. . . 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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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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“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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“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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“Your Hearts Shall Live!”

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“And you who seek God, your hearts shall live,” Psalm 69:32

How many go through their day complacent in the status quo?  No passion for life.  No zeal for better.  Just run the ordinary course of the ordinary life jogger, following the crowd, content with a heart that’s just beating but not alive.

A heart that is alive thrills at the unknown.  A heart that is alive craves to pump its life source throughout every crevice of its being.  Those who seek for God are not content with just the rhythmic beat of every other man.  It wants to thump against the chest wall to express the life that lives in it.

When one seeks God it stirs up something on the inside of them.  It stirs a wanting of more.  Kind of like a first love.  You seek to be near that person or to simply hear their voice.  When contact is made it makes the heart beat a little faster and you feel alive!  God promises those that look for Him with that same passion your hearts shall live.  Your heart will tell a story all its own about the love that dwells in it for the one you seek.

Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly,” (John 10:10).  He wants hearts alive; hearts that live for seeking Him more and more.  From that they will reap not the status quo rather an abundance of life that flows from Him.  If the beat of your heart is a little slower these days, or your faith is not getting as excited as it used at the first, check to see who or what you have been seeking after.  It may be that you have been looking for love, acceptance and passion everywhere but the right place.  But, we have this promise, “you who seek God, your hearts shall live!”

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“Stop the Madness!”

“. . . And bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:5

“I cannot get this thought out of my mind!” That is the howl of frustration that has come from many persons I know. It has probably come from you, too. The relentless, almost like water dripping from the faucet thoughts, that drip, drip, drip their way into your mind. Sometimes making your head spin with a bothersome problem. If those thoughts were pleasant to us, then we would not mind it so much. It would cause us to feel as though we were walking through a field of flowers all day long. It’s when the invasion of unpleasant thoughts comes and messes with our peaceful reverie that we have a problem. These things continually bounce off the mind, not allowing rest for the soul.

The apostle Paul taught, “Take every thought captive.” The Christian must make a conscious effort to have a fly trap mentality. There is a barrier that every individual is to put up to guard their precious mind. That barrier is the Word of God. Whatever does not fall in line with Him and His Word is supposed to be trapped and discarded as refuse like that old, dirty fly trap. There is some bothersome stuff that people put up with every day. They are buzzing around your head and just plain ole getting on your nerves. I mean, you really wish you could tear it out of there and throw it away. Guess what? I have good news for you you can. Today, you can stop the madness because the Word of God declares, “You will keep him perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You!” (Isaiah 26:3, NKJV).

When you are dealing with all that annoying stuff, it is robbing you of the peace that God wants you to have in Him. As I am writing this, I am looking at my cats stretched out on the floor, sleeping. Outside there is some stonework cutting going on using a loud machine not far from my window. When the work first began, it caused their ears to perk up, and I think they were wondering what is going on out there. As time went on, they stopped wondering and started sleeping. I guess they figured, hey, whatever is going on out there does not affect me in here. I am in my safety. I am in my shelter. I am in my place of trust.

That is what God wants each of us to experience in Him. This kind of rest and peace only comes with first, trusting Him, and secondly, taking every thought captive. These two working together will give you the peace you so desire. After all, who does not want more peace? One can have all the money in the world and be miserable because there is no peace of mind.

Stop the madness. “Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” I once heard this described as a wrestling match. I forget who I heard it from, but the idea is taking hold of that thought, pinning it to the ground, and making it obey Christ. If that thought does not profit my spiritual growth in God or my relationship with people or any of the good stuff God wants for me, then it is to be pinned down. It is not allowed to get the victory today. It is not even allowed in the ring with me.

How do I do that? “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things,” (Phil. 4:8). That is how you do it. I know from personal experience how easy it is to focus on all the negative stuff that tries to rob you of peace. But if you will change, on purpose, the focus of your thought life, you will begin to experience what God said you can have. I have heard it said that if you keep doing the same thing then you will keep getting the same results. No truer is that than here, in dealing with what you think throughout the day.

