; constantly struggling, barely getting by, is not the end of your story. keep believing, keep expecting, keep honoring God; abundance is headed your way.  in this due season year, your cup is going to run over.

sometimes, you need these words of faith and victory spoken over your life. words have creative power, and if you’ll let them take root in your spirit, they can help ignite your dreams, your faith, the potential on the inside. your mind may try to talk you out of it; you can’t figure out how it’s going to happen. that’s ok, that’s not your job; your job is to believe, to say, “yes, God, this is for me today. I believe that it’s my due season year.” a lot of people these days struggle with depression; it’s like a dark cloud follows them around. they haven’t been able to shake it in the past, it looks like that’s the way it’s always going to be, but the difference is, you’ve come into a due season; God is about to lift you out of that pit, set your feet upon a rock, and put a new song in your heart. in due season, chains are broken, depression cannot stay, sadness has to go. you’re going to feel a new sense of joy, happiness, passion for your life. in this due season year, divine connections are coming your way; God is going to bring somebody into your life better than you ever imagined.

now you’ve got to get in agreement with God; all through the day, “Lord, thank you that 2015 is my due season year. I believe this is my year to get healthy and whole. this is my year to meet the people of my dreams. this is my year to go further in my career, to step into a new level of my destiny.” you may be facing a situation that you’ve been praying about for a long time, doesn’t look like it will ever change; you could easily get discouraged, just accept it, and think, “I’m never going to get well, my child’s never going to straighten up, my business is not going to make it.” no, you need to get ready; you’re coming into a due season. unexpectedly, out of the ordinary, suddenly things are going to change in your favor. that business that’s slow, doesn’t look like it’s going to make it; God knows how to bring you customers, new clients, cause you to stand out. God can give you ideas, creativity, wisdom. He’s called Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord our provider; one touch of His favor can put you 50 years down the road.

now keep believing, expecting; don’t get tired of doing what’s right. in other words, don’t start complaining about what’s not working out, how it’s never going to resolve; stay in faith. when you’re tempted to get discouraged, turn it around; “Lord, I want to thank you that this is my due season year. this is my year to see increase, this is my year to conceive that baby that we’ve been dreaming about, this is my year to get free from that chronic pain, to see breakthroughs in my life.” this is what a lady did in the scripture:

Mark 5:25-26 (NIV)
25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 

she could’ve thought, “this is my lot in life, I’ve been told by the experts I’ll never get well, I’ll have to learn to live with it.” no, deep down this lady knew she was supposed to be healthy and whole, that she was a victor and not a victim. one day, a friend told her that Jesus was passing through her town; when she heard that, something rose up on the inside, and said, “this is your time, this is your moment, it’s your due season.” she heard what I’m telling you today; even though she was weak from losing blood, even though every thought told her that she was wasting her time, she started making her way through the crowd, trying to get to Jesus; she was filled with expectancy, believing that something good was about to happen:

Mark 5:27-34 (NIV)
27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

when we live with expectancy, it gets God’s attention. when we go through the day saying, “Lord, I believe this is my due season year, this is my year to accomplish dreams, to break free from this depression, this is my year to meet the right people, this is my year to get healthy and whole,” we’re doing exactly what this lady did. your faith can cause God to stop in His tracks. what I find interesting is, Jesus didn’t heal everyone around him that day; there were other sick people in the crowd, other people that had needs, but he passed on by. the difference was, this lady released her faith; it started in her thinking. all through the day, we should have this expectancy. you have to keep talking to yourself the right way; in other words, if you’re facing an illness, you can’t afford to go around saying, “I don’t think I’ll ever get better, I’ve had it so long, I think this is going to be the end of me.”

no, start talking to yourself like this lady; “this is my year to get well. God is restoring health back unto me, the number of my days He will fulfill.” if you’re struggling in your finances, not, “I’ll never have enough, I’ll never get ahead,” no, “this is my year to come into overflow, to be debt-free, to lend and not borrow. blessings are chasing me down. favor surrounds me like a shield. whatever I touch prospers and succeeds.” if you’re lonely, not any of this, “I’ll never meet the right person, I’m too old, I don’t have a good personality, I’m not that attractive”; zip that up. “this is my year for divine connections. God is directing my steps, bringing the right people across my path.” maybe you’ve been through a disappointment last year, you had a setback; you could easily come into the new year with a poor old me mentality, thinking, “just my luck, I always get these bad breaks.” no, turn it around; this is your year to see beauty for ashes. what was meant for your harm, God is going to use to your advantage. the best part of your life is right up in front of you. you may have had a setback, but really it was a setup for God to do something better.

Zechariah 9:12 (NIV)
12 Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

this is your year to see double. this is your year for vindication, for restoration, for new beginnings. now get your mind going in the right direction. start talking to yourself the right way. this is one reason that we don’t see God’s best; our mind is in neutral. like the other people that were around Jesus that day that didn’t get healed, we’re not thinking anything bad, but we’re not releasing our faith;  there’s no expectancy. faith is what causes God to work. you can be at the right place at the right time, but because you’re in the wrong frame of mind, you’ll miss God’s best. this lady was at the right place at the right time, Jesus was passing by, but unlike the other people, she was in the right frame of mind, expecting things to change, expecting healing, a breakthrough; she saw it come to pass. today, you are at the right place, you are at the right time; God destined you to be hearing this. 2 out of 3 are already good, but #3 is the deal-breaker; are you in the right frame of mind? do you believe this is your due season year? do you believe it’s your year for favor, increase, restoration, new beginnings?

Jesus is passing by right now, so to speak. he is not moved by our needs, there are plenty of needs, he’s concerned about our needs, but he’s moved by our faith. it’s easy to think, “the medical report says I’m not going to get well, my business is never going to make it, this legal situation is never going to resolve.” no, shake off the doubt, negativity; you’re at the right place, you’re at the right time, now all you’ve got to do is get in the right frame of mind; “Lord, I want to thank you that this is my due season year: this is my year to step into leadership, to finish school, to break the addiction, to come into overflow, to meet the person of my dreams.” if you’ll keep saying it to yourself, thanking God in advance, you better get ready; God is going to show out in your life. He’s going to take you where you could not go on your own, opening doors that no man can shut, connecting you to the right people. He’s going to restore what you thought was over and done. it’s going to happen suddenly, unexpectedly, out of the ordinary, to where you look up and say, “wow, I didn’t see that coming.”

most of the time when we hear that phrase, “I didn’t see that coming,” it’s about the negative, it’s about a bad break: “I lost my main client, didn’t see that coming. got a bad medical report, didn’t see that coming.” or, “my friend walked out on me, left me for somebody else, didn’t see that coming.” but in this due season year, God’s going to turn it around; “I just got a promotion, didn’t see that coming. my child made straight A’s in school, didn’t see that coming. moved into a beautiful new house, didn’t see that coming. my health turned around, I feel better than ever, didn’t see that coming.” remember that old country song that said, “let’s give them something to talk about”? this year, God is going to give you something to talk about. He’s going to make you an example of His goodness. that lady that was healed after 12 years of being sick, I’m sure everywhere she went, “let me tell you what the Lord has done for me”; she had something to talk about.

every one of you can look back in your life and see a time where God made a way when you didn’t see a way; He put you at the right place, you met that person and fell in love. He protected your child from that accident. He gave you the promotion even though you weren’t the most qualified. He turned that problem around. He’s giving you something to talk about. but can I tell you, you haven’t seen anything yet. what God has in this due season year is going to be bigger, better, more rewarding that anything you’ve seen in the past. you need to get ready; in this due season year, you’re going to look up and say, “wow, paid my house off, didn’t see that coming. broke the addiction, didn’t see that coming.” or, “my family member that used to party all the time, be so wild, now he’s coming to church with me, making good decisions, fulfilling his destiny; sure didn’t see that coming.” scripture says:

Deuteronomy 28:1-2 (NASB)
28 “Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God:

we’ve all had negative things overtake us, life happens, but don’t get stuck expecting the negative; this year, God is going to turn the table: good breaks chasing you down, favor, healing, opportunity, come chasing after you. one definition of the word “overtake” is “to catch by surprise”; when it says God’s blessings will overtake you, you could say God is going to surprise you. suddenly, unexpectedly, out of the ordinary, a good break, a healing, a promotion, a divine connection. God knows how to connect you to the right people. He knows how to get you to your destiny. you have no idea what God has in store for you. He has some surprises that if He showed you right now, it would boggle your mind. in this due season year, things that you’ve been praying about are going to suddenly fallen into place: the right people show up, the right opportunities. out of the ordinary, unexpectedly, God’s going to give you something to talk about. David said it this way:

Psalm 27:13 (NET Bible)
13 Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience
the Lord’s favor in the land of the living?

