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Archive for March, 2017

Unconditional Trust

from JO’s sermon tonight:

it’s easy to trust God if things are going our way: we’re getting good breaks, our business is blessed, our children are healthy. that doesn’t take much faith. but what about when things aren’t going our way; our prayers aren’t being answered, the problem isn’t turning around, we’re not seeing favor? too often, we get discouraged; we think, “God, why aren’t you doing something? You can see that I’m being mistreated, my health isn’t good, I worked hard but I didn’t get the promotion.” we think that when it changes we’ll be happy; “when I meet the right person, my health improves, when we have this baby, then I’ll have a good attitude.” that’s conditional trust; “God, if you meet my demands, answer my prayers the way I want, on my timetable, then I’ll be my best.”

the problem with conditional trust is that there will always be things that we don’t understand, something that’s not happening fast enough, didn’t work out the way we wanted. are you mature enough to accept God’s answers, even though they’re not what you’re hoping for? we’re not going to understand everything that happens; faith is trusting God when life doesn’t make sense. there’ll always be unanswered questions: why didn’t my loved one make it, why am I not getting better, why did this person leave? some things are not going to make sense, but God wouldn’t have allowed it if He wasn’t going to bring good out of it; you may not see it at the time, but God knows what He’s doing. He has your best interests at heart; it’s not random, it’s a part of His plan.

dare to trust Him. God can see things in you that you can’t see in yourself. His plan for your life is bigger than your plan, but it may not happen the way you thought. God doesn’t take us in a straight line; there will be disappointments, loss, bad breaks, which are all a part of His plan. if you have conditional trust, you’ll get discouraged, and think, “why is this happening? I’m going to wrong way.” but God is still directing your steps; trust Him when you don’t understand, when it feels like you’re going in the wrong direction. sometimes, we want things so bad, that we’re not going to be happy unless it happens our way: “I can’t be happy unless I get the house, meet the right person, have the baby.”

anything that you have to have in order to be happy, the enemy can use against you.

it’s good to be honest with God, tell Him your dreams, what you’re believing for, it’s fine to ask, but then be mature enough to say, “but God, if it never happens, if I never get the promotion, if my loved one doesn’t make it, if my health doesn’t improve, I’m still going to trust You.”

we can get so consumed with what we want that it can become like an idol.

it’s all we think about, pray about, always on the forefront of our minds. turn it over to God; pray, believe, then leave it in God’s hands. don’t get so focused on what you want that you miss the beauty of this day; everything may not be perfect, there are things that need to change, but God has given you the grace to be happy today. it’s very freeing when you can say, “God, it’s in Your hands. I trust You, not conditionally, if it works out my way, I trust You unconditionally, even when I don’t understand it.”

the apostle Paul had:

2 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT)
7 to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh

this was something either physical or spiritual that he didn’t like; it was bothering him.

2 Corinthians 12:8 (NLT)
8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.

but God didn’t remove it. Paul was honoring God, being his best, he wrote half of the books in the New Testament; you would think that God would fix what was bothering him. But God said:

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you

He was saying, in effect, “I may not remove it just yet, but I will give you the grace to handle it.”

if God is not removing what you want removed, changing what you want changed, don’t use that as an excuse to live sour, bitter. God has given you the grace to be where you are with a good attitude; you can enjoy your life in spite of what’s not working out. sometimes, the reason that our prayers aren’t answered the way we want is because it’s not the right time, or God has something better that we can’t see, or He’s using the difficulty to do a work in us, help us grow, get stronger. unconditional trust says, “God, I don’t like it, I’m uncomfortable, but I’m smart enough to recognize that You’re God and I’m not. You’re on the throne, in control of my life, and You said that Your plans for me are for good, You would lead me down the best path for my life. even though I don’t understand it right now, I trust You.”

are you living frustrated, unhappy, because something is not going your way? that’s conditional trust. you’ll live a lot freer, happier, if you’ll quit fighting what God is not changing, being upset about what He’s not removing. Paul said:

