Archive for January, 2018

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all have things that we’re believing for: dreams to come to pass, problems to turn around. we’d be happy if they worked out our way, but sometimes what we have in mind is not God’s best; we think ordinary, God thinks extraordinary. we think, “let me have enough to get by”; God thinks abundance. we think, “let me manage this addiction”; God thinks freedom. we’re asking for the possible, when God wants to do the impossible. He specializes in exceeding our expectations. what He has in store for you is bigger, more rewarding, fulfilling than you can imagine. Paul said in Ephesians:

Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV)
20 Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think

I believe this is going to be a year where God exceeds your expectations. He’s not going to do what you’re asking for, He’s going to exceed it, open doors you never dreamed would open, take you further you can imagine. you’re going to look back and think, “I never dreamed I’d be this blessed, have this position, marry somebody this great.” get ready; God is about to exceed your expectations, make things happen that you didn’t see coming. you didn’t deserve it, didn’t work for it, it’s just the goodness of God showing favor on your life.

this is what happened to a man in Acts 3:

Acts 3:2-8 (NIV)
2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

but notice; the man was expecting a few coins, the ordinary, the same thing that had happened for years, but God showed up and exceeded his expectations. he didn’t see it coming, he thought he would have to lay by that gate and beg the rest of his life, but one moment of favor, one exceeded expectation, thrust him to a new level, changed his whole life.

God has some of these “I never dreamed” blessings in store for you. you may not see how it can happen, the medical report doesn’t look good, you’ve gone as far as your education allows, perhaps you’re in a limited environment. the good news is, none of that stops our God. He controls the universe; one touch of His favor will catapult you where you could not go on your own. it’s your time to be free, break bondages, go to new levels. every force that’s holding you back is being broken right now; God is releasing healing, favor, opportunities, restoration, freedom. this is a new day; God’s doing a new thing. He’s about to exceed your expectations.

I love the fact that this crippled man, even though he had low expectations, all he was expecting was a few coins, God didn’t say, “too bad, I had something much better, but you don’t have enough faith. I was going to let you walk, but you’re not expecting enough.” God is so merciful, even when we don’t have the faith, we think we’ve reached our limit, God says, “that’s ok, I’m going to show you favor in spite of that.” the scripture says:

Matthew 17:20 (NIV)
20 … if you have faith as small as a mustard seed… Nothing will be impossible for you.”

a mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds. God could have said, “if you have great faith, never doubt, never get discouraged, then I’ll do something big,” but God knew there would be times that we didn’t have the faith we needed to reach our destiny, so He said, “if you have just a little bit of faith, that’s all you need, then I’ll show up and exceed your expectations.” you have the faith you need for God to show out in your life, catapult you to new levels.

you may feel like you’re stuck doing the same thing, you have some kind of disadvantage, you’re expecting the ordinary; that’s where the crippled man was, yet God showed up and did the extraordinary. you may have a good reason to settle where you are, but God loves you too much to let you miss your destiny. it may seem like another ordinary year, same thing, everything looks routine; no, get ready, God is about to show up and do something unusual, that you haven’t seen. He’s going to exceed your expectations.

Acts 3:9-11 (NIV)
9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him… all the people were astonished

what God is about to do in your life is going to cause people to look at you in astonishment, think, “how could you be so blessed? I know where you came from. how could you be free when so many around you are addicted, be so strong, healthy, energetic, when a medical report said you weren’t going to get well?” God is going to make you an example of His goodness. when He exceeds your expectations, people are going to take notice, see the favor on your life. “I don’t have great faith, all the odds are against me”; same thing with the crippled man. none of that stops our God. when He exceeds your expectations, it’s not going to be a little exceeded, a little more than you thought, a little blessing, a little increase; God is going to exceed it abundantly above what you’re thinking. His idea of abundance is more than we can ask or think.

God doesn’t want you to stay at the same level as your parents; He wants you to set a new standard. He’s going to exceed your expectations in greater ways than how you were raised. what God has in store for you is much greater than you’ve imagined; you’re going to come in to some of these exceeded expectations. why don’t you put your faith out there? instead of thinking, “it’s not going to happen for me”; you can’t have faith if you don’t first have hope. give God something to work with. dare to say, “Lord, I want to thank You that You’re going to exceed my expectations, take me where I could not go on my own.”

God has it all figured out. He knows what, who, you’re going to need, He’s lining up the right breaks, right people, directing your steps. Paul talked about:

Ephesians 1:19 (NABRE)
19 … the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe

you’re going to come into these moments where you see God surpass anything you’ve imagined. you couldn’t have made it happen; it’s just the goodness of God. you may wonder how you’re going to accomplish your dreams, get out of that difficulty; God has the right people lined up, knows how to put you at the right place. He’s going to make things happen that you didn’t see coming. God is saying to you today, “I’m about to exceed your expectations, show you favor in ways that you’ve never seen.” now my challenge is, let this take root in your spirit. it’s easy to dismiss it, “it will never happen, the odds are against me, it’s been too long.” this is what a lady did in the scripture:

2 Kings 4:8-16 (NIV)
8 One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat. 9 She said to her husband, “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. 10 Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.”… 14 “What can be done for her?” Elisha asked. Gehazi said, “She has no son, and her husband is old.” 15 Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. 16 “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” “No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!”

she was saying, in effect, “don’t get my hopes up; that’s too good to be true.” she just didn’t have the faith. the good news is, there are some things, even if you don’t believe, God is still going to do it. He is so merciful, He will override the doubt and do things you never dreamed, that will bring you more joy, fulfillment, than you can imagine.

