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Archive for September, 2017

(No new sermon this week.)

I just endured a substantial loss; the woman I was by far the closest to in my church, one of the people that I have been the closest to, who has done the most for me, and has meant the most to me, in my entire life, and was by far the closest person to me within my part of the country, has just moved away. She even moved back several months earlier than she had originally planned. Given my catastrophic loss several years ago, by either death or desertion, of all of the most important people in my life, you can imagine what the loss of my new most important person, and most important relationship of the past 3 years, feels like.

She didn’t want to go. She was caught in the middle, because her family does not live in this area, and she naturally wanted to be with her children and grandchildren, but her heart is in this city with our church. She has repeatedly proclaimed the years that she spent here to have been the best of her entire life, even though she was so far from her family. If God had given her the slightest indication that she should not move away, she would have stayed. We were certainly all praying that this would happen, because she was a pillar of the church, and we didn’t want to lose her. She has an ability to help people, love, support, encourage, comfort people, in a way that few can match, and she works tirelessly to do all of these things for everyone within her orbit. I’m not the only person in our church who has really needed and benefited from that, and no words can describe the service that she gave to the church in general.

Why would God take from me, and from my church, a person who we loved and valued so greatly, and certainly still needed, someone who was pretty much ASKING for Him to give her the ok to stay? Usually, we don’t get to see why God does the things that He does, but sometimes He DOES let us see, so that we have a fresh example of His infinite wisdom:

Even if you don’t live in the United States, you probably know from endless news reports where the most devastated part of the nation is right now; Houston, Texas. The destruction that hurricane Harvey left behind has wrecked countless lives; people lost their homes, lost their businesses, lost everything, and there were 83 deaths as well, leaving grieving loved ones behind. The economic damage is estimated to be as high as $200 BILLION, with a lot of that from uninsured homeowners who have no way to recover what they lost. Imagine the grief, the pain, the suffering, of so many thousands of people in Houston.

Have you guessed where my friend has moved to? HOUSTON!

After Harvey hit, once we overcame the original shock and horror of it, and had a moment for something other than desperate prayers on behalf of the people of Houston, we understood that THIS was why God had pointed her unwaveringly back there; He needs people there who can reach out with their whole hearts to help people rebuild their shattered emotions and lives, and there is no better person for that job than my beloved friend.

I’m still brokenhearted that she is gone, but it brings me great peace to know that she has gone where she is so desperately needed. She will be able to serve God and His children in far greater ways there than she would ever have been able to do here, and this service is the central focus of her life, after her worship of God Himself. I’m so incredibly grateful that God caused her to change her original departure timing, even though that meant my losing precious months with her, so that she can be in Houston sooner rather than later. And equally grateful that in doing this he let us see WHY she had to go, so that we could be comforted in our grief knowing with total certainty what His plan for her is… that’s a rare and precious gift from the Lord.

Most of the time, of course, we will not understand why we have losses. Sometimes, years later, we might be able to look back and see how that loss was ultimately to our benefit… And sometimes we will not know this side of heaven. I wanted to share this difficult story to help you be encouraged the next time someone moves out of YOUR life; whether or not you can see it at the time, God has something waiting for them at their new location… and something new waiting for YOU to fill that gap where the other person used to be.

That’s my challenge now; I need to keep my eyes, mind, and heart open for the new things that God is about to do and bring me. I will continue moving forward with a positive attitude, ready to embrace the new, rather than looking back and dwelling on the old. This is a pretty deep valley, but that means that the next mountain peak will be a high one!

