Yes! You Can!

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Have you ever side-stepped an invitation to do something because you doubt yourself? Maybe you were urged to apply for a job and decided, last minute, not to go for it, questioning your ability. We all know that over-confidence can land us in a real mess. However, a more common issue is the failure to live fully because of fear.  A crisis of confidence is not unique to you or me. It happens to us all.

Moses, the one-time prince of Egypt, failed and ran off to the wilderness, where he disappeared into obscurity, tending Jethro’s sheep for 40 years! Then, in the purposes of God, it was time! Israel needed a leader and God knew the right man for the job. God met Moses at a miraculously burning bush in the desert. It was aflame, yet not being consumed. When the shepherd saw it, he was intrigued and on investigation, found that the LORD used the phenomenon to get his attention! Once He had Moses’ focus, He called him to return to Egypt and deliver his people from slavery, leading them to the land of promise.

So did Moses say, “Great! When do I start?”   That is not the way it went. He grasped the apparent impossibility of the job, looked at his resume which included murder and flight to avoid prosecution, and asked God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”(Exodus 3:11, NIV)   In the dialogue with the Lord he points out his inability and God answers, not by reminding him of his charisma, intelligence, education, or court access.

God says to Moses –I’ll be with you! … “The LORD said to him, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Exodus 4:12, NIV)  

You and I share a high calling, too!  We are ministers of grace, agents of reconciliation, and ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. We are invited to live a holy life and to extend His rule into a world in rebellion, to lead those who are captive of Satan’s deception, out of the darkness into the Light!  Which one of us is smart enough, pure enough, to be able to say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”?  (1Corinthians 11:1)  Not one, no one. If we look only to our training or our natural abilities as a qualification for taking up the call of God, we will say, “Lord, you have the wrong person here. Look for another.”

Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, a prideful bunch, people who were abusing spiritual gifts and failing to truly honor God. He tells them the true Source of their strength is God, the Spirit.

“Thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.. . .   who is equal to such a task?. . . Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16; 3:4-6, NIV)

Meditate on these words from the Word.  Humbly thank God, the Holy Spirit, for empowering you for the task, then just do it.  Let Him amaze you with how much He can make of so little!

“You light a lamp for me.
The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.

In your strength I can crush an army;
with my God I can scale any wall.
 

God’s way is perfect.
All the Lord’s promises prove true.

He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.

For who is God except the Lord?
Who but our God is a solid rock?
God arms me with strength,
and he makes my way perfect.
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
enabling me to stand on mountain heights.”  (Psalm 18:28-33, NLT)

Now, let’s go in His strength and lead people to the Promised Land. Ready?

__________

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

(A song that talks about His invitation. God used this song to comfort Bev and me when we faced her cancer.)

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand

 And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

 Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sov’reign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

 Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour

 I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

Joel Houston | Matt Crocker | Salomon Ligthelm© 2012 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Not Forgotten!

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What encouragement I found in the story of Israel today, a reminder that in the worst of times, the Lord is present – but we do not always sense Him there, do we? When we make a long journey through sorrow, when we do our best with few visible results, when major disappointment comes our way, we can be tempted to reach the conclusion that God does not know or does not care. Are you in that place this morning?

Exodus opens with Israel in Egypt, grown from a small clan into an enslaved people. The favored status that they had known under Joseph was lost since gone. They had become the labor force of Egypt, building Pharaoh’s cities, a people without a future. About 4 centuries came and went since their grandfathers came to Egypt seeking relief from famine. When they prospered, the Egyptians responded by taking away their freedom, killing their sons, and making them slaves. Where was God?

The inspired text says “Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites still groaned beneath their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their pleas for deliverance rose up to God. God heard their cries and remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked down on the Israelites and felt deep concern for their welfare.” (Exodus 2:23-25, NLT)  Let’s focus on four verbs – God heard! God remembered! God saw! God knew 

And, He had already started the process of their deliverance, though neither the Israelites or Moses were yet aware of that. When we read their story, we do so knowing the outcomes, years of experience compressed into a chapter or two. With our perspective, we wonder why they were afraid, faithless, and failing.

When we are living life, working through the trials, waiting on the Lord – it is so different. A month of struggle seems endless, doesn’t it?  The Word should remind us that we are not forgotten, that God has not abandoned us to work it out alone.  In the middle of the night, the prayers of the Israelites were cries, “God help us. Save us.” And, nothing happened …. It seemed.

God was there, unseen for the moment, but active.

Centuries later in the history of the people of God, they were once again subjected to the power of their enemies. Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by Assyria, the best and brightest taken to be slaves in Babylon. They felt abandoned. Isaiah reminds them of God’s care. “But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:14-16, NIV)  His love for them was as intense as that of a nursing mother for her infant. Their names, He says, are written like a reminder on His hands.

He is near you today, too. The choice we make is one of faith. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about intense persecution that nearly drove him to despair. People rejected his message. There were attempts to kill him. The law was used against him. Was it hard? You judge as you read his words. “We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.”  Been there?  Here is the truth – God hears! God remembers! God sees! God knows!

