Archive for February, 2018

The Power of the Soil

from JO’s sermon tonight:

you can have a good seed that’s healthy, strong, full of potential, but if it’s not planted in good soil, it’s not going to become what it was created to be. the problem is not with the seed; if it’s planted in soil that’s full of rocks, weeds, thorns, it may grow some, but it’s not going to produce what it should. it may survive, but it’s not going to be healthy. it’s the same principle in life; you’re a seed, full of gifts, talents, potential, but if you plant yourself in unhealthy soil, hang around friends that compromise, pull you down, if you’re in an environment that is limited, with people that tell you what you can’t become, you won’t see the growth that you should. not because there’s something wrong with your seed; you’re made in the image of God. the problem is with the soil; the rocks, thorns, weeds, are choking the life out of your seed.

Jesus told a parable:

Matthew 13:3-7 (NIV)
3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.

all the same seed; what made the difference was the soil. the thorns are things like friends that keep causing you to compromise. the weeds are those coworkers that sit around and gossip all day. the rocks are those family members that tell you how you can’t break an addiction. if you hang around negative people, they’re choking out your seed. those friends you’re tempted to party with, they may be fun, popular, but what you can’t see is, they’re a weed, keeping you from flourishing. the environment you put yourself in is extremely important. no matter how good the seed is, it’s dependent on having good soil. you have to be selective with whom you give your time, energy, attention, to, because people are contagious; you’re going to catch what they have. if your friends are prejudiced, you’re going to become prejudiced. if your friends have limited thinking, they don’t have any goals, motivation, that lazy mentality is going to rub off on you. you’re going to become like the people you continually associate with.

“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with” – Jim Rohn

don’t hang around people that don’t have anything you want; if they’re not making you better, inspiring you, causing you to grow, then you need to make some changes. pull up those weeds. quit hanging around thorny friends that bring out the worst in you, talk you out of your dreams, cause you to compromise; their negativity is contaminating your soil. your destiny is too great to waste it with people that are not adding value to your life. “what if I hurt their feelings?” what if you miss your destiny? what if they choke out your seed, keep you from blossoming?

it’s not enough to just focus on self development; you have to focus on soil development, on what’s around you, influencing you, you’re spending time and attention with. are you putting your seed in good soil, or is it being contaminated by what you watch, think about, who you’re spending time with. what you’re unwilling to walk away from is where you’ll stop growing. if you know a person is pulling you down, but you won’t make a change, you’ll get stuck where you are. your seed can’t grow in bad soil; if you don’t get rid of the wrong people, you’ll never meet the right people. here’s the key; God will never ask us to give something up without giving us more back in return. and sure, you may go through a season of being lonely, but what will happen is, God will give you new, better friends, that push you up instead of pulling you down.

in the scripture:

Genesis 12:1-5 (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… 4 So Abram went… 5 He took his wife Sarai, [and] his nephew Lot

he was only supposed to take his immediate family. before long:

Genesis 13:7-11 (NIV)
7 And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s… 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”… 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company

and then:

Genesis 14:8-16 (NIV)
8 Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboyim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines… 12 They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions… 15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them… 16 He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot

he spent all this time and energy on a problem that he would have never had if he would have left Lot behind in the first place.

some of the challenges we face are because we didn’t leave who God told us to leave. what’s interesting is, the name Lot means “veil or covering”; when you leave Lot, what you know you’re supposed to leave, the veil will come off. you’ll see things you’ve never seen: new friendships, opportunities, talent, levels. are you holding on to what God asked you to let go of, someone, something, that’s pulling you down, keeping you from your best? your seed can’t flourish in a negative environment; that’s keeping you from growing.

when I say leave, I don’t mean you have to go make a big announcement, “you’re contaminating me, I’m done with you,” I mean start spending less and less time with them. if you have a bunch of weeds, it’s choking out your dreams, vision, character. at the office, that person you eat lunch with that’s always complaining about the boss, jealous of coworkers, mad at their spouse; they’re a weed, contaminating your soil, keeping you from flourishing. and yes, they’re made in the image of God, they can change, but until they do, you shouldn’t let them pollute you. I’m nice to everyone, but I don’t spend my time with everyone. I’m selective about who I allow in my life: I don’t spend time with negative, critical, jealous, small-minded, can’t do it, bitter people. I value what God has given me too much to put my seed in bad soil.

we have a responsibility. God has given you a gift; He could have created anyone to be alive at this day and time, but He chose you. your seed is full of potential, greatness, can set a new standard for your family, break generational curses. what God has given you is extremely valuable. do your part; keep your seed in good soil.

