Archive for September, 2015

Being real

from JO’s sermon tonight:

it’s easy to go through life wearing different masks. instead of dealing with the issues that we know are holding us back, too often we keep them covered up, pretending that everything is ok. we’re more concerned about the outside, what people are going to think, our image, than we are about the inside. it takes a lot of work to deal with the inner issues: character, motives, attitude, behaviors, things that we know are not right. it’s much easier to put on a mask and pretend. some people have a mask for every situation; they’re professional pretenders. they have a mask for work, a mask for home, a mask for this friend, even a mask for church. they come in on Sundays, they’re not speaking to their spouse, mad at their neighbor, can’t pay their bills, the greeter asks how they’re doing; “blessed and highly favored, couldn’t get any better.” and I’m all for having an attitude of victory, not being controlled by circumstances, but in order to get well, you have to get real; you have to take that mask off, get honest with yourself, and say, “ok, I have some things to deal with, this is not normal.” when you get down to the real you, not the pretend you, that’s when God can turn things around.

but it’s tempting to go around wearing different masks. we don’t want people to think less of us, so we hide behind that mask of pride;  “I don’t have any issues, I don’t need any help.” God will not bless who you pretend to be; God blesses people who are real.  not people who are perfect, don’t have any issues, but people who are honest enough to say, “God, I have this bad habit; I need your help. I’m taking off the mask that everything is ok.” “God, I’m struggling with my temper; I made a mistake, I blew it. God, I need your forgiveness.” when you’re honest, you open the door for God to come in and begin to change things. but as long as we’re pretending, not dealing with the real issues, it’s not going to improve. 

this is what happened with the Pharisees, in the scripture. they were the religious leaders; they did the right thing, but they didn’t get a reward because they did it for the wrong reason.  they went to the temple each week, like they were supposed to, but they didn’t go to worship, they went to be seen, be well thought of, impress people.  they would pray these long, fancy prayers out loud, not because they were sincere;  they wanted everybody to hear them.  they gave their money, supported the poor, but it was only to make them look good. they were doing the right thing, but they had wrong motives;  they were wearing masks. here’s the key:  your inner life is more important than your outer life.  it’s easy to put on masks and disguise what’s going on on the inside. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:8 (KJV)

8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God

on a regular basis, we should ask ourselves, “why am I doing this? why am I being nice to this person?  is it because I like them, and I want to help them, or do I want something from them? am I trying to impress them? why am I working 80 hours a week, because I need the funds, or am I trying to prove to people that I’m successful, trying to gain my self-worth by what I do? I’ve been volunteering in the nursery for six years;  nobody’s told me thank-you, nobody’s given me any credit.” somebody should thank you, but the bigger issue is, are you doing it for the applause, for the credit, or are you doing it to be pleasing unto God? you’ve got to pull that mask back and examine your inner life. don’t go like the pharisees, year after year, doing the right thing, giving, serving, helping others, but not receiving a reward because you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

facing truth about ourselves can be uncomfortable.  it’s hard to admit, “maybe I didn’t have the right motives. maybe I am playing up to this coworker so they’ll put in a good word for me.  maybe I am smiling on the outside, telling my friends, “congratulations on your big promotion”;  on the inside, I’m thinking, “you didn’t deserve it, that depresses me, you’re just lucky.”” you’ve got to pull that mask back.  if you’ll look inside and get honest, you can overcome the things that will hold you back. I know people that are very talented, they work hard, they’re doing the right thing, but they can’t seem to get ahead;  it’s because there’s a problem on the inside. they’re not addressing the hidden issues: motives, character, pride, jealousy, things like that. Paul said:

2 Corinthians 4:2 (MSG)

2 … We refuse to wear masks and play games… we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display

that’s the kind of people we should be; our life is an open book.  we’re not wearing any masks, thinking one thing and saying something else. our motives are pure. we’re not perfect, but we’re dealing with the issues;  not pretending, not disguising it.  we’re real. when you live like that, open and honest, God will make you and mold you into a vessel of honor, used for His highest purposes. He’ll take you further than you ever imagined.

 in the parable of the prodigal son:

Luke 15:12-16 (ESV)

12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

that could’ve been the end of the story; “too bad, he brought the trouble on himself. he missed his destiny.” but the scripture says:

Luke 15:17 (ESV)

17 “But when he came to himself

that means, when he took off the mask, when he quit pretending, making excuses; in other words, when he got real. he said:

Luke 15:17-18 (ESV)

17 … he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father

when his father saw him:

Luke 15:20-24 (ESV)

20 … while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him… 22 But the father said to his servants… 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

the father represents God. He saw him coming a long way off; that means he was looking for him.  when you take your mask off, God will come running towards you.  when you get honest, to say, “God, I need help with this addiction. I need help with this anger, this temper. God, I made a mess of things. I need help in my marriage,” God won’t say, “I’m not going to help you. you made the mess”; just the opposite, He’ll come running. when you’re humble enough to say, “God, I’ve come to the end of myself. I can’t break this addiction in my own strength, I can’t straighten up my life just in my ability,” when you acknowledge that you need God’s help, He’ll  make things happen that you could never make happen. 

are you wearing any masks today? hiding behind a mask of pride, not wanting to ask for help, too embarrassed to admit that something is wrong? God is not going to fault you for where you are. He knew every mistake we would make before we ever made it. He knows our flaws, weaknesses, failures. you don’t have to pretend; you can be honest. like the prodigal, when you go to God, you take off that mask; that’s when you’ll see things begin to turn around.

this is what David did. you remember, he made a pretty major mistake; he committed adultery with Bathsheba. he tried to cover it up; it only made matters worse. he sent her husband out to the front lines of the battlefield; he was killed. now that her husband was gone, he took Bathsheba as his wife. David acted like nothing was wrong, life is good, no big deal; he was wearing a mask. only he and Bathsheba knew anything about it. David tried to ignore it, go about his business, but the problem is, when you’re wearing masks, you step out of God’s favor, protection, blessing. for one year, David was miserable: sick, weak, all kinds of things came against him. normally, he could overcome them; he had defeated Goliath, survived Saul chasing him through the desert, he’d overtaken great armies, but now the tables had turned.  deep down, David knew what the problem was. he was smart enough to get honest with himself; he took off the mask.

