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Archive for October, 2015

from JO’s sermon tonight:

life has a way of pushing our dreams down. we can make mistakes, get off course; we’re not where we thought we’d be.  it’s easy to live guilty, condemned, down on ourselves. sometimes, it wasn’t our fault; another person, because of what they’ve done, put us at a disadvantage; it left hurts, scars, now it’s affecting our self-image, our sense of confidence. too often, we go through life nursing our wounds, blaming other people, sitting on the sidelines, making excuses, but nothing that’s happened to you is a surprise to God.  He saw every injustice, every bad break, He knew every mistake we would ever make. God is not in the condemning business;  He’s in the restoration business.  He wants to put you back on the right path so you can still become who you were created to be. you may be on the sidelines, thinking, “look what I’ve been through. I’ve had these bad breaks, I’m stuck in life.” can I tell you; the king is looking for you. the God who created the universe is about to pick you back up, breathe new life into your dreams, and propel you towards your destiny.

this is what happened to a young boy in the scripture named Mephibosheth. he was the grandson of King Saul and the son of Jonathan, David’s best friend. he was born into royalty, destined to one day take the throne. his future looked so bright. but at the age of 5, everything changed; both his father and his grandfather were killed in a battle on the same day. after that enemy army finished off King Saul and his men, they turned toward the city, and were going to wipe out all of Saul’s family. when word reached back home:

2 Samuel 4:4 (NIV)

4 (Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.)

sometimes in life, well-meaning people can hurt us. the nurse was trying to do the right thing, she had good intentions, but she tripped; her mistake cost him his mobility. life is not always fair. like with Mephibosheth, somebody may have put you at a disadvantage. they didn’t mean to, they would take it back if they could, but they tripped, and now you struggle with addictions, bad habits, things that were passed down.  or they weren’t there to protect you when you needed them the most; now you struggle with your self-worth, sense of value. they tripped, but we have to pay for their mistake. Mephibosheth became lame in both of his feet; if we’re honest, all of us have some area of lameness to overcome, something that could hold us back.

it’s easy to make excuses, especially when it wasn’t our fault; “if they hadn’t have tripped, if they would’ve raised me better, if my loved one wouldn’t have died, if that coach would’ve treated me fairly.” we can blame the past, how we were raised, what we didn’t get, but all making excuses will do is keep you from your destiny. you have to take the hand you’ve been dealt and make the most of it. it may not have been fair, but God knows how to turn it and use it to your advantage.  too many people, though, go through life nursing their wounds, always thinking about what they didn’t get; “if Mama would’ve given me this, if Daddy would’ve been there for me, if they would’ve supported me, encouraged me.” most of the time, the reason Mama and Daddy didn’t give it is because they didn’t have it to give; nobody gave it to them. the problem with blaming others is, the people you’re blaming are blaming the people that raised them, and they’re blaming the people that raised them; why don’t you rise up and put an end to that negative cycle? you can be the difference-maker, set a new standard for your family. 

in an instant, Mephibosheth’s whole world turned upside down; he not only lost his father and grandfather, not only would he no longer take the throne, but he was crippled, he couldn’t walk.  how was he going to make a living, take care of himself? he ended up living in exile, in hiding, in a place called Lo-debar; that was one of the poorest, most run-down cities of that day. Lo-debar means “without pasture”; there was no greenery, trees, you couldn’t grow anything there, it was a wasteland.  here Mephibosheth is the grandson of the king, he has royalty in his blood, but he’s living in the slums, barely surviving.  here’s the key; your location doesn’t change your identity. Mephibosheth was living in Lo-debar, but he was still royalty. other people may not have seen it, he could’ve thought, “nothing special about me anymore,” but none of that changed who he really was.  when you gave your life to Christ, you were born into a royal family; the most high God breathed His life into you, put a crown of favor on your head.  the scripture says:

Revelation 1:5-6 (BRG)

5 And from Jesus Christ… 6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God

you may kind of a feel like you’re living in Lo-debar today; things coming against you, circumstances you don’t like. let me encourage you; nothing that’s happened to you has changed your identity. no person who did you wrong, no bad break, no mistake you’ve made, has changed your name; you are still a child of the most high God, you still have royal blood flowing through your veins.  you may be in Lo-debar, but don’t let Lo-debar get in you. that’s where you are, not who you are.

Mephibosheth thought he was stuck. practically speaking, he couldn’t get out; he had no family, nobody to help him. it looked like that was his lot in life. years later, King David was on the throne. one night in the palace, he began thinking about all God had done, reminiscing about old times. he remembered his good friend Jonathan, how much he loved him.  all of a sudden, he had a desire to be good to Jonathan’s family:

2 Samuel 9:1-6 (NLT)

1 One day David asked, “Is anyone in Saul’s family still alive—anyone to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”… Ziba replied, “Yes, one of Jonathan’s sons is still alive. He is crippled in both feet.” 4 “Where is he?” the king asked. “In Lo-debar,” Ziba told him… 5 So David sent for him and brought him from Makir’s home. 6 His name was Mephibosheth; he was Jonathan’s son and Saul’s grandson.