sometimes we wonder why we feel like we’re shriveled, not growing, “God, why aren’t You doing anything?” check your soil; has it become contaminated? who are you spending time with, what are you giving your attention to? you can’t watch the news all day and live a positive, faith-filled life; after about twenty minutes, you’ll be depressed. pay attention to your environment; what are you taking in all day?

we have enough negative things in life that we have no control over; be selective about what you do have control over. driving to work, put on something uplifting; music that inspires you, a message that builds your faith. keep your seed in good soil. at home, don’t leave the TV on all day, chatter, noise in the background; that’s your soil. this is the reason some people aren’t growing; they’re talented, have potential, but their soil has become contaminated. you have to protect your seed.

when you face difficulties, more than ever you need to keep your mind filled with thoughts of faith, surround yourself with people that speak hope and life, agree with what you’re believing for. you can’t afford to have people that are negative, discouraged, telling you how you may not make it, “my grandmother died of that same thing”; do yourself a favor, stay away from people like that. don’t let them pollute your soil.

one time:

Mark 5:35-42 (NIV)
35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said… 37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James… 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus… 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around

why did Jesus make them leave? he could have healed her in front of everyone; he’s God. he was showing us the importance of having the right environment.

people, if you allow them, can talk you out of your dreams; their doubt, negativity can rub off on you. you have to set some boundaries; “I love you, but I’m not going to let you poison me. I have a destiny to fulfill; I’m going to love you from a distance.”

this is what happened with the Israelites. Moses sent 12 men to spy out the promised land; 10 came back and said:

Numbers 13:32-33 (NKJV)
32… The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

the other two spies, Joshua and Caleb, had a different report:

Numbers 13:30 (NKJV)
30 … “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”

but the negative report from the majority, the 10 spies, began to spread throughout the whole camp; before long, all 2 million Israelites were discouraged, complaining, saying, “Moses, let’s go back to Egypt, to being slaves.” God had promised them the victory, but they never did make it in, because their soil was contaminated; that seed couldn’t grow in that negative environment.

the people you surround yourself with are extremely important. don’t hang around can’t do it people, not able to people; “yes, I know God promised you, but I don’t see how you can get well, meet the right person, break that addiction.” stay away from people like that. find Joshua, Caleb, not people that will throw water on your flame, but people that will fan your flame, join their faith with yours, and say, “if you believe, count me in; I’m going to believe with you.”

the critics, naysayers, are a dime a dozen. 10 of the twelve spies were negative; that’s about average. 80% will tell you what you can’t do; you have to find the 20% that will tell you what you can do. the majority, most of the time, won’t see what you see; they won’t encourage you. you have to find the minority.

your soil is just as important as your seed. you may have had just the opposite: people that didn’t support you, instead of telling you what you could become, they told you what you couldn’t do. the good news is, that doesn’t have to stop you; your seed is still alive. if you will get it in a different environment, with can-do people, with possibility thinking, with friends that inspire you, your seed will take root and begin to blossom; you can still reach the fullness of your destiny.

this is what Elisha did. he was out working in the fields, a farmer, no doubt from a limited background, didn’t look like he had much of a future, but the prophet Elijah came by:

1 Kings 19:19-20 (NKJV)
19 … Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.”

Elisha saw something in Elijah that he wanted; the favor on his life, how Elijah was doing great things. he connected with him. for years, Elisha served Elijah: he waited on him, would bring him food, he wouldn’t leave him:

2 Kings 2:2-9 (NIV)
2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.”… 4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.”… 6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.”… 9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

if Elisha would’ve stayed out in the fields, in that limited environment, with the friends he grew up with, he would have never seen the double; he had to get his seed in the right soil.

you need people in your lives that are further along, have a bigger vision, are more successful, well-off, in one sense, people that are out of your league; you have to be exposed to new levels before you can go to new levels. if you’re the smartest one in your group, your group is too small. if you’re the most successful, you need to get a larger circle. don’t be intimidated by people that are further along; be inspired. find some good mentors. connect with dreamers, people that have a bigger vision. glean from them; that’s good soil.

does your vision increase around your friends, or decrease? do you leave challenged, motivated, inspired, or are you discouraged, negative, drained? I’m not saying that every friend will inspire you, but you should have one or two that light a fire on the inside, push you forward. if you only invest in people at your same level, you’ll get stuck there. find a mentor, somebody that’s gone where you want to go. just as the wrong people will pull you down, the right people will pull you up.

