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Archive for April, 2018

from JO’s sermon tonight:

there are people God has put in our lives on purpose, so we can help restore them; they’re off course, addicted, broken. it’s easy to judge, and think they should make better decisions, it’s their own fault, but if it was not for the grace of God, that could be us. we didn’t get to where we are because we’re so talented, disciplined, obedient; that may be true on the surface, but where did you get the talent, discipline? it came from your heavenly Father; it wasn’t anything we chose, it’s simply the goodness of God.

but too often, we look at others and think, “why are they still making poor choices, addicted, in bad relationships again and again? I wouldn’t do that.” it’s because God is giving you grace in that area; without His grace, you would be where they are. instead of looking down on them, pointing the finger, “you should know better,” they don’t need more condemnation; God didn’t put them there so you could judge them, He put them there so you could love them.

love heals, restores, lifts up. all around you are hurting, broken people, that may not have had the advantages that you had; they weren’t raised by parents that invested in them, never felt the love, approval, that you felt. it’s easy to criticize, but you don’t know where you would be if you had walked in their shoes. life is not a level playing field. when you’re tempted to be judgmental, you need to remind yourself, most likely they didn’t get everything you got; if it was not for the mercy of God, you would be making the same decisions that they’re making.

God has freely given you mercy. here’s my challenge; freely give it to others. don’t be stingy with your mercy. God is counting on us to lift the fallen, restore the broken, heal the hurting. there’s enough judgment, fault-finding, criticism in our world. where are the healers, restorers, people that instead of running away from the hurting, they run to the hurting, instead of condemning the broken, they help heal the broken?

in John 11, Lazarus was very sick. his two sisters sent word to Jesus to come pray for him, but Jesus didn’t arrive in time; Lazarus died. Jesus showed up 4 days later. he spoke to Lazarus, said, “Lazarus, come forth”; instantly he woke up. he was raised from the dead, a great miracle. the problem was, Lazarus was wrapped with grave clothes. in those days, when someone died, very often they would wrap them up like a mummy:

John 11:44 (NIV)
44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

even though Lazarus was alive, God had done something amazing on the inside, he was still bound on the outside; somebody had to remove his grave clothes, or he would have never experienced the fullness of what God had done.

you can imagine, when they went to take off the grave clothes, after being dead for 4 days, the smell was almost unbearable. every layer they unwrapped, the stench got worse. it was dirty, messy, smelly; they had to be incredibly dedicated. they must have loved Lazarus a whole lot to have been willing to endure all it took to remove his grave clothes.

this is what God has called us to do; there are people around us wearing grave clothes. God has done something on the inside, breathed life into them, given them purpose, but they’re still bound on the outside; they have addictions, struggle with their temper, loose in their morals. the problem is, it’s messy. it’s tempting to think, “when they clean themselves up, get back on course, come back to church, it’s not so messy, then I’ll help, encourage them.”

how can they get free if someone doesn’t step up to remove their grave clothes? where are the people that are willing to get dirty to help someone else, go out on a limb to befriend someone that others think is too far down, reach out to that relative that’s struggling with an addiction, that others have written off? it would be easy to remove grave clothes if they were nice and tidy, if people were making good decisions, on the high road; that’s not reality. grave clothes are dirty, messy, stinky.

we think, when someone still has issues, an addiction, compromised, bitter, jealous, they have a long way to go. but just because they’re wearing grave clothes, still dirty, doesn’t mean they’re not clean on the inside. Jesus spoke life to Lazarus; he was free on the inside, but still bound on the outside. don’t judge by appearance; the grave clothes may stink, be dirty, but on the inside, there’s a free, clean, forgiven, victorious person. they’re just waiting for someone that won’t be put off by the outside, that will step up to help remove the grave clothes.

how do you do this? by speaking faith into them; not telling them what they are, but what they can become. by loving them, taking time to care, going out of your way to be their friend. they have enough people pushing them down, pointing out their faults, complaining about their grave clothes; you can be the one to push them up, see the best in them, help them get free. you can be a grave clothes remover.

the scripture says:

Romans 11:29 (AMP)
29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable

that means, you may run away from God, but God won’t run away from you; His grace will come looking for you. Paul wrote in Romans about the grace that God freely gives us. one translation of the word “freely” is “promiscuously”; when someone is promiscuous, they’re loose, unrestrained, they’ll be with anyone. that’s the way God’s grace is; you can be in a bar, high on drugs, and grace will come looking for you. you can be in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing with the wrong people, and when you least expect it, out of nowhere, you’ll hear that still small voice saying, “come back home, I love you, I have something better.” God doesn’t say, “if you clean yourself up, I’ll show you mercy, you get back on course, I’ll think about being good to you”; God’s grace is promiscuous, it goes to unlikely places.

there are a lot of people that are bound on the outside, but they have greatness on the inside; they just need someone that won’t be afraid to get dirty, won’t be judgmental and say, “he used to be in church, he’s in the bars, what’s wrong with him?” instead of judging them, why don’t you take that same time to pray for them, reach out to them, let them know that you believe in them? what if when Jesus raised Lazarus, no one was willing to remove the grave clothes, deal with the stink, get dirty? Lazarus wouldn’t have lived that long; he was bound, not able to move. Jesus did his part, but he was counting on Lazarus’ friends and family to do their part.

are there people in your life waiting for you to help remove their grave clothes? they’re off course, struggling in some area. it’s easy to make excuses, “they brought the trouble on themselves, it’s their fault, I’m too busy, I’ve got enough problems of my own”; no, take time to make a difference. don’t look at them through eyes of judgement; look at them through the eyes of love. maybe deep down they want to change. maybe grace has been knocking at their door, getting stronger and stronger, but they don’t know the next step; a phone call from you, a kind word, taking them out to dinner, not to try to straighten them out, but just to let them know that you care, that’s what speaks volumes, that you’re not there to condemn them, point out their faults, you’re there to simply love them.

