Archive for September, 2016

(No new sermon this week.)

I was recently laid low by a truly savage case of shingles. For those of you who don’t know, shingles is absolutely excruciating, and worse than that, typically lasts 4-5 weeks, WEEKS, and also can go on for MONTHS. Take a moment to envision trying to live your life with the worst pain that you ever imagined, every single moment for weeks or months. That was what was going through my mind after about a week with shingles.

I went into my prayer closet, but my back was so locked up from the pain that I couldn’t get on my face the way I normally would. I was basically sitting back on my heels, with tears running down my cheeks both from the pain and the exhaustion of not having been able to sleep the previous night because the pain was bad in every possible sleep position. I prayed for the Holy Spirit to take away the pain and heal me of the virus, of course, as I had been doing every day, but then, without any particular premeditation, I prayed the following:

“Father, this is REALLY bad. I know that You can feel what I’m feeling, and You know how bad the pain is. But I want You to know that it doesn’t matter how bad the pain gets, or how long the pain lasts, it will never, EVER, affect my love for You, or my trust, belief, faith, worship, praise, or prayers. You can read my mind, so You can look and see that this is true.”

When I went to bed after that, I WAS able to find a reasonably comfortable position and fall asleep. When I got up to use the restroom, I realized that I had gotten up to use the restroom, in other words, I wasn’t moving 1 inch at a time with my eyes bugging out in agony, I had just gotten up out of bed and gone to the restroom… Pain-free. I groggily thanked the Holy Spirit for what he was doing, and went back to bed. When I eventually got up, I was still pain-free. I checked the rash, which had looked really horrifying the night before; it had radically shrunk and faded. The shingles rash normally blisters, and then the blisters break, and then… Well, I’ll spare you all the nasty medical details. Previous to my saying the prayer, I had examined the worst spots with a magnifying glass, and I saw the blisters just beginning to form, pale spots on the rash where the skin was starting to detach. When I checked those same spots again the next morning, some of the spots were GONE, and the others were obviously being re-absorbed into my skin. It was mind-blowing. 

There is no confusion whatsoever here; I went from hideous pain after one week of shingles to being totally pain-free with the rash rapidly fading because I said that prayer. The Holy Spirit revealed to me that God had permitted the shingles to happen as a test, in part to see if I would handle the worst pain imaginable like a woman of God, and also more specifically to see if I would do exactly what I did, and pray that exact prayer. I flatter myself that God was up in heaven saying, “have you considered my servant Former Heathen?” (If you don’t get the reference, look up the story of Job.)

Let me be clear; prayer is NOT like magic words that you can say to stop whatever you’re suffering. The words have to be TRUE, and you have to MEAN them when you say them. God can read your mind, the Bible says in many places that He can, so you cannot fool Him no matter how vehemently or sincerely you say those words; the words have to be TRUE for this to have any effect. Even if the words are 100% true, and you mean them 100%, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that saying what I said will work for you in every situation; what I’m saying is that this is something that God wants, and DESERVES, to hear from us in our times of trouble and pain, and if you truly feel as I did and say what I said, I think that it will benefit you significantly the overwhelming majority of times, although maybe not in the way or at the time that you would have preferred.

In general, prayer is incredibly powerful. I don’t mean perfunctory prayers said over your food, or that you only utter when you’re asking God to give you something or do something for you, I mean serious, focused, hard-core prayer every single day. If you’re not doing it, you’re missing out on some of the best benefits that God is eager to give you; focus on prayer, circle your life around God all day every day, and amazing things will start to happen.

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Miracles out of mistakes

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we’ve all made wrong choices, done things that we knew were not the best. it’s one thing when other people do us wrong, we had a bad break, it wasn’t our fault; we can have faith that God will restore, pay us back. but when we bring the trouble on ourselves, when we blow it, it’s easy to live in regrets, thinking that God’s not going to help us; we made the mess. but here’s the beauty; God knew that you would mess up before He called you. He knew that we would get off course, give in to temptation. He didn’t base His plan for your life on you making perfect decisions; God has a plan even for your mistakes. what you think is a failure, you blew it, nothing good could come out of that; God has a way of making miracles out of mistakes. He can take what should’ve left you lonely, disappointed, limited your career; instead of setting you back, God knows how to turn it around and set you up to move you toward your destiny.

