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Archive for June 1st, 2015

from JO’s sermon tonight:

in the scripture, there’s a place called the threshing floor;  that’s where the wheat was separated from the chaff. back in those days, they didn’t have machinery, so they would lay sheaves of wheat on the ground, and have their oxen and cattle walk over them repeatedly;  they would break up the husk and straw. the valuable part of the plant, the grain that was used for bread and meal, would come loose from the chaff.  the farmer could have a great harvest, but if he didn’t separate the dysfunctional part of the plant from the functional, he would never make a living. even though he had something very valuable, if it didn’t go through this process, it wouldn’t do him any good.

in the same way, to reach our highest potential, God will take us through some threshing floors.  we start off like that stalk of wheat; the potential is there, we have seeds of greatness, we’re valuable, but the problem is, we all have some chaff.  along with the valuable grain, we may have some pride, selfishness or insecurities. unless God took us through the threshing floor, we’d never become what He created us to be.  God has to separate the dysfunctional part of us, the part that’s holding us back, from the valuable part.  if the wheat could talk, it would say, “I don’t want to go through the threshing floor. I don’t want animals walking on me; that’s uncomfortable, painful. leave me alone.” but the farmer knows, without the separation, the grain would never be useful. sometimes we think, “why am I stuck in traffic again? why won’t this person give me credit?  why did this friend walk away?” we don’t realize; we’re on the threshing floor.

what we think is a bad break, a disappointment, we don’t like it, we’re uncomfortable, but God is the one that ordained it.  instead of fighting it, if you’ll stay in peace, then you’re being refined; what’s holding you back is coming off.  like that wheat, you’re becoming more valuable.  that person at work that always gets on your nerves, always tries to make you look bad, as long as you let that frustrate you, ruin your day, you’re going to get stuck.  but when you recognize, “I’m on the threshing floor;  this is an opportunity to come up higher. I’m being refined, so I’m going to stay in peace, let God fight my battles.” when you have that approach, even if the situation doesn’t change, you will change; you’re getting better. the scripture says:  “our faith is tried in the fire of affliction.”

(not quite, but close:

1 Peter 1:6-7 (MEV)
6 … you have had to suffer various trials, 7 in order that the genuineness of your faith, which is more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tried by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ )

we can’t pray away every difficulty.  there will be things that happen that you don’t understand: you went through a loss, a friend let you down, you didn’t get the promotion. recognize; you’re on the threshing floor.  even though it’s uncomfortable, if you’ll keep the right attitude, you’ll come out refined, more valuable, separated from what’s holding you back.  maybe you’re on the threshing floor today, fighting something you don’t like. why don’t you have a new perspective;  God wouldn’t have you there unless you needed it.  it may not be good, but God knows how to use it for your good. instead of living frustrated, sour, bitter, have the attitude; “I may not like this, but I know I’m on the threshing floor.  I’m being refined, I’m getting better, I’m coming up higher.”  God knows how to put you where you’re supposed to be.  if He has you there, don’t fight it; embrace it, stay in peace. if we would work with God, and let the situation change us, instead of trying to change everything we don’t like, we wouldn’t have to keep taking the same test. God will deliberately put us in situations so we can come up higher.  the right approach is, “if God has me here, I must need it. I’m going to keep a good attitude, knowing that I’m coming out refined, I’m coming out more valuable.”

in the scripture, the three Hebrew teenagers:

Daniel 3:12-27 (NIV)
12 … Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.” … 19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego… 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace… 25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”…  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire… They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed

the only thing that was burned in the fire was the cords that were holding them back.  the fire didn’t stop them, the fire separated them from their limitations.  it was meant to destroy them, but in fact it made them better; they came out with a new conference, with a greater trust in God, not in the fire, but on fire.  just like with them, when you find yourself in the fire, you can stay in peace, knowing that God is not going to harm anything that you need.  that difficulty is not going to leave you broken, scarred, defeated;  all it’s going to do is burn off any limitations that are holding you back.  it’s going to separate anything that’s not God’s best;  you’re going to come out prepared, ready for the next level.