Jesus told a parable:

Luke 15:3-6 (NIV)

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’

when life has pushed you down, somebody tripped, and put you at a disadvantage, or maybe you’ve made a mistake, you’re off course, you don’t think you can ever reach your destiny; in the natural, that may be true, but the good news is, the shepherd has left the 99 and is coming after you. you know why? because your home is not Lo-debar. living addicted is not your home. living depressed, angry, in self-pity, always in lack; that’s not where you belong. people around you may be that way, but there’s something different about you; you are royalty. you have the DNA of Almighty God. even when you can’t get there by yourself, God is so good, He’ll have somebody to carry you, help you do what you could not do on your own: a friend, a neighbor, even a stranger. He’s looking for you. here’s the thing about God; He’s not going to give up on you until He sees you in your rightful place. He doesn’t just try once or twice, He’s going to keep looking, pursuing, calling.  He loves you too much to leave you alone;  He knows who you really are. He’s the one that breathed life into you.

Mephibosheth finally arrived at the palace. he was afraid; he’d heard how, again and again, his grandfather King Saul had tried to kill David. 

2 Samuel 9:6-10 (NIV)

6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.

David said, “Mephibosheth!”

“At your service,” he replied.

7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”

8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

9 Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.”

sometimes, when we hear the king is looking for us, we think, “I’m hiding! I don’t want God to find me. I’ve got a lot of weaknesses, I’m not where I should be in life. I feel bad enough about myself; I don’t need somebody else condemning me.” this is where we get religion mixed up with who God really is; religion can make God hard, mean, angry, like God’s waiting for you to make a mistake, ready to push you down even further. but God is not looking for you to condemn you, judge you, He’s looking for you to restore you. He wants to give you back all that belongs you: the joy, peace, honor, freedom, abundance, victory. He wants to pay you back for the unfair things that have happened. He’s not going to push you down, tell you how bad you are, “why are you limping, broken, struggling that area?” 

Psalm 147:3 (AMPC)

3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds

Jesus said:

Luke 4:18 (KJV)

18 … he hath sent me… to set at liberty them that are bruised

when you’ve been bruised by life, when you’re hurt, it’s easy to get stuck in Lo-debar, feel sorry for yourself, give up on your dreams. God is looking for you to bring you out of Lo-debar, to heal your hurts, to make you feel whole again. “this sounds good, but Mephibosheth was crippled because somebody else tripped; that’s why God restored him. I’m crippled because of my own poor choices; I blew it. I can’t expect God to be good to me.” this is what mercy is all about; God doesn’t give us what we deserve, or none of us would’ve had a chance. we think, “does God know what’s wrong with me, my failures, my weaknesses what I’m struggling with?” the good news; God knows it all, and He still loves you, wants to be good to you. God doesn’t write us when we get off course, disqualify us, just the opposite;  He comes looking for you. I’ve heard it said, “when you make a mistake, God doesn’t love you the same, He loves you a little bit more.”  He turns up the intensity.  He’s not going to leave you alone until He sees you completely restored.

we see this principle in the parable of the prodigal son:

Luke 15:11-36 (ESV)

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’… 13 … he squandered his property in reckless living… 15 So he went and hired himself out…  to feed pigs [hogs]. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

that was Lo-debar, so to speak; it couldn’t get any worse than that.  unlike with Mephibosheth, this was his own fault; he had nobody to blame except himself.

Luke 15:17-22 (ESV)
17 “But when he came to himself, 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, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him

one translation says:

Luke 15:22 (AMPC)

22 … robe of honor

here’s the guy that’s been living in the hog pen, but now he’s about to get a robe of honor.  that doesn’t make sense. this is what mercy is all about; it doesn’t make sense, we don’t deserve it, it’s just the goodness of God. think about this; the whole time the son was in the hog pen, the father had a robe of honor waiting for him. how long are you going to let accusing voices keep you from your robe of honor? how long are you going to stay in Lo-debar when there’s a seat waiting for you at the King’s table?  why don’t you rise up like this young man, and say, “today is a new day. I’m getting rid of the guilt, condemnation, self-pity. I’m done blaming others, my past, I’m going to step into the freedom, wholeness, victory God has in store.”

the father not only gave his son the robe of honor: 

Luke 15:22 (ESV)

22 … put a ring on his hand

the ring represented his authority; in other words, the son was restored back to who he was before he left. it’s one thing to come back but have a negative mark by your name;  “don’t give him any benefits, no ring for him, you remember what he did all that time in the hog pen, made our family look bad.” that’s not the way God is.  He not only restores, but He makes you whole. you may feel like you’re off course today, sitting on the sidelines, thinking, “I’m just glad to be in Lo-debar, the way I’ve lived.” no, Lo-debar is not your home; the king is looking for you.  He has a robe of honor, a ring of authority, for you. don’t let the condemning voices convince you that you’ve blown it too badly, “look at you, you’re still limping, struggling, broken, you don’t deserve it”; it’s not because of who you are, it’s because of Whose you are. your name hasn’t changed; you’re still a child of the most high God . you belong in the palace. people don’t determine your destiny, God does. people will write you off, judge you, condemn you, but God is not in the condemning business; He’s in the restoration business. the scripture says:

 Romans 11:29 (NRSV)