I wonder how many blessings we’re missing out on, how much favor, increase, we’re not seeing, simply because we’re not expecting it, we’re not releasing our faith. David was saying, in effect, “if I had not believed, maybe I wouldn’t have defeated Goliath, maybe I wouldn’t have taken the throne of Israel, maybe I wouldn’t have recovered my family, possessions when the city of Ziklag was burned down. where would I be if I had not believed?”

1 Samuel 30:1-19 (NIV)
30 … the Amalekites… had attacked Ziklag and burned it, 2 and had taken captive the women and everyone else in it, both young and old… 3 When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive…  David’s two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel… 18 David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. 19 Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back.

scripture talks about:

Psalm 31:19 (TLB)
19 Oh, how great is your goodness to those who publicly declare that you will rescue them. For you have stored up great blessings for those who trust and reverence you.

there are blessings that have your name on them right now that are stored up. there’s promotion, healing, that baby you’ve been dreaming about, stored up. God’s already destined it to be yours, but if you never believe, if you think, “this is not going to happen for me, I never get any good breaks,” or, “God would never bless me, I’ve made too many mistakes. I could never pay my house off, that’s out of the question,” that kind of thinking will keep you from God’s best. why don’t you try a different approach, and say, “God, I believe You want to be good to me. I believe You have surprises in my future. I believe this is my due season year”? when you live with this expectancy, God can give you something to talk about. you’ll look up and say like David, “where would I be if I had not believed to see the goodness of God?”

you need to get ready; in this due season year, God has some surprises in store for you. some of those blessings that He’s had stored up, He’s about to release. it’s going to happen suddenly, unexpectedly, out of the ordinary. friends, you’re at the right place, you’re at the right time; I’m asking you to get in the right frame of mind. all through the day, “Lord, I want to thank You that this is my due season year.” keep expecting, keep believing, keep honoring God. if you to do that, in 2015 God is going to amaze you with His goodness. you’re going to see dreams come to pass, promises fulfilled, relationships restored, favor, health, increase, a new level of your destiny.

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Invisible but invaluable

from JO’s sermon tonight:

a friend of mine is the equipment manager for a professional basketball team. he’s in charge of getting all the uniforms, balls, training materials, to the stadium before the team arrives. many times, they’ll land in the middle of the night; 2 o’clock in the morning, he’ll go straight to the arena and get everything set up for the next day. when the game rolls around, you don’t see him. the cameras are on the players and coaches; they’re the stars, they’re getting all the attention. he says: “I’m invisible, but I know I’m invaluable. nobody sees me, but I know without me this team wouldn’t be what it is.” it takes a mature person to say, “I’m ok with being invisible. I’m ok with helping you to shine. I’m secure enough in who I am that I can be comfortable behind the scenes playing my role; not frustrated because I’m not getting the credit, not jealous because nobody is talking about me. I’m content to make other people look good. I may be invisible, but I understand that I’m invaluable.”

when you have this kind of attitude, you are sowing a seed; when you push people up, when you make them look good, then when it’s your time to be promoted, when it’s your time to shine, God will make sure somebody is there to push you up, to make you look good. but you have to pass this test of being content when you’re invisible. but a lot of times, we think, “I’m doing all the work at my company, and nobody thanks me, they never give me any credit, they don’t appreciate me.” don’t worry about that; you’re not working unto people, you’re working unto God. He’s keeping the records. they may not thank you, give you the credit, but promotion doesn’t come from people, it comes from the Lord. the scripture says:

Matthew 6:3-4 (MEV)
3 But when you do your charitable deeds, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deeds may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

when you’re behind the scenes, invisible, helping somebody else to shine, making your supervisor look good, teaching that coworker your skills, going out of your way to help them excel, God sees what you’re doing; when it’s your time, God knows how to get you to where you’re supposed to be. you’ll be ok being invisible if you’ll just remember that you’re invaluable. that company wouldn’t be what it is without you. that person you’ve been investing in, they wouldn’t shine as brightly, they wouldn’t be as successful without your efforts. they may not acknowledge it. they may never tell you thanks. they think they did it on their own. that’s ok; God sees it. God knows every seed that you’ve sown, every sacrifice you’ve made, every kind word you’ve spoken. what you did in secret, God going to reward you for in the open.

every one of us should be invisible in somebody’s life, behind the scenes helping them to grow, encouraging them, calling out their seeds of greatness. not looking for any credit, not announcing, “hey everybody, look what I’m doing,” and not making them think, “you really owe me, you see how much extra work this is to pour into your life?” no, do it quietly, in humility, unto God. do you know how many people are making this service take place right now that we cannot see, behind the scenes? nursery workers taking care of our babies, teachers training our children, parking attendants directing the traffic, ushers, greeters seating people, technicians running the sound and lighting; their names are not on the sign, they’re not getting any credit, they’re invisible, but the truth is that without them we wouldn’t be here. they’re invaluable.

you have to accept the role that God has given you; if not, you’ll try to promote yourself, compete with people, try to outperform them, thinking, “I can’t help them, they may pass me up, they may look better than me.” no, God puts people in our lives so we can help them succeed, so we can push them forward. you have to be secure enough in who you are that you can say, “I’m ok with being invisible. I realize that my role in your story is to help you shine, to make you look good, to use my gifts to help you move further.” but human nature will say just the opposite; “don’t let them get ahead, they’re going to outshine you, you’re just as good as they are.” no, God put them there on purpose so you could help push them into their destiny.

don’t compete with them, don’t get jealous; the right attitude is, “God, I’m going to do my best to make them look good, and I know that at the right time You’ll make me look good.” as you push somebody else up, God will make sure that you get to where you’re supposed to be. we were created to help others. one of the greatest joys in life is to help somebody else succeed, help somebody else shine. they may go further than you; that’s ok, you’re not running their race. when you come to the end of your life, God’s not going to ask, “did you keep up with your relative? did you outperform your coworker? did you have more stuff than your neighbor?” no, He’s going to ask, “did you fulfill your destiny? did you accomplish your assignment?”

in the scripture, there was a young man named Jonathan. he was King Saul’s son, he’d been raised in royalty, he was next in line to take the throne, but things didn’t work out the way Jonathan thought; his best friend David was chosen over him. Jonathan could’ve been bitter, and thought, “that’s not right, I got passed over. I’m not going to do anything for David, he took my place.” but Jonathan was so secure in who he was that he went out of his way to help David. when his father King Saul was trying to kill David, Jonathan gave David inside information to keep him safe; he told him where to go, how to avoid his father. he was behind the scenes, invisible, protecting David, connecting him to the right people. he could’ve thought the whole time, “this guy took my spot, here I’m giving him my secrets, making him look good,” but Jonathan understood this principle; his knew that his role in David’s story was to push him forward. he was ok with somebody rising above him. he realized, as he helped David move toward his destiny, that in fact he was moving toward his own destiny.

it’s better to become who God created you to be than to try to promote yourself and become something that you’re not. because when you try to take yourself where you weren’t designed to be, it will be a constant struggle, like you’re always rowing upstream; it’s because there’s no grace on your life to become something that you were never meant to be. but there is an anointing to fulfill your destiny. if you will become a Jonathan to someone, and help them succeed, push them forward, when you become a Jonathan, God will always make sure there will be a Jonathan in your life to push you forward. when you sow into other people, you take time to help them, don’t ever feel like, “I’m falling behind, I should be using this time and energy to put into my own dreams, not to help them”; no, when you’re sowing into others, you are sowing into your own dreams, you are paving the way to reach the fullness of your destiny.

when David arrived at the palace, he didn’t know the right protocol, how everything operated; he wasn’t trained to become the leader of a great nation, raised in royalty. he came from a very poor family; they were shepherds, living out in the desert. a few months earlier, he was taking care of sheep, cleaning up the mess, dirty, smelly;  now he’s in the palace. Saul is still on the throne. his son Jonathan took David under his wing, taught him the right protocol, what to wear, here’s how you address this person, here’s how you start the meeting. Jonathan was behind the scenes, helping his friend David; not competing with him, not jealous, but celebrating his success. as David rose higher, gained more influence and credibility, the whole time Jonathan was invisible. people saw David shining, rising to new heights, so popular, loved by the masses; what they didn’t see was his good friend Jonathan, who thought he’d be on the throne, pouring into David’s life.

