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Archive for March, 2018

The Smile of God

from JO’s sermon tonight:

we all have had people that have done us wrong. it’s easy to hold on to the hurts, be vindictive, try to pay them back. but one test we all have to pass is, not just forgiving people, but being good to those that haven’t been good to us. when they betrayed you, left you out, it set you back, at a disadvantage; it wasn’t fair, but God is a God of justice. at some point, the tables will be turned; you’ll be up, and they’ll be down

the real test of how high you can go is, how do you treat people when you have the advantage; they hurt you, but now you’re in a position of power, you were promoted, they work for you now, they’re at your mercy. it’s easy to say, “thank you, Jesus, it’s payback time, let me show them how it feels to be mistreated, pushed down, ignored.” you have every right, in one sense, to get even, what they did was wrong, but the way you pass the test is by showing mercy, doing good to those that have done you wrong.

when God can trust you to handle favor, influence, power, without being vindictive, getting even, trying to prove your point, then He can take you to new levels. God wouldn’t have put you in that situation if you couldn’t handle it. pass the test; be merciful, kind. it’s not about them, it’s about you; God is seeing if you’re ready to be promoted, can He trust you with more favor. as long as you’re going to use the influence to be vindictive, you’ll get stuck. every person has been hurt, you can’t live long without having wrongs done to you; the question is, how do you respond? Jesus said, “when somebody takes your coat, give them your shirt too. when they ask you to go to a mile, go 2 miles.” “that doesn’t make sense, that’s not fair”; it’s a test.

here’s the key; paying people back is overrated. being vindictive doesn’t bring lasting joy; it’s temporary, then it’s done. but when you show mercy to people that have hurt you, are kind to someone that you have every right to ignore, help that neighbor that’s always rude to you, you will feel a joy deep down in your spirit, a contentment, satisfaction. you know what that is? it’s the smile of God.

somebody may have done you wrong, you’ve taken that first step to forgive, but the last thing on your mind is being good to them. you’re not going to help them, show them favor; they put you at a disadvantage, they can fend for themselves. but there will be a time where you have the advantage, the power to either push them down further, make their life more difficult, or to lift them up. they don’t deserve it, haven’t apologized, everything in you will say, “walk away, it’s not your problem, they’re reaping what they’re sowing”; that’s an opportunity for you to come up higher. will you help the person that wouldn’t help you, go the extra mile for that co-worker that left you out, be kind to that relative that tried to make you look bad?

this is what Esau did in the scripture. his brother Jacob deceived Esau into trading his birthright for a bowl of soup; a birthright back then was extremely valuable. years later, their father Isaac was close to death, couldn’t see well; Jacob dressed up like Esau and tricked their father into giving him the blessing that belonged to Esau as the firstborn son, the double portion blessing. when Esau found out about it, he was so angry that Jacob had to run for his life.

for years, these two brothers lived estranged from each other. over time, God dealt with Jacob; he knew he’d done wrong, and he wanted to move back to his country where he belonged. he sent messengers with gifts to Esau, telling him that his brother wanted to meet him. Esau sent word back saying that he would meet Jacob at a certain place, and he was bringing 400 men. Jacob thought, “that means one thing; revenge, he’s going to try to pay me back.” the big moment finally arrived; Jacob could see Esau coming down the road with all of his men. I’m sure Jacob’s heart was beating fast; he was about to meet the man he had deceived and cheated all this time.

Esau had every right to be angry, bitter, vindictive; this was his big moment to pay his brother back. but when Esau recognized that it was Jacob:

Genesis 33:4
But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

Jacob was so moved at Esau’s kindness, so taken aback how, instead of trying to get revenge, he was being good to them:

Genesis 33:10 (NLT)
10 … what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God!

when you do good to people that don’t deserve it, you are being the smile of God. when you show kindness to that co-worker that did you wrong, help that friend that walked away when you needed them, bless that relative that hurt you, you’re not only being the smile of God, but God will smile back on you. you are passing the test, proving to God that you can be trusted.

all those years that Jacob cheated Esau, Jacob had the advantage; he was up and Esau was down. but God knows how to bring justice. years later, the tables had turned, Esau had the advantage; the only way back home for Jacob was through Esau’s property. now, Jacob was at the mercy of Esau.

somebody may have put you at a disadvantage; they didn’t keep their word, they were dishonest. like with Esau, it set you back. but the time is coming where the tables will turn; you’ll be up and they’ll be down. you’ll have the advantage; now what you do with the advantage will determine whether you rise higher or stay where you are. the advantage wasn’t given to pay people back, to get even; the advantage is a test. will you be like Esau, and be good to them, show them mercy and help them with what they need? will you be the smile of God?

Genesis 33:14-15 (NRSV)
14 Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.” 15 So Esau said, “Let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “Why should my lord be so kind to me?”

he couldn’t understand why Esau was being so loving, forgiving, kind.

you may have had people that did you wrong, you have no reason to be good to them, forgive, be kind. you can think of a hundred reasons why you shouldn’t be good to them: they left you with young kids to raise on your own, played politics, lied about you and got the promotion that you deserved. they may have the advantage now, but at some point, like with Jacob, you will have what they need; that’s when you have to dig your heels in, and say, “I am not going to use this power to get revenge; I’m going to be good to them for no reason, show them kindness even though they don’t deserve it.”

how you treat the people that have hurt you is setting an example for your children; they will respond the way you respond. if they see you being hateful, holding a grudge, making disparaging remarks, they’ll grow up doing those same things. but when they see you being merciful, showing kindness to someone you could ignore, helping the person that hurt you, not only are you showing God that you’re ready to go higher, but your children will follow in your footsteps. more than your words, your actions, example, is making an indelible impact in their hearts; you are teaching them to be the smile of God.