Psalm 51:3 (NKJV)

3 For I acknowledge my transgressions

“I’m not covering it up anymore; I admit that I’ve done wrong.” the first step to recovery is, you have to accept responsibility; you have to own it. you can’t overcome what you won’t admit to.  it’s easy to go around hiding things, hiding addiction, failure, an area that you struggle in. like David, what you hide, all that’s going to do is eat away at you on the inside; it’s like poison. it’s much better to be real, and go to God and say, “I acknowledge that I made this mistake, that I’m still struggling this area.” David went on to say:

Psalm 51:6 (NKJV)

6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts 

he was saying, “God, you require us to be real, to take off the mask.” you can’t pretend and have God’s blessing at the same time.  if you’re covering the issues, not dealing with them, it’s not going to magically go away.  but there is a way out; God is not holding your faults and mistakes against you. He has mercy, forgiveness, new beginnings. but you have to do your part; take off the mask. quit pretending, and go to God and be real.  He already knows what you’re dealing with; it’s not a surprise to God. when you ask for His help, forgiveness, mercy, that’s when He’ll begin to restore you, and put you back on the right path. this is what David did; he said:

Psalm 51:10-12 (ESV)

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God… 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation

he got it out in the open, asked for forgiveness. God forgave him, restored him; he went on to do great things. God will do the same thing for you.  not only did David take off the mask of pretending everything was perfect when it wasn’t, under that mask was a mask of shame; “I can’t believe I did this. what was I thinking about? I’ll never become who I was created to be.” the mask of shame can keep you from your destiny. voices will constantly whisper, “you can’t take this mask off; you’re paying God back for your mistakes. you’re showing Him that you’re sorry. you should live guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, unworthy; look what you’ve done.” the price has already been paid; you don’t have to pay God back, you don’t have to live guilty and condemned.  God has mercy for every mistake you’ve ever made. He didn’t disqualify you; He can still get you to where you’re supposed to be. take off the mask of shame.  sometimes, we’re more concerned about what people are going to think than we are about what God thinks.  the scripture says:

James 5:16 (KJV)

16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed

but if you keep hiding things, ignoring it, covering it up, it’s not going to go away; you have to take off the mask.  “what are people going to think if they find out I’m dealing with this issue? what if my coworkers learn that I’m struggling in this area?” everybody is struggling with something.  there are no perfect people. don’t be embarrassed by it. the enemy would love for you to go your whole life wearing masks, pretending, not dealing with the real issues. there is a freedom when you take that mask off, and you get real.  Paul said:

2 Corinthians 3:18 (MEV)

18 But we all, seeing the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces

as long as your face is veiled, as long as you’re wearing that mask, you won’t see God’s glory.  if you’re wearing the mask of perfection, pretending everything is ok when it’s not, or wearing the mask of pride, not wanting to ask for help, that’s going to keep you from God’s best. I’m asking you to take off the mask; you don’t have to pretend. when you’re real, you’ll see God’s favor. when there’s truth on the inside, you’ll see things begin to turn around. 

2 Corinthians 3:18 (KJV)

18 … changed into the same image from glory to glory

notice, God doesn’t change us from shame to glory; if you’re wearing the mask of shame, you’re going to get stuck. you’ve got to take that mask off.  He doesn’t change us from pride to glory, but from glory to glory.  when you’re not wearing any masks, you have God’s glory on your life. when you’re open and honest, that’s when God can change you, and take you to the next level of your destiny.  but maybe you’ve been wearing a mask for a long time; you have some issues you’re not proud of, you don’t want anybody to know. the easy thing is to keep covering it, pretending everything is ok, but the problem with wearing a mask your whole life is, you will miss your destiny. God will not bless who you pretend to be, but He will bless who you are, faults and all, when you’re real. an unveiled face doesn’t mean that we’re perfect, we’re not struggling in any area, it simply means we’re an open book; we’re not pretending, we’re real.

there was a man in the scripture named Zacchaeus;  he was a tax collector. they were known for being dishonest, for cheating people; they were looked down on, despised, nobody liked them. Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector; that means he was in charge of all of the dishonest people.  you can imagine how disliked he was.  one day, he heard that Jesus was coming through his city:

Luke 19:1-3 (NIV)

19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd.

but being at a disadvantage had never stopped him before;  he knew how to manipulate things and get his way.  

Luke 19:4 (NIV)

4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

eventually, he had the best seat of anyone. Zacchaeus was not only short physically, but symbolically; you can say he came up short. he wasn’t making good decisions in life; he was a fraud. he’d made his living by deceiving people.  now, he was up in this tree; he looked good up there, impressive. once again, he had positioned himself for an advantage. people may not have liked him, but they couldn’t argue; he had the best seat around.  his whole life, he had pushed others down to get what he wanted; he didn’t care about people, he cared about position, about “what’s in it for me?” he was an expert at getting the upper hand. finally, the big moment arrived; Jesus came passing through the city. there were hundreds, maybe thousands of people there, everybody screaming, waving, trying to get his attention. about that time, out of all the people there, Jesus stopped, looked up in the tree, and said:

Luke 19:5 (NIV)

5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

they had never met before, but Jesus called him by name. isn’t it interesting that Jesus knew the main sinner in the crowd? this shows us the heart of God. you may think that God would never have anything to do with you; you’ve made too many mistakes, you have too much negative baggage, too many hangups.  no, just like with Zacchaeus, God is calling your name; he has a destiny for you to fulfill, an assignment for you to accomplish.  God will pass over all the people that have it together, to find that one person that’s struggling. that’s why you’re here today, that’s why you’re listening; it’s not by accident, God is calling your name.  God looks beyond the failures, mistakes, masks, what we pretend to be; God knows who you really are.  He’s the one Who breathed life into you. He put seeds of greatness on the inside.  He sees your potential, what you’re capable of. no matter what you’ve done in the past, God has not written you off; He can still get you to your destiny. 