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.

notice, Peter wouldn’t let the man stay down. he didn’t give him a choice; he prayed for him, and then pulled him up. you need some friends like Peter, that won’t let you stay down. when you’re in the pits, can’t get up by yourself, not people that will get in the pit with you, “let’s tell sad stories together, feel sorry for ourselves,” no, people that will pull you out of that pit, love you so much they won’t let you stay addicted, depressed, miss your destiny. not just people that pray, but they pull you up. get up, there are new levels. you’ve been hurt; get up, God has beauty for those ashes. you lost something; get up, God’s about to restore. you went through a disappointment; get up, a new beginning is coming. you’re still single; get up, the right person is on the way. you’re struggling in your finances; get up, God’s going to open the windows of heaven. you need people that will pull you into your destiny; sometimes, you can’t go to the next level without somebody pulling you up. if you surround yourself with people just like you, there’s nobody to help you up; you have to get around somebody stronger, more successful, free, so they can lift you. lame people can’t help lame people up; addicted people can help addicted people up.

maybe you need to change who you’re spending time with. God has some Peters waiting for you. He’s ordained people already to lift you up. don’t sit around in some kind of dysfunction with other dysfunctional people the rest of your life; your seed can’t grow in that soil. stay away from people that are enabling the dysfunction, tell you where you are is where you’re always going to be. don’t believe that lie; your seed is still alive, when it hits the good soil, you’re going to see things happen that you never dreamed would happen: you’re not going to stay addicted; freedom is coming. you’re not going to struggle in your health your whole life; wholeness is coming. that lack, not having enough, is not your destiny; in good soil, you’re going to see abundance, overflow, more than enough. now do your part; start pulling up the weeds. get rid of those thorny friends, people that are pulling you down. be selective with what you give your attention to all day. if you’ll keep your seed in good soil, you’re about to blossom. Peter is about to show up and pull you to a new level: increase, promotion, freedom, healing, wholeness, the fullness of your destiny.

Read Full Post »

Seasons of silence

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all go through times where it doesn’t feel like we’re making progress; we’re praying, but our prayers aren’t being answered. we’re being our best, but not getting good breaks. the problem hasn’t turned around; it seems like God went on vacation. but the silence is not a sign that God is not working; He may not be changing the circumstances, but He is changing us. God uses the seasons of silence to get us prepared. when we’re not getting our way, we’re doing the right thing but being overlooked: our friend got married but we’re still single, we’re working harder than our coworker, but they got the promotion. we feel overlooked, undervalued, forgotten. these times of isolation, where you’re not being celebrated, are extremely valuable. nothing may be changing on the outside, but something’s happening on the inside; your character is being developed. you’re learning to not depend on people, gaining experience, maturity, strength, that you’ll need to go where God is taking you.

you may wonder why no one is celebrating you; you’re being faithful, but the door hasn’t opened. you’re gifted, you know you could teach that class better than the person that’s in place, but they never call on you. don’t complain about the silence; God does His greatest work in isolation, when nobody is noticing you. there are things you will learn in anonymity that you can’t learn anywhere else. when God is silent, that doesn’t mean He’s not concerned, has forgotten about you, just the opposite; it’s a sign that He’s closely watching you, getting you prepared for new levels. but if He brought you out before you’re ready, it would stop your purpose. God loves you so much, that at times He will hide you, cause you to be overlooked, the door not to open, a person to walk away. you can be talented, anointed, have great ideas, and be hidden. if you don’t understand that it’s God hiding you, you’ll be frustrated, and try to make things happen out of God’s timing. but before you see recognition, you’ll go through a season of obscurity; you have to pass this test when you’re hidden.

as a teenager, David was anointed to be king, God spoke it through the prophet Samuel, but David didn’t go straight to the throne. God hid him; he went back to the shepherd’s fields, and kept doing the same thing that he had been doing, taken care of his father’s sheep. he spent years out there by himself, alone, in obscurity. it was boring. his brothers were in the military, had prestigious positions, being celebrated. here’s the key; don’t compare your life to other people’s. it may seem like they have it better, they’re further along, don’t have the challenges you do; run your race. God’s purpose for your life is not the same as theirs. don’t look to the left or to the right; stay focused on your calling.

in the scripture, Peter asked Jesus about John, and what kind of future John was going to have; he thought John might have it better than him:

John 21:20-22 (NIV)
20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them… 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” 22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

he was saying, “Peter, what happens with John is none of your business.” as long as you compare, you’ll be frustrated, because you’ll always find somebody that looks like they have it better than you.

