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Monday, June 25, 2018

“Bulldog or Poodle, What’s Your Approach? ”The Difference in Approach is Based on Relationship! Approach Him Correctly to Access Him Thoroughly! ANYONE WHO WANTS TO APPROACH GOD MUST FIRST:

Hebrews 11:5-6, “By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. “They looked all over and couldn’t find him because God had taken him.” We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken “he pleased God.” It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because ANYONE WHO WANTS TO APPROACH GOD must first believe both that He exists and that He cares enough to respond to those who seek him.” (MSG)

This story is told of a bulldog and a poodle who were arguing one day (don’t laugh). The bulldog was making fun of the poodle, calling him a weak little runt who couldn’t do anything. The bulldog said, “I challenge you to a contest. Let’s see who can open the back door of their house the fastest and get inside.” The bulldog was thinking he would turn the doorknob with his powerful jaws, while the poodle was too small to even reach the knob of his back door. But to the bulldog’s surprise, the poodle said, “I can get inside my house faster than you can. I accept the challenge.” So with the poodle watching, the bulldog ran to the back door of his house and jumped up to the doorknob. He got his teeth and paws around it and tried with tremendous effort, force and strength, to turn it, but he couldn’t get enough grip on the knob to do it, so he finally quit in exhaustion. Now it was the poodle’s turn. But his approach to the challenge was a little different. You see, he just did what he’d been doing every day consistently for the last several years. He went up to the door and scratched a few of times, then waited patiently. Within a few seconds his master not only opened the door, but picked him up in his arms, patted him on the head affectionately, carried him inside and gave him a treat!

Moral of the Story: The Difference in Approach is Based on Relationship!

Truth is, some of us are ‘Bulldog Christians’. It’s all grunting and growling in our attempts to access God. We want to prove we’re more anointed, gifted, blessed, strong and powerful. We want to show our titles, positions, rings, robes, and crosses. We want to be elaborate in worship; loud in prayer; creative in praise; complicated in teaching; and theatrical in preaching. But the problem is that you can’t access God through such futile methods. In fact, getting to God has nothing to do with methods at all, just the right approach. And the right approach is laid out Clear, Plain and Simple in James: “… Come close to God and He will come close to you…” (James 4:8 NLV)Not all that complicated and dramatic now is it? 

In fact, as comical as it sounds, this approach is much like our poodle friend’s approach to his master. All he did was approach the door where he knew the access to his master could be found. He scratched a few times (as he had done every day, consistently over the years, which made it easy for his master to know who was at the door). After he did what he’s always done (that clearly worked for his master), he sat back and patiently waited knowing that his part of the relationship had been accomplished. And what happens next? His master (in a few seconds), not only opens the door to give the poodle access, but he also picks him up in his arms, pats him approvingly and affectionately on the head, carries him inside AND gives him a treat! This poodle knew how to access his master with the right approach that works, but do we?

Listen; when you take the time to develop your relationship with the Lord you’ll be amazed at how easily it is to have access to Him. You see, contrary to what we now see in many churches, God never requires favors, tricks, productions or performances. In fact, His Word says, “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.” (Matthew 6:1 MSG). God seeks for you to Embrace Him, not Entertain Him! 

Which means we can finally put a stop to turning the Church into a Circus! We don’t have to have clowns dressed in silly get-ups, theatrics, high-flying-acrobats, tricks, folks setting themselves on fire (and not with the Holy Ghost!) Neither do we need to have eloquence of speech, lofty words, long prayers, impressive resumes, unlimited initials, and extensive credentials. God’s presence is for believers, not Broadway performers. We do not need to put on a show trying to get God’s attention. Getting His attention is nowhere near this entertaining. We need only to humble ourselves and …Come close to God and He will come close to you…” No fireworks, no confetti, no horns, bells and whistles! God simply requires faith walkers in His church, not tight-rope walkers to entertain a Circus! 

Approach Him Correctly to Access Him Thoroughly!

I love the above story because the poodle also reminds me a lot of Isaiah’s description of the Messiah: “The servant grew up before God – a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum…” (Isaiah 53:2-6 MSG). Isn’t it amazing that the very ones we suspect have little or nothing to give, are usually the very ones God deliberately chooses to use to do great things!? Think about it: Just looking at the above description of Jesus, who would be excited to see Him? Who would look forward to anything He had to share, say, give or do? Who would be impressed by such a person? And yet, without Him, we’d have and would be absolutely nothing! My Father is glorified and honored by this when you bear much fruit, and prove yourselves to be My [true] disciples.” (AMP) And how do we benefit from this blessing? Simply by remaining in covenant, remaining near, remaining vitally united, remaining attached, remaining connected, remaining in Relationship! 

However, if we only went by Jesus’ appearance described in Isaiah, many of us would’ve run away from Him, instead of remaining attached to Him. And what a loss that would’ve been! You see, in a relationship with Him, there’s nothing we can’t do, without a relationship with Him, there is nothing we can do! 

Appearance is Never as Important as Approach! 