Zacchaeus was shocked. he scratched his head, thinking, “how does this man know my name? I’m not a religious person, I haven’t lived an upstanding life;  I’m a fraud, I made a living cheating people. yeah, I look impressive, important, up here, but I know this is not who I am.”  he’d worn that mask for so long, for so many years, that he’d convinced himself that’s who he was. when Jesus called his name, he felt a conviction; something down in here said, “this is not who you are ;  you’re better than this.” what was happening? the mask was being exposed. God knows who you really are, not who you pretend to be. there will be times when, like with Zacchaeus, you’ll feel conviction; down in here, you’ll know, “this is not who I am. this anger, addiction, compromise, mediocrity; I’ve been covering it up for years, but it’s a mask, it’ not the true me.” Zacchaeus had to make a decision;  was he going to get honest with himself, and be willing to make changes, or was he going to keep pretending? Jesus looked up:

Luke 19:5 (NIV)

5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

Jesus was saying, “I want to turn your life around. I want to set you on a new path, but as long as you’re up there in the tree, trying to look impressive, covering the real issues, pretending everything is ok, I can’t do anything. but if you’ll come down to the ground, get real, quit hiding the areas where you come up short, making excuses, if you’ll come down, then I’ll come in.  if you’ll take off the mask, I’ll change areas that you could never change, help you break the addiction, make better choices, live confident and secure.” 

maybe like Zacchaeus, because of your shortcomings, failures, weaknesses, you’ve climbed up into that tree, so to speak. you’ve worked hard to gain an advantage, look impressive, not let anybody see your weaknesses. the easy thing to do is stay up in the tree; it’s safe, you don’t have to deal with anything, you can keep pretending. but you have to come to that point where you say, “I’m tired of pretending. I’m tired of wearing these masks. I’ve covered it up for years, I thought I had to, but now I realize, like Zacchaeus, I have to come to down, get real.”  God already knows what you’re struggling with.  you don’t have to cover up your inadequacies, failures; come down out of that tree.

the people who get the help are the people who are real, who are honest enough to say, “I don’t have it all together. I keep coming up short. God, I keep giving in to this temptation. I’m struggling in my marriage, dealing with this discouragement, but God, I’m not going to go around wearing any more masks; I know when my face is unveiled, I’ll see Your glory, that’s when You’ll change me, make me and mold me.” when there’s truth on the inside, God will change areas that you could not change before. He’ll make things happen that you had not been able to make happen.

Zacchaeus came down from the tree, finally. he took the mask off, quit making excuses, admitted that he’d done wrong:

Luke 19:8 (NIV)

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

he didn’t say, “Jesus, I don’t have a good reputation, these people don’t like me, but really, I’m a good person.” no, he accepted responsibility; he owned it. he said, in effect, “I’ve cheated, I’ve been dishonest, but I’m ready to change.”  Jesus looked at him and said:

Luke 19:9 (NIRV)

9 Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to your house

if you will be bold enough to come down out of that tree, be open and honest, you will see God’s favor in a new way. the pure in heart will be blessed. are you wearing any masks today? a mask of pride, shame, trying to impress people, trying to be cool? as long as you’re pretending, covering the real issues, it’s going to cause you to get stuck. on a regular basis, examine your inner life;  make sure your motives are pure, that you’re doing things for the right reason. if you’ll make this decision with me that you’re going to be real, like with Zacchaeus, salvation is coming to your house today; that means freedom, breakthroughs, deliverance, healing, the fullness your destiny.

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The secret place

from JO’s sermon tonight:

in the Old Testament, there was something called the holy of holies; that was the inner part of the temple where the presence of God was. it was a restricted area, very protected; no one could go in there except the priest, and only with them certain times a year. they had to take the right sacrifices, be extremely careful; they knew if everything wasn’t in order, they didn’t treat it with the utmost respect and honor, they would be killed. it was a very serious thing, so they went to great lengths to guard it, and to keep the wrong things out. in the same way, every one of us should have a holy of holies; not a physical place, but down in you, there should be a secret place, an inner sanctuary where you don’t allow everything in.  any worry, offense, bitterness, trouble, turmoil, that may be happening on the outside, but you guard your secret place; you don’t let it into your inner sanctuary. your secret place should be a place of peace, of rest, of faith, where you know God is in control. but if you make the mistake of letting everything in, constantly dwelling on your difficulties, living worried, upset, offended, the problem is, your secret place will become contaminated. this is where you live out of, it’s the core of who you are. Proverbs says:

Proverbs 4:23 (JUB)

23 Above all else, guard thy heart; for out of it flows the issues of life

this is saying, above everything, protect your secret place.  if you’re allowing everything in, what they said, what didn’t work out, the disappointment, the hurt, the pain, the stress, the traffic, then because your secret place is poisoned, it will impact everything about you:  your attitude, relationships, joy, vision. out of your secret place flow the issues of life. and we all have negative things come against us, we can’t get away from that, but don’t bring it close to you; quit giving it so much attention. reliving the hurt, thinking about the offense, dwelling on the disappointment; that doesn’t belong in your inner sanctuary. this is a very hallowed space; you have to keep your secret place consecrated, set apart. you’re very selective about what you allow in. if you don’t respect your secret place, if you don’t guard your inner sanctuary, then you’ll go through life offended, worried, upset, discouraged.

this is why many people have no joy, peace, they’re always down; it’s not because they have more difficulties necessarily, it’s because they’re not protecting their secret place. sometimes, when people see you in peace, you’re always consistent, they think, “you must not have any problems; I wish I had your life. you should see what I’m dealing with.” the truth is, we all face difficulties, we all have unfair situations; the difference is, the people that are in peace, positive, hopeful, they’re not allowing the negative into their inner sanctuary. things can be happening on the outside: a friend did you wrong, a setback in your health. the feelings will come: offense, worry, discouragement. you can’t stop the feelings from coming, but you can stop them from getting into your secret place.

I’m not saying to never feel worried, offended, discouraged, that’s not reality; feelings are a part of life. I’m saying, don’t bring it close to you. you have to put your foot down, and say;  “this person did me wrong, but I’m not going be offended; God is my vindicator. the medical report is not good;  I’m not living worried; nothing can snatch me out of God’s hands. I didn’t get that promotion, but I’m not sitting around in self-pity; I know God has something better in store.” you have to protect your secret place; your feelings will do everything they can to try to get in. worry will knock at your door every night;  “what are you going to do about your finances? what if the report isn’t good? what if your child doesn’t straighten up?” offense, self-pity, discouragement; they don’t give up easily.  they’ll constantly whisper, “let me in.  come on, you had a bad break, feel sorry for yourself. they did you wrong, you have a right to be depressed. you lost a loved one, you should be sour.”

you have to be determined to say, “no, you are not getting into my secret place. I am not living worried and upset.”  friends, when you’re in peace, that’s a position of power. when you have a good attitude, despite what’s going on around you, you’re showing God that you trust Him.  our actions speak louder than our words. when we go around upset, worried, discouraged, that’s a sign that we’re letting the wrong things into our secret place. the good news is, you control that doorway; you can do something about it. draw the line in the sand, and say, “that’s it, this is a new day. I’m serving an eviction notice to all the negative, worry, offense, trouble, turmoil; from this day forward, you’re no longer welcome in my secret place.” the scripture says:

Ephesians 4:26 (HCSB)