29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable

that means; God doesn’t change his mind. we may make mistakes, people may trip, put us at a disadvantage, but that does not stop God’s plan. don’t let other people convince you to settle in Lo-debar. you may have a limp, things didn’t turn out the way you thought, you went through a disappointment;  that’s alright, God wants to restore you back to your rightful position. not a second-best life, not, “this is good enough”; He wants you to become everything you were created to be. now you have to get an agreement with God. Mephibosheth could’ve said, “no, I’m not going to the palace. you’re going to have to drag me there.” if he’d have gone bitter, angry, chip on his shoulder, complaining, David would’ve said, “take him away. I’m not going to have anything to do with him.” no, he went in humility, knowing that he was at David’s mercy.  when you humble yourself, and say, “God, I know don’t deserve this, I’ve blown it, but God, I believe you are full of mercy, that You can still get me to where I’m supposed to be.” that’s when God will raise you back up, put you on the path, toward the fullness of your destiny. 

you can run, but you can’t get away from God; He’ll keep pursuing you, even if He has to find you in a club, getting high, living in Lo-debar.  He knows where you are, and He’s not going to give up until He sees you in the palace where you belong, where you’re restored, fulfilling your purpose. maybe you think you’re too far gone, made too many mistakes, been through too much; can I tell you, the king is looking for you. not to condemn you, but to restore you, bless you, push you into your purpose. life may have thrown you some curves, you’re not where you thought you’d be; remember, your location doesn’t change your identity. no matter where you are, you’re still a child of the most high God. He has a robe of honor, a ring of authority, for you. there’s a seat waiting for you at the King’s table. the great thing about God is, even when you can’t get there by yourself, He’ll have somebody to carry you. just like David decided to be good to Mephibosheth, people are going to start being good to you: favor that you didn’t deserve, things falling into place, you’re coming out of brokenness into wholeness, out of Lo-debar, into the palace, the fullness of your destiny.

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Continual joy

From JO’s sermon tonight:

we all face difficulties in life: challenges at work, people that are hard to get along with, stress, traffic, disappointments. if we’re not careful, we’ll let the pressures of life weigh us down.  it’s easy to complain, talk about our problems, become negative, discouraged, but we weren’t created to endure life, we were created to enjoy life. we can’t control what happens on the outside, but we can control what happens on the inside. happiness, for a lot of people, is based on their circumstances: “it’s the weekend, I’m happy. my spouse is treating me better, I’m happy. traffic wasn’t too bad, I’m happy.” but joy is not dependent on what’s happening around you; joy is deep down within you. that doesn’t mean we’ll be jumping up and down every day, but there’s a calm delight, you’re content, at peace, you know God’s fighting your battles. you could be upset, but you have a smile on your face. things are tough, but you’re not complaining; your attitude is, “life is good. I’m thankful to be alive.”  when you live like that, you’re tapping into the joy that’s on the inside. Jesus said to the woman at the well:

John 4:10-14 (NIV)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”… 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst 

he described the living water in verse 14. it says:

John 4:14 (AMPC)

14 … the water that I will give him shall become a spring of water welling up (flowing, bubbling) [continually] within him unto (into, for) eternal life. 

there is a well of joy in you right now, a spring that’s supposed to bubble up and continually flow; why don’t we all have joy? there’s something we have to do:

Ephesians 5:18 (AMPC)

18 … ever be filled and stimulated with the [Holy] Spirit.

notice, you don’t get filled one time and then you’re done, it says “be ever filled.” this means, on a regular basis, we have to keep filling ourselves up. how do we do it? the next verse says:

Ephesians 5:19-20 (NKJV)

19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

the way to have continual joy is to keep a song of praise in your heart. all through the day, on the inside, we should be singing. this means, in our attitude we’re grateful, in our thoughts we’re always thinking about God’s goodness. cooking dinner, you’re humming the tune to a song. mowing the lawn, you’re whistling as you go along. driving to work, “this is going to be a great day. Lord, I’m excited about my future.” in some way, you’re always making melody in your heart, thinking about God’s goodness, thanking Him for your life, family, job. every time you do this, something is happening; you’re not just being positive, just having a good attitude, you’re been filled back up. God is pouring into you peace, strength, favor, victory.

see, life takes things out of us: stress, disappointments, traffic. we have to develop this habit of being ever-filled. “I went to church on Sunday, I got filled up for the week”; that’s good, but one time is not going to last all week. when you get stuck in traffic on Monday morning, a coworker aggravates you Monday afternoon, your child gets on your nerves Monday evening, all that was poured into you on Sunday is going to be used up. if you’re not making melody in your heart throughout the day, keeping this song of praise on the inside, then the pressures of life are going to push you down, steal your joy. it’s like a helium balloon; if you ever got one for your birthday, the first few days the balloons flies high, goes to the end of the string, if you went outside and let it go it would go way up in the air. but in a few days, the balloon starts to sink down a little, get a little smaller. day after day, it goes lower and lower; eventually, it’s on the ground, it won’t rise at all. there’s nothing wrong with the balloon, it’s just out of helium. if you were to refill it, it would be just as good as it was when it was new. 