life is not about being angry, getting revenge, being mean to people that have been mean to you; that’s a shallow way to live. there is no satisfaction in being vindictive; you may be happy for a day or two, then the bitterness will come right back. if you want to see real joy, fulfillment, lie down at night and sleep at peace, then be kind to people for no reason, show mercy when you have the advantage, lift someone up when they push you down. be the smile of God. “that’s not fair, you don’t know what they’ve done to me”; if you’re basing your goodness to people on fairness, then you’ll get stuck, because you may be kind to somebody, and they’re not kind to you. here’s the key; God will make it up to you. it may not come from the people you’re helping, they may not be able to pay you back, but God will cause somebody to be good to you.

many things God asks us to do are not fair: it wasn’t fair for Esau to welcome Jacob back with open arms and lead him to his house; if he was looking for fairness, he would have paid Jacob back by taking his wives, children, flocks, equipment, then he would have the double portion that belonged to him in the first place. instead, Esau trusted God to make it up to him, bring justice. are you not showing mercy because it’s not fair; they hurt you, were wrong, lied about you? it’s not about being fair; it’s about passing the test.

that person that walked away, now they’re asking you to help them; it’s not fair, it’s mercy, being the smile of God. when you go the extra mile to show kindness to someone for no reason, God sees that and will reward you. when you’re being the smile of God, God will smile back on you. when God pays you back, it will be better than anything you could have made happen. don’t be frustrated because it’s not fair; God is keeping the records. you may sow a seed over here, help someone that doesn’t deserve it, they’re not even grateful; that doesn’t matter, you’re not doing it just for them, you’re doing it unto God. they don’t have to say thanks, don’t expect their appreciation; let God make it up to you.

in these times where you’re doing the right thing and it’s unfair, your character is being developed; you’re proving to God that He can trust you. it’s easy to be good to people when they’re being good to us, show mercy when they deserve it, they were merciful to us, that doesn’t take any faith; the real test is when they betrayed you, and now they need your help, they pushed you down, and now you have the power to promote them, they’ve been rude to you, and now they’re asking you for a favor. are you going to treat them the way they treated you, or are you going to be the smile of God?

Luke 6:32-36 (NIV)
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Joseph witnessed his uncle Esau forgive his father Jacob and treat him with kindness. years later, he had grown up and become the prime minister of Egypt, one of the most powerful people of his day. it wasn’t easy getting there: as a teenager, he was betrayed by his brothers, they threw him into a pit, were going to leave him there to die, then they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites, decided instead to sell him as a slave to a man named Potiphar. it wasn’t fair, Joseph didn’t understand it, but he kept being his best. Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him; he was put in prison. all this time, Joseph kept passing the test, doing the right thing when it was hard, proving to God that He could trust him.

years later, his brothers showed up at the palace looking for food, the same brothers that had thrown him into the pit, made his life miserable. they didn’t recognize Joseph, had no idea he was still alive, but Joseph recognized them; this was his big chance to pay them back, get even. the tables had turned; instead of Joseph being in the pit, with no power, at the mercy of his brothers, now his brothers were in the pit, so to speak, at the mercy of Joseph. they needed what he had; there was a famine in the land, and they had traveled a great distance looking for food. Joseph was in charge of the food supply.

his mind flashed back to when he was a little boy, seeing his Uncle Esau forgiving his father, being kind to Jacob even though he’d done him great wrong. Joseph had the advantage, but he didn’t use his power to get even; he used it to be good to them. if he’d been looking for fairness, he would have never passed the test. if he was counting on his brothers to pay him back, he would have sent them to prison, because they couldn’t do it.

people can’t undo every wrong they’ve done to you, give you back the years they hurt you, put you at a disadvantage. here’s the beauty; God can. He said:

Joel 2:25 (NKJV)
25 “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten

but too often, we’re looking at what people can’t do; we should be looking at what God can do.

during those 13 years, Joseph proved he could be trusted. he was trusted in Potiphar’s house; when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, Joseph stayed on the high road. he was trusted in the prison; instead of sitting around bitter, he helped the butler get out. when his brothers stood in front of him, God knew He could trust Joseph to not be vindictive. with his brothers right there, Joseph was so overcome with emotion, he ran out of the room and wept so loudly that people all through the palace could hear him.

having favor doesn’t mean you won’t feel pain. being blessed doesn’t mean you won’t have hurts, it wasn’t easy for Joseph all those years, being betrayed. seeing his brothers was overwhelming. when he finally revealed to them who he really was, they were not only speechless, they were terrified; they knew their lives were in his hands. Joseph looked at them and said:

Genesis 50:19-21 (TLB)
19 … Am I God, to judge and punish you? 20 As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil, for he brought me to this high position I have today so that I could save the lives of many people. 21 No, don’t be afraid. Indeed, I myself will take care of you and your families.” And he spoke very kindly to them, reassuring them.

notice, he’s going to take care of the people that threw him into the pit, messed up his life, look after their children. that doesn’t make sense. but when you make this decision to be good to the people that have done you wrong, not use the influence, power, advantage, to get even, but instead, like Joseph, bless those that have hurt you, when God can trust you, there’s no limit to how high He will take you.

are you letting what somebody did to you keep you from going to the next level, trying to pay them back, waiting till you get the advantage, then you’re going to show them? you’re going to be waiting for a long time. God won’t promote us if we’re going to be revengeful; let God fight your battles, be your vindicator. be a Joseph, and be good to those that have betrayed you, show mercy to those that have lied about you, be kind to that relative that tried to make you look bad.