in John 8, these religious leaders brought a woman to Jesus, threw her down at his feet; she was caught in the act of adultery. they said, “Jesus, the law says stone her, what do you say we should do?” it seemed obvious, the law was clear; the lady was guilty. one thing I love about Jesus is, he broke religious rules in order to be good to people. in the Old Testament, God gave them 10 Commandments, but the people turned them into over 2,000 laws. when Jesus came, he said in effect, “I’m getting rid of all these religious rules, heavy demands you put on people that only make them guilty and condemned. instead, I’m going to condense them down into two Commandments; love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

he was saying, people are more important than religious rules. everything is not going to fit perfectly into our theology; they have to do this, they have to do that, they can’t do that, they can’t go there. if you convince people to follow all your religious rules, but you don’t have love:

1 Corinthians 13:1 (NIV)
13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

I don’t want to be known for what I’m against; I want to be known for what I’m for. I’m for people, second chances, mercy; I’m not in the condemning business, I’m in the loving, healing, lifting business. I want to be known as a grave clothes remover, that saw the best in people, helped push them into their destiny, was willing to get dirty, go after messy, broken people that society had written off.

when you love people who are messy, you may be criticized, talked about. one time, Jesus was walking through a crowded town, thousands of people around. he looked up and saw Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector. he was known as one of the most dishonest people; he lied, cheated, didn’t keep his word. yet Jesus said:

Luke 19:5 (NIV)
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

of all the people there that day, there were priests, rabbis, elders in the synagogue, but grace goes to unlikely places. Jesus didn’t see just what Zacchaeus was, he saw what he could become. he was bound on the outside by grave clothes, but he knew on the inside was a man of integrity, honor. Jesus went to dinner with Zacchaeus, someone that people considered dirty, messy, broken:

Luke 19:7 (NIV)
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

when you go after the broken, hurting, addicted, people may criticize, talk about you, but you’re in good company; you are never more like God then when you go after messy people.

this lady was on the ground in front of Jesus, surrounded by all these men. she was afraid, embarrassed, expecting the worst. Jesus said, “whoever is without sin, throw the first stone.” they all put their heads down; they were convicted. when you’re tempted to be judgmental, ask yourself, “have I ever done wrong? am I qualified to throw the first stone?” none of us are. the men walked out, from the oldest to the youngest.

John 8:10-11 (NKJV)
10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
11 She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

(NB: Jesus did NOT tell her to stop sinning first, and THEN he might not condemn her; he did not condemn her even though she had not yet changed her life, or even promised to do so. this is a powerful example of the infinite, undeserved mercy of the Lord.)

our religious minds go tilt tilt tilt. grace for somebody that committed adultery, a man that is known for being dishonest; God’s grace is promiscuous. why don’t you go after someone that doesn’t deserve it, that’s made mistakes, that’s hurting? you can be the one that helps put them back on their feet. nobody’s too far gone, made too many mistakes; all some people need is one person to believe in them, say, “hey, I’m praying for you,” breathe new life back into their spirit.

God loves messy, broken people that are at a disadvantage. not just people that have had bad breaks; He even loves people that have brought the trouble on themselves. this is where human nature says, “they’re getting what they deserve, let them deal with it, they’re guilty,” but only the guilty need mercy. where are the healers, restorers, that are not too self-righteous to get down where someone is hurting, with the broken, to help heal the wounds?

when you go after the hurting, broken, discouraged, the anointing on your life will break yokes that are holding them back. you may not feel it, they may not respond right away, but when you speak faith, chains are breaking. when you show love, strongholds are coming down. when you’re merciful, compassionate, forgiving, you’re pouring oil on the wounds, being a healer, restorer, lifter.

there was a young prophet in the Old Testament named Hosea. he lived at a time when the Israelites were worshipping idols, not honoring God. Hosea was well-respected; people came from all over to get his advice. he was a single man, and knew God would bring him a wife, but it wasn’t what he thought; God told him to marry a lady named Gomer. Gomer was a former prostitute, didn’t have a good reputation. Hosea could have talked himself out of it, but he knew to obey. things started off good, they were in love, they had a son, but then things went downhill. one morning, Hosea woke up, and Gomer was gone; she’d abandoned him and the three children. but Hosea still loved Gomer; he grieved greatly over this loss.

Hosea 3:1-2 (NIV)
3 The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites… 2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley.

he brought back what should have already been his. after all the pain she’d caused, rejection, abandonment, you would think Hosea would say, “I am done with this lady,” but Hosea had this undying love. that was promiscuous grace; it goes to unusual places. Hosea is a picture of Jesus; Gomer represents you and me. we’ve all been unfaithful, went our own way, did our own thing, but God, Who is rich in mercy, when we turned our backs on Him, He had every right to walk away, but He didn’t turn His back on us, He came down to the messy places, to where we fell, to where we should have been finished, and He bought us back, not with 15 shekels, but with the blood of his own son.

since God has rescued us, brought us back, will you be a Hosea, and buy somebody else back, rescue them? there are hurting people all around you, broken people that don’t think anyone cares. they’re in messy places, don’t deserve your kindness; you could walk away, nobody would fault you. but God rescued you; He’s counting on you to rescue them. they’re not in your path by accident; God put them there because He can trust you. you can help love them back into wholeness. other people may not see it, but underneath the mess, addictions, bad habits, there’s a son/daughter of the most high God. they may be bound on the outside, but like Lazarus, they’re royalty on the inside. they have seeds of greatness.

will you be a Hosea, and go after the hurting, broken, addicted, that have been written off by society? not with your finger pointed in judgment, telling them what they’re doing wrong. go after them with something more powerful; love, mercy, the goodness of God. they don’t deserve it; neither did we, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. you’ve been shown incredible mercy; I’m asking you to show that mercy to others, be a Hosea. if you’ll do this, as you lift others up, God is going to lift you up. as you rescue somebody else, God will always have somebody to rescue you, and your children; the seeds you sow will come back to you.

