Sunday, December 29, 2013

What do YOU find the most difficult about.....

Two ears sometimes doesn't seem
enough anymore to HEAR all that's
going on in our world!
LISTENING....

This world has certainly gotten very noisy hasn't it?   Radio brought conversations and entertainment into our worlds without people needing to actually be present.  After that television brought the whole world into our homes.  With all the newest technology, we're being "talked to" even when no one is opening their mouth! Through text and email and social media status updates, it seems everyone has a voice and is trying to make it heard regularly and loudly.  It all competes fiercely for our attention.


Does God have a voice?  In all the noise you are listening to are you giving an ear to hear the Creator talk to you?  I don't mean through someone else or even something else.  I am asking if you are listening for God Almighty's voice?


God speaks to us regularly. Take a look in the Bible.  There He is, talking, talking, TALKING!  And then He tells us clearly that He is the SAME yesterday, today and forever.  He does not change.  Therefore, He has not stopped talking to His people.  The competition for attention has certainly intensified, requiring laser focus on the vital question; Are we listening?


When the Prophet Elijah had carried out Gods instructions and was now sought by the King of Israel and his lovely bride Queen Jezebel so they could put him to death, he went off to a quiet place by himself where he could seek counsel from God.  Read all of I Kings 19 for a full picture, for our purposes, I will summarize.


He sat under a juniper tree and began to pray.  God heard and sent an Angel to minister to him.  Then he made a request of the Lord, to hear what God would say.


I Kings 19: 12  And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a STILL SMALL VOICE.


That's God.  So big, so powerful, so confident that He doesn't need to arrive in flashy style.  He comes quietly, certainly, surely and speaks into our hearts answers to the situations and concerns of our lives.  He still speaks to His people. When we quiet all the competing noises we'll hear Him.  Psalm 46:10  BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.


What do YOU find the most difficult about LISTENING FOR THE LORDS VOICE?

For me, it's letting go of the fear I'll miss something happening in "my world" and staying in that still place long enough to hear the only voice I truly need to listen to.

OBEDIENCE......


In our Fellowship Gathering this past week, we explored the difficulty many of us struggle with in being obedient to the simple and straight forward things God has told us to do.  We agreed that His commands were actually very beneficial to us and that obeying them ALWAYS turned out for our good!  We talked about several situations where people in the examples shown in the Bible had their excuses for NOT obeying and the end results, which were never preferable to Gods intended results.


After reviewing all the reasons and excuses, we realized that however you choose to word it, it all really came down to one word.  One word adequately describes every excuse and reasoning for failing to obey in spite of recognizing the benefit to ourselves to do so.


PRIDE.


Of the 5 stories we examined closely, the best example, we felt, was found in the story of Naaman.  Let's take a look together at II Kings 5: 1-14


1 Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper.
And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife.
And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.
And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.
And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment.
And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy.
And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man does send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeks a quarrel against me.
And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore have you rent your clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.
So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha.
10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall come again to you, and you shall be clean.
11 But Naaman was angry, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
13 And his servants came near, and spoke unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, wouldn't you have done it? how much rather then, when he said to you, Wash, and be clean?
14 Then he went down, and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Naaman thought he was quite a big deal, a very important man of some stature among the people.  Needing healing, he was sure the Prophet would treat him a certain way and make a big spectacle of healing him.  PRIDE almost cost him the healing.  PRIDE would have kept him from obeying the simple command he'd been given, even though he knew that obeying it would benefit him!

We looked at the story in Galatians 2 when Peter, in fearful PRIDE stopped dining with the Gentiles because he didn't want his fellow Jews to think badly of him.  We looked at Jonah who pridefully attempted to avoid God because he didn't think the Ninevites deserved to be forgiven and given a second chance!  We looked at the fearful spies of Israel in Numbers 13 who in their foolish PRIDE decided they knew better than God what could and could not be done in a situation.

We agreed the BENEFITS far outweighed any reason for disobedience.  A quick reading of Deuteronomy 28: 1-14 made clear that obedience to Gods commands carried a great deal of benefit and blessing.

What do YOU find the most difficult about obeying Gods commands?
Is it that you are uncertain of what they are?  I would encourage you to set aside time in your daily routine to shut off the competing voices, quiet your own heart, get still before the Lord, and begin digesting the spiritual food that will truly benefit you in every single area of life.  READ GODS WORD!  Some will sink deep into your heart and begin to bring about change that will amaze you.  Some will speak to you immediately of answers and solutions to situations you are facing.  Some will wait quietly in the background until you have need of it, but ALL of it will benefit you in more ways than I can describe or I even know.

Read Psalm 46 in its entirety.  You will be pleasantly surprised to discover.....