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Be Vulnerable

from JO’s sermon tonight:

it’s easy to go through life trying to impress people, show them that we’re strong, have it all together. it’s good to carry ourselves with confidence, but sometimes we have a need to keep up our image so much that instead of being real, we put on a mask, and start pretending. we can’t let people see that we have weaknesses, struggle; we’re people of faith, we’re supposed to have all the answers. but the scripture says:

2 Corinthians 12:9 (GNT)
9 … my power is greatest when you are weak

if we go around pretending, acting like we don’t have any weaknesses, then God’s power is not going to show up. God won’t bless who you pretend to be; He looks beyond the superficial. when you’re big enough to admit, “God, I don’t have it all together, I’m struggling in these areas, I need your help”; being vulnerable is not a weakness, it’s a strength. but when we pretend, try to impress people, live for our image, that puts pressure on us; we have to perform, “make sure they think I’m good, strong, talented.” take off the mask; you can be real. “what if they think less of me?” what they think of you doesn’t really matter; they don’t control your destiny. if your friends judge you for being real, they’re not true friends; a true friend will accept you for who you are, faults, weaknesses, shortcomings, and all.

people that judge you are not being honest with themselves; they have their own issues. they’re just wearing their masks, hoping that you don’t notice. everybody is dealing with something; there are no perfect people. but we live in a society that stresses image; it tells us, if you don’t have it all together, wear the latest, drive the latest, hang out with the most popular, you’re less-than. this creates all kinds of pretending, wearing masks, trying to impress. that may feel strong, but in fact it’s weak. if you can’t be honest with yourself, if you have to hide your struggles, act a certain way to keep up your image, that’s going to keep you from your full potential. God is not looking for the ideal you, pretend you, future you, He’s looking for the real you.

this is what the Apostle Paul did. he said:

Philippians 3:13 (KJV)
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended

one version says:

Philippians 3:13 (TLB)
13 No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be

Paul was one of the greatest apostles that ever lived; he wrote half of the books in the New Testament, he was a scholar, a theologian, he spoke five languages. no one was more effective than Paul, but he had the humility to admit, “I’m doing my best, but I’m not there yet.” he could’ve let pride hide his weaknesses, shortcomings, but he was vulnerable. nobody would’ve argued if he’d said, “I wrote half of the scripture; I’ve attained the highest level.” Paul was a great man, but as he neared his death, when he could’ve impressed people, bolstered his image, instead, he was real.

that’s the kind of people God promotes. there’s power in vulnerability. it’s ok to say, “I’m not there yet. I’m still struggling with these issues, but I’m not going to go around pretending; I’m at peace with not being perfect.” if you’re not vulnerable, you’ll stop growing. be honest with yourself, and say, “God, I need Your help. I’m acting strong, but I’m afraid, I don’t know which way to go.” when you empty yourself out, then God will fill you. but God cannot fill a vessel that’s already full. if you’re full of yourself, acting, pretending, there’s no room for God. but when we humble ourselves, empty out our pride, doubts, fears, then God will fill us with favor, strength, help us get to the next level.

in Mark 9, a man had a son that was sick with something like epilepsy:

Mark 9:17-24 (NIV)
17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid… 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” 23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

he was honest; he was being vulnerable. Jesus could have said, “what do you mean you have doubts, you don’t believe? I’m going to go find somebody else.” no, when we’re honest with God, when we’re real, He doesn’t judge us, turn the other way, He comes to us:

Mark 9:25-26 (NIV)
25 … he rebuked the impure spirit… 26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out… 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

when you take off the mask, and get down to the real you, maybe the doubting, lonely, insecure you, when you are vulnerable, God will begin to change things.

sometimes, we think we have to always be strong in faith, strong in courage, we can’t admit that we have doubts, fears. the scripture says:

Joel 3:10 (ICB)
10 Let the weak say, “I am strong.”

it doesn’t say you should never feel weak, have doubts, feel discouraged. no, “God, I feel weak today, but I know in You I’m strong. God, I’m concerned about my finances, I don’t see how it could work out; help me to believe.” that’s being honest, vulnerable before God.

the first time John the Baptist saw Jesus:

John 1:29 (ESV)
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

he knew he was the Messiah.

in Matthew 3, John was baptizing Jesus:

Matthew 3:16-17 (NIV)
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

if anyone should have been a man of faith, it would have been John; he baptized Jesus. but a few chapters later, when he was in prison, John started having doubts:

Matthew 11:2-3 (NIV)
2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

now you would think if you saw the heavens opened up, heard the voice boom out, you would believe, you wouldn’t change your mind, but even John had doubts, didn’t have it all figured out. he was vulnerable. he could’ve said, “I can’t let anyone know that I’m not sure now, I have to keep up my image.” John’s attitude was, “I’m not a pretender, trying to impress people; go ask him if he’s the son of God.” what’s interesting is, Jesus didn’t get upset, say, “tell John he needs to have more faith; I’m disappointed in him.” Jesus understood:

Matthew 11:4-5 (NIV)
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.

when you have doubts, things you don’t understand, don’t be down on yourself. you didn’t see the heavens open up, hear the voice boom out; John had all these signs, but it didn’t disqualify him. God was not disappointed in John, and He’s not disappointed in you.

you may not be where you think you should be, you have these questions; it’s ok to say, like Paul, “I haven’t apprehended it all just yet; I’m on a journey, still growing. God’s still working on me.” but so often, we think we have to hide our struggles, we can’t let God know our fears; that wouldn’t be a person of faith. but you can’t overcome a weakness if you don’t get it out in the open. when you’re honest with yourself and God, and say, “God, help me to break this addiction, not be jealous of my coworker, be more disciplined in what I watch, I can’t do it on my own,” that’s the first step to getting better.

but sometimes, religion has taught us that God will condemn us, make us feel guilty; that’s not the way God is. He understands our doubts, weaknesses, failures. when we humble ourselves, and ask Him for His help, when we’re vulnerable, say, ”I don’t have it all together, I have these doubts, help me to believe,” that’s when the Creator of the universe will help you overcome what you could not overcome.

are you wearing a mask, pretending, trying to protect your image in front of people and God? let’s be real. sometimes, we think when we get it all together, we’ll be honest. when we break the addiction, overcome the temptation, then God will accept us, be pleased. but God is not waiting for the perfect, cleaned-up, no-doubts you; He’s waiting for the real, vulnerable, honest you. God already knows everything about us. there is a freedom when you can come to God open and honest, knowing that He doesn’t condemn you, find fault, He has mercy for every mistake, weakness, fear. our attitude should be, “God, my life is an open book; I have nothing to hide. you know everything I am and am not. make me, mold me, help me to become who You created me to be.”

in John 4:

John 4:5-18 (NIV)
5 So he came to a town in Samaria… sat down by the well… 7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”… 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”… 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water… 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.

life had been rough for this lady; no doubt she’d been mistreated, taken advantage of. she knew she had made mistakes. she felt bad enough about herself; she didn’t need any more guilt. in town, everyone knew her; she was looked down on, made fun of. but out here at the well, alone just her and Jesus, she could’ve thought, “I’m not telling this man my past; I’m going to pretend everything is fine.” she could have said, “ok, I’ll go get my husband.” everything in her said, “hide your failures, leave, take the easy way out.” she could’ve walked away, and it would be the end of this story. but she said, “no, this is a new day. I’m not making excuses, covering it up; I’m going to be honest.”

John 4:19-26 (NIV)
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet… 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming…26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

the first person Jesus ever revealed himself to as the Messiah was this woman who was vulnerable, willing to take off the mask and not pretend everything was ok.

you may have made mistakes, you’re not where you think you should be. God is not displeased with where you are; He’s only displeased if you get stuck there. when Jesus asked this woman to go get her husband, he already knew she didn’t have one; he was waiting to see what she would do. would she be vulnerable? God already knows our struggles, failures, weaknesses. when we live open and honest before God, not guilty because of past mistakes, beating ourselves up for weaknesses, pretending that everything’s ok, but saying, “God, I need You. help me to overcome, strengthen me in my weaknesses, give me faith to do the right thing,” that’s when God will break bondages that have held you back, make more out of your life than you ever even dreamed. you’re a work in progress; God is not finished with you.