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Uncommon

from JO’s sermon tonight:

it’s easy to fit in and do what everyone else is doing: our neighbors complain, so we complain, our co-workers show up late, so we show up late, our relatives have addictions, so we have addictions. it’s normal, common, but God did not create you to be common, breathe His life into you so you can do what everyone else does; you were created to be uncommon, live by a higher standard, do what others aren’t willing to do, believe for things that others think are too big, stand out in the crowd, be a cut above.

everyone at work may be complaining; that’s common, but that’s not you. you’re uncommon; instead of joining in, you find something to be grateful for; don’t focus on what’s wrong, thank God for what’s right. why? you’re uncommon. people around you may have a small vision, think they’ve reached their limits, now they’ve settled where they are, going through the motions of life; that’s common, but that’s not you. you’re passionate about your future, believe for big things, expect new levels, know the path of the righteous gets brighter and brighter. or maybe everyone around you is compromising, not faithful in relationships, dishonest in business dealings, do anything to get ahead; that’s common, but that’s not you, you’re a person of excellence, do the right thing when no one is looking, keep your word when it costs you something.

other people don’t understand; you could have compromised to get ahead, nobody would have known, but you live by a higher standard. why is that? you’re uncommon. that’s the kind of people God rewards. complainers, compromisers, naysayers, “I can’t accomplish my dream,” you’ll see them every day; that’s common. but God is looking for uncommon people, that don’t go with the majority, don’t lower their standards, that go against the grain, have uncommon faith, believe when it seems impossible. uncommon commitment; do the right thing when it’s hard. uncommon attitude; when everyone around is negative, bitter, moody, you have a smile, you’re kind, goodnatured.

when you make this decision to not fit in, be like everyone else, but to be uncommon, then you will see uncommon favor, opportunities, breakthroughs, victories. but we are living in a day where the standards are being lowered, it’s acceptable to compromise, not have integrity, take the easy way out. if we’re not careful, we’ll adapt to our environment, become like everybody else. but there’s nothing special about common, nothing significant about ordinary; God wants you to stand out. when people look at us, they should say, “there’s something different about them. they’re a cut above; excellent, trustworthy, committed, loyal, happy.” what they’re really saying is, “they’re uncommon.”

Paul said:

Romans 12:2 (VOICE)
2 Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image.

there’s a constant pressure trying to squeeze us into being common. people at work may slack off, waste time playing around, do a halfhearted job; don’t be squeezed into that mold, let that thinking rub off on you. if they want to be mediocre, common, that’s their choice, but that’s not who you are. you are uncommon; stand out in the crowd, do the right thing when the boss is not around. don’t sink down to their level; set a new standard. people around you may be giving into temptation, doing things you know are not the best. thoughts will tell you, “it’s ok, not hurting anything, you only live once”; that’s the enemy trying to deceive you into being common. he knows, if you’re like everyone else, if there’s nothing different about you, then you won’t become all you were created to be. don’t fall into that trap; be uncommon, different, live by a higher standard.

“everyone is doing it, partying, slacking off, negative.” here’s the key, you’re not everyone; you’re the exception. the scripture says:

Deuteronomy 14:2 (NLT)
2 You have been set apart as holy to the Lord your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure.

that’s saying, you’re not common, like everyone else, you’ve been hand-picked by the most high God; He chose you, set you apart, made you uncommon.

could it be, the reason you’re not seeing favor is you’re being common? the reason you’re not going to the next level is you’ve let society squeeze you into its mold, and now there’s nothing different about you, you’re like everyone else? it’s time to break out of that mold; that is not who you are. you may be surrounded by people that are lazy, indifferent, not going anywhere; don’t be squeezed into that mold, let that keep you from your destiny. you’ve been set apart, you’re not common; now do your part, and don’t live common.

this is what Daniel did in the scripture. he was a Hebrew teenager that was brought out of Judah into Babylon to be trained to serve the king. but the Babylonians had all these customs that didn’t agree with the Jewish faith; they worshiped many different gods, and they wanted Daniel to fit in and worship their gods. the first thing they did was change his name from Daniel, which means “God is my judge,” to Belteshazzar, which means, “worshipper of Baal”; they wanted him to forget about the God of Israel and start worshiping their idol. Daniel could have accepted it, and thought, “this is what everybody is doing, I’m in their nation, surrounded by people that worship idols, I’ll just fit in, go with the flow.” but Daniel understood this principle; he didn’t let them squeeze him into their mold. he knew he had been set apart, wasn’t supposed to be common. they put all this pressure on Daniel to change, but the scripture says:

Daniel 1:8 (NLT)
8 But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king.

he was saying in effect, “everyone around me may be compromising, taking the easy way out, but I am not going to lower my standards, fit in and become common, I’m going to live by a higher standard.”

when the person in charge saw how determined he was:

Daniel 1:12-15 (NLT)
12 “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. 13 “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” 14 The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king.

when you refuse to compromise, be squeezed into society’s mold, God will show you favor, cause you to stand out above the rest.  being common doesn’t get God’s attention; being like everyone else, not being different. but when you dig your heels in, and say like Daniel, “I’m not going to be pressured into compromising, live like everyone else, complaining, gossiping, giving up on dreams. I’m going to be uncommon, go against the grain, take the high road, be a person of excellence,” when you make this choice to be uncommon, like Daniel, you will see uncommon favor; God will make things happen that you couldn’t make happen. but it takes courage to be different, not compromise; people will try to make you feel weak because you’re not going with the majority, don’t party with everyone, gossip, play politics. the truth is, you’re not weak, you’re strong; it doesn’t take much effort to do what everyone else is doing, a dead fish can float downstream, it takes a live one to swim upstream.