but too often, when we make mistakes, we go around down on ourselves, guilty, not expecting anything good. voices tell us, “too bad, just live with the consequences; it’s all downhill from here.” but be encouraged; God is full of mercy. He doesn’t turn his back when we make a mistake. He doesn’t say, “I’m done with you; you’ll never get it right.” it’s just the opposite; He comes running to us. He’ll not only help you clean up the mess you made, He’ll take it one step further, and make miracles out of those mistakes. Paul said it this way:

Romans 8:28 (KJV)

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God

“all things” means even our mistakes, the times we blew it, got off course; God knows how to work it for our good.  and you may be in a complicated situation, a problem that seems like it’ll never work out; there are other people involved, different personalities, legal circumstances. it seems too complex, but God has it all figured out. He can see things that you can’t see. His ways are better than our ways. you may have brought the trouble on yourself, but God is saying, “I’m going to correct those complications, resolve complex issues, make things work out that you could have never made work on your own.” 

that’s what he did for Abraham:

Genesis 15:4 (ERV)

4 Then the Lord spoke to Abram and said… You will have a son who will get everything you own.”

year after year went by, and nothing happened; they decided to try to help God out:

Genesis 16:1-15 (ERV)

1 Sarai was Abram’s wife… She had an Egyptian slave named Hagar. 2 Sarai told Abram, “The Lord has not allowed me to have children, so sleep with my slave. Maybe she can have a son, and I will accept him as my own.” Abram did what Sarai said… 4 Abram slept with Hagar, and she became pregnant… 15 Hagar gave birth to Abram’s son, and Abram named the son Ishmael.

but Ishmael wasn’t the promised child; he was a mistake, born out of Abraham and Sarah’s impatience. they got in a hurry, took matters into their own hands, and had this baby; now there was strife and division in their home:

Genesis 16:5 (ERV)

5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “My slave girl now hates me, and I blame you for this. I gave her to you, and she became pregnant. Then she began to feel that she is better than I am.

every time Sarah saw Hagar, she became more and more upset:

Genesis 21:10 (ERV)

10 Sarah said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son. Send them away! When we die, our son Isaac will get everything we have. I don’t want that slave woman’s son sharing these things with my son Isaac!”

Abraham was in a complicated situation. he was at a crossroads; he had to send his son away, out into the desert. it looked like that would be the end of Ishmael. the problem was, he loved Ishmael; that was his son. he was conflicted, thinking, “I love Sarah, and I love Ishmael. how did I get myself into this mess?” God could’ve said, “Abraham, if you would have listened to Me, you wouldn’t be in this mess. you should’ve waited, been more patient; it was your own fault.” instead, God said, in effect, “yes, Abraham it’s complicated, dysfunctional, there’s strife and division, but I wouldn’t have let you get in this mess if I didn’t know how to bring you out.” God told Abraham:

Genesis 21:12-13 (ERV)

12 But God said to Abraham, “Don’t worry about the boy and the slave woman. Do what Sarah wants. Your descendants will be those who come through Isaac. 13 But I will also bless the son of your slave woman. He is your son, so I will make a great nation from his family also.”

even though Ishmael was considered a mistake, born out of what the scripture calls “works of the flesh,” trying to make it happen on our own, God in His mercy said, “I’m going to take that mistake, and make a miracle. I’m going to bring something significant out of him, Abraham, in spite of your failures, how you blew it.” 

like Abraham, we all have some Ishmaels: times we blew it, tried to make it happen on our own, got involved in things that we shouldn’t have. now it’s a mess. the accuser constantly whispers, “God’s not going to bless you, you knew better; just sit on the sidelines of life.” don’t believe those lies. God has mercy for every mistake. God loves to make the enemy pay for bringing that trouble. if you’ll stay in faith, God will not only bring you through it, He’ll take the mess you made, clean it up, and bring you out better.

Abraham had a son named Isaac, who had a son named Jacob, who had a son named Joseph. Abraham was Joseph’s great-grandfather. when Joseph was a teenager:

Genesis 37:11-24 (ESV)

11 And his brothers were jealous of him… 24 And they took him and threw him into a pit. 25 Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites 

these were the descendants of Ishmael, part of the great nation that God had promised Abraham. 

