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Archive for November, 2016

(No new sermon this week.)

As part of wanting us to have good lives, God wants us to be successful in our relationships. Sometimes, this can be difficult, because different people want and prefer different things, and when we consciously or unconsciously treat people in the way that seems right to us, in other words the way that we ourselves prefer to be treated, we can inadvertently upset them, especially if they decide that we must be deliberately doing something that they don’t like rather than just doing our best to be pleasant and friendly with someone who just happens to want the opposite of what we would want in a given situation. This can become an even bigger problem during the holiday season, when we often find ourselves suddenly having significantly closer and more frequent contact with people that we have not had that much to do with throughout the year.

As you have probably guessed, I myself am currently in this situation. I was baffled when someone I was spending time around reacted to being treated in a normal and friendly way as if it was somehow a bad thing; unfortunately a protracted argument ensued. I’m at something of a loss when a person responds to friendliness with belligerence, especially since it doesn’t seem like there’s anything else I can do… if I can’t be friendly, what’s left, UNFRIENDLY? That sure doesn’t seem like God’s will, does it? But sometimes, when you’re dealing with a person with unusual psychology, an usual approach is required. A couple of hours after the unfortunate beforementioned argument, I went to do my daily Christian reading…

I should interject here that I’m normally very linear and straightforward with how I handle books; I read one book, finish it, and then move onto the next book. Recently, however, I had done something totally unlike me; I had started multiple books, then gone back and finished all of them, started a new book, felt the urge to drop it and read a different book in its entirety, had planned to read yet another book, but felt the urge to go back to the abandoned book…

… so there I was, starting my daily Christian reading shortly after having had this puzzling fight, and there was this quote:

“You [should] start treating him the way he wants to be treated, not the way you feel loved.”

The TIMING!! God maneuvered me through this wildly atypical reading pattern to be sure that I was reading exactly this page on exactly this day. The message is inescapable here; in order to make this man happy, I have to treat him in a way that feels like contempt to me, but will somehow feel good to HIM. This is a perfect example of how when things are going on that are beyond what we would normally understand or be able to figure out what to do, God will find a way to let us know what we need to do. It might feel weird, it might BE weird, but sometimes the weird thing is the right thing.

When God gives you a clear message of this sort, don’t talk yourself out of it; don’t ignore it. This can be really tricky under more normal circumstances where all you get is that still small voice, not a printed line in a book that you can actually look at and verify over and over, but obedience is crucial, not just because we should be obeying God under any circumstances, but also because when He makes the effort to give instructions to us, it’s always very much for our benefit, and we ignore it at our peril. God is good, ALL the time!!

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Prepared in the Process

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all have dreams that God’s placed in our hearts, goals that we want to accomplish. too often, we get discouraged by the process: it’s taking longer than we thought, we had some bad breaks, we went through a loss, somebody did us wrong. we think, “this couldn’t be right; I’m uncomfortable.” but like with a pregnancy, it’s a part of the process. everything you go through, every struggle, disappointment, delay, if you’ll keep the right attitude, that’s depositing something in you, making you stronger, developing your character, growing you up.

here’s the key; you’re anointed before you’re appointed. there’s going to be a preparation period between the time God puts the dream in your heart, and the time that it comes to pass. just because you’re anointed doesn’t mean that the appointing is going to come; it’s up to us to pass these tests, to be willing to go through the difficulties, uncomfortable seasons, lonely times, when we don’t understand it, we’re doing the right thing, but we’re not making progress. this is when many people give up on their dreams; they were anointed, but because they wouldn’t go through the preparation process, they never saw the appointing come.

in the scripture, David was anointed to become the next king of Israel at the age of 17; the prophet Samuel traveled to his house, chose David out of all the other brothers, poured the oil on his head. David was excited; it was a destiny moment. but what’s interesting is that after David was anointed, given this incredible promise, where did he go, to the palace to get his royal robe? no, he went back to the shepherds’ fields; he was anointed, but not appointed. he had to go through the preparation process, pass the test of doing a menial task, taking care of his father’s sheep; feeding them day in and day out, shoveling their waste. it smelled bad, it was lonely, it seemed unfair; his brothers, who weren’t anointed by Samuel, they were in the military, they had prestigious positions, everyone looked up to them.

David could have thought, “I’m not going back to the shepherds’ fields; I’m the next king.” but David understood this principle; he had to show God that he would be faithful when it wasn’t exciting. he had to pass the test of being good to King Saul, even though Saul was jealous and trying to kill David. David could’ve said, “God, this isn’t right, you’ve got to get rid of Saul, I’m uncomfortable”; instead, David kept doing the right thing, year after year. he was anointed at 17, but he didn’t take the throne until he was 30; it took 13 years for his appointing to catch up with his anointing. but without those 13 years of keeping a good attitude, doing the right thing, overlooking insults, he wouldn’t have been prepared for where God was taking him.