For instance, I’ve preached in churches where there was no more than 20 people, and the offering was $20 plus a sandwich! Yet, those were the churches that I felt God’s glory weigh in the heaviest! On the other-hand, I’ve also preached at larger churches, with a greater offering, even an elaborate lunch afterwards, and yet the house felt like Ichabod…1 Samuel 4:21-22, “The Chest of God gone, father-in-law dead, husband dead, she named the boy Ichabod (Glory’s-Gone), saying, “Glory is exiled from Israel since the Chest of God was taken.” (MSG) Sounds comical, and maybe even a little harsh, but sadly it’s the truth! Which is why I'd rather have 20 people with the glory of God than 2,000 with just a form of godliness, with no power! I reiterate, 

Appearance is Never as Important as Approach!

I don’t know about you, but I’m so grateful that God doesn’t look at my outer appearance and pass judgment on me either: But GOD told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. GOD judges people differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; GOD looks into the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 MSG). 

Sidebar: Before you judge that little store-front church, be careful, it may very well be the dwelling place of God’s glory, a people with a heart of pure and true worship who know how to approach God and access heaven’s bounty!
Now, this is going to hurt some ego’s, but truth is, our looks and appearances don’t move God. Our haughtiness does not attract His attention. Humility is what gets to the heart of God: “Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, BE HUMBLE. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless – that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing. Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, Here’s what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; Snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth. GOD LOOKS ON ALL THIS WITH APPROVAL, LISTENING AND RESPONDING WELL TO WHAT HE’S ASKED; But he turns his back on those who do evil things.” (1 Peter 3:8-12 MSG). That’s how you get God’s attention, access and approval! By being agreeable, sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and humble. Is this your approach to God? Are you the poodle who receives His bounty or the bulldog He turns His back on?

In a nutshell, you can’t force your way as a bulldog, you must instead humble your way as a poodle. Remember this: Your conduct says a lot about you, so make sure yours is saying something you would want everyone, including God, to hear.

Back to the above story, even though the poodle didn’t look like much of a competitor, in the end, he still won! And he didn’t do it by force, but by relationship. His consistency got the attention of his master. You see, just seconds after scratching on the door, his master responded. With that said, maybe it’s a good time to re-exam our prayer life too while we’re at it. Are we going to God with a long to-do-list for Him to accomplish immediately? Or have we learned to enter into prayer with praise, worship, thanksgiving, and gratitude because of the continual kindness of our Master? Have we learned to lay at His feet just to hear His voice? Have we learned to enter into prayer without speech, just open ears, a softened heart and a ready spirit to receive? Do we spend so much time coming Boldly before the throne of Grace, that we don’t take the time to Listen to Grace speak?

Truth is, you can’t bully your way into heaven, or into the presence of the Lord. It’s a humble journey. Just look at the poodle, all he did was get his master’s attention and his master did the rest! He scratched and patiently waited. His master opened the door, picked him up, rubbed him affectionately as he carried him inside and gave him a treat! And when you look at the challenge, the poodle received more than the initial challenge! All he was to do was get inside the fastest. But when you take time to know your master, and your master learns you, through your consistent approach, you will always get more than you bargained for! Not only did the poodle get in the house first, but the master opened the door for him, picked him up, and embraced him affectionately with treats.

Look at it like this: No one in a relationship forces romance or intimacy. It’s a smooth, slow process. Little step, by little step, small sentiments of affection are shown. And the more consistent it’s done, the closer you become. All God is looking for is for you to care for Him in a like manner. Come close to Him in prayer, and not only speak to Him, but be quiet and listen to Him. Come close to Him in praise, show Him that you love Him enough to celebrate Him. Come close to Him in worship, after all, nothing shows the value of His Worth to you like acts of worship. Come close to Him by reading and believing His Word. 

Like anybody in a relationship you want to be trusted, and the other person likewise wants to be trusted. And when we come to God like this do you know what it does to His heart to know His children come near to Him, not for stuff and things, but because they want to, they need to, they desire to. They want to be in His presence because they trust Him with everything that’s going on in their lives. And truthfully, there are many relationships that have love, but not trust! How wonderful it must make God to feel in knowing that His children don't just love Him, but they also trust Him?!

You see, to get the attention of the Master, and to enter His presence does not take force, just humility. A humility that says, I have nothing to worry about, because my Master’s got me covered! Wherever I need to get into, He’ll open the door; when I’ve fallen, He’ll pick me up; when I’ve been put out, He’ll bring me back in; when I feel abandoned and rejected, He’ll embrace me in His arms; and no matter what I could possibly ask Him for, He’s always going to supersede my request! How do you not love on a God like that? Today, love on God by approaching Him in a loving manner. And when you’ve gotten His attention by coming near to Him, wait patiently. He’ll come the rest of the way to you. He’ll pick you up. He’ll embrace you affectionately and He will fulfill His own Word: …Come close to God AND HE WILL COME CLOSE TO YOU…

Remember: God does not require fireworks, pushing, shoving, or displays of grandeur. He’s not deaf and does not require you screaming, shouting, yelling and hollering! He doesn’t need tricks and treats. He doesn’t need to be entertained or performed for. He doesn’t need theatrics from the drama ministry. He doesn’t need flattery. He doesn’t need to be impressed. He doesn’t need a show. He doesn’t need you to approach Him as noisily as possible trying to garner His attention. No, in fact, we can come to Him, just as He comes to us: “Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before GOD. GOD will pass by.” A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before GOD, but GOD wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but GOD wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but GOD wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.” (1 Kings 19:11-12 MSG). You do not need to bulldoze or bulldog your way into the presence of God. Simply humble yourself and quietly enter His presence. He’ll hear you and you’ll most certainly hear Him.