Philippians 4:11 (NIV)
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

it didn’t happen automatically; he made this decision, “I’m not going to live sour because God hasn’t removed this thorn. when He wants to remove it, He’ll remove it, but until then, I’m going to be happy where I am, thorn and all.” the truth is, we all have some thorns, things that God is not changing. He could if He wanted to, He’s God, but since he’s not doing it yet, will you do like Paul, and be happy where you are, thorn and all, trouble and all, loneliness and all? it takes a mature person to say, “even though God is not removing this, I’m still going to have a smile, be good to people, give God praise.”

this is what happened with the 3 Hebrew teenagers in the scripture:

Daniel 3:12-18 (NIV)
12 … Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”… 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up?… 16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

that’s unconditional trust; “I believe that God’s going to turn this situation around, but even if He doesn’t, I’m still going to be happy. I know God is still on the throne; if He’s not changing it, He has a reason. My life is in His hands.” dare to trust Him, not just when things are going your way, but even when you don’t understand it.

Psalm 138:8 (NLT)
8 The Lord will work out his plans for my life

you don’t have to work it all out, make it happen in your own strength, try to manipulate people, fight all your battles; why don’t you relax, take the pressure off yourself, and let God work out His plan for your life? He can do it better than you can. He knows the best path.

that’s what these teenagers were saying; “we know that we’re not doing life on our own; the most high God is working out His plan for our lives.” all the forces of darkness cannot stop what God has ordained: sickness, trouble at work, disappointments, setbacks can’t stop it. you may have a lot coming against you, but you’re not alone, and you wouldn’t be thrown in that fire unless God allowed it. the enemy is not in control of your life; God is. He’s working out His plan; sometimes, it includes fiery furnaces, people who don’t like you, obstacles that seem insurmountable; you don’t see a way, but since you know that the Lord is directing your steps, you don’t try to figure it all out. it may look like the end, but you have unconditional trust; “I know that God will deliver me, but even if He doesn’t, I’m still going to have a song of praise, an attitude of faith, live my life happy.”

Daniel 3:19-25 (NKJV)
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury… commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20… bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace… the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego… 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished… “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”

what was that? God working out His plan for their lives. I wonder what the outcome would’ve been if they had had conditional trust, or if they had become negative and complained; we probably wouldn’t be talking about them today.

if you want to get God’s attention, if you want Him to take you to where you’ve never been, and turn impossible situations around, do like these teenagers; “I know that God will deliver me from this fire, but even if He doesn’t, I will still honor Him.” when you live like that, you take away all of the enemy’s power; he’s expecting you to get upset, be worried, fall apart, live in self-pity. when you have unconditional trust, you can’t be defeated. you may have challenges that look bigger, stronger, in the natural you don’t have a chance, don’t be intimidated; the forces that are for you are greater than the forces that are against you.

Job 5:26 (TLB)
26 … like standing grain, you’ll not be harvested until it’s time!

God has the final say. He is working out His plan for your life. are you only going to trust God if He does it your way, or are you going to have unconditional trust, even if He takes you through the fire? God’s plan is always bigger than your plan. His ways are always better, more rewarding and fulfilling than your ways. If God were to answer your prayers on your timetable, it would limit your destiny.

quit being discouraged over something that didn’t work out the way you wanted. don’t be frustrated because somebody left that you wanted to stay. God knows what He’s doing; you may not see it now, but one day, when you see what God was up to, you’ll thank Him for not answering those prayers. As long as you’re honoring Him, being your best, at the right time, God will get you to where you’re supposed to be. it may not be where you thought; God is going to take you further than you ever imagined.

pray and believe for your dreams, but let God do it His way. if you’re only going to be happy if God does it your way, that’s not trusting, and you will be frustrated; why don’t you put your life in His hands? He knows what’s best for you. He can see things that we can’t see. some of the things in your life that are not working out right now, one day you’ll be thanking God; the closed doors, disappointments, delays are all working for you. learn to embrace where you are. He’s given you the grace to be there with a good attitude; if you’re going to pass the test, keep a smile on your face, don’t drag through the day disappointed. living worried, frustrated, disappointed, takes our passion, joy, and can keep us from seeing God’s favor. God wants to see if we’ll trust Him when we don’t understand it, and life doesn’t make sense.