God knows what is in your future, and what it’s going to take to get you there. you may not understand why it’s taking so long, why it hasn’t turned out the way you thought, why you’re in a lonely, discouraged, stagnant season, but everything you’ve been through was to strengthen, develop, prepare you. God wouldn’t have allowed it if it wasn’t a part of the process; without it, you couldn’t give birth to what’s in you. if you’ll do like David, and not try to figure it all out, not live bitter, negative, but instead, keep passing the test, doing the right thing, giving, serving, loving, then your time is coming; what God promised, He will bring to pass.

one day, when David was in those lonely shepherds’ fields:

1 Samuel 17:17 (NIV)

17 Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp.

David could’ve said, “Dad, you saw Samuel anoint me, choose me over all my brothers, and you want me to be an errand boy, a delivery service? I don’t think so.” if David would’ve been too proud, not willing to serve others, do something that seemed insignificant, he would’ve never made it to the throne; these are tests that we must pass. it took humility to bring his brothers lunch.

1 Samuel 17:28 (NIV)

28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

David overlooked it, and kept doing the right thing.

1 Samuel 17:23-32 (NIV)

23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it…32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

but had David not been faithful where he was, doing what his father asked him to do, even though it was small, he would’ve missed his destiny; he would’ve never seen Goliath.

it’s easy to think, “I’m not going to do this insignificant thing; when something big, impressive comes my way, then I’ll step up, give it my best.” but how do you know that your destiny is not tied to the small thing that God is asking you to do? once you do that insignificant thing, or maybe you have to swallow your pride, and serve somebody that’s under you, then the door to the big thing that God has in store will open up. it can be uncomfortable to have to humble ourselves. we think, “God, that’s not right, I have more training, education, skill than them”; pass the test. it’s a part of the process that’s getting you prepared. when you’re faithful in the small, you’re passing the test; that’s getting you prepared for the big things God has in store.

you may be doing something that seems insignificant, you know you have much more in you, but don’t despise the day of small beginnings; keep being faithful. here’s the key; do it with a good attitude. it’s one thing to do it negative, complaining, “I can’t stand this job, I’m smarter than my boss, he doesn’t have half the talent that I have”; that may be true, but the reason that God has you there is that He’s doing a work in you. if you complain, you’ll get stuck; it was never supposed to be permanent, it’s just a step along the way.

all those years that David was in the lonely shepherds’ fields, it didn’t look like anything was happening, that he was making progress, but when you’re pregnant, the baby is developing on the inside where nobody can see. in those tough times, when you’re uncomfortable, doing the right thing but the wrong thing is happening, something is developing in you that you can’t see. it’s getting you prepared; you’re getting closer to the birth. if you’ll keep passing the test, at the right time, your anointing will meet up with your appointing.

this is the reason many people never give birth to what’s in them; they don’t understand the process. God will put a dream in your heart, give you the anointing, and then send you back to the shepherds’ fields; the appointing will come later. you know that you’re going to start that business, you’ve been anointed for it, but He’ll send you back to that part-time job with a grouchy boss and coworkers that you don’t like. you know that you’re going to move into that new house, the promise is in you, but He’ll send you back to that small apartment with loud neighbors and no Wi-Fi. you know that you’re going to meet the right person, you’re anointed to have a blessed family, but He’ll send you back to that lonely place where you don’t see any sign of it.

how we respond in the wilderness will determine whether or not we make it into our promised land. right now, there are promises that God has put in you; you are pregnant with potential, opportunity, health, abundance. you’ve been anointed; my question is, will you go through the process so you see your appointing come? will you pass these tests when it’s uncomfortable, it doesn’t look like it’s going to work out, you can’t see anything changing?

just because you don’t see anything happening, doesn’t mean that God is not working; you don’t see it on the outside, but on the inside, where it’s more important, you’re growing, developing. it’s just a matter of time before your appointing shows up. too often, we have the anointing, but we get discouraged by the process. we don’t like it when we’re not making progress, not getting breaks, not being treated right. but in those tough times, when you’re tempted to give up, you have to remind yourself; it’s all a part of the process. it may be uncomfortable, but it’s not unusual. if God took it away, you wouldn’t develop. don’t run away from the process; it’s not working against you, it’s working for you, getting you prepared.

imagine a lady that’s pregnant saying, “I don’t want to gain any weight”; it doesn’t work that way. if we’re not willing to go through the process, we won’t see the baby. there’s something that God wants you to give birth to; something big, special, out of the ordinary. He’s anointed you for it, the appointing is already in your future; I’m asking you to do your part and be willing to go through the process. don’t let disappointments talk you out of it, or delays convince you that it’s not going to happen. don’t let the fact that you don’t think you’re making progress, you’re frustrated, keep you from doing the right thing. you’ve come too far to stop now; you’re too close to the birth to give up. it’s always the most uncomfortable right before that baby comes.

the scripture says:

Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

2 … Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross

the way he endured the pain is that he knew it was a part of the process, and it wasn’t permanent; he wasn’t going to stay on the cross. he kept looking forward to the joy that was coming. keep your joy in tough times. when life throws you a curve, you don’t understand it, it’s taking longer than you thought, remind yourself; it’s only temporary, it’s all a part of the process. Jesus kept looking forward to the joy that was coming. don’t look back, fall into self-pity; keep looking forward. the joy, right person, dream, breakthrough is coming. and here’s the key; once you’re prepared, then God can propel you into your destiny, make things happen faster than you thought. don’t get discouraged, thinking that you’re falling behind; “I’ve been doing the right thing for a long time, I should be much further ahead; my friends, colleagues, they’ve all passed me up.” don’t worry, your time is coming. when your appointing catches up with your anointing, supernatural things will happen: supernatural increase, growth, favor. God knows how to make up for lost time. He can propel you where you could not go on your own. 

your anointing will supersede your environment. God will put things in you that are bigger than you are right now. God anointed David to be king. he wasn’t in a palace, he was in the shepherds’ fields; all he could see were rocks, sand, sheep. your environment doesn’t determine your destiny; where you are doesn’t limit what God can do. when it’s your time, when you’ve gone through the preparation process, get ready to be propelled, for doors to open that you could not open. don’t get discouraged by the preparation time. don’t quit being your best because you’re not where you thought you would be, friends have passed you up: they got married; you’re still single. they’re in the new place; you’re still in the old one. keep doing the right thing; your appointing is coming.

during that preparation time, you may not see a lot of progress, but at some point, you’re going to come to the place where God says, “all right, you’re prepared, you passed the test, you’ve done your part; now let Me do My part, and propel you into your purpose.” that’s when you’ll see these explosive blessings, acceleration; it should’ve taken years, but God propelled you, and it happened in a fraction of the time. I believe that many of you right now are on the verge of being propelled; you’ve passed the test, done the right thing when it was hard. get ready for new levels, acceleration, favor that you haven’t seen.

there’s a plant called Chinese bamboo; for the first 4 years, it barely grows above the ground, you can hardly see anything happening, but underground, where you can’t see, it’s developing a massive root system. in the fifth year, once the roots are firmly established, the plant will shoot up to as high as 80 feet; from zero to 80 all in one year. but what makes the fifth year possible is the four years of preparation; without the years of underground growth, there wouldn’t be any above-ground growth. like with this plant, you may not see anything happening; you wonder why God isn’t doing something. you’re being your best, but you’re not seeing breaks.  you don’t think you’re making progress, but what you can’t see is, on the inside, your roots are going down deep; at the right time, when God knows that you’re prepared, you’re going to come into your fifth year, when you suddenly shoot up, come out of debt, your health turns around, you meet the right person.

but here’s the key; you have to be willing to go through the process. we want fifth year results without the 4 years of preparation. without those years of developing our character, proving to God that we’ll be faithful, doing the right thing when we’re uncomfortable, we won’t see the increase and promotion like we should. sometimes, we think, “God, I’m ready, I’m prepared, I’ve been doing the right thing,” but only God knows where He’s taking you; you may be ready for what you have in mind, but you’re not ready for what God has in mind. what He has planned for you is going to be much bigger, much more exciting. He not only knows where He’s taking you, He knows what it’s going to take to keep you there; if He took you before you were ready, you wouldn’t be able to handle it. as much as we would like it to happen sooner, it wouldn’t be a blessing; it would become a curse.

when we give birth prematurely, even though it may be easier, it’s not God’s best. if it’s taking a long time, that simply means that what you’re going to give birth to is going to be much bigger than you’ve ever imagined. people around you may be giving birth, seeing their dreams come to pass; be happy for them, but the reason it’s taking longer for you is because what you’re carrying is not ordinary, average. what you’re going to give birth to is going to be bigger, more rewarding, more fulfilling, than you’ve ever dreamed. don’t get discouraged by the process. it may be taking a long time; that’s a sign that God’s up to something big, amazing. keep passing the test, doing the right thing when it’s hard. don’t run when it’s uncomfortable; that’s getting you prepared, it’s a part of the process. if you’ll do this, your appointing is about to catch up to your anointing. you’re about to go into your fifth year, where God supernaturally thrusts you forward. because you’re prepared, He’s going to propel you into the fullness of your destiny.