Be quiet and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10 NLV). Saints, there’s no need to be loud and shout; there’s no need for dramatics; there’s no need for lights, camera, action! God does not require a performance. So, no more bulldog mentality. Just be consistent in your relationship with the Lord. And as you continually come close to Him, He will continually come close to you. You don’t have to do back flips, scream, yell, perform or entertain. Just quietly come before the Lord, and He’ll meet you there. Think about it: If He’s speaking in a “…quiet whisper…” how are you supposed to hear Him if you’re yelling, screaming, and hollering? His quiet whisper is low, so it serves you no purpose to be loud, especially if the whole point is to get His attention, His access, and His approval.

So, now what are some ways we can ‘poodle-approach’ God? Clearly, one way is by faith! If we want to please God, we have to do so, by faith! “…It’s impossible to please God apart from faith…” That’s how you approach God, knowing that He’s in full control and that there is absolutely nothing He cannot handle! Therefore Saints, approach God by faith; but also approach Him in praise! Psalm 22:3-4, “for You are holy. The praises of our fathers surrounded your throne; they trusted you and you delivered them.” (TLB) As big as God is, can you imagine a people offering Him praise so big that they could only describe it by “THE PRAISES OF OUR FATHERS SURROUNDED YOUR THRONE…” That’s how big our praise for God should be! God, we want our praises to You to be so big, that it’s described as surrounding Your throne! 

Talk about getting God’s attention! Remember: He inhabits (dwells in, lives in, abides in, resides in, occupies) the praises of His people! So, come near to God in praise so that He can fully occupy the space you’ve set aside just for Him in your life! Approach God using His Word! Jeremiah 1:12, “I am alert and active, watching over My word to perform it.” (AMPC) Another translation reads, “…I’ll make every word I give you come true.” (MSG) God grants us permission to bring back to Him every word He has spoken to us, for He alone promised to full it; perform it; and make sure every word comes true! That’s why we can approach God with His Word, no matter what we’re going through. For instance, Father, this is what the doctor said, but YOU said, by Jesus’ stripes I am healed! Father, my bank account is empty, but YOU said you would supply my every need! Father, our marriage is in trouble, but YOU said You hate divorce. Father, our children aren’t living right, but YOU said train them up in the way they should go and they will not depart from it. Father, this situation has me fearful, but YOU said you did not give me the spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. Father, sometimes I feel so unloved, but YOU said You loved me first and Your perfect love casts out all fear. Are you getting this folks? This is how we are to approach God using His Word! Also, approach God in worship! John 4:23, “But a time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him.” (CEV) How amazing! When we seek God in spirit and in truth, in return, HE SEEKS FOR US! Sounds a lot like His, “come near to God, and He will come near you.” Now, we’ve talked about us approaching God, but when we worship, God approaches us! Yes, that’s the way to live before God! In addition, Approach God in prayer according to His will! 1 John 5:14-15, “This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us. And if we know [for a fact, as indeed we do] that He hears and listens to us in whatever we ask, we [also] know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted to us] the requests which we have asked from Him.” (AMP)

People of God, Appearance Will Never Be as Important as Approach! 

Therefore, determine not to worry about how you look or sound, just approach God with Humility! And do so with consistency. You can have all the access to God you desire, but you have to get your approach right! No more bulldog, you don’t force a relationship with anyone and expect it to work! Poodle approach instead, a few scratches of faith, praise, worship, word, His Will and prayer, then wait patiently for your Master! He’s not only going to give you Access but He’s going to give you Abundance!


J.P. Olson

Monday, June 18, 2018

Surviving Disappointments. You're Disappointed With Those You Look Up To. Disappointed In Those You Live With. Disappointed In Those You Work With & Depend On & In Those You’ve Poured Your Life Into.

Proverbs 13:12, “Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a…good break can turn life around.”