Beginning January 1, 2014 Turn the Tide Ministries begins at the beginning once more on a two year reading schedule that will walk you through the entire Bible.  SUBSCRIBE RIGHT NOW so you receive the updates, schedules and Sunday Sermons delivered to your email inbox to read and savor at your convenience.

THEME FOR 2014:  DO IT NOW!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

One Trick and a thought about Vampires

Every good and perfect gift comes from God above. (James 1:17) And for every one of them, the devil tries to counterfeit or twist it in order to deceive as many as possible from the TRUTH.

A powerful TRUTH that acts as anchor for a Christian is the covering, the cleansing, the forgiving power of the BLOOD of Jesus.  Sin was a problem that required constant sacrifice and shedding of blood before Christ came.  The blood of animals was not sufficient to cleanse sin FOR GOOD!  We aren't any less sinful than the Israelites or anyone else.  However, the shed blood of Jesus cleanses us of sin once and for all time, because He was a Lamb without spot or blemish, the perfect sacrifice, holy, and therefore acceptable to meet the requirement of a Holy God in a way no other sacrifice ever could.

So is it all that surprising, that unable to do anything about the cleansing blood of Jesus, the devil would try to make "blood" itself into something else, something evil and not to be trusted?  You see, Satan has no real "power", not against a blood bought believer, but he does have ONE TRICK.  Just the one, but he has it perfected to the nth degree.  That trick is deception.  He deceived Eve and he deceived Cain and he deceived Judas and he is still deceiving people today into thinking things that are not true and therefore acting in ways that are contrary to truth.  When we act contrary to truth, guess what?  We reap consequences that are contrary to truth and we begin to feel defeated, and Satan heaps on more deception and before we know it, we are so far from the truth that we are no longer certain there even is truth!

Enter "Dracula", that blood sucking vampire who frightened me into sleeping with my covers firmly tucked around my chin every night of my childhood.  Suddenly blood is about death rather than life, which is the truth of God.  LIFE is in the blood, and Satan deceives millions into seeing it as DEATH.  Deceit doesn't have to be elaborate to be effective.  It just has to make you miss the narrow way.  It just has to get you one degree off course, and guess what? YOU ARE OFF COURSE!  You aren't a little bit going the right way, you are completely going the wrong way.  You've missed blessings, and joy and peace and all the wonderful things God intends for you.

So how do we stay on course?  How do we make certain we are entering the narrow way, and living according to Gods truth?  So we can be sure we are reaping all the benefits and perks God really wants to bless us with?  By reading the Bible.  It is our map, charting our course to the Truth.  Check out the Daily Bible Reading page.  This two year schedule will take you through the entire Bible at a pace that allows time for reflection and consideration of what you are reading.  (Plus, you'll be reading in tandem with hundreds of others who follow along with The Unity Project!)  Let's read together, and then we can grow together - seeking answers from Gods word about our world today and our role in it as Ambassadors for Christ.

See ya in the funny papers......

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I heard a Christian brother, oh,  it must be over 25 years ago now, describe fear as:
 False                                    Evidence                        Appearing                      Real

Over the intervening years, I’ve not only quoted that a great many times in a great many situations, but I’ve also spent a great deal of time contemplating it.  Yes,  considering it in depth, turning it over and over in my mind, looking at it from the outside in, looking from the inside out, from the top, on its surface; even pulling each word aside to examine them individually and as a whole as fully as I am able; praying about it, seeking wisdom from God about it and even putting it away for one season and another, allowing it to marinade inside my heart.

25 years.  Years filled with times and mere moments of great faith.  Years filled with times and circumstances of great fear.  Years filled with activity and movement and joy and pain and sadness and gladness and new friends and old friends and fair weather friends and deeply loyal, loving friends.  Years.  Not moments or seconds or even hours or days.  YEARS!

Here then is the conclusion I have come to, after giving this little homily time to stew and settle in my heart.

(Do you know what a homily is?  I wasn’t sure either, so I looked it up for us, so we could learn something together.  It means a religious discourse that is intended primarily for spiritual edification rather than doctrinal instruction; a sermon.) 

On this little religious discourse I concluded;

THIS IS A TRUE SAYING.

Yup.  That’s my big conclusion.  I never have been one to accept things at face value.  I’ve always needed to analyze and think things through for myself.  On this one, I’ve decided the Christian brother was 100% correct.

EX….CEPT.

Except this one little part…..where this little saying is 100% WRONG.

See, I also thought these thoughts about this little homily. 

Fear of this world, when Jesus told us fear not, for He overcame the world, fear of the devil when Jesus is your Savior, fear of what man can do to you up held against the God who is for you, fear is false evidence that appears real to us.