in the same way, every time we complain, get stressed out, worry, we’re leaking. before long, we have no joy, no passion; that’s why we have to become ever-filled. next time you get stuck in traffic, try a new approach; instead of complaining, “Lord, I want to thank You that You’re directing my steps. I believe I’m at the right place at the right time.” instead of leaking, you just got filled back up, you got stronger. maybe your child is causing you trouble; instead of worrying, thinking about how it’s never going to work out, all through the day, “Lord, thank You; as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  Lord, You said, the seed of the righteous, my children, will be mighty in the land.” what could deflate you instead will inflate you. 

perhaps the medical report wasn’t good; you could easily be depressed, live in self-pity, but instead, in your thoughts, you’re constantly thinking, “Lord, You are good. thank You that You’re my healer, that nothing can snatch me out of Your hands.” because you’re making melody in your heart, you’re going to stay encouraged; that well of joy will keep bubbling up, giving you the strength to fight the good fight of faith.  but too many people have developed a habit of being negative, seeing the worst, worrying;  you can develop this new habit of keeping a song in your heart.

you have to look for ways you can be grateful: in your everyday life, brushing your teeth in the morning; “Lord, thank you for this day.” getting dressed for work; “Lord, thank You that I’m healthy.” cooking breakfast; “Lord, thank you for my children.” driving to work; “Lord, thank You that I have a job.” in your thoughts, you’re always meditating on God’s goodness. it’s easy to do just the opposite, focus on what’s wrong; it doesn’t take much effort to go toward the negative. “I don’t like my job, these people get on my nerves, traffic was terrible today, I don’t feel like cooking dinner for my family, nobody appreciates me, all I do is work around here.” you’re making yourself miserable, deflating your own balloon. turn it around, and start making melody in your heart.  you may not like your job, but why don’t you thank God that at least you have a job? if you’ll be grateful where you are, God will get you to where you’re supposed to be.

you may have some big obstacles, people, circumstances, coming against you, but you don’t have to live upset, worried; you can thank God that He’s fighting your battles, making your crooked places straight. you can go through the day with expectancy, saying, “I don’t see a way, but God, I know You have a way. You’ve done it for me in the past; I know You’ll do it for me again.” this is how you have continual joy; when you have joy, you have the strength you need to overcome the obstacle, outlast the attack, accomplish your dreams.  vacuuming the house; you can do it thinking, “I can’t stand to clean this place,” or, you can do it humming the tune to “I Am a Friend of God.” going to the grocery store, you can dread it, go there sour, or you can go there whistling, with a song of praise in your heart.

I wonder how much more we’d enjoy life, how much longer and healthier we would live, if we would keep that song of praise on the inside. I’m not talking about being musical, I’m talking about a lifestyle of being thankful, seeing the best, always thinking about what God has done, how blessed we are, how good things are in store. even in difficulties, we’re not complaining; we’re thanking God that He’s bigger than our problem, that what He started, He’ll finish in our lives. if we were birds, we would think, “It’s sprinkling today, I’m taking the day off; no singing for me. my nest got a little wet; I’m out for three months, cover for me.” we need to learn a lesson from the birds; don’t complain when it storms, don’t be sour when things don’t go your way, just keep singing, making melody, being grateful. it may be rough on the outside, but stay full of joy on the inside, keep that song of praise in your heart. Paul said:

Philippians 2:14 (NKJV)

14 Do all things without complaining

that means, do the dishes, drive in traffic, sit where the ushers ask you to sit, without complaining. sometimes, we complain about the very thing that we asked God for, and he gave it to us: you prayed for that bigger house; don’t complain that you have more to clean. you prayed for that wife; don’t complain that you have to work seven jobs to afford her. you prayed for that baby; don’t complain that you have to get up sometimes in the middle of the night. it’s easy to complain; there’s always some reason to be sour, upset, complain about the traffic, city, church, “I didn’t get anything out of that message today.” we complain about a message on complaining. here’s a good phrase to remember: “when you complain, you remain, but when you praise, you’ll be raised.” when you have that song in your heart, you’re always thinking about God’s goodness, you’re going to rise higher, see more of God’s favor. we create much of our own unhappiness; how we respond to negative things, how we approach life. when you develop this habit of seeing the good, meditating on God’s goodness, making melody, life goes so much better.  that’s how you have continual joy, joy despite what’s happening around you.  Jesus said:

John 16:22 (NLV)

22 … No one can take your joy from you

no storm, traffic, bad break, disappointment; there is a well in you that will never run dry. when you keep this song of praise, making melody, focusing on what’s right, that well of joy is going to keep bubbling up, keeping you strong, encouraged, moving forward. the scripture says:

Ephesians 5:19 (KJV)

19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord

you have to talk to yourself the right way. there’s an internal dialogue taking place in you all through the day;  you can’t have a negative mentality and expect to live in victory.  “I can’t believe I had this bad break.  I’ll never get out of this problem. what if the medical report is not good?”  that’s letting yourself talk to you;  you need to start talking to yourself. you have to take control of your thought life. every morning when you wake up; “this is going to be a great day. I have the favor of God.  no weapon formed against me will prosper. I’m strong, healthy, blessed.” every time you do that, you’re getting filled back up. if you’ll keep speaking to yourself the right way, you’ll tap into that well of joy, peace, favor, victory that God put in you. 