Jonathan accepted his role in David’s story; he was invisible, but he knew he was invaluable. the question is; can you play your role, even if it’s not the lead role? can you be your best and sow into others, even when they start passing you up? a lot of times, we think, “God, let me be a David. David killed giants, defeated armies, came from nothing to royalty, a hero of faith.” and that’s good, we should aspire to rise higher and do great things. but our prayer shouldn’t just be, “God, let me be a David,” but also, “God, let me be a Jonathan, let me push somebody into their destiny.  let me be so secure in who I am that I can be invisible, and use my gifts to help somebody else succeed. let me realize that it’s ok to play a smaller role. help me to not be jealous, to not compete, to not try to outperform, but God, let me be a Jonathan, behind the scenes helping somebody else look better.” the scripture says:

Matthew 20:26 (NCV)
26 … Whoever wants to become great among you must serve the rest of you like a servant.

true greatness is not how bright you shine, but how bright do you make others shine.

eventually, Jonathan and his father King Saul were killed in a battle. years later, King David was sitting around reminiscing, thinking about the good old days; he remembered his friend Jonathan, and how much he loved him. David asked his assistant if any of Jonathan’s relatives were still alive; they found his young son, who was crippled, and brought him to the palace. David gave him all the land that belonged to his family, treated him like royalty. the point is, when you do good for people, you’re sowing a seed, and that harvest will either come back to you, or it will come back to your children.

but this society, sometimes it teaches us to get ahead at all costs, “don’t get in my way, I’m competing with you. I can help you, I’m trying to outperform you. I want the credit, the recognition.” but that’s a very shallow way to live; you will never truly be fulfilled if you only focus on yourself. when you help somebody else succeed, God will help you succeed. those seeds will come back to you. when you’re a Jonathan, you not only use your gifts to help someone else rise higher, but you celebrate other people’s success. a lot of times, if you have a setback, get a bad medical report, or you go through a loss, people will come running; they’ll be there to encourage you, to cheer you on, to help you make it through that difficult time.

but too often, when you succeed, people can be so competitive that they get jealous, find fault, make excuses; “he’s not that talented. I can’t believe she got married, what was that guy thinking?” no, let’s be people that celebrate other people’s success. they may be ahead of us, but I’ve learned, if you can’t be happy for what God has done in their life, you will never get to that level. don’t be critical because they moved into a beautiful new home; celebrate with them, and one day God can bless you with a beautiful new home. don’t be jealous because your cousin married somebody way over her head, be happy for her; one day, God can bring you somebody way over your head.

Saul was jealous of David; one reason King Saul lost the throne was because he couldn’t handle David’s success. he was so insecure, so competitive, that he couldn’t stand anyone being ahead of him. when the people started singing:

1 Samuel 18:7-9 (NIV)
7 As they danced, they sang:
“Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands.”
8 Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” 9 And from that time on Saul kept a close eye on David.

he never looked at David the same way again. (NB: keep in mind; David never did anything wrong. he did not ask for them to sing that song. he never tried to hurt Saul in any way.) Saul loved David as a young man; he had him come to the palace, play the harp for him, he treated him like a son. when David went out and shocked the nation and killed Goliath, Saul was right there, cheering him on, saying, “that’s my boy, he’s making me proud.” but when Saul heard them singing about how David was more talented, more accomplished, a better leader, instead of saying, “that’s his destiny, you go David, more power to you, rise higher,” he got jealous, and Saul eventually lost the throne. if you’re going to reach your potential, you have to be happy for the people that pass you up. don’t be a fair-weather friend, where you’re only going to be happy if they stay at your level.

what if God destined them to be a David, and destined you to be a Jonathan? can you handle being number two? are you big enough to let them shine brighter than you? pass that test of being happy for people that rise higher. they may not have as much training, talent, qualifications as you; you just have to realize, it’s the sovereignty of God. favor is not fair. it’s easy to think, “I paid my dues, that’s not right”; no, be big enough to celebrate what God has done in somebody else’s life. here’s the key; God blessing them doesn’t mean that God cannot promote you. God did not use all of His favor on their life; God never runs out of favor. He can get you to where you’re supposed to be. but if you become a Saul, get jealous, try to discredit them, find fault, that’s going to keep you from your destiny. the scripture talks about:

Psalm 75:7 (AMP)
7 But God is the Judge! He puts down one and lifts up another.

1 Samuel 2:7 (AMP)
7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and He lifts up.

whether you get lifted up, or set down, whether you’re a David or a Jonathan, there is a destiny for you to fulfill, a place where you’re in your sweet spot, seeing God’s favor, doing exactly what you know you’re supposed to do. this is why Jonathan wasn’t frustrated because he didn’t take the throne; he was in his sweet spot, happy, fulfilled, and enjoying life. what am I saying? you don’t have to be David to be fulfilled. you don’t have to be the king to enjoy your life. learn to accept your role. be content even when you’re not getting the credit. you may be invisible, but that doesn’t lessen your importance; what you have to offer is invaluable. without Jonathan, David’s life could’ve ended early.

when you keep a right heart, a pure heart, you take time to sow into others, you are passing the test. many times, God will take you from being invisible to being visible, from the background to the foreground. when you’re secure in who God made you to be, then you can be content wherever God has you. whether your role is visible or invisible, large or small, you know you’re making a difference. as you keep passing these tests, God will get you to where you’re supposed to be. you don’t have to promote yourself. you keep honoring God, being a person of excellence, sowing into others, and when it’s your time to be promoted, you will be promoted.

Elisha spent years taking care of the prophet Elijah. he went everywhere with him, brought him his food, ran his errands, washed his clothes. I’m sure people asked Elisha, “what are you doing, spending your life taking care of this old prophet? you could be doing something much more significant, you’re just as talented as he is, why don’t you start your own ministry?” Elisha wouldn’t do it. he was comfortable being invisible, using his gifts to serve the prophet. year after year went by.  at one point, Elijah even said to Elisha:

2 Kings 2:2 (NIV)
2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”
But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

Elisha sensed that his destiny was tied to Elijah.  one day, after years of being invisible, serving in the background, passing the test, God said, “I’m going to take Elijah to heaven; I need to find somebody to replace him, somebody that I can give a double portion of his anointing to.” God looked around, and said, “I know just the right person; Elisha. he’s been faithful all those years, didn’t try to promote himself, didn’t find fault with those ahead of him. he celebrated others, he was happy behind the scenes, so let Me take him from being invisible to being visible.” Elisha took over for the prophet Elijah; he went on to perform twice as many miracles as Elijah. but it all happened because he was content behind the scenes, being invisible.

one time, when Jesus was at Capernaum:

Mark 2:3-12 (NIV)
3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd…

they could’ve turned around and thought, “too bad, we tried, but it didn’t work out,” but no, they were determined. they couldn’t get through the door, so:

Mark 2:4-11 (NIV)
4 … they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”… 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”

it doesn’t say that he just saw the man’s faith, but when he saw the faith of his four friends, the ones in the background, behind the scenes, invisible, carrying the man.  when he saw the faith of his friends, he healed him.

when you’re behind the scenes, pushing people forward, helping them to succeed, you may feel invisible, but God sees what you’re doing. your faith can cause your children to accomplish their dreams. your faith can help a loved one get well. your faith can be what God uses to push that coworker into their destiny. there are times in life when we have to carry someone; they don’t have the faith they need right now, they’re not at the point where they can believe. like this man, in some way they’re paralyzed. God will use us to carry a friend, a neighbor; they may not have the faith they need right now to step into their destiny, but God can see your faith for them.  my prayer is, “God, let us become so secure in who we are that we can be invisible, that we can carry people, that we don’t have to have the credit. whether your assignment’s large or small, a David or a Jonathan, be content to play your role.  you may feel invisible at times, but remember, you’re invaluable. God is keeping the records, and as you help others to shine, God is going to cause you to shine. you will rise higher, fulfill your destiny, and become everything you were created to be.

