Blog — January 30

Being in prison is a humiliating experience. To be stripped of all you own, to be roughly handled and cast into a cell, to be at the whims of prison guards, with no rights, no entitlements, defenseless and often times alone, surrounded by strangers. Ever since Joseph was cast into a well by his brothers he had be cast into a river of events he had no control over, trying to build a raft out of whatever skills he had in whatever situation he found himself in, only to have his hopes dashed on the rocks and to be cast back into the current.   So prison, at least, may have felt like a respite. Sure it was rock bottom, but at least it was solid ground; nowhere to go but up, right?

No, even in prison, while trying to do the right thing, even going so far as to exercise his ministry gifts for his fellow captives, he is betrayed. A friend in need asks for help, which Joseph freely gives. Then, when prosperity comes he forgets about Joseph, leaving him to rot for two full years. Yes, even here, at the bottom, there were things you could still lose.

But Joseph wouldn’t give up the one thing he still had, hope. Hope in a God that let him be sold as a slave, unfairly thrown into prison and forgotten for years. Hope in a God who for all those years never stopped speaking to Joseph, never abandoned him, never stopped favoring him, and beyond all hope Joseph persisted in his faith until God delivered him.

Joseph had more than faith; Joseph was faithful. He lived each day as if God would deliver him the next, and you know the rest of the story—how he was restored, how he was promoted, how even his family came to be fed at his table. Remember that no matter where you are, be faithful to what you know, not just what you see, and God’s favor will move you to the place you need to be.

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Blog — January 29

The 17 year old Joseph must have been pretty excited about the visions he had seen. Could you imagine being in the room when your younger brother blurts out the dream of a life time… “One day you will all bow to me!” It seems Joseph was unaware of the pit awaiting him in the field.

There have been days when the thought of God-given dreams have led to boastful exclamation, but there have been many more days when dreams have led to emotional pits. The very dream that causes an extreme outburst of excitement can lead to the hardest of days when a dream goes unfulfilled.

When we get to the end of Chapter 37, all hope looks lost. What is to become of the young dreamer? Were his dreams only based on lies? Who will come to his rescue?

The chapter ends very similar to Matthew 27. The story of Jesus seemingly comes to an end. His body buried. His tomb sealed. His gravesite guarded.

When my dreams are shattered, my first instinct is to panic. Fear creeps in that I’ll never achieve what God has shown me in a dream. Doubt tells me I’ve never heard God’s voice in the first place. I began to believe lies about God that He has left me or forgotten the things He has promised.

Joseph chose to trust God in the worst of situations. Jesus chose to submit his life into the hands of the Father. Through each story God demonstrated His great power to make His plan happen. Joseph’s family finds themselves at his mercy as He rescues them from famine. Jesus is raised from the dead, bringing salvation to all mankind.

When dreams seem to fail, we have to decide to trust God, who is in control of our future, or to panic because circumstances haven’t gone as planned?

Blog — January 28

The psalms wonderfully express the reality of our human experiences. In them we see the emotion, feeling, attitude, gratitude and interest of the average person. This first psalm stands as an introduction to the rest of the Psalms. It provides us instruction concerning good and evil, setting before us life and death, the blessing and the curse, that we may take the right way, which leads to joy and avoids that which will certainly end in our misery and ruin. While it lays out two paths that one can take, the key subject of this psalm is the centrality of God’s Word. Blessings come from growth in the plan of God through fellowship with Him and through the Word of God. While believers have a heavenly position and an eternal inheritance secured by the work of Jesus Christ, the experience of our blessings, the increase of our capacity to appreciate the Lord, and our capacity for happiness is directly proportional to our knowledge and right application of the Word.

This psalm is actually a beatitude. A beatitude pronounces blessings upon a certain group of people. It is not, however, an unconditional pronouncement, nor a guarantee of bliss or a life without problems. In carnal thinking we are either drawn to resist the notion that God demands obedience and that His blessings are tied to it, or we are led to think that obedience gives us immunity to the pains of this world. Such unbiblical thoughts [2 Cor. 4:4] become powerful tools of the enemy of our souls who strives to separate us from the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, it is equally true that the pronounced blessings upon the obedient stand and will be fulfilled as the Lord has promised.

May the Lord help us to hide His Word in our hearts, as well as give us a love for it, so that we may fully walk in the blessings of obedience. In looking back, I can see that my joy in living was directly proportional to my understanding and application of the Word of God to my life at any given time. How about you?

“Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life” (Psalm 119:104).

Blog — January 27

Job was the most righteous man in all the land. We read about all he suffered and it is no wonder that he tried to make his case before his friends and God – wouldn’t you?  In Job 39 and 40 God speaks to Job and he clearly knows “I am unworthy” [40:4]. God goes on further to put things in perspective for Job.

As we grow and mature in God we may find ourselves in a similar position as Job, where things just do not seem fair. We can quickly lose sight of proper perspective and think that God has forgotten us, or even worse, that he does not care.

If today you find yourself in a place like Job, reach out to God and ask if there is anything you need to confess or address. If He does not reveal anything, then dig deep and trust Him as you go through the trial.

It is during the trials that our faith and trust in God can grow deep. Just like the athlete who must train hard to be prepared for peak performance, we must let God prepare us for greater works. If we try to avoid the situation and pain of pushing through and trusting Him, there will likely be no growth.