it’s ok to be vulnerable to your children. you don’t have to hide your weaknesses, struggles. take off your Superman outfit; sometimes, you just need to be Clark Kent, just be real. your children will learn more from how you handle your struggles than they will from your successes. you don’t have to be strong all the time; let them see your humanity.

when you can be honest with yourself, when you’re big enough, secure enough, to take off the mask, not live for your image, but you do the right thing when it’s hard, apologize when it’s not your fault, show your children you’re big enough to admit that you’re wrong, when you live transparent before God, not the fake, pretend, want to be you, but the real you, when you’re vulnerable, you’re pliable; God will make you and mold you into the vessel of honor that He created you to be.

that’s what the heroes of faith did: Abraham, John the Baptist, Paul, they were real, they had doubts, questions, made mistakes.  they didn’t pretend to be superhuman; they knew the power of vulnerability. they knew in their weaknesses that God’s power shows up the greatest.

are you down on yourself because you have doubts, fears, things you don’t understand? are you trying to perform perfectly to protect your image, impress your friends, show your children how strong you are? why don’t you to take the pressure off? there is a freedom when you can be at peace with not being perfect, say, “I’m doing my best, improving but I’m not there”; that’s ok, you’re making progress.

Jesus said about John the Baptist:

Matthew 11:11 (NIV)
11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist

this was about a man that doubted he was the Messiah, that had questions. why are you beating yourself up over your weaknesses, trying to hide your struggles, thinking that they are disqualifying you? the accuser whispers, “you still have an addiction, you should be ashamed of yourself. you lost your temper again, go sit on the sidelines”; don’t believe those lies. you may not have attained it all, you’re not there yet; the good news is, you’re on the way. God’s still working on you; what He started in your life, He’s going to finish.

in Genesis 25, Esau and Jacob were twins; Esau came out first, but Jacob was grabbing at his heels. Jacob grew up doing everything he could to get ahead; he was dishonest, went around deceiving people:

Genesis 25:29-34 (NIV)
29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew!… 31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”… 33 …So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew

this was significant; the firstborn son received a double portion of the family inheritance. when Jacob’s father Isaac was near death and couldn’t see, Jacob dressed up like his brother; he pretended to be Esau, and tricked his father into giving him the blessing that belonged to the firstborn son. but when we don’t do things God’s way, what should be a blessing is not a blessing. when we deceive and manipulate, we may get to where we want to be, but it won’t be what we thought. Jacob got the blessing, but for the next twenty one years his life was a struggle; he had to live in exile. he worked for his uncle Laban to get one of his daughters for his wife, but Laban was a bigger trickster than Jacob; he kept making excuses why he had to work longer. Jacob was reaping from all those seeds that he had sown. after years, he decided to go back home and make peace with Esau. the night before they were going to meet:

Genesis 32:24-27 (NIV)
24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak… 26 … Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

Jacob had spent his whole life deceiving, pretending. years earlier, when he was trying to steal his brother’s blessing. his father asked him:

Genesis 27:18-19 (NASB)
18 Then he came to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” 19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn

this moment, Jacob had to decide; “am I going to keep pretending, or am I going to be real?” the name Jacob literally means “deceiver.” for the first time, he didn’t try to hide his weaknesses; he was honest with himself. when Jacob got real:

Genesis 32:27-30 (NIV)
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”… 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

Israel means “prince with God.” when Jacob got honest, God showed him his true identity; he wasn’t a deceiver, he was a prince.

at times, we’ve all worn a mask, gone around pretending, trying to hide our faults. but when we get honest with ourselves, vulnerable enough to admit, “I have weaknesses. I’m struggling in these areas,” God doesn’t condemn you; that’s when He’ll give you your new name. the accuser will tell you, “you’ll never change; keep pretending, living guilty”; that is not your true identity. God knows who you really are; your new name is waiting for you. you are royalty, forgiven, redeemed. when the accuser whispers, “hey Jacob,” say, “no thanks, you have the wrong person; I am Israel. I’m not who I used to be. I am a new creation.” this is a new day; I’m asking us to take off the masks, quit pretending, and get our new names. if you’ll do this, every force that’s trying to stop you is being broken right now. God is going to mold you into a vessel of honor.