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If you’re a long-term reader, you know that in the past 4 years, first my mother died, and then the people that I’d thought were such close friends tossed me aside over the intervening time, but not before helping themselves to a mountain of my mother’s possessions. If you’re a new reader, now you know this as well; in either case, keep it in mind as you read the following:

I went to my first ever ‪church service this past Sunday. The people there are all complete strangers, and therefore do not know about the primary element my life as stated above. They had a guest pastor, a man of my own ethnic background; while he was speaking, something made me think to ask him later on if he had a word for me.  I did NOT say‬ ‪it out loud.  Towards the end of his sermon, suddenly he stopped and pointed to me and asked me to come up!!  He held my hands, my shoulders, and briefly the sides of my head; I got a low-key feeling of power from him, but he was clearly feeling a much bigger power, which made sense since he was obviously channeling divine energy: He said that people have LEFT me; I can’t remember if he said some or several, I should have taken some notes at the time, but he was very clear that it was MULTIPLE people, which is absolutely NOT what you would say normally even if you got the feeling that someone had suffered a loss, because normally people experience major losses spaced out over time, not several in tight formation like I did. Then, he I guess clarified, or maybe it was repetition with more words, that they have TAKEN‬ ‪things from me and left me (!!!!!!!!). He then said that I had… either let or allowed… them to go, which I did; I’ve made no attempt to get any of them back, win them over, etc. At this point, it was clear that he was getting a true message, which makes the final thing he said a VERY big deal: not to worry, because God was going to restore to me x7‬. (I’m pretty sure he said this year, or starting this year… again, I wish I’d taken notes.) ‪People were saying afterwards how amazing that was…  even more when they found out that it was my first church service EVER‬.

Let me make it clear that, although I’m about as religious as it’s possible to be without being CRAZY, I’m not naive; ‪I understand about cold readings, which is a technique that some magicians, and sadly some fakers in the religious world, use to trick people into thinking that they have some sort of supernatural access to information. They ask questions that are vague at first, and then based on the “victim’s” reactions and responses they keep changing their tune until they’ve zeroed in on something that the victim will accept as “secret knowledge.” They will also, where possible, scout out information about people in their audience in advance to prime the pump with. This pastor didn’t ask me any questions, though, he went right to his pronouncement, and there was no one there who could have told him anything about me, much less that the thing that was‬ “c‪racking my spirit in 2,” as he put it, was that all the people who were the foundation of my life had left me. ‬

And why did he even pick me in the first place? It’s not like I was sitting there all in black with tears running down my cheeks. He was not preaching about restoration, so it’s not like I was bouncing in my seat during talk of restoration and he added 2 + 2 and got 4. I was there with a friend to whom I was chatting, not looking like an abandoned person, happy and excited to be there, so energetic and ‪smiling‬, and wearing a shirt with big happy animal faces on it‪; there was no reason for him to think that I needed restoration‬. It’s entirely possible that someone told him that I was new, and encouraged him to focus on me, but that wouldn’t give him any clue as to what to SAY. He HAD to feel confident that he could say something valid, because it would seriously erode his creditability if I was shaking my head while he was speaking to me in front of everyone. If he had just referred to ONE person leaving me, well, once you’re middle aged there’s a high probability that you’ve lost someone in recent years, but he took such a big risk by specifying multiple people, much less such a high level of devastation; he had to feel very sure of the word he was receiving.

I think the message is inescapable; it had seemed very clear to me previously that God had guided me to go to this church at this time, and even the most skeptical person would be hard put to doubt it NOW!! This is taking me to a whole new level, a new chapter of my life… one that would not have been possible if any of the people who were supposed to be the bedrock of my life were still with me, because if they were I would have been focusing on THEM, and would not have ever met the woman who brought me to this church.

And God had another blessing for me: I have also been to my first-ever prayer meeting!! There were about 30 people there, which would be impressive even for a big church, and is astounding for small church; I’m clearly in the right place. As the final activity of the evening, the pastor asked for a man to say a prayer for the men, and a woman to say a prayer for the women. Although as a stranger you would expect that I would keep my ears open and my mouth closed, I found myself volunteering to do the prayer for the women; oddly, for such an involved group, no other woman had volunteered. Keep in mind that with this church, saying a prayer doesn’t mean saying a couple of polite lines followed by amen, it means a 5-minute impassioned plea to God. There were about 30 people at this gathering, and I have never spoken in any way to any group beyond a handful of close friends. They asked me to go first, but since I wasn’t sure what they were expecting I asked that the man go first so I’d have some idea of what I was supposed to be doing. The pastor’s wife hugged me and said whatever came from my heart would be great. The man said his bit, there were some polite murmurs of agreement and amens all around. Then it was my turn. Without any fear or hesitation, although objectively I should have felt BOTH, I came out with a heartfelt prayer about God strengthening us in our love and faith, and how we would use these things to serve our families, our church, and those lost souls in the community around us who were lonely and sad and afraid. There was a rising crescendo of agreement and praise to God while I spoke, and when I finished I got loud cheers and applause!! The pastor’s wife came back to me with her eyes huge in her face and her mouth hanging open, hugging me again and telling me how incredible that was. Other people came rushing over to exclaim and hug me also. Not only was this an overwhelmingly awesome experience in general, but since it is my eventual intention to be a pastor, having my first attempt at galvanizing people via prayer be so well received was a great shot in the arm for me. (I do hope that the man who spoke before me didn’t feel bad to have not received this kind of approbation, however.)

As a final bonus, people that I spoke to at the end of the evening were saying that they couldn’t believe I had no church background, given the way I can talk about God.  If they only knew, lol.

Stepping into the full swing of activity in this church is the biggest decision I have ever made, the biggest step I have ever taken, not just in my religious life but in my LIFE. I’m adding a big group of new friends to a life where local friends have become very sparse, activities to do to a life of working and sleeping, a source of caring and support that have been sorely lacking in my daily life, a big jump in my worship, and the miraculous availability of my ability to start preaching YEARS before I would have imagined possible. God is AMAZING!!!!!!!

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Counted by the Creator

from JO’s sermon tonight:

it’s easy to go through life feeling disqualified, because of the mistakes we’ve made, or negative things people have spoken over us, or even our own thoughts telling us what we can’t become. if we’re not careful, we’ll come up with excuses as to why we can’t accomplish our dreams, why we can’t rise any higher; in effect, we’re counting ourselves out. in the scripture, the prophet Samuel came to Jesse’s house to choose one of his sons as the next king:

1 Samuel 16:5-11 (NLT)
5 … Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice, too.
6 When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!”
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
8 Then Jesse told his son Abinadab to step forward and walk in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “This is not the one the Lord has chosen.” 9 Next Jesse summoned Shimea, but Samuel said, “Neither is this the one the Lord has chosen.” 10 In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.”
“Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

in Jesse’s mind, David didn’t count; he was the youngest, David was small, not as strong, didn’t have the experience. Jesse thought, “no use even bringing him in, he’ll never amount to much,” but:

1 Samuel 16:12-13 (NLT)
12 So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.
And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.”
13 So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on.