You can be sure God is in control and preparing you for a good work and greater blessings. Just like we see in Job 42, once we have a proper perspective of our God, He will set His purpose into motion and complete what He began.

Remember, Job was questioning why God ever brought him into the world. Now after suffering, he enjoys the latter part of his life that was blessed even more than the first half [v12].

Hang in there and trust God to bring you through the most difficult of times and bless you.

Blog — January 26

With friends like Job’s, who needs enemies? Despite the pain and suffering Job endured, his faith in God’s sovereignty and character never waned. Job’s certainty in his own right standing with God never wavered even though he was ridiculed, antagonized and insulted by men he thought were his friends. I’m thankful that the stories in the Bible are about real people who experienced real things. I am comforted, encouraged and empowered for my life as I read about Job’s steadfastness through his trials, David’s heart for God whether in favor with men or not, Nehemiah’s resolve amid the opposition of doing God’s work, Paul’s trust in God as his vindicator when all deserted him, and even Jesus’ self-reliance instead of looking for man’s approval.

How were men like Job, David, Nehemiah and Paul able to stand when those closest to them offered no support, or worse? They knew God. “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another” (Job 19: 25-27). Job didn’t understand why so much had befallen him, but that didn’t matter. We need to and can be certain of who God is: Creator, Provider, Lord, Judge, Redeemer, and so much more. We also can be sure that God is for us, not against us. The support of our friends and loved ones will falter; we cannot look to them to sustain us in times of trouble. Even those with good intentions can fail us. Know God for yourself and trust him completely, regardless of circumstances or opposition.

Blog — January 23

I have always heard that problems, trials or trouble come in threes. If the car recently broke down and the dryer is broken, I am on the lookout for the third issue. I know it’s coming somewhere down the line, and when it comes, I am finally relieved.

In Job Chapter 1, verse 14, Job gets the first bit of bad news— the loss of his oxen, donkeys and the servants attending them. It is immediately followed up with two more accounts of loss of property and servants. But Job’s problems do not stop at three. In verse 19, Job is finally informed that all 10 of his adult children are dead. When a father loses a single child it’s devastating, but the loss of all his children is incomprehensible!   Verse 20 tells us that ”Job stood up and tore his robe in grief.” However, Job does not sin by blaming God. Instead, he praises him.

This is how the devil attacks us. He starts with a small problem and then adds to it—problems on top of trials and tribulations. He attempts to overwhelm our soul just as the flood waters overwhelm a city. He comes from many directions at once in a concerted effort to crush our spirit.

So…..Be alert, be on guard, be ever vigilant for the devil, your enemy, “is going back and forth across the earth, watching everything that’s going on” (Job 1:7), looking for the opportunity to destroy your soul by attacking you, attempting to make you disillusioned with your circumstances and ultimately to see you “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Remember, you are not alone in your troubles. Matthew 20:28 tells us “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” We are not alone in our troubles! Praise God!

Blog — January 22

Things in life may not be fair. People may not do right by you. You work hard on your job abiding by the rules, treating people the way you would like to be treated; but yet, the same respect that you give is not given back to you. So what do you do? Stand firm in your faith! Know who you are in the Lord – know your Creator – know your King of kings! Stay true to Him and you will be the overcomer! Remember the example of Jacob, he struggled with God and with humans and overcame [Genesis 32: 28b].

Blog — January 21

God’s Promises – Genesis 28:10-29:14

God called me and my wife to serve in missions about 25 years ago in a miraculous way. Each of us, separately but on the same weekend, heard very clearly from the Lord about our future working in a Muslim land. What is even more miraculous is that it happened while we were dating but before we were engaged. Not that this “sealed the deal” for our relationship, but it sure didn’t hurt.

With this very clear promise from the Lord and many confirmations along the way, we thought we would be heading to the field right after we graduated. We were ready for our adventure and to begin serving God in this way… or so we thought. But it was more than a decade of waiting before we got the green light from the Lord to apply for our appointment and another few years before we finally landed in our first field of service.

In this time of waiting, there were moments of wondering if we had missed God, or if God had somehow forgotten about us. At times we tried to figure out if there was something we needed to learn so that we could hurry the process up. We thought, in effect, that the promise hinged on us and something that we could do about it. How wrong we were. God was simply waiting for his timing to be fulfilled.

Likewise, it would have been easy for Jacob to question the promise that God made to his grandfather Abraham. After all, generations had passed and still not much had happened to further the promise. We know that Jacob knew about the promise, but he probably didn’t put much credence in it. God showed him in a pretty extraordinary way that He hadn’t forgotten His promise.

But it is important to note that this promise had nothing to do with how Jacob behaved, or how he responded to the promise. As a matter of fact, Jacob was at the very least a bit of a scoundrel and his name even means deceiver or supplanter (literally ‘heel grabber’). But God’s promise was not dependent on Jacob. It just was.

Even Jacob’s response to the covenant showed how little he understood God’s character or the meaning of the promise. He basically said, “If you will make me successful, protect me and give me lots of good stuff, then I’ll serve you as God.” God did, in fact, do all those things. Not for Jacob’s sake; He did it for the sake of his promise.

Maybe God promised you something some time ago and it still has not come to pass. Perhaps you have been waiting years like my wife and I. Or perhaps your wait is generations long like Jacob’s wait was. Our vision is finite and our faithfulness is wavering. We may at times break a promise, but God never will. Hang onto that promise and walk in its reality. He is faithful.

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)