David was destined to go higher than his brothers, see more influence, favor, so that required more isolation, training, experience. those years of isolation, when nobody knew David, he felt forgotten, undervalued, were incredibly important, proving years, when he showed God he would be faithful. he could have slacked off, gotten discouraged, but he took care of those sheep like he was taking care of the nation. he killed a lion and a bear with his own hands; he went the extra mile. when nobody was watching, in anonymity, when nobody knew his name, he was a person of excellence. after he passed the test of obscurity, God knew He could trust him with fame.

like David, you may have big dreams, God has spoken promises over you, but nobody is noticing you, you’re not seeing increase, promotion. don’t get discouraged; it’s because God has you hidden. you’re not off course, falling behind; you are in a time of preparation, training. God is getting you ready for what He has in store. if you will keep doing the right thing, you will come into a time when God causes you to be seen. promotion doesn’t come from people, it comes from the Lord. when it’s your time, no person can stop you, no bad break, no injustice. just as God hid you, He will bring you out into the open, shine down His favor, cause you to go where you couldn’t go on your own.

you may feel like you’re hidden, but don’t be frustrated, thinking you’re falling behind, “look who’s getting ahead of me”; when God brings you out, He will catapult you forward, make up for the lost time. God’s waiting for the right time to bring you out. you’re not hidden because you’re ordinary, average, but because you have seeds of greatness.

don’t let the silence discourage you; your time is coming. now in the isolation, you have to deal with the issues God brings to light; let Him develop you. like David, do the right thing when it’s hard, keep a good attitude when you’re being treated wrong, go the extra mile when nobody is watching. when you’re hidden, you won’t see anything happening on the outside, but on the inside, God is doing a work. that’s an opportunity to grow, come up higher. you’re getting prepared for new levels.

in the seasons of silence, when you feel like you’re hidden, nothing positive is taking place, what you can’t see is, your spiritual muscles are getting stronger; you’re learning to trust God in a new way. this time is important, because when God brings you out to new levels, greater opportunities, you will see greater opposition, bigger obstacles, more coming against you. if God brought you out before you were ready, you couldn’t handle it, so He uses the hidden seasons to toughen us up. the scripture says:

Exodus 13:17 (NIV)
17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”

God knew they would have been defeated, so He hid them; they went through this season of silence, when they didn’t see anything happening. the mistake they made is, they started complaining: “God, why is it taking so long, why are we still out here in the desert, why aren’t we making more progress?” God was doing them a favor, but they didn’t recognize it.

don’t do like they did. you may not understand the path that God has taken you, why it’s not happening faster, but God knows what He’s doing; He uses the delays, difficulties, to get us prepared. none of us like the slow seasons, especially the unfair seasons: we lost a loved one, a friend walked away, a dream didn’t work out. it’s easy to think, “God, why didn’t You stop it, heal my father, keep them from betraying me?” but God doesn’t waste anything; the difficulties, delays, losses, if we will keep the right attitude, it’s all working for our good, getting us toughened up. because where you’re going, you can’t be offended by every negative comment; you have to have a backbone made of steel. God can’t promote you if you’re going to be revengeful, and try to use that position to pay people back. you have to let it go, and trust God to be you vindicator. if you’re intimidated by the opposition, overwhelmed by difficulties, it will keep you from your destiny.

in the silent seasons, like the Israelites, we can think, “God, the promised land is that way, why are You taking me the long route?” you have to trust God; He can see things that you can’t see, knows what’s best. it’s all a part of the process to get you prepared, developed, He knows what you’re going to need.

the scripture says:

2 Corinthians 4:17 (NKJV)
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory

somebody not being for you, that’s a light affliction; your time is too valuable to waste on petty things. but when you’ve been through some difficulties, losses, Goliaths, you don’t complain about not getting a parking spot, fall apart because somebody left you out, give up on a dream because it didn’t turn out your way; you know it’s a light affliction, working for your good.

you may be in a season of silence, you feel like you’re hidden, but the silence doesn’t mean God has forgotten about you; He’s heard every prayer, seen every tear, and at the right time, is going to bring you into what He’s already prepared. God is not preparing the blessing for you, He’s preparing you for the blessing. the promised land was already in place; He had to get the Israelites prepared. favor is already in your future. there are blessings that already have your name on them, the right people, divine connections, already lined up. you keep passing the test in the silent seasons, getting prepared, and you’re going to come in to more than you can ask or think.