2 Kings 4:17 (NIV)
17 But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.

God exceeded her expectations even though she didn’t believe; that’s the kind of God we serve. there are promises God has spoken over you, dreams He’s put in your heart; seems impossible, it’s been so long, you’re not expecting it any more. God is saying to you what He said to her; “I’m still going to bring it to pass.” just because you gave up doesn’t mean God has given up. you may not see a way, but God has a way. if this lady didn’t believe, and saw the promise fulfilled, imagine what God will do when you do believe. put your faith out there.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, nothing is changing, I don’t see anything happening”; you’re right where a young lady was in 1 Samuel. her name was Hannah; she was married for many years, but she too was barren, not able to have children:

1 Samuel 1:2 (NIV)
2 He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

1 Samuel 1:7-8 (NIV)
7 … Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8 Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

she knew God put the dream in her heart; she couldn’t understand why it wasn’t happening. one day:

1 Samuel 1:10-20 (NIV)
10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”… 17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”… Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”

this could be the end of the story, another promise fulfilled, but God likes to exceed our expectations:

1 Samuel 2:21 (NIV)
21 And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters.

she asked for one son, but notice how good our God is. He said in effect, “Hannah, you may be satisfied, but I’m not; I’m going to do more than you asked.” one reason God was so good to Hannah was because of all the pain she had to endure, having to wait while the other wife was having babies, being ridiculed. God sees all the heartache, tears, unfair situations, people that did you wrong. what you’re believing for may not have happened yet, it may be taking a long time, but God is a faithful God. He’s not only still going to bring it to pass, that would be good enough, you’d be satisfied, but God is going to do more than you’ve asked. that means once you see the promise fulfilled, God is not finished being good to you; He’s going to visit you again, show out in another way. you asked for one baby; God has 5 more waiting for you. He’s going to pay you back for what you’ve been through.

our attitude should be, “Lord, I want to thank You that You’re going to visit me again, do more than I asked, exceeding my expectations.”

in 2 Chronicles 20:

2 Chronicles 20:1-25 (NIV)
20 After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat… 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord… 5 Then Jehoshaphat… said:… For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”… 15 …This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them… 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you… 21 … Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord… 22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another. 24 … no one had escaped. 25 So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it.

Jehoshaphat asked God to deliver them from those enemies, and God did; they didn’t even have to fight. that was a great miracle, something worth celebrating; he could’ve gone back home thanking God, so grateful, but our God exceeds our expectations. He said in effect, “Jehoshaphat, I’m not going to do just what you asked, just bring you out, I’m going to make the enemy pay, bring you out increased, promoted, stronger.

you may have obstacles in your path, challenges coming against you, in your health, finances, relationship, you’re asking God to turn it around; stay encouraged, God is not only going to bring you out, He’s going to bring you out better than you were before, exceed your expectations.

don’t talk yourself out of it. sometimes, when we’ve struggled in an area so long, we’ve gotten comfortable. like the crippled man, we’re expecting a few coins, something to help us make it through the year; God is about to do a new thing. you’re asking for the possible; He’s about to do the impossible, take you where you’ve never been. no more dysfunction, being barren, stuck in your career; you’re about to come in to some of these exceeded expectations. this is a year where God is going to do more than you’ve asked. you’ve been faithful, honored Him, now God’s about to show out in your life. every morning, “Lord, I want to thank You that You’re going to exceed my expectations.” if you’ll do this, God is about to visit you again. new doors are about to open: increase, promotion that you didn’t see coming, problems are turning around, health is being restored, exceeded expectations are coming your way.

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It’s already set up

from JO’s sermon tonight:

it’s easy to go through life worried about how we’re going to accomplish a dream, get out of a problem, meet the right person. we look at all the reasons why it’s not going to work out. but when God laid out the plan for your life, He lined up everything you need to fulfill your destiny: every good break, person, solution. He’s not trying to figure out how to do it; it’s already set up. He’s already set up the promotion, healing. that problem you don’t think will turn around; He’s already set up the answer. it’s not a surprise to Him; He had the solution before you had the problem. those things that you’re dreaming about, the desires that God’s put in your heart, seems so unlikely; God wouldn’t have given you the dream and not made a way to bring it to pass. it’s already in your future, waiting for you. if you’ll stay in faith, and not let negative voices talk you out of it, you’ll come in to what God has already set up.

in Luke 22, Jesus was about to be crucified:

Luke 22:8-12 (NLT)
The Last Supper
8 Jesus sent Peter and John ahead and said, “Go and prepare the Passover meal, so we can eat it together.”
9 “Where do you want us to prepare it?” they asked him.
10 He replied, “As soon as you enter Jerusalem, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. At the house he enters, 11 say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ 12 He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up.

he didn’t say, “go to the house, tell them Jesus wants to have dinner, quick, get it set up,” he said, “it’s already set up.”

what God has planned for you, He’s not thinking about doing, maybe one day it’ll happen, He’ll bring it together; it’s already in place. the good news is, God knows how to get you there. notice how detailed Jesus was. it was like a movie; all these details had to come together at the exact right time. if the man in the city would have been late, the disciples would have missed him. if he hadn’t been carrying a pitcher of water, they wouldn’t have known who to follow. (NB: carrying water was women’s work in those days, so a man carrying a pitcher would have stood out from the crowd.) if he led them to the wrong house, nothing would have been prepared. it was the right person, house, timing; everything fell precisely into place.

God is not only strategically directing your steps, He’s orchestrating everything around you: he has the people you need, that will be there not just to meet you, but they will lead you to your blessing, promotion, the next level.

they didn’t have to convince the owner to be good to them, “please do us a favor, Jesus really wants to come have dinner here tonight”; the owner was expecting them. he already knew they were coming. he had the room already set up.