26 … Don’t let the sun go down on your anger

it’s ok to feel anger, hurt, disappointment, but it’s not ok to let those feelings stay.  you can’t bring them so close to you that you wake up the next morning upset, wanting to pay somebody back, not excited about your future;  that’s going to poison your life.  keep it on the outside; don’t let it into your inner sanctuary. ships don’t sink because of the water all around them; ships sink because of the water that gets into them.  a ship can be in the ocean and have hundreds of miles of water in every direction, the waters can be cold, choppy, rough, big waves; water around them is not a problem. but if that ship lets what’s on the outside get on the inside, then it is a major problem; it will sink.  we can’t stop what’s on the outside: opposition, offense, trouble, delays, traffic, these things are going to happen.  the key is, don’t let what’s on the outside get on the inside.  the only way you can say you’re at peace and enjoying life when all hell breaks out is when you know how to protect your secret place. I know people, they’re always upset, worried, discouraged;  it’s because they’re allowing everything in.  somebody is rude to them, they get offended. they get stuck in traffic, they’re stressed out. they can’t find the remote control for the television; it ruins the rest of their evening. they’re not protecting their inner sanctuary. 

in the scripture, the apostle Paul faced all kinds of difficulties:

2 Corinthians 11:24-27(NIV)

24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

but he said:

Acts 20:24 (NKJV)

24 But none of these things move me

we should get to that point, that no matter what comes our way, it doesn’t move us. we stay in peace, keep our joy. you may have things coming against you today, in your health, finances, a relationship; like that ship, nothing on the outside can bring you down. trouble, opposition, unfair circumstances may be all around you;  you can’t stop the storms from coming, but you can stop that storm from getting in you. 

this is what Joseph did. he was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused, spent time in prison; on the outside, there was a lot of turmoil. he had the right, at least in the natural, to be angry, bitter, in self-pity. but Joseph didn’t let what was on the outside get on the inside; the feelings came, he felt bitterness, rejection, loneliness, but he made the choice that he wasn’t going to keep dwelling on it, reliving the hurts, thinking about how unfair it was. because he kept his inner sanctuary pure, he operated out of a place of peace, hope, faith; that’s what allows God to turn things around.

when King Saul was chasing David, trying to kill him, David could’ve been upset, thinking, “why is this guy after me? I haven’t done one thing wrong to him.”  Saul chased him through the desert, month after month, making David’s life miserable. you can imagine how David could’ve let the frustration, worry, turmoil, get on the inside, cause him to be sour. David did what we all must do; he didn’t let that into his secret place. at one point, while Saul was chasing them, David had an opportunity to put an end to it:

1 Samuel 26:7-9 (ERV)

7 When night came, David and Abishai went into Saul’s camp. Saul was asleep in the middle of the circle of men… 8 Abishai said to David, “Today God has given your enemy to you. Let me pin Saul to the ground with his spear. I’ll only do it once!” 9 But David said to Abishai, “Don’t kill Saul! Anyone who hurts the Lord’s chosen king must be punished.

David thought, “even though he’s doing wrong, I’m going to honor his authority by doing the right thing.” the only way David could do that was to protect his secret place; he wasn’t allowing the anger, bitterness on the inside. with both David and Joseph, God not only took care of their enemies, but God promoted them, and took them to the throne. when you face trouble, opposition, bad breaks, that’s when it’s the easiest to let bitterness in; “God, why is this happening to me?  why did I come down with this illness? why did my child get off course?  why did this company let me go?” in those tough times, when you don’t understand it, you’re doing the right thing but the wrong thing’s happening, more than ever, you have to guard your secret place; come back to that place of peace, trust. 

like David, Joseph, you can say, “God, there’s trouble all around me, it doesn’t make sense, but I am not going to let it get in me; I know that You will make my wrongs right, no weapon formed against me will ever prosper, this was meant for harm, but You will use it to my advantage.” be careful what you let get close to you. bitterness does not belong in your secret place. offense, self-pity, discouragement; that will keep you from your destiny. “the loan didn’t go through, I’m so disappointed. I worked hard, and I didn’t get the promotion. the medical report says I’m never going to get well”; don’t let what’s on the outside get on the inside. your inner sanctuary needs to stay positive, hopeful, peaceful; this is what allows God to work. 

this is what Mary the mother of Jesus had to do. as a teenager, she met the man of her dreams, Joseph;  they fell in love, got engaged, life couldn’t get any better, everything was going great.  then it totally changed; an angel appeared to Mary:

Luke 1:30-35 (NIV)

30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus… 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

we focus on how amazing that must’ve been, a supernatural birth.  “wow, she must have been so thrilled”; sometimes, we forget what Mary had to go through. she started showing signs of having a baby.  her fiancé Joseph noticed.  they had not yet been together;  they were waiting for marriage. you can imagine Mary trying to explain; “yes, Joseph, I’m pregnant, but I didn’t do anything wrong; this angel appeared to me.” word got out. people started talking, negative chatter; “there’s that girl Mary; she’s not married, she’s pregnant, he says it’s not even his baby.” Mary had to accept the fact that she would be misunderstood her whole life;  everybody didn’t believe that she was going to have a baby without knowing a man. there were people that said, “she’s a fraud, she should be ashamed of herself; she’s just covering her mistakes.” everywhere she went, Mary had to put up with rumors, innuendos, negative talk. she could’ve become defensive, cynical, bitter, but Mary didn’t let the negative chatter get on the inside. when the angel told her she was going to have a baby, the scripture says:

Luke 2:19 (NIV)

19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart 

that means she thought about it over and over. notice, what Mary let close to her heart was what God promised her;  that’s what she allowed in her inner sanctuary. she could’ve let the rumors, questions, innuendos in, but Mary guarded her inner sanctuary. the odds may be against you, it looks impossible, people are talking; do like Mary. don’t dwell on any of that. keep what God promised you close to your heart.  your secret place needs to be, not only a place of peace, but a place of faith, expectancy. instead of letting the doubt, discouragement, offense, rumors in, let what God promised you into your inner sanctuary.  close the door on the negative.  “people are talking about me;  no big deal, God is my vindicator. I went through a loss, a disappointment;  I should be discouraged, but I’m still in peace.  I know it’s not a surprise to God;  He can give me beauty for these ashes.” 

you may be having trouble at work, turmoil in a relationship, a setback in your finances; you can say, like Paul, “none of these things move me.” you’ve got your secret place protected. to do this, we have to get good at letting things go. sometimes, we let small things keep us from God’s best: somebody cut you off in traffic; you don’t even know that person, don’t let that offense in, let it go. a coworker is rude to you, leaves you out of a meeting you; feel offended, that’s OK, that’s normal, but don’t keep dwelling on it. don’t let it sour the rest of your day; keep it out of your secret place. or maybe somebody’s talking behind your back, trying to make you look bad, spreading rumors; don’t let the negative chatter get on the inside. 