David did this. in the scripture one time, he was very depressed, discouraged, he didn’t think he could go on. at one point, he realized that nothing was going to change until he did his part. he said:

Psalm 42:5 (ESV)

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,

    and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

    my salvation

he said to himself, “David, get your hopes up.  get your dreams back. start believing again. get your joy back.”  when he started talking to himself the right way, that’s when things began to turn around. sometimes, we’re going along great in life, everything is fine, but then we hit some turmoil, go through a disappointment, a friend betrays us, the medical report wasn’t good; we get sucked down. thankfully, we make it out. but too often, we lose our joy, passion, we’re not pursuing our dreams, making the most of each day; we’re just enduring life, going through the motions. that well of joy that’s supposed to be bubbling up, keeping us ever filled, has become clogged up with disappointments, discouragement, stress, self-pity. but God did not bring you this far to leave you; you have to get your song back.  if one dream dies, dream another dream.  if life knocks the wind out of you, don’t stay down; get back up and go again. it may not have been fair, but God is fair.  He’s a God of justice. He knows how to take what was meant for harm and use it to your advantage. if you’ll get your song back, God will make the rest of your life better than it would’ve been had that not happened.  David said:

Psalm 40:2 (NLT)

2 He lifted me out of the pit

he was saying, “He put a new song in my heart.” not a song of defeat, “you won’t believe what I’ve been through, I’ve had so much heartache,” no, He put a song of praise and thanksgiving in my heart.”  you may have gone through difficulties, but that well is still in you. God has a new song, but it’s not going to do any good if you go around dwelling on your disappointments, negative, complaining; you have to start making melody in your heart. quit thinking about what you lost, and start thanking God for what you have left. start thanking him for the new doors that are going to open, for beauty for ashes, that your best days are still ahead. when you get your song back, you’ll feel the joy start to bubble up, your dreams will come back to life, your passion will be restored. that’s when God can pay you back for the negative things that have happened. 

this is what Habakkuk did in the scripture; he said: 

Habakkuk 3:17-18 (AMPC)

17 Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines… 18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the [victorious] God of my salvation!

he was saying, “my crops have dried up, my business has gone down;  in the natural, there’s no reason to be happy, to make melody in my heart. nothing is going my way.” he could’ve lived depressed, bitter, but he understood this principle of having continual joy. he said, “all these things have come against me, yet will I rejoice in the Lord.” he was saying, “when I look at my circumstances, there’s no reason to rejoice, so I’m going to rejoice in the Lord.”  I can hear him all through the day;  “Lord, You are good. God, I praise You for your greatness.  I know You’re bigger than this financial difficulty, bigger than this cancer, bigger than this problem. I rejoice in the God of my salvation.” in the midst of his trouble, in the midst of the struggle, he wasn’t complaining, talking about his problems; he had a song of praise on the inside. that’s what not only keeps us ever-filled, strong, and full of faith; that’s what allows God to turn things around.

you may have gone through disappointments, maybe you’re in a tough time right now; I’m asking you to get your song back.  if you can’t find any reason to be grateful, do like Habakkuk, and rejoice in the God of your salvation. go through the day thanking God for who He is;  “Lord, thank you that you’re my savior, healer, restorer, deliverer, provider, protector, way-maker.” He’s called “the great I am.” He is whatever we need. 

friends, life is too short to go through it negative, worried, weighed down, pressured. there’s a well on the inside of you; it’s supposed to be bubbling up, continually flowing. all through the day, make sure you keep the song of praise in your heart.  remember, it’s not enough to do it one time; you have to be ever-filled. if you’ll develop this habit of making melody in your heart, your well is going to keep bubbling up with joy, peace, strength, favor, healing.  you will overcome every obstacle, defeat every enemy, and become everything you were created to be.

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Prayer closet

(No new sermon this week.)

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.

I FINALLY got my prayer closet usable very early this morning. I still don’t have everything I need to make it 100% complete, but it was enough. I think that the enemy has been trying to prevent me from finishing it: I’d been CRUSHED for time the past couple of weeks, but this week was going to be lighter, so I made a promise to God to get it done this week, and told people at church as well so they could hold me accountable.  As I was doing some of the necessary work each day, I kept getting side-tracked by non-essential activities that, while intrinsically worthwhile, did not move the project forward. The big one came as I was actually hanging up the long pieces of paper that I was going to write and tape things on; I had had a ton of clear packing tape, but mysteriously all I had left was 1 roll with one little piece left on it. I know perfectly well who took the rest of my tape, and when I contacted him late last night, he sheepishly offered to bring a roll back today.

