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Archive for July, 2018

Keeping your joy

From JO’s sermon tonight:

we all have opportunities to get upset, go around frustrated: somebody was rude to us, traffic was backed up, we can’t find our car keys. life is full of inconveniences, delays, people that don’t do right. we’re never going to stop these things from happening; the key is how we handle them. the scripture says no man can take your joy; that means you control your joy; nothing can take it from you, you have to give it away.

next time someone cuts you off in traffic, ask yourself, “is this worth giving them my joy?” that person that’s rude to you on the phone that you’ve never met; are you going to give them your joy? that delay, plan that didn’t work out, negative comment; are you going to let that sour your day? the reason some people are not happy is, they’re constantly giving away their joy.

you can’t control what people do, say, but you can control how you respond. quit giving away your joy, letting the same people upset you; traffic, delays, things that don’t work out, frustrate you. you can’t pray these things away. that person at the office that gets on your nerves, they may not change; don’t go 20 years giving them your joy. they may not change, but you can change.

life is too short to live frustrated, upset about things we have no control over. people have a right to have their opinion; you have the right to ignore it. people have the right to be rude; you have the right to stay happy. quit letting their negative comments upset you; they wouldn’t be talking about you if you weren’t making a difference. nobody talks about people that aren’t doing anything; they’re talking about you because you’re going places. they can see there’s something special about you; you have the favor of God. you’re blessed, talented, anointed.

sometimes, small-minded people will try to push you down and discredit you. don’t pay any attention to it; that doesn’t carry any weight. what they say cannot keep you from your destiny; that is simply a distraction.

every person has negative chatter. all your family members unfortunately are not going to be for you; George Burns said, “happiness is having a loving, caring, close-knit family, living in another city.” some of your relatives, you have to love them from a distance.

all of your coworkers are not going to celebrate you. all of your friends are not going to be loyal. some people can’t handle your success; they’ll make remarks trying to bait you into conflict, get you upset. don’t get involved in battles that are not between you and your destiny. most of the conflict we engage in is a distraction; the enemy would love to get you off course, offended, trying to straighten people out, convince them that you’re ok. your job is not to change people’s minds about you, make people like you; your job is to run your race, be who God called you to be, not worry about the critics, naysayers.

God will cause the right people to like you. everybody is not supposed to like, approve you; some people are ordained by God to not be for you. you have to accept that everyone is not going to accept you.

we see it in the scripture: Joseph’s brothers weren’t supposed to be for Joseph; they were ordained to betray him. without their betrayal, Joseph would have never made it to the palace to help the Israelites during the famine. quit being sour because somebody betrayed you. how do you know that’s not leading you to your palace, that that disappointment is not a part of God’s plan to take you to the next level of your destiny?

King Saul was ordained to not like David; if he would have celebrated David, been happy for his success, David would have never taken the throne. are you upset because someone is not for you, when the truth is, God has ordained them to not be for you?

when Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, there were two men, Sanballat and Tobiah; they didn’t like what he was doing. they stood at the bottom of the mountain and constantly shouted insults at Nehemiah, trying to bait him into conflict, get him upset, frustrated. Nehemiah understood this principle; he said, “no thanks, I’m not giving you my joy. you may not like me, but you not liking me has nothing to do with me fulfilling my destiny; I’m going to stay focused on what God called me to do.”

if Nehemiah would have gotten upset, went down there to straighten them out, even if he shut them up, he wouldn’t have finished the wall when he did. all the chatter that comes against you is a distraction, to get you upset so you get involved in battles that don’t matter; then you look up, and you’re not accomplishing what you should. do yourself a favor; don’t pay any attention to it.

quit being upset by people who are not for you, make negative comments, try to marginalize you, push you down. what they say doesn’t determine your destiny; they are simply a distraction, noise, don’t give it the time of day.

some people, no matter what you do, they’re not going to like you. even if you changed, did everything they wanted, they would still find some reason why you don’t measure up. you have to be at peace with people not being at peace with you. you don’t need their approval to fulfill your purpose. you don’t have to have them be for you to become who God created you to be. but if you get distracted trying to win them over, spending your valuable time trying to convince them to be for you, then you will miss the fullness of your destiny. don’t take the bait; don’t let them get you riled up.

Jesus said, “blessed are the meek; they will inherit the earth.” meek doesn’t mean weak, it means strength under control. when you ignore negative comments, don’t pay attention to the Sanballats and Tobiahs of life, you’re not being weak, you’re being meek. you have the power to fight, the strength to straighten them out, tell them what you feel, but your strength is under control; you’re not wasting time engaged in battles that are not between you and your God-given destiny. when you stay on the high road, God will take care of your enemies; God can defend you better that you can defend yourself.

in the scripture, Elisha was traveling from Jericho to Bethel. along the way, a group of young men came out and started making fun of him because he was bald. the scripture says they were mocking him, saying, “go baldy go.” Elisha could have gotten upset; instead, he remained calm, they couldn’t take his joy. they were baiting him, trying to get him distracted; he just stayed focused and continued doing what God called him to do. while those young men were making fun of him, two bears came out of the woods and tore them to pieces.

you don’t have to straighten people out; God will be your vindicator. God knows how to take care of the opposition. He sees what they’re doing, hears the disrespect. if you’ll stay in peace, God will fight your battles. when God does it, it will be better than anything you could have done.

but your feelings will want to pay people back. feelings will tell us, “get even, stand up for yourself”; if you let feelings rule, you’ll get upset, give away your joy. don’t get on board with your feelings. the Psalmist said:

Psalm 94:13 (AMP)
That You may grant him [power to calm himself and find] peace in the days of adversity

it doesn’t say God will keep us from all the adversity, opposition, negative chatter, it says they will come, we’ll have opportunities to get upset, but God has given us power to stay calm. quit telling yourself, “I can’t help it; this person at the office, they just get on my nerves”; you have the power to stay calm. that doesn’t have to keep upsetting you. that is a learned behavior: they say something negative, I get offended. traffic is bad, I get upset. the clerk is rude, I just let them have it. the problem is, you have strength, but it’s not under control. you need to relearn how to respond, develop some new habits. next time something happens that you don’t like, pause for a moment, and say, “Father, thank You that You’re giving me the power to remain calm, a spirit of discipline and self-control.”

you don’t have to let the same things keep upsetting you year after year; change your approach. you may have been trained to respond a certain way, grew up seeing people lose their cool, get upset, offended; why don’t you try a different approach? when you let people upset you, you’re giving away your power, letting them control you; if they push this, button you get offended, that button, you get upset, this other button, they bait you into conflict. why don’t you turn those buttons off? life is so much more freeing when you’re not controlled by what people say, offended when someone’s upset, sour because traffic was bad; you have tapped into the power to remain calm.

many people are like garbage trucks; they go around full of anger, frustration, bitterness. as their garbage piles up, they need somewhere to dump it; sometimes they’ll dump it on you, but you can’t take it personally, it has nothing to do with you. just smile, wish them well, and move on.

successful people don’t let garbage trucks overtake their day. if someone dumps a load on you, don’t get upset; if you make that mistake, you’ll end up carrying around their garbage, and eventually dump it on someone else. you have to keep your lid on. these days, many people are dumping frustration, disrespect, criticism, bitterness; we can’t stop them from dumping it, but we can keep them from affecting us.

we have enough things of our own to deal with; you don’t need somebody else’s bitterness, sour attitude, pressure. keep your lid on tight; let those things bounce off of you. your destiny is too great, your time is too important, to go around weighed down with other people’s garbage. you can’t keep it from coming, but you can keep it from getting in you.

realize how valuable each day is; we’re not always going to be here. it’s easy to live upset, offended, frustrated, but most of the things that are upsetting us, in the big picture, they don’t really matter. traffic was backed up, it took you an hour to get home, it should have taken you 30 minutes; is that worth losing your joy over? you’re alive, healthy, God’s given you a family to love. somebody was rude to you, made you look bad, said something negative; is that worth going around offended, discouraged?

what if we found out we only had a month to live? I wonder how many things we’re allowing to upset us now, if we found out our time was limited, we wouldn’t even pay attention to it. our time IS limited. the scripture says, our life is like a mist; we’re here for a moment, then we’re gone. that little quirk our spouse does that gets on our nerves; if we knew we weren’t going to be here in a month, we wouldn’t let it bother us, we would focus on all the things that are right, not on the few things that are wrong. we wouldn’t complain about driving in traffic; we’d be happy to be in the traffic, we’ve got another day to enjoy life. “I’ve got to go to work”; not me, I GET to go to work. some people don’t have a job, some people are in the hospital, aren’t able to work. I’m grateful to be employed. “it’s Sunday, I’ve got to go to church again”; not me, I get to go to church. God’s been good to me; I’m going to go back and say thank you.

“my boss is not fair, he’s hard to get along with, this is not the position that I want”; somebody would gladly trade places with you. it may not be perfect, but keep the right perspective; God’s blessed you with a job. if you will pass the test of being happy where you are, God can open some new doors. but if you don’t get happy there, you probably won’t get to where you want to be. your boss may not be fair; quit giving him your joy. he doesn’t control your happiness; you control your happiness. but if you let a grouchy boss, neighbor, relative, steal your joy, it’s not their fault, it’s your fault. you are as happy as you want to be.

you have to put your foot down and say, “this is the day that the Lord has made”; I’m not going to live sour, defeated, depressed, let what people do or don’t do, say or don’t say, what I have or not have, keep me from being happy. I’ve made up my mind; I’m going to enjoy this day. it dishonors God to go through the day upset, frustrated, bitter; God gave you breath to be here. He could have chosen anyone, but He chose you. one way we honor God is by being happy, living grateful, having a good attitude, seeing the best in life.

are you letting insignificant things steal your joy: traffic, negative comments, you can’t find something? keep it in perspective; that’s not worth losing your joy over. don’t let the small, insignificant things keep you some from seeing the gift of this day. in the scripture:

Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NIV)
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

he was saying, “everything’s come against me: I’ve had bad breaks, my business is down, my income is low, surely that’s a reason to be discouraged, go around sour.” his attitude was, “no, I’m not giving away my joy; I’m going to rejoice in the God of my salvation.” salvation means deliverance; when you stay full of joy, despite what comes against you, God is saying, salvation, turn-arounds, healing, increase, victory is coming. I’m asking you to keep your joy.

life is going to throw us some curves: there will be disappointments, things that are not fair. that’s when you have to say, “yet will I rejoice in the Lord.” we should make this decision every morning; “I will be joyful today.” decide ahead of time that you’re going to enjoy the day. when somebody dumps a load on you, when they’re rude, keep your lid on. you’re tempted to get upset; remind yourself, you have the power to remain calm. if you’ll do this, you’re not only going to enjoy your life more, you’re going to be free from unnecessary frustration, bitterness, anger. you’re going to rise higher, live happier, and reach the fullness of your destiny.