it’s easy to be common; the pressure comes when you decide to be uncommon, when everybody around you is compromising, but you rise up and say, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” neighbors will say, “you’re going to church today, on Sunday, your day off? why would you waste time doing that?” it’s because you’re uncommon, live by a higher standard, honor God with your life. uncommon obedience produces uncommon blessings, favor, destiny. you’ll go where you couldn’t go on your own.

but there is pressure right now trying to squeeze you into being common, thoughts trying to deceive you into not breaking out of the mold. don’t believe those lies; be a Daniel. all that pressure trying to get you to conform is a sign that God has something amazing in front of you. you have to do like him, and purpose in your heart, “I will not defile myself by giving in to this temptation, letting these outside pressures convince me into lowering my standards.”

the person in charge was so impressed with Daniel, he took him to see the king. the scripture says:

Daniel 1:18-20 (NLT)
18 When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. 20 Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.

that wasn’t a coincidence. when you make this choice to be uncommon, God will shine His favor on you: you will have wisdom beyond your years, creativity, ideas, ability. God rewards uncommon.

the king put Daniel in charge of all of Babylon; he went from being a slave to being the leader of the whole country. but I wonder what would have happened if Daniel would have chosen to be common, worshiped their idols, lived by their standards, been squeezed into their mold. I don’t think we would be talking about him today; another ordinary life would have faded off into the sunset.

years after you’re gone, God wants somebody to be reading about you: your faith, courage, victories, can inspire others to believe for the fullness of their destinies. “not with me, I don’t have the experience, influence, training, education.” Daniel was a slave, a teenager in a foreign land, all the odds were against him, but he made this decision to be uncommon, stand out, honor God with his life. when you honor God, God will always honor you; God opened doors for Daniel he never dreamed would open.

you may not see it yet, but God has something amazing in front of you, has destined you to leave your mark in this generation. you’re not supposed to live and die and nobody knew you were here; God has opportunities, resources, people, wisdom, that’s going to catapult you further than you thought possible. but one requirement is, you can’t be common; you have to be willing to do what others won’t do, make sacrifices that others won’t make, resist temptation when others are giving in. the good news is, nothing you’re facing is too much for you to handle.

every temptation, struggle, difficulty, God has given you the grace to overcome. you have the power to be uncommon. yes, it takes discipline, it’s uncomfortable, your flesh will tell you to give in, do what everyone else is doing; no, your destiny is at stake. don’t let a temporary period of being uncomfortable keep you from a permanent blessing.

it wasn’t easy for Daniel to go against the grain. I’m sure people made fun of him, thought, “this new guy, this teenager, he’s strange; he brought his own food, worships his own God, he’s too good to hang out with us.” Daniel could have given into the pressure, been intimidated, not wanted to stand out, but he was willing to take the heat for being different. he was secure enough in who he was, confident enough in Who his God was, that he didn’t let the opposition, ridicule, people trying to discredit him, to squeeze him into their mold. he knew that, when you’re uncommon, there will be seasons of difficulties where it’s not fair, seems like others are getting the best of you, having to swim upstream, but God sees what’s happening. your time is coming. like with Daniel, at some point, God will suddenly turn it around, promote, vindicate you.

when the people saw the favor on Daniel’s life, they became jealous; this Hebrew slave that they’ve been making fun of, trying to discredit, was now their boss; he was over all of them. when you’re being uncommon, taking the high road, don’t be distracted by the naysayers and people trying to discredit you; they’re making fun of you now, but you don’t know, like with Daniel, one day they may be working for you. these people knew that Daniel wouldn’t compromise, how committed and faithful he was, so they came up with a plan to try to trap him; they went to the king and said:

Daniel 6:6-7 (NLT)
6 So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, “Long live King Darius! 7 We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors—that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions.

the King was so flattered, his ego was so inflated, he thought that was a good idea. be careful when people flatter you and then ask you for something; when they do, just cancel out everything they said first, because even if it’s true, most likely they said it with the wrong motives. flattery is a tool; if you’re not secure in who you are, and you need that to feel good about yourself, you’ll make decisions that you may regret later on.

the king loved Daniel; he didn’t realize they were doing this to trap him. when Daniel heard about the new law, it didn’t stop him; the scripture says:

Daniel 6:10 (NLT)
10 But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.

now he’s in charge, and he’s still not being squeezed into their mold. sometimes, when people get to where they were trying to go, God blesses them and opens a door, they forget what got them there. it was the fact that they were uncommon, but too often, once they reach a goal, they start becoming common. Daniel didn’t do this; he had made it to the top, he had everything to lose, if there was ever a time he should have fit in, did what the king asked, it was now, but Daniel stayed on the high road, didn’t let the pressure cause him to compromise.

they ran back and told the king:

Daniel 6:13-18 (NLT)
13 Then they told the king, “That man Daniel, one of the captives from Judah, is ignoring you and your law. He still prays to his God three times a day.”… 16 So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions… 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night.

Daniel 6:19-24 (NLT)
19 Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. 20 When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?” 21 Daniel answered, “Long live the king! 22 My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me… 23 The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God. 24 Then the king gave orders to arrest the men who had maliciously accused Daniel. He had them thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. The lions leaped on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den.

