. . . Because of God

Many of us are familiar with the story of Joseph.  We have the main points in his life down pat: his coat of many colors, his dreams, and his interpretation of others’ dreams.  We know of him being sold into slavery by his own brothers, his life in Egypt, the accusations of Potiphar’s wife, and his imprisonment.  But how closely do we pay attention to his actual relationship with God?  Do we focus more on the “From the Pit to the Palace,” side of things than on his integrity before God?

In his story, Joseph appears to start out as a young man who is a bit boastful and can’t wait to tell every listening ear his dream.  (I’m not saying he was boastful, just that it appears so).  His dreams became so that they incurred the hatred of his brothers.  This hatred would boil up within them until it filled them with violent intentions.  At one point, they thought murder was one option to rid them of this dreamer.  Instead of killing him, they opted to get rid of him while making a little money on the side.  They sold him into slavery.

In what appeared as the hardest time of his young life, Joseph’s relationship with God deepened.  This showed in the way God cause him to be prosperous and favored no matter where life put him (Genesis 39:3, 21).  Joseph also displayed the importance of his devotion to God in not sinning against God (Genesis 39:9) and in his refusal to take credit for all that God was doing through him (Genesis 40:8; 41:16, 28, 32).

God blessed Joseph with this incredible gift yet in his humility and dependence upon God, he denounced any accolades of his own.  He considered himself to be a vessel, realizing that “It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace,” (Genesis 41:16).

The humility of Joseph took him far in life.  Eventually, he became second in command over Egypt.  Had he gotten big-headed I’m sure the story would’ve turned out quite differently.  If he had reverted to the “Me, Myself and I” attitude that a lot of people seem to display, Joseph’s story would not have been noted as the legacy we now know.

“It’s not in me,” Joseph readily proclaims.  The Bible tells us, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God,” (2 Corinthians 3:5).  The Apostle Paul out-and-out tells us what Joseph already proclaimed.  We don’t have it in us!  Any gifts, any abilities, any special insights, and any favor – we have it because of God!  There’s no room for a self-sufficient attitude when God is trying to work in you.

When Daniel went before king Nebuchadnezzar to interpret his dream, Daniel, like Joseph, admitted his frailty as a human.  He said, “This secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living,” (Daniel 2:30).  He did not consider himself anything special just because he could interpret dreams rather, he gave glory to God, “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his,” (Daniel 2:20).

Standing before Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel was asked, “Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?” (Daniel 2:26).  Daniel answered much like Joseph did.  He said, “There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days,” (Daniel 2:28).

It is amazing the miracles that God can perform through the one who will not compete with Him to gain the credit.  When God instructed Gideon to go against the Midianites with only three hundred men, He did so, “lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me,” (Judges 7:2).  When there is competition for glory, God will retain His!  If one is in competition with Him they are “against” Him and God can’t work mightily through them!

It’s not just an Old Testament thing.  Peter said, “Why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we made this man walk?” (Acts 3:12).  Let’s face it, we are human, and unless God puts it in us – unless God gives it to us, we don’t have anything to offer this world.  “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven,” (John 3:27).

Let’s do a credit check today.  Not to decipher our financial status but rather our relationship status with God.  It’s not “Me, Myself and I,” but it’s God working in us.  Let’s stand with Joseph and declare, “It’s not in me: God shall give . . . an answer . . .” (Genesis 41:16).  Everything that we have or are able to do in life is because of God.

Blessings to you . . .

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“Be Progressive”

“And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward,” Exodus 14:15

Have you heard of the phrase “two steps forward, one step back?” What if we could erase that end part? What if we could subtract from the equation the minus one step? What would the total sum of one’s life be if all they ever did was progress? If all they ever did was to add without factoring in any negatives?