this is what happened with Abraham; he waited 20 years to have his son Isaac. you can imagine how Abraham felt when God told him:

Genesis 22:2 (NKJV)
2 Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Abraham didn’t understand it, it didn’t seem fair, but he was obedient, and passed the trust test:

Genesis 22:12 (NCV)
12 The angel said, “Don’t kill your son or hurt him in any way. Now I can see that you trust God and that you have not kept your son, your only son, from me.”

there will be times that God asks us to put our dream on the altar; when we show Him that we can not have the dream but still be happy, we’re doing what Abraham did. when God sees that you don’t have to have it, many times God will give you back what you were willing to give up. will you do the right thing when it’s hard, trust God when it’s not what you thought, you don’t understand it?

Genesis 22:16-17 (NLT)
16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore

when you do like Abraham, pass the trust test, God will not only give you the desires of your heart, He’ll do more than you can ask or think. are you living frustrated because your prayers aren’t being answered the way you want, your plans aren’t working out? take the pressure off; God is in control. you’re not always going to understand it; if you did, it wouldn’t take any faith. I’m asking you to trust Him unconditionally. If you’ll do this, God is going to work out His plan for your life, open the right doors, bring the right people, turn negative situations around, and take you to the fullness of your destiny.

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Night Seasons

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all go through times that we don’t understand. we’re praying and believing, but our health isn’t improving, our finances haven’t turned around, we still haven’t met the right person. we can feel alone, forgotten, like it’s never going to change; it’s a night season. in these nights seasons, you can’t see what God is doing; it doesn’t look like anything is happening, but God is working behind the scenes. He does His greatest work in the dark; He hasn’t forgotten about you. in the dark times, when life feels unfair, you have to remind yourself that God is still in control, and He doesn’t always show you what He’s up to. it’s easy to trust Him when you’re getting good breaks, things are going great, but you have to learn to trust Him in the night seasons, when things aren’t going your way.

the heroes of faith all went through these night seasons. David spent years running from King Saul; I’m sure that he prayed to be delivered, but God didn’t change it. Saul was wrong, it was unfair to David, but the night seasons are a time of testing, proving; are we going to get negative, live discouraged, or are we going to say, “God, I don’t understand it, it’s not fair, but I trust You”?

in the scripture, Ruth lost her husband at an early age; she could’ve given up on life, lived in self-pity, but she understood this principle; the night seasons are not the end. the bad breaks, disappointments, loss, sickness, are simply another step on the way to your destiny.

Psalm 30:5 (AMP)
Weeping may endure for a night,
But a shout of joy comes in the morning.

your story doesn’t end in the night; the sickness, loneliness, addiction is temporary.

Ruth went on to meet Boaz; they got married and had a baby, who was the grandfather of David, and therefore in the ancestral line of Jesus Christ. her story didn’t end in the dark.

when things aren’t working out, you feel like you’re going in the wrong direction, don’t get discouraged; it’s just a night season. keep moving forward in faith, believing; it’s just a matter of time before the morning breaks forth.

Job went through a night season. everything was going great, then life took a sudden turn; suddenly, he lost his business, his family, he was covered in boils, his whole world was turned upside down. Job was a good man, loved God, was a person of excellence and integrity; this would make more sense if he was a compromiser, making wrong choices, not honoring God. but:

Matthew 5:45 (NLT)
45 … he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

just because you’re a good person, doesn’t mean that you’re not going to have any night seasons. you might be in a difficult time right now; it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve done anything wrong, God’s not pleased with you, you don’t have His favor. it’s just life. you’re getting some rain; without the rain, we couldn’t grow. God wouldn’t have allowed it if it was going to keep you from your destiny. He has you in the palm of His hand. He’s closely watching you. you may feel like you’re in the fire, but God controls the thermostat; He won’t let it be more than you can handle. quit telling yourself, “I’ll never make it through this, get well, accomplish my dreams”; no, it’s just a night season. it’s not a surprise to God. He already has the solution; the breakthrough is headed your way.