God has some of these already setup blessings waiting for you. He’s lined up divine connections, people that will go out of their way to show you favor. you don’t have to try to manipulate people, force a door to open; the people God has ordained to help you, He’s already prepared their hearts; they’ll have the table already set up. when God has ordained someone to help you, they don’t have to like you. quit being frustrated by who’s not for you; if they’re supposed to be for you, they’ll be good to you even though they don’t like you, they can’t help it. God controls the universe; if He needs them to play a part in what He’s already set up for you, they won’t have a choice. the scripture says:

Isaiah 14:27(NKJV)
27 For the Lord of hosts has purposed,
And who will annul it?

this is saying, what God has already set up, who can stop it? people, bad breaks, injustice, can’t stop it; it’s already set up. you are right on schedule. you keep honoring God, and what He’s already set up is going to find you. you’re not going to have to go after it, it’s going to come to you.

when it doesn’t work out your way, it’s because God has something better. don’t live frustrated; the closed doors are God doing us a favor. you don’t have to worry how you’re going to accomplish the dream, get the breaks you need; God has it all figured out. He’s already lined up the right people to come across your path. what God has in store is bigger than you can imagine, more rewarding, fulfilling. instead of going around discouraged because of what didn’t work out, turn it around; “Father, thank You for the blessings that you’ve already set up, good breaks, healing, promotion, the right people that you’ve already ordained to come across my path.

when you live in faith, expecting God’s goodness, there will be moments of favor that you come into suddenly. you didn’t see it coming, there was no sign of it, but suddenly the paperwork goes through, you meet the right person; that was one of those blessings that God had already set up.

in Mark 11:

Mark 11:1-10 (NIV)
11 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’” 4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

this was all prophesied many years earlier:

Zechariah 9:9 (NIV)
9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

(NB: in addition to fulfilling prophecy, Jesus was also demonstrating his supremacy over the natural world, because an unbroken colt should’ve been unrideable under any circumstances, much less by a total stranger in the midst of a screaming mob.)

but when the disciples went to get the colt that day, they didn’t realize the significance of what they were doing. they thought they were just running an errand, Jesus needs a ride, no big deal. they didn’t know that the colt they were untying was fulfilling prophecy; it seemed routine to them, but there was nothing ordinary about that moment. they couldn’t see it, but it was a part of the plan that the Creator of the universe had already set up.

like them, there are times we’re going through the day, doing our normal routine, no big deal; we can’t see it, but those are destiny moments. God is orchestrating what He ordained for your life to come together. your life has been prophesied; God has written every day of your life in His book. you are not at the mercy of people, luck, bad breaks; before you were formed in your mother’s womb, God knew you, and planned out all of your days. He has these destiny moments where He’ll make things happen that you couldn’t make happen. He’s already set up the right people, the breaks you need. not only are your steps being divinely orchestrated, He’s orchestrating the steps of people and circumstances around you.

what God has ordained for you will not go to anyone else; don’t worry about somebody getting your promotion, contract, blessing. what God has prophesied for your life cannot be taken by other people. quit being frustrated because somebody got what you wanted; if it was supposed to be yours, it wouldn’t have happened. be happy for them, knowing that God has something better for you. you can’t override what God has ordained; just as God opens doors that no person can shut, God closes doors that no person can open. if you didn’t get something, be smart enough to realize, God didn’t want you to have it. if it’s supposed to be yours, you can rest assured nobody else will get it.

when the prophet Samuel went to Jesse’s house to anoint one of his sons as the next king of Israel, 7 of the sons were in the house; David was still out in the shepherd’s fields. Jesse didn’t bother bringing his youngest son David in; he thought, “he’s not king material; he’s too young, too small, he doesn’t have the talent, the experience.” people will judge you by the outside, try to write you off, but they don’t know what God put in you, can’t see your seeds of greatness, didn’t prophesy your life, didn’t choose you before you were formed in your mother’s womb, don’t know what God has already set up for you. God loves to take people that others discount, discredit, say, “it couldn’t be them, they’ve made too many mistakes, come from the wrong family”; that’s the kind of people God chooses to show out in their lives.

1 Samuel 16:10 (NIV)
10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.”

the anointing that belongs to you will not go to anyone else. nobody got your promotion, contract, girlfriend, house; the anointing that belongs to you cannot go to other people.

1 Samuel 16:11-13 (NIV)
11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”
12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.
Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”
13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him

what God has already set up for you is going to cause people to stand there in total disbelief; they never dreamed you could be that blessed, successful, healthy, free. they saw you with all your limitations: what you can’t do, what you don’t have. they didn’t realize, God had already set up blessings that would catapult you to the next level. the scripture says:

1 Corinthians 2:9 (NLT)
9 … “No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him.”

God has some things prepared that are going to amaze you: promotion that you didn’t see coming, favor that you didn’t deserve, increase that takes your family to a new level. if you’ve seen it, heard it, or imagined it, that’s not what this is talking about; what God has prepared, already set up, is something that you’ve never seen.

God has the right people in the right positions for you. you don’t have to have favor with everyone, just with the right one. a dozen people may not like you, but they can’t stop you; God has already set up the right people that will open doors to promotion, opportunity, favor. you’re going to say, “wow, I didn’t see that coming. I didn’t have the connections, talent, experience.” that’s one of those prepared blessings that you have not seen, heard, or imagined.

but sometimes, there’s a blessing already set up, but people will try to talk you out of it, tell you all the reasons why it’s not going to happen. the problem is, God didn’t put the dream in them, He put the dream in you. they can’t see what you see, feel what you feel; they’re looking at it in the ordinary, natural, but God puts things in your spirit that are bigger than you can accomplish on your own. you may not see how it can happen, but God wouldn’t have given you the dream, put the promise in you, if He had not already set up how to bring it to pass. He’s a supernatural God, knows how to bring it all together, has the people in the right position that like you, everything is already prepared.

don’t let people talk you out of what God put in you. just because they don’t believe doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen. God has lined up the right people for you; you keep honoring Him, being your best, and these blessings are going to find you. don’t seek the blessing, seek God; keep Him first place, and the blessings will seek you. Jesus said:

Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

these things are what God has already prepared. He wants to not only meet your needs, He wants to give you the desires of your heart. He wants you to enjoy life, be able to bless your family, have fun together. “I’m fighting cancer, struggling with an addiction, I have a child that’s off course”; the same God that had a colt already set up to bring Jesus has the healing, vindication, freedom, breakthrough, already set up for you.

when Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him:

Genesis 37:24-28 (NASB)
24 and they took him and threw him into the pit… they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming… 27 Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites… sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver.

what’s interesting is, that caravan had been traveling for months to get to Egypt; before Joseph was thrown into the pit, God had the answer already on the way. before he had the problem, the solution was already en route. God says in Isaiah:

Isaiah 65:24 (NKJV)
24 “It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer

God knows what you need, when you need it, and how to get it to you. that problem you’re concerned about, God has the answer already en route. instead of worrying, all through the day, “Father, thank You that You’ve already set up the breakthrough, promotion.” everything you need to fulfill your destiny is already lined up. it may not have happened yet, but if you’ll stay in faith, what God has ordained is on the way. you’re about to come into some of these already set up blessings; you’re not going to have to go after it, it’s going to come after you.