in the scripture, there was a captain in the Syrian army named Naaman; he was a very influential, well-respected man, but he had leprosy. in one of the battles with Israel, a young lady was captured, and made the servant of his wife. you can imagine how her life was turned upside-down: she was taken from her family, couldn’t see her friends, left everything that was familiar to her, now she was in a foreign country. her hopes, dreams, goals, all had to be put aside, because of Naaman; it was his leadership that brought the trouble. she could have hated him, lived bitter, revengeful, but she understood this principle; she said:

2 Kings 5:3 (NIV)
3 She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman took the step of faith, went to see the prophet, and he was perfectly well, all because a young lady showed kindness to someone that had done her wrong. she was being the smile of God.

“I’m not going to help my enemy, that doesn’t make sense”; when you withhold good that you can do for others, God will withhold the good He has for you. but too often, we think, “if they wouldn’t have hurt me, then I would help them. if they hadn’t made me look bad in that business meeting, then I’d show them some shortcuts.” but when you sow a seed of kindness, forgiveness, being good to somebody that’s done you wrong, you are showing God that He can trust you; your character is coming up higher. that’s when God will release more favor in your own life.

maybe God’s having you hear this so that you can make things right, show mercy to somebody that doesn’t deserve it. it’s easy to hold a grudge, try to pay them back, make their life miserable; all that’s doing is holding you back. why don’t you be a Joseph, an Esau, and be good to someone that hasn’t been good to you, show kindness that they don’t deserve, be the smile of God?

the mercy you show others is the mercy people are going to show you. we all make mistakes; at some point, we’re all Joseph, at another point, we’re all his brothers, we need forgiveness. when you’re the smile of God, God will make sure people will always smile back on you. if you’ll do this, because God can trust you, like with Joseph, He’s going to give you more influence, favor, opportunity. you’re going to have better relationships, rise higher, reach the fullness of your destiny.

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from JO’s sermon tonight:

when we think of favor, we think of something good happening: we received a promotion, met someone special, the medical report turned around. we know that’s the favor of God. but when we face difficulties, things aren’t going our way, we’re still taking the medical treatment, our finances haven’t turned around, the promotion didn’t go through, doesn’t seem like we have favor; we have all these obstacles. but having favor doesn’t mean you won’t have challenges; favor is what’s keeping those challenges from defeating you. when you’re in a difficult time, you may not see it, but favor is what’s pushing back forces of darkness, keeping that sickness from taking your life, protecting you in that accident. if you didn’t have favor, you wouldn’t still be here; the enemy would have taken you out. you may not recognize it, but you have favor in the storm, taking the treatment, dealing with an addiction. the scripture says:

Psalm 5:12 (MEV)
12 For You, Lord, will bless the righteous;
You surround him with favor like a shield.

it doesn’t come and go; it’s with you in the good times and the tough times.

when the Israelites were headed to the promised land, they came to the Red Sea. Pharaoh had just let them go, but he changed his mind, and he and his army came chasing them. the Israelites were at a dead end, they had nowhere to go; Moses held up his staff, and the waters parted. those two million people began to walk through on dry ground. we look at it today, and in hindsight it’s easy to see they had favor, the waters parted, but imagine being there, having to walk between walls of water, not knowing if at any moment they were going to collapse, holding your children tightly, the enemy chasing you, closing in. it was loud, people were panicking, all kinds of commotion. I don’t think they walked through calm and collected; they were nervous, afraid, thinking of everything that could go wrong. it wasn’t until they got to the other side, back on dry land, that they began to rejoice; then they knew they had favor. the truth is, they had favor the whole time; they just couldn’t see it. favor is what was holding back the walls of water, kept the enemy from catching them.

when we’re in the middle of a difficulty, sometimes we don’t recognize that we have favor. it’s easy to focus on all the things that could have happened: “what if I don’t get well, can’t find another job, my child doesn’t get back on course?” you can live worried, losing sleep, panic; no, stay in peace, you have favor in the storm. God is pushing back forces of darkness for you. He’s not allowing the sickness, addiction, trouble at work, to keep you from your purpose. there is a force working for you in the middle of the storm that is greater than any force that’s trying to stop you. when you look around, you may see walls of water, opposition, trouble, sickness. it looks frightening, but keep the right perspective; it cannot defeat you. like with the Israelites, the favor God put on your life is going to bring you safely through. the enemy doesn’t have the final say, God does; what He has purposed for your life will come to pass. no bad break, sickness, addiction, person, can stop you. God is in control.

instead of being frustrated by the problem, worried about your health, upset over the bad break, turn it around; “Father, thank You that I have favor in the storm, keeping my enemies from defeating me.”

it’s easy to believe that we have favor when good things are happening. what I want us to see is, we have favor when we’re in between walls of water, enemies are chasing us. sometimes, we’re so focused on the threat, what’s coming against us, we don’t recognize that without the goodness of God, we wouldn’t still be standing. the Psalmist said:

Psalm 89:20-22 (NLT)
20  … I have anointed him with my holy oil. 21 I will steady him with my hand; with my powerful arm I will make him strong. 22 His enemies will not defeat him, nor will the wicked overpower him.

in the middle of that difficulty, you need to remind yourself who you are; you are anointed, handpicked by God, crowned with favor. He said He always causes you to triumph. right now, He’s steadying you, making you stronger. if you could see behind the scenes, you would see Him pushing back the opposition, making your crooked places straight, lining up the right people.