BUT……

Fear of the Lord is NEVER false evidence.  Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  A healthy fear of God can bring you to your knees in repentance which leads to forgiveness which leads to a right and healthy relationship with God your Creator.  Reverent fear of God can keep you from committing sin, which is a wonderful thing that brings blessing and joy and GOOD into your life!

Considering fear then, leaves us with two choices.  One is a way that leads to hardness of heart, cynicism, doubt, mistrust, waste and sickness of mind and heart. 


The other choice?  Reverent fear of the Lord God, Creator and Master of the universe, Sovereign in all His ways, leads to the way of life and LIFE ETERNAL!

We all have fear in our lives.  A godly fear can do a lot of good to overcome other fear.  What fear are you struggling with?  How can they be overcome?
Need prayer?  Fill out the Prayer Request form - we'll be praying for you!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Excellent Mercy of the Creator

Bow down Your ear O Lord, hear me, for I am poor and needy
Preserve my life; for I am holy - YOU are my God
Save Your servant who trusts in You!

Be merciful to me O Lord, for I cry to You all day long
Rejoice the soul of Your servant, for to You O Lord I lift up my soul
for You Lord are good and ready to forgive
and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.

Give ear O Lord to my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications
In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, for You will answer me
Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord
Nor are there any works like Your works.

All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You O Lord
and shall glorify Your name.  For You are great and do wondrous things;
YOU ALONE ARE GOD.

Teach me Your way O Lord; I will walk in Your truth
Unite my heart to fear Your name forevermore
For great is Your mercy toward me
and You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

O God, the proud have risen against me
and a violent mob have sought my life
and have not set You before them.
But You O Lord are a God full of compassion; and gracious, 
longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.

Oh turn to me and have mercy on me!
Give Your strength to Your servant and save the child of Your maidservant
Show me a sign for good, that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed

because You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me

Psalm 86 - a cry to the Lord our God, our Creator, to remember us in our troubles and
to save us out of those troubles.  May you be encouraged today, knowing for a certainty that the Lord, God of all creation, is FOR you and ON YOUR SIDE!  Seek Him, trust Him and walk in His ways and see YOUR  SALVATION today!

Lord in Heaven, May each soul who reads these words be comforted in the knowledge of Your Love for them, and be strengthened by Your Holy Spirit working in them, reaping blessing in their lives and situations and bringing Glory to Your name, I ask and pray in the name of Jesus our Savior, AMEN!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Defeating Stupid



IF ONLY WE HAD 20/20 HIND SIGHT!
People come to us for prayer and guidance – usually after they’ve taken some questionable action and the consequences are inflicting discomfort.  We pray, we read the Word of God with them and attempt to share some bit of wisdom, some practical application of biblical principle that might ease the situation and lead them to better decisions in the future.  These are the same things my mentors and counselors did for me and still do for me as I make my way through this life.  It would be nice to think we could just obey God and then everything would always work out for the best.

Unfortunately, that isn’t an option.  While we are living on this earth, we are subject to the sin nature initiated with the sin of Adam in partaking of the one fruit in the vast garden of fruit available that God had specifically instructed Adam NOT to eat!  Sin separates us from God, removing us from His protective Presence and rendering obedience that much more difficult for our hearts to accomplish.

Sin makes us stupid. 

My husband is fond of quoting that when he is confronted with sin and its aftermath.  He’s right.  And in the stupidity, we most definitely do not make good decisions.  In truth, we are far more likely to continue to make bad ones.  Bad decisions like blaming our actions on someone else.  Yes, Adam did that too.  He blamed God Himself for his own poor decision, claiming his action was because of the woman God gave him.  Would Adam have avoided being deceived and therefore avoided falling prey to sin if Eve hadn’t been there?  We’ll never know, because that isn’t how it happened.

Once we've entered the quicksand of stupid, how do we keep from being sucked into permanent stupid?


It's a mighty miracle God provided to deliver us from the cycle of sin.

We can’t avoid stupid and we certainly haven’t got the ability to keep from being stuck in stupid.  Our only hope is in Jesus.  Our only deliverance is calling on His name.  Our only way OUT of darkness and INTO light is in and through Jesus – the Savior, the substitute payment for our stupid sin.

Don’t be deceived into staying stuck in stupid sin. Call on the name above all names, the name of Power and Peace and Healing.  Call on Jesus, get unstuck, and then let the Holy Spirit of God lead and guide you to the great, wonderful, joyous plans that God made for your life from before the foundation of the world was ever set in place.  It doesn't mean you won't ever sin again, but it does mean you will never again be a slave to sin.  You may visit "stupid" but you will never live there, for Jesus will heal, deliver and set you free!

Prayer is the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of the believer.  It would be our privilege to pray for you.  Please fill out the Prayer Request form (top left) and we will pray for you. If you’d like us to contact you and pray with you, we’ll do that.  Every prayer request is honored, and God hears and responds. 