Here’s the thing; I knew that the chances were good that one of several things would happen that would prevent him from showing up, or make him show up without the tape. Meanwhile, with it being Saturday, there was just no way for me to get anywhere that sold this tape during their business hours. Same goes for Sunday.  It would have been so EASY to have just given up for the night, figuring it wouldn’t matter if I did it a night later… except it WOULD matter, because SOMETHING would happen, I wouldn’t get the tape, and/or I wouldn’t have time to do the project, and suddenly it’s Sunday, and I’m at church trying to explain to people why I couldn’t do this when I said I was going to, when I had an entire WEEK, the same time it took God to create the entire universe. And then it’s Monday, and the week I promised God I’d do it in is gone…

I gritted my teeth and hung up the paper with the ugly masking tape. Other problems arose: my one good-quality pen was packed up someplace where it was almost impossible for me to reach it, I had to engineer a way to weight the ends of the papers to make them hang down flat rather than curl up, and then I felt headachy and hungry and needed to eat, and then I remembered that I’d promised God to exercise this evening, and needed half an hour for that… but I persevered, and finally I sat down facing all that blank paper and started to pray. 

I wrote down a few ideas, and important things that I wanted to remember, in the most central area.  I prayed out loud as I almost always do. I spoke in tongues, and it came out FAST, so much so that I sounded like I was just hissing, sometimes even almost whistling, punctuated by little clicking sounds.  The end of my tongue got somewhat numb; that was new.  And I got a word of knowledge!!  I was thinking about the vision that a prophetic pastor had had over me, that I posted about a few weeks ago, that he saw the flag of Israel come down and wrap itself around my shoulders.  I had written this down as something to focus on, hoping to get some sort of input, and as I was looking at the line I’d written about it, from out of nowhere, because believe me I had not been playing his music or thinking about it or him, a line from a Barry Manilow song suddenly came into my head:  “Before I knew that I was blessed.”  This was the ONLY thing that came into my mind the entire time that I was in the prayer closet, and we’re talking an HOUR and 11 minutes here folks, that wasn’t part of what I wanted to say to God, and I wasn’t thinking about music at all, I wasn’t thinking about being blessed or asking for blessings in general… that was a Word.  

So, the flag of Israel represents a blessing.  What kind of blessing?  2-3 of my friends immediately responded to the idea of this image by thinking of shalom = peace, but to me it brings to mind the Israelites, to whom God promised REST, and the promised land.  Rest is closely related to peace, of course…  Anyways, the pastor saw the flag of Israel come down and wrap itself around me, he didn’t just visualize it already around my shoulders, so, and maybe I’m being too literal, maybe I’m nitpicking, but God knows that that is my nature… to me, this says that the blessing represented by the flag is going to come, that it’s not already here.  More than ever, I’m expecting explosive blessings, unprecedented favor, to come into my life. 

That first prayer closet experience was a powerful and wonderful one. I would recommend to anyone that has a little piece of household real estate that they can set up as a prayer closet, whether in a permanent way like in the movie War Room, which I highly recommend that you go see if you have not yet done so, or setting up something like I have, where I can roll down wall-covering strips of paper to make up a prayer closet and then roll them up when I’m done, that they should set one up and start praying. I’m greatly looking forward to seeing where God will take me in this new and increased level of my prayer and worship life. 

I don’t want to seem to be promoting any sellers’ products on Amazon, but if anyone wants to try to either set up a prayer closet like I have done and wants to know how to put it together, or has their own way to set it up but wants some ideas about how to best utilize their prayer time, leave me a comment with questions and I’ll be happy to answer.

The important thing is: PRAY!!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

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from JO’s sermon tonight:

one of the biggest challenges we all face is getting along with people, because everyone is different;  we have different personalities, temperaments, backgrounds. when somebody doesn’t agree with us, they do something we don’t like, it’s easy to get in conflict with them: argue, try to straighten them out, prove our point. before long, we’re at odds, mad at each other, living offended, there’s stress, tension in the home. what’s happened? we’ve allowed strife in.  strife is a spirit just like peace is a spirit. you’ve walked into a place before, you don’t know anybody, you’ve never been there, but you can feel the tension in the room; in the atmosphere there’s stress, discord. nobody said anything, but you know something is not right; that’s the spirit of strife.  if we would see it as the destructive force that it is, we would be more careful about allowing it in our lives. after all, it’s easy to argue, especially with those closest to you.  let’s be real; your spouse can get on your nerves. you love the man, you can’t live without him; sometimes, you feel like choking him. when we let our guard down, say things that are hurtful, disrespectful, demeaning, that’s not only damaging the relationship, that’s opening the door to strife; that’s inviting that destructive spirit into our life. that’s why the scripture says:

Ephesians 4:27 (NRSV)

27 and do not make room for the devil 

strife can’t just come in when wants, bring division, disharmony, tear relationships apart; we have to open the door. I’m not saying that we should never have an argument, never say a wrong word, that’s not reality, but when it becomes a part of who we are, it becomes common, we’re constantly arguing, fighting, being disrespectful, that means we’ve gone way too far. Jesus said:

Mark 3:25 (TLB)