instead of complaining about the storm, you need to let the enemy know, “you are not going to get the best of me. you are messing with the wrong person. you may knock me down, but you can’t knock me out. when you come against me one way, God said He will defeat you and cause you to flee 7 ways.” you don’t have to live worried, focused on the problems, wondering why it happened. you know a secret; you have favor in the storm. God is fighting your battles; what was meant for harm, He’s turning to your advantage.

here’s the key; the enemy wouldn’t be fighting you if you weren’t a threat, on the verge of something amazing. he knows you’re about to step into a new level, take new ground for your family, come into your promised land, see something that you’ve never seen. he can sense that God is about to exceed your expectations, so he’s working overtime to try to get you worried, frustrated, overwhelmed by problems, not expecting anything good. no, get ready; favor is about to turn things around, catapult you to a new level, help you break that addiction.

“if I had favor, why did I have these problems?” favor is not going to keep you from the storm, but favor will bring you out of the storm. God wouldn’t have allowed it if it didn’t have a purpose.

we don’t understand everything that happens, sometimes life is not fair, but you have to trust that God knows what He’s doing. at the Red Sea, before it parted, the Israelites could have thought, “God, You said we were going to the promised land, brought us out of slavery; why did You change Your mind? why are You going to let Pharaoh and his men recapture us?” it didn’t make sense to them, but God’s ways are not our ways. when that water parted, the Israelites went through on dry ground; Pharaoh and his army, the waters closed back up when they came chasing them, and they all drowned.

sometimes, God will take you through a difficulty to get rid of what’s chasing you; you’ll make it through the storm, but what you didn’t need, was going to hinder you for years to come, addiction, dysfunction, toxic relationship, won’t make it through. if those enemies had not drowned, the Israelites would have lived with the constant threat that any moment Pharaoh and his men could show up and try to recapture them. yes, it was nerve-wracking having to go through walls of water, I’m sure they didn’t like it, but God had a purpose. you may not like the difficulty, it may not seem fair, but you’re going to come out of that storm free from things that would have held you back your whole life. God told the Israelites:

Exodus 14:13 (DRA)
And Moses said to the people: 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

God is saying that to you. that addiction that’s held you back for years is not permanent; when you come through the storm, you will see it no more. that sickness, trouble at work, loneliness, is not your destiny. breakthroughs, freedom, healing, abundance is coming. what’s trying to stop you is only temporary. don’t be discouraged by the storm; God has you in the palm of His hand. He didn’t send you into the storm by yourself; He’s right there with you. the enemy cannot take you out; God has a hedge of protection around you. He controls the walls of water; it may seem frightening, but he’s pushing back the opposition.

like with the three Hebrew teenagers that were thrown into the fiery furnace, He’s the fourth man in the fire:

Daniel 3:25 (NIV)
25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

you’re not in there alone; favor is in the fire with you. when those teenagers came out of the furnace unharmed:

Daniel 3:26-27 (NIV)
26 … Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27… They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

all their enemies had a new perspective; they knew there was something special about them. they were anointed. the king even said:

Daniel 3:29 (NIV)
29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

they didn’t like going through the furnace, but God used that difficulty to get rid of what would have hindered them their whole life; God changed their enemies’ minds, and gave them a new respect. what you’re going through may not be all about you; it’s about God getting rid of what’s hindering you, putting you in position to reach the fullness of your destiny. the scripture says:

Philippians 1:28 (NLT)
28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies.

don’t be intimidated by that cancer; it’s no match for our God, He created your body. don’t be intimidated by the financial setback; not having enough, lack, struggling, is not your destiny. you keep honoring God, being your best; you will come to a point where you see that no more. there is favor on your life that will cause you to prosper even in a desert; you will flourish even in a famine. you don’t have to get out of the difficulty to succeed, change jobs, neighborhoods, positions; you have favor in the famine. God will cause you to succeed in the middle of the trouble.

this is what happened with Isaac:

Genesis 26:1-3 (NLT)
1 A severe famine now struck the land… 2 The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt, but do as I tell you. 3 Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you. I hereby confirm that I will give all these lands to you and your descendants

God was saying, “Isaac, you don’t have to go somewhere to try to find favor; you have favor in the famine. I’m going to bless you, prosper you, in spite of what the conditions look like.” logically speaking, it didn’t make sense, Isaac could have talked himself out of it, but he understood this principle; he had favor in the famine. he went out in the middle of the drought and:

Genesis 26:12-13 (NLT)
12 When Isaac planted his crops that year, he harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, for the Lord blessed him. 13 He became a very rich man, and his wealth continued to grow.

notice, he didn’t have to leave, try to get out of the famine, and go somewhere to be blessed; he had favor in the famine. God can increase you in spite of what’s going on around you. don’t complain because you don’t have the job you want, “if my supervisor would give me credit, if I could move out of this neighborhood, if business wasn’t so slow”; there is favor on your life right now to cause you to prosper.

but as long as you think that you have too many disadvantages, you’re waiting to get out of the famine, then you’ll start believing, being your best, that will limit you. your job is not your source; God is your source. He can bless you in unusual ways. He’s not limited by your salary, training, experience. He has ways to increase you that you’ve never thought of. He can cause people to be good to you, bring opportunity, give you ideas, creativity. God has some unexpected blessings, things you don’t see coming. the scripture talks about:

Deuteronomy 28:1-2 (VOICE)
28 Moses: If you listen closely to the voice of the Eternal your God and carefully obey all the commands I’m giving you today, He’ll lift you up high above every other nation on earth. 2 All of the following blessings will be yours—in fact, they’ll chase after you—if you’ll listen to what He tells you.