So, instead of letting all that madness of wrong thoughts overrun you – today, stand up against it. Take control of it and capture it. It is not allowed to have access. Today, declare, it is time to “Stop the madness!”

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“God, Guide Me Today Prayer” + 10 More Inspirational Quotes and Verses about God’s Leading and Direction

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Father God, 

Where I go today, I pray it be only in the path You have directed for me.

If I stumble today, I pray it only be into the deep waters of grace You have provided for me.

If I fall today, I pray that it only be into the arms of Jesus where I know I am held and loved.

No matter what comes my way and no matter where You lead me, I pray that my eyes will only be focused on You; my Rock and my Stay.  Please, God, guide me today for I don’t know what the day may hold, but I do know that You are holding my day!

Amen!

Proverbs 16:9 – “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.”

Psalm 37:23 – “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.”

Psalm 25:12 – “What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.”

Charles Stanley – “Earthly wisdom is doing what comes naturally. Godly wisdom is doing what the Holy Spirit compels us to do.”

Thomas Merton – “For each one of us, there is only one thing necessary: to fulfill our own destiny, according to God’s will, to be what God wants us to be.”

Frederick Buechner – “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Psalm 25:10 – “All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.”

Luke 22:42 – “Not my will, but thine, be done.”

Dr. Tony Evans – “When you realize God’s purpose for your life isn’t just about you, He will use you in a mighty way.”

Joanna Gaines – “God, . . . I trusted you with my dream and you took it far beyond what I ever could have dreamed or imagined.”

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I AM THE LORD!

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Reading in Leviticus chapter 22, in the middle of what seems to be a bunch of rules, regulations, and requirements for offerings, these four words stand out in the midst of them all: I AM THE LORD. Looking further, you will see these words appear in this exact order seven times in this one chapter alone.

Many shy away from reading through books such as Leviticus because they can be lengthy and somewhat boring to read for some. In a book that is filled with details and sacrifice, commandments and consecrations, what to eat and what not to eat, cleanness and uncleanness, relationships and feasts, laws and penalties – all was laid out with this purpose in mind: worshipping God in the holiness He deserves, because, as He said, “I AM THE LORD!”

If you do a deeper study, you will see that these four words appear throughout this entire book, not just chapter 22, many, many more times.

The gist of it all is what I think most, even in our modern churches and lives, forget that everything we do, we do for the Lord. Our lives, our worship, are not our own. We are to be dedicated to Him and give Him what is due to His holy name.

When we come before God, we are to have a devoted mindset and heart. Our worship is to be as pure as any sacrifices offered unblemished before the Lord in the Old Testament. Our lives are to be pure and open vessels ready to receive what His Spirit pours into us, and in turn, we are to pour out His blessings into the lives of others.

What are we giving to God daily? What are we offering to Him in our times of worship?

God wants the best of us!

He wants holy lives that recognize and live for Him because of who He is: the LORD! He is God, the Author and Creator of the universe and beyond. He is as supreme as supreme can get, and He deserves to be reverenced as such. The Bible states, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). Other parts of Leviticus tell us, “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God” (20:7).

God wants holiness in our lives and our worship. I love a message that pronounces blessings just as much as the next person, but without holiness, it means absolutely nothing in His sight. As a whole, we need to come back to the central theme of true holiness because the LORD requires nothing less.

I am not talking about rules and regulations, but rather hearts fully dedicated to Him because they recognize that He is the LORD, and they want to give Him the best of themselves. And, that is a holy life.
We must never lose sight of, diminish, or bring down to our level the glory and honor God deserves. He is the LORD! He is Sovereign overall! He is Master! He is Savior! He is King! “I AM THE LORD!” He exclaimed, and holiness before Him is what He desires.

Amen!

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