there will always be people who are jealous, who don’t like you, who will find the smallest mistake you make and blow it out of proportion, exaggerate it to try to discredit you.  it’s easy to get offended, self-pitying, try to pay them back;  the best thing you can do is let it go. they cannot stop you; that is a test. if you get distracted and become bitter, you’re playing right into their hands.  “what if people believe what they’re saying? what if they do make me look bad? what if they damage my reputation?” no, you keep doing the right thing, honoring God, and He will protect your reputation; He’ll make your wrongs right. don’t bring the negative chatter in close. there’s so much these days; with social media, people can hide behind being anonymous, say hurtful, critical things to try to make you feel small, insignificant, not good enough. let it go, don’t dwell on it, let it bounce off of you.

the trick of the enemy is to try to deceive you into bringing that into your secret place. if you stay focused on it, keep thinking about what they said, it’s going to poison in your life; let it go. negative chatter doesn’t belong in your inner sanctuary. it takes a mature person to say; “I am not going to read that comment, I am not going to get that down into  my spirit.”  you can tell when somebody has let bitterness in, self-pity, offense;  you’re friendly to them, but they’re short with you. they’re always defensive, thinking that people are out to get them. the problem is what they’ve let into their secret place; it’s become contaminated. that’s why the scripture says:

Proverbs 4:23 (HCSB)

23 Guard your heart above all else

don’t let the poison in. what are you thinking about all during the day? what are you dwelling on at night? what you’re constantly playing in your mind, that’s what you’re allowing into your secret place. it’s easier to guard your secret place if you’re not taking in unnecessary things that you know are going to contaminate you. quit reading every negative comment about you. quit asking your friends for all the details of what the hateful, jealous, critical people are saying about you. assume that everybody loves you. it is better to live out of a place of wholeness, positive, confident, security, faith, than to live out of insecurity, bitterness, being defensive. the scripture says:

Philippians 4:8 (MEV)

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

things that are wholesome, positive, hopeful.  sometimes, we’re our own worst enemies;  we call that friend, “now tell me again what that person was saying about me.”  before long, we’re wanting to pay them back, it’s on the forefront of our mind. if you keep thinking about it, reliving the hurt, dwelling on what they said, you’re letting it into your secret place. it’s not only going to contaminate you, but then God will step back and wait.  if you want to handle it, God will let you handle it, but if you say, ”God, I’m not going to worry about this. I’m not bringing this close to me. I’m staying on the high road. I’m protecting my secret place,” then God will step up and say, “alright, let Me go to work, let Me be your vindicator.”  you don’t have to vindicate yourself; just run your race, stay focused on your goals, and God will take care of your enemies. Job says:

Job 8:22 (ESV)

22 Those who hate you will be clothed with shame

quit letting the chatter, jealousy, the people that are never going to like you, don’t let that poison get on the inside. if you’ll protect your secret place, and not take the bait of being offended, it will not only not contaminate you, but God will be your vindicator.  God can vindicate you better than you can vindicate yourself. if you’ll let God do it His way, victory will be much sweeter.  Jesus said:

John 14:27 (AMPC)

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

stop allowing what they said into your secret place. stop allowing the trouble, turmoil, worry, offense into your inner sanctuary;  it doesn’t belong there.  what you constantly think about, you’re putting on the throne of your life. the key is to keep God on the throne. it’s easy to put a negative medical report on the throne, go around worried all day. some people put the hurt, disappointment, what somebody said on the throne. as long as you’re focused on those things, giving them the most attention, you’re going to live worried, upset. the problem is, you have your circumstances on the throne; you need to put God back up on the throne. when God is on the throne, you’re at peace;  you know He’s your healer, deliverer, way-maker, vindicator. you know He’ll give you beauty for those ashes. whatever you have on the throne, that’s what you’re worshiping; are you worshipping your circumstances, what somebody said? if you would put God back on the throne, you would see things begin to turn around. that’s what the Psalmist said: 

Psalm 68:1 (DARBY)

1 Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered

when you put God back up on the throne, He’ll take care of anything that’s holding you back.  friends, I’m asking you to protect your secret place. negative things happen to us all. like that ship, nothing on the outside can bring you down; it’s only if you let it on the inside. don’t allow it in your inner sanctuary; guard your heart, stay in peace. if you do this, like Mary, you’re going to rise above the negative chatter.  God is going to fight your battles, promote you, heal you, vindicate you, bring you to the fullness of your destiny.

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I let God down

I’m posting this because I think it will help people to realize that EVERYONE lets God down sometimes, no matter how much they love Him or how much their lives are focused on Him.  I’m not going to add all the personal details that you would normally expect in a blog post about the blogger’s personal life, but I hope that you can ignore the fact that you don’t really know who or what I’m talking about and focus on how I handled it. 

There is a man who has been an important part of my life for a long time, with whom my relationship took a nosedive a year ago; we have still been in frequent contact, but locked into a pattern of fighting and pushing each other’s buttons.  When I saw the movie War Room (which I HIGHLY recommend that you see), the message of STOPPING the fights, stepping back and focusing on prayer while letting God fight your battles, really hit home for me; I was certain that God intended for me, a person who has not seen a movie in a movie theater in YEARS, to see this movie and take that lesson from it. I fully intended to do just that, BUT…

The perfect opportunity came this evening for me to NOT get locked into the usual battle… and I blew it.  Yes, he blindsided me, yes, he was being wildly provocative and unreasonable, but that doesn’t change the fact that I am a grown woman, a woman of God, and I can make a CHOICE to do things a new way.  God gave me an opportunity, and I didn’t do what I should have done; I let Him down.

Once I realized this, I acknowledged what I had done, apologized to Him, and renewed my resolve do things a different way.  I understood that God forgave me immediately, that neither this nor anything else I could do was going to keep me from my destiny, and that what mattered was to keep moving forward and doing things the best that I can.  I forgave myself, and started focusing on concrete actions.