25 A home filled with strife and division destroys itself

if you allow the spirit of strife in, it’ll tear apart relationships, your marriage, your family. I’ve seen lifelong friendships destroyed over one disagreement;  that’s strife doing what it does best.  “I wouldn’t get so upset if my coworker wouldn’t be disrespectful to me. I wouldn’t argue if my spouse wouldn’t push my buttons, that’s why we fight all the time”; no, you have to be the bigger person. just because somebody is doing wrong, that doesn’t mean you have to engage; that’s the spirit of strife baiting you, saying, “come on, let me in.  argue, fight, be disrespectful.” don’t take the bait. it takes a mature person to overlook an offense, and say, “no, I’m not taking that bait, I’m staying in peace.”  it takes maturity to apologize even when it wasn’t your fault. if you’re going to keep strife out, you have to get good at walking away when everything in you says to let them have it. there will be times when you know you’re right, the other person is being disrespectful, not telling the truth, but for the sake of peace you let it go. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:9 (NIV)

9 Blessed are the peacemakers

he didn’t say, “blessed are the people who are right.” sometimes, you have to let the other person think they’re right, even when you know they’re wrong. we think, “if I’m right, I’m not going to back down; I’m going to prove to them that I’m right, win this battle.” can I tell you; being right is overrated. you can be right and be miserable. you can be right and sleep on the couch. you can be right your whole life and have nobody at your funeral. you can prove your point, always win the battle; what you don’t realize is, it’s damaging your relationships.  if you’ll let God do it His way, He’ll change what needs to be changed. God is the potter; we can’t change people, only God can.  these are tests that we must pass.  will you stay on the high road and bite your tongue, even when you feel like telling somebody off? will you put your ego down, and let somebody else be right, even when you know they’re wrong? 

when you’re in unity, the favor on your life is increased. you are 10 times more powerful when you’re in agreement; this means you have 10 times the strength to withstand attacks, overcome obstacles. you can accomplish dreams 10 times bigger, more rewarding. you will go so much further if you will keep unity in your home. some of the obstacles you can’t seem to overcome, the doors that are not opening, it may be because you’re operating with the strength of one; there is strife and division. you need the 10x power to reach the fullness of your destiny. that person God put in your life is not just there for companionship; there is a spiritual force released when you live in peace and harmony. the scripture says:

Mark 10:8 (NABRE)

8 and the two shall become one 

you don’t become one overnight; it takes some time.

Psalm 133:1-3 (NKJV)
1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is

For brethren to dwell together in unity!… 3 … For there the Lord commanded the blessing

that’s when you’ll accomplish things that you could not accomplish on your own. if we realized what we were giving up by allowing all these petty things to tear us apart, strife, discord, being at odds with each other, if we really saw how that was holding us back, we would work overtime to keep peace in our life. God has big things in your future, but it’s going take more than just your faith;  you’re going to need the 10x power that comes from having unity in your home. think about what your children can accomplish when you are in agreement with your spouse; 10× the influence, creativity, power. this is one of the things that holds us back; it’s not our lack of talent, education, the background we come from, it’s the fact that we’re operating on 1/10 the power.

what would happen if you would draw the line in the sand, and say,  “that’s it; from this day forward, I’m keeping strife out of my life.  no more arguing, petty fights, saying disrespectful things; I’m staying on the high road. I’m not allowing division, discord, tension in my home. I’m going to be a peacemaker.” when you do that, God will release the 10x power; favor, increase, blessing like you’ve never seen.   “if I don’t stand up for myself, tell people what I think, that’s going to make me look weak”; it’s just the opposite. when you go the extra mile to keep strife out of your home, that’s not being weak; that’s a sign of strength. the most mature person is the one who walks away from the argument.  the most mature person is not always the one that’s right;  it’s the one that keeps the peace. 

you know what arguing and having to be right really boils down to?  pride; “I’m not going to let them get the best of me.” you have to put your ego down, and say, “I’d rather have peace in my life. I would rather have the 10x blessing than just be right.”  maybe you know you’re not being your best in your behavior;  you drifted down the wrong path. God is not here to condemn us, to make us feel bad about ourselves, but He will convict us and challenge us to come up higher.  condemnation pushes us down; conviction is there to push us up. but we have to say, “I’m willing to change. I can make some adjustments.” God has the right people here; don’t ask how God can change somebody else, look inside, and say, “God, how can I change? how can I get along better with people? God, what am I doing that’s keeping my spouse and I from that 10x blessing? what am I doing that’s going to make it harder on my children, passing down things that are going to hold them back?” 

what we’re modeling in our homes is the way our children are going to treat people they get in relationships with. mothers, if you want your son to have a healthy, loving relationship with his wife, then you have to sow a seed by treating your husband in a loving, healthy way. fathers, if you want your daughter to be treated with respect and honor like the queen she is, make sure you’re treating your wife like the queen that she is, with respect and honor.  that means not saying everything you feel like saying, not pushing the buttons, not allowing the spirit of strife in your home. if you don’t do it for yourself, at least do for your children;  do it to make it easier on those that come after you. a lot of times, we think, “I’ll change when they change. when he starts treating me better, then I’ll be nice to him. when she stops nagging me, then I’ll be friendly again.”  no, the bigger person is the one that makes the first move. God will reward you in a greater way if you’ll take the first step. 

pride will tell you, “don’t do it, they don’t deserve it. I’m not going to treat them right when they’re treating me wrong.” you’re not just doing it for them, you’re doing it unto God. you’re not saying, “I approve your behavior. it’s ok to treat me this way.” you’re saying, “God, I know the importance of keeping strife out of my life. even though I don’t like this, I’m going to stay on the high road and be a peacemaker, knowing that You will make it up to me.”  but human nature says to treat people the way they treat us; “you want to be disrespectful, 2 people can play that game. you want to be argumentative, unfriendly, sarcastic, you’ve met your match, let’s go.” all that’s going to do is make matters worse.