Genesis 37:28 (ESV)

28 … they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites

if it hadn’t been for the Ishmaelites, Joseph would’ve died there in the pit. he would’ve never made it to the palace, or been in charge of the food supply during the famine; the Israelites, years later, wouldn’t have had what they needed to survive. the mistake of Abraham became the miracle of his great-grandson Joseph. this is how amazing God is; He has a plan even for our mistakes. even when we blow it, the scripture says God is going to work all things for our good. He can not only correct a complicated situation, but He can somehow use it years later to bless your descendants. 

sometimes, we make mistakes like Abraham, when we’re trying to do the right thing, our heart is in the right place, but we miss it. we believe that God will help us, because He’s merciful, and we were doing our best. other times, we know what the right thing is, what we should do, but we do just the opposite. this is when we think, “I don’t deserve God’s goodness. I made the mess. I knew I shouldn’t hang around these friends, I did it anyway; now, I’m in trouble, I have this addiction. I knew that I should control my temper, bite my tongue, but I kept giving in; now, I don’t have my job, I lost a relationship.” when we bring trouble on ourselves, thoughts of guilt and condemnation bombard our minds, saying, “God’s not going to help you, you knew better. just sit on the sidelines of life.” this is how Jonah felt in the scripture:

Jonah 1:1-2 (NIV)

1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

he knew exactly what he was supposed to do, but Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh; he got on a boat headed in the opposite direction:

Jonah 1:3 (NIV)

3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. 4 Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.

it’s interesting that the Lord sent the storm; God knows how to get our attention. when you know that you’re going the wrong way, like this boat, things are going to start falling apart. you can’t pray away all the winds; it’s because you’re causing the trouble. God loves you too much to let you miss your destiny. He’s not going to let you go year after year on the wrong course and never get your attention. and sometimes, it’s the enemy fighting us, trying to keep us from our destiny; that’s why we have storms, difficulties. other times, we’re bringing the trouble on ourselves; if we’d just get back on the right course, do what we know we should do, those winds would calm down. 

the people sailing with Jonah said:

Jonah 1:8-10 (NIV)

8 So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

9 He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

when you’re running from the Lord, you’re running from your destiny. it’s not only going to cause you trouble, it’s going to bring trouble to the people around you.

Jonah 1:15 (NIV)

15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm.

our decisions don’t just affect us, they affect our family, our children. if you don’t do the right thing for yourself, at least do it for your children, your family. Jonah was big enough to admit, “I am the cause”; that’s the first step to victory. as long as you’re making excuses, thinking it doesn’t matter, then the winds, storms, difficulties are going to continue. Jonah was out in the ocean, thrown overboard, I’m sure he thought, “I’m done, and I have nobody to blame; it was all my fault.”

Jonah 1:17 (NIV)

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah

God in his great mercy was saying, “Jonah, you can run, but you can’t hide. I’m not finished with you; I have a destiny for you to fulfill.” the Psalmist said:

Psalm 139:8 (NIV)

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;  if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

you can’t get away from Him. you haven’t made too many mistakes, blown it too many times. God’s calling on your life is irrevocable; that means, God is not going to change his mind because you got off course. He’s not going to leave you alone until you get back on the right path. the sooner you do that, the better off you’re going to be.

Jonah was sitting in the belly of the big fish; it was dark, uncomfortable, it stunk. most people would have complained; not Jonah, he was grateful to be alive. he knew it was the mercy of God, having that fish there waiting for him. God will allow storms when we get off-course. He may allow something to get our attention, but He’s not going to let those difficulties take your life. 

Jonah 1:17 (NIV)

17 … Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Jonah 2:10 (NIV)

10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Jonah 3:1-2 (NIV)

3 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

same thing that He said the first time. God is not going to change his mind; you might as well do what He’s asking you to do. He’ll give you a 2nd chance, a 3rd chance, a 20th chance, but it’s going to be stormy until you get back on the right course. Yes, He’ll have a fish there to save you, make a miracle out of that mistake, but at some point, you have to take responsibility, and say, “I’m the Jonah. I’m going against what I know is right: I’m hanging out with these friends that I know are pulling me down. I’m living negative, critical, hard to get along with. I’m not being disciplined in what I’m watching.” that’s going to cause it to be rocky, not just for you, but for the people around you. God is not asking you to be perfect, to never make a mistake, but He is asking us to deal with the things that are holding us back, to not let the same areas of compromise keep us down year after year. He has some Ninevehs for you to go to, people for you to impact, new levels of your destiny. David said it this way:

Psalm 37:23-24 (KJV)

23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.