Daniel 6:25-27 (NLT)
25 Then King Darius sent this message… 26 “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel.
For he is the living God, and he will endure forever… 27 He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders

when you’re uncommon, refuse to compromise, don’t take the easy way out, God will do the uncommon; close the mouths of lions. when you study the Heroes of Faith, people like Daniel, you’ll find one common ingredient is, they were uncommon.

a lady in the scripture named Naomi had two sons that both died early; their wives were Ruth and Orpah. Naomi was going to move back home to Bethlehem; she told both daughters-in-law that they should go back to their country and start a new life. Ruth said:

Ruth 1:16 (NLT)
16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.

it was in the fields of Bethlehem, picking up wheat every morning, barely surviving, that God caused Boaz, the owner of those fields, to notice Ruth. he was the wealthiest man in that area; they ended up falling in love, and were married. Ruth no longer had to work in the fields; now she owned the fields. uncommon commitment brought uncommon favor; Ruth was willing to do what Orpah wouldn’t do. Orpah took the easy way out, but Ruth did the right thing when it was hard; she took care of someone when she had every right to walk away.

nothing against Orpah, she may have lived a good life, but you don’t read anything more in the scripture about her; you don’t read much about common people. not only did God bless Ruth with a husband and a son, but she became the great-grandmother of David; God put her in the family line of Jesus. it wouldn’t have happened if she was common.

are there areas that you’re being common in, doing what everybody else is doing, taking the easy way out? why don’t you be a Ruth, a Daniel? God has uncommon favor, opportunities, relationships, in your future, but you have to do your part and be uncommon.

in Acts 16, Paul and Silas were out helping people, when they were falsely accused of trying to start a riot; they hadn’t committed any crime, but they were beaten with rods and put in prison. they could’ve been complaining, bitter, “God why did You let this happen?” that would have been common, but they were uncommon:

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

the other prisoners could hear them; I’m sure they thought, “what’s wrong with these guys? they’ve been beaten, falsely accused, and now they’re thanking God; that’s not normal.” an uncommon attitude led to an uncommon breakthrough.

instead of complaining about the people that have done you wrong, being sour over the disappointment, why don’t you do like them, and be uncommon; “God I don’t understand why this has happened, but I know You’re still on the throne. I want to thank You that You have beauty for these ashes. what was meant for harm, You’ll turn it to my advantage.” that’s what brings uncommon turnarounds, breakthroughs, favor.

this is what happened with David. he was a teenager, out taking care of his father’s sheep. he didn’t come from an influential family; they were shepherds. nobody saw anything special in David; he looked ordinary, like everyone else. but David made this decision to be uncommon; he was willing to do what others wouldn’t do. nobody had the courage to face Goliath; they thought he was too big, strong, experienced. the whole army was afraid and intimidated. but when David heard Goliath taunting the Israelites, he said:

1 Samuel 17:26 (NIV)
26 … Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

when others were shrinking back in fear, David rose up in faith; he told King Saul that he wanted to fight Goliath. his brothers, the other people in the army, said, “who are you? you don’t have a chance; you’re a kid, and a small one at that.” they were common, and they were trying to convince him into being common. David ignored them, and he emerged victorious.

when you go against the grain, take these steps of faith, don’t be surprised if common people tell you how it’s not going to happen: “you can’t get well, you’ll never break that addiction, you can’t start your business, you don’t have the experience.” don’t believe those lies. you have something on you that they cannot see; there is a favor, blessing, anointing, ability, that is not ordinary. average people would be stuck, ordinary people would settle, common people would say, “the giant is too big.” the good news is, you are uncommon; God breathed His life into you, crowned you with favor. you have seeds of greatness on the inside. like David, you’re going to defeat giants that looked bigger, overcome obstacles that looked stronger, accomplish dreams that seemed impossible. the forces that are for you are greater than the forces that are against you.

God has not only chosen you, He has set you apart, made you uncommon; now, I’m asking you to do your part, and live uncommon. when others shrink back, have uncommon faith. when others slack off, have uncommon commitment. when others take the easy way out, have uncommon excellence. if you’ll do this, you’re going to see uncommon favor, breakthroughs, increase, victories.

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Do you remember that scene in the movie Poltergeist where the mother leaves the dining area for a few seconds, and when she comes back, all the chairs have been stacked on top of the table? You can see the scene in the first 30 seconds or so of this video… and remember, folks, this is a MOVIE, not a description of reality:

You can imagine how the mother felt, right? Keep that in mind as you read the following, which, unlike the movie, actually happened:

Demons are certainly capable of acting in the physical world; angels do it many times in the Bible, and we should always keep in mind that demons are fallen angels… creatures so depraved that they left the presence of the Lord in order to strive against Him! Fortunately for us, God has strict limits on them, which is why you don’t see them running around with pitchforks like in the cartoons. Sometimes, though, they ARE allowed to… I believe “bedevil” would be the appropriate word here… us outside of the realm of the negative impact they have on our thoughts and feelings. An extreme case of that was when I had an actual physical confrontation with them, which I never posted about because even the most understated description of what occurred would’ve made me sound crazy… Suffice it to say, they can contact you physically, with the intention to harm you, but God will protect you in the midst of it as long as you continue to pray. (Don’t let any of this frighten you; if you are not already moving powerfully in the spiritual realm, these forces will have little interest in you, certainly not enough to launch this sort of attack on you… and if you ARE moving powerfully in the spiritual realm, you can easily combat them.)

Recently, I experienced something far less dramatic, of which the sole purpose was, as best as I can determine, simply to frighten me. There was no one else in the house, I have no pets, and all the doors and windows were locked. I had consumed no alcohol, nor taken drugs or medication of any kind. I was wide-awake, working at my computer.

I have a ton of stuff in my work area, and a lot of dust gets collected amongst it, which leads to me blowing my nose periodically. For a surprisingly big savings of both money and wastage, I keep a roll of TP here to blow my nose in. Recently, I came back from being out of the room for a minute or 2 to discover that my seating area had been TPed… leading to that feeling I described at the beginning of this post.

Believe me, I know what this sounds like… But that’s what happened. There’s no other way to describe it. SIX FEET of toilet paper, and yes I measured it, had been removed from the roll, and piled and twisted and draped right where my body would normally be. As a final mind-blower, this long strip had been neatly torn from the roll, and then one end had been neatly laid across the protruding end of the roll at perfect right angles. You could try for a million years, and you could NEVER get it to be arranged that way by doing anything else other than carefully doing it by hand.