The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.  James 5:16

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A THANKFILLED DAY

Traditional Turkey with all the trimmings
Decked out for the Holiday Meal
Speaking out loud all that you are thankful for does many positive things.

  1. It instantly reduces your stress levels
  2. It lowers your blood pressure
  3. It inspires a natural smile, which lights your entire face up
  4. It steadies your heartbeat
  5. It leaves you with a general sense of well being

I am so very thankful for each and every soul God has allowed us the privilege
to share the gospel with, lead to a saving knowledge of Christ, disciple to maturity,
invite into fellowship with the Body and get to know personally.

I'm thankful for His peace as I struggle with life's difficulties
I'm thankful for friends who help carry the burdens
I'm thankful for family who accept me as I am
I'm thankful for opportunities to know Him more intimately
I'm thankful for my husband (I'd need a lot of pages to fill that in! and he tells me
to add he is thankful for his beautiful wife)
I'm thankful for the forgiveness I've received which enables me to forgive others

May you find yourself smiling uncontrollably and laughing right out loud with the JOY OF THE LORD this Day of Thanks Holiday!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Definitive TRUTH

I have a confession to make.  I am not a Bible scholar.  Oh, I've been reading the Good Book for 47 years now.  I have attended bible classes, completed the ministerial program for credentialing and participated in and taught Bible studies for over 30 years.  I spent three years learning the Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew of the Bible, studied the cultural influences at work in those who wrote the words inspired by the Holy Spirit and prayed for wisdom and understanding from God through all of it.  But I'm no scholar.  I would never profess to be an expert or pretend I understand or can explain every verse, every seeming contradiction and I would never declare that I know it so well that I would unequivocally state I know the TRUTH it expounds without doubt of any kind.

I know a few things unequivocally.  I know that in the beginning, God, who already existed and will always exist, created the heavens and the earth.  I know He is Love and in expressing that Love He created Man and made them male and female in His own image.  I know He gave free will to both the Angels and the Man He created in order that we could freely choose to worship and obey Him.  I know Lucifer, created to be the Angel of Light, and 1/3 of all the Angels chose not to worship or obey and were cast out of Heaven.

I know that Man sinned and every man since has been born into sin.  I know God cast Himself in human form and came to earth to redeem Man from sin.  I know that if any living person confesses Jesus as Lord, believes in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead after He was crucified to pay the penalty for our sin and repents of their sin, God forgives and washes us clean.  I know we become new creatures in Christ when that occurs and that Heaven rejoices over all who do.

I know that when we pray, God hears and responds.  The response isn't always the one we were hoping for, or it doesn't come as quickly or in the form we desired, but there is always a response from God, even if we fail to recognize it.

I know that God exists as One unified God manifesting in three persons, as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  I know that the spirit realm is as real and has more powerful effect upon us as this physical realm we live in until our physical bodies die.  I know that God created Man to be Eternal, and our confession of Him as Lord determines our Eternal place either in darkness, separate from Him or in His Presence for Eternity.

All the other stuff?  Some of it I'm not so sure of.  Some I'm fairly sure is rules and regulations man made up to make himself feel better about himself, or make himself feel like he's in control of things he has no control over at all.  Some of it I think has great significance to us, and some I don't think is very important in the scheme of Eternity at all.  Some is designed to help us move closer to the Lord.  Some has been twisted to trick us into moving farther away from God.

I know that we argue the details and meaning of scripture as if we actually have a say in what is TRUTH, and that doesn't glorify God, who called us before the foundations of the world were laid in place to walk with Him in Unity and know the Joy of Salvation. The truth is simply that we are subject to the Living God who created us and all that is surrounding us.  The TRUTH is Jesus, according to what He Himself declared.

I am 100% certain the TRUTH is not for us to choose for ourselves what it is or isn't truth, just as I am 100% certain we are subject to the TRUTH as God presents it.  It is for us to discover His truth, not our own version of truth.  Because one day, each of us will stand on our own before Him with no way to hide anything of our hearts and be judged by the Only Wise God Who is TRUTH.

The only covering allowed is Jesus.  Nothing and no one else.  He Who is TRUTH will speak on our behalf.
The only true choice in life, death and Eternity any of us has for 100% certainty is the choice to choose Jesus or reject Him.The truth is we have no real way to say we "know" the truth for certain, all we can do is be clothed in Him.

I choose Jesus.  What about you?


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bible "hero's"?