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More than enough

From JO’s sermon tonight:

we’re not supposed to go through life constantly struggling, not able to fulfill our dreams or be a blessing to anyone else. lack is not your destiny; you were created to live an abundant life. but if you’ve struggled for a long time, it’s easy to develop a scarcity mentality, thinking, “I’ll never be able to afford a nice house, bless my family”; as long as you think “not enough,” you’ll never have more than enough.

you have to get rid of that scarcity mentality, and start having an abundant mentality. God has ways to increase you that you’ve never thought of; He’s not limited by your job, education, the family you were raised in. if you’ll take the limits off of Him, God will bless you beyond your normal income, beyond what anyone in your family has seen.

you don’t know what God has in store for you, the promotions, opportunities, favor that He’s already ordained to come across your path. Psalm 35 says, “God takes pleasure in prospering you”; it brings a smile to God’s face to make things happen that amaze you. as a parent, when you do something special for your child, out of the ordinary, that they weren’t expecting, you know how that brings you joy. it’s the same way with our heavenly Father; it gives Him pleasure to see you blessed.

you may not see how this can happen, but the scripture says, “God will supply all of our needs according to His riches.” it doesn’t say according to your job, talent, if the boss likes you, if the economy is up, if you have the right friends; it’s not according to what you have, it’s according to what He has. the good news is, God owns it all. if He doesn’t have what you need, He can create it; He speaks, and worlds come into existence.

in the scripture, a young lady named Ruth was barely making it; her husband had died, and she was living with her mother-in-law in a foreign country. she had no income, nobody to help them; all the circumstances said she was stuck, this was her destiny, a life of struggle and lack.

but just because you don’t see a way, doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a way. your circumstances may look permanent, but you can’t see what God is doing behind the scenes; He’s already spoken to the right people to help you, lined up good breaks, promotion that you don’t see coming. it’s going to happen unexpectedly, out of the ordinary. you’re not going to have to go after it, it’s going to come after you; the scripture says, “when you keep God first place, His blessings will chase you down.” one translation says, “they will catch you by surprise.”

God is going to surprise you, open doors bigger than you’ve imagined, bring people that will use their influence to push you further along. it’s going to be uncommon, unusual; you’re going to know it was the hand of God. God’s dream for your life is much bigger than your own. what God has in your future is going to boggle your mind: the places He’s going to take you, the people you’re going to meet, the levels you’re going to reach. Paul said in Corinthians, “no person has seen, heard or imagined what God has in store for those that love the Lord.”

you may think you’ve reached your limits; God is saying, “you better think again; you haven’t seen anything. yet I’m about to bring you into overflow, abundance, more than enough.” whatever level you’re at, get ready; another level is coming. what you haven’t seen or imagined is on the way.

Ruth would go out into the fields every morning and pick up the leftover wheat that the workers had missed; they were living off of leftovers. she and her mother-in-law were barely surviving. I’m sure they weren’t thinking about abundance; nothing in their circumstances said they would ever have more than enough. but Ruth didn’t know what God was up to.

your circumstances may be against you, but the most high God is for you. He’s called Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord our provider; He said, “you will lend and not borrow. you are above and not beneath.” you may not be there yet, but God is not finished; He’s working behind the scenes. things are happening that you cannot see. keep being faithful, doing the right thing, going to work with a good attitude.

“nobody gives me credit at the office; I’ll never be promoted”; you’re not working unto people, you’re working unto God. your job is not your source; God is your source. God is keeping the records; your time is coming.

Ruth was faithful. she’d been through loss, in a foreign country, no income, yet you never read where Ruth complained; she didn’t get bitter, give up on life, she kept doing the right thing, being her best, taking care of her mother-in-law, going out every day, gathering up the food. Ruth passed the test in the small things.

before God can trust you with much, you have to prove to Him that you’ll be faithful with little. don’t discount where you are. if you don’t take care of that old car, why should God bless you with a new one? if you complain about that apartment, why should God bless you with a house? if you’re not faithful at the job where you are now, why should God bless you with your own business? pass the small tests.

one day, while Ruth was out working in the fields, God spoke to Boaz, the owner of those fields, and told him to be good to Ruth. he had his workers leave wheat on the ground on purpose for Ruth; now, when she went out, she had more than enough, gathered it in a fraction of the time. that was God saying, “surprise! here’s a blessing you’re not going to have to work for, it’s going to come to you. you just show up, and it’ll be waiting for you.”

God has some of these blessings in store for you. you’re not going to have to make it happen; you just keep being faithful, doing the right thing, and suddenly there’s more than enough, ownership in a company, the house falls into your hands. you can’t explain it, didn’t see it coming. what happened? God surprised you; one of His blessings chased you down.

what’s interesting is, God spoke to Boaz to be good to Ruth, but Ruth didn’t know about it; God didn’t tell her. all Ruth knew was, suddenly her life became much easier, there was an abundance of wheat on the ground.

you don’t know who God has already spoken to about you; there are people God has already lined up to leave wheat on the ground for you, cause things to happen that you had nothing to do with, but suddenly you’ll go to a new level, come into more than enough. you can’t explain it, take credit for it, there was nothing in your circumstances that said it was going to happen; that was God simply taking pleasure in prospering you, showing you favor, causing you to stand out.

the story could end here, and it would be a happy ending, Ruth and her mother-in-law had plenty, but God likes to exceed our expectations. Boaz fell in love with Ruth; they ended up getting married. now, instead of working in those fields, Ruth owned the fields. she never had to go out and pick up wheat like that again. she came into a new level; abundance, overflow. those workers she used to follow behind, now they all worked for her. she went from the tail to the head, from borrowing to lending, from being in lack to having more than enough.

it may look impossible, the odds may be against you, but stay in faith; you don’t know who God is whispering to right now about you, who’s going to open a door for you for no reason, who’s about to show you favor that you didn’t see coming.

sometimes, religion tries to make us feel like, “I’m not supposed to be blessed, have resources.” but the scripture says that Job was the wealthiest man in the East, very blessed with resources, livestock, a successful business; God said about Job that there was no better man than him. David left an inheritance to his son Solomon to build the temple that some scholars say would be over a billion dollars today; David’s called a man after God’s own heart. Abraham is the father of our faith, the one God chose to start the New Covenant; he too was very wealthy, in cattle, sheep, gold, silver. God has no problem with you having money, as long as money doesn’t have you.

money should not be our goal; fulfilling our destiny should be our goal. money is simply a tool: it can send your children to college, help you accomplish your dreams, build an orphanage. money is not a problem; it’s the love of money that’s the problem. if you make money your goal, and you only focus on yourself, and live to show off what you have, life it’s not going to be very fulfilling.

there are some things that money can’t buy: peace, good relationships, health. money shouldn’t be our focus, but sometimes it takes money to fulfill dreams. don’t let a religious spirit convince you that you’re not supposed to have anything. constantly struggling, being overwhelmed by debt, not able to pay your bills, is not God’s best.