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from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all have times where we feel like we’re surrounded by difficulties, sickness, debt; everywhere we turn, its facing us. it’s easy to get discouraged, and think, “I’ll never get out of this, it has me surrounded.” that’s the way a young man felt in 2 Kings 6:

2 Kings 6:8-17 (NIV)
8 Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel… 12 … said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak… 14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. 15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. 16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

the servant thought they were surrounded by the enemy; the truth is, the enemy was surrounded by our God.

like him, you may be surrounded by trouble, sickness, addiction, but what you can’t see is, the most high God is surrounding what’s surrounding you. sickness may be surrounding you, you’re dealing with an illness; the good news is, sickness doesn’t have the final say, sickness is surrounded. the right attitude is, “cancer, you think you have me surrounded, you better look again; my God has you surrounded.” “debt, you think you’re surrounding me; I have bad news for you, the Lord my provider is surrounding you.” “trouble at work, you think you’re going to keep me from my purpose? depression, you think you’re going to stop my destiny? you may have me surrounded, but I know a secret; the Most High God is surrounding you.”

when you understand that God is surrounding what’s surrounding you, you won’t go around discouraged because of problems, worried about finances, upset because somebody is against you. you’ll be like Elisha; you’ll stay in peace, knowing that there are more for you than there are against you.

Elisha prayed that God would open the young man’s eyes so he could see; there’s another world that we cannot see with our physical eyes. if God were to pull back the curtain, like He did for this young man, and you could see into the unseen realm, you would see all these powerful warring angels at work on your behalf: standing guard, protecting you, pushing back the forces of darkness. you would see God moving the wrong people out of the way, lining up things in your favor: good breaks, healing, deliverance.

don’t get discouraged by what you see with your physical eyes; if you stay focused on the opposition, addiction, sickness, you’ll live stressed out, give up on dreams. through your eyes of faith, you need to see every obstacle holding you back surrounded by the Most High. that addiction may be strong, but it’s surrounded by something stronger; God controls the universe, He flung stars into space.

2 Kings 19:35 (NIV)
35 That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp.

you may have big obstacles in your path, you feel stuck; today, God is opening our eyes. we’re getting a new perspective, recognizing that He’s surrounding what’s surrounding us. that child that’s off course, doesn’t look like he’ll fulfill his destiny; imagine him surrounded by mercy, favor, the most high.

Psalm 3:6 (NLT)
6 I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
who surround me on every side.

you would think with so many enemies he’d be worried, upset, afraid. David went on to say:

Psalm 3:8 (NLT)
8 Victory comes from you, O Lord.

he was saying, “yes, I’m surrounded by all these enemies, I could be overwhelmed, but the reason I’m not falling apart is, I know a secret; God is surrounding what’s surrounding me.” he had his spiritual eyes open. he didn’t just see his enemies; through his eyes of faith, he saw the most High fighting his battles, making his crooked places straight.

like David, you may feel surrounded by enemies, addictions, sickness. maybe forces are trying to keep you from your dreams. you could easily think, “it’s just not meant to be.” here’s the key; what you see with your physical eyes is not the only thing surrounding you. if you’ll open your eyes of faith, you’ll recognize that the trouble, addiction, dysfunction, is surrounded by our God. you’re not just surrounded by the negative, that’s one layer, but God supersedes that; you’re surrounded by favor, healing, victory.

when you’re in difficult times, the enemy will do a lot of talking; he’ll tell you, “I have you surrounded. this sickness will be the end. you’ll never get out, break the addiction, get out of debt. look how long you’ve been there.” don’t believe those lies. he thinks he has you surrounded; what he doesn’t realize is, the Most High God has him surrounded. God knows everything that’s going to happen: every attack, disappointment, unfair situation. when you feel like you’re surrounded, you have to come back to that place of peace, and say, “I know my God is still on the throne. He’s bigger than this sickness, addiction, these enemies.

this is what the three Hebrew teenagers did in the scripture:

Daniel 3:14-18 (NKJV)
14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not… worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 … if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace… 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered… our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace… 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

They were saying, “you can’t stop God’s plan for our lives. you can throw us in the fire, we may be surrounded by that fire, but we know our God is surrounding the fire. if it’s not our time to go, we’re not going to go.”

Daniel 3:19-20 (NKJV)
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury… commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace.

they weren’t bitter, complaining, “God, why’d you let this happen?” they stayed in peace.

Daniel 3:24-20 (NKJV)
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.”

you may feel like you’re in the fire today; you’ve had a disappointment, don’t see how it could work out. the good news is, you’re not in there by yourself; the God who controls the fire, that fourth man, is right there with you. this is the beauty of our God; He doesn’t leave us in tough times, He comes into the fire with us.

the king thought that throwing them into the furnace, surrounding them by fire, surely that would be the end. what he didn’t realize is, the God who created the fire, controls the universe, has the final say. what’s surrounding you may seem big, strong, insurmountable, but our God is all-powerful. that sickness may look like it’s the end, but when God says live, you’re going to live. that addiction may look permanent, thoughts tell you you’ll never break it; God is saying, “you’re not going to stay in that fire. that addiction is not how your story ends; the fourth man is about to show up.” things are about to change in your favor; what you thought was going to stop you, instead is going to promote you.

when Nebuchadnezzar saw that the teenagers were still alive:

Daniel 3:26 (NIV)
26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

a few minutes earlier, he was telling them them to bow to his golden idol; now, he’s calling them servants of the Most High God. sometimes, God will allow the fire just so other people will see He is God; He’ll use you as an example. they may not believe before, but when they see God shows out in your life, you beat the cancer, break the addiction, set a new standard, go where you’ve never dreamed, they won’t be able to deny the blessing of God on your life.

when these teenagers came out of the furnace, people never looked at them the same way again; they had a new influence, respect, level.