I’m sure Jesse and the other brothers nearly passed out, thinking, “are you kidding? you mean it’s David?” they didn’t count him, but the good news is, David was counted by the Creator. God doesn’t judge the way people judge. you may not have the most talent, the best looks, come from the most influential family; that’s ok, you’ve been counted by the One who matters most. my challenge is, don’t count yourself out. I hear people say, “I’m too small, I don’t have a good personality, I come from the wrong family.” no, when God created you, He put in you everything you need to fulfill your destiny. that means if you don’t have it, you don’t need it. if you needed to be taller, you would be taller. if you needed more talent, you would have more talent. if you needed to be a different nationality, you would be one. you’re not lacking, you didn’t get shortchanged; you’ve been fearfully and wonderfully made.

the Creator of the universe has equipped you, empowered you, put seeds of greatness on the inside. He’s saying, “you’re one of a kind, a masterpiece; you have what it takes.” He’s qualified you, now don’t disqualify yourself. don’t stay focused on what somebody else can do better: how your sister has more talent, your friend has a better personality. that may be true, but you’re not running their race; you don’t need what they have. if you needed it, God would’ve given it to you. when the thoughts come telling us, “you’re too tall, short, young, old. you’re not talented enough, not smart enough; let it go in one ear and out the other. if you go through life feeling like you’re lacking, you don’t measure up, even though God has qualified you, you’re disqualifying yourself. sometimes, it’s not our own thoughts, but like with David, other people will try to discount us, make us feel less than, like we don’t measure up. if you allow it, people will put their limitations on you. they will try to talk you out of your dreams.

one of the best things I’ve ever learned is people don’t determine our destiny, God does. people don’t set the limits for our life. they may try to talk you out of it, and tell you what you can’t do, “I don’t think you’re that talented”; it’s because God didn’t put the dream in them, He put the dream in you. you can’t expect everyone to be for you; they can’t feel what you feel. they don’t see what you see. they don’t have the faith that you have. they will try to discount you, tell you that you don’t have what it takes. don’t believe those lies; you don’t need their approval, you have God’s approval. they’ll discount you, but the One who matters, spoke worlds into existence, flung stars into space, when they count you out, He counts you in. He says, “you have what it takes, you are well able, you will fulfill your destiny, you will leave your mark on this generation.” God has already counted you; don’t let other people discount you.

Luke 9:10-14 (NLT)
10 When the apostles returned, they told Jesus everything they had done. Then he slipped quietly away with them toward the town of Bethsaida. 11 But the crowds found out where he was going, and they followed him. He welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who were sick.
12 Late in the afternoon the twelve disciples came to him and said, “Send the crowds away to the nearby villages and farms, so they can find food and lodging for the night. There is nothing to eat here in this remote place.”
13 But Jesus said, “You feed them.”
“But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Or are you expecting us to go and buy enough food for this whole crowd?” 14 For there were about 5,000 men there.

that means there were probably 15,000 people in total if you counted the women and children.

Luke 9:16-17 (NLT)
16 Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. 17 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers!

the one that wasn’t counted had the miracle; they counted the men, the 5000, but they didn’t count the children. they thought, “they’re too young, no need to count them.” back in those days, women were seen as second class, as less than; they didn’t count the women. but God uses people that other people don’t count: one of the 5000 men could’ve have a lunch, one of the disciples could’ve brought something to eat that day. but God chose this child specifically to let us know that when people leave you out, and say, “you don’t have anything to offer:  you’re too young, you’re not important, you don’t count, ” God says, “you’re a prime candidate for Me to do something great. I count people that other people don’t count.”

sometimes, life will say, “I’m not going to count you. you’ve made too many mistakes. you went through that divorce. you’ve got that addiction.” life will try to push you down, discredit you, make you feel like there’s nothing good in your future. always remember; when life counts you out, God counts you in. He uses people that other people don’t count. when people try to discount you, write you off, the One who matters most, the great I Am, writes you in. He didn’t create you to be average, ordinary, just make it through life. He created you to excel, to leave your fingerprint, to make this world a better place. you have a destiny to fulfill; God has an assignment for you to accomplish. Paul said:

1 Corinthians 1:27 (MEV)
27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.

He chooses the weak to outshine the strong. out of the 5000 men listening to Jesus that day, no doubt some of them were community leaders, highly educated, respected, influential. you would have thought at least one of them would’ve brought an ice chest filled with sandwiches, snacks, water; they knew they were going to be out in the country all day long. but the one that had the miracle was the least likely, the little boy; God used the week to outshine the strong. could it be that you’re not reaching your highest potential because you feel like you’re lacking in some area, you don’t count? now you’re not pursuing your dreams, you’re not excited about life. you need to have a new perspective; you’re a prime candidate for God to show out in your life. you may feel weak, but God wants to show himself strong. it may seem like you’re the least likely, but God wants to do something so amazing in your life that people around you can’t even believe it.

but you’ve got to do your part and get your passion back. you have everything you need to fulfill your destiny. you may have made mistakes, but you didn’t get disqualified. you may have some flaws and weaknesses, we all do, but that didn’t cancel your destiny. you may feel like life has left you out, the odds are against you; the good news is, God is for you. He has the final say, and He says, “I count you in when other people count you out.” you need to get ready; this is a new day. you’re about to see new doors begin to open. God is about to multiply what you have. He is going to take you from the back to the front, from lack to abundance, from insignificance to great influence. you’ve been counted, qualified; what God spoke over your life will come to pass. those are not just nice, encouraging words; that’s a prophecy. if you’ll receive it, and say, “yes, this is for me,” then you’ll begin to see it happen. God will amaze you with his goodness. friends, when people count you out, God counts you in. in the scripture:

Jeremiah 1:4-5 (NLT)
4 The Lord gave me this message:
5 “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.
    Before you were born I set you apart
    and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah was young, insecure:

Jeremiah 1:6-8 (NLT)
6 “O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”
7 The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. 8 And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

He was saying, “Jeremiah, I wouldn’t have asked you to do it if I didn’t already know you had the ability.” don’t let negative voices talk you out of your dreams. when you say, “I’m not that talented, I’ve made too many mistakes, I don’t have the right personality,” God says to you what he said to Jeremiah; “zip it up! say not I’m too short, I don’t have the talent, I can’t accomplish my dreams.” quit discounting yourself; you have the miracle. you have the 5 loaves and 2 fish. it may not seem like much; you may not feel qualified, the odds are against you. but this is where our God comes in; He can take the little and multiply it. you don’t have to have a great gift for God to use you in a great way. you can have a little talent, training, influence, and like the little boy’s lunch, God can take it and multiply it. He can open doors that you could’ve never opened, He can bring talent out of that you didn’t know you had, He can cause you to be at the right place at the right time, and give you favor, honor, influence.

don’t go around feeling like you’re at a disadvantage; put your shoulders back, hold your head up high. the most high God has breathed life into you, crowned you with His favor; you have royal blood flowing through your veins. you’re not at a disadvantage. other people may have not counted you, but the One who matters counts you, writes you in when other people write you off. I’ve learned, God will never ask you to do something and then not give you the ability to do it. you may not feel like you have the confidence, training, talent, but this is what faith is all about; you have to believe it before you see it. God will never ask you for something without first putting it in you. when deep down you know you’re supposed to take a step of faith, you may not feel like you can do it, voices will try to discount you, tell you you’re not qualified, but if you dare to take that step, you’ll discover things in you that you that you never knew you had.

say not, “I can’t do it”; the right attitude is, “I can do all things through Christ.” say not, “I’m at a disadvantage”; the right attitude is, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I’m a child of the most high God.” say not, “I’ve reached my limits, this is as good as it gets”; the right attitude is, “my best days are still out in front of me. the path of the righteous gets brighter. I’m excited about my future.”  God uses people that other people don’t count; when God put the dream in your heart, He gave you the ability to do it. but there will always be forces that try to keep your potential from being released. the enemy would love for your gift to stay hidden, for the best of you to never come out. and just because you have a dream, just because God has qualified you, doesn’t mean that you’re not going to have to fight; you have to stand strong and be determined to become all you were created to be.

you can’t be weak, get discouraged because you had a setback, fall into self-pity, no, you have to dig your heels in, and say, “I am in it to win it. this challenge is no match for me. I am more than a conqueror. if God be for me, who dare be against me? I will fulfill my destiny.” if you don’t talk to yourself the right way, negative thoughts will talk to you. just like you can talk yourself out of a dream, you can talk yourself into a dream. when life counts you out, God counts you in. don’t let negative thoughts, negative people, keep you from stepping into the fullness of your destiny. there will always be voices telling you: you’re not qualified, you stutter, you make too many mistakes, you’re too short, you’re not that talented. those are all lies, trying to make you feel like you don’t count, so that the best of you never comes out. don’t believe that, don’t fall into that trap. even way back with Moses, when God told him to go tell Pharaoh, “let My people go”:

Exodus 4:10 (MSG)
10 Moses raised another objection to God: “Master, please, I don’t talk well. I’ve never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer.”

it’s easy to come up with excuses. I love the way God answered him back:

Exodus 4:11 (NLV)
11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes a man not able to speak or hear? Who makes one blind or able to see? Is it not I, the Lord?