24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.

this is saying, even though God is directing our steps, there will be times that we fall, make mistakes, get off course. God doesn’t say, “that’s it, I’m done with you“; just like with Jonah, God will be right there to help pick you up. He’ll help you get back on the right course.

it’s like the navigation system that you might have in your car; most of us have a GPS system even in our cell phone. you type in the address, and the computer calculates the best route; then, it starts telling you where to go, things like, “turn right in 300 feet, stay to the left and enter the freeway.” if you miss a turn, or don’t obey what the lady on the GPS is telling you to do, she doesn’t come back on and say, “you missed your exit, go back and try again”; she says, “recalculating route.” the navigation system is designed for people who make mistakes. it doesn’t give you one way, and if you miss it, that’s it; as long as you have gas in your car, or battery in your cell phone, it’s going to tell you how to get to your destination. if the GPS lady can continually recalculate when we get off course, how much more will the Creator of the universe recalculate our route when we make mistakes. if she doesn’t give up on us, why do we think that our heavenly Father is going to give up on us?

“it’s because I got so far off course: I shouldn’t have given in to this addiction, I should’ve raised my children better, stayed in church, kept God first place.” the good news is, you haven’t made too many wrong turns, missed too many exits. your heavenly Father is not mad at you; He’s saying, “recalculating route. I still have a way to get you to your destiny. that mistake didn’t stop My plan. that delay didn’t cancel your purpose.” why don’t you quit beating yourself up, reliving your failures, all the times you’ve missed it, and get back on the right path? it’s not too late; God’s mercy is bigger than any mistakes you’ve made. unlike the GPS lady, God knows the end from the beginning. He knew every mistake that you would make. He has already recalculated your route. you can still fulfill the best plan that God has for your life.

Abraham and Sarah did; they made that mistake, Abraham had a baby out of wedlock. at one point, Abraham lied and told everyone that Sarah, his wife, was his sister. (NB: technically, this was not a lie:

Genesis 20:12 (NIV)

12 Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife.

the laws prohibiting this did not exist at that time.)

God didn’t say, “I’m done with you; you are one dysfunctional family, you lie, you’re impatient”; God recalculated the route, giving them another chance. at the age of 100, Abraham saw the promise come to pass; Isaac was born, the promised child. and you may have made decisions that have delayed things, you got off course, but you’re not stuck; God has a new route. if you’ll get your passion back, shake off the guilt, God will get you to where you’re supposed to be; not some secondary place, but to the best plan that He has for your life.

when the Israelites were in the desert, headed toward the promised land, they got tired and started complaining. the scripture says that even though they were stubborn and refused God’s commands, He was still good to them. that was God recalculating their route. they wouldn’t obey His commands; God didn’t say, “I’m done with you,” He kept giving them water when they were thirsty, food when they were hungry. at one point:

Exodus 32:3-4 (NIV)

3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

after all that God had done for them, parted the Red Sea, brought them out of Pharaoh’s hands, you would think that God would say, “I am done with you; you are on your own.” but the scripture says:

Nehemiah 9:17-19 (NIV)

17 … you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, 18 even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies.

19 “Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. 

when we make mistakes, God doesn’t abandon us. when we get off course, don’t obey His commands, He doesn’t write us off. you can turn your back on God, but God’s not going to turn His back on you. you may be off course, you’ve made poor decisions, but God has already recalculated your route. He already has a new way to get you to your destination. no mistake that you’ve made is too much for the mercy of God; He knows how to reroute. quit beating yourself up, living guilty, thinking that you’ve seen your best days; you wouldn’t be alive unless God had something greater in your future.

this is what happened with Moses; he made a mistake. as a young man, he knew that God had called him to deliver the Israelites from slavery, but like Abraham and Sarah, he got in a hurry and tried to do it in his own strength:

Exodus 2:11-12 (NIV)

11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand… 15 When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian

Acts 7:29-30 (NIV)