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Stepping Into the Unknown

from JO’s sermon tonight:

when I type an address into my navigation system, there’s an option that comes up that says, “route overview”; if you click that, it will give you all the details of your trip. there may be 15 different instructions; travel 6 miles on this freeway, get off at exit 43, go 400 feet, turn left at the intersection. your whole route is clearly laid out; you know where you’re going, how long it’s going to take, what to expect. knowing these details makes us comfortable, where we can relax.

in the same way, God has a route overview for your life. before you were formed in your mother’s womb, He laid out your plan. He not only knows your final destination, but He knows the best way to get you there. but one difference between God and a navigation system is, God doesn’t show you the route overview. He doesn’t tell you how it’s going to happen, how long it’s going to take, where the funds are going to come from, who you’re going to meet; He leads you one step at a time. if you’ll trust Him, and take that step into the unknown, not knowing how it’s going to work out, then He’ll show you the next step; step-by-step, He’ll lead you into your destiny.

the challenge is, we like details; we wouldn’t have any problem taking that step of faith, starting that new business, going back to school, moving to that new location, if we knew where the money was coming from, how long it was going to take, that the right people would be there. if we had all the details, it would be easy to step out. but here’s the key; God doesn’t give us details. He’s not going to show you a blueprint for your whole life; if you had all the facts, you wouldn’t need any faith. He’s going to send you out not knowing everything; if you’ll have the boldness to step into the unknown, do what He’s asking you to do, doors will open that you could’ve never opened, the right people will show up, you’ll have the funds, the resources, that you need. the scripture puts it this way:

Psalm 119:105 (KJV)

105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

a lamp implies that you have just enough light to see in front of you. God is not giving you the light for the next 50 years. it’s like the headlights on your car; when you’re driving at night, you can only see 100 feet in front of you, but you don’t pull over because you can’t see your destination 50 miles away. you keep driving; if you go further, then you will see more. will you take that step with the light that you have? if you’re waiting for all the details, you’re going to be waiting your whole life. we all want to be comfortable, but being in God’s perfect will will make you a little uncomfortable. there’s a healthy tension, to where you have to stretch, pray, believe; you’re not sure how it’s going to work out. that’s when you’re growing, learning to trust God in a greater way.

God is not just interested in the destination; He’s teaching you along the way, getting you prepared, growing you up. on purpose, God will put us in situations where we’re over our heads, our friends can’t help us, we don’t have the experience. too often, we shrink back, and think, “I’m not going there. I’m not qualified, I’m too nervous. what if it doesn’t work out?” God knew that you would be nervous, wouldn’t feel qualified; that’s a test. are you going to talk yourself out of it, let the fear of what you can’t see hold you back, or are you going to be bold and step into the unknown? in the unknown is where miracles happen, you discover abilities that you didn’t know you had, you accomplish more than you ever dreamed. just because you don’t have the details doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have them; He has the route overview for your life. He wouldn’t be leading you there if He didn’t have the favor, provision, everything that you need to go to the next level.

God will tell you, “go down this road.” the first thing we do is ask for details: “how far do You want me to go?”; no answer. “what do You want me to take?”; no answer. “who’s going to be there to meet me?”; no answer. can you endure the silence of not knowing anything? will you trust God even though you don’t have all the details, take that step of faith even when you’re uncomfortable, nervous, not sure how it’s going to work out?

this is what Abraham did:

Genesis 12:1-7 (NIV)

1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you… 7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.”

the only problem was, God did’t give him any details:

Hebrews 11:8 (NASB)

8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

if you’re going to step into the unknown, it’s going to take boldness; it’s not always going to make sense. people may not understand it, your own thoughts will tell you, “you better play it safe, this is too big of a risk, what if it doesn’t work out?” Abraham understood this principle; just because he didn’t have all the answers, was nervous, didn’t mean that he wasn’t supposed to do it. the scripture says:

Psalm 37:23 (NKJV)

23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord

if you’ll take the first step, not knowing all the details, trusting that God knows what He’s doing, then every step of the way there will be provision, favor, wisdom. and yes, it’s uncomfortable not knowing, you have to stretch, pray, believe, but each step, you not only have God’s blessing, but you’re growing, getting stronger.

in the scripture, Peter was the only one that walked on the water, and he was the only one willing to get out of the boat. when Jesus asked him to come, he had the courage to step into the unknown, and he walked on the water. what’s familiar, staying in the boat, although that’s comfortable, instead of being a blessing, it can become a curse. familiarity can keep you from your destiny. what you’re used to, how you were raised, the job you’ve been at for years; don’t let your comfort keep you from becoming all that God created you to be. if Abraham would’ve put comfort ahead of fulfilling his purpose, we wouldn’t be talking about him. you cannot play it safe your whole life and reach the fullness of your destiny; don’t let the what-ifs talk you out of it: “what if I fail, what if they say no, what if I don’t have the funds ?” you’ll never know unless you try.

when you come to the end of life, will you have more regrets from the risks that you took, or the risks that you didn’t take? “what if I get in this new relationship and I get hurt again? that’s what happened last time”; what if you get in it and you’re happier than you’ve ever been? what if it’s a divine connection? “what if I take this position and I’m not good at it, I’m not successful?”; what if you take it and you excel, discover talent that you didn’t know you had? what if it opens doors to more opportunities? when we are weak, God’s power shows up the greatest.