As we read about "hero's" in the Bible, those giants of FAITH, do you - like me, think about how wonderful it would be if we could only figure out how to live like that?  Actually putting FAITH into action seemingly without any effort on our part,totally trusting God for our daily sustenance, for everything we need from the least to the greatest?  Imagine speaking out with great boldness about the wonders of God and then BABAM! they come to pass?  Who wouldn't want to follow your God if they were seeing in your life the miracles and signs and wonders happening, right?

What I'm learning as I continue to study Gods Word and seek wisdom through prayer, is that the men and women of the Bible were regular folks like you and me.  They had no more faith, no more insight, no more ability than any of the rest of us.  They wrestled with their feelings, they had failures as deep and wide as we experience.  In researching their lives, however, I've discovered one thing they all had in common.  In spite of it all - in spite of every failure, every shortcoming, every sin, every mistake, every fear - they had a WILLING HEART.

faith + a willing heart = a life balanced by wonder and joy!


Romans 12:3 tells us we all have a measure of faith.  So our lack isn't in faith.  God has given each of us faith.  So we've got it, even during those times we aren't trusting, or operating in faith.  Over and over in the New Testament letters believers are encouraged to "LET" certain things occur, let them happen or be in their hearts, their minds or their actions.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body

The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.

[ The Humbled and Exalted Christ ] Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, 


But let us who are of the day be sober,

This "letting" comes out of our free will.  It comes about through a heart WILLING to be obedient, willing to be submissive, willing to yield itself to the work and leading of the Holy Spirit.  It is glorious when it all comes together and that is when we see God do the most amazing things! A willing heart is patient and holds steadfast.  It steadily remains true to the truth God has spoken when things are not so great.  When bad things are all that seem to be happening.  When sad or hurtful or confusing things occur.

With a willing heart, though, even when we are standing on the thin wire of our faith, waiting to see what God will do, there is such a sense of excitement and anticipation.  Like Abram, packing up his family and simply heading out, going where God would send him, without knowing before hand what he would encounter or even what his destination was.  Like Joseph, holding fast to the vision of his life God had given as he sat in prison for all those years, holding on and trusting that God would do what He said He would do.  Like Samuel, so young when he answered Gods call!! It is exciting being in constant contact through prayer with the Father, for even the simplest decision!  When we put it in His hands and walk by faith, amazing wonders occur!

Read about Abram, who would be renamed Abraham.  Read the story of Joseph, of Samuel, and you will discover that every moment of their lives were not just about signs and miracles and wonders.  They had struggles in life, trials to overcome, tough situations to deal with.  There were plenty of opportunities for them to turn away from the Lord, to "let" sadness or depression or despair to rule their lives.  But you will find that their faith, faith like the faith you have in your life, was accompanied by a willing heart, willing to obey, to surrender to the Lord, and the results were miraculous.

Let faith mix with a willing heart in your life, and watch and see what wonders God will work!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

ON WINGS LIKE EAGLES

MOUNT UP ON WINGS AS EAGLES!
James 1:2-4  My brethren, count it all JOY when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be prefect and complete, lacking nothing!

When I read a verse of scripture like James wrote here, I find there are several questions I need to ask and have answered before the application to my life and my situations reveals itself.  Usually, by working my way backwards, from the end to the beginning reveals the greatest truths.

In this case, before I can grab hold of and reap the benefit of being able to “count it all joy”, there must be a testing of my faith, but that testing is supposed to produce a fruit – patience.  And that fruit has to be allowed to work in me, so that I will be brought to the place where I am complete, whole, without lack, which will then enable me to count it all joy even when my situation isn’t joyful.

Then, like Joseph was able at the time he was sold into slavery and later cast into prison, I will have what I need in order to hold on in trusting faith to the truth God has revealed to me, never wavering from it, through whatever trials and tribulations come my way, continuing to not only think right thoughts, but to behave in a righteous manner that glorifies and honors God my Lord and Savior.

To even begin to step in that direction, I need a greater understanding of patience.  If I brush it off too quickly, if I don’t dig into the full meaning and grab hold of it in all it’s depth and width and height and fullness, I will lack, I will not be complete and perfect, and I will not have what I need to hold fast during the testing times of my faith.  When a hard trial comes, I will fold and give in, and then in anger turn to the Lord and ask that ever haunting question “Why, God? Why?”

Patience.  It means to endure or to wait.  But it means more.  It means having the capacity to endure waiting, delay or provocation without becoming angry or upset.  That was what set Joseph apart and that is what allowed his faith to not just pass the testing, but to shine to the end that others saw the light shining from Joseph and were drawn to him.  Were inspired to trust him and to put him in positions of trust.  He didn’t just “endure” his time as a slave in Potiphars house.  

In rejecting what others would excuse as his “right” to be angry about what his brothers had done, he choose to allow patience to have its perfect way in him.  Without a bad attitude, he was able to serve Potiphar well, with all his attention and good intentions, which resulted in his being made the head of Potiphars household affairs. 