Jesus did not come and give his life so that we could barely get by and live off of leftovers; he came that we might live an abundant life. abundant means plenty: plenty of joy, health, strength, opportunities, creativity, courage. God wants you to be so blessed that you have to choose which opportunities you take. David said, “my cup runs over”; running over means, you have so much, you can’t contain it all. “I would love to take that contract, but I’m so blessed, I’ll have to pass so I can take this better opportunity.”

“all this sounds good. but I don’t see how it can happen for me, it seems far out”; we serve a far-out God, an exceeding, abundantly, above and beyond God. that’s why He has you hearing this; He wants you to get rid of that scarcity mentality, and start having an abundant mentality.

God has an advantage; He can see what’s happening behind the scenes, knows things that you could never know. the scripture says, “God knows where the hidden riches are.” He has inside information. when you honor Him, He will lead you into blessings that you didn’t see coming: favor, promotion, opportunities that surprise you, take you to a level that you didn’t think you could reach.

are you talking yourself out of what God put in your heart, thinking it’s too big, too much, you don’t have the funds, experience? you may not, but God does; He wouldn’t have given you the dream if He didn’t have a way. why don’t you get in agreement with God; He takes pleasure in prospering you, wants to take you further than you’ve imagined.

in the scripture, there was a king of Judah named Ahaz. he had no regard for God: he closed down the temple, sold the sacred treasures, set up idols for the people to worship. five armies came against him; every time, he lost. the nation was decimated, the people were very poor, struggling to survive. he died at the age of 36, and was so disliked, he wasn’t buried with the other kings.

his son Hezekiah took over. he’d been raised in dysfunction, seen his father compromise and take the easy way out, but Hezekiah didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps; he was just the opposite. the first thing he did was to reopen the temple. he tore down the idols, he brought the people back to worshipping God. the whole nation began to flourish; they saw God’s blessings and favor.

the scripture says, “Hezekiah was very wealthy, and held in high esteem. he had to build buildings to hold his gold, silver, treasures, grain, for the Lord had given him great wealth.” notice where the wealth came from.

why was Hezekiah so blessed, yet his father died in disgrace, poor, defeated? his father didn’t honor God. when you put God first place, there is a blessing on your life that causes you to prosper, a favor that causes you to rise higher, accomplish things beyond your own ability.

Proverbs says, “when you fear the lord”; that doesn’t mean be afraid, that means you reverence Him, ask Him for guidance, trust Him with your dreams, do your best to walk in His ways. when you do this, it says you will have honor, wealth, and a long life. when you reverence the Lord, God promises you honor, wealth, and a long life. one way we reverence God is by bringing the tithe, the first 10% of our income, to the house of the Lord; when we do that, it says in Malachi, “God will open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing too great to contain.”

this is what happened with Hezekiah; he had to build buildings to hold all the blessings that God gave him. make sure you’re doing your part, and God has promised He will pour out blessings you cannot contain, that will take you into overflow.

we see this in Luke 5. Jesus was teaching on the shore of Galilee; it was so crowded, he asked Peter if he could borrow his boat. they had never met before, but Peter agreed. when Jesus finished teaching, he told Peter to launch out into the deep, and he would catch a great amount of fish. there were no fish there a little earlier, but Peter went back out, and caught so many fish that his net began to break; overflow, abundance. he had to call another boat to help him get the fish back to the shore.

here’s the principal; a few hours earlier, Peter had fished all night and caught nothing, but when he honored Jesus by letting him use his boat, put God first place, now instead of dealing with no fish, being in lack, struggling, his focus had gone from not having enough to how he’s going to get all the fish back to the shore. that’s God’s dream; to pour out blessings you cannot contain. so instead of living worried, wondering if you’re going to make it, if there’s going to be enough, you spend that same energy trying to figure out how you’re going to invest the increase, be a good steward with what God has blessed you with. it all starts by keeping God first place.

the Israelites had been in slavery 400 years; struggle, lack, mistreated, no resources, no money, just the opposite of abundance. but Psalm 105 says, “God brought the Israelites safely out of Egypt, loaded with silver and gold.” they didn’t come out of that injustice empty-handed, they came out loaded.

that’s what God wants for you; not to be loaded with burdens, debt, depression, sickness, but loaded with blessings, resources, joy. when I look at you today, I see loaded people; loaded with favor, good breaks, creativity.

and yes, we all go through seasons of struggle, not seeing increase; you may be there now, but that is not how your story ends. don’t give up in the middle; something is coming. God is a God of justice; He’s not only going to bring you out, He’s going to make up for what you’ve been through.

now do your part; keep God first place. take the limits off of Him, and have this abundant mentality. if you’ll do this, increase is coming in ways bigger than you’ve ever imagined. God is going to open doors you never dreamed would open. because you reverence Him, you’re going to have honor, wealth, and a long, blessed, abundant, favor-filled life.