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It is finished

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all have things that are trying to hold us back: guilt from past mistakes, temptations we can’t seem to overcome, dysfunction that’s been passed down. it’s easy to learn to accept it, and think that that’s who we are. but God didn’t create you to go through life weighed down by addictions, dysfunction, guilt, the past; He created you to be free. when Jesus hung on the cross:

John 19:30 (NIV)
30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

he wasn’t just talking about his life, and how he’d finished his purpose; he was putting an end to all the negative things that could keep us from our destiny. he was saying, in effect, “the guilt, depression, low self-esteem, mediocrity, is finished. instead of accepting the addiction, thinking, “it’s the way it’s always going to be, everybody in my family has it,” you need to announce to that addiction, “it is finished. you don’t control me; you can’t keep me from my destiny. the price has been paid. I am free, clean, whole.”

as long as you accept it, you are allowing it to stay, but when you tell the addiction, the past, the poverty, “it is finished. this is not who I am. I am blessed, prosperous, victorious,” in the unseen realm, strongholds are broken, chains are loosed, favor is released. are there things you’re living with that you need to say, “it is finished”? are you going around guilty, down on yourself, because of past mistakes, not expecting anything good? you need to announce to that guilt, “it is finished. I’m done beating myself up, living condemned; God’s mercy is bigger than my mistakes. I am redeemed, restored, forgiven, and I’m excited about my future.”

are you living with a sense of shame, feeling inferior because of how somebody treated you? they did you wrong, walked away, now the accuser whispers, “it’s because you’re not good enough, not attractive enough, you don’t deserve to be loved.” announce to that shame, “it is finished. I’m not living inferior, unworthy. I know who I am; I am a Child of the Most High God. I’m wearing a crown of favor. I have royal blood flowing through my veins.”

no matter what someone did or didn’t do to you, it does not change who you are. you may have had bad breaks, gone through unfair situations; don’t have a victim mentality, have a victor mentality. God said:

Isaiah 61:7 (NIV)
7 Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.

that person that did you wrong, they thought that they were hurting you; the truth is, they were helping you, they qualified you for double. they thought they were setting you back; in reality, they were setting you up. now do your part; say to the self-pity, “it is finished. I’m not living discouraged, dwelling on my disappointments, reliving my hurts. I’m letting go of the old, and I’m getting ready for the new things God has in store. Father, thank you that double is coming my way.”

we can all find a reason to live negative, thinking that we’re at a disadvantage: “my boss overlooked me, somebody walked out of a relationship.” I’m asking us to get rid of the excuses. it’s time to say, “it is finished. I’m done thinking about what I didn’t get, what didn’t work out.” you have to tell the past, the self-pity, the discouragement, “it is finished.” as long as you justify your condition, you’re giving it permission to stay.

in John 5:

John 5:2-6 (NKJV)
2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. 5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

it seemed like there was an obvious answer, everyone was at the pool to get well, but there was nothing in this man’s actions that said he wanted to get well, was expecting things to change. in 38 years, he had gotten comfortable in dysfunction. he was surrounded by other people that were sick like him; everybody was needy, complaining, discouraged.

you need to be careful who you surround yourself with, especially in difficult times. you may have an illness, but don’t go find a bunch of other sick people to hang around; misery loves company. if you struggle with an addiction, don’t hang out with people that are addicted; that’s going to cause you to get stuck. if you’re depressed, don’t go find 5 depressed friends so you can all be depressed together.