“Two steps forward, one step back.” It’s a phrase that I have used and I know you have, too. But in reality, I actually think that we get too comfortable with that kind of mentality. Everything is not always going to go off without a hitch, we know that.  And yes, we will face obstacles at times, but it’s almost as if we expect to move back every time we try to advance forward. We are factoring in a negative from the very beginning and any time doubt is introduced into one’s advancement in this way, that will almost always sabotage one’s progress, taking away from all that they have done and gone through to move forward. It can subtract from and overshadow the positive with that seemingly bigger negative.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are many hard trials and circumstances that everyone will face. I will not trivialize the hurt and disappointments that one may come across in their life. But what will happen, if while we are on this journey, we try our best to look beyond the circumstances that we are in and be determined to move forward toward the promise anyway? What if for once we could factor out the negatives of life instead of factoring them in? Despite the chariots and the enemies pursuing us, we could be more determined to pursue the goals that God has for us.

That is what I really believe God wanted the children of Israel to do here. To stop looking for reasons for not progressing.  To stop looking for obstacles. To stop making excuses for why they can’t get to where God wants them to go. He had a glorious destiny for them. God had already shown them many, many miracles that led up to their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Yet, as soon as a moment of adversity poked its head around the corner to spy on their progress, they stopped moving. Instead, they stayed in that unproductive state wallowing in self-pity: “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?” (Exodus 14:11), they cried.

God has a better plan for you than to keep you still, wallowing in the wilderness, in a state of self-pity. That’s why He said, “Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.” Stop crying about it and just go! Move! Make some progress! No more backward! It’s time to go on in Jesus’ name! To move it or lose it!

Looking at the stuff one has been through and the possibility of hardship ahead can be very discouraging, but press on anyhow! There is a promised land for you and me to reach. That alone is enough to urge you onward and upward. So, go ahead – be progressive today. Say within yourself, “I’m going to make it this time!”  No turning back!

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Take A Stand Against Fear

 

“. . .And so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law:
and if I perish, I perish,” Esther 4:16, KJV

There are a lot of things that act like blockades in our lives, but fear by far has to be one of the hardest to overcome. Fear can render useless the one who entertains it because, unlike physical limitations, fear messes with the mind. It changes one’s perspective on how they view the world, the people around them, and their own lives.

Fear acts like a photographer. It snaps a picture and develops it in the dark recesses of your mind. When the picture is finished being developed it comes out for you to view a new reality, whether it’s true or not. Fear is not based on truth but it wants you to believe in the image it presents to you more than God. That’s why many of us will never tread the courts of the king as Esther did. We can become so focused on that false image (the things that we see that make us afraid) that we fail to step out with courage.

The Bible tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” (Heb. 11:1). Going against fear takes faith. Faith doesn’t concentrate on what is visible to the naked eye. Faith concentrates on the truth of God’s promises. And His promises declare, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness,” (Is. 41:10).

That’s what faith sees!

With Queen Esther’s physical eyes the picture she saw wasn’t pleasant. What she saw was her beloved uncle Mordecai’s life was in danger (Esther 5:14). What she saw was hatred and an evil desire for her people to be destroyed (Esther 3:8-9). What she saw was the anguish of her people, grieving her also (Esther 4:3-4). What she saw was a law that could take her life (Esther 4:11).

A decision had to be made. Esther could look at the circumstances and let the fear of those images stop her from doing what’s right. Or, she could take a stand against the fear that assailed her and go for it, debunking that old image to see something new.

With great resolve and commitment she said, “If I perish, I perish.” She took a stand against the fearful, stepping out into the unknown, not sure if she would find favor with the king. Her people needed her to be brave. Her uncle needed her to be unbending in her determination. She needed to step up to the plate “for such a time as this,” (Esther 4:14).

Being fearless doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid.  It means in spite of it all, I have the courage to take a stand.

In what area of your life do you need more courage? Is there something you are dealing with that is extremely hard, yet you want to be determined to see it through? It takes a resolve such as Queen Esther possessed to stand against the fear of what you see so that you too can walk the King’s court in victory!

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“God Made Your Life Beautiful!”

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No matter what you have going on in your life today.
No matter how you feel.
No matter the lies that try to convince you otherwise.
No matter the tauntings to get you to give up.
No matter the adversity that speaks against your dreams.
No matter what this says . . .
And, no matter about that . . .
No matter what! God made your life BEAUTIFUL!