If you’re still living—then disappointment is inevitable! With that said, here are some examples to help you when:

1.. You are Disappointed With Those You Look Up To: Think of Samuel and Eli (1 Samuel 1-4). Samuel’s mother entrusted her child to Eli the High Priest, confident he’d mentor and prepare him for God’s service. But Eli had a serious character flaw! He was a weak, passive parent who stood by while his own sons abused their priestly privilege, bringing shame and disrepute to the family and ministry! There’s a very befitting quote that says, “He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk.” I believe it’s fair to say that Eli was “…only taking a walk.” I mean with a “mentor” like Eli, who’d have even blamed young Samuel for taking a nose dive right into the very heart of immorality, when the man he looked up to failed him so badly?! But no, instead he fielded his disappointment and kept his eyes on God: The Bible says, “…Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him.” (1 Samuel 3:19). And as a result, God turned him into one of Israel’s Greatest Prophets! Henry Ward Beecher accurately stated: “Ones best success comes after their greatest disappointment.” Well Done Samuel, Well Done! So, how are we to deal with the disappointment we feel in those we look up to, that let us down? Because it’s bound to happen at some point in life. Whether it’s a parent, clergy, family, friend, business associate, spouse, governmental official, etc, we are bound to be let down by those we look up to. But does that give us license to lower our standards because they didn’t raise theirs? Absolutely Not! Samuel grew and the Lord was with him. You see, even when Eli messed up his Role, Samuel maintained his Character. He never attacked Eli, he didn’t bash him, he didn’t talk about him, he didn’t spread rumors, lies, gossip or even Truth about him. No, Samuel just lived the life of a good leader, which reminds us that we can point fingers and lay blame, but where does that get us, even if we’re in the right?! The better bet is to take the high road. Live right, think right, speak right, behave right, no matter how wrong your surroundings or the people in them. So the next time someone you look up to let’s you down, keep them in prayer and be a mirror to them showing them the reflection of what good (not perfect) looks like. Why? Because Eli died and missed out, but the person you look up to doesn’t have to. So, share your heart with them gently and honestly, then whether they agree or disagree, you move onward showing everyone that you can learn a good lesson from a bad example! Don't judge them, just refuse to make their same errors in judgment. You can do it, I know you can!

2. You’re Disappointed In Those You Live With: If anyone wouldn’t let you down, surely it would be your family, right? Wrong! Just ask young Joseph. When his father favors him and God promised him a big dream you’d think his own blood brothers would celebrate him, and celebrate with him! But instead they responded with jealousy, anger, spite, bitterness, ridicule and resentment, while dropping him in a pit, then selling him into slavery! Far from friends and home he languished in prison for a crime he didn’t commit! What an invitation to bitterness, and an opportunity to rehearse the wrongs done him while plotting his revenge. But if he’d done that, he’d have died an innocent, unknown convict in a foreign jail! Instead he allowed God to vindicate him, using his circumstances to position, prepare and promote him to being Egypt’s Prime Minister—now that’s how you deal with disappointment! Robert Kiyosaki said: “The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.” Well Done Joseph, Well Done! So, how do you deal with family, your own blood; that stabs you in the back? What happens when the attack is from an assailant under your own roof? What do you do when it’s your sibling that drops you in the pit, or your cousin that sells you out, or your auntie that lands you behind bars?! How do you recover when it was a relative that inflicted the hurt?! You do as Joseph did, you trust God throughout the entire process! Nowhere do we read that Joseph cried out 'why me God'; he didn’t blame dad for not being there to protect him; he didn’t retaliate against the cup-bearer who forgot him; he didn’t get angry with the whole world and try to issue his own form of the big payback. As he went from disaster to disaster God never left his side. In every bad, God produced something good. Now, is it easy, especially when it’s blood, to just trust the vindication and vengeance to God alone, no! But it’s the best way to handle it, to put what you will mishandle in the hands of God! In the end, those same relatives had to come and bow before Joseph, will that happen with you, probably not, but isn’t it worth it to trust God and let Him work? Maybe, just maybe, you’ll at least get the apology and more importantly, you’ll get the reconciliation. Saints, take the high road my friends, even when it’s family that’s trying to drive you off course!

3. You’re Disappointed In Those You Work With And Depend On: To succeed, you need people; you can’t make it without them! And when those people fail you, it’s painful. Imagine Moses’ disappointment. He leaves his brother Aaron in charge while he attends a summit conference with God and receives the Ten Commandments. Returning, he finds Israel in anarchy, idolatry and unspeakable perversion! And where’s Aaron you ask? Leading the Rebellion! When Moses needs him Most, Aaron fails him Miserably! But watch Moses; true leadership shines even in darkest of disappointment! He confronts Aaron, takes the mess to God for resolution, and prays forgiveness for Israel! God listens, then reminds Moses of his assignment! [It’s disappointing, Moses, but…] – “…go, lead the people…my angel will go before you…” (Exodus 32:34 NIV). People of God, disappointment doesn’t cancel your assignment—nor does it close the door on God’s presence! So, go forth, even in the midst of disappointment, and do what He sent you to do! “Man must be disappointed with the lesser things of life before he can comprehend the full value of the greater.” (Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton). Well Done Moses, Well Done! So leaders, dare I even ask if you’ve ever been disappointed by your leaders? Surely you have, many of us have. But that doesn’t mean you disown them; you don’t give up on them; you don’t give them the cold shoulder; you don’t attempt to replace them; you don’t ignore them; and certainly you don’t retaliate tit-for-tat with them! No, you follow Moses’ example. Take the issue before God! Let Him tell you how to handle it, not your ‘inner circle’; not your clique; not your buddies and pals; not people you know don’t like them; and certainly you don’t attempt to get back at them from over the pulpit! Moses took the issue he had with Aaron his leader, to God. And God could’ve told Moses get rid of Aaron, you don’t need him, you’re the key person to this assignment anyhow. No, He simply tells Moses to not focus on the attack but on his assignment, …go, lead the people…my angel will go before you…” Leaders, I do not have to tell you just how difficult it is to lead people, especially those who are stiff-necked, hard headed and rebellious! But do you get to retaliate? Nope! You are still held accountable for your leadership, your life and lifestyle and your responses to offense. Your character and integrity must remain intact. You must still be above reproach, even when those you lead keep falling under it! Yes, the disappointment hurts, but you can’t let the wound infect your assignment. Do what Moses did, take it to God, receive His directives, and continue on. Why? Because God said, …go, lead the people…” which means others will be affected by how you respond when disappointed. Don’t let childish immaturity be the only way your followers can describe your leadership. Handle it, rise above it and keep moving the people forward! Don't mess up your ministry because you're mad!