find people that have what you want. if you’re struggling in your finances, get around blessed, generous people that are well off. if you tend to be negative and critical, don’t stay around people like that; find people that are happy, positive, grateful. there should be something about you that says, “I want to get well, be blessed, go to the next level.

when Jesus asked this man if he wanted to get well, instead of saying, “yes, that’s what I’m believing for,” he said:

John 5:7 (NIV)
7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

he was justifying his condition; “I’m this way because I’m at a disadvantage; nobody will help me.” as long as you’re making excuses for where you are, you’re going to get stuck. “I’m this way because I had a bad childhood, a business partner cheated me, I have this illness”; I’m asking us to get rid of the excuses. nothing that’s happened to you has to keep you from your destiny. if it was going to stop your purpose, God wouldn’t have allowed it. you may not understand it, it may not be fair, but if you will take the hand you’ve been dealt and make the most of it, God will get you to where you’re supposed to be. no person, bad break, addiction, sickness, can stop Him; God has the final say. tell the self-pity, excuses, “it is finished. this is a new day; God’s about to do a new thing.”

Jesus said to the crippled man:

John 5:8-9 (NIV)
8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

what you think is permanent, looks like it’s never going to change: that addiction you’ve had for years, the illness, the situation in your finances, you don’t see a way, but God has a way. right now, He’s fighting your battles; things are changing in your favor, breakthroughs are headed your way, new beginnings, healing, freedom. it may look permanent; God is saying, “it’s only temporary. I’m about to turn it around.”

what’s interesting is, this crippled man didn’t have a lot of faith; he didn’t say, “yes, I believe I can get well,” he made excuses, yet God in His mercy healed him. imagine how God feels when He sees you shaking off the self-pity, the excuses, saying, “Lord, I believe you can turn my child around, take me to the next level, free me from this addiction.” when you believe, God will make things happen that you couldn’t make happen. tell the excuses, doubt, negative thoughts, “it is finished,” it’s time to put a stop to some things.

sometimes, well-meaning people try to talk you out of your destiny. you have to get away from people that only see you for who you used to be, and not for who you are about to be. some people that knew you back then will try to keep you in the same box that you grew up in, put limitations on you; “you can’t accomplish that dream, you’re not that talented, you’d better play it safe.”

this is what happened in the scripture with David. his family didn’t see him as a giant-killer, a king; they discounted him. David’s father didn’t bring him in from the shepherds’ fields when the prophet Samuel was choosing one of his sons as the next king. he thought, “David is so small, so young, he doesn’t have the experience.” but people don’t determine your destiny. what they say about you, how they try to make you feel, cannot stop what God has ordained for your life. you need to distance yourself from people that are always trying to put limitations on you, and talk you out of what God put in your heart.

sometimes, it’s the people that have known you the longest, because they can only see you one way. Jesus’ brothers never accepted him; he was performing all these miracles, but they didn’t see him as the Messiah, they only saw him one way, as their brother Jesus, “nothing special about him, we grew up with him.” even when Jesus began to gain popularity:

John 7:5 (NIV)
5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

Mark 3:21 (NIV)
21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

they tried to discount him, talk him out of his destiny. Jesus let it go in one ear and out the other.

you can put an end to negative things that have been passed down. what you’re dealing with may not have started with you, but it can stop with you. you need to say the poverty, lack, “it is finished. I will lend and not borrow.” say to the addiction, depression, dysfunction, “it is finished.” God wants you to set a new standard. you have seeds of greatness. you are full of talent, ideas, potential. you’re not limited by where you came from. just because negative things have been passed down, doesn’t mean they’re supposed to continue; you’re the one to break the curse, poverty, depression, dysfunction. you can take your family to a new level.