” . . . For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” – Psalm 139:14

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” – Jeremiah 29:11

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;” – 1 Peter 2:9

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Your Amazing IF

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IF has been around since the beginning of humanity.  IF usually comes with choice, consequence, and question.  But, what if the word IF can be a statement of faith?  What if the word IF can be a declaration of what you believe God can do in your life.

One of my favorite IF questions in the Bible led to a miracle occurring and the constraints of what is normally not possible being removed.  IF unlocks something amazing in one man’s life, never to be repeated by another human being except for Jesus Christ.  Tossed about in the waves of contrary winds, Jesus’ disciples are struggling in a boat in the middle of the sea when Jesus came to them walking on the water (see Matthew 14:22-33).  After Jesus greeted the men in the boat and calmed them, Peter asked, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water,” (Matthew 14:28; italics added mine).

I believe Peter knew wholeheartedly it was Jesus since some Bible studies use the word IF as SINCE.  Thus, I believe Peter’s IF is a statement of faith, even if it appeared to be an immature faith at the onset.  He believed in Jesus.  He believed if Jesus allowed him to, he would be able to do what is naturally impossible.  He, under the direction of the Lord, could do the amazing, and walk on water.

Now, many of us are very familiar with how Peter’s story here ends.  Seeing the waves his faith falters and Jesus is there to pull him up from his sinking condition and bring him back to the boat.  Yet, that isn’t the part I want to focus on here.  I want to focus on the power of the IF that drew him out of the boat in the first place.  Where other men stayed hidden, he literally threw it all to the wind, and with the chance of a lifetime, stepped out to experience the amazing.

We can laugh at Peter and put him down, but how many of us can honestly answer that we would have gotten out of the boat also?  You see, IF can be a hindrance that causes over questioning and actually act as a stumbling block for not moving forward into something wonderful.  But, IF can also be the catalyst to open a door of opportunity if it is approached with the idea that something amazing can come out of taking a chance with Jesus; to move on to the waters of the unknown with my eyes on Him.

The phrase “What if?” has birthed a lot of good quotes and with good reason.  In that two-worded question, we are daring to ask ourselves the question: “Do I stay in the boat or do I choose to walk on water?”  We are daring to see potential in ourselves to do more than the ordinary, to do something amazing with my IF.

Where is your “IF” calling you today or even this week?  What extraordinary thing may unlock for you if you take a chance with your amazing IF?  I believe God gives us dreams to pursue, but it’s our faith in active pursuit of that IF that will allow the amazing to happen for us, just like it did for Peter.  Jesus most certainly could have gotten to the boat without walking on water, but then Peter or any one of the other disciples would have never had the opportunity to ask and pursue something more.

Is Jesus calling you to walk on water?  Is He calling you to take steps of faith in pursuit of a particular IF?  If He is, keep your eyes on Him and allow Him to lead you to your amazing IF.

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“Be Empowered!”

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And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

Oh, that thorn in the flesh syndrome. That persistent thing that seems like it will never be gone from your life. I would venture to say that most people have dealt with or are currently dealing with that one nagging thing that keeps – well, nagging you! That one thing that causes us to say, “Lord, if You would just move this one thing from my life, I would be alright.” Thorns are hurtful. They are irritating. And yes, they can get in the way of the one who wants to enjoy the blossom. There may be a beautiful rose on the end of the stem, but the thorns can hinder the full enjoyment of holding on to it.

There are times when one may be trying to enjoy the beauty of God’s promises that hurtful things may arise. As one tries to draw nearer and nearer to Him, particular thorns may make it hard to hold on. Thorns can “spring up and choke them,” Matthew 13:7. Nevertheless, despite what our outside circumstances may be telling us, we are taught that we can still live an empowered life. Though we have “infirmities” (and we all do), “grace” is still at work. Grace – that unmerited favor makes room when obstacles get in the way. And God says His grace is “sufficient.” It is enough.

There is only one man who lived in this world perfectly, and that’s our Lord Jesus Christ. The rest of us are surviving off God’s grace. We depend on it every single day though we are undeserving of it. He has empowered us through our Lord Jesus Christ to progress on this journey despite all our shortcomings. Every obstacle that we face in life is not going to go away. Oh, how I wish it would. But, what the apostle Paul is teaching us is that we can still succeed in Christ. We can still have a blessed Christian life through His power that “rest upon” us.