When cast into prison, having already taken the steps that moved him forward in developing his capacity to patiently endure without anger, he continued to grow in patient endurance, which enabled him to make the best of his horrible situation.  The keeper of the prison noticed the difference in Josephs attitude which made a difference in Josephs behavior and the conversations Joseph engaged in.  This is what led the jailer to put Joseph in a position of leadership.  This is what set Joseph apart.  It wasn’t some mystical, magical trick or special anointing God had given only to Joseph.  It was Joseph following the principles of Gods Word which is TRUTH, and those principles bringing forth exactly what was promised by God – patience.  Trust.  Faith that God was working all things together for good even when the things themselves were not good.

These exact same principles work for us when we follow them.  Capacity to patiently endure without mistreating others, mistrusting God or falling into a pit of despair and self pity is no more mystical than letting the Holy Spirit lead and guide you so fruit will be produced in your life.  Fruit that blesses you, honors God and draws others near to ask “How can I get some of what you have?”  That’s when opportunity presents itself to you, for you to witness Christ, to share the gospel, to tell others of the love and grace and mercy of God.  God is no respecter of persons, but He does respect obedience to His principles and commands and obedience results in JOY, no matter what the situation is.


My brothers and sisters in Christ, count it all JOY when you fall into various troubling times, and practice patience, that your capacity will be increased, that your influence for Christ will be widened and that your own FAITH will be found true when tested.  Understanding this gives whole new meaning to one of the verses oft quoted:

Isaiah 40:31
But those who wait (patiently endure without getting angry or upset) on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

May the Lord our God bless you this week with opportunity to increase your capacity to wait patiently on Him, and may the blessings of peace and joy be yours as you endure this test of your faith, in Jesus name, AMEN!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Broadway Joe

BEING  "CENTER  STAGE"  ISN'T
ALWAYS  AS  GREAT  AS  WE  THINK  IT  WILL  BE!
Broadway made him famous, but the coat they chose to shine the spotlight on has very little to do with who he truly was or the impact of his life on believers who know his true story.  Faith and absolute trust in the True and Living God is the real legacy Joseph left for all of us who read his story and find understanding of how it relates to our own lives.  It is an extraordinary example of hope and assurance of Gods trustworthiness.  In the book of Genesis we discover this youngest son of Jacob -  patriarch of the Jewish people and father of each of the twelve tribes of Israel.  God gave young Joseph a dream of His plan for Joseph.  All of 17 years young and the spoiled baby of the family, in his immaturity Joseph excitedly shares the dream with his father and brothers.  

Instead of being excited with or for him, the jealousy his brothers already feel for him as their fathers favorite is intensified and in new anger they plot against Joseph.  When Jacob sends Joseph to check on the brothers who are out in the fields with the families flocks, they seize him with the intention of killing him. 

The eldest, Reuben, whether for love of his father Jacob who pampered and adored Joseph or perhaps a sense of responsibility as the first born son, convinces them not to kill Joseph, but throw him in a deep hole instead.  Reuben intends to rescue Joseph and deliver him safely home when the brothers’ anger dies down.  He never has the chance to do so, since Judah comes up with the bright idea of selling Joseph to some passing merchants, resulting in Joseph being brought to Egypt where he is sold as a slave to an Egyptian named Potiphar.  Joseph had to endure some very trying times, and overcome a multitude of temptations.  Before we start to think that disobedience was the cause, take a look at Matthew 8: 23-27.  Jesus boards a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee and a storm came up.  No surprise to the Lord and it wasn't about obedience or disobedience.  It was about FAITH and TRUST in the Lord!  Sometimes obeying God puts us right in the middle of turmoil!  Adversity can strengthen us or weaken us.  The same situation will make one man while breaking another.  The difference is in our own hearts.  If we whine and fuss we'll whither.  If we continue in faith toward God we'll grow and strengthen.  It really is that simple.

In fleeing from one of the temptations put before him, sexual sin,  Joseph ended up being thrown in prison.  It would be 13 years before Joseph was delivered by God from this pit of constant despair and eventually elevated to the position of power and authority the dream of his youth had indicated was to be Josephs lot in life.  Once having attained this position he could accomplish Gods will, save Israel during the time of great famine that was coming.  But this was not the promised land God had sent Abraham to inhabit, this was not the homeland of Gods chosen people.
 
Yet they stayed, and stayed far too long it seems, as they grew comfortable in the land of Goshen, until eventually the warm welcome they had once enjoyed came to an end!  Joseph seemed to know this was not where the Israelites were to stay, for he begged on his deathbed that his bones be brought with them when they finally left Egypt. (Genesis 50:25)  They didn’t leave soon enough though, and found themselves in the same position Joseph was in when he first entered Egypt – they were made slaves!  And mistreated slaves they remained until God sent them a deliverer.  Their story shadows our own story.  We, too, are born into a world where we are slaves.  Slaves to sin the Apostle Paul calls it.  And God sent a man to deliver us if we will but hear Him and believe Him.
  