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Under construction

from JO’s sermon tonight:

you have to see the things that are messy in your life, the things you struggle with, that seem out of place, as simply under construction; it doesn’t it mean it’s not going to work out. the disappointment, betrayal, delay, you may not like it, but it’s all a part of the process. you’re under construction; you can’t become all you were created to be without some messy places.

to the untrained eye, a construction site can look disorganized, random, but to the architect, it’s no big deal; they’re not worried, they drew the plans, they know exactly where it’s going. your architect is the most high God; He’s designed a specific plan for your life. the good news is, the messy places can’t stop your destiny; the delays, things you don’t understand, even the mistakes you’ve made, He’s already taken them into account. you may not see how your dream could ever work out, you feel like you’re stuck; God is saying, “you’re right on schedule. you’re not a finished product; I’m still working on you. what I started, I’m going to bring to completion.”

the accuser will whisper, “not you, you have too many flaws, weaknesses, mistakes.” just remind him, “I’m under construction. I may have some messy places, but God’s not finished with me.” Paul said in Ephesians, “you are a masterpiece.” you may not be there quite yet, but instead of beating yourself up, living with that negative recording, how you don’t measure up, our attitude should be, “I’m a masterpiece in the making.”

“you still struggle with that addiction”; “yes, but I’m under construction; God’s still working on me.” “you still have the temper, say things that you shouldn’t”; “yes, but I’m better than I was last year; I’m growing, coming up higher. what God started, He’s going to finish.” you have to look beyond the mess and see the masterpiece.

God told Abraham that he was going to have a son, and become the father of many nations, but he and his wife Sarah were too old, way past the childbearing years. they prayed, stood in faith for years; still no baby. Sarah said, “Abraham, why don’t you sleep with the maid, and maybe God will give us this son that He promised?”

Genesis 16:4-6 (NIV)
4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.” 6 “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

they had a son that they named Ishmael. God said, “Abraham, Sarah, that is not the promised child.” this caused all kinds of strife and division:

Genesis 21:8-14 (NIV)
8 The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9 But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” 11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son… 14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.

Abraham is the father of our faith, but you would be hard-pressed to find a more dysfunctional family than them. he was in a messy place; had a baby out of wedlock, strife, trouble, division in his house. God looked at them and said, “under construction.”

the messy places are all a part of the process. it may be uncomfortable, you don’t understand it, you may have brought the trouble on yourself, but it’s not a surprise to God; when He designed your plan, He took that into account.

despite their wrong choices, dysfunction, at 90 years of age, God caused Sarah to conceive and give birth to Isaac, the promised child. if Abraham and Sarah saw their promise come to pass after all that mess, what makes you think God is not going to bring to pass what He’s promised you? God is going to finish what He started.
here’s how amazing God is:

Romans 4:18-20 (NIV)
18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God

having a baby out of wedlock? to me, that’s wavering, being impatient, trying to make things happen in your own strength. having to kick somebody out of your house, that seems like wavering. but God does not see the construction process as wavering; the mistakes Abraham made, the strife, dysfunction, God didn’t hold that against him. in fact, God called Abraham a hero of faith.

why don’t you quit beating yourself up because you’re under construction? when God brings you to completion, delivers you from the addiction, turns your family around, He’s not going to remember your weaknesses, bring up past mistakes and failures. God knows, when we’re under construction, we all have messy places, make mistakes, have things to overcome, but that is not going to keep you from becoming a masterpiece; it’s only temporary.

one of the worst mistakes we could make is to go through life against ourselves, focused on our failures, the times we blew it, failed. you have enough people and circumstances already against you; don’t be against yourself. you have to be at peace with being under construction.

you’re going to have some messy places, things you don’t understand, weaknesses that you haven’t overcome. the accuser will work overtime reminding you of everything you’ve done wrong, how you’re not going to reach your destiny. instead of believing those lies, going around guilty, no passion, turn it around; “Father, thank You that You’re still working on me. I know this mess is a sign that I’m under construction. just like with Abraham, despite my shortcomings, failures, You’re still going to get me to where I’m supposed to be.” when you live like that, God will say, “you did not waver in your faith.”

we see this with Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples; he was hot-tempered, used bad language, one time he got angry and cut off a soldier’s ear. one moment he was defending Jesus, a man of great courage; another moment, he was denying Jesus, swearing that he didn’t know him. people could have looked at him, “Peter, you’re a mess, you have issues”; God looked at him and said, “under construction.” the difference between how people saw him and how God saw him is, God had the plans, could see what he was going to become. people just saw his flaws, hot temper, instability; this is why it’s so important that we don’t judge people, write anybody off; we can’t see their plans, don’t know what God has designed for them.

we see people that make mistakes, have weaknesses, we think, “they’re never going to get it together”; we don’t realize, they’re under construction, God’s still working on them. I have enough weaknesses of my own to deal with; I don’t have time to judge somebody else for their weaknesses.

I love the fact that Jesus chose Peter even though he knew he was hot-tempered, impatient, used bad language. he didn’t choose him because he was perfect, he chose him because he had the blueprint; he knew he wasn’t a finished product. Peter ended up becoming one of the most influential, respected leaders.

where you are now is not necessarily important; it’s where you’re going. that mess did not disqualify you, it means you’re under construction. when you see other people that look like they have it all together, don’t feel bad about yourself; everyone is under construction in some area, we all have some messy places.

let God make and mold you; stay pliable. we should be better this year than we were last year. don’t let the mess become permanent. the addiction, hot temper, negative attitude, that is not who you are. keep growing, resisting the temptation, saying no to carnal desire; every time you do the right thing, the next time it gets a little bit easier.

there’s nothing wrong with being under construction, but there is something wrong with not making any progress. do your part, be willing to change; God will do His part, help you to come up higher.

there are times that we know we’re supposed to be going up, we have big dreams, God’s put promises in our hearts, but it feels the opposite, like we’re going down, not growing, not seeing good breaks. what we may not realize is, God is working on our foundation, character, how we treat people, respond to adversity. we don’t like these times, but they are extremely important; like the building, the higher you’re going to go, the deeper your foundation has to be.

don’t get discouraged when things are not happening on your timetable; God knows what He’s doing. keep passing the test. those things that are not changing, but you’re keeping a good attitude, that’s making you stronger. when you’re good to people that are not good to you, your foundation is going down deeper; that’s a sign you’re getting prepared to go higher.

but God will not release what He has for you until He knows you can handle it; it wouldn’t be a blessing if He gave it to you and you weren’t ready. don’t fight the foundation work, get sour because things aren’t moving as fast as you would like. something is happening that you can’t see; your foundation is going down deeper, you’re being prepared to go to new levels.