Job did what many of us do during the difficult times; focused on the problems, magnified what was wrong, let it overwhelm him. he said:

Job 7:7 (CEB)
7 … my eyes won’t see pleasure again

Job 7:3 (NLT)
3 I, too, have been assigned months of futility,
long and weary nights of misery.

he was saying, “this is permanent, this is how my story ends”; that was the mistake he made.

what you’re going through may be difficult, but the good news is, you’re going through it; it’s not your final destination, it’s a night season, not a lifetime.

in Job’s darkest hour, when he was the most discouraged:

Job 8:21 (NLT)
21 He will once again fill your mouth with laughter
and your lips with shouts of joy.

God was saying, “Job, it looks bad, you don’t understand it, but don’t worry, it’s not permanent, it’s just a season, I’m about to fill your mouth with laughter.”

God is saying to you what he said to Job; “life may not have been fair, but you’re not going to live discouraged, overwhelmed by problems, burdened down by illnesses; joy, health, breakthroughs, promotion are coming.” God is about to fill your mouth with laughter; that means that God is going to do something that’s so unusual, extraordinary, that you will be so amazed that all you can do is laugh.

Psalm 30:11 NRSV
11 You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy

this is what happened with Job; he didn’t just make it through the night season:

Job 42:10 (NET Bible)
10 So the Lord restored what Job had lost after he prayed for his friends, and the Lord doubled all that had belonged to Job.

God always makes the enemy pay for bringing the trouble. if you’ll stay in faith, you won’t just come out, you’ll come out better than you were before.

Job 42:16-17(ESV)
16 And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations. 17 And Job died, an old man, and full of days.

when we think about Job, we usually think about all the pain and suffering; the truth is that that was just one season. you may be in a dark time, but like Job, you’re going to come through it, and still live a long, blessed life. don’t let the night seasons convince you that you’ve seen your best days; you wouldn’t be alive unless God had something amazing up in front of you.

but in the dark times, it’s easy to talk about the difficulties, how bad life is treating us, exaggerate our problems like Job; all that’s going to do is make you more discouraged, defeated, take your joy. instead of complaining, one of the best things you can say is, “all is well”; what you’re really saying is, “God is still on the throne. I’m not going to live upset, bitter, guilty. I may be in a night season, but I know, this too shall pass.” the medical report isn’t good? “all is well; God is restoring health back unto me.” your child is still off course? “yes, but all is well; as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” you can say all is well when you went through a breakup, lost a loved one, still haven’t met the right person, because you know the night season is only temporary; joy is coming, what was meant for harm God is turning to your advantage, and after this is a long, blessed, faithful life.

don’t talk yourself into feeling miserable; keep a report of victory coming out of your mouth. if you’re going to magnify something, don’t magnify your problems, magnify your God; talk about His greatness, favor. you may have big challenges, but we serve a big God. the sickness may seem impossible; God can do the impossible. that obstacle may seem permanent; one touch of God’s favor will thrust you to the next level. quit worrying; God is saying, “all is well.” it may be night now, but morning is coming; you’re going to see what God has been doing behind the scenes. every day that you stay in faith, keep a good attitude despite the darkness, you are passing the test; that night season will come to an end.

Psalm 112:4 (TLB)
4 When darkness overtakes him, light will come bursting in

it’s going to happen suddenly, unexpectedly; you didn’t see it coming. suddenly you get the break you need, your health turns around, you meet the right person.

Moses went through a night season. as a young man, he killed someone who was mistreating a Hebrew slave. he knew that he was called to deliver the Israelites, but he got out of God’s timing, and tried to do it on his own. he had to flee for his life, and spent 40 years on the backside of the desert in hiding. but God doesn’t waste anything that we go through; He uses it to get us prepared for our destiny. those years out in the desert, Moses couldn’t see what God was doing behind the scenes; God was making and molding him. he thought he was finished, but God was using that time to develop his character, getting him prepared for his comeback.

like Moses, you may have made mistakes that have put you into a night season. you’re not where you thought you would be; now, you think you have to settle there, and never accomplish what God put in your heart. you may not realize it, but right now God is getting you prepared for your comeback; what He started, He’s going to finish. He’s already taken into account every wrong turn, mistake, bad break. it may look like the end to you; the truth is, it’s just a temporary delay, a time of testing, proving, where your character is being developed. God is working in you, polishing off the rough edges, getting you prepared for where He’s taking you.