Once I caught my breath, I then tried to see if there was some way that the toilet paper could have been somehow attached to me, I can’t imagine how, but sometimes weird stuff happens, leading to me dragging it along behind me like you sometimes see in lowbrow comedies. Here is a crude diagram of my work area, with where I typically sit represented by the blue oval, and an arrow showing the only path by which I can leave the computer and go elsewhere:

Work area with exit arrow

Sorry, I did say it was crude, LOL. If the toilet paper had been attached to me, the only way I could drag it would be along the path that I was moving on. Also, the AMOUNT of toilet paper that would come off the roll would depend on how far I moved before it broke off; if all I did was move a few inches to the side, only a few inches of toilet paper would be unrolled… But remember, SIX FEET had been rolled off and detached from the roll. This second diagram of my work area shows approximately where the toilet paper ended up:

Work area with exit arrow and tp

There is simply no way in the physical world for this to have happened, no matter how or where the end of the roll might in theory have gotten attached to some part of my body. The only way I could have dragged it was along the path I was moving. What COULD duplicate the pile of toilet paper that I came back to was if the 6-foot strip was pulled straight up into the air and then allowed to drop; since I did not have an anti-grav moving my body in this manner, some other force had to have done it… And at first, yes, I wasn’t sure if this wasn’t just an angelic joke, given that angels do have a sense of humor, and sometimes humans TP their friends, so why not angels?… BUT, as I was carefully documenting the evidence, a formless dark shadow appeared about 3 feet away from me… no confusion as to what THAT was. I prayed it off and continue taking my notes.

When I went to bed, a MUCH bigger demonic form appeared in front of my bathroom door; this was confirmation of demonic interference, not that I needed any at that point. I don’t know what they thought they were doing, or WHY. The best I can figure out is that they are eager to get at me, and the most force that they are being permitted to exert in my home was moving toilet paper… Not very frightening, really. Don’t get me wrong, I take their appearance and attempts to intimidate me VERY seriously, but they are powerless against the name of Jesus, I have angelic presences in the house with me at all times, and the Holy Spirit manifests here regularly, so I’m not in any actual danger… YET. I feel certain that God would not allow me to come to any real harm from them, but that doesn’t mean that they might not put up a bigger fight at some point.

Although I know this whole thing will sound crazy to many people, I’m posting it so that people who have experienced similar kinds of attacks will find what I’ve written and realize that they are not the only ones. If that’s YOU, please leave me a comment and let me know what you have experienced… So that I know that I’M not the only one, LOL.

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from JO’s sermon tonight:

there are times when you can feel you’re on the verge of a new level; things are falling into place, you can sense it’s your season, God’s about to do something new. it’s important to live with expectancy, believe for good things, but what about the times when it’s just the opposite: things aren’t going our way, business is slow, the medical report’s not good, it’s been years and we still haven’t met the right person? all the circumstances say we’re stuck, just endure it, it’s not our season.

the good news is, God specializes in doing things out of season. He doesn’t wait for the conditions to be perfect, the circumstances to line up, for you to have the training, the right people to believe in you; He does things unexpectedly, that you didn’t see coming. you didn’t have the experience, but suddenly you were promoted. the report said you wouldn’t get well, but suddenly your health turned around. you were told you couldn’t have children, but against all odds you conceived, and now you have that baby. what happened? God blessed you out of season.

we’ve been taught to be faithful in the slow periods, endure when things aren’t going our way, and that’s important, we have to pass the test, but sometimes we’re being faithful without releasing our faith, enduring without expecting, waiting for the conditions to change and then we’ll get our hopes up. “when I get through this slow season, my child starts making better decisions, I see more progress in my season, then I’ll believe again.” you don’t have to wait until it’s your season; God does things out of season. not on a normal timetable, not in a traditional way. He’ll do things that don’t make sense; there’s no explanation, it’s just the goodness of God.

when you look around, every circumstance may say, “you’re not in season, there’s no sign of things getting better, your health improving, being promoted.” maybe it’s just the opposite; things are going down, thoughts will tell you, “be discouraged, it’s never going to change, the conditions are not favorable.” don’t believe those lies; God is about to bless you out of season, do something you didn’t see coming, surprise you with His favor. it’s going to be bigger than you thought, better than you imagined, more rewarding than you’ve dreamed. don’t complain because you’re out of season; you’re in prime position for God to show out in your life.

in the scripture, Sarah gave birth to a son at 90 years of age. she’d already gone through the change of life, passed the childbearing years, her womb was closed, no way to have a baby, it’s too late… but God does things out of season.

David was a teenager taking care of his father’s sheep. he had no formal training, military experience, he was a shepherd, yet the prophet Samuel showed up at his house and anointed him the next king of Israel; he was promoted out of season, when he didn’t have the qualifications, didn’t see it coming. it was boring out in the shepherd’s fields, lonely, but you don’t know what God is up to, when He’s about to show up and do something unusual. you may feel overlooked, nobody’s giving you credit, you’re not in season; don’t worry, God knows how to promote you out of season.

the Israelites were in the desert, headed toward the promised land, and they complained to Moses that they didn’t have any meat to eat; they were tired of eating the same manna every day. God told Moses that He was going to give them meat, not just for a day, but for a whole month. Moses said, “God, what do you mean? if we butchered all of our flocks and herds, we wouldn’t have enough meat for these two million people.” Moses was looking at it from a practical point of view, thinking, “we’re in the desert, not in season, this is no time to find any meat.” God said, “Moses, is there any limit to My power?” He was saying, “do you think you not being in season can stop Me from doing what I want to do, that because the conditions are not favorable, somehow that can limit My power? don’t you know I created the universe, spoke worlds into existence, flung stars into space, nothing is too difficult for Me?”

the next morning, God shifted the winds, and caused a huge flock of quail to come into their camp. there were so many quail, they were flying three feet off the ground. the scripture says, “no one gathered less than 50 bushels of quail.” what’s interesting is, quail don’t usually fly that far away from the sea, way out into the desert, but God controls the winds and the quail.

you may not see how your situation could work out, you’re not in season, none of the conditions look favorable, but God knows how to shift the winds, bring the quail, right people, good breaks, healing, restoration. He’s not limited because you’re out of season.

the odds may be against you, every voice says, “you’ll never have the baby, get well, break the addiction”; God is about to show up out of season, and make things happen that looked impossible. there is no limit to His power. when you believe, all things are possible.