He was saying, “Moses, who disqualified you? who left you out? who told you don’t count? don’t you realize, Moses, that I control the whole universe? when you believe, I can make it happen.”

years before David was chosen to be king, the prophet Samuel went to another young man named Saul and told him he was going to be the next king. but Saul said:

1 Samuel 9:21 (NLT)
21 Saul replied, “But I’m only from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my family is the least important of all the families of that tribe! Why are you talking like this to me?”

he was saying the same thing; “I can’t be a king, I don’t count. I don’t come from an influential family. we’re not royalty, we’re just ordinary people.” what’s interesting is, Samuel didn’t answer Saul, he didn’t respond back to him. when we come up with excuses, tell God why we can’t rise higher, “God I’m not that talented, I have this addiction, I come from the wrong family,” God doesn’t say, “yes, I understand, you have a disadvantage.” no, our excuses don’t faze God. He knows what He’s put in you; God can see your greatness. He sees the royalty in your blood, the potential you’ve not yet tapped into. our doubts, fears, insecurities, that doesn’t change God’s mind; He’s already laid out the plan for your life. He’s saying to you today, “I’ve called you to be a king/queen, to reign in life, make a new standard for your family.” why don’t you lose the excuses and get in agreement with God? sometimes, we think we’re disqualified because of the mistakes we’ve made, we don’t count because we haven’t lived the right kind of life, that’s why we’re kind of sitting on the sidelines; but when God needed someone to save the Israeli spies back in the Old Testament:

Joshua 2:2-6 (NIV)
2 The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.”
3 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”
4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. 5 At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” 6 (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.)

God could’ve chosen anyone to help them, He’s God. He could’ve had a soldier help get them out, or a community leader to secretly escort them out of the city, but He didn’t do that; God chose Rahab. she was a prostitute; not respected, everyone looked down on her, thought, “she’ll never do anything significant, she doesn’t count.” but God doesn’t judge the way people judge; people saw her shortcomings and failures, but God saw a diamond in the rough. God saw her potential; He knew what she could become. God looked down from heaven and said, “I want to use her.” I can hear an angel saying, “excuse me, God, I don’t mean to second-guess You, but I think You’ve chosen the wrong person; that lady is a notorious sinner. she’s made a mess of her life; she’s disqualified.” God said, “no, I didn’t make a mistake; I choose people that other people don’t choose.” Rahab not only saved the spies, but that ended up saving her own life and family:

Joshua 6:25 (NIV)
25 But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho

here’s how amazing God is: Rahab married a Jewish man:

Matthew 1:5-6 (NLT)
5 Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab).
Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).
Obed was the father of Jesse.
6 Jesse was the father of King David

that means that Rahab, the former prostitute, is in the family line of Jesus Christ. God doesn’t choose the way people choose.  you may have made mistakes; you feel like you don’t count, you blew it. can I tell you; you’ve been counted by the Creator. He’s looking down from heaven right now, calling your name, saying. “I choose you. I want you to do something great. I have a destiny for you to fulfill. I want to make your life significant.” people may have written you off, but God has written you in. He’s already qualified you; now don’t disqualify yourself. get up every morning knowing that you’ve been counted by the One who matters most. God has the final say; He says, “you’re redeemed, forgiven, blessed, your best days are still out in front of you.” dreams are coming back to life, vision is being restored, hope is rising. you will become everything God created you to be, and have everything He intended for you to have.

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Covered by mercy

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all make mistakes in life, and do things that we know we shouldn’t do. it’s easy to live guilty, in regret, feeling like we’re all washed up. we can understand how God will bless us when we’re doing what’s right, making good choices; it’s easy to expect good things, believe for dreams to come to pass. but the beauty of mercy is that even when we make mistakes, go the wrong way, our performance is not perfect, God doesn’t say, “too bad, you had your chance, you’re on your own.” no, this is where mercy shows up; God will not only help bring you out of the trouble that you got yourself into, He’ll take it one step further and help clean up the mess you made. maybe a relationship, you knew you weren’t supposed to get in, you didn’t feel good about it, you heard the alarm going off, but you ignored it, now it’s a mess, causing you heartache and pain. or perhaps a job, you knew you weren’t supposed to take it, you didn’t feel good about it, you had that uneasiness on the inside, but you overrode it and did it anyway, now it’s a mess, you’re not fulfilled, not being treated right.

God doesn’t say, “I tried to tell you, maybe next time you’ll listen”; no, God is not holding that against you. He has you covered; His mercy is bigger than that mistake. His mercy will help, not only turn it around, but God will help clean it up and cause something good to come out of it. but if this is going to happen, you can’t go through life guilty, condemned, beating yourself up because of past mistakes; “I knew I shouldn’t have hung around those people, now I’ve got this addiction. I knew I should’ve stayed in college, I knew I should’ve been faithful in my relationship, what was I thinking?” no, it takes boldness to believe that God will bless you in spite of your mistakes. the accuser will tell you, “you can’t ask God to help you, you made the mess, you went the wrong way, you were on unfaithful, God’s not going to listen to you. who do you think you are?” answer back, “a child of the most high God: redeemed, forgiven, and covered by mercy.”

this is what Jonah did. God told him to go to the city of Nineveh and share the good news with the people, but Jonah didn’t want to go. he wanted to do his own thing; he went in the opposite direction. he got on a boat headed the wrong way.

Jonah 1:1-3 (NIV)
1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

they encountered a huge storm; everybody on board thought they were going to die.

Jonah 1:4-5 (NIV)
4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. 5 All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own God.

finally, Jonah admitted:

Jonah 1:12 (NIV)
12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

they didn’t say, “that’s ok Jonah, we’ll let it slide, we’ll forgive you.” no, they threw him overboard; they weren’t about to go down with him. Jonah thought he was done; it was his fault, he did exactly the opposite of what he knew he was supposed to do. he was treading water in the middle of the ocean: dark, in a storm, looked like it was over. he was getting exactly what he deserved. but God said, “Jonah, you can run the other way, but you can’t outrun my mercy; it’s from everlasting to everlasting. wherever you go, I’ve got you covered.” the Psalmist put it this way:

Psalm 36:5 (GW)
5 O Lord, your mercy reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.

you can never get away from God’s mercy. He’ll always be there waiting for you, calling your name, giving you another chance, ready to help, ready to clean up the mess you’ve made. He’s got you covered by His mercy. Jonah was feeling guilty, thinking that he was finished; the situation looked impossible, no way it was ever going to turn out good. but God has a way even when we don’t see a way. your situation may seem like it could never turn out right. you made the mess, now it’s complicated, other people are involved, the odds are against you; be encouraged, God already has the solution. He already knows, how to not just bring you out, but how to clean up the mess and bring you out better.