but too often, we’re focused on the conditions; “I can’t expect anything good, I’m in a famine.” God is not limited by the conditions, economy, your job, family, training; He owns it all. like with Isaac, one touch of His favor will take you and your family to a new level. the scripture says:

Genesis 26:14 (NIV)
14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him.

this all started from him believing that he had favor in the famine. he could have focused on the conditions, lived with a limited mindset, “I can’t plant here, I can’t expect anything good, I’m in a drought.” instead, he dared to believe.

are you letting the conditions talk you out of what God put in your heart, thinking one day, when you get favor, you’re out of the famine, the company promotes you, you get the training? no, you have favor right now; it gives you the advantage, is going to catapult you to a new level, make things happen that you didn’t see coming. God is not limited by the conditions; He’s limited by our thinking. why don’t you take the limits off of Him? quit thinking of all the reasons why you can’t be blessed, accomplish your dreams, get well, meet the right person; you may not see a way, but God has a way. when you believe, all things are possible.

it’s funny how people that won’t do what you’re willing to do will become jealous when you’re blessed and they’re not. you dared to take the step of faith, pray, stretch, believe, now you’re seeing increase in favor; don’t be surprised when the Philistines show up. the naysayers are not happy when they see you rising higher; they’ll find fault, criticize, try to bait you into conflict. just run your race. it’s not about you, it’s about the favor on your life. don’t let the chatter distract you: negative comments, jealousy, envy. you don’t have to answer to people, prove yourself; stay focused on your goals, and God will take care of the opposition.

in the scripture, a man named Zerubbabel was rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem:

Ezra 3:8 (CEV)
8 … they started rebuilding the Lord’s temple. Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the priests, the Levites, and everyone else who had returned started working.

it had been destroyed years earlier, and the king had issued a decree to have it rebuilt:

Ezra 1:2 (NIV)
2 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.

everything was going great, they laid the foundation, built the altar; then, the opposition came, people that didn’t want it rebuilt:

Ezra 4:4-5 (CEV)
4 Then the neighboring people began to do everything possible to frighten the Jews and to make them stop building. 5 During the time that Cyrus was king and even until Darius became king, they kept bribing government officials to slow down the work.

Zerubbabel could have thought, “God I’m doing what you asked me to do, but I have all this opposition, these powerful people are coming against me.” it didn’t look like he had favor; it looked like his enemies were getting the best of him. but you can’t see what God is doing behind the scenes. it may look like it’s going to stop you, but if you’ll stay in faith, God will use it to promote you.

Ezra 4:8-16 (CEV)
8-10 A letter was also written to Artaxerxes about Jerusalem by Governor Rehum, Secretary Shimshai, and their advisors… 11 This letter said:… 13 You should also know that if the walls are completed and the city is rebuilt, the Jews won’t pay any kind of taxes, and there will be less money in your treasury… 15 If you look up the official records of your ancestors, you will find that Jerusalem has constantly rebelled and has led others to rebel against kings and provinces. That’s why the city was destroyed in the first place. 16 If Jerusalem is rebuilt and its walls completed, you will no longer have control over Western Province.

Ezra 5:6-15 (CEV)
6 Governor Tattenai, Shethar Bozenai, and their advisors sent a report to Darius, 7 which said: … 9 We asked those in charge to tell us who gave them permission to rebuild the temple… 11 They claimed to be servants of the God who rules heaven and earth. And they said they were rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago by one of Israel’s greatest kings… They also said that during the first year Cyrus was king of Babylonia, he gave orders for God’s temple to be rebuilt

Ezra 6:1-9 (CEV)
1 King Darius ordered someone to go through the old records kept in Babylonia. 2 Finally, a scroll was found… 3 that in the first year Cyrus was king, he gave orders to rebuild God’s temple in Jerusalem… 6 King Darius sent this message: Governor Tattenai of Western Province and Shethar Bozenai, you and your advisors must stay away from the temple. 7 Let the Jewish governor and leaders rebuild it where it stood before. And stop slowing them down! 8 Starting right now, I am ordering you to help the leaders by paying their expenses from the tax money collected in Western Province. 9 And don’t fail to let the priests in Jerusalem have whatever they need each day so they can offer sacrifices to the God of heaven. Give them young bulls, rams, sheep, as well as wheat, salt, wine, and olive oil.

they meant it for harm; God turned it for good. you may have people and circumstances coming against you; God knows how to cause it to backfire. they were trying to stop him; they ended up having to help him. without their opposition, he wouldn’t have had the temple totally paid for; not only that, they had to bring them food every day. God said He will prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies; sometimes, He’ll even have your enemies serve you dinner. God knows how to vindicate you. those people that are trying to hold you down, stir up trouble; stay in peace, it’s going to backfire. the Psalmist said:

Psalm 57:6 (NLT)
6 My enemies have set a trap for me.
I am weary from distress.
They have dug a deep pit in my path,
but they themselves have fallen into it.

God is working in ways that you cannot see. it may look like opposition; the truth is, it’s the hand of God setting you up for promotion.

we see this with Joseph: he was betrayed by his family, falsely accused, put in prison. didn’t look like he had favor, but all of that opposition, bad breaks, unfair situations, that was God directing his steps. one day, he saw what had been happening behind the scenes, how the people that had tried to stop him, all that opposition, had moved him into his destiny; it was all divinely orchestrated.

when you face things that you don’t understand, difficult challenges, that doesn’t mean that somehow you’ve stepped out of favor, God’s forgotten about you; it’s a setup, part of God’s plan to take you to the next level. some of the things that are frustrating you, people coming against you, closed doors, disappointments, you may not like it, but without it you couldn’t reach the fullness of your destiny.