40 years later, God was ready for Moses to deliver His people:

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

in that night season, Moses changed; he learned to wait on God, listen to His voice, walk in humility. he came up higher in his character.

in the difficult times, stay pliable, open. say, “God, make me and mold me, show me where I need to change.” you grow in the tough times. when you’re in a night season, you may not like it, but it’s working for you; you’re getting stronger. you have to be prepared for where God is taking you.

Moses couldn’t handle it the first time; he made a mistake, had to run. but God didn’t write him off, cancel his destiny; He used the night season to refine him.

when Saul was chasing David through the desert, there were several opportunities for David to kill Saul; he could’ve taken his life, gotten rid of his problem. but David wouldn’t do it; he knew that Saul had been anointed by God.

1 Samuel 24:6 (NLT)
6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this to my lord the king. I shouldn’t attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.”

after David passed these tests, showed God what he was made of, a man of character and integrity, God took care of Saul, and David was made the king.

in the night seasons, if you will pass these tests, change where you need to change, deal with those areas that God is bringing to light, prove to Him that you’ll do the right thing when it’s hard, forgive even though they hurt you, then like David, because your character has been developed, God will bring you out of that night season, and get you to where you’re supposed to be.

but some things we can only develop in the dark; without the night seasons, we wouldn’t become all that God created us to be. none of us like the night seasons; we don’t like being uncomfortable, we don’t see anything happening. but there are times where God incubates us; He takes us through the dark places, not to make us miserable, but in the dark, a transformation is taking place. you’re growing, being refined; you may not like it, but you have to keep reminding yourself that you’re about to step up to a new level. no more living in mediocrity; you were made for higher things. this is no time to be discouraged; you’re going to go places that you’ve never dreamed. don’t complain; keep a good attitude, it’s all a part of the process. God is changing you from glory to glory.

in the scripture, Jacob had not lived the right kind of life; he was dishonest, cheated people, tricked his brother out of his birthright. you would think that God wouldn’t have anything to do with him, but God doesn’t write us off; He keeps working with us, showing us His mercy. Jacob was in a night season, and then:

Genesis 28:12-16 (NLT)
12 As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.
13 At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. 14 Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. 15 What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!”

what’s interesting is that he wasn’t in the temple, he was in the desert; God was showing us that He’s the God of hard places, lonely times, night seasons. you may be in a difficulty now: fighting a battle with your health, dealing with depression, raising a special needs child. you feel alone, forgotten, discouraged; God is right there with you, the heavens are about to open up, and God is going to make things happen that you couldn’t make happen. you may be in a hard place, but you’re not staying there: your health is going to improve, you’re going to break that addiction, the right people are going to show up. you’re going to say, “the Lord was in this place; He healed me of cancer, freed me from depression, blessed my business.” He’s not going to stop until He’s given you everything that He promised.

Psalm 121:4 (NLT)
4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.

He doesn’t just work the night shift, He shifts things in the night. you may be in a night season, you don’t see how it could work out; don’t worry, a night shift is coming. the God who works the night shift is going to shift things in your favor: there’s going to be a shift in your health, finances, that addiction.

This is what happened with Paul and Silas:

Acts 16:22-26 (NLT)
22 … Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them… thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.
25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. 26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!

what happened? God shifted the earth. when did it happen? around midnight. it was a night shift from the God that works the night shift.

things that look permanent in your life, the addiction, sickness, panic attacks, lack and struggle, thoughts will tell you that you’ll always have to deal with that; don’t believe those lies. you’re in a night season; that means you’re in perfect position for a night shift. God specializes in shifting things in the dark. instead of worrying, all through the day, “Lord, thank You for a night shift, that things are changing in my favor. it’s dark now, but I believe what You said, “light is about to come bursting in.”