God brought the people in your life on purpose. it’s not an accident; it’s a part of His divine plan. no person is perfect; we all have flaws and weaknesses. if you blow that person off because of their issues, the problem is, the next person you get in a relationship with will have some kind of issues as well, something to get on your nerves. you have to learn this principle; to rise above it, and keep strife out of your home. you can be the difference-maker; when you honor your spouse, treat them with respect even when they don’t deserve it, that’s what causes them to come up higher, not arguing, being disrespectful, pushing them down. it’s like you’re pouring water into a jar with a small cork in it; the more water you pour, the higher that cork will rise.  your spouse is the cork; your honor is the water.  the more honor you pour in, the higher your spouse will rise.

Jesus said:

Matthew 12:25 (HCSB)

25 “Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.

when we allow strife in our life, something is happening, we’re continually going down:  our relationships, dreams, attitudes, energy. you’ll make better decisions if you’ll get rid of the discord.  you’ll be more creative, productive, successful, if you’ll take these steps to keep peace in your home. where there’s unity, God’s blessing, favor, anointing is on your life, marriage, career, finances. there is power in agreement, when you rise up and say, “I’m going to do everything I can to keep unity in my home. my spouse may be argumentative, my children may be hard to get along with, but as for me, I’m going to be a peacemaker.” one peacemaker is more powerful than a dozen troublemakers. the peace you bring will have such an anointing on it, it will break the forces that are trying to tear your family apart.    

James 3:16 (MEV)

16 For where there is envying and strife, there is confusion and every evil work

when we allow strife in, it opens the door to unnecessary trouble; there will be conflicts, disappointments, setbacks, that we didn’t have to encounter. don’t be stubborn; we have enough battles to fight in life where we don’t have a choice, don’t make it harder on yourself by opening the door to trouble.

Matthew 5:9 (AMP)

9 “Blessed [spiritually calm with life-joy in God’s favor] are the makers and maintainers of peace 

we know what it means to make peace: we make up after an argument, apologize, forgive, move forward, that’s important. but we need to be more aware about maintaining our peace; that means you stay on the high road, bite your tongue, let things go, don’t argue.  it’s much easier to maintain your peace than to have to always try to make peace.  there’s not another person alive that you’re in relationship with that at some point will not irritate you, offend you, hurt you, or get on your nerves. instead of being upset every time things don’t go your way, being argumentative, giving them the cold shoulder, why don’t you try this new approach, and start maintaining your peace?  don’t open the door to strife. when you go the extra mile to keep unity in your home, you’ll not only have God’s blessing and favor because of the power of agreement, but you will have His protection; He’ll keep you from unnecessary trouble. this can save a marriage today, save a relationship. it’s not always big things, sometimes it’s a small thing.  if you’ll make these minor adjustments, they can make major improvements.

Proverbs 20:3 (NLT)

3 Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor

sometimes, we think winning a fight is a mark of honor;  we come back after an argument, give ourselves a high-five, and think, “I let them have it. I showed her who was boss.” that’s not really winning.  you fed your ego, made yourself feel good, but didn’t strengthen the relationship. you may have won in one sense, but what did it cost you, how much damage was done? when we say hurtful words, when we’re disrespectful, that’s a very heavy price. the way to really win is to avoid it, to stay on the high road, to walk away; that’s a mark of honor.  this takes humility. pride will tell you, “have the last word, stay at it, let them have it.” that verse goes on to say:

Proverbs 20:3 (CEV)

3 … only fools love to quarrel

instead of thinking about how you can win the argument, strategizing what you’re going to say, spend that same time thinking about how you’re going to avoid the argument. I’m not saying to not address issues, but there’s a right way and a right time.  you should do it calmly, express your concerns, and then leave it there. if it starts to get heated, disrespectful, that’s the time to walk away. if you’ll do it God’s way, He’ll fight your battles, change what needs to be changed. plus, we need to ask ourselves, “what am I arguing over? is it worth it?” sometimes, we argue over petty things that in the big picture don’t really matter. 

while we may not lose millions from an argument, we can lose something even more valuable, the people God has put in our lives:  your spouse, children, parents, friends. it’s easy to get at odds, let little things build up, say hurtful things here, argue there, be disrespectful; one day you look up, and they’re not there anymore. don’t take the people in your life for granted.  are you treating them with respect and honor? do they feel treasured, valued, loved? or, are you hard to get along with, unfriendly, argumentative? life is too short to live that way.  where there’s disharmony, you’re weakened; you won’t reach your highest potential. I’m asking you today to be a maker and a maintainer of peace. do what you can to keep the atmosphere in your home loving, friendly, kind.  be a person of honor, and avoid the fight. if you’ll keep strife out, because there’s unity in your home, you’re going to see that 10x blessing. God is going to increase you with more wisdom, more favor. you will accomplish dreams and reach the fullness of your destiny.

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