4. You’re Disappointed In Those You’ve Poured Your Life Into: Let’s check in again with Moses, Founding Pastor of the First Church of the Critical and the Ungrateful, a congregation of former slaves, delivered, abundantly blessed, en route to the Promised Land, but without a shred of loyalty or gratitude for the man who put everything on the line to make it all possible! Fresh out of Egypt they turn on Moses, accusing, blaming and berating him (Exodus 14). Was Moses disappointed and hurt by it? Sure, who wouldn’t be?! But each time he wanted to quit he’d discuss it with God, pray for his complaining flock, receive fresh orders from headquarters and return to work! It’s what “God-Called” men and women do when they’re disappointed and feel like giving up! “If you use disappointments as sort of mid-semester exams, for learning, you will learn that every disappointment you overcome makes you stronger—and wiser. The greatest success stories have been lived by those who had to grow strong and wise in that very way.” (Loretta Young). Once Again, Well Done Moses, Well Done! Leaders, once again I want to encourage you, because it’s not easy to take one vision and try to get an entire house to see and follow it. I know it would be absolutely wonderful to have the whole house on the same page, however, realistically, our churches are family trees with a whole lot of mixed nuts! One person wants the school; the other person thinks the school won’t work; the other person doesn’t mind a school, but doesn’t like the blueprint of the school, and all the while you wish you could throw all of them in detention and keep building the vision by yourself. But unfortunately pastors, it doesn’t quite work out that way. We’re apart of One body with many members, and every member is vital to the health and well being of the whole. So even when it seems like you can’t get one good solid supporter, remember you always have God and with Him you are in the majority! Moses led a frustrated, frustrating bunch of complainers, but did he throw in the towel? No, and neither will you. Like it or not, but you will pour even more of your life into the people, and some of them have eternal leaks, but that’s not your problem! Their capacity is for God to handle, you simply pour of yourself into them. God Will Never Allow You To Dry Out And Die, He Will Continue To Replenish You, His Chosen Vessel of Honor. Therefore, Understand That Disappointment Will Visit, But Don’t Let It Move In! Stay the course, God’s got you!  

Now take a moment and look at 1 Samuel 15:10-12, “…God spoke to Samuel: “I’m sorry I ever made Saul king. He’s turned his back on me. He refuses to do what I tell him.” Samuel was angry when he heard this. He prayed his anger and disappointment all through the night…” (MSG). As already stated, if you’re still living—disappointment is inevitable! But might I add, it’s not ‘Impregnable’, which means ‘Unable To Overcome’You see, when anger and disappointment threatened Samuel, he fought back in Prayer! If you’re smart, you’ll do the same! Disappointment only delivers a death blow to those who don’t fight back! You can literally read those verses and feel Samuel’s anger, after all, do you know how mad you have to be to pray angry and disappointed…All Through the Night?! But sometimes prayer is the best thing, because when you’re hurt, angry and disappointed, your mouth runs faster than your mind. So you have a tendency to say some things that you meant to say and a whole more that you didn’t! But when you empty all of that out to God in prayer, He’s a master-sorter, He knows how to pick through that prayer for what’s really needed. Therefore, no matter how great the disappointment, take it to God FIRST in prayer, even if you have to enter your prayer closet hurt, disappointed, bitter, angry, confused, rejected, abandoned, used, betrayed, lied on, suicidal, take it all to God in prayer, even if that prayer will last long into the night! Thank God, He never sleeps or slumbers! Take it to Him, then rest in Him, knowing He’s going to bring something good, out of your something bad!