In Genesis 2:

Genesis 2:21-22 (NIV)
21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

I’m sure that at the time, he didn’t understand why God was putting him to sleep; he was happy, life was good. but some things we can only develop in the dark; if God didn’t have us go through a night season, we would never see the fullness of what God has in store. you may feel like God has put you to sleep; things have slowed down, you’re in a challenge. be encouraged; when you wake up, and see what God has been up to, you’re going to say, “wow God, I never dreamed that You’d take me here.” God has some wows in your future; don’t complain about the dark places, they are leading you to the amazing things that God has in store. you may not understand it, but God wouldn’t have allowed it if He wasn’t going to use it to your advantage. right now, God is working behind the scenes. He sees what you’re dealing with, He knows how you feel. He’s saying, “the night seasons are not permanent.” He’s making and molding you, to take you to a new level. you’re about to see a night shift; from sickness to health, lack to abundance, addictions to freedom. the light is about to come bursting in. get ready for some wows.

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God wants us to bless us in all things, large, small, and in between. Here are some recent examples from my own life:

I have 2 old and dear friends who are awesome ladies, but total failures at answering their phones or returning messages; we have somewhat sporadic contact via various online avenues, but that is not the same as a phone conversation. One of them I had not spoken to by phone for 6 months, and for the other one it had been a year. I started praying that they would call me… and they both did… only 2 days apart!! It wasn’t anybody’s birthday, nor had anything happened in any of our lives to be the reason for these calls; GOD was the reason.

Because I need more of a social life outside of church (I’ve learned the hard way not to put all my social eggs in one basket), I asked God to bring me some new friends not associated with church. Since I never go anywhere where I might meet, much less get to know, people outside of church, in the natural that seemed impossible, but my prayers included complete confidence that God would find a way… And of course He did. One of my neighbors (none of whom I know) received a package that was addressed to me. Instead of just looking around, spotting my address, and leaving it on my front stoop, she looked up the sending company from the return address, called them, and they told her to just keep the package, and they would send me another one. After all that trouble to avoid just finding my address and bringing it over, and with no remaining moral or ethical need to do so, this neighbor, who describes herself as being socially shy and dysfunctional mind you, suddenly decided to bring the package to me anyways, and thus appeared at my door a very nice lady who is my exact same age, and with whom, it turns out, I have a bunch of things in common… And she is home all day like I am, too. We are already arranging to get together and watch Netflix.

God is AMAZING!! 🙂

God is eager to fulfill the desires of YOUR heart, too. Focus your life on Him, church, Bible study, prayer, and living your life the way He wants us to live, and then ask Him for what you want during your prayer time, with total confidence in His ability to do it, and total expectation that He WILL do it. The results will amaze you.

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Living Joyful

from JO’s sermon tonight:

it’s easy to let the pressures of life weigh us down; we deal with traffic, bills, rude people. if we’re not careful, we won’t smile or laugh as much, be as friendly, have fun anymore; we have too much pressure, responsibility to enjoy life. but God didn’t create you to live with a heaviness; you’re not supposed to go around solemn, serious all the time, burdened down by problems. taking time to laugh, have fun, reenergizes you, helps keep you in balance; if it’s all work, stress, dealing with problems, that’s going to weigh you down. you can get so busy raising your children that you don’t enjoy them; sometimes, we think that we have to be serious to show that we’re responsible, but you can be responsible and good-natured at the same time.

God created you with a sense of humor; you were made to laugh, have fun. have you let the pressures of life weigh you down? if you don’t make this adjustment, not only will you not enjoy your life to the full, but you won’t have good relationships. nobody wants to be around a grumpy, sour person; that pushes people away. we represent Christ here on this earth; if you’re a believer, smile, be good-natured, friendly, learn to laugh.