in the scripture, we see this principle; all the great heroes of faith went through their threshing floor experiences.  remember Peter? he was hot-tempered, used bad language. he told Jesus:

Mark 14:31 (NLT)
31 “No!” Peter declared emphatically. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!”

but when he was put on the threshing floor, in the heat of the moment:

Mark 14:66-72 (NLT)
66 Meanwhile, Peter was in the courtyard below. One of the servant girls who worked for the high priest came by 67 and noticed Peter warming himself at the fire. She looked at him closely and said, “You were one of those with Jesus of Nazareth.”

68 But Peter denied it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, and he went out into the entryway. Just then, a rooster crowed.

69 When the servant girl saw him standing there, she began telling the others, “This man is definitely one of them!” 70 But Peter denied it again.

A little later some of the other bystanders confronted Peter and said, “You must be one of them, because you are a Galilean.”

71 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed the second time.

Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he broke down and wept.

when you’re under pressure, you find out what’s really on the inside. that’s when impurities in our character come to light.  if you’ll work with God and let Him refine you, you’ll come out better.  this is what happened with Peter; he didn’t stay there. one day he ministered, and 3000 people came to know the Lord, the most in the scripture:

Acts 2:41 (NLT)
41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.

he was so powerful that his shadow caused people to get healed:

Acts 5:15 (NIV)
15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by.

Moses as a young man knew he was supposed to deliver God’s people. the dream was in his heart, but he got out of God’s timing, tried to do it in his own strength. he ended up killing a man, and had to flee for his life. he spent 40 years on the backside of the desert.  it looked like that one mistake ruined his destiny, but God never writes us off; he was on the threshing floor, being refined.  when he was 80 years old, the scripture says:

Numbers 12:3 (NIV)
3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)

God was saying, “Moses, I haven’t forgotten about you. that threshing floor experience;  you may not have liked it, it may have been uncomfortable, but the good news is, it prepared you for the fullness of your destiny.” Moses went on to bring the Israelites out of slavery, lead them toward the promised land.  it would’ve never happened without the threshing floor.

Judges 6 tells about a time when:

Judges 6:3-4 (NIV)
3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel

God raised up a man by the name of Gideon to do something about it.  the problem was that Gideon was insecure; he didn’t think he could do anything great.  as long as he felt inferior, he would never reach his destiny. God didn’t say, “Gideon, too bad, I had something amazing in your future, but you have all these things holding you back, I can’t use you.” no, God never leaves us where we are.  this is what the threshing floor is all about;  God puts us in situations to separate what’s limiting us. God told Gideon:

Judges 6:14-15 (NIV)
14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

it’s significant where Gideon was when he said this;  he was hiding in a threshing floor.

(sort of:

Judges 6:11 (NIV)
11 … Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.

in ancient Israel, a winepress was normally located inside a small building, and squeezing the juice out of grapes could be seen as a threshing process, so the concept is correct even if it wasn’t technically a threshing floor, which is for grain.)

he felt weak, inferior, less than; God answered him back, and said:

Judges 6:16 (NIV)
16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

when He first spoke to Gideon, He called him:

Judges 6:12 (ESV)
12 … O mighty man of valor

I can imagine, hiding there, something came all over him.  he thought to himself, “you know what, I’m not weak, defeated, I’m a child of the most high God.”  suddenly, fear left him, intimidation was gone; the threshing floor will separate what’s limiting you.  on the threshing floor, God will stir your gifts; you’ll hear Him speaking faith and victory over your life.