God as our Builder will allow things that we don’t understand; it looks like a mistake, but God has a reason, He allowed it for a purpose that we can’t see, then He’s going to remove it. “I’m working at this job where I’m not using my gifts; I have so much more in me, this seems like a mistake”; God knows that’s not your final destination, but He wouldn’t have allowed it if He didn’t have a purpose for it.

do you think the God who is so precise, detailed, that He causes the Earth to rotate down to the exact millisecond is going to somehow falter on your plan, let something happen that wasn’t designed, a bad break to keep you from your destiny? if God made a mistake with you, you would be the first one; trust Him while you’re under construction, in the messy places, when you’re sure it’s a mistake.

sometimes, God has to take us backwards before He can take us forward, dig down deep before we can go up high, prune you before you can bloom. if you’ll stay in faith, you’re going to see how it’s all going to work for your good.

God called Moses to deliver the Israelites, that was the plan laid out for his life, but there were a dozen things that looked like a mistake. when Moses was born, the Pharaoh put out a decree that all the Hebrew male babies 2 years of age and under would be killed; it looked like God chose the wrong time for him to be born. why didn’t God wait till the decree was over? God likes to do things that defy the odds, seem impossible; that way, He gets all the credit.

Moses’ mother hid him in a basket, and sent him down the Nile River. there were snakes, alligators, he could have tipped over, drowned, but what God has ordained for your life, planned before the foundation of time, can’t be stopped by decrees, snakes, people, any kind of opposition. it just so happened that Pharaoh’s daughter was at the river taking a bath; she heard the cries coming from the basket. when she saw baby Moses, it was love at first sight; she took him in and raised him in the palace.

as he grew up, Moses knew he was supposed to deliver the Israelites. one day, he saw an Egyptian supervisor mistreating a Hebrew slave; he didn’t think anyone was watching, so he killed the man. someone saw him; he had to flee for his life. Moses spent 40 years in hiding on the backside of the desert; it looked like he missed his destiny. I’m sure he felt like a failure, but when he was 80 years old, God appeared to him through the burning bush, and said, “Moses, now it’s time to deliver the Israelites.”

you can’t find anyone in the scripture that did something significant that didn’t have messy places, times they didn’t understand, it wasn’t fair, they felt disqualified. but like with Moses, when it all came together, it made sense; they went from construction to completion.

you cannot properly judge the construction process without the plans. you may think, “I’m finished, I made too many mistakes, I missed my destiny,” but you don’t have the plans. God said in Jeremiah, “the plans I have for you are for good and not harm, to give you a future and a hope.” what God has planned for you does not end in defeat, failure, mediocrity, addictions, dysfunction; your story ends in victory. Paul said in Corinthians, “thanks be to God who always causes us to triumph.”

I’ve heard it said, “God always ends in all is well; if all is not well, then it’s not the end.” if there are things holding you back, out of place, messy, that means you’re under construction. don’t get discouraged; God is still working. every person has to go through the construction process; when you see someone blessed, fulfilling their purpose, they didn’t get there without messy places, things they didn’t understand, people that tried to stop them.

you may be in a messy situation; people have come against you, you’ve made mistakes, had bad breaks. God is saying, “it’s not over; it’s all a part of My plan. you’re under construction.” we’re not going to understand everything that happens; God’s ways are not our ways. here’s the promise God gives us; if you’ll stay in faith, and keep honoring Him, then what He started in your life, He’s going to bring to completion. what He has planned for you will come to pass. you didn’t miss it because you had a rough childhood, somebody walked out, broke your heart, people tried to stop you from your dream; God has the final say.

tune out all those voices telling you that you blew it, you had your chance; God wouldn’t have allowed it if it was going to keep you from your destiny. it’s all a part of the process. will you trust Him when you’re under construction, in the messy places, when it doesn’t make sense?

Job in the scripture went through all kinds of bad breaks: he lost his health, business, family, everything fell apart. for a while, he was negative, complaining, but then he came back to a place of peace. nothing had turned around, it was still messy, but he said in Job 42, “God, I know You can do anything, and no one can stop Your plan.” this was after 42 chapters of defeat, negativity. when he said this, 8 verses later, it said, “God restored Job, and brought him out with twice what he had before.” when he changed his attitude, maybe that was the catalyst for God to turn it around.

I wonder, if we would do like Job, instead of complaining about the mess, being discouraged by what didn’t work out, what if we’d start saying, “Father, I want to thank You that nothing can stop Your plan for my life, what You have ordained for me is on the way”?

I believe you’re about to come into divine connections. you’ve been on the verge of it, honoring God; you’re about to see God flip the switch. suddenly, the door opens, healing comes, the right person shows up. you’re about to go from construction to completion. those things that are hindering you, like with Job, God’s going to bring you out better. despite mistakes you’ve made, like Moses, you’re still going to fulfill your destiny, and become everything God created you to be.

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The scriptural experts don’t agree whether he did or not, so here is what happened, so that you can make up your own mind:

Acts 19:21 (NIV)
21 … Paul decided to go to Jerusalem

This seems simple and clear enough, right? PAUL decided to go to Jerusalem; no mention of divine influence.

Acts 20:22 (NIV)
22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem

Here, Paul SAYS that he was compelled by the spirit… but was he? It’s easy to be wrong about that, to feel certain that God is telling us to do whatever we have already decided we want to do. However, even if Paul WAS compelled by the Spirit at this point, remember, sometimes God tells us to do something as a test, and then takes it back; Abraham was told to kill his son (Genesis 22), but God never actually intended for him to do it, just to see if he would be obedient. God told Abraham to kill a ram instead, before the murder took place; just imagine if Abraham had ignored the later thing that God told him, and had murdered his innocent child! God can change His instructions to us as often as He likes, and our duty is to obey whatever it is that He has told us most recently.