Let’s just stop right there and not hurry through the story, which you should read in its entirety in Genesis 37-Genesis 50.  That’s what usually happens.  We read a story in the bible and we just read along to the end and get left with the impression that the passage of time was of no consequence, just a moment or two really, so of course those people in the bible could endure.  Somehow it was different for them than it is for us, right?  WRONG!  By recognizing that the people in the bible were real people with real thoughts, feelings, hopes, desires, hurts and pains and sin nature as ourselves, we can actually gain a perspective that develops greater understanding of our own struggles and how to overcome them. 


The summary of the story is this.  Joseph was sold into slavery – can you even begin to imagine his thoughts?  His prayers and pleas to God?  "Lord", he might have cried, "what happened to the dream you gave me?  Was that a lie?  Did I just think it was you?  Was I wrong?  Did I do something to make you angry at me?"  Aren’t those exactly the kinds of questions we would ask if we had a dream of being great and then found ourselves not elevated, but cast down, gone from being  free to being someone’s slave?  We might even think there was no point even trying anymore, obviously God had forsaken us.  We are quick, too quick, to allow circumstance to dictate our thoughts, feeling and actions, rather than trusting, believing and holding steadfast to the word God gives us.  

This then is the very first thing that this story of Joseph has to teach us.  God is faithful,  and can be trusted.  Rather than trust what our eyes see or what our circumstances may try to dictate to us, we ought to believe and hold fast to the truth that God has revealed in His word to us.  According to IIPeter 1:19, we have a 'more sure word of prophesy'.  We will have trials and tribulations in this world, but take heart, Jesus told us, for He has overcome the world and thank you Paul the Apostle for these words of encouragement.  I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME!  During those very long and miserable 13 years that Joseph was in prison for a crime he never committed, contemplate how he must have felt.  Abandoned by God?  Surely!  And he could have given in to feelings like that.  BUT HE DIDN’T.  

The reason he didn't is that he had heard all the stories about God from his father Jacob. He  believed that God was faithful, truthful and able. So his actions were based on that faith and not on his circumstances or his surroundings.  They most definitely were not based on the actions or words of others, either.  Joseph behaved the same way in prison, in the very midst of trial and tribulation, as he had behaved when he was free in his fathers household.  As he behaved when sold into slavery and he began to serve Potiphar.  He continued to act in faith.  That doesn't mean he didn't have feelings.  He did!  He prayed and cried out to God for help and relief and asked God to deliver him.  He did not, however, let feelings of despair dictate his actions toward others.  Those actions are what led to Potiphar trusting him with his household, that led to the jailer trusting him in the prison and eventually led to Pharoah - supreme ruler of all Egypt, to trust Joseph with his whole kingdom.

Jesus rebuked his disciples on that boat in the Sea of Galilee.  "Why are you fearful.  O ye of little faith?"  Over and over, He lovingly tells us "fear not, for I am with you.  I will never leave you nor forsake you."  Every adverse situation is nothing less than a wonderful opportunity to exercise our faith and see it strengthened!  Understanding this truth and with trust and faith toward God inspired Apostle James to encourage others 
James 1:2-4  My brethren, count it all JOY when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be prefect and complete, lacking nothing!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Of Rituals, Routines, Ruts and Revival

Like the leaves change
from season to season...
We human beings certainly love our comfortable habits, don’t we?  Once we've established the way we want to do things we cling to it and are resistant to change.  Our days are ordered a certain way, we've developed methods for accomplishing the tasks we need to complete that works for us, and we do not like to deviate from them.  

From setting up bedtime rituals to holiday traditions we re-enact year after year, we like our routines and find them safe and comforting and mayhem seems to ensue if we deviate.  So we don’t.  Deviate, I mean.  We don’t deviate if we can help it.  

Most times, we won’t even notice that our routines have become ruts we run ‘round and ‘round in like rats running a maze, head down and full steam ahead!  I am willing to go a little out on a limb here and say that we have probably all heard these discouraging words at some point, when we’ve tried to introduce something new to a committee or group.  “But this is the way we’ve always done it!”  I find it hard to believe I am the only one who finds those words maddening beyond endurance.

We have set up our morning routines, our daily routines and our religious rituals and heaven help the one who tries to mess with that!  What about, though, if the one who wants to mess with that is the very One who created Heaven?  Uh-oh!  Now we’ve got a dilemma, don’t we?  