Have you ever played tag as a kid? Somebody tried to tag you and get you out, but you gave them the slip and got away. Have you ever, in a victorious romp, stuck your thumbs in your ears as a kid while waving your fingers and chanting, “Nana nana, boo, boo?” Paul had a victorious romp of his own. After he prayed, he realized despite all he was going through, the grace of God was still at work in his life and that it was God’s strength that was being made perfect in Paul’s weakness.  Therefore, Paul confidently declared, “Most gladly… will I rather glory in my infirmities.” 

Don’t you love that? Despite it all, God is still at work in us and through us. He is perfecting some stuff in us and for us, and we can rejoice with Paul.  We are not rejoicing because of the trouble or hurt we experience or encounter. We are rejoicing because we believe in God’s grace, and that allows the power of Christ to rest upon us because we have yielded to Him.

The empowered life is one that yields to Him and recognizes it is His strength being perfected in us. The empowered person can still push forth knowing that God is still at work: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31. The hurt may not be over or gone but it’s as if God is reminding us: “I have all you need to make through.”

Please note: Talking about empowerment can easily cause one to divert and take a humanistic view. But, I have strived to keep this God-centered. Everything we need is in Him, and when we can grab hold of that, we become truly empowered.

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“Unwrapping Your Gifts!”

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Christmas time is the most wonderful time of the year.  There’s a special peace and happiness in the air as we come together with friends, family, and loved ones to celebrate the birth of Christ, our Savior.  We get together to laugh, eat and enjoy one another’s company.  Then, we have the privilege to exchange gifts that show the love we carry for each other all throughout the year.

Gifts, by definition, are something given voluntarily.  I love you, and because I love you, you don’t have to twist my arm to make me show adoration towards you.  I do it of my own will, without prompting, because you mean that much to me.

That’s what makes this time of year so special.  (After all, it was God’s biggest gift to humanity that gives us cause for celebrating in the first place.)  It’s not the big dinners, twinkling lights, or the carols (though we enjoy it all).  It’s the love and adoration shown when gifts are given and opened with a rejoicing heart.

We go through much trouble to find and carefully select that perfect gift for that special someone.  I mean, you just know in your heart that they are going to love it and you can’t wait for them to rip off that wrapping paper, rejoice with gladness over the special way you thought about them, and immediately start using that gift you gave.

Now, consider this.  What if, when you gave your gift of love, they toss it to the side in disregard saying, “I’ll get to it when I get to it?”  You would be so crushed, hurt, and disappointed over their uncaring way of receiving your gift.

What if God feels the same way?  Not only did He give us THE BEST GIFT that we could never live without (His Son, JESUS), but in our relationship with Him, we have been freely given many other gifts.  Not only is a gift something given voluntarily, but it is also a special ability or capacity; a special talent to be used for the edifying of Himself through you.

In the book of Matthew, chapter 25, Jesus told the parable of the talents.  One man was given five, one was called to receive two and another received one.  What is ironic is that the two to whom the most talents were given increased and prospered one hundred percent.  Now, we would think their master was unfair in expecting so much from them.  After all, he did give them more responsibilities than the other.

Through perseverance and diligent work, not only did they gain a little but they doubled what they started with.  Sadly, the one who was only given one responsibility, only one job, one talent let fear stop him from increasing and prosperity.  He said, “I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine,” (Matthew 25:25).  Instead of being made a ruler, he was made a disgrace.  Instead of living with abundance, he was deemed unprofitable and cast into outer darkness (vs. 30).

Living a life of unprofitableness is living a life of darkness.  There’s no joy or peace, only weeping.  This is not the life that God intended for us to live.  The special stuff that God put on the inside of you and me was never meant to be buried and hidden from the world.  We are meant to shine as a beacon of light into this dim, dark world and show them who God is and what He wants to do for all mankind through the abilities, gifts, and talents He has put in us.

What you have in you is too good to hide.  Don’t keep it to yourself.  “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath,” (vs. 29).  To some, this may seem like an unfair statement, thinking, Why do they get more when they already have some?  And, why are they going to take his little bit of stuff away?