John 5:2-4 (NKJV)
2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.

the people knew when the season for the angel to come was; they’d seen that happen again and again. they would be especially on guard; they knew that was their window of opportunity to be healed. any moment, the angel could show up.

one day, Jesus came to the pool, and said to the man, “do you want to get well?” the problem was, it wasn’t the right season; this wasn’t the normal time when the waters would be stirred. he said, “sir, when the angel comes, I have no one to help me get in the pool.” he knew he couldn’t get healed then; he was out of season. Jesus said to him, “get up, pick up your bed, and walk”; instantly, the man was healed. he stood up and walked out of there. God was showing us how He can do things out of season. it doesn’t have to be the right time. you may not see any sign of it, all the circumstances say you’re stuck, just endure it, it’s not your season. no, get ready for an out-of-season blessing, an I didn’t see it coming healing, a that doesn’t make sense promotion. God is going to show up at what you think is the wrong time. it looks like the angel is months and months away, but God doesn’t have to wait for the angel, the treatment, the training, for the boss to like you, for the medical report to improve, for the economy to get better. God controls the universe; He’s not limited by seasons.

Isaiah said, “God will make rivers in the desert, streams in the barren places.” God can cause you to blossom out of season. when the circumstances say, “it’s not going to happen, it’s not the right time, you have too many disadvantages”; God is not waiting for the conditions to be favorable. He’s going to make rivers in the desert, bless you out of season.

we all face seasons of difficulties, times where it’s one thing after another coming against us. just because you don’t feel favored doesn’t mean that you’re not; sometimes, God will even wait till you’re out of season, then do something amazing just to remind you that He’s in control, and He being for you is more than the world being against you.

do you feel out of season, stuck in some area? stay encouraged; God has you in the palm of His hand, sees what’s happening, hasn’t brought you this far to leave you, is about to do something out of the ordinary, greater than what you’ve imagined, where you’re going to say, “wow God, I didn’t see that coming!”

when Jesus healed the crippled man, it was not only the wrong season, when the angel normally didn’t come, but it was the Sabbath; the religious leaders complained that he healed the man on the wrong day, you weren’t supposed to work on the Sabbath. but I’ve found, God likes to break the rules, do things out of the ordinary, that don’t make sense, where there is no logical explanation.

where are the people that will say, “God, I believe You can bless me out-of-season: the report doesn’t look good, but I know You can heal me. I’ve had the addiction for years, but I know You can free me. my family is off course, but I know, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” when you’re not just enduring a slow season, but releasing your faith, expecting God’s goodness, He’ll make things happen that you couldn’t make happen.

in some area of life, we’re all out of season; something’s slow, not changing. it’s easy to accept it, think that’s the way it’s always going to be. you have to stir your faith up. any moment, God could turn it around; it could happen this month, this week, today. God is not waiting for the conditions to be more favorable, somebody to give you a break, the medical report to improve, you to have more faith. you have the faith you need right now; if you’ll start releasing it, expecting His goodness, thanking Him for His favor, God will show up out of season, do things unexpectedly, that you didn’t see coming.

God is working behind the scenes. being addicted is not your destiny. constantly struggling in your health, finances, relationships, is not how your story is going to end. it’s not permanent, it’s temporary.

when you speak negative words over your life, they get down into your spirit, and you start to live negative. you may not see how your situation can change, it’s been that way a long time, but God has not forgotten about you; something is about to happen out-of-season. you can’t see it coming, feel like you’re stuck, but suddenly you’re going to break the addiction, meet the right person, God’s going to catapult you to the next level.

Jesus asked the crippled man if he wanted to be well. in one sense, he was saying, “I need your permission to help you; if you’re not in agreement with me, I can’t turn this around.” will you give God permission to free, heal, bless you? you have to get in agreement with God. as long as you’re thinking of all the reasons why it’s not going to happen, talking about how impossible it is, then you’ll get stuck where you are. you may not see how it can work out; that’s because you’re looking at it in the natural. we serve a supernatural God; He can heal you without the treatment, promote you like David, without the qualifications. the conditions may not look favorable, may not look like it’ll ever change; this is what faith is all about. turn it around; “Lord, I don’t see a way, but I know You’re still on the throne, bigger than what I’m facing. You’ve done it for me in the past, I want to thank You, You’ll do it for me again in the future.”

Jesus healed a man, not only when he was out of season, but he didn’t do it the normal way, the way they were expecting; he didn’t have him go look for the stirring of the waters, dip in the pool, he did it an unusual way. God is not only going to do things for you out of season, not at the normal time, He’s going to do them a non-traditional way; it’s not going to be the way you thought, with the people you thought, how you were expecting it. don’t put God in a box, and tell Him how, when to do it, who to use.

sometimes, we think God needs our help, doesn’t know all the details, so we have to fill Him in. no, let God do it His way. He has it all figured out. His ways are better than our ways. as long as you’re set in your thinking; here’s how it’s going to happen, who He’s going to use, when it’s going to happen, then you’ll be frustrated. God has ways you’ve never thought of. He’s not waiting for the angel.

you may think you have to work your way up gradually in that company, if you can convince the supervisor to like you, in three years you’ll get a promotion, maybe in five years you’ll be an assistant manager; one touch of God’s favor will put you 50 years down the road. we think natural; God thinks supernatural. He’s going to do it a non-traditional way; you didn’t see it coming, weren’t expecting it, but it’s going to be better than you imagined. God knows how to do more than you can ask or think. He’s not only going to bring you out a non-traditional way, He’s going to exceed your expectations.