God Who created the heavens and the earth is fixed and unchanging (Malachi 3:6), however, since He has determined we are in need of change He is unwilling to leave us in the state in which He finds us!  

Take a closer look at John 17: 11: Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as we are.

This was Jesus’ prayer for believers, for all those who confess Him as Lord and Savior.  That we would be “one” with God just as He is.  Jesus had a lively, intimate, full relationship with His Father that consumed Him and which directly affected His every thought, feeling and action.  Jesus went on to say that He always did what the Father instructed Him to do.  Can we say that about our relationship with God?  The only way we can even begin to make such a claim is if we have a willing heart to let Him change us, change our hearts desires and our actions by the leading of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis.

Can you just imagine for a moment how the Israelites might have felt when their prophet Isaiah brought them a word from God Himself declaring that the rituals and routines they had finally gotten down to the point they could do them without even thinking about them,  were to be completely changed? 

Isaiah 43:19 Behold I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth.

God noticed, as He notices everything, that the Israelites no longer had their hearts truly engaged with the rituals He had originally given them to remind them of Him.  The rituals had become routine, done by rote,  and they had begun to sink deep into unthinking ruts where performance had become everything.  Why they did what they did no longer mattered for the most part.

God decided it was time for REVIVAL!  God decided it was time to shake things up, do away with the comfortable and familiar, and give cause for people to once again actively engage with Him.  God still wants that today.  Look around at the behavior of the world in general, our news headlines, the activity in our own homes.  When was the last time you turned off the television, the iPods, the laptops and the cell phone and LISTENED for the voice of God? 

Can you hear the Lord calling out to His people?  “Engage with Me, I am the Lord your God.  Put your heart in My Hands and let Me do the leading.  Let Me show you the marvelous things I have planned for you.  The wonders and miracles you truly desire are yours if you will just turn to Me and say ‘yes’ to My ways for you.”

The last thing the Lord desires is that we follow a mindless routine – even if that routine includes all the things that would be considered the “right things” to do.  Reading the Bible every morning becomes part of our routine if we never really meditate on what the Lord is trying to tell us personally.  Prayer that has become a mindless repeating of the same phrases  or the same requests, over and over until they have no heartfelt meaning left at all. 

Getting up on Sunday mornings and dragging yourself to a building where you will engage in exactly the same rituals as the previous Sunday, and all the previous Sundays with no room, no hope, no chance of being surprised by an actual visitation of the Lord God Himself and the refreshing of His Holy Spirit.  We sing a few songs, hear a nice sermon all within our pre-determined time frame and according to our agenda, then we go home, untouched, unchanged, unmoved from where we were before we went to those church services.  

Our hearts are far from God, hardened by our rituals and routines and we most certainly are not reaching out and touching anyone else’s life in any meaningful way either!

IT IS TIME TO WAKE UP! 
God is not a God of dull ritual and boring routine.  He is anything but that!  He is dynamic and thriving and wondrous and alive and surprising and miraculous, but He is NOT BORING!  If invited by humble hearts of honest expectation, He would show up and there most surely would not be snoring from the pews and sleepy heads nodding. 

“If invited”, did you catch that?  Do you have to participate in a no holds barred loss of control behavior to experience a meeting  with God?  No.  But a meeting with God would most surely be out of the ordinary, outside of our “normal” activity.  For neither do we need to participate in dull ritual Sunday after Sunday.  Not if our hearts are expectant.  Not if our faith is in the God who is creative and vibrant and energetic and vital.  

Abram expected God to visit, and He did!  It changed Abram, his name, his life and his whole world!  Moses was startled out of his “exile” by a visitation in the form of a burning bush and it wrought change to the entire known world of his time.  Saul was blinded by his meeting with the Lord and was given true spiritual sight that changed not only his entire way of thinking, but his actions till they shook the world to its very core!

Would we, could we with the Psalmist say Examine me O Lord and prove me; try my mind and my heart? Psalm 26:2


What would the Lord find if we gave Him free access to our hearts and minds?  He already knows who and what we are, we are no surprise to Him.  But He – Oh He could be such a delightful surprise to us if we would but open our hearts to fully engage with Him.  

King David of Israel had anything but a dull life.  Sure, sometimes the excitement was caused by those jealous of him, uncomfortable with his relationship with God, but his life was never routine and lived in a rut.  King David was constantly revived and refreshed by a vital, passionate, total engagement with the God he loved. 

We are not all King David's, or Moses' or Sauls.  That isn't what God wants.  He created each of us specifically, to interact with Him, engage with Him and live the life He designed for us to live with its own excitement.  That’s how I want to live my life – with passion and excitement.  What about you?  Today, God is speaking to your heart.  “Come walk with Me,” He says “and see the new things I will show you!”