sometimes, the reason that God doesn’t tell us what’s in our future is because He knows that we would talk ourselves out of it. what God has in store for you is going to boggle your mind: the places He’s going to take you, the people you’re going to influence, the dreams you’re going to accomplish. it’s going to be bigger than you’ve imagined. you know where it is? it’s in the unknown, it’s in what you can’t see right now, it’s in what you don’t feel qualified for. when you find yourself in a situation where you’re over your head, you don’t think you have what it takes, that’s God stretching you. He can see things in you that you can’t see in yourself. it may be uncomfortable, but don’t shrink back; keep stretching, believing, dreaming. step-by-step, God is leading you.

some of you are about to step into the next level; you’ve been on that step long enough, you passed the test, now the next step is coming. it’s going to be a new level of influence, talent, creativity, a new level of your destiny. sometimes, God is silent, you don’t hear Him saying anything. it’s easy to think, “I must be off course, something must be wrong, He’s not talking,” that means you’re on the right course. keep doing the right thing, keep praying, believing, stretching. the next step is coming, but you have to pass the test of being faithful where you are, being your best with what you have;  then, the next step will be a favor, promotion, healing, breakthrough step.

when Joshua and the Israelites came to the Jordan River:

Joshua 3:7-8 (NIV)

7 And the Lord said to Joshua… 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”

I’m sure the priests thought, “Joshua, that doesn’t make sense. you want us to walk into the water? we could drown.” thoughts started telling them, “what if it doesn’t part? what if Joshua made a mistake? what if we get out there and we can’t come back?” they could’ve talk themselves out of it; instead, they dared to step into the unknown.

Joshua 3:15-17 (NIV)

15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away… 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

notice, the miracle happened along the way. we think, “God, part the river, and then I’ll go”; God says, “go, and then I’ll part the river.” if you will step into the unknown, along the way, you’ll see miracles: the right people will show up, doors will open that you could’ve never opened. God could’ve just as easily parted the waters before they stepped in; He was showing us this principle. when you don’t see how it can work out, every voice says, “you’d better play it safe,” but you take that step of faith, and do what God’s asking you to do, you too will see Jordan Rivers part. God on purpose puts us in situations where we can’t do it on our own, it looks impossible; that’s a test of our faith. if we stay in the boat, we’ll never walk on water, never see the fullness of our destiny.

if God would’ve parted the water first, that would’ve been a lot less stressful for them, they wouldn’t have had to stretch and pray and believe, but here’s the key; God uses the journey to get us prepared for where we’re going. when you have to stretch your faith, believe that He’s making a way, thank Him that things are changing in your favor, your spiritual muscles are getting stronger; you’re developing a greater trust, a greater confidence in God. God will give you the first step, but He won’t tell you everything. when you go out not knowing, you’ll see Jordan Rivers part; God will make things happen that you could never make happen. don’t get stuck in the boat. don’t let the fear that you can’t see all the details hold you back; you’re not supposed to see everything. God’s leading you step-by-step.

when you’re in the unknown, you’re having to stretch, pray, and believe, that’s when you’re really growing. God knows what’s in you. He uses these steps to stretch you, develop you, get you prepared for the next level. the journey is more important than the destination, because if you don’t get prepared on the journey, if you don’t learn what you’re supposed to learn along the way, you won’t be able to handle where God is taking you. even if you miss it, it doesn’t turn out the way you thought, God knows how to use it for your good. God would rather you take a step of faith and miss it every once in a while, then to play it safe your whole life and never make a mistake. the times we make mistakes, miss it, get off course, the closed doors, that’s all a part of God’s plan; that’s getting us prepared for the open doors.

but if you’re so concerned that you’re going to miss it, you’ll never get off of dead center. sometimes, we let the fear of the unknown hold us back. being in God’s will, there will be a not knowing factor; you’re not going to know all the details, how it’s going to work out. you have to have this boldness to step into the unknown. when you have this boldness to go out not knowing, your life will be more rewarding, more fulfilling, then you could ever imagine.

there was a young Jewish girl in the scripture named Esther. she was an orphan, didn’t come from an influential family, but God raised her up; now she was the queen, living in the palace. a man named Haman tried to pass a law:

Esther 3:12-13 (NIV)

12 … They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people all Haman’s orders… to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children

Esther’s uncle Mordecai:

Esther 4:8-11 (NIV)

8 He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people… 10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives.

God was asking her to step into the unknown, but the what-ifs started coming: what if he doesn’t hold it up, what if he’s in a bad mood, what if he gets upset? just as she was about to talk herself out of it, her uncle said:

Esther 4:13-14 (NIV)

13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

God was saying, “Esther, if you don’t want to do it, that’s fine, I’ll get somebody else, but the problem is, you will miss your destiny; this opportunity will not come your way again.” this was her chance to leave her mark; it was a now or never a moment. Esther said:

Esther 4:16 (NIV)

16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

Esther stepped into the unknown. she not only had favor with the king, but was able to deliver her people; she became one of the heroes of faith.

like Esther, we all have opportunities that won’t pass our way again. when now or never moments come your way, don’t shrink back, or let fear talk you out of it, or the what-ifs keep you in the boat; be bold, courageous, and step into the unknown. you may not have all the details, you’re not sure how it’s going to work out, but like with Joshua, along the way, miracles will happen; God will open doors that no man can shut. if you’ll do this, you’re about to step into a new level of favor, influence; like Esther, you’re going to leave your mark, accomplish your dreams, and reach the fullness of your destiny.