Daniel 3:28 (NIV)
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

we may not like the fiery furnaces, but if we’ll do like them and keep the right attitude, God will use that difficulty to establish you, give you more credibility, take you to a new level.

interestingly, it doesn’t say that the teenagers saw the fourth man, it says Nebuchadnezzar saw him, the one that had them thrown into the fire; in other words, the people that tried to push you down, hold you back, don’t worry, they’re going to see the hand of God on you, things that you may not be able to see.

this is why you don’t have to prove to people who you are, convince them that you’re right; God is your vindicator. He knows how to get their attention, change their mind. “If I’m surrounded by the most High, why did I have the problem in the first place? why didn’t God keep me out of the furnace?” God never said we wouldn’t have difficulties; being people of faith doesn’t exempt us from challenges, unfair situations:

Psalm 34:19 (NKJV)
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.

the promise is not that you won’t have challenges; the promise is God will bring you out. not out of some or most of them, but all of them. when you’re in the fire, the right report is, “I’m coming out. this sickness is not the end. this trouble is not permanent. this slowdown at work is just a season.” you may not realize it, but God is in the process of bringing you out right now. you may not see him, but the fourth man’s in your fire right now. without him there, you wouldn’t still be here; he’s the one keeping the fire from harming you, pushing back the forces of darkness.

don’t complain in the fire; give God praise. be your best right where you are. that difficulty cannot keep you from your purpose. but we pray, “God, keep me out of the fire, out of this problem,” and sometimes God will do that, but most of the time God will make you fireproof, and take you through the fire. coming out of the furnace is a greater testimony. that’s what gave the teenagers a new respect from the king. if God kept us out of every furnace, we wouldn’t reach the fullness of our destinies. here’s why; when the teenagers were in the fire, the only thing that burned were the cords that they were tied up with; their clothes, shoes didn’t burn. when you’re in the fire, God knows how to protect what you need, and at the same time burn off anything that’s holding you back. you’re not going to come out of the fire the same, you’re going to come out free from things that are holding you back, with a greater influence. people are going to look at you in a new light. people that look down on you are going to look up to you. people that wouldn’t pay you any attention are going to want your friendship.

Psalm 34:7 (NIRV)
7 The angel of the Lord stands guard around those who have respect for him.

Psalm 34:7 (MSG)
7 God’s angel sets up a circle
of protection around us while we pray.

that’s what happened with the teenagers; that circle of protection didn’t keep them out of the fire, but it kept the fire from harming them. if you’re not supposed to go in the fire, you’re not going to go; God will keep you out. but if you do go, that doesn’t mean God let you down, “I prayed, I was doing my best, but I got thrown into the furnace, came down with this illness, my company had to let me go.” the enemy cannot break the circle of protection God has around you. if you go in the fire, that means God allowed it. the good news is, the same God that let you go in is the God that’s going to bring you out. the enemy is not in control of your life; God is. God said to Satan:

Job 1:8 (NCV)
8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? No one else on earth is like him. He is an honest and innocent man, honoring God and staying away from evil.”

Satan answered something interesting:

Job 1:9-10 (NIV)
9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?

he couldn’t test Job without first asking God for permission. Job went through the test, unfair situations, but he didn’t get bitter:

Job 13:15 (NKJV)
15 Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.

he was saying what the teenagers said; “God, my life is in Your hands. I’m surrounded by trouble, but I know You have the final say. You’re surrounding what’s surrounding me.” like with Job and these teenagers, God has a hedge of protection around you and your family. in the unseen realm, you have powerful warring angels protecting you. you may be surrounded by trouble; the good news is, the most High is surrounding that trouble.

Psalm 91:11 (NCV)
11 He has put his angels in charge of you
to watch over you wherever you go.

instead of going around worried, afraid, turn it around; “Father, thank You that Your angels are watching over me, I’m surrounded by protection, Your goodness.” when you go through life in faith, knowing that God is surrounding what’s surrounding you, you’re showing God that you trust Him; that’s what allows God to show Himself strong in your life. “I had a bad break, got thrown into the furnace, don’t see how it’s going to work out”; that’s going to keep you where you are. the right attitude is, “yes, this sickness has come against me, but I know I’m surrounded by healing. yes, I had a bad break, but this is not my final chapter; I’m surrounded by favor, restoration.”

God didn’t bring you this far to leave you. it’s a test. every person gets thrown into the furnace. it’s not to defeat you, it’s to establish you, let other people see God’s favor is on your life, and to let you know that God is still in control. every furnace God brings you out of, you come out with greater trust in God, confidence, faith. that’s getting you prepared for the next level of your destiny. with every experience, something is deposited that you will use down the road. if you didn’t need the furnace, if it wasn’t going to work for your good, God would have kept you out. you may not understand it, it may not seem fair, but God knows what He’s doing; He’s not going to let it defeat you. thoughts will tell you, “you’ll never get out, never get well, it’ll never turn around”; don’t believe that. God is bringing you out right now. you’re not only going to come out, you’re going to come out stronger, promoted to a new level of your destiny.

in 2 Kings 6, Elisha prayed for the young man, that the Lord would open his eyes; he saw all those powerful angels. but when the enemy army came closer:

2 Kings 6:18-19 (NIV)
18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.19 Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria. 20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria… after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.

God knows how to turn your situation around. there are enemies that are not going to bother you anymore. that sickness you’ve struggled with for years, God is going to put an end to it. that financial difficulty, you can’t seem to get ahead; you keep honoring God, being your best, you’re going to see those forces that have hindered you broken once and for all.

we’ll never live trouble-free, but there are some enemies God will free you from permanently. God told the Israelites:

Exodus 14:13 (DRA)
13 … Fear not: stand and see the great wonders of the Lord, which he will do this day: for the Egyptians, whom you see now, you shall see no more for ever.

those things that are holding you back, sickness, depression, addictions, dare to believe like what God told the Israelites: the sickness you see today, that addiction that’s dogged you for years, trouble at work, people trying to push you down, you will see no more.