As part of doing so, I’m going to create a physical manifestation of my intensified resolve to do things the War Room way; before I go to bed tonight, I’m going to place an order for the supplies I’ll need to create a prayer closet, as shown in the movie. What this is is basically a special place reserved for prayer; this concept is mentioned in the Bible:

Matthew 6:6 (MEV)

6 But you, when you pray, enter your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

The experts think that the original Greek word probably referred to something like a pantry, certainly not a closet in the modern sense, which did not even exist in those days, but the point is to have a spot in your home where you focus intensely on prayer. Ideally, you should be able to essentially paper the walls of that spot with prayers, Bible verses and so forth, and even more ideally, be and feel separated from all of the other aspects of your life while you are there.

This doesn’t mean that you need to take this big of a step when YOU let God down; the important thing is, acknowledge what you did, apologize to Him, understand that He has forgiven you, forgive YOURSELF, and then take concrete steps to move forward and do things better. As always, God will do the rest.

Edit:  As soon as I published the above, before I even pinged Google, I put on a podcast of Bible reading, which launched into…  what I consider to be the single most powerful and important verse in the entire Bible:

Psalm 63:3 (NIV)
3 Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you

God gives FAST feedback!!

Edit #2:  I’ve placed the order for everything I’ll need for my prayer closet, before going to bed, as I said I would.  

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A nevertheless person

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all face situations that seem impossible: we don’t see how we could ever accomplish a dream, get the break we need, meet the right person. in the natural, we feel stuck: maybe the medical report says you’re not going to get better, or you raised a child in church, and now they’re off course, not interested in doing what’s right, or in our careers, we gave it our best effort, we worked hard, took the extra training, but now we’ve peaked, gone as far as our education allows. what do you do when you’ve done the right thing but it hasn’t worked out? you’re standing on God’s promises, believing that He’s restoring your health, that you’ll lend and not borrow, that He’ll give you the desires of your heart, but every circumstance looks like it’s not going to happen. your logic and reasoning tells you, “forget it, it’s not going to work out, it’s not your lot in life.” 

it’s easy to get discouraged and give up on what we’re believing for. this is where Peter was in Luke chapter 5. he’d been out fishing all night, and caught nothing. he was an experienced fisherman; he went to the places where he knew there were always fish, he tried again and again, hour after hour, but came up empty. they were fishing with large nets, not just a few poles; you would’ve thought they would’ve caught something, at least a few fish, even if it wasn’t the kind they were looking for. but Peter (Simon) said:

Luke 5:5 (NIV)

5 … we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything

in other words, it couldn’t get any worse; they came up totally empty. early the next morning, after a long night of being in the boat, frustrated, nothing worked out:

Luke 5:3 (NIV)

3 He [Jesus] got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

in a few hours, when he was done, Jesus told Peter to do something that seemed illogical, didn’t make sense to Peter’s natural reasoning:

Luke 5:4 (NIV)

4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

you can imagine how Peter must’ve felt;  “are you kidding? go back out there again? we’ve been out all night; no fish are biting. we’re experts;  we know what we’re doing.” plus, it was morning now; the fish go down deeper to stay out of the daylight.  every circumstance told Peter, “don’t do it, it’s going to be a waste of your time.”  if Peter would’ve reasoned it out, only looked at it logically, he would’ve talked himself out of it.  he could’ve told Jesus, “I appreciate your suggestions, thank you for your advice, but we’re not going to do it, it’s not going to do any good.” instead, Peter did something that we all must do if we’re going to see promises come to pass. he said:

Luke 5:5 (NKJV)

5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”

he didn’t deny the facts.  he was saying, in effect, “the odds are against us, it looks impossible; nevertheless, because of what you say, I’m going to do it.” he went back out into the water, threw out his nets:

Luke 5:6 (NKJV)

6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.

practical people would’ve missed their miracle. people that only look at things logically, realistically, statistically, would’ve talked themselves out of it. God is looking for nevertheless people, for people who say: “the medical report doesn’t look good; nevertheless, God is restoring health back unto me. my child is still off course; nevertheless, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. business is slow, no fish are biting, it doesn’t look like I could ever get out of debt; nevertheless, blessings are chasing me down, I will lend and not borrow.  I’ve had this addiction for years, gone through treatment, rehab, nothing has worked, I should be discouraged, but I’m a nevertheless person; I know freedom is in my future, one touch of God’s favor can turn it around.”

it may not make sense to your logic; in the natural, you don’t see how you could accomplish a dream, meet the right person, see your family restored. you’ve given it your best efforts, exhausted your resources, but came up empty;  no fish. all the circumstances say it’s not going to happen. you’re right where Peter was. you can either give up, get discouraged, or you can dig your heels in, and say, “it looks impossible, the odds are against me, I tried and it didn’t work out; nevertheless I still believe, nevertheless I’m going to try again, nevertheless I’m going to keep hoping, praying, expecting.” if you don’t learn to become a nevertheless person, you won’t reach the fullness of your destiny, because there will be situations where there’s no way out; the obstacle is too big, the opponents are too strong. without God’s favor, you’ll get stuck.

God puts us in these situations on purpose, to where we come to end of our ability, there’s nothing more we can do; this is what faith is all about. if you can achieve it on your own, you don’t need God’s help. His dream for your life is to take you further than you can imagine; that’s why He plants things in your heart that are too big for you to accomplish on your own. it’s easy to think, “I don’t have the talent, experience, connections”;  too often, we let this overwhelm us. we get discouraged, thinking, “I’m out of my league, this is over my head: I’ll never live in that nice neighborhood, I don’t have the funds. I’ll never get well, I’ve been sick for years. I’ll never start my business, write that book, build that orphanage; the odds are all against me.” no, you are exactly where God wants you. He would not have put the dream in your heart if He didn’t already have a way to bring it to pass.

your attitude should be, “it may be big; nevertheless, with God all things are possible. I may not have the connections; nevertheless, I know friends in high places. I tried, and it didn’t work out; nevertheless, what God started in my life, He will finish.” all through the scripture, we see nevertheless people. when David went out to face Goliath, he was a teenager taking care of his father’s sheep.  he didn’t have any military training, any experience, any armor. Goliath was twice his size, a skilled warrior. David could’ve looked at it only in the natural, and gotten depressed.  but David was a nevertheless person; he thought, “all I have is this slingshot and a few stones. this giant is much bigger, much stronger. nevertheless, if God be for me, who dare be against me?”  David didn’t just stop with the facts; if he would have, he would have talked himself out of it.

the key is, you have to add the nevertheless. you may have the facts, the medical report may say you’re not going to get well, fine, I’m not asking you to deny the facts; I’m asking you to add the nevertheless. “these giants look huge; nevertheless, my God is much bigger . the medical report says I’m done; nevertheless, nothing can snatch me out of God’s hands. I’ve been single a long time, I don’t think I’ll ever meet the right person; nevertheless, I know a divine connection is headed my way. the specialist, the experts, say that my spouse and I can’t ever have a child;  nevertheless, I believe there’s a baby that already has my name on them.”