Now, we’ve talked about disappointment with those we look up to; those we live with; those we work with and depend on and those we’ve poured our life into. But, there’s one last disappointment I want us to dig into, and that’s: 

5.. DISAPPOINTMENT IN OURSELVES! It’s potentially the most debilitating kind of disappointment because it can throw you into a downward spiral that’s hard to stop or recover from! Rollo May said: “Depression is the inability to construct a future.” And for most of us, who can tell the whole truth, we’ve had so many little disappointments along the way that we can’t even fathom a pencil-sketch of a big future!  Well, there’s an even better quote that I want you to hold on to by Albert Ellishe said: “You largely Construct your depression. It wasn’t given to you. Therefore, You can Deconstruct it.” You see, mounting disappointments are a map with all directions pointing towards the destination of depression! But remember, anything you can CONSTRUCT, you can also DECONSTRUCT, or ‘cause the destruction of”. The other definition I like is, "to dismantle and expose the workings of." If you've built up and constructed disappointments in your life, you can also grab your toolkit and deconstruct those same disappointments. Take them apart, dismantle them and expose the works behind them, so you can ensure that what worked before in building that disappointment, won't ever work again! And even if “YOU” brought the discouragement, disappointment and depression on yourself, there is still a way to recover! JUST ASK PETER! Peter had sworn undying love and fidelity to Jesus.Lord, everybody else may abandon you, but not me! I’m yours till death.” (Read—Matthew 26:33-75). And he meant every word of it! But under the pressures surrounding the crucifixion, he yields, and three times denies knowing Jesus. Later, remembering Jesus’ words, “Before the rooster crows, you’ll deny me three times,Peter, heartbroken BY HIS OWN DISMAL FAILURE, “went outside and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:62 NIV).

Have you ever been there, asking: “God, how can You possibly use someone as messed up as me? I lost the job; I flunked out of school; I had this baby out of wedlock; I have a prison record; I fell off the wagon again; I’ve destroyed my finances; my health is falling apart; my marriage is on life support and we’re both ready to pull the plug; I can’t even remember the last time I prayed or fasted or studied Your word; I can’t remember the last time my hands clapped, my feet danced or praise was on my lips and worship in my spirit. Lord my family is a feuding mess; the loans were denied; the bills are about to drown my; there’s so much to pray for regarding my kids, I don’t even know where to start; my parents are getting sicker; God I can’t get two sentences to make sense in my head, Lord, why are you still trying to use me?! 

Listen, Peter failed to meet his own expectations, but Jesus was never shocked! He was well aware of Peter’s flaws when He called him into the ministry. He knew that His blustering, outspoken disciple had a tender heart, so He extended grace to him rather than remove him from office! And as disqualified as you may feel from all of your disappointments in life, God is not going to remove you from office or your assignment either!  

So, Yes, You Can Recover Even From Disappointment In Yourself! Never forget, God is the Master Potter, and no matter how many times we His clay become marred in His hands, He never throws us away! We’re never discarded! He simply molds us again into another vessel He can use again. So let up on yourself! If you think you’ve ruined God’s purpose and plan for your life because of your screw ups, you clearly have underestimated God’s love, care, protection and provision for you! You are not strong enough on your worst day to dismantle God’s assignment on your life! Neither your mistakes nor your deliberate, willful sin, can hinder what God has for you!  So know this, today is the day you forgive yourself and determine to be better today than you were yesterday, and better tomorrow than you’ll be today! Every day He gives you brand new mercies, and not so you can keep going over old disappointments. 

Friends, if last night wasn’t your LAST night, God still has much in store for you! So stop beating yourself up, sometimes God uses our greatest disappointments as reappointments to life and ministry! He hasn’t given up on you, so don’t give up on yourself! It’s a new day, make a renewed you, and fulfill your purpose in life! God is waiting to hand you your next assignment, now get back to work! 

J.P. Olson

Monday, June 11, 2018

In Spite Of What You Face As A Struggle, It’s Important That You Learn How To Put Your Praise In Place So Your Problem Doesn’t Knock You Out Of Position. No Matter How Low Life May Take You, Never Allow It To Lower Your Praise!

Daniel 2:19, “…and then Daniel praised the God of heaven…” (TLB)

Now, if you were to ask my husband or children they would be the first to say I am a big kid! And truth be told, I unapologetically admit, they’re absolutely right! And one of the things that bring out the kid in me most is riding those glass elevators that are found in some hotels. For some reason, when it’s a glass elevator, I don’t feel quite so restricted or confined because I can see beyond where I am currently. You know how it goes, you get in on the main floor and then you ascend to the top floor, all the time you're watching the big things in the lobby become the small things in the lobby. And the limited view you had down there, suddenly turns into a panoramic view up here. I mean we're talking about going from the lobby to the observation deck in a matter of seconds; rising scores of floors in less time than it takes to place some phone calls! For instance at 9:32, you're down in the lobby or even the basement, but by 9:33, you're looking out over the entire city – and all because of an elevator! 

You see, elevators have a funny way of changing your perspective (which is the particular way you view something, the height, width, depth, length and distance of it), your prospective (which is what is expected or likely to happen or be in the future) and even your posture (which is the particular way a body is positioned, the way in which a person holds their body, to look down, to look up and most importantly to look out, over and beyond)!

And not that we don’t know it, but the word “elevator” is defined as “a platform or compartment housed in a shaft for raising and lowering people or things.” And in Daniel’s case, his praise elevator raised him up!