Job would have never received double if God had not allowed him to be tested, go through adversity and unfair situations. but he said:

Job 10:12 (NLT)
12 You have granted me life and favor

what’s interesting is, he didn’t see things restored until chapter 42; right in the middle of the difficulty, when it looked like everything had gone wrong, instead of complaining, he was saying, “Father, thank You that I have Your favor.” he understood this principle, that he had favor in the difficulty, when it didn’t look like it. sometimes, favor is hidden; you can’t see it in the storm, betrayal, loss. people could look at you and think, “you don’t have favor, you’re struggling, dealing with that illness, those people at work are holding you back”; it may look like you’re stuck, but you can’t see what’s happening behind the scenes; you don’t know what God is up to. nine months later, Job not only came out, but he came out with twice what he had before.

what looks like it’s going to keep you from your destiny, instead is going to launch you into a new level of your destiny. those obstacles are not going to stop you, they’re going to promote you. keep the right perspective; you don’t have to live worried, panic because you’re in between walls of water; you have favor in the storm, famine. right now, God is pushing back forces of darkness; favor is keeping your enemies from defeating you. it may have been meant for your harm, but get ready; its about to backfire. like Zerubbabel, you’re about to see what God’s been doing behind the scenes. people that were against you are suddenly going to be for you. problems are about to turn around. unexpected blessings are coming your way. breakthroughs, vindication, promotion, healing, the fullness of your destiny.

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Prayer categories

(No new sermon this week.)

Are you ready to start praying serious, hardcore prayers, or are you already doing that and want to be sure that you’re covering all the bases? To hopefully provide you with a little bit of guidance, this is the list, with explanations, of all the prayer categories that *I* pray, and yes, I mean every single category every single day:

Thank the Lord for each thing that He has done for you since the last time you prayed.

Ask the Lord to speak to you every day, in such a way that you hear and understand it.

Tell God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, how much you love Them.

Praise Them for Their infinite mercy, grace, goodness, love, forgiveness, blessings, and overall awesomeness.

Ask for forgiveness for any wrongs that you have committed, whether consciously or unconsciously, especially any wrongs committed against the Lord.

Ask God to bless all the people who have done you harm… And yes, ask for this BEFORE you ask for anything for yourself or your loved ones.

Ask for supernatural healing for everyone you know who needs it, whether you like them or not.

Ask for supernatural blessings, financial or otherwise, for every person or entity you know that needs it, including your church, charities you support, regions that have been devastated by disasters, etc.

If you can speak in tongues, it’s a good idea to do it a little bit every day; ask the Holy Spirit to come and speak through you, and THANK him for being there for you.

And then come the two big prayer categories:

1) Prayer about your connection with God: ask for God to make you into the best possible person, into whatever He wants and needs you to be, to give you the ability to serve Him, His church, and His people better, to be able to praise and worship Him better, have more love, trust, and faith, etc.

2) The big prayer for your own needs: whatever the BIG thing is that you’re hoping for, whether it’s a promotion, a relationship, a health issue, whatever it is: Once you have done your duty as a Christian to pray for everyone and everything else, ask for what your heart truly desires, expressing total faith in God’s ability to give it to you, His desire to profit you in this way and many others, and asking Him to tell you whatever it is that YOU need to do to move things along to your desired conclusion. If you believe that the enemy is working against you, claim the power and authority that God gave you against Satan and all of his demons, and command them to depart from the situation

And then, by all means, list the other things you want… but HUMBLY, because God is our sovereign Lord, not a vending machine.

I know, that sounds like a lot, especially if you’re used to just praying for a couple of minutes, but the more you pray, the more you receive; prayers go up, blessings come down. If this seems overwhelming, just add one or two at a time, until you are connecting daily with God in prayer the way that He deserves for all He does for you. You’ll be glad that you did!

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Take your seat

from JO’s sermon tonight:

in the Old Testament, the priest had to go into the temple at certain times a year and make sacrifices for the people’s sins; that’s how they had forgiveness, it was all based off of works. there were no chairs in the Tabernacle; the priests couldn’t sit down. they lived under constant pressure; their work was never done, another sacrifice was always required. but when Jesus was crucified, he said:

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

(this can also be translated as, “paid in full,” referring to all of the punishment that WE deserve for our sins; keep that in mind as Easter approaches.)

he was talking about the old way of having to constantly work for God’s goodness. the scripture says:

Hebrews 1:3 (NLT)
3 … When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.

him sitting is a picture of rest. under the old covenant, the priests were constantly working, trying to cover the sins, be good enough, make things happen. under the new covenant, Jesus is sitting and resting. here’s the beauty; Paul said in Ephesians:

Ephesians 2:6 (NIV)
6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms

there is a seat of rest that belongs to you. you don’t have to go through life wrought up on the inside, worried about your finances, trying to make a family member do what’s right, frustrated because a dream hasn’t come to pass. do yourself a favor; take your seat, enter into this rest. when you live seated, you’re at peace. you may have problems, but you know God is fighting your battles. people may have done you wrong; you’re not trying to pay them back, you know God is your vindicator, will make your wrongs right. you’re struggling with an illness, the medical report doesn’t look good; you could go around upset, worrying, instead you stay seated. you know God has you in the palm of His hand, the number of your days He will fulfill.