Acts 21:4-5 (NIV)
4 We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 5 When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way.

Note carefully: THEY didn’t say that it was through the spirit, the BIBLE says that it was through the Spirit. It doesn’t matter what Paul had previously decided, or what he believed that the Holy Spirit had told him, or even with the Holy Spirit DID tell him, BEFORE this point; at this juncture, the Holy Spirit is saying that Paul should not go to go Jerusalem, and that is what he should have obeyed.

It seems perfectly clear that Paul DID disobey the Holy Spirit… so why is there a dispute about it? Because Paul wrote most of the New Testament, and if there is any reason to think that he was not in perfect obedience to God at all times, that would mean that we have to doubt EVERYTHING he said that didn’t overlap with something Jesus said earlier… and most people are unwilling to risk that, for the obvious reasons.

As is always the case when the so-called experts and authorities want to refute what the Bible says very clearly, they have come up with something that they twist around to be a reason to deny what actually happened:

Acts 21:10-12 (NIV)
10 After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”
12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem.

But the Jews did NOT hand him over to the Gentiles, and in fact the Gentiles saved him FROM the Jews:

Acts 21:30-35 (NIV)
30 The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
33 The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers.

Agabus was obviously WRONG, and therefore, they want us to believe, the disciples were somehow, in some unexplained way, wrong as well. But if we look more closely, we can see that Agabus SAID that the Holy Spirit said that, but it is possible for a prophet to misunderstand, misinterpret, or mis-describe what he has been told by the Holy Spirit, or even to believe that he has been told something when he has not… like when Nathan told David that God was with him in his desire to build the temple, when God had NOT said any such thing (2 Samuel 7). The disciples, however, were arguing THROUGH the Holy Spirit, not because they said so but because the BIBLE says so, and that is a VERY different thing altogether.

Agabus WAS probably told something to tell Paul, because Paul had not paid attention when the disciples told him, and the Holy Spirit was still trying to get him to listen, but Agabus got over-excited, or embroidered on it, or whatever, and ended up saying something specific that we can verify didn’t happen.

In any case, nothing in that situation counteracts what the disciples told Paul in the Spirit, leaving us with the inescapable and dismaying realization that Paul disobeyed the Holy Spirit. What does that mean for our study of the Bible? We need to remember that the only human being who has ever been infallible was JESUS, and that some of the things that Paul says, topics that Jesus didn’t cover, and especially where he doesn’t explicitly say that God told him something, need to be taken with a little bit of a grain of salt. How much of a grain of salt, how much of what he says this casts into doubt, is obviously up to your individual interpretation, or you might want to look up some articles on the subject and see what you think about what the experts have had to say. It’s a difficult and painful subject, but one that we as Christians should all be aware of and keeping in mind when we read Paul’s part of the New Testament.

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from JO’s sermon tonight:

we’ve all had times where we’ve seen God’s goodness: we weren’t feeling well, the medical report didn’t look good, but God turned it around, now we’re healthy and whole. or we lost a loved one, didn’t think we could go on, but God gave us strength, peace, and here we are stronger than ever. at one point, we were the patient, needed healing, restoration, favor; God made a way where we didn’t see a way.

we’re grateful that He brought us out, we know that was His goodness, but it’s not enough to just be a grateful former patient; you have to take it one step further, and go from patient to physician. you’ve been healed; now go help somebody else get healed. you broke the addiction; help someone else break their addiction. your son got back on course; go help that mother that’s struggling with her son, encourage her, speak life into her, let her know that God did it for you, and He can do it for her.

God didn’t heal you just so you could be well; He also healed you so you could become a healer. He didn’t bless you just so you could be blessed; He did it so you could become a blessing. He favored you so you could show other people favor, brought you through the loss, gave you a new beginning, so you could help others make it through their loss. it’s not enough to just bask in what God has done, thank Him for His goodness; you have a responsibility to help someone else in that same situation. you’re no longer the patient; you’ve become the physician.

some things you can’t fully understand by taking a class or reading a book. when you’ve been through the pain, loss, struggle, that experience gives you a unique perspective that others without it don’t have; they can’t fully appreciate it. when you’ve been through something, cancer treatment, divorce, loss, rough childhood, in one sense you’ve been given a gift; you are uniquely qualified to help someone else in that same situation. you know what it’s like; the pain, discouragement, battles they fight in their mind. you can help them in a way that others can’t. God has done it for you; don’t stay a grateful patient, become a physician. reach out to them. your encouragement carries more weight; you’re speaking from experience, you’ve been there.

Paul said in Corinthians, “the comfort we receive in our difficulties, we can share that same comfort with others in their time of need.” we all have something to give, because we’ve all been through things.

it doesn’t have to be something big, tragic. you made it through that tough course in college, worked hard, studied, that friend came over and helped you, you prayed and believed; you were the patient. it wasn’t easy, but God breathed on your efforts and you passed. now, maybe you have a friend in that same situation; they don’t understand it, they’re stressed, struggling. you’re no longer the patient; now, you’re the physician. God brought you out, not just for your sake, so you can shine, but so you can help somebody else shine. take time to mentor them; give them your notes, strategy, tips, send them an encouraging text, do what you can to help them pass.

every one of us has had experiences that qualify us to be the physician. God told Abraham, “I will bless you, and you shall be a blessing.” it infers, if you’re not going to be a blessing, then you’re not going to be blessed; the two are tied together. God is saying, “I will heal you if you’ll become a healer, I’ll free you if you help somebody else break that addiction, I’ll give you your dream if you’ll help other people accomplish their dreams. I’ll deliver you from being a patient if you’ll make a commitment to become a physician.”