Jonah 1:17 (NIV)
17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

he’s in one sense glad that he’s still alive, thankful that he didn’t drown. in another sense, he’s thinking, “I wish I would’ve died. it stinks in here, I can’t see anything, I’m trapped, there’s no way out.” but sitting in the belly of that fish, thoughts telling him, “Jonah, you deserve it, it’s your own fault, too bad”; instead of listening to the accusing voices, scripture says:

Jonah 2:1 (NIV)
2 1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.

he didn’t say, “God, I am so undeserving, I’ve made such a mess, God just help me to survive.” No, he said:

Jonah 2:2 (NLT)
2 He said,
“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me.

that was a statement of faith. he was still in the fish, still in trouble, yet he’s declaring, “God has answered me.” he went on to say:

Jonah 2:5-9 (NLT)

5 “I sank beneath the waves, and death was very near… 6 … But you, O LORD my God, have snatched me from the yawning jaws of death! 7 “When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the LORD… 9 But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the LORD alone.”

notice how much of his prayer was in the past tense, like it had already happened. Jonah had this attitude, “God, I believe that You’ll not only rescue me, but You’ll help clean up this mess, bless me in spite of my mistakes, and I will still fulfill my destiny.” that takes boldness, to ask for God’s blessings in spite of what you’ve done wrong. most of the time, we just live guilty, condemned, we have no passion. but when you have the boldness to say, “God, I don’t deserve it, I went the wrong way, but God, I still believe You’ll bless me, I still believe You’ll show me favor, I still believe I can become who You created me to be.” when you do that, God doesn’t say, “who do you think you are? you know what you did wrong; you should be grateful to even be alive.” no, God will do for you what He did for Jonah; as soon as Jonah got through praying:

Jonah 2:10 (NIRV)
10 The Lord gave the fish a command. And it spit Jonah up onto dry land.

God controls the whole universe. God can cause whatever is holding you back right now, dysfunction, addiction, sickness, legal problem, God can cause it in a split second to set you free, to release its hold. God is in control, even of our enemies. Jonah came out of this fish, washed himself off, thrilled to be alive; he knew it was the mercy of God. that could’ve been the end of the story; that would be great, God rescued him, saved him from trouble. but God doesn’t want to just bring you out; if you’ll have the right attitude, shake off the guilt, get your passion back, God will give you another chance to get to where you’re supposed to be. that mistake did not disqualify you; you didn’t miss your destiny because you had a detour. the scripture says:

Jonah 3:1-2 (ESV)
3 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh

the same thing He said the first time. in other words, God didn’t say, “Jonah, I asked you to do this once, but boy, you about wore Me out. I had to get up off the throne, go find that fish. Jonah, you just sit on the sidelines, I’m going to find somebody else.” no, God will always give you another chance, and another chance, and another chance to fulfill the best plan that He has for your life. it’s not too late to become who God created you to be. if you will start where you are, honoring God, being your best, serving others, the right doors will open, the right people will show up. God knows how to make up for lost time; He can get you to where He wants you to be. the second time God asked, Jonah went to the city of Nineveh; he obeyed, and he saw God do amazing things. the point is, Jonah made a wrong turn, but that did not stop his destiny. God said, “Jonah, you had a detour, but that’s ok, I’ve got you covered; My mercy is bigger than that mistake. I still want you to go to Nineveh. I still want you to fulfill My best plan for your life.”

maybe like Jonah, you’ve made some mistakes, taken some wrong turns. it’s easy to sit on the sidelines of life, and think, “I can’t expect God to bless me, you don’t know what I’ve done: blew my marriage, got these addictions, failed in business, made a lot of poor choices.” no, you are no different than Jonah; you can either sit there on the beach, so to speak, and just be glad you’re alive, or you can rise up like he did, and say, “God I blew it, I don’t deserve it, but I know salvation and deliverance comes from You. Lord, I believe that You can turn this mess around, and still help me become who You created me to be.” if you’ll have an attitude like that, the word of the Lord will come to you a second time; God will give you another chance. you may be in the middle of a mess right now; it was your fault, no excuse, you don’t see anything good in your future. but be encouraged; God has you covered.

He’s saying to you what he said to Jonah; “I still want you to accomplish your dreams, I still want you to have a great marriage, I still want you to live happy, healthy, and whole. I still have a destiny for you to fulfill. we can all look back in life and see times where we made the mess, but God cleaned it up. we lost our temper and said some things that got us into trouble. we should’ve lost our job, but God showed us mercy, cleaned up the mess; we still have it today. or we were unfaithful in a relationship, we should’ve lost our marriage; we made the mess, but God showed us mercy and cleaned it up. today, we’re restored, with a healthy, happy family. a lot of times, when people see us blessed, enjoying life, they think it’s because we did everything right, we didn’t make any mistakes, but the truth is, there were times we made a wrong turn like Jonah, but God caused it to turn out right.

we took a wrong job, we got involved with the wrong people, we said the wrong things, but God caused it all to work together for our good. there were some mountains we knew we weren’t supposed to climb, but the opportunity looked so good, we did it anyway; we got halfway up and realized, “this is not what I thought it would be. I can thank God that He brought me off of mountains that I was never supposed to be on in the first place.” He could have left us there and said, “hey, learn your lesson, maybe next time.” no, the good news is, we’ve been covered by mercy. God is not holding that against us; if God only gave us what we deserved, none of us would fulfill our destiny. God doesn’t give us what we deserve; we deserve the consequences, we deserve judgment, but God gives us mercy. He knows how to make miracles out of our mistakes.

the accusing voices will tell you, “man, you are done. it was your fault, you knew not to do it in the first place, you pursued the wrong dream, now look at you, you’re over your head, you can’t make ends meet, just deal with it.” no, God is so merciful, He’ll take your wrong and make it right. it may have been your fault, you could easily live guilty, no, you’ve gotta shake that off; God’s mercy is bigger than that mistake. He knows how to make a miracle out of that mess. covered by mercy means, you’re not just covered as long as you do everything right; like Jonah, you’re covered even when you go the wrong way. even when we do dumb things, God still has us covered. if it’s not your time to go, you’re not going to go. nothing can snatch you out of God’s hand. you might as well quit fighting the call of God on your life; God is not going to leave you alone. wherever you go, He’s going to be there. the scripture says:

Romans 11:29 (NIV)
29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

that means you’re a marked wo/man; God wants you. you can try to ignore it, run, hide, party it away, drink it away; after all that, God’s going to still be there saying, “I want you to go to Nineveh. I’ve got something for you to do, a destiny for you to fulfill.” you have an assignment; somebody needs what you have. if you don’t step into who God’s made you to be, this world will not be as bright a place as it should have been; we’ll all miss out. when I say we’re “covered by mercy,” that doesn’t mean we can just live any way we want, be sloppy, compromise, take the easy way out; “you said God will clean it up.” no, when you really know God, when you have a relationship with his son Jesus, you want to do what’s right. you may make mistakes from time to time, but you’re not trying to see how much you can get away with and still feel good about yourself. deep down you have a desire to honor God, to be your best. scripture says:

Titus 3:5 (NIRV)
5 He saved us. It wasn’t because of the good things we had done. It was because of his mercy.

this is the key; His mercy is not based on our performance. if it was only dependent on us living a perfect life, never making a mistake, then none of us would be here. I wonder how many times God has saved us from dumb things that we’ve done. every morning, I start off the day by thanking God for His goodness, blessings and favor, my family, my friends, the opportunites He’s given me. then I’ll always follow it up by thanking Him for His mercy, for the times I didn’t make the best decision but He cleaned it up, the times I did something dumb, but He brought me out of the mess, the times He protected me that I knew nothing about; He kept a car from colliding with mine, kept my child from harm, saved me from pain and heartache. there are many things that we cannot see, but God is holding back the forces of darkness, keeping us from accidents and harm, moving the wrong people out of the way, causing things to work out to our advantage.  He’s got you covered with His mercy, and the beauty is, not just when we perform perfectly, not just when we measure up, but even when we blow it, even when we fail, even when we do like Jonah, and say, “God, leave me alone, let me do my own thing”; you’re still covered.

you may turn your back on God, but He’ll never turn His back on you. you may run the other way, but God will come running towards you. sometimes people say, “I’ve made so many mistakes, so many poor choices, I think I’ve missed my destiny.” I always tell them, “you’re not that powerful. you think your poor choices can stop what the Creator of the universe, the most high God, has ordained for you? you think that mistake is too much for the mercy of God? that somehow God is now confused, trying to figure out what to do with you next?” no, God knows the end from the beginning. nothing you’ve done has to keep you from becoming who God’s created that you to be. but you’ve got to do your part and get back in the game. start honoring God with your whole heart, and He’ll get you to where you’re supposed to be. God’s mercy is bigger than our poor choices. if it’s not your time to go, God can get you back on the right track. He’s got you covered with his mercy.