David said:

Psalm 27:3 (GNT)
3 Even if a whole army surrounds me,
I will not be afraid;
even if enemies attack me,
I will still trust God.

he was saying, “even though everything is coming against me, I should be worried and upset, but I know a secret; the battle is not mine, it is the Lord’s, so I’m going to take my seat.” but when you try to make everything happen in your own strength, pay people back, fix this problem, live worried about a child, when you stand up, God steps back. as long as you’re working, He’ll rest, but when you sit down, God will stand up, go to work. that’s why He told the Israelites again and again:

Exodus 14:13 (ISV)
13 … Stand still and watch how the Lord will deliver you

He was saying, “take your seat, I’ve got this. I’m bigger than what you’re facing.” this doesn’t mean that we don’t do anything, sit back, passive all day long. we should be responsible; we have to pray, believe, dream, but do it from a place of rest. you can work hard, while at rest on the inside, knowing that you’re doing your best, and God will get you to where you’re supposed to be. not working hard, frustrated, thinking, “when am I going to get good breaks, why isn’t this changing, everybody’s passing me up?” no, take your seat, work from a place of rest, knowing that God’s favor is on your life, He’s breathing in your direction, goodness and mercy are chasing you down.

inner rest is just as important as outer rest. your physical body may rest, but if your mind never rests, you live wrought up on the inside, fighting everything you don’t like, that’s going to wear you out. even things we should stand against, addiction, sickness, dysfunction, if you’re always in fight mode, pressured, thinking, “I’ve got to change this,” constantly working, it’s going to drain your joy, energy. you’re living under the old covenant, under works; “if I can work hard enough, make myself change, make this problem go away.” your heart is right, but your approach is wrong; why don’t you approach it from a place of rest? “God, I can’t change this on my own; I need Your help. I’m going to be my best, and God I know You’re the potter and I’m the clay; in Your time and way, You will help me to change.”

instead of doing doing doing, the right attitude is, “done done done. it is finished.” God has already defeated every enemy, planned out your days for good. take your seat. live from a place of rest, peace, trust. you weren’t created to carry those heavy burdens, weighted down with worry, stress, frustration. this is the reason some people have health issues; can’t sleep at night, have digestive problems, high blood pressure. it’s because there’s no inner rest, they haven’t learned how to take their seat. on the inside, they’re constantly worried about their child, trying to figure everything out, frustrated because it’s taking so long.

Psalm 46:10 (NIV)
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God

this infers, if you’re not still, seated, you won’t really know that He is God, see His favor, blessings, goodness, like you should. when things come against you, it’s easy to let your mind constantly play all the what-ifs: what if it doesn’t work out, the report isn’t good, they don’t change? remember, when you’re working, God is resting. if you’ll start resting, turning that over to God, then He’ll start working. He sees what’s happening, knows how big the challenge, who did you wrong; the good news is, He already has the solution. He’s not going to just bring you out, He’s going to make the enemy pay, and bring you out better than you were before. now do your part; take your seat. quit trying to figure everything out. some situations, there is no logical solution. you have to turn your mind off in one sense; the scripture says:

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding

it’s ok to say, “God, I don’t see how this can work out,” but don’t stop there, follow it up with, “but I know You have a way, this is not a surprise to You; You had the solution before I had the problem. so I’m not going to worry; I’m going to live from a place of peace.”

David said:

Psalm 110:1 (NIV)
1 … “Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”

a footstool is something you put your feet up on; it’s another picture of rest. God could have said He would make our enemies like grass, so we could walk on them; He used footstools to remind us to stay at rest. when you face challenges, things you don’t understand, that are not fair, one of the first things you need to do is put your feet up; come back to a place of peace. you have to do this by faith, because every voice will tell you why it’s not going to work out: “you’re not going to get well, you saw the diagnosis. your family will never be restored, there’s too much strife.” that’s the enemy trying to deceive you into standing up. he’ll do everything he can to keep you from staying seated; he knows when you’re seated, in peace, trusting God, he doesn’t have a chance. when you live from a place of rest, all the forces of darkness cannot stop you. God has the final say. it may have been meant for your harm, but God is going to turn it into a footstool; not just a place of rest, but instead of being a stumbling block to stop you, it’s going to become a stepping stone to take you to the next level.

it says in Hebrews:

Hebrews 4:11 (KJV)
11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest

that sounds like a contradiction, labor to rest, but God used the word “labor” because He knew it’s going to take work to stay seated. it’s easy to stand up, be offended, try to pay people back, live worried, discouraged by problems. that’s why it says, “labor to enter his rest”; it’s going to take effort. this is one of the few times that God tells us to work; it doesn’t say, “work to straighten out your neighbor, make the problem go away,” He said, “work to stay seated.”

maybe you’re trying to break an addiction; yes, you have to be disciplined, determined, but if there’s a war going on on the inside, where you’re upset with yourself, frustrated because you’re not further along, trying to force it to happen in your own strength, you’re not tapping into the grace that’s available today. you’re like that priest that had to make a sacrifice again and again. no, you’re under the New Covenant; Christ defeated every enemy, the price has already been paid. you are not working to get the victory, you are working FROM victory. when you know that you’ve already won, there’s a rest; you don’t live worried, lose sleep at night. you know the outcome; God said He always causes you to triumph.

it may not turn out every time the way you thought, or on your timetable, but God’s ways are better than our ways; this is what trust is all about. what I’m saying is, when you live from a place of peace, you’ll not only enjoy your life more, but God will make things happen that you couldn’t make happen.