this is what Abraham did. God gave him the promise that he and his wife Sarah would have a baby:

Genesis 18:10 (NIV)

10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

in the natural, they were way too old. Sarah had already gone through the change of life; this would defy the laws of nature. the scripture says:

Genesis 18:11-12 (NIV)

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

it was so far out in her mind, she thought it was funny. has God ever put something in your heart so big, that seems so unlikely, that your first thought was to laugh? He whispers in your spirit, “one day, you’re going to live in that nice neighborhood, lead your company in sales, write that best-selling book, see your whole family come to know the Lord, marry somebody fantastic.”  on the surface, it seems so far-out that we think, “yeah, right, that could never happen.” when Abraham heard Sarah laughing, he could’ve gotten discouraged, and thought, “yeah, right, what was I thinking? let me come back to reality. man, I’m way too old.”  if he would’ve looked at it only logically, practically, realistically, he would’ve given up.  Abraham did what we all must do to see that promise come to pass; he added the nevertheless. “yes, I’m too old; nevertheless, God can make a way.  yes, it’s impossible; nevertheless, God can do the impossible. yes, it defies the laws of nature; nevertheless God supersedes the laws of nature.”

whatever looks impossible in your life, start adding the nevertheless. if those thoughts make you feel, “I’m too small to ever get chosen for that lead role; nevertheless, God’s favor is shining down on me. I don’t have the strength, talent, experience, for that promotion; nevertheless, God’s causing me to stand out. I don’t have the funds, the resources, to go to college;  nevertheless, God can open doors that no man can shut.”  the odds may be against you. you don’t think you have the talent, experience, connections; neither did David. don’t talk yourself out of what God put in your heart; start adding the nevertheless. “God, I don’t have the size; nevertheless, you can get me to where I’m supposed to be. I don’t have the strength, talent; nevertheless, I know your favor surrounds me like a shield.” when you add the nevertheless, that’s what allows God to do amazing things.

but too many people, instead of having this nevertheless mentality, they have a no-way mentality; “no way I can get out of debt; I’m too far down in the hole. no way I’ll break this addiction; I’ve had it for so many years. no way I’ll be successful; I come from the wrong family.” you are prophesying your future. if you think it’s impossible, it becomes impossible. God is not looking for no-way people, He’s looking for nevertheless people, for people who say, “I don’t see how I could ever get out of this problem; nevertheless, God always causes me to triumph.  this legal situation looks like it’s going to be the end of me; nevertheless, no weapon formed against me will prosper. my dreams are taking a lot longer than I thought; nevertheless, what God started in my life, He’ll bring to completion.” shake off the no-way mentality; have this nevertheless mentality.

in the Old Testament, the Israelites were camped right next-door to the promised land. God had brought them out of slavery, parted the Red Sea, given them food and water in the wilderness;  they’d seen these great miracles, and now they had finally made it to the promised land, they were right next door.

Numbers 13:1-3 (NIV)

13 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” 3 So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran.

Moses sent 12 men in to spy out the land to see what it was like.  10 of those men came back and said:

Numbers 13:33 (NLT)

33 We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”

when they saw how big their opponents were, how impossible it looked, they made the mistake that many of us make today; they stopped right where they were. they thought, “you can’t argue with the facts; you can’t deny that these people are bigger, stronger, more experienced.” they looked at it only logically, realistically, and talked themselves out of it.  they had a no-way mentality; that group of 2 million people never did make it into the promised land. I wonder what would’ve happened if they would’ve added the nevertheless. what if the spies would’ve come back and said, “Moses, the people are huge, there are giants in the land, it looks impossible; nevertheless, we are well able, we’ve been armed with strength for this battle, the forces that are for us are greater than the forces that are against us.” if they would’ve added the nevertheless, the same God that parted the Red Sea, brought them water out of a rock, caused Pharaoh to let them go, and give them valuables on the way out, that same God would’ve helped them to defeat those giants. instead of wandering around in the desert for those 40 years, they would’ve lived in the promised land for 40 years.

friends, don’t let a no-way mentality keep you from God’s best. it may look impossible, I’m not asking you to deny it; just add the nevertheless. “these enemies look huge; nevertheless, me and God are a majority. this sickness looks permanent; nevertheless, it’s only temporary, the number of my days God will fulfill. I don’t see how I could ever get out of debt, in the natural;  nevertheless, explosive blessings are chasing me down. I’ve been through a loss, a disappointment; nevertheless, I know God has beauty for these ashes.”

Psalm 30:11 (NRSV)

11 You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy


Dancing meme


don’t be a no-way person;  be a nevertheless person. this means you choose to believe even when the odds are against you; you stay in faith even when it looks impossible. are you letting the circumstances talk you out of God’s best, out of being healthy, free, prosperous, fulfilled?  “I’ve been single so long, I don’t think I’ll ever meet the right person”; get rid of that no-way mentality. turn it around; “I’ve been single a long time, but I know the right person is headed my way; somebody fine is in my future.” on paper, it may look like you could never get out of debt, I’m not asking you to deny it; I’m asking you to add the nevertheless.  “God, the numbers don’t look good; nevertheless, I believe I will lend and not borrow, that I’m coming into overflow.”  “I’ve had this addiction for years, it looks permanent; nevertheless, I know it’s only temporary. I know freedom, wholeness, victory is in my future.”

what’s interesting is, Peter went back to the same place where he had not caught any fish the whole night before; suddenly, it was filled with fish. sometimes we think, “I tried once, it didn’t work out, it’s never going happen”;  how do you know God hasn’t put the fish for you there now? don’t give up or quit believing; go back and try again. God controls the whole universe. it may not have happened yet;  that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen.  just like with Peter, God has an abundance of what you need waiting for you; you haven’t missed it, it’s not too late. if you’ll have this nevertheless mentality, God will lead you into favor, healing, abundance, the fullness of your destiny.  just because your fish weren’t there the last time, doesn’t mean they’re not going to be there the next time. you’ve got to say, “God, the odds are against me, everything says I’m done, I tried and got turned down; nevertheless, at Your word I’m going to keep believing, keep trying.”  when you’re a nevertheless person, God will get you to where you’re supposed to be. He’ll bring the fish to you. David said:

Psalm 3:1 (KJV) 3 Lord, how are they increased that trouble me!