what stops some people is, they don’t like the preparation. you have to deal with the issues God’s bringing to light. maybe God’s asking you to put down your pride, forgive the person that did you wrong, or to start saying no to the compromise, jealousy, critical spirit. don’t let a small thing keep you hidden. don’t let something you know you can overcome keep you from the amazing future that belongs to you. you’re not hidden because God is mad at you, but because God loves you so much, He’s getting you prepared to go where you’ve never gone.

in the isolation, anonymity, where you’re not seeing increase, getting good breaks, use that time to draw close to God. one thing about being isolated, where you don’t have a lot of people or things to give you attention to; you can turn your attention toward your heavenly Father. learn to talk to God, develop a deeper relationship, not just a Sunday morning God, but all through the day, in your thoughts, talk to God like you talk to a friend. God will be as involved in your life as you want Him to be. if you keep God in a Sunday morning box, He’ll stay there, but He wants to be so much more.

you may be hidden, but God will always have the right people there to help keep you going; when it’s your time, God knows how to bring you out. what He has prepared is bigger than anything you can imagine. when you’re in these seasons of silence, feel like you’re hidden, it’s so important to look inside, and deal with things that could be holding you back. you can have the talent to go somewhere, but if you don’t have the character, not willing to forgive, keep giving in to compromise, don’t treat people right, that will keep you from your best.

we see this in the scripture with Joseph. he was hidden for thirteen years: betrayed by his family, falsely accused by a lady, put in prison for something that he didn’t do. the reason Joseph fulfilled his purpose was, he kept passing these tests, showed God He would forgive. in prison, instead of sitting around bitter, he helped the butler get out of prison, sowed a seed. nothing that’s happened to you is a surprise to God; He wouldn’t have allowed it if He didn’t have a plan. it may have been meant to harm you, but God knows how to turn it to your advantage. God did not create you to stay hidden. it may look like it’s never going to change; the truth is, it’s a season of silence, not a lifetime of silence. what God has spoken over you, there is an appointed time for it to come to pass; keep growing, improving, the silence is only temporary.

in Matthew 16, Jesus asked:

Matthew 16:13-20 (NIV)
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples… 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”… 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Jesus knew he was supposed to be hidden, it wasn’t his time yet. in John 6:

John 6:15 (NIV)
15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

he knew he couldn’t be crowned before he went to the cross; he trusted his Father’s timing. like Jesus, we can’t be crowned before we go to our cross, so to speak, learn to crucify our flesh and resist things that are holding us back. he told his disciples to not tell anyone he was the Messiah; a lot of us would be just the opposite, “go ahead, Peter, get the word out, let everyone know how great I am.” it’s much better to let God promote you, and not people. don’t get in a hurry; you don’t have to make things happen, convince someone to put in a good word for you. God knew how to hide you, and He knows how to elevate you. if you’ll let God do it His way, it will be better than anything you could have made happen.

God has not forgotten about you. He knows you’re hidden, and how long you’ve been there. He knows what’s in you; He’s the one that put in the gifts, talents, dreams. instead of fighting the silence, why don’t you do like Jesus and embrace it? “God, my times are in Your hands. I know You’re getting me prepared, working all things for my good, and at the appointed time, I know You will bring me out.”

Elijah was one of the greatest prophets in the Bible. he’d just gone to the palace and spoken the word of the Lord to King Ahab; no one else had the courage to speak up to the king. I’m sure Elijah left there feeling confident, ready for his next assignment. God said to him:

1 Kings 17:2-3 (ESV)
2 And the word of the Lord came to him: 3 “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.

I can imagine him saying, “excuse me, God, you must have the wrong person. I’m Elijah, I just prophesied to the king; You don’t want me to hide myself.” Elijah wanted to speak to the nation, but for the next 3 years, he only spoke to a widow and her son; God hid him. he didn’t understand it, he had bigger things in his heart, but he trusted God’s timing; he was faithful when he was hidden.

when you’re faithful in the silent seasons, you’re setting yourself on a launching pad for God to take you further than you’ve ever dreamed.

after 3 years, God said:

1 Kings 18:1 (ESV)
18 After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.”

after he was hidden, Elijah prayed and the drought came to an end, he called down fire from heaven, destroyed four hundred false prophets, on and on; but he performed no miracles until after his season of silence. don’t be frustrated when you’re hidden; Jesus, Elijah, David were hidden, it’s all part of the process. here’s the beauty: you’re hidden because God is about to launch you. you’re own the verge of seeing promotion, favor, increase, like you’ve never seen. you may have been hidden for a long time, but you’ve been faithful, growing, getting prepared. God is about to bring you out, cause you to be seen; people are going to notice you that have never noticed. keep being faithful; your appointed time is on the way.