when God promised Abraham that he was going to have a baby, he and his wife Sarah were nearly 80 (NB: Abraham was 75, Sarah was 65), way too old to have a child. they waited and waited, believing that somehow it would happen, but year after year went by, and still no baby. Sarah got tired of waiting; talk about making the wrong choice, doing something dumb, she told Abraham to sleep with her maid, Hagar. they had a baby, Abraham and Hagar, that they named Ishmael, but this was not the promised child. this brought all kinds of dysfunction into their house. Sarah got mad at Abraham:

Genesis 16:4-6 (NIV)
4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”
6 “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

it was a big mess. God could have said, “Sarah, too bad, it’s your fault, you brought the trouble on yourself. you were impatient, you should’ve just waited.” but no, even though Sarah made a mistake, did something dumb, that did not cancel out the promise. in the natural, she was way too old, but one day God gave her a baby; she had Isaac, the promised child. they made a big mess of things, but God not only cleaned up the mess, He made a miracle out of their mistake. here’s how amazing God is; Hagar, the maid, she didn’t do anything wrong, but her whole world fell apart. she was living out in the desert with her son, who everyone called a mistake, he wasn’t the promised child. she didn’t know how she was going to survive. but God said, “Hagar, don’t worry, I’m going to take care of you.  and your son, who people think is a mistake, I’m going to bring out of him a great nation.”  God is so merciful, out of a great mess, He brought greatness. He was saying, “Hagar, I’m not going to let other people’s poor choices ruin your life.”

it’s one thing when we make the mess; we have to deal with it, we can understand that, we brought the trouble on ourselves. but when somebody else makes the mess, and it affects us, that doesn’t seen fair. Ishmael couldn’t choose who his parents would be, where he would be born. Hagar didn’t ask to have a baby with Abraham, she was just following orders, doing what she was told.  you may be in a mess today, and it was somebody else’s fault. they caused you to be at a disadvantage, but be encouraged. God is saying to you what he said to Hagar and Ishmael; other people’s mistakes are not going to ruin your life. they may have put you at a disadvantage, but know this; God has you covered.

He’s going to bring greatness of that great mess. nothing you’ve done has disqualified you. you may have made a poor choice like Sarah, but God is still going to bring the promise to pass. you may have taken a wrong turn like Jonah, but God is still going to cause it to turn out right. maybe somebody else’s choice has had a negative affect on you, but don’t worry, God’s going to turn it around and use it to your advantage. shake off the guilt. quit listing to the accusing voices. God has you covered with his mercy. if you’ll do this, God’s not only going to bring you out, He’s going to clean up your mess, make miracles out of your mistakes. you will still fulfill your destiny and become everything God’s created you to be.

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Despite the hideous shape of my life, in the past few months in particular, or perhaps BECAUSE of it, God had provided me with by far the best holiday season of my entire life. I had never seen so many people or had so many terrific events to go to. As New Year’s Eve approached, however, it was looking grim; everyone I knew was going to someone else’s party and was not available. Even the person whose husband had said that they ALWAYS have a Christmas Eve and a New Year’s Eve gathering did not have one this time. God was setting the stage for His biggest miracle yet.

Because of my terrible circumstances in recent months, I have taken some actions that I would NEVER have taken otherwise. One of them was to join a bunch of meetup.com groups, not really intending to get involved with them yet, more so that I could always see that there were events available for me at any time should I feel the need. The organizer of one of these groups decided to create a directory of contact information for all the members; this would be a great deal of work, and basically be a thankless task, so I have to wonder if God was nudging him. Normally, I would ignore something like this, doubly so in a situation where every single person in the directory would be a complete stranger. Something made me submit my info, though, and this qualified me to receive the directory. In addition, I had the urge to tell the organizer that there should be a field for where in the county people live, since most folks want to be able to get to know people who live somewhere near them. Although this man knew that I had never participated in the group, he took my suggestion and collected this information.

I live in a very small community in a very large county, so the chances of anyone being in my area were small, but despite that, and that not many other people responded, THREE other women in that directory were in my community, 1 of them just one street over from me!!!!!!! I exchanged a few 2-line emails with this latter woman, but had never even spoken to her on the phone much less met her in person.

Fast forward to the evening of December 30. The last person that I thought I had a chance of spending New Year’s Eve with had finally let me know that she was going to be at someone else’s party. It was a dark moment, but I was still telling people that God could still pull a rabbit out of the hat at the last minute, the way he did for Christmas Day. I mentioned to this woman that I would be alone on New Year’s Eve, and she responded by inviting me to go with her and her daughter to a party at her CHURCH!!!!!!! Think about that for a minute; would you invite someone you never met, who you did not even know if they were Christian or not, to go with you and your child to a party at your church, ANY party, much less one with the stated intention of “praying in the New Year”? If all that had happened was that I had a nice time with nice people on New Year’s Eve rather than being alone, that would’ve been miracle enough, but God always does more than we can ask or imagine:

This church turned out to be a small one, and they are very intense in their worship. During the party, we spent most of the time listening to several different sermons, and then walking around for 10-15 minutes at a time praying out loud together. Think again about the woman who invited me: if this was how YOUR church worshiped, first of all, would you bring a complete stranger into the middle of it, when you didn’t know how or IF they would fit in, and secondly, would you have so little concern for how that person might feel if, as would be the case with most folks, they were not comfortable with spending all those hours listening to sermons and walking around praying?

Fortunately for everybody, especially for ME, this kind of intense and protracted praying is right up my alley. And then it got BETTER. They put two chairs in the middle of the floor, and asked us all to cluster around to pray for people; 2 different pairs of people sat in those chairs, and while we were all praying out loud for them, for easily 10 minutes each time, I felt a strong PHYSICAL presence of God all around me!!!!!!!!!!! I had never prayed with other people beyond a mealtime grace before, and never experienced anything like this physical sensation. I can’t even explain what a powerful and important moment that was for me.

I promised God before the party that if anyone there invited me to do anything with the church, I would say yes. A lady that ate dinner at my table did in fact invite me to several different kinds of activities, including of course the weekly services, and once we get our communications sorted out, I’m going to jump from never having been to church to full-on participation with this small but intense congregation. I’ve been saying for a long time that when God wanted me to get involved with a church, He would let me know, and THIS WAS IT. He also selected the church for me as a bonus. But wait, there’s MORE: during one of the times when we were walking around and praying, I saw a woman approach one of the pastors and speak to him, and then they went together to the microphone, he turned it on, handed it to her, and she started… essentially preaching. Most of you know that it is my eventual goal to be a pastor, and it looks like this is the sort of church where, once they get to know me, I will get my chance to start preaching!! INCREDIBLE!!

Now here’s the really, really, REALLY important point of this story: NONE of this would’ve happened, none of it would’ve even been POSSIBLE, without the total devastation of my life that has taken place over the past few years. If I had not lost my mother, AND what was supposed to have been my inner circle of close friends, I would never have reached the point of having nothing to do and no one to be with on New Year’s Eve, much less of emailing total strangers from a meetup.com group that I’d never even participated in, much less going with a total stranger to spend New Year’s Eve with a bunch of other total strangers. As most folks do, if I had had all my “people” around me, that would have always been sufficient for me, and I would never have looked for anything else, much less given up a big holiday party to go be with a bunch of strangers even if I had somehow met one of them to get invited by in the first place. If I had had even ONE of these people still available to me, that would have prevented me from taking this gargantuan and totally necessary step into the next level of my religious life… of my LIFE.

After 4 years of enduring loss after loss, and becoming an object of dismay and pity to everyone who knows me, as we kept thinking that my life couldn’t possibly get worse and then it DID, it’s now clear that this has all been necessary in order for me to get started on my life of serving God as part of a church.

No matter what you’re going through, no matter how much pain you’ve been suffering, no matter how long it drags on with no end in sight, no hint of when or how things will ever get better, don’t EVER let your faith waver, because just when things seem darkest, when you least expect it, God will show up and catapult you out of the valley and right up onto the mountaintop. He did it for me, and He’ll do it for you.

2015 is going to be the year of reconstruction and restoration. After my years of radical faith, my radical blessings have arrived!!

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