it’s not only about being good to others; the way you’re going to keep your blessing is by being a blessing. the scripture says, “give, and it will be given to you.” if you’re not giving away what God has given you, that blessing is not going to continue in the way that it should. this is a reason some people don’t keep their healing; it’s not because they’re not grateful, it’s because they’re not helping anyone else. if you will give away healing, healing will always come back to you. God freed you from that addiction; if you want to stay free, go help somebody else get free. keep giving away what God has given you.

at one point, we were all the patient; lonely, fighting an illness, believing for a dream, working hard, being our best, and God made it happen. now, we’re blessed: we’re married, we’re well. we’re grateful, but we can’t stop there; we have a responsibility to help somebody else get well, get their promotion, spouse. we’ve switched from being the patient to becoming the physician; now, we’re looking for people we can lift, speak light to their darkness, healing to their brokenness, freedom to their strongholds. back then, we needed healing; now, we are the healer. we needed encouragement; now, we are the encourager. we needed a miracle; now we are their miracle. if you’ll let what God gives you flow through you, He’ll continue to give it to you.

but it’s tempting to think, “I’ve got a good job. I’m happily married; You’ve blessed me”; that’s going to cause us to get stagnant. if you’re not giving anything away, nothing new is going to come. whether or not you keep the blessing, healing, favor, influence, depends on what you do with it. when you’re always lifting people, encouraging someone, making their life better, blessings are always going to come to you. God knows that He can bless you if He knows He can trust you to take the restoration and share it with others.

I wonder if we’re not seeing healing, blessings, favor, increase, because we’re not committed to give it away. God is saying to us what he said to Abraham; “I will bless you if you will make a commitment to be a blessing. I will restore you, make the enemy pay, take what was meant for harm and turn it to your advantage, if you’ll help restore others.”

is God waiting for you to be a blessing, give away healing, encouragement, make somebody else better, then He’s going to take you to a level that you’ve never imagined?

in Luke 22, Jesus said to Peter, “Satan has tried to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith would not fail. when you have turned again, strengthen your brother.” Jesus was telling Peter that forces were trying to keep him from his destiny, but he prayed for him, and Peter was going to make it. then he said something significant; “when you have turned again” means, “when you come out of this trial, when you’re on the other side, blessed, free, restored,” you strengthen your brother. he was saying, “use what you’ve been through to help somebody else get stronger.”

every blessing, healing, breakthrough, was not designed just for you; it was to strengthen your brother. you would think Jesus would say, “Peter, when you get out, go to the temple and celebrate”; instead, he said, “when you come out, go strengthen someone.”

whatever God has brought you through, turned around, made happen that you couldn’t make happen, that’s an opportunity to strengthen someone. maybe you’ve been through a divorce, your heart was broken, you didn’t think you could go on, didn’t look like there were any good days up ahead; what you may not have realized is, like with Peter, Jesus was praying for you, that your faith would not fail.

it’s one thing to have people praying for you, that’s good, but the scripture says:

Romans 8:34 (NIRV)
34 Christ Jesus is at the right hand of God and is also praying for us.

you wonder how you made it through that tough time, loss, broke that addiction that seemed like it was permanent, here’s how; the Creator of the universe was praying for you.

we’ve all come through things that should have stopped us, seen good breaks that we couldn’t make happen, doors open that we couldn’t open, addictions broken that we couldn’t break on our own. now we’re on the other side; what’s our responsibility, what are we to do? strengthen someone: that person that has cancer, that friend that’s going through a divorce, that co-worker that’s fighting an addiction, that neighbor that’s lonely. we should live on a mission; I’m out to strengthen, encourage, help heal, somebody today. God’s brought me out; I’m not going to stay a grateful former patient, I’m going to become a physician. God blessed you, now help somebody else get blessed. God delivered you; why don’t you help them get delivered?

it’s ok to stay a patient for a little while; we all have difficulties, fight battles, need encouragement, people to lift us when we fall, carry us when we’re weak. there are seasons when we’re a patient, but when God turns it around, brings us out, now we’re blessed, healed, meet the right person, we need to shift into a different mode; looking for somebody to strengthen, bless, “I have a story to share, encouragement to give.” no more, “I need something, I’m a patient.” it’s not just a grateful mode, “God’s been good to me,” we have to shift into this physician mode; “who can I bless, help heal?” “my son was off course, God turned him around, Lord, thank You for that; now, where’s another son I can go after?” “where is somebody I can encourage?”

as long as you let the blessings keep flowing, the encouragement, being good to people, comforting them, helping them to overcome, then the blessings, healing will keep coming, the right people, joy, fulfillment. I’m not saying you won’t have difficulties, but as you give away what God’s given you, strengthen others, you will always have the strength that you need.

but sometimes, we can live ingrown, focused on ourselves. we’re grateful, we thank God for His goodness, but that’s not enough; that’s not going to cause it to sustain. the real test is, are you strengthening someone, taking time to encourage people, going out of your way to be good to them? maybe they need to be in an uplifting environment , and you go pick them up and bring them to church; you just strengthened your brother.

none of us got to where we are on our own; somebody encouraged you, brought you to church, took time to teach, train you, believed in you, took a chance and gave you a position, prayed for you. it may have been a great-great-great-grandmother; you’ve never even met them, but they were instrumental in you being where you are today. they helped you; why don’t you go out and help somebody else? keep giving away what God’s given you, and it will always come back.

can God trust you to be blessed? will you pass it on and be a blessing? can He trust you with healing; will you become a healer? can He trust you with influence, new levels, freedom? will you let what He gives you flow out to others? you may not realize it, but you’re a healer, lifter, encourager, blesser. as you strengthen your brothers/sisters, not only are they going to rise higher, but you’re going to rise higher, see new levels of blessing, healing, influence, favor, the fullness of your destiny.

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