Read Full Post »

from JO’s sermon tonight:

God has things in store for you that you don’t see coming. it may seem like you’ve reached your limits, gone as far as you can, but God is going to open doors you never thought would open; you didn’t have the training, weren’t next in line, but somehow you were chosen for the promotion. God has unexpected favor; He’s going to do things that we didn’t deserve.

that’s what happened in Genesis 48. Jacob was an old man, and about to die. his son Joseph was the prime minister of Egypt, second in command under Pharaoh. Joseph was Jacob’s 2nd youngest son, and his favorite; he’d given Joseph his coat of many colors, and was so proud of him. but for many years, Jacob thought Joseph was dead; his brothers had tricked their father into believing that Joseph had been eaten by a wild animal. Jacob was heartbroken. some thirteen years later, Jacob found out that Joseph was still alive, and in this position of great honor. Joseph eventually brought his father and his family to Egypt, gave them a place to live, took care of them.

Genesis 47:28-29 (NIV)
28 Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty-seven. 29 When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph

Genesis 48:1-11 (NIV)
48 … Joseph was told, “Your father is ill.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him… 8 When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?” 9 “They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father… 11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”

like Jacob, you may have given up on a dream, you think it’s been too long, you’ve accepted that you’ll never get well, meet the right person, start that business. what God put in your heart, He’s not only still going to bring it to pass, but it’s going to turn out better than you thought.

Genesis 48:5-10 (NIV)
5 “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine… in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers… 10 … Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them.

what’s interesting is, these boys were born from an Egyptian mother. back then, the Egyptians worshipped idols; they didn’t believe in Jehovah. she didn’t have a heritage of faith; you would think God would say, “I’m not going to have anything to do with those boys. I’m not going to bless someone from a family that doesn’t worship Me.” but God doesn’t disqualify you because of how you were raised. you may come from a family that didn’t honor God, there was a lot of compromise, dysfunction; the good news is, that doesn’t have to stop you. like Manasseh and Ephraim, God is adopting you in spite of what they did or didn’t do. you may feel like you’ve been under a generational curse because of how you were raised; God is choosing you to start a generational blessing. you’re the difference-maker; you can be the one to affect your family line for generations to come.

it was extremely significant that these boys were adopted by Jacob. not only did he overlook who their mother was, but they were grandsons, not sons; they should have had to wait another generation, forty years, to receive what Jacob was giving them. normally, it would’ve come from their father, Joseph; he would’ve passed down the blessing, inheritance, that was given to him. these boys were receiving something that they didn’t deserve. this was showing us the character of God; there are things that we don’t deserve, we were off course, doing our own thing, but God Who is full of mercy said, “I’m going to reach down in spite of your past, your mistakes, what your family didn’t do, and I’m going to adopt you anyway.” Paul said in Ephesians:

Ephesians 1:5 (PHILLIPS)
5 He planned, in his purpose of love, that we should be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ

because you’ve been adopted, you’re going to come into blessings that you didn’t earn, favor that you didn’t deserve. your past is not going to limit you. how you were is not going to keep God from blessing you. like these boys’ mother, there may have been people that didn’t honor God, make good choices; God is not holding that against you. He says, “I’m adopting you anyway. not as my grandchild; as My own son, daughter.”

Joseph’s sons shouldn’t have been heirs for another generation, but because of what Jacob did, they were thrust forty years down the road. there are things that should take you years to accomplish: get out of debt, break an addiction, set a new standard. but God is going to do for you what he did for these boys; catapult you ahead. you’re going to see things happen faster than you thought; it should have taken you a generation, but God’s going to do a quick work. because you’re honoring Him, saying, “as for me in my house, we will serve the Lord,” God is speeding things up. what should have taken you your whole life is going to happen in a fraction of the time.

favor is not fair; it’s just the goodness of God. when God blesses you, don’t be surprised if some people get jealous. when He speeds things up, when you break barriers, some people won’t understand it. they’ll start talking about you; “you don’t deserve it, you’re not talented, you’re just lucky.” it’s not luck, it’s favor, God shining down on you, making things happen that you could not make happen. stay on the high road. you don’t have to convince people to like you. some people can’t handle your success. if they walk away, let them. you didn’t need them; if they left you, they’re not a part of your destiny. don’t waste your valuable time with people that won’t celebrate the blessing that God put on your life. don’t apologize for it, try to downplay it; you didn’t choose it, God chose you, said, “I’m adopting you, giving you what you don’t deserve, taking you to a new level.” wear your blessings well; it’s the favor of God on your life.

after Jacob told Joseph that he was adopting the boys:

Genesis 48:9 (NIV)
9 … Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.”

in the Old Testament, the blessing from the father was very significant; what the father spoke over them in his final days carried great weight, and would affect the children the rest of their lives. the oldest son would receive a double portion; that was the tradition. the blessing the father gave with his right hand was this double portion blessing.