don’t talk yourself out of it. don’t let circumstances discourage you. the odds may be against you, but the most high God is for you. He is breathing in your direction right now. He’s going to open doors that no man can shut, bring talent out of you that you didn’t know you had, cause the right people to be good to you. opportunity, good breaks, freedom, increase is going to track you down. you’re stepping into a new level. bondages that have held you and your family back are being broken. now do your part; have a new mindset, an abundant, free, healthy, victorious mentality. we can all come up with an excuse to settle where we are; I’m asking us to get rid of the excuses. anything that’s holding you back, it’s time to announce to it, “it is finished. this is a new day. I’m drawing the line in the sand. as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. we will live free from addictions, lend and not borrow, be generous and help others, accomplish our dreams, and become everything we were created to be.”

you may have been raised in a limited environment; they were good people, but they didn’t have any vision, settled for mediocrity. you can set a new standard. where you start is not important; where you finish is what matters. God is going to use you to not just break a generational curse, but to start a generational blessing. where you come from is not who you are: you are blessed, free, talented, a child of the most high God.

Abraham was in a limited environment. God told him:

Genesis 12:1 (NIV)
12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

God was saying, “Abraham, you have to leave what’s familiar, what you grew up with.” I’m not suggesting to abandon your family, but I am saying to leave negative mindsets you were were raised with, a scarcity mentality, limitations that people have put on you. you have to make room for God to increase you.

sometimes, our environment is too small. if you take an oak tree seed, and plant it in a five gallon pot, that oak tree will never become what it was created to be; not because there’s something wrong with the tree, but because of the environment that it’s in. in the same way, there’s nothing wrong with you; you have seeds of greatness. the most high God breathed His life into you. now make sure your pot is not too small, your environment is not holding you back. you need to be around people that inspire you, that have gone further, making a difference, not just people that are settling for the status quo.

Isaiah said:

Isaiah 54:2 (NKJV)
2 “Enlarge the place of your tent,
And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings;
Do not spare;
Lengthen your cords,
And strengthen your stakes.

make room for God to do a new thing. tell that limited mindset, “it is finished. I’m dreaming big dreams, praying bold prayers, expecting to go further than how I was raised.” God is a progressive God; He wants every generation to increase. have a big vision. don’t settle for what your parents had, what your relatives accomplished; you were made for more. you can go further, be the one to set the new standard.

but it’s easy to talk ourselves out of our dreams, live discouraged, because of disappointments, things we don’t understand. we worked hard, but didn’t get the promotion. we prayed, but our loved one didn’t make it. we did our best, but the relationship didn’t work out. life is not always fair, but God said He would take what was meant for your harm, and use it to your advantage, give you beauty for ashes. but I’ve learned, you have to let go of the ashes before you receive the beauty. you can’t hold on to the old and expect to receive the new. the past is over and done; quit dwelling on it, reliving it. you’re not going to understand everything that happens, but God has a purpose . He knows how to bring good out of it; keep moving forward.

this is what David did. he had a newborn baby that became very sick:

2 Samuel 12:16-23 (NIV)
16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground…18 On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him…19 David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked. “Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.” 20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house… and he ate. 21 His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!” 22 He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

David did everything he could; prayed, fasted, believed, but it didn’t work out his way. he could’ve lived bitter, with a chip on his shoulder, but David understood this principle; he said to the past, “it is finished. I don’t understand it, but I’m moving forward.”

we all have things in life that we don’t understand. it’s easy to live negative, but if we’re going to see the double, the beauty for ashes, we have to do like David, and say to the past, the things you don’t understand, “it is finished. I’m not going to dwell on what didn’t work out, try to figure out why; I’m going to let it go, and keep moving forward.”

the past doesn’t have to stop you; a bad break, loss, disappointment. God is in control of your life. you wouldn’t be alive unless He had something amazing up in front of you. you haven’t had too many bad breaks, made too many mistakes; you’re on the verge of seeing double, beauty for ashes. now do your part; put on a new attitude, and get ready for the new things God is about to do. the past, the hurts, the regrets; it is finished. the poverty, lack, limited mindsets; it is finished. the addictions, depression, dysfunction, guilt, shame, self-pity; it is finished. this is a new day. things that have held you back are being broken right now. you’re going to step into a new level of freedom, break generational curses, and start generational blessings. you’re about to see the beauty for ashes; healing, promotion, breakthroughs, are headed your way.