But before we get to Daniel, let's face it, we all have some days when we feel like we're stuck in the basement, right? The view isn't very inspiring and neither is the situation we're in. It's dark, it's lonely, it's gloomy, it's hard, it's depressing. We’re low in funds, low in joy, low in peace, low in confidence, low in health, low in marriage, low in singlehood, low in dealing with the battles of raising children, low in dealing with coworkers and even low while sitting in the pew next to our brothers and sisters in Christ, Sunday after Sunday! There are simply some moments in life when we’re held in bondage in the basement, instead of breaking through the ceiling!

Well, the good news is that there is no basement so deep or so gloomy that you have to stay there, because there’s an elevator just waiting to take you up and out!

In essence, it's the spiritual elevator many of God's leaders in the Bible knew about - like Daniel, for example. He's a top advisor to the most powerful man in the world, King Nebuchadnezzar. All of the king's pagan advisors have been unable to meet his demand, and they tell him they don't know what his disturbing dream meant. Of course, he'd also asked them to tell him what the dream was. But nobody could do that either. So he sentences them to death - a sentence that applies even to Daniel, even though he wasn't there! So Daniel is literally staring at being executed for no reason at all! Talk about a dark basement!

However, he doesn’t become weary, he doesn’t panic, he doesn’t freak-out, he doesn’t start crying. So what does he do? Well, as any wise man (or woman) would, he recruits his spiritual brothers! 

Daniel 2:16-17, “So Daniel went in to see the king. “Give me a little time,” he said, “and I will tell you the dream and what it means.” Then he went home and told Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions” (TLB).
First things first, he lets the king know, oh it won’t end like this, at least not for me! And sometimes you need to speak to the very person, place or thing that is attempting to snuff out your life, that it won’t go down like that, not today, and not for me! I know what I’m facing is tough, but I refuse to just lay down and die! Just give me a little time, I’m about to put a strategy in place that can’t fail! This is designed to take me down, but I’m coming up and out! 

Listen: Don’t you dare just accept situations or attacks for their face value. Hit it head on! Don’t cower, don’t run, don’t give up, don’t get depressed…Strategize! That’s what Daniel did! It was time for a step of faith, not a stumble in fear! 2 Timothy 1:7, "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control]." (AMP). I reiterate, this is a time to take a step of faith, not a stumble in fear!

'Just give me a little time…' And what does Daniel do in that little time? He gets Reinforcements! However, it’s important to note, that he only called three of them. Sounds a lot like Jesus with His inner circle of Peter, James and John. Which means we really need to be careful when going into spiritual battle (even battles we face in the natural) in making sure that we call for the right troops. We need to make sure that when we call in reinforcements, we call the right people! Proverbs 11:14, "Where there is no [wise, intelligent] guidance, the people fall [and go off course like a ship without a helm], But in the abundance of [wise and godly] counselors there is victory." (AMP). Know that everybody who says they’re praying for you, are not! Not everyone asking about your situation cares that you get out of it, some just want to make sure you’re still in it! That’s why discernment and wisdom are necessities, not options when you're gathering troops to go into battle! 

Listen: You only need to take those IN, who can help bring you OUT! But how do you know you’ve selected the right people? Let’s continue reading: “They asked the God of heaven to show them His mercy by telling them the secret, so they would not die with the others. And that night in a vision God told Daniel what the king had dreamed.” (vss. 18-19)

Daniel didn’t just call any group of men, he called the ones he knew would immediately intercede! “They asked the God of heaven…” Are those the first people you call? If it’s not, you need to change your strategy if you plan to win! Notice, they don’t hold a long conversation with Daniel, they don’t offer him options or their opinions. They don’t find some other brothers to talk about the mess involving Daniel and the king. No, they go straight into intercession, talking to no one but God! They don’t ask Daniel how he feels about it, they don’t question him at all. He called for them, they came to him, then they went to God! If you don’t have reinforcements like this, find them, today!

Something else to note, the 3 men asked God to show “THEM” His mercy by telling “THEM” the secret. But the answer to what they asked goes like this: “…And that night in a vision GOD TOLD DANIEL what the king had dreamed…” They asked for God to show “THEM” but God told “DANIEL”. Note: You need intercessors that can intercede without jealousy or competition! They could have responded, “God WE came to you in intercession so you would reveal it to US”…but they were just fine with Daniel receiving the answer…ALONE. Some people pose as your teammates, when they're really your opponents! Choose these people wisely!

People of God, surround yourself with people who will not be so busy competing with you that they can’t help you win. It didn’t matter if it was revealed to Daniel alone, as long as the revelation came the inner circle was fine! And when it did, listen to Daniel’s response: “…Then Daniel praised the God of heaven…” 

Before Daniel even goes to the king, remember, his life as well as the lives of others were already at stake, so if you think anything like me, you may respond with, “Daniel, now may not be the most opportune time to go into a praise break…maybe you should talk to the king first” But, in Daniel’s case, that’s exactly what he did first, he talked to the KING! 

See, the problem with us is that we let fear supersede our faith! But even in the midst of having his life at risk, Daniel stops to praise God first! He has a problem, God provides the solution, but before Daniel applies the solution, he praises God first! If that’s not how you’ve handled it in the past, handle it like that in the present and in the future!