29 Moses… fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.

30 “After forty years had passed…

this is not what he had planned; it looked like he had missed his destiny. it was nobody’s fault except his own. God didn’t write him off, or say, “Moses, you knew better, why didn’t you wait?” God simply said; “recalculating route.” 40 years later, Moses was still in the desert, thinking that he was forgotten, giving up on his dreams, but suddenly:

Exodus 3:2-5 (NIV)

2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

Moses was confused, thinking, “I failed, I made mistakes, I thought I was done, but I hear Him calling my name.” not once, but twice: “Moses, Moses.” if God would have said it once, Moses would’ve thought, “I’m hearing things, this sun is getting to me.” God said it twice on purpose, so there would be no doubt about it. at the age of 80, after a 40 year detour, God recalculated the route. Moses went on to deliver the Israelites; he fulfilled his purpose.

I believe today that God is recalculating some routes. you may have made mistakes, you think you’ve blown it too many times.  no, you need to get ready; like Moses, a burning bush is coming your way. you messed up, but if you’ll listen, you’ll hear God calling your name. He’s saying, “get your passion back, shake off the guilt, get ready to take new ground.“ you can still become all that God’s created you to be. He’s not finished with you. if you’ll do this, God is going to make miracles out of your mistakes, correct complicated situations, restore what the enemy has stolen, and take you into the fullness of your destiny.

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Your destiny is calling

from JO’s sermon tonight:

in the scripture, God called Abraham:

Genesis 17:5 (NKJV)
5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.

at that time, he didn’t have any children; he and his wife Sarah were too old to have kids. it looked like God made a mistake. Abraham could have thought, “God, what do You mean? I’m not a father of many nations; I’m childless, my wife is barren.” here’s the principle; God calls you what you are before you become it. people call you what you are after it happens; God calls you what you are before it happens. when God rejected Saul as the king of Israel, He told Samuel:

Acts 13:22 (NIV)
22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart

what’s interesting is that David wasn’t a man, he was a teenager; he was out taking care of his father’s sheep. he was a boy, but God called him what he would become. in the same way, God calls you blessed, successful, strong, healthy, talented. that may not all be true right now; you could say, like Abraham, “God, what do you mean? I’m not blessed, I’m struggling in my finances. I’m not healthy, I’m dealing with this illness.” don’t worry; it’s on the way. God calls things that are not as if they already were:

Romans 4:17 (NIV)
17 … God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not

Romans 4:17 (AMPC)
17 … God in Whom he believed, Who gives life to the dead and speaks of the nonexistent things that [He has foretold and promised] as if they [already] existed.

there are promises that God has spoken over you, dreams and goals that He’s placed in your heart; you didn’t come up with them on your own. those aren’t just your ideas; God put them there. the scripture talks about:

Psalm 37:4 (AMPC)
4 … secret petitions of your heart

that means the things you’re dreaming about. you haven’t told anyone, it seems too big, too far out; that’s your destiny calling. that’s God telling you what you can become. you may not see how it can happen, every circumstance may say, “you don’t have the talent, you don’t come from the right family, you tried last time, it didn’t work out.” don’t talk yourself out of it. God has spoken it, He controls the universe; all He’s looking for is someone who will agree with Him, someone who will rise up in faith, and say, “yes, I can hear my destiny calling. I may not see a way, but God, I know you have a way; if you speak it, I believe I can become it.” human nature says, “when I see it, I’ll believe it.” faith says, “I’ll believe it, then I’ll see it.”

God will speak things over you that don’t seem logical: when you’re sick, the medical report says you won’t get well, God says just the opposite; He calls you healthy, whole, strong. when the odds are against you, don’t have the connections, resources, experience, God calls you successful, prosperous, the head and not the tail. when you’re struggling with an addiction, everybody in your family has had it, if you’ll listen, you’ll hear your destiny saying, “you’re free. this addiction is temporary. the buck stops with you.” God doesn’t call you what you are; He calls you what you can become. people can’t see what God sees in you. God sees your potential; He knows what you’re capable of. He’s the one that breathed life into you. don’t let people talk you out of it. don’t let family members convince you that you don’t have what it takes; they’re calling you what you are, God is calling you what you can become. they can’t hear what you hear.