Genesis 48:13-19 (NIV)
13 And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn… 17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to him, “No, my father, this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.” 19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He too will become a people, and he too will become great. Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations.”

God was showing us that He doesn’t always bless the way we expect. Ephraim wasn’t next in line, he didn’t deserve it, he wasn’t born in the right position, but God bypassed all the tradition, what people thought would happen, and did something out of the ordinary. when Joseph tried to stop his father, Jacob said in effect, “I know Ephraim was born second, this doesn’t belong to him, but I’m crossing my arms on purpose, to show him favor that he doesn’t deserve.” this story is not so much about one family member getting ahead of another, it’s God showing us how He can take people from the back, that don’t have the position, feel left out, and bring them to the front. God loves to choose people that others say are not qualified, don’t have the talent, don’t come from the right family, made too many mistakes; don’t believe those lies, God is about to cross His arms, put you in a position that you didn’t earn, qualify for, you weren’t next in line. God’s going to make things happen that you didn’t see coming.

you may think that where you are now is where you’re always going to be, you’ve reached your limits. that would all be true, except for one thing; God is going to cross His arms. you keep honoring God, being your best, He will open doors you never dreamed would open, promote you even though you weren’t next in line. you’ll think, “how did I get here? I didn’t have the training, experience, connections.” here’s how; God crossed His arms.

we can all come up with an excuse to settle where we are; “I don’t have the training, connections, confidence, talent, size, personality.” God says, “I know all that. I created you, know what order you were born in.” you may not be the firstborn son, so to speak, you don’t feel like you have what you need to go further; don’t worry, God’s going to cross His arms, make things happen that you couldn’t make happen.

in the scripture, Gideon said:

Judges 6:15-16 (NIV)
15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” 16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you

God said, “Gideon, I know you’re not qualified, not next in line, but I’m going to cross My arms, take you from the background to the foreground, give you influence and ability that you’ve never had.”

Samson could have said, “God, I don’t deserve Your goodness. You gave me supernatural strength and I blew it, kept giving in to temptation. now I’m blind, bound, grinding at the mill, and it’s all my own fault.” God said, “Sampson, I knew every mistake you would ever make, and My mercy is bigger than anything you’ve done wrong. yes, you should die defeated, feeling like a failure, but take heart; I’m going to cross My arms.” God blessed Sampson one more time:

Judges 16:30 (NIV)
30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

you may have a thousand reasons why you can’t accomplish your dreams, get out of that problem; God is saying, “I’m about to cross My arms, show you unexpected favor, promotion, healing, breakthroughs.” you didn’t see it coming, weren’t qualified, the next in line; it’s just the goodness of God. “I’ve got some big problems, a lot coming against me”; the scripture says:

Isaiah 59:1 (NIV)
1 Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save

do you think somehow God’s arm can’t reach you? you’re too far back, made too many mistakes, missed too many opportunities, have too big of problems? God’s arm is not too short to deliver, heal, provide, free, vindicate you. you’re going to see God do things that you didn’t see coming. when He crosses His arms, things are going to fall into place: good breaks, opportunity is going to chase you down.

you may not have the position, influence, reputation, confidence yet; you feel like you’re further back. that’s ok; just keep honoring God, and you will come in to this unexpected favor, promotion that you didn’t see coming.

in the book of Luke, the angel said:

Luke 1:30 (TLB)
30 “Don’t be frightened, Mary,” the angel told her, “for God has decided to wonderfully bless you!

there are some blessings that come from being faithful, doing the right thing when it’s hard, but there are times, like with Mary and Ephraim, that God has simply decided to bless you. you didn’t do anything to earn it, there were plenty of reasons why it shouldn’t have happened; maybe you didn’t make good choices, or you had a family member that didn’t honor God. but God doesn’t always choose who we would choose; God in His mercy crossed His arms, chose to be good to you, turn that problem around that you got yourself into, open that door that you could have never opened. that’s God deciding to bless you.