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Rest from Your Enemies

From JO’s sermon this week:

we all have things that come against us, and try to keep us from our destiny. most of what we struggle with didn’t start with us; it was passed down. things like depression, addictions, anger, divorce; studies show how these things can get passed from generation to generation. if your mother was depressed, there’s a good chance that you’ll have to deal with depression. if your father was an alcoholic, had anger issues, wasn’t faithful to his wife, those are traits that can affect you. just like a lady who’s on drugs and gives birth to a baby, that baby can have the same addiction as the mother; it’s no fault of the baby’s, it’s just life.

the good news is, there is a way to put a stop to it; what you’re dealing with might not have started with you, but it can stop with you. God wants to give you rest from those enemies. He wants to put an end to what’s limiting you. but there’s something that we have to do; as long as we accept dysfunction as the norm, it will never change. if you see that addiction, depression, lack, struggle, as your lot in life, you’ll not only get stuck, but you’ll pass it on to the next generation.

this is what the Israelites did:

Judges 13:1-5 (NIV)

1 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.

2 A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was childless, unable to give birth. 3 The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son… He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”

Judges 13:24 (NIV)

24 The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson.

the Philistines could tell that there was something different about Samson; every time they tried to bind him, he would break those cords. he was a huge threat to them. one time, the Philistines circled the Israelites’ camp, and were about to attack:

Judges 15:9-10 (NIV)

9 The Philistines went up and camped in Judah, spreading out near Lehi. 10 The people of Judah asked, “Why have you come to fight us?” “We have come to take Samson prisoner,” they answered

instead of recognizing that Samson had been raised up to deliver them from the Philistines, saying, “this is a new day, we’re not living in mediocrity anymore, we’re done being ruled by this enemy,” the Israelites were so comfortable in dysfunction:

Judges 15:11-13 (NIV)

11 Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave in the rock of Etam and said to Samson, “Don’t you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?”…“We’ve come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines.”… they bound him with two new ropes and led him up from the rock.

he wasn’t tied up by the enemy, he was tied up by his friends. they were saying, “this is our lot in life. it’s been this way for 40 years; do you really think something’s going to change? just accept it.” how many times is God sending us a Samson, but we think, like the Israelites, “I’ll always be lonely, I’ve been this way for years. I’ll never break this addiction, I’ve had it a long time. I’ll never get out of debt; my family always struggles.” as long as you accept the dysfunction, then even when God sends you a way out, even when a Samson shows up, you’ll talk yourself out of it. because they were stuck in their thinking, they tied up the one that was sent to deliver them.

are you tying up your breakthrough, healing, promotion, abundance, so to speak, because the dysfunction is so familiar, it’s been that way so long, you think it’s normal to live depressed, addicted, angry, lonely? this is a new day. you may have been ruled by those things for years, they may have been passed down by previous generations, but that is not your destiny. God sent me as a Samson; He’s using my voice to tell you, “it’s time to break free, rise higher; what’s limited you in the past doesn’t have to limit you in the future.” you can break that addiction; you have the most powerful Force in the universe breathing in your direction. you can rise out of lack, struggle, not having enough; you have seeds of greatness. you were created to lend and not borrow. you can be free from depression, low self-esteem, insecurity. God crowned you with favor, put a robe of honor on you. you have royal blood flowing through your veins. don’t let limited thinking keep you from your destiny. you can’t think that this is the way this is always going to be and rise to the next level. 

this is where the Israelites missed it; they were so afraid of the Philistines, and so convinced they were going to rule them their whole life, they went to Samson, their friend, their deliverer, and tied him up. when the Philistines saw that he was bound, they went over to get him:

Judges 15:14-15 (NIV)

14 As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. 15 Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.

what’s interesting is that he broke the ropes, not of his enemies, but of his friends. God was showing us that sometimes the people closest to you, the ones that raised you, your family and friends, they may tell you, “just settle where you are; don’t you know, these things rule over us? you’ll never get your degree, meet the right person, break that addiction”; like with Samson, they cannot keep you tied up. God has put a supernatural strength on you to fulfill your destiny. your family, friends, neighbors, they don’t know what’s in you; they can’t keep you from rising higher. they may be good people, they’re sincere, but their vision is limited. don’t fall into that trap; God has called you to be a Samson, to deliver your people, set a new standard for your family, break chains that have held you back.