don’t expect people to cheer you on. don’t count on your friends to keep you encouraged; they may not be for you. they may think you’re far out, and try to talk you out of it. don’t worry; you don’t have to have other people. when you hear your destiny calling, that’s between you and God. some things, you have to go alone; you have to say, “God, they may not be for me, but I know You are for me. You put this promise in my heart. I’m not going to be moved by who’s not cheering me on, I’m not going to give up because nobody’s encouraging me, I know You being for me is more than enough to get me to where I’m supposed to be.” you and God are a majority. that promise is not dependent on your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, your boss, the critics, the naysayers; it’s dependent on you. when you’re tempted to get discouraged, to settle for mediocrity, you have to dig your heels in, and say, “I don’t think so; I am in it to win it.” keep pressing forward, honoring God; your destiny is calling.

in Luke 1:

Luke 1:5-18 (NIV)
5 … priest named Zechariah… 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old… 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him… 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John… 18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

he was saying, in effect, “I can hear my destiny calling, but I don’t see how it could happen; we’re too old.” God was telling him what he could become, but because he had been childless for so many years, he couldn’t conceive of it. when you’ve been a certain way for a long time, you’ve prayed and believed and it hasn’t happened, it’s easy to settle for who you are, instead of believing for who you can become. too often, we get comfortable with mediocrity; that may be who you are, but you don’t have to stay that way. God is telling you what you can become. freedom, wholeness, breakthroughs are in your future.

maybe you’ve been single a long time; you don’t think you’ll ever meet the right person. that is not the end, that’s a season; God has already lined up a divine connection for you, somebody better than you can imagine. perhaps you feel stuck in your career, you can’t seem to get a good break. that’s not permanent, it’s only temporary; there is a promotion in your future, new levels up ahead. don’t do like Zechariah, “this is too good to be true, I don’t see how”; let the seed take root, that’s your destiny calling. Zechariah said to the angel:

Luke 1:18-20 (NIV)
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

what was that? God knew that if he went around saying, “it’s never going to happen. this angel told us we’re going to have a baby; we’re too old,” the promise never would’ve come to pass. you can talk yourself out of your victory. when you hear your destiny calling, you may not see how it could happen, but don’t start talking about how it’s not going to work out; do yourself a favor, and zip it up. it may seem unlikely, the medical report says no way, the child is off course, but if Gabriel were standing here today, he would say the same thing to you that he said to Zechariah; “I stand in the presence of Almighty God; what He promised you will come to pass.” if you will stay in faith, all of the forces of darkness cannot keep it from happening. God will open doors that no man can shut. He’ll turn situations around that look impossible. when there are obstacles trying to stop you:

Psalm 18:29 (AMPC)
29 For by You I can run through a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.

that means, if you can’t get through it, God will cause you to go over it. bottom line: God will get you to where you’re supposed to be. people, bad breaks, sickness can’t stop you; God has the final say. we’re not supposed to get stuck at one level; be grateful for where you are, thank God for what He’s done, but keep your faith stirred up. God wants to take you from glory to glory, victory to victory. there are new mountains for you to climb. He’s going to open new doors, give you greater influence, bring gifts and talents out in a new way. this is where you are, but God is saying, “you can become something greater.”

Luke 1:57-61 (NIV)
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

back in those days, it wasn’t good enough for the mother to name the baby; women didn’t have the authority and influence that they have today.

Luke 1:62-64 (NIV)
62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.

friends and family came up with what they thought the best name for the child was; sometimes, well-meaning people will try to name your baby. We all have “theys” in our life. we should listen to counsel, take advice, but you cannot let other people name your baby. don’t let somebody else name your future; you know what God put in your heart. you can’t please people all the time and please God all the time. sometimes, people will name you something that you’re not: average, not talented, addicted, too short, too tall. don’t let them put limitations on you, and convince you that you can’t accomplish your dreams. sometimes, because of their own issues that they’re not dealing with, their own insecurities, they’ll try to keep you down so they don’t look so bad. you may have to disappoint a few people in order to fulfill your purpose.

life is too short to hang around people who are not making you better, pushing you forward. you don’t have time to waste on people who are causing you to compromise, draining your energy, getting you off course, negative, critical, bitter, jealous people. your destiny is calling. you have an assignment to fulfill. “what if I hurt their feelings?” what if you miss your destiny? what if you don’t become all that you were created to be? who’s naming your baby?