there are tests that we have to pass; one of them is being faithful when nothing is changing, doing the right thing when it’s not growing. it’s easy to get frustrated, “I’ve got bigger things in me, why isn’t it changing?” no, keep your seat; God is watching you. He sees your faithfulness, doing the right thing when it’s hard, and at the appointed time, in your due season, God is going to catapult you further than you can imagine.

you are not falling behind, you are being prepared; God is getting you ready. everything you went through deposited something on the inside: the delays made you stronger. the fact that you’re not as far along as you would like, that was ordained by God. those people that didn’t support you, walked away; you could have become bitter, instead you stayed seated, kept your peace. now get ready; your time is coming. God has something bigger than you think, more rewarding than you can imagine. He’s going to exceed your expectations.

but sometimes, the reason we’re frustrated is, we’re trying to change things that only God can change. you can’t make people do what’s right; you can pray, encourage them, but they have their own free will. don’t let them steal your joy. you are not responsible for other people’s happiness; you cannot keep everyone in your life happy. you are responsible for your own happiness, and I don’t mean to live selfishly, but sometimes we take on a false sense of responsibility; we think we have to keep all of our neighbors, co-workers, friends, family, happy. some people don’t want to be happy; they just want your attention. they want you to cater to them, and come running every time they call. if you don’t, they’ll try to make you feel guilty for not meeting all their demands. what they really want is to control you; don’t fall into that trap. be nice, kind, but don’t be a doormat. you have a destiny to fulfill, an assignment. it’s very easy to let people cause us to stand up, lose our peace, live frustrated; no, sit back down, stay at rest. I can’t become who I’m created to be if I’m trying to please everybody around me. some people are high-maintenance; they will drain all the life, energy, goodwill out of you if you allow them to. catering to them isn’t doing them a favor; it enables their dysfunction. avoid codependent relationships; be firm. God wouldn’t have said “labor” if it wasn’t going to be uncomfortable at times.

put up some boundaries, and don’t let people pull you out of rest. don’t change your plans to come running every time they call. some people are alarmists; every time they call, it’s a crisis that has to be dealt with right then.

there are some people, you cannot stay seated with them in your life. if you don’t make an adjustment, you’ll be frustrated for the next 20 years. be respectful, but put up some boundaries. “what if they get upset, don’t want to be my friend?” say, “thank you, Jesus”; they did you a favor. here’s the bottom line; when you get to heaven, you are not going to answer to people about what you did with your life, how you spent your time, used your gifts, you’re going to answer to God. your destiny is too important to let people control you. there are a lot of things in life that we can’t change: we can’t make people do what’s right, make ourselves get well, make a dream come to pass, but we can change our approach, choose to not let these things upset us. we can make this decision to take our seats. Don’t let a stranger pull you out of rest; it’s not hurting them, it’s souring your day.

a lot of these things are tests; are we going to keep letting the same things upset us, same people get on our nerves? stay seated; it’s a freeing way to live. you know that God is in control, nothing can happen without His permission, and He is directing your steps; it takes the pressure off. you can live calm, in peace, not fighting everything that you don’t like.

you have a disappointment, the medical report is not good; “I’m not going to worry, I’m staying seated; God is my healer.” you have a setback in your finances, lose a big client, every voice will say, “be worried, upset, that’s not fair”; if you listen, you’ll hear the still small voice saying, “stay seated. God’s working behind the scenes. payback, abundance, are on the way.” I wonder how much more we’d enjoy life if we would learn to live from this place of rest.

in the scripture, it compares believer to eagles:

Isaiah 40:31
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles

when an eagle is flying, a crow will come up right behind it and pester it. instead of fighting the crow, getting upset, trying to defend itself, the eagle will stretch out its 8-foot wingspan, catch the wind, and rise higher and higher. at some point, the crow will have to fall away; he can’t breathe at that altitude. in the same way, we all have some crows in our lives, people that want to irritate us, get on our nerves , do things to try to bait us into conflict. it’s easy to get upset, try to straighten every crow out, but remember, you’re an eagle; you can go up higher. but if you stay down at their level, try to straighten out every crow, get involved in conflicts that don’t matter, that will keep you from your destiny. the crows are simply distractions.

when an eagle faces a storm, it doesn’t try to force its way through it; again, it catches the thermal winds and goes up higher, until it’s above all the turmoil. like the eagle, we all face storms, difficulties; the key is to rise above. you don’t have to fight your way through it. don’t let it get on the inside; remain at rest, stay seated, and God will fight your battles. too often, we’re fighting when we should be resting, we’re standing when we should be sitting. and yes, we have to stand strong, I’m talking about in your spirit; even when it’s stormy all around you, things happening that you don’t understand, you need to have a rest, knowing that God is still on the throne, bigger than anything you’re facing. when you’re an eagle, learned to rise above the challenges, you’ll be at peace when you could be upset, have a smile when you could be discouraged. you’re showing God that you trust Him; you’re taking your seat.

maybe you live in worried about your health, stressed over your finances, upset because that child still hasn’t changed; why don’t you come back to a place of peace? God has it all figured out. those enemies you’re concerned about, those obstacles, they’re not going to stop you; they’re going to become a footstool. instead of laboring to try to fix everything, labor to enter this rest. you weren’t created to carry the heavy burdens. there is a seat of rest that has your name on it. you may have been standing for a long time, but God is saying, “take your seat. live from a place of rest. work hard, do your best, but on the inside, stay in peace.” if you’ll do this, you’re not only going to enjoy life more, but God’s going to bring dreams to pass, problems are about to turn around, health, wholeness, favor, victory, the fullness of your destiny.

 

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