Gideon would’ve been satisfied to stay there hiding, just have enough to survive.  God said, “Gideon, this is not your destiny. you are not going to let the enemy steal your harvest the rest of your life; rise up and go do something about it.”  the threshing floor was never meant to be permanent. God is saying to us what he said to Gideon, “you’ve been on that threshing floor long enough; it’s time to go get what belongs to you.”  that means shake off the disappointments, low expectations, what people told you you can’t do.  people don’t determine your destiny, God does.  there is a great harvest in front of you; it has your name on it.

don’t let the enemy keep taking what belongs to you.  you are a mighty wo/man of valor.  like Gideon, you’ve been equipped, empowered, anointed;  you are well able to accomplish your assignment.  but all of us will go through these threshing floor experiences. it’s not because God has forgotten about you, is punishing you, is done with you, it’s just the opposite;  the reason you’re facing the difficulty is because God is getting you prepared.  He knows what you’re capable of, so He’s separating what’s holding you back.  you’re about to see new growth, opportunities, friendships. you’re going to come out refined, polished, stronger, matured.  you’re going to have a greater trust, confidence in God.  don’t complain about how big the obstacles are, what somebody did to you; that threshing floor is not defeating you, it’s promoting you.

the ark of the covenant was a large box where God’s presence was back in those days; it had been gone for a long time.  David had a desire to bring it back to Jerusalem:

1 Chronicles 13:3 (NIV)
3 Let us bring the ark of our God back to us

he had his men build a special cart, and very carefully they placed the ark of the covenant on this cart. they headed towards their destination, very excited; the ark was finally coming back home.  everything was going great, until:

1 Chronicles 13:9-10 (NIV)
9 When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled. 10 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he had put his hand on the ark. So he died there before God.

David was so upset, so distraught, that he wouldn’t go any further.  he couldn’t understand how he could be doing the right thing, yet God took the life of one of his friends. he gave up on his mission:

1 Chronicles 13:13 (NIV)
13 He did not take the ark to be with him in the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite.

what David didn’t realize was that that setback was divinely orchestrated.  the scripture says:

1 Chronicles 13:9 (NIV)
9 When they came to the threshing floor of Kidon, Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark, because the oxen stumbled.

David just saw it as a bad break, but God was directing his steps.  at the threshing floor, just as wheat is separated from chaff, God was going to use that situation to refine David.  sometimes, we’re going along, and everything’s great;  life is good.  but we hit a bump in the road; lose a loved one, relationship doesn’t work out, business goes down. we don’t understand what happened.  but just like with David, those bumps in the road are not random; they happen at a threshing floor. when you come out, you’re not going to be the same, you’re going to be refined, with less chaff, and more wheat. if you look back over your life, the times you really grew, came up higher, developed more confidence, weren’t the good times, when everything was going your way, it was the times you hit a bump in the road.  you couldn’t see it at the time, but you were at a threshing floor. God used that to refine you; you came out better.

for three months, David was depressed, sitting by the side of the road; “God, it didn’t work out. I never dreamed I’d lose somebody along the way.”  but the threshing floor is a place where things die, so something new can be born.  that difficulty is not the end; the divorce, the loss, the child that broke your heart, is not how your story concludes.  something may have died in your life: a friendship, goal, dream.  the only reason it died was to give birth to the new things God wants to do. sometimes, you have to lose something to gain something better. God has to close a door before He’ll open a bigger door.

the threshing floor is not only a place of separation, it’s a place of preparation.  if David would’ve taken the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem the first time, before the bump in the road, he would have had no place to put it; a lot of people could’ve been hurt.

1 Chronicles 15:1 (NIV)
15 After David had constructed buildings for himself in the City of David, he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it.

when you hit a bump in the road, God is not only separating what’s holding you back, but He’s preparing you for what’s in your future. some of the things God has in store, if He took you right now, you couldn’t handle it. He’s growing you up.  He’s maturing you, teaching you to trust, so when it’s your time to step up, you’ll be ready to go.