it’s interesting how, back then, the mother couldn’t name the child, so they had to look at Zachariah, the father, and ask him what the baby’s name was. the principle is, let your heavenly Father name your future. that’s why we say at every service, “I am who God says I am.” we’re saying, in effect, “I’m not who people, my circumstances, my past, my mistakes say I am, I am who the most high God, the Creator of the universe, the One who spoke worlds into existence, says I am. people may tell you, “you’re addicted, you’ll never get on the right course”; the good news is, they can’t name your future. God says, “you are free, clean, whole.” you may not be there yet, but God’s telling you what you can become.

your past may tell you, “you’re washed up, you’ve made too many mistakes, you’re a failure,” but your heavenly Father says, “you are forgiven, redeemed, restored. My mercy is bigger than any mistake.” the critics, naysayers, haters, may tell you, “you’re not valuable, attractive, you don’t have anything to offer.” don’t believe those lies; they don’t have the authority to name your future. your heavenly Father says, ”you are one-of-a-kind, you’ve been fearfully and wonderfully made.” He named you a masterpiece, a prized possession. He’s crowned you with favor. you have royal blood flowing through your veins. He’s created you to reign in life as a king/queen. make sure your heavenly Father is naming your future.

when God gave Abraham the promise that his wife Sarah was going to have a baby, she was 70 years old; it didn’t seem possible. in fact, when Abraham told Sarah, the scripture says:

Genesis 18:12 (HCSB)
12 So she laughed to herself: “After I have become shriveled up and my lord is old, will I have delight?”

she had been barren for so many years, they had prayed and believed; everybody else was having babies, but Sarah couldn’t have one. now, when she heard this promise, that after all these years, when it defied the laws of nature, that she was going to have a baby, that was so far out that it was funny to her. sometimes, God will put a promise in our heart that’s difficult to believe; instead of latching on to it, too often we do like Sarah, and think, “that’s never going to happen for me: I’ll never get out of debt, be able to pay my house off, have the funds to build that orphanage I’m dreaming about. I’ll never be free from this depression, I’ve had it my whole life.” this is the way Sarah felt. God did something interesting:

Genesis 17:15 (HCSB)
15 God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai, for Sarah will be her name.

Sarah means “princess.” if anybody didn’t feel like a princess, it would’ve been Sarah. I can imagine she felt inadequate, unattractive, left out; life hadn’t treated her fairly. God knew that He had to change her mindset; her destiny was calling, but she had been through so much, she couldn’t hear it any longer. now, every time someone said, “good morning, Sarah,” they were saying, “good morning, princess.” “how are you Sarah?” “how are you princess?” over and over, she heard that word, “princess”; something began to come alive on the inside. she started carrying herself differently. instead of discounting the promise, now I can hear her telling people, “I’m going to have a baby. God’s going to do something special in my life.” she let the seed take root. at the age of 90, against all odds:

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

the promise that God put in you may seem far out; it’s taking a long time, you tried, and it didn’t work, but God didn’t bring you this far to leave you. what He started in your life, He’s going to finish. there’s no problem too big, no dream too great; God is not limited by your age, income, background, nationality, medical report. He has all power. when He speaks, worlds come into existence. He wouldn’t have given you that promise if He didn’t know how to bring it to pass. why don’t you shake off doubt, negativity, and get a fresh new vision for your life? God is calling you into new levels: freedom, health, abundance, victory. if you’ll get in agreement with Him, He’ll take you places that you’ve never dreamed. He’ll make things happen that you could never make happen on your own. if you could do it on your own, it wouldn’t take faith.