Truth is, we have to reach a place of trust, reliance, dependence, and faith in God where our circumstances don’t alter our praise! We need to allow our praise to be the evidence that we trust God’s outcome, before we even come out! We need our situations, trials and struggles to see that we walk by faith, even when that walk takes us through the valley’s of the shadows of death! And so Daniel is our example of celebrating God for Victory before the Battle is even over! ‘Don’t Wait Till the Battle is Over, Shout Now!’

Listen to the rest of the text: “…saying, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for He alone has all wisdom and all power. World events are under His control. He removes kings and sets others on their thrones. He gives wise men their wisdom and scholars their intelligence. He reveals profound mysteries beyond man’s understanding. He knows all hidden things, for He is light, and darkness is no obstacle to Him. I thank and praise You, O God of my fathers, for You have given me wisdom and glowing health, and now even this vision of the king’s dream and the understanding of what it means.” (TLB)

Daniel steps into the spiritual elevator that takes him from the basement of his circumstances to the penthouse of his awesome God! That elevator is called "Praise!" Now, you would think that finally receiving a solution to his problem would make him run to the king, but he had to praise his King first! And people of God, so do you! 

In Daniel 2, beginning with verse 19, the Bible declares, "Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His. He changes the times and seasons and sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise...He reveals deep and hidden things...and light dwells with Him..." 

See, Daniel rises from the basement of a dangerous and impossible situation to the penthouse view from the Throne Room of the Most High God! And everything looks different from there! Please know that as you rise higher on an elevator, what seemed so close and so big and so overwhelming (when you were on the same level as it), starts to shrink in size the higher you go up! The higher you go up, the smaller it gets, the higher you go up the further away from you it gets! Which is why it’s so vital that you learn how to rise from low places! Yes, it hurts, yes it’s confusing, yes it’s aggravating and frustrating, yes it’s caused you some night’s sleep, yes you’ve even worried, fretted and had panic attacks because of it, but that’s only because you stayed on the same level as it for far too long! When life’s attacks come at you and attempt to snuff out your life, start elevating! You don’t stay on the same level as your issues. 

Leave them right where they are and you shift your perspective, prospective and posture! Walk by faith and not by sight; began singing, dancing, clapping, praising and worshiping God! Sink into the depths of His Word where you will be reminded of His power, providence, sovereignty, provision, promises and protection! Began to speak His Words of Life, no matter the danger of death that is near! Walk like you know He is still the lifter up of your head and that He’s placed your feet like hinds’ feet on high places! Straighten your back and square off your shoulders. Put on the whole armor of God and get ready to do battle and win! Even when your situation and circumstances don’t change, you have to! You never stay on levels beneath the privilege of a Child of God!

Now, one of the secrets of peace in the midst of great stress, of poise when everything is up for grabs, of perspective when you could be flippin' out - the secret is to start celebrating the kind of God you have! Remember, you enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, not just with prayer requests. The great prayers of the Bible are like two-thirds about the greatness of God and maybe one-third about the need. When you start telling God the things about Him that you love, the things He's done that you're grateful for, that anxiety in your heart starts to ebb and the peace in your heart starts to grow. You realize that the size of the situation and the size of the need don't change the size of your God at all! The size of your situation will never change the dimensions of your God! What may be too big for you, will never be too big for Him! With Him all things are possible, and they are likewise possible for you too because He’s already told you that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you! So stop listening to the words of your adversary, and start listening to the words of your Advocate! He’s fighting with you and for you, you will not lose! He ALWAYS Causes Us to Triumph!

In the midst of danger, Daniel still paused to take a praise and thank break! And so should you! Daniel could have complained, started to stress out, flip out and worry. Or do like many of us do, and try to design back-up plans just in case God doesn’t show up on our timetable! But no! His very life is in danger, and yet he doesn’t panic, he simply presses pause so he can give God praise!

And how does such a response end for Daniel? Listen to what happens after Daniel praises God, then shares the dream and revelation with the king:
Daniel 2:46-49, “When Daniel finished, King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face in awe before Daniel. He ordered the offering of sacrifices and burning of incense in Daniel’s honor. He said to Daniel, “Your God is beyond question the God of all gods, the Master of all kings. And he solves all mysteries, I know, because you’ve solved this mystery.” Then the king promoted Daniel to a high position in the kingdom, lavished him with gifts, and made him governor over the entire province of Babylon and the chief in charge of all the Babylonian wise men. At Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to administrative posts throughout Babylon, while Daniel governed from the royal headquarters.” (MSG)

How’s that for taking a praise elevator from the basement to the penthouse?! Everyone in your situation, everything in your situation looks different from God's penthouse perspective. You'll see the people differently. You'll see possibilities you haven't seen before. You'll have ideas you haven't had before. You'll have the peace that you couldn't have otherwise.

That is the power of praise - the elevator that takes you from the "basement" of earth-stuff to the "penthouse" of your awesome God! Daniel and his reinforcements, go from having their lives in danger to governing and administrating in the royal headquarters!

In spite of what you face as a struggle, it’s important that you learn how to put your praise in place so your problem doesn’t knock you out of position, but promotes you in it! 

J.P. Olson