David thought it was over. for three months, he had been weeping, upset, never thought he could accomplish his assignment. one day, he looked out, and saw the house where the ark of the covenant had been staying. those people were so blessed, prosperous, full of God’s favor; something rose up in him, a new fire, a new passion.  he said, “God, I’ve changed my mind; I’m going to get back in the game and do what You called me to do.”

maybe you’ve hit a bump in the road, and it’s knocked the wind out of you. you don’t think, like David, that you could accomplish your dreams, your assignment. that threshing floor is not defeating you, it’s preparing you.  you may have lost something, but you to need to get ready; you’re about to gain something a whole lot better. God is getting you prepared for something amazing.  get your fire back.  get your passion back.

Proverbs 24:16 (VOICE)
16 For a good man may fall seven times and get back up again

you may have fallen, but it’s time to get back up.  you’re prepared, qualified, refined.  what God started in your life, He’s going to finish.

this is what David did.  scripture talks about:

1 Chronicles 15:25 (WYC)
25 … David, and the men of great age, that is, the elders, of Israel, and the tribunes, went with great gladness to bring back the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord from the house of Obededom

a few weeks earlier, he didn’t think he’d ever smile again; now he’s full of joy, singing and dancing, seeing a dream come to pass. when we hit bumps in the road, the enemy always whispers, “you’ve seen your best days. it’s all downhill from here.  you’ve just been through too much.” don’t believe those lies; what you lost was to give birth to the new thing that God wants to do. even when you lose a loved one, don’t sit around discouraged the rest of your life; that loss is not a surprise to God.  the way that you honor their memory is to go out and do something great.  if your loved one was here, they’d tell you; “get back in the game.  dream a new dream. move forward with your life.”  there are times that you have to lose something so you can gain something to go to the next level.

of course, we don’t want to go through that disappointment, that setback, but you have to trust that God knows what He’s doing.  God will never take something away without giving you something better back in return. at the time, you may not be able to see it, but if you’ll stay in faith, and not let the disappointment, the loss, sour your life, then like David, you’ll come out prepared, qualified, ready for the next level. sometimes, God will take you through a season of being alone;  that’s a time where you can draw closer to God.  when you’d normally give energy and affection to another person, you turn it toward God.  without that aloneness, you would never have the depth, the consecration, the character. don’t fight a season of isolation; if you’ll embrace it, you’ll discover something that otherwise you could never have.

Jesus put it this way:

John 15:1-2 (NIV)
15 …my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit

God will take things out of our lives that are not good for us, we’re not moving forward:  He’ll take away a branch of impatience, a branch of insecurity. He’ll move a person that’s holding us back. that makes sense. but then he said:

John 15:2 (NIV)
2 … every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

this is saying; at times, we’re all going to experience being cut back.  sometimes, it doesn’t make sense;  “God, I was doing so good;  why did I lose that main client?  why did my friend walk away?  why did my child break my heart?”  we’re doing the right thing;  the wrong thing happens.  we tend to focus on the cutback, the loss, the disappointment, but the only reason God cuts us back is so we can bear much fruit, so we can rise higher.  God is the master gardener;  He will never cut something back, remove it, take it away, unless it’s the perfect time.  sometimes we think, “God, you messed me up; why did You take away my dad, cut back my business?”  God knows what He’s doing; the only reason He cut you back is so that you can bear much fruit.  if He had not cut you back, you would’ve been satisfied to stay where you were. 

God doesn’t want you to get stuck; He has new levels. on a regular basis, we’re going to see this pruning. in the uncomfortable times, in those tough times, you have to remind yourself; you are being pruned so you can bloom, so you can blossom, so you can see new growth. we’re all going to have these bumps in the road, these threshing floor experiences; the separation may be uncomfortable, but it’s making you better, getting you prepared. you may have lost something, but you need to get ready; you’re about to gain something a whole lot better. you’re going to come through every adversity, less chaff, more wheat; refined, purified, stronger, ready for the fullness of your destiny.

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