God is a God of justice. you keep doing the right thing, and you will come into that day where the enemies you see today, you will see no more. they think they have you surrounded; the good news is, the most high God has them surrounded. there are more for us than against us. that trouble that’s keeping you awake at night; come back to a place of peace, God has the trouble surrounded. sure, we all get thrown into the furnace, but the fire is not the end; the only thing it’s going to do is burn off what’s holding you back. all through the day, especially when you’re tempted to worry, remind yourself, “I am surrounded by the most High.” if you’ll do this, God is going to protect, deliver, promote you. things that have held you back are being broken right now. you’re coming out of the furnace into freedom, favor, healing, the fullness of your destiny.

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Pit Praisers

from JO’s sermon tonight:

it’s easy to give God praise when things are going good, that doesn’t take much faith, but what about when business slows down, somebody does us wrong, the medical report says we’re not going to get better? we all have times where we feel like we’re in the pits, life has thrown us a curve. it’s easy to get discouraged, go around negative. we think, “when it turns around, then I’ll have a good attitude. when my health improves, then I’ll be grateful. when I get out of this mess, break this addiction, then I’ll get my joy back.” but that’s backwards; you have to give God praise first. praise is what causes things to turn around, breaks bondages that are holding us back, activates God’s favor. don’t wait until you get out of the pit; be a pit praiser. praise Him in spite of what hasn’t worked out, what you lost. any of us can give God praise when we’re on the mountaintop; the real test is, will you praise Him in the valley, worship Him in the wilderness, shout when the walls aren’t falling, be a pit praiser?

this is what Joseph had to do. when he was a young man, God gave him a dream:

Genesis 37:6-8 (NIV)
6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
8 His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?”

he was excited; he knew God’s favor was on his life. he should’ve been more discreet, and kept it to himself; his brothers didn’t like the idea that they were going to bow down. they were already jealous:

Genesis 37:3-4 (NIV)
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

one day:

Genesis 37:12-24 (NKJV)
12 Then his brothers went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem. 13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers feeding the flock in Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.”… 18 Now when they saw him afar off… 20 Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, ‘Some wild beast has devoured him.’…22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit which is in the wilderness… 23 So it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the tunic of many colors that was on him. 24 Then they took him and cast him into a pit.

they were going to leave him there to die. but when God puts a promise in your heart, people, bad breaks, betrayal, rejection, can’t stop you. people don’t have the final say, God does. but the dream God put in you is not going to come to pass without opposition; there will be times that it’s not fair, doesn’t make sense. don’t get bitter; it’s all a part of God’s plan. it looks like a setback; the truth is, it’s a setup to move you into your destiny. the key is what you do when you’re in the pit, when life has taken an unexpected turn: a relationship didn’t work out, you lost a loved one, got a bad medical report. it’s tempting to get sour, go around complaining, talking about how it’s not going to work out; all that’s going to do is keep you in the pit.

Genesis 37:25-28 (NKJV)
25 And they sat down to eat a meal. Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming from Gilead… 26 So Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites… so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites

what’s interesting is, the name Judah, the brother that saved Joseph’s life, means “praise”; God was showing us that praise protects the dream. (NB: even more interesting; Judah, although he was the 4th son, is the one from whom Jesus is descended.) the other brothers were saying, “let’s kill him, leave him here to die,” but praise rose up and said, “no, we’re going to let him live.” praise changed the opposition’s mind, pushed back the forces of darkness. when you’re in the pit, don’t complain; turn up your praise. you have to protect your dream; the way you do it is by having Judah show up. “Father, thank You that You are fighting my battles. yes, this is a big problem, but I know You’re a big God; You flung stars into space, nothing’s too difficult for You.” the scripture says:

2 Corinthians 4:13 (NIV)
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak

what kind of words are coming out of your mouth? are you talking about how big your problem is, or are you talking about how big your God is? are you complaining about the pit, focused on what wasn’t fair, who did you wrong? you have to wake up Judah; Judah is in you. you’re waiting for someone else to deliver you, pray for you, cheer you up; you can deliver yourself if you’ll get Judah up and start thanking God that He’s turning it around. not complaining about the medical report, but thanking Him that He is restoring health back unto you. not discouraged over finances, but thanking Him that you will lend and not borrow. when God sees you praising Him in the pit, loss, storm, that’s what He calls “the sacrifice of praise.” He knows it’s not easy, it wasn’t fair, they did you wrong, you felt like quitting, but when you praise Him in the pit, that moves God in a greater way. the sacrifice of praise carries more weight.

it’s one thing to be grateful when things are going our way; that’s important, we should do that, but when you have a song in your heart when every circumstance says you should be discouraged, when you can say, “God, I bless You in spite of what hasn’t worked out,” get ready for God to show out in your life.

David said:

Psalm 40:2 (NIV)
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock

you may be in the pit, but you’re not going to stay there. you’ve heard that saying, “you can’t keep a good man down”? let me tell you, you can’t keep a praiser down. anyone can complain, be discouraged, but God is looking for some pit praisers, people that will praise Him no matter what happens, in the good times and in the tough times, when business is up or down. David said:

Psalm 34:1 (KJV)
34 I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

this is what Paul and Silas did in the scripture. they were falsely accused and put in prison. they could’ve been bitter, complained, “God, why did You let this happen? we were doing the right thing.” instead, they were pit praisers:

Acts 16:25-26 (NIV)
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God… 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.

Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)
17 The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

when you give God praise in the difficult times, sing in the midnight hour, the all-powerful Creator of the universe will not only take delight in you, but He will start singing over you. when God sings, addictions are broken, depression, poverty and lack have to go. God will get you to where you’re supposed to be.

but when we’re in the pits, it’s easy to have a pity party, think, “why did this happen, I prayed, but my loved one didn’t make it, my relationship didn’t work out.” you’re right where Joseph was; doing the right thing, and the wrong thing happened. you’re right where Paul and Silas were; honoring God and were thrown into a pit. you could either get negative, bitter, or you can become a pit praiser. you can thank God, not for the pit, but that He’s bringing you out, not for the problem, but that He’s turning it around.

we’re not going to understand everything God is doing. there are times, like with Joseph, that the pit has been ordained by God. we don’t like it, but the pit is on the road to our destiny. God’s plan for Joseph’s life was to rule Egypt. his brothers were ordained to betray him. he was ordained to be sold as a slave; that was all a part of the plan to get him to Egypt. sometimes, life is not going to make sense; you’re doing the right thing, but it’s not working out. you have to trust that God is still in control, knows what He’s doing, will not mismanage your life. God has already planned the end from the beginning, but He never promised that we would understand everything that happens along the way, in fact, He said:

Isaiah 55:8 (NLV)
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and My ways are not your ways,” says the Lord.

He let us know right up front, it’s not always going to make sense; this is what faith is all about.

when God gave Joseph that dream, it showed him up and his brothers down. but when the brothers threw him into the pit, he was down, and his brothers were up. he could have thought, “God, I must have heard you wrong; this is backwards.” he could’ve complained, been bitter. instead, his attitude was, “God, I trust You. You said that my steps are ordered by You, so wherever You have me, I’m going to be the best that I can be.” you never read where Joseph complained, was bitter, slacked off.

the pit was simply a test. God was seeing, “will you trust Me when you don’t understand, praise Me in the pit when it doesn’t make sense?” praise is not just words, it’s our attitude; we’re grateful, have a smile, we’re being good to people, passionate about our dreams.

when you’re a pit praiser, you can be in the pit and nobody around you knows it; you’re not sour, don’t have a chip on your shoulder. you’ve learned the secret; to bless the Lord at all times. when you’re giving God praise, He’s fighting your battles, giving people ideas, putting thoughts in their minds, causing them to want to be good to you. when you’re in the pit, it’s a test; are you going to get discouraged, bitter, or are you going to protect your dream through praise?

sometimes, like with Joseph, what God promised us looks just the opposite: God said He’s restoring health back to you, but the medical report says you’re not going to get better. God says your whole family is going to serve Him; maybe you have children that are far off course. don’t get discouraged by what’s not lining up; it’s not over. God is still working; behind the scenes, things are happening that you cannot see. keep thanking God that it’s on the way.

the pit stops in our lives are not the end. when we’re in the pits, a difficult time, we had a bad break, God uses that pit stop to refuel us and get us prepared for the next season of our lives. the way to get refueled is through your praise. finding something to be grateful for; not dwelling on what’s wrong, but thanking God for what’s right. not focused on what you lost, but thanking God for what you have. you may feel like you’re in the pits, you have a good reason to be discouraged. have a new perspective; you’re in a time of refreshing, reenergizing, refueling. without a few pit stops, we wouldn’t be prepared for the rest of our journey.

the problem is, some people make the pit stop their home. they lose their passion, get discouraged, “why did this happen to me? I was doing so well.” it’s just a pit stop. I don’t know anyone that’s fulfilled their destiny without a few pit stops. the heroes of faith: David, Moses, Abraham, Ruth, Esther, Sarah, they all had pit stops. my challenge is; don’t get stuck in the pit. it’s a pit stop, not a pit finish, not a pit it’s over and done. your life is not supposed to end in defeat, a bad break, disappointment; God has victory in front of you.

“I’m in a big pit”; then you need to have big praise, faith, dreams. don’t believe that lie that where you are is permanent. God did not breathe life into you, crown you with favor, put royal blood in your veins, for you to live in the pits. the pits are temporary, but you have to do your part, and praise your way out of the pit. the right attitude is, “Father, thank You that this pit is just a stop, it’s not my final destination, that You’re making a way where I don’t see a way, that what was meant to stop me is going to promote me.” if you’ll stay full of praise, keep thanking God, encouraging yourself, you’ll not only come out of the pit, you’ll come out stronger, into new levels, relationships, opportunities.

after the pit is promotion, favor, the palace. Joseph went on to see his dream come to pass; there were a lot of twists and turns, it was a winding road, but he kept moving forward and fulfilled his destiny. but had he not been willing to praise in the pit, he would have never made it to the palace. could it be that a lack of praise is keeping you out of your palace? you’re waiting for things to turn around, then you’ll have a good attitude, be grateful? you have to give God praise in the pit; that’s what allows Him to take you into the palace, a new level of your destiny.

in Matthew 15:

Matthew 15:21-22 (NIV)
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him

Canaanites were idol worshippers, gentiles, didn’t believe in Jehovah. for a lady to approach him like that in that day was unusual, because the women were taught to stay in the background.

Matthew 15:22-23 (NIV)
22 … crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word.

this was unusual, because Jesus was normally so compassionate.
(NB: “Tyre and Sidon were Gentile cities, located some 50 miles (80 kilometers) away. Jesus went all this way to meet this one Gentile woman’s need. This shows remarkable and unexpected love from Jesus to this woman of Canaan.”

https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/matthew-15/ )

Matthew 15:23-24 (NIV)
23 … So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

he was saying, “I’m sorry, but you’re not a part of our family. I feel badly, but I can’t take what belongs to the Israelites and gave it to you.” this lady had everything going against her: she was a gentile, idol worshipper, a woman. but when she said, “Son of David, have mercy on me,” she was saying, “I’m asking you to make an exception.” when Jesus told her no, that could’ve been the end of the story, but this lady did something interesting; instead of continuing to beg:

Matthew 15:25 (NIV)
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said… 28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

a few minutes earlier, he was ignoring her; what changed? when she went from begging to worshipping.

the scripture says:

Psalm 22:3 (MEV)
3 … You who inhabits the praises of Israel.

that means, praise brings God on the scene. begging, complaining doesn’t sway Him, but praise causes the Creator of the universe to show up.

you may think you’re outside the family, you don’t deserve God’s goodness, you’ve made mistakes, brought trouble on yourself. there may be a dozen reasons why God shouldn’t do it, but if you’ll do like this lady, and go to God, not begging Him, but giving Him praise, worshiping, thanking Him, bragging on His goodness, God will do things that you don’t deserve. what begging won’t do, praise will do. no more, “God, I’m begging you to heal me, turn my child around.” switch over into praise; “Father, thank You that You’re restoring health back to me, that as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” God won’t disappoint a praiser. Jeremiah said:

Jeremiah 33:11 (KJV)
11 … and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the Lord.