sometimes, it’s not our enemies that are limiting us, our friends have tied us up; everyone close to you may not be for you. they can say discouraging things; “just settle there, depression runs in this family, your dad and granddad were broke, you’ll be broke too.” no offense, but they’re trying to tie you up. are you going to accept the dysfunction, settle for mediocrity, or are you going to say, “I don’t think so. I’m better than this. I know that the power that’s in me is greater than any force that’s trying to stop me”? when God breathed His life into you, He destined you to leave your mark. He gave you the power to break chains that have held your family back for generations. He anointed you as a Samson, to take new ground.

don’t let mediocrity become the norm; it may have been that way as far back as you can see, but you have to draw a line in the sand, and say, “the buck stops with me; I’m not going to live tied up. my relatives may have been bound, my friends may be fine with dysfunction, my coworkers may be OK with living depressed, angry, addicted, but not me; I’m going to be a Samson, break chains. I know that I was born to make a difference.” somebody has to be the first one in the family to not be addicted, not get a divorce, not live paycheck to paycheck, not go around angry and offended; why can’t it be you, why can’t you set a new standard, raise great children, have an exceptional career? you’re a Samson; you’ve been equipped, empowered, God has called you to deliver your people.

in 2 Chronicles 14, a young man named Asa became the king of Israel:

2 Chronicles 14:1 (NIV)

1 And Abijah rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. Asa his son succeeded him as king

he inherited a land that was filled with idols, pagan shrines, monuments to different kinds of gods. his father passed down compromise, dysfunction, mediocrity; that’s what he had seen growing up, that was normal to him. he could’ve continued it on, and thought, “this is the way it’s always been. Dad was fine with these idols, everybody likes worshiping these different gods, I’m not going to rock the boat.” but Asa understood this principle, that just because something gets passed down, doesn’t mean that you have to continue it. just because somebody close to you has chained you, so to speak, to compromise, dysfunction, doesn’t mean that you have to stay bound. he knew that he was anointed to be a Samson, that he could break chains, take new ground:

2 Chronicles 14:2-3 (NIV)

2 Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. 3 He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.

Asa didn’t accept the dysfunction, or let what was passed down limit his life. he took responsibility, and said in effect, “this compromise didn’t start with me, but it is going to stop with me.” he didn’t make excuses, think that he had a reason to live that way; he was a difference maker. he wasn’t passive, he didn’t do it quietly, he was serious about fulfilling his destiny. and because he did this:

2 Chronicles 14:6 (NLT)

6 … No one tried to make war against him at this time, for the Lord was giving him rest from his enemies.

if you want rest from your enemies, you have to do like he did, and get rid of negative things that have been passed down. as long as you’re accepting it, you’re going to struggle. the bad attitude, anger, addiction; most likely, it didn’t start with you. will you be the Asa, and remove it, rise up and say, “I am not going to let this anger rule my life anymore. I’m not going to accept lack, defeat, struggle as my destiny. I’m not going to learn to live with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem; I’m going to be an Asa, smash those strongholds, pull down those wrong mindsets”? if you will become an Asa, and not take what was passed down as your destiny, God will give you rest from those enemies.

alcoholism and drug addiction are the things that keep getting passed down until somebody rises up and decides to be an Asa and do something about it. studies show that if your father was an alcoholic, you are 10 times more likely to become an alcoholic; that’s a spirit going from generation to generation. 90% of the people in prison, one of their parents was incarcerated. somebody has to rise up and break the negative cycle. the reason people tell you that if your father struggled, you will struggle, is because they’re looking at the wrong father. when you gave your life to Christ, you became a new creation; there may be a lot of negative baggage in your bloodline, but now you have a heavenly Father. you’re not limited by the natural; you have a supernatural force to help you overcome. just because something was passed down, doesn’t mean that you have to continue it. when you make that decision that enough is enough, you’re not going to live addicted, angry, letting things rule you, then God will help you overcome what you could not overcome on your own. Joshua said it this way:

Joshua 7:13 (NLT)

13 … You will never defeat your enemies until you remove these things from among you.

are there some things that you need to remove? Asa had to remove the idols that weren’t pleasing to God. you may need to remove the anger, jealousy, regrets. when you say, “God, I can’t do this on my own, help me break this addiction, resist this temptation, get rid of this bitterness,” when you humble yourself, and ask God to help you, and then take bold steps like Asa to remove what’s holding you back, God will make things happen that you could never make happen. He will give you rest from those enemies. here’s the key; what you don’t put a stop to will eventually put a stop to you. if you don’t put a stop to that bad attitude, it’s going to stop you. if you don’t put a stop to the anger, addiction, regrets, they will keep you from your destiny. if Asa had not put a stop to the dysfunction that was passed down, his life would’ve been a constant struggle, always uphill. the message translation says:

2 Chronicles 14:2 (MSG)

2 Asa was a good king. He did things right in God’s eyes. He cleaned house

do you need to do some housecleaning? are you allowing some things to stay that you know are not good? my challenge is; put a stop to it before it stops you. don’t let a critical attitude keep you from your purpose. everybody in your family may be that way; recognize, that’s not normal. don’t learn to function in the dysfunction; remove it, and God will take you to a new level. don’t let a lack mentality, poverty mindset, keep you in mediocrity. “I’ll never have enough; nobody in my family is successful”; God wants to give you rest from that enemy of lack, not having enough. if you will get rid of the limited thinking, and start having a prosperous, more than enough mindset, knowing that favor is surrounding you like a shield, then God will open the windows of heaven, cause opportunity, blessing, increase, to chase you down.

but too often, we think that what’s on the outside is stopping us; I believe, if we’ll look inside, and get rid of what we know is not good, then we’ll see God’s favor in new ways. when we hold onto things that we should get rid of, the world seems to stink; if you remove the bad attitude, the stink will go away. if you’ll remove the compromise, giving into temptation, the stink will leave. as long as you’re allowing it to stay, it’s going to follow you everywhere you go. if you live guilty, in regrets, beating yourself up for past mistakes, that’s going to stink up your office, attitude, relationships. why don’t you remove the regrets, get rid of the guilt? you can’t do anything about the past, but you can do something about right now.

maybe you need to remove the self-pity; you’ve had some tough breaks, went through a loss, somebody did you wrong. if you stay focused on that, your life is going to stink. you may not realize it, but when you stink, other people can smell it. when you’re offended, bitter, angry, nobody wants to be around you. that stink is going to push away new relationships, opportunities; why don’t you remove it? it may have been passed down, you have a good reason to feel the way you do. it’s soured your life long enough; don’t let it continue to sour you. the truth is, we all have some stinky stuff, dysfunction, regrets. I’ve learned, the people who keep moving forward, enjoying their lives, are the people that are good at removing the stink. complaining about the stink only makes it stink even more. if you stay focused on the stink, you’re angry at the people who hurt you, always thinking about how they did you wrong, the problem is, that seed can get in you; you can become the very thing that you don’t like. when the scripture tells us to not take offense:

Proverbs 19:11 (NIV)

11 … it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

it’s not just so we won’t be offended, get sour. if we take offense, the seed will get in us; we can become what they are. that’s why it’s so important to remove it, let it go; God will be your vindicator, make up for what you didn’t get. how you were raised, what was passed down; that does not have to keep you from becoming who you were created to be. when we hold onto things that we should let go of, the seed can get in us. you have to do like Asa, and say, “I am removing it. I am not living angry, offended, letting this dysfunction affect me and my children. I’m going to be a difference-maker; the buck is going to stop with me.”

there was a young man in the scripture named Levi. he had a lot of issues: he was angry, dishonest, deceived people. one time, someone took advantage of his sister; it was a big deal, he was very angry:

Genesis 34:13-25 (NIV)

13 Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. 14 They said to them, “We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. 15 We will enter into an agreement with you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males… every male in the city was circumcised. 25 Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male.

what’s interesting is that Levi’s father was Jacob, who was a deceiver; he cheated his brother out of his birthright, tricked him into trading his whole inheritance for a bowl of stew.  now, Jacob’s son Levi was just like him. if you go back one generation, Jacob’s mother Rebecca was the same way:

Genesis 27:6-27 (NIV)

6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, 7 ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’ 8 Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: 9 Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. 10 Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.” 11 Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. 12 What if my father touches me?… 15 Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. 16 She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins…. 27 So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him

the deception, dishonesty, started with Rebekah. it got passed on to her son Jacob, he was dishonest, now Jacob’s son Levi was the same way. it looked like that was going to continue to get passed down, but one day, Moses was up on a mountain; he’d just received the 10 Commandments, and when he came down: 

Exodus 32:4-6 (NIV)

4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf… 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.

when Moses saw this, he was furious; here God had just delivered them out of slavery, parted the Red Sea, now these 2 million people were worshiping an idol.

Exodus 32:26 (NASB)

26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him.

they were saying, in effect, “this is a new day. we are not going to be defined by our past. we’re not going to let how our father lived, how our grandfather lived, what our great-grandmother did, we’re not going to pass that dysfunction down on our family line; we’re going to take a stand and do what’s right.” that day, they broke a generational curse, and started a generational blessing. because of that decision, God said, “from now on, all of the priests will come from the tribe of Levi.” in the book of Genesis, they were cursed by their grandfather;  in the book of Leviticus, they were the most blessed, honored people.

this is what happens when you get rid of negative things that have been passed down; you’ll not only have rest from your enemies, but you’ll set a new standard for your family. it all starts when you remove what’s holding you back. do you need to remove anger, dishonesty, a wrong mindset? it may not have started with you, but it can stop with you. there might be a lot of negative baggage in your bloodline; God is staying today, “who is on the Lord’s side?” if you’ll rise up and say, “that’s me, I’m a difference-maker,” then like the sons of Levi, God is going to promote and honor you. like Samson, you’re going to break chains that have held your family back for generations. and like king Asa, God’s going to give you rest from your enemies.

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