Proverbs 17:22 (NKJV)
22 A merry heart does good, like medicine

find the humor in life. too often, we used to laugh, have fun, but now we’ve let the pressures of life cause us to become more solemn; we don’t have time to laugh, we have bills to pay, children to raise, problems to handle. but the joy is what’s going to help you get through the tough times; laughing together, having fun, that’s going to help keep you together. maybe you would see your relationship go to a new level if you would bring more joy into the home; living with stress, pressure, tension, division, will drive you apart.

the enemy can’t stand to hear you laugh, having fun, enjoying each other. he wants there to be tension, pressure, strife. why don’t you get on the offensive and start laughing more often? laughter is spiritual warfare; it will bring down walls, and help your family stay together. we all have to deal with tension and stress, but you need to create a joyful atmosphere in your home; don’t bring in pressures from work, stress from school, offense from what somebody said. your home needs to be a cheerful place, a retreat from the negative things that you have to deal with during the day; leave the negative outside.

imagine what happens to us on the inside when we take time to live joyfully; it not only affects us mentally, our attitude, our moods, it affects us physically. when we don’t laugh, we’re not releasing the healing that God put on the inside. we all have different personalities, but most of the time, if we’re not laughing, it’s because we’ve forgotten how. most people who live into their 90s are very joyful people. sometimes, we think that the older we get, the more solemn we’re supposed to be, the less fun we’re supposed to have; that’s not God’s way.

Acts 20:24 (KJV)
24 … finish my course with joy

if you don’t have joy, if you’re not good-natured, you’re not going to finish your course the way God wants you to. just because our physical body ages, doesn’t mean that our thoughts and attitude have to get old. your spirit person, the real you that is on the inside, is ageless; it’s going to live forever. sometimes, we talk ourselves into being old and sour and solemn; don’t ever lose the child on the inside. you may have to retrain yourself to have fun, see the humor; sometimes, if we’re not working, we feel guilty, and stress out about what we think we should be doing. all work and no play is out of balance; give yourself permission to enjoy your life.

you may have a serious position, but you can still have a light-hearted spirit. when you’re secure, you can even laugh at yourself; if you can’t change it, there’s no reason to lose your joy. these days, everyone is so uptight, there’s so much divisiveness in our society. if you’re not careful, you’ll think, “this is no time to enjoy life, laugh, see the humor,” but just the opposite is true; more than ever, this is the time to live joyfully. there’s too much sadness in our world; everyone deals with hurts, disappointments, we all have stress and tension; don’t let that deceive you into living with a heaviness, discouraged, solemn. Jesus said:

John 16:33 (MSG)
In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

John 16:33 (NKJV)
In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

he didn’t say to be discouraged, sad, offended; in the tough times, you need your joy. joy is what gives you strength. but if the enemy deceives you into living with a heaviness, discouraged, solemn, he’ll be able to defeat you at every turn. don’t fall into that trap; your circumstances may not change, but you can change. make a decision in the midst of the difficulty that you’re going to be of good cheer. you’re not supposed to live stressed out, always thinking about your problems; your mind needs a break.

Psalm 16:11 (ESV)
in Your presence there is fullness of joy

if you don’t have joy, you’ve disconnected yourself from God’s presence. if you go through the day worried, stressed, somber, you’re separating yourself from the blessings, favor, strength that you need. don’t let your problems weigh you down to where you live with a heaviness, can’t laugh, have fun. you have to have times where you can still be lighthearted; that’s what helps you to get through those times.

could it be that you would receive the healing that you’ve been longing for for the headaches, chronic pain, depression, insomnia, if you would just lighten up and learn to laugh more often? there is healing power in laughter; when you have a joyful spirit, health and wholeness is constantly flowing through you.

in the Old Testament, one way that an army would overtake a city is that they would clog up the wells that provided water to that city, forcing the people to come out from behind the protective walls. all of us have a well of joy on the inside, but worry and stress prevent it from flowing the way God intended it to.

Genesis 26:18 (ESV)
18 And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham.

Isaac’s name means laughter. it’s significant that Isaac was the one that redug the wells; laughter is the best way to unclog our wells. if you want to see God’s goodness flow in new ways, you have to get your joy back.

Job 8:21 (NIV)
21 He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
and your lips with shouts of joy.

that’s God’s dream, that your life would be full of laughter. are you living stressed, somber, worried? make a change today. if you’ll make the decision to have a merry heart, you’re going to see chronic pain and illnesses go away, have better relationships, feel younger, stronger, fresher, and you will finish your course with joy.

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