Instead of questioning and overanalyzing the story, perhaps our time would be better spent if we were to pull out our own shovels and start digging.  Dig for your talent.  Unearth it from deep within and don’t give up until you have pulled out every treasure that God has put in you.  If when you pull your treasure up, it turns out to be only one thing, then, you work that one thing with hard-pressing diligence until it has increased and doubled to two.  Then, you work some more until that two doubles to four and so on.

‘Tis the season for opening gifts.  God has already given them to you.  Don’t let fear stop you from unwrapping them.  God took great care in picking out the perfect gift for you and He can’t wait for you to rip off the wrapping paper and begin to use it.  God gave it to you because you mean a lot to Him and He knows that you would be great in using it.

Don’t toss it aside.  Whether your gift is humble or outrageous, open it and bring it to the Savior!  You may be surprised at what you find.

We have just a little ways to go before we celebrate the best gift ever: JESUS!  Soon after that, we will be bringing in a New Year.  What better time to unwrap all that good stuff God has placed in you?

Have a very blessed and Merry Christmas, always thanking God in advance for the greatest gift of His Son, our Savior, JESUS CHRIST!

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The Christmas Purpose Fulfilled

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It will not last, my friends.  The wickedness of the days we see, the corruptness in the land, will all one day vanish away for good.

In this world, we may see the unfolding of many evil deeds.  At times, it may seem as if the leash has been cut, and like a made dog, the world is running rabid.  But rest assured, dear friends, regardless of what it may look like, God will always have the final say and it will not last.

Psalm 37:12-17 expounds on this truth by letting us know:

“The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.

The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.

The wicked have drawn out the sword, and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay such as be of upright conversation.

Their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.

A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.

For the arms of the wicked shall be broken: but the Lord upholdeth the righteous.”

Therefore, dear one, take heart in what your Lord has done and is doing.  They may rage, but He laughs.  They may try to come against His people, but it is the Lord who will come against those who come against His people.  It is the Lord who will break their attempts and “uphold the righteous.”

When the weariness of this world gets you down.  When you see things that you just cannot seem to understand.  When it seems that things are out of control, remember God is for justice.  God is for righteousness.  And God is for His people.

There is a day coming when all evil will be dealt with and silenced forever.

Take heart, the wickedness you see today will not last.  Zacharias prophesied of our Savior with this promise:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,

And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;

As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:

That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;

To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;

The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,

That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,

In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.” (Luke 1:68-75)

Friends, let us remember as we have come into the Christmas season, the purpose for it all.

Our Lord, as glorious and celebratory the scene may be, did not come to stay a babe in a manger.  He grew, and died, and rose to crush wickedness once and for all.

Fulfilling prophecies: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15; compare Hebrews 2:14).

Defeating darkness: “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15).

Ushering in victory: “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Because our Lord grew out of the manger and raised out of the grave, the Christmas purpose has been fulfilled.  The promise of our redemption has come and conquered, and victory over wickedness has been won forever.

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“Wisdom is Better!”

“Wisdom is better,” is what I read twice during my devotional reading.  In Ecclesiastes 9:16, 18.  In verse 16 it states that “wisdom is better than strength” and in verse 18 it states that “wisdom is better than weapons of war.”  This had me thinking, how often do we resort to strength and weapons before choosing wisdom to fight the struggles in life?

Strength and weapons are carnal devices that depend on fleshly know-how and might.  Often these are the first resources that man runs to in times of difficulty and adversity.  Wisdom is dependent upon God.  “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction,” Proverbs 1:7.

Would it not be more prudent in the days of trials to follow the path of wisdom whose author is God?  Many of life’s mistakes are made from rash human impulses instead of the patient endurance of wisdom that God provides.  Christians especially are admonished to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” Proverbs 3:5-6.

“Wisdom is better!”  James 1:5 gives us the key to finding this wisdom to help with life’s choices.  He said, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be give him.”  God will freely supply for the heart that seeks wisdom rather than the harried messes of one’s own way.

Today, choose wisdom.  It’s always the better option.

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