God will put things in your heart that seem beyond your talent, ability, reach. God will use people to speak life into your destiny. I believe He’s using me now to let you know that you have seeds of greatness, you haven’t seen your best days, you have what it takes to accomplish your dreams. that obstacle cannot stop you. that sickness is not going to defeat you. you haven’t made too many mistakes, missed too many opportunities; your future will be brighter than your past.

now do your part, and stir your faith back up. don’t let disappointments talk you out of it. don’t let what somebody did cause you to live bitter and give up on your dreams; God has beauty for those ashes. He said that He would pay you back double for the unfair situations. nothing that’s happened to you can keep you from your destiny. there are new levels, friendships, opportunities up ahead. don’t let a bad break name your future. don’t let the disadvantage convince you to settle for mediocrity. God put greatness in you. He created you to leave your mark on this generation. you’re supposed to set a new standard for your family. you may have had some setbacks, but the forces that are for you are greater than the forces that are against you. the most high God is breathing in your direction.

in the scripture, God called Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 1:5-6 (NIV)
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
6 “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

God was saying, “Jeremiah, before you showed up on this earth, I already knew everything about you. I knew every weakness you would have, every shortcoming, every person that would do you wrong, every bad break. I’ve already calculated all that into My plan for your life.” like Jeremiah, it’s easy to come up with excuses: “God, I don’t have a good personality. I still struggle with my temper. God, these people did me wrong. I didn’t have a good childhood. my boss plays favorites.” God has already taken that into account; it doesn’t have to stop you. God went on to tell Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 1:7 (NIV)
7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’

Jeremiah 1:7 (KJV)
7 But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child

if you’re going to reach the fullness of your destiny, you have to get rid of the say-nots. say not, “this problem is too big,” “I’ll never get well,” “I don’t have the talent,” “I’ve had too many disadvantages,” “I have too many weaknesses,” “I’ve gone as far as I can.” before you were formed in your mother’s womb, God equipped and empowered you. you are not lacking. you didn’t get shortchanged. you are well able. don’t let the say-nots keep you from your destiny. get your mind, words, vision going in the right direction. you are who God says you are. He says you are strong, healthy, forgiven, redeemed, successful. you may not be all that yet; you have to believe it first, and then you’ll become it. if you’ll do this, you are about to rise to a new level, overcome every obstacle, accomplish every dream, and become everything God’s created you to be.

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God = LOVE, not hate

(No new sermon this week.)

I shouldn’t have to say this, but it’s sadly apparent that some people still don’t get it. God is love. LOVE. How many times does it say in the Bible that we should love people? Not that we should love everyone EXCEPT people in a certain category; EVERYONE. We are supposed to love EVERYONE. I am at a loss as to why some Christians simply do not understand this; Jesus said it often enough.

Jesus did not say to love everyone EXCEPT Jews, Muslims, Hindus, or people of any other religion.

Jesus did not say to love everyone EXCEPT people who live in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other part of the world. 

Jesus did not say to love everyone EXCEPT people of a different color, or from a different part of the country, or in a different political party, or who don’t subscribe to the same flavor of Christianity that you do.

This one is harder: Jesus did not say to love everyone EXCEPT wrongdoers, criminals… or even the worst sort of criminals. God loves every single person, and never stops hoping that every single person will choose to live a righteous life and be full of faith. We need to be the same way. Hate the sin, but love the sinner. 

This one is probably the hardest of all: Jesus did not say to love everyone EXCEPT people who have hurt you. It doesn’t matter what harm someone does to you, you have to forgive them and love them. ALL of them. No exceptions. You can read the Bible 100 times, in fact I highly recommend it, and you will never find where Jesus said that there was one single exception to loving everyone because somebody hurt you. 

It can be a challenge to love people who are different, who are evil, who have done us harm… but we all have to do it. If you’re struggling with this, ask God for help; He will give it to you. As with all other areas of obedience to God, this one brings blessings when you have mastered it; don’t do it for that, though, do it because it will please God… what could be better than that?

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Yes, it’s true; the blog that I used to check once a week to see if I had gotten *A* hit, the blog that took over 10 MONTHS to get its first 100 hits, has now gone over 500,000 hits!! My entire second YEAR, I didn’t get much beyond 5 HUNDRED hits, and now I’m up to 500 THOUSAND hits. 

I’ve worked hard, if I told you how many hours I invested in the average post you just wouldn’t believe me, but that has only been a small part of it; God has simply blessed me. I’ve done nothing to promote this blog, but a steady stream of people come here and find something that helps them, something that they need. Again, that’s all God’s doing; I post what He tells me to, and He brings the people. 

Thanks for being part of what I guess at this point you’d have to call my ministry!!

If you have received something of value here, could you please do me a favor? The restoration that I’ve been waiting years for has gotten close enough to almost touch; please pray that it happens very soon. I know that you don’t know any details, but you don’t need to; God knows.

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