he was saying, “God, it looks like my enemies are multiplying.” David not only had other armies coming against him, but his own son Absalom turned on him, and was trying to take the throne. David could’ve gotten discouraged, and thought, “that’s it, I can handle other people trying to stop me, but now it’s my own family; I’m done.”  this could’ve been the point where David faded off into the sunset, and we don’t read about him anymore. but David didn’t just talk about the problem; he stated the facts, and then he took it one step further:

Psalm 3:3 (NKJV)

3 But You, O Lord, are a shield for me

notice, David added the nevertheless; “I’m having a lot of trouble; nevertheless, God is my shield.”  what’s the message? don’t let the enemy have the last word; always add the nevertheless. “the medical report doesn’t look good; nevertheless, the Lord is my healer. my coworkers did me wrong; nevertheless, God is fighting my battles, He’s my vindicator. I went through a bad break; nevertheless, what’s meant for my harm, I know God will turn to my advantage.” some of the things that have you worried right now, upset, discouraged, it would all change if you would start adding the nevertheless.  if you just stop with the facts, and how impossible it is, it’s going to cause you to get discouraged. every time something negative happens, every bad break, disappointment, delay, answer back with a nevertheless. you get stuck in traffic; “I should be upset; nevertheless, I know God is directing my steps.” 

when you face these situations that look impossible, we all do, don’t talk yourself out of blessings;  get rid of a no-way mentality, and have a nevertheless mentality. if you’ll do this, God is about to turn some things around, open some new doors.  there are explosive blessings coming your way. because you’re a nevertheless person, like Abraham, you’re going to see the promise come to pass. like David, you’re going to overcome obstacles that were much bigger. and like Peter, God’s going to bring the fish, an abundance of what you need.

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(No new sermon this week.)

The biggest point to remember on this topic is: God is the all-powerful Creator of the universe, and compared to Him we are less than amoebas are in comparison to us. In the same way that an amoeba could never EARN favors of any kind from us, nothing we can do can EARN us the “right” to have any much less all of our prayers answered by God.  Answered prayers are part of God’s grace, and as you can see here:

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

every answered prayer is a GIFT from God, that we should respond to with unlimited gratitude, not by feeling entitled to more answered prayers.  

But what if we make enormous and successful efforts to avoid bad things and do good things? Doesn’t God care about that? Of course He does!!  BUT, that caring does not mean that you are essentially “buying” answered prayers.  God is not a vending machine. It doesn’t matter if you have exact change, in other words an exactly perfect pattern of behavior, you still can’t see it as a business transaction where God somehow OWES you answered prayers, and if you don’t get them you’re going to bang on the vending machine and shake it and curse and scream and be angry and outraged and hurt and put upon.

The reality is, WE OWE HIM our absolute maximum effort towards perfect behavior every single second of our lives, and if we achieve this, we’re just doing what is necessary and expected, not earning anything special. As Jesus said:

Luke 17:7-9 (NIV)

7 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?

With that said, OF COURSE God rewards people whose lives are focused on loving, trusting, trying to please, and having absolute faith in Him:

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Being a person of the highest virtue is a natural part of this. The greatest gift in the universe is closeness to God, and that is the one thing that we ARE guaranteed if we focus our lives on Him. We’ll also get a higher level of blessings, signs, and answered prayers, but that does NOT mean that we’ll get everything we want, not by a long shot, nor does it mean that we’ll never suffer hard times:

Matthew 5:45 (NLT)

45 … he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

And sometimes, those who are closest to God, and serving him the best, endure the greatest sufferings, the greatest test of faith, so that they can serve God’s plan by providing an example to others of strength, courage, trust and faith, and by encouraging them to embrace those things themselves. Paul is the most extreme example of this:

2 Corinthians 11:23-26 (NIV)

23 … I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.

Although it’s highly unlikely that God will ever ask so much of YOU, if you are suffering and sacrificing and not getting your prayers answered, but are still staying in unwavering faith, you are helping those around you, even if you’re not aware of it, by modeling ideal behavior, and providing them with encouragement in their own struggles.  One of the reasons that I posted throughout my 4 YEARS of suffering and loss that I was 100% certain that God would make good on it was to do just that; my posts about the explosive blessings I have received this year, and how my sufferings were a necessary prelude to them, have been in part to show how God ALWAYS has a plan, whether we see it or not, and His plan is ALWAYS better than our plan, and that He will ALWAYS come through for us if we just stay in faith.

Unanswered prayers are not usually for such dramatic reasons, of course. Much of the time, what we are asking for is not in our best interests (no matter how sure we are that it IS), or is not in the best interests of other people who God is also looking out for (the world does not revolve around us, there are 7 billion other people that God is also trying to guide and help, and sometimes their needs will be prioritized over ours, as it should be); God might be protecting us from something, or He might have something better in store for us. Sometimes, the timing might be wrong; I can’t tell you how many different points in my own experience seemed like ideal times to start my restoration, and it didn’t happen, but as time went on I always discovered more things that He was doing for me that had to be completed before the full restoration could come.

Sometimes, He might be doing a work in you and/or other people who are involved and hasn’t finished yet; the latter can be very difficult, granted, because if God has decided that your character, strength, trust, and faith need to be built up, life can be very painful for a very long time.  It will be worth it in the end, but you will absolutely not love it during the process.  Sometimes, what we’re praying for is not realistic; we can’t all be hired for that great job, or win the lottery.  Sometimes, someone else needs, wants, or deserves the thing we are praying for more than we ourselves do.  Sometimes, God prioritizes blessing or encouraging another person more than He does giving us what we want.  Sometimes, sadly, we are praying for unacceptable things, like for harm to be done to others; no explanation necessary.  

And sometimes… sometimes, it’s just our turn to suffer a loss.  No one will go through life without suffering losses, and all the praying in the world won’t change that. If you’re trying to pray for a loss-free, problem-free, stress-free life, you can be sure that you will experience many unanswered prayers.

But, if you pray instead for greater faith, wisdom, courage, strength, trust, compassion, patience, and all the other virtues, if you pray for opportunities to do good for people and for the world, if you pray to have a part in moving God’s plan and kingdom forward, then you will be amazed by the # of prayers that get answered. 

And yes, God will answer many prayers for things that we want as well, just out of love for us. Always be grateful, and always be aware that we are receiving infinitely more than we ever have a right to ask or expect. Trust that there is an excellent reason for anything that God does NOT give you, stay in faith, stay in obedience… and you will see astonishing miracles on a regular basis like I do.

PS: if you have not seen the movie War Room, I highly recommend that you see it immediately, and take every Christian you know along with you.

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