when God decides to bless you, He’ll show you favor, mercy that you didn’t deserve. it wasn’t anything you did; it was just God crossing His arms. God has decided to bless you, bring your family in, take you to new levels. circumstances may say it’s not going to happen, you’re not qualified, next in line; don’t worry, God has unexpected favor, promotion, turnarounds. you didn’t see it coming. it may seem like your family will never come in, or you could never set a new standard; you keep honoring God, and you will come into these moments where God has decided to bless you.

people may rule you out, tell you it’s never going to work out, but God has the final say, knows how to take you from the background to the foreground. when He decides to bless you, things are going to happen that you didn’t see coming. you don’t have to be the most qualified, experienced, from the most influential family; if you are, that’s great, God can still take you higher. but you may feel like you have disadvantages. some you had no control over; what family, nationality, social standing you were born into. like Ephraim; he couldn’t help that he wasn’t the first-born son, his mother worshipped idols, he had no say over that. on the surface, that could hold you back, cause you to think, “too bad, this is my lot in life,” but God doesn’t choose the way we choose. He’s about to show you influence, ability, opportunities that you didn’t see coming.

David said:

2 Samuel 7:18 (NIV)
18 … “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?

he was saying, “I’m not the biggest, strongest, most qualified, I didn’t come from royalty, I was a shepherd, working in the fields, minding my own business, and Lord, look where you’ve taken me.” he didn’t have to go after it, it came after him; the prophet Samuel showed up at his house to anoint him king.

God has some far and beyond opportunities that are about to come looking for you. the right people are going to track you down. you couldn’t have made it happen; it’s the arm of the Lord reaching down to promote, elevate, increase you. you’re going to look back and say, “wow, God, I never dreamed You’d take me to this level.” keep your faith out there. thoughts will tell you it’s never going to happen; no, get ready, God’s about to cross His arms. you’re coming into unexpected favor, healing, turnarounds. God’s going to take you from the background to the foreground. you’re going to step into new levels, set a new standard for your family, and reach the fullness of your destiny.

Read Full Post »

Write stuff down!

(No new sermon this week.)

It’s true what you were probably taught in school; if something is important, it’s important to write it down. Nowhere is this more crucial than in your Christian life…. So much so that God told Moses to write things down multiple times, such as in this verse:

Exodus 34:27 (NKJV)
27 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for according to the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”

There are plenty of other places in the Bible where things got written down, or are even commanded by God to be written down:

Habakkuk 2:2 (NKJV)
2 Then the Lord answered me and said:
“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets

There’s always the temptation to want to save yourself a little bit of writing time by believing that you’re always going to remember all the significant events and details… But unfortunately, you won’t, especially as you start getting older and/or having many similar, easily-confusable experiences.

If you’re into notebooks, by all means get some, but if not, you can easily do this with text files, with the additional benefits of searchability and spellchecker; that’s what I do, because I write a LOT, and if I had to scan through notebooks every time I wanted to check something out, I’d spend my whole life looking for stuff.

What kinds of things should you be writing down? ANYTHING that has anything to do with the religious realm:

Any contact of any kind with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit…

… or angels…

… or “the ones whose names we will not mention”

… or anything else supernatural in any way, shape, or form

Visions, Words of knowledge, things that you think might be signs

Anything that has the slightest feeling of the prophetic about it… and go back and check periodically to see if you were right!

Any dream with the slightest hint of religious content or symbolism, or even that just FEELS religious to you

Anything in the Bible, a sermon, or any other religious source that seems to really jump out at you

Answered prayers

Unasked-for blessings that have been received

Don’t be overwhelmed by the length of the list; remember, most days you probably won’t have ANY of these things to record, right? My reason for including these specifics is because it’s too easy to experience something, and then discount it as not the sort of thing that’s important to write down… But trust me when I say, there is NOTHING that happens and your Christian walk that shouldn’t be recorded. I’ve reached the point of having a TON of things to keep track of, and I do it, and there is not a single time I have looked back on what I’ve written and thought that I should’ve written LESS… And all too many times from my earlier days of writing things down where I desperately wish that I had written MORE, because there are details that I would love to have now that are forgotten, and therefore lost.

In addition to providing a precious record of your religious life, keeping a record of these things will allow you to look back and see patterns, growth, cause and effect, wonderful things like how groups of angel sightings appear when your life is troubled, and just how absolutely blessed you are with all that God does for you and in your life.

Trust me when I say: Even as little as a couple of years from now, probably far less, you’re not gonna have the slightest bit of interest in what you spent hours writing on Facebook or in texts, but you will be VERY interested in your spiritual experiences, and you will be for the rest of your life. Spend a little less time with social media, and a little more time recording the important stuff; you’ll be VERY glad that you did.

Read Full Post »