Jeremiah 33:11 (MEV)
11 … and of those who bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at the first, says the Lord.

there may be some things you need reversed and restored. you don’t see how it could happen, but you go through the day saying, “Father, thank You that the answer’s on the way, You’re working behind the scenes.” because you’re offering up that sacrifice of praise, God is going to reverse finances that are down, negative medical reports, legal situations. not only that, He’s going to restore what should’ve been yours: years that you lost because somebody did you wrong, a relationship that’s going down, health back to your body. it’s going to happen because of your praise.

in the scripture, the Israelites had traveled through the desert for forty years trying to make it to the promised land. the parents never did make it in, because they complained and were negative; they eventually died. now, their children were at Jericho; this was the last city that stood between them and their promised land. you can imagine how excited they were; if they could just get through Jericho, they could see this dream come to pass. there will always be a Jericho that stands between you and your promised land, one last obstacle that looks insurmountable. you’ve come this far, done so well, but you don’t see how you could get past it. this is how the Israelites felt; they could taste the victory, after years they were finally within reach, but Jericho had a huge wall around the city, so thick that a chariot could ride on top of the wall. it looked impossible to penetrate, but God told Joshua:

Joshua 6:2-5 (NIV)
2 Then the Lord said to Joshua… 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 … On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout

I can imagine the people told Joshua, “we’ll shout after the wall falls. after we take the city, then we’ll give God praise; there’s no reason to do it before, that doesn’t make sense.” like them, we want to shout after the victory. but God is saying, “if you’ll give Me praise while the wall is still standing, then you’ll see things begin to change.” do you trust Him enough to praise Him in front of a wall that’s not moving, to worship Him with a bad medical report, to thank Him for freedom when you still have the addiction?

Joshua 6:20 (NIV)
20 When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.

this huge wall not only came tumbling down, but researchers have found that it fell in such a way that it created a perfect ramp, so the Israelites could go in and take the city. when you give God praise, He doesn’t just bring down walls, He’ll make a path so you can go in and take your promised land. He’ll make your rough places smooth.

maybe you have a big obstacle in front of you; you don’t see how you could ever get past it. don’t complain; turn up your praise. praise is what’s going to bring the wall down. perhaps you feel like you’re in a pit; you’ve had some bad breaks. being bitter is not going to make it better; you have to bring Judah on the scene. be a pit praiser. all through the day; “Father, thank You that You’re fighting my battles; You hold victory in store for the upright.” if you’ll do this, like Joseph, you’re coming out of that pit, into your palace. like with Joshua, walls that are holding you back are being broken right now. like Jeremiah said, God’s going to reverse and restore. you’re going to see healing, breakthroughs, vindication, promotion, the fullness of your destiny.

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(No new sermon this week.)

If there was a verse in the Bible describing men with WINGS who flew away carrying something, would you have any doubt whatsoever as to what they were? Of course not!! So there should be no reason for confusion HERE:

Zechariah 5:9 (AMP)
9 Then I looked up, and there were two women coming out with the wind in their wings; and they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heavens.

How can ANYONE read this and NOT see beyond a doubt that they were female angels? Because throughout history, the translators of scripture, and the analyzers of the Bible, have all been MEN, and all the authorities in all the churches were MEN, and they all had the powerful desire, need, and incentive for every supernatural being connected to God in the Bible be MALE, to justify the powerlessness of women that never appears in anything that Jesus said, but that they naturally wanted to be preserved in their homes and churches.

Even in the modern day, the commentaries either ignore this issue, or try to explain away away the obvious by saying:

“There are no female angels anywhere else in the Bible, so that means that these can’t be female angels either”… But everything in the Bible is true, even if it is only mentioned ONCE. Do we say that the still small voice does not exist, because it only appears in the Bible one time? That seraphim, whether they are a separate category of angel or just a different category of cherubim, don’t exist because they’re only mentioned in one place? Of course not!

“Storks were unclean animals, therefore these women must somehow be unclean or evil creatures”… Which is just plain silly, because it doesn’t say that the women had wings taken from actual storks, but more to the point, even if these women were actually demons, remember, all the demons were originally angels, and the only way for there to be female demons would be for there to be female angels.

“The giant scroll in verse 1 didn’t exist in real life, so these winged women didn’t either”… Come on now, the giant scroll is the LEAST surreal item in the numerous visions in the Bible, the least of things that don’t actually exist in the real world, so unless we disbelieve in all of those other things, we can’t disbelieve in this one either. Now, if there is a church or people who don’t believe that ANY of the things in the numerous visions in the Bible are real, such as seraphim, and therefore don’t believe in female angels for that reason, that would make sense, but you can’t pick and choose what does and does not exist from visions based on whether or not you like it, or if it’s convenient for your worldview.

“It doesn’t specifically SAY that these women with wings were angels, and therefore they can’t be”… Which is forgetting the countless places in the Bible where MALE angels, appearing withOUT wings, are referred to as “men,” and are just identified as angels based on their behavior. Either NOBODY is an angel unless specifically named as such, and taking supernatural actions and/or having wings and flying away is an indication of something totally unknown, or else any human-looking being that has supernatural abilities, including flying away with wings, is an angel. There is absolutely no basis for making different rules for males and females.

So there it is. The Bible as originally written is divinely inspired; translations, interpretations, and irrational male bias are not. The Bible describes female angels, therefore there ARE female angels. We don’t know how many or what %, but they exist… Although I still doubt that they have any resemblance to Roma Downey.

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Blessed New Year 2018!

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