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(No new sermon this week.)

I have seen the Holy Spirit manifest several more times, which of course is by far the best thing that I have experienced, or ever COULD experience.… The actual VISIBLE presence of the Spirit of God!! All those endless hours of prayer and Bible study, all those years of unwavering faith, no matter what agonies, disasters, or betrayals befell me, have really paid off!!

I have also seen more angels than I can keep track of; it has literally grown beyond my ability to make a detailed record of every angelic appearance, within the confines of a 24 hour day. I have seen them in all sizes, from tiny to gigantic: and in a variety of colors: white, gold, blue, and red… I think that the latter are seraphim, which means “burning ones,” although I’m not yet sure if they are really a separate category of angels, or just cherubim that happen to be red… and no, I don’t know what the different colors mean. Different people have different claims about that, but the Bible doesn’t say, so unless or until I receive divine revelation in this area, I simply didn’t know. Sometimes, angels appear in a simplified human form, with no details like facial features so far, and a couple recently have appeared to have robes… and WINGS. (In case you were wondering, there will NEVER be halos; those are not in the Bible anywhere, they are the creation of medieval artists.)

Most of the angels I see appear while I’m praying, perhaps not surprisingly; I rarely see fewer than half a dozen during a prayer session, and it can easily be twice that many. I have an angel who appears to have a guard post at my front door, and angels that are on guard by my bed while I sleep. Some of the biggest and best ones appear in my prayer closet area. An angel surrounded me with a fragrance that was so intense that it woke me up when I was deeply asleep, despite the fact that I had a fan blowing on me, and so it shouldn’t have been POSSIBLE for

An angel surrounded me with a fragrance that was so intense that it woke me up when I was deeply asleep, despite the fact that I had a fan blowing on me, and so it shouldn’t have been POSSIBLE for fragrance to overwhelm me like that. I have seen wind appear where there was no physical way for there to be wind. An angel got my attention one time by ringing a bell. Even more incredibly, during a recent intense prayer session, when my prayer had tapered off into silence because my mind drifted off on a tangent, an angel tapped me on the temple!! Even more incredibly, this happened FOUR more times during that same prayer session, although the later times felt more like brushing against my temple than actually tapping. Although I’m positive that that first time was to get my attention and get me back to praying, the other times seemed… playful, which might sound as crazy to you as it would have to ME a few years ago, but is right in line with other accounts I have read from people who have numerous encounters with angels. Angels, like all intelligent creatures, appear to have a sense of play.

I have seen angels in other people’s homes that were clearly associated with them; I have seen a specific one near my Pastor 3 times, and one in a specific area of my friend’s home at least that many times, for example.

I saw an anointing come down onto a member of my prayer group, a bright gold light that came from above and behind her head, and when it had settled into her, the power that came out of her hands where they were grasping mine was so intense that it gave me wild pins and needles, until my hands finally went NUMB. I’ve also seen light come from my Pastor’s hand, and he actually FELT that this was going on, even though he’s famous for NEVER feeling anything, even when everyone else around him is.

Of course, when the supernatural breaks out, the enemy doesn’t like it, and he tries to get his own players into the game. There have been several sightings of demons as well, but they are very weak right now. I don’t fool myself into thinking that it will always be that way, but what I DO know is, the Bible tells us that we have authority over them, and the Holy Spirit is always with me, so if they try to take me on again, they will be defeated, as they were before.

Why is this happening? My church has been praying for the supernatural to break out for a long time, so this is an answer to our prayers. Why is it primarily focusing on ME? I can make guesses, but that’s all they would be… all I can say is that God is on the move, and bigger miracles are going to be showing up any time now.

Have you been experiencing the supernatural, either yourself or within your church? Leave a comment and let me know!!

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