are you out of season? have you gone through disappointments, closed doors? stay encouraged; God is up to something, working behind the scenes, about to do something unusual, out of the ordinary, that you weren’t expecting. He has one of those, “I didn’t see it coming” blessings headed your way.

in Luke 5, Jesus was by the Sea of Galilee one morning. he noticed Peter’s empty boat over on the shore; Peter was off cleaning his nets, tired after a long night of fishing. there were so many people gathered around Jesus, he’d never met Peter, but he asked to borrow his boat; Peter agreed. Jesus pushed out from the shore and taught the people. when he was finished, he wanted to do something to thank Peter; he told him to go back out into the water, and he would catch a great haul of fish. Peter was a professional fisherman; he had done this for years. he knew when to fish; this type of fishing, you didn’t do in the morning. everything in Peter said, “don’t go back out, it’s going to be a waste of time, this is not when the fish normally bite.” Peter said, “sir, we worked hard all last night and caught nothing, yet if you say so, I’ll go back out.” he went out and caught so many fish that his nets began to break.

what’s interesting is, there were no fish there the night before, but God controls the fish; He doesn’t have to wait for the right time, season, the way it normally happens. God can break the rules, do it at an inopportune time, when you didn’t have the finances, the property was sold out from under you, you’ve struggled with the addiction for years. it shouldn’t have happened, you weren’t next in line, but God blessed you out of season, turned it around a non-traditional way.

Luke 5:9 (TLB)
9 For he was awestruck by the size of their catch

God has some blessings for you that are going to leave you awestruck. you can’t explain it, it’s just the goodness of God. it’s going to happen when you’re out of season, the conditions aren’t favorable, doesn’t look like the right time. just when you thought it would never work out, God’s going to surprise you, bring you a great haul, something that you’ve never seen.

Paul told Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)
2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season

he was talking about ministering, but the principal is still true; stay prepared in your mind, in season, when things are going your way, and out of season, when the medical report’s not good, business slows down. don’t start complaining; get ready for God to show up out of season. the fish may not have been there last time; that doesn’t mean they’re not going to be there next time. God knows how to bring what you need.

the odds may be against you, you don’t see any sign of it happening; God is asking you what He asked Moses, “is there any limit to My power? do you think the conditions can hold Me back, that the seasons can stop Me from doing what I want to do in your life?” take the limits off of God. get your hopes back up. start expecting. if you’ll do this, God is about to bless you out of season, do something unusual, out of the ordinary, that you didn’t see coming. it’s going to catapult you to the next level. you’re going to suddenly come into healing, breakthroughs, promotion, favor. like Peter, you’re going to look back and be awestruck at the goodness of our God.

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(No new sermon this week.)

Proverbs 23:17 (NIV)
17 Do not let your heart envy sinners

It’s unfortunate that I need to say this, but apparently I do. Under NO circumstances does God bless sin. It doesn’t matter who the people are, or what the circumstances are, He does NOT bless sin; there are no exceptions to this… and that includes the people that YOU know.

If I had a dollar for every time that some confused, misguided person posted a comment on this blog complaining that their adulterous spouse or ex-spouse was being “blessed” in their relationship or new life with whatever equally-immoral new partner they had hooked up with, or that someone who had done large and deliberate harm was being “blessed” with the money or position that this had gotten them, I could retire TODAY.

We are NOT robots, with our every action dictated by God, and everything we get, positive or negative, coming only from God. We have free will, we use that to make choices and take actions, and those choices and actions bring us consequences, both positive and negative, with NO intervention from God. Yes, God CAN intervene if He wants to, and sometimes He does, but 99% of the time, whatever happens in your life is due to the choices that you have made with your free will, and the choices that those around you have made with THEIR free will. We should certainly err on the side of giving God the credit for good things that happen just in case He influenced them, but under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should we EVER blame the actions of evil people on God, and under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should we claim that God has BLESSED evil people in response to their evildoings. If you think that God is even CAPABLE of doing such a thing, you literally have no idea of Who God is, and you need to start reading your Bible and refreshing your memory.

Here’s an example: If a bank robber steals a bunch of money from a bank, and uses that money to live a wonderful lifestyle, has God BLESSED the bank robber with that lifestyle? NO! This is a simple case of cause and effect; this person took money, and money provides the lifestyle… God had no hand in it.

In the same way, if your spouse cheats on you, with or without also leaving you, and has a happy life with their adulterous partner, has God BLESSED them with that happiness? NO! When two people who want to be together get together, happiness is the natural result… at least at first… and God had nothing to do with it.

In a similar vein, just because something goes wrong in your life does NOT mean that you are being “punished.” If someone takes something from you, your spouse, the job you wanted, your best friend, whatever, that does NOT mean that God is punishing you, or blessing them;  it means that the taker used their free will and took something from you. God had nothing to do with it.

The saddest part about people who don’t understand all this is that, because they’re blaming God for things that He had nothing to do with, they are cutting off their own source of blessings! You can’t expect God to bless you when you’re blaming Him and spitting in His face. These people’s lives become steadily LESS blessed because of THEIR behavior, and then they blame God for THAT, too, and a terrible downward spiral results.

So, what should you do? The unfortunate reality is that evil behavior often brings rewards and pleasure; if it didn’t, nobody would bother to do anything evil. When someone in your life does something evil to you, you need to correctly identify that THEY are there source of the evil, that the benefits they are receiving are cause and effect with their evil actions, that any harm or suffering that you are enduring as a result is ALSO cause and effect from the evil actions, and that God had nothing to do with any of it. You need to stop focusing and dwelling on the great life the evildoers seem to be having, and yes I know how hard that can be, focus on your own life, and keep praising God and asking Him to bring both better people and better circumstances into your life… and because God controls the entire universe, He absolutely can and will bring you a better life than the people who harmed you currently seem to be enjoying. It may not be what you thought you wanted, or in the way you had expected, on your timetable, but it WILL happen!

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