Let this word from the Word inspire you. Paul, after telling of the troubles he knew, says that God’s Spirit resides in him, like a ‘treasure stored in an ordinary clay pot.’  Don’t you love that?

God’s Spirit is with us today. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV)

__________

Lord I Need You

(A prayer in song.)

Lord I come I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
And without You I fall apart
You’re the one that guides my heart

 Lord I need You oh I need You
Ev’ry hour I need You
My one defense my righteousness
Oh God how I need You

 Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are Lord I am free
Holiness is Christ in me
Where You are Lord I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

 So teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus You’re my hope and stay
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus You’re my hope and stay

 Lord I need You oh I need You
Ev’ry hour I need You
My one defense my righteousness
Oh God how I need You
My one defense my righteousness
Oh God how I need You

Christy Nockels | Daniel Carson | Jesse Reeves | Kristian Stanfill | Matt Maher
© 2011 sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Sweater Weather Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)Valley Of Songs Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Working with the Lord?

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When we are exhausted by life, there is a common symptom:  complaining! We begin to feel that nothing is good enough, that no one is on our side. The food isn’t right. The music is too loud/soft. Angry, sometimes bitter, emotions flourish like weeds in our soul and we start to see only the bad, the unpleasant, the hard.

When I hear myself whining too much about too many things, I know it is time for an attitude adjustment. I sometimes speak myself aloud – “Jerry, just give it a rest!”  If possible, my next choice is to find some time to pray and praise, to ask God for a reset of mind and heart.  In those choices I find renewed hope, the sun shines brighter!

Do you know that God cares for you?

We fret, stress, and struggle trying to make life into what we think it ought to be.  All the while, the Lord says, “Give it a rest!”   “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7, NIV)  Jesus also reminds us that for all our worrying we cannot ‘add a single hour to life!’  God does not ask us to minimize our concerns or to pretend that life has no stress, but He invites us to let Him care, to entrust those things that we cannot control to Him. By faith we can choose to enter into a place of rest, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

In the Psalm that celebrates God care for us (23) there is a wonderfully strange line – “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies!”  David says that God makes dinner for him right on life’s battlefield!  Dinner can be  respite at the end of a busy day, a time to reconnect with family and renew body and soul. God says that when the war of life rages, He offers dinner – renewal, hope, rest, and restored strength.

On this Monday morning draw strength for the challenges of this new week from the Spirit. Present yourself, your needs, your responsibilities to Him. Please know this:  God’s rest is not about retiring from life, about finding a place away from engagement with the world. He wants us to learn to work with Him. When we learn to work with His strength, we multiply our effectiveness. When we strive, fret, push, and press ourselves to prove to Him that we deserve His blessings our efforts become dutiful, exhausting, and often more about appearance than substance.  There is a better way!

Find it as you meditate on Jesus’ words. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)   He wants to come alongside and bear the weight. Will you allow Him to do that?  There is rest waiting. No, not the kind of rest we find in a hammock in the backyard on a Summer afternoon.  It’s a sense of fulfillment and purpose that comes from knowing He is pleased with us.

Our word from the Word is that same passage from The Message: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

________

Abba, the conspiracy of evil will attempt to
draw me into hurry and worry.

In that place, I know that You are not honored,
nor do I do my best work.

So, remind me often that You are here, near,
and ready to prepare dinner in the middle of the battle.

Teach me to work with You,
To release to Your care those things over which I have little control,
To walk obediently so that Your peace can keep me.

 As You bless me, may I be a blessing to others.
In Jesus’ name. Amen

Changed? Really possible?

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In Victor Hugo’s great story, Les Miserables, Valjean is stalked by an officer of the law, Javert, who is an inflexible man, consumed with the idea that a person cannot change. When Valjean is discharged from prison after a long, unjust sentence, Javert sneers at him, declaring that he will see him back in custody again. “Men don’t change,” he says. “You were born a criminal and no matter how hard you try, you cannot change that fact.”

Valjean experiences grace at the hands of a local priest who tells him that he has bought him a new life with his gift. He is transformed and becomes the beloved mayor of a prosperous little town. When they meet again in those circumstances, Javert refuses acknowledge the new character of Valjean. Consumed by shame over his own ignominious past, he cannot bring himself to admit that Valjean is not who he once was.

What do you believe about change?
Is it really possible?
Can a person, no matter their past, become new and whole?

In Joseph’s story there is a lengthy passage of his interactions with his brothers who come to Egypt looking to buy food during a famine. (Genesis 40-45) In what appears to be a cruel game, Joseph tests them, imprisons them for a time, and sends them back to Canaan to bring their brother, Benjamin, to him. He sets them up for an accusation of criminal behavior. Why all this? It is not retribution!

He is trying to understand if they have grappled with what they did to him 20 years before and to determine if they are changed men.  In a crisis moment, when it appears that Benjamin will be kept in Egypt to be Joseph’s slave, Judah, one of the older brothers, steps forward with a plea – “Take me in Benjamin’s place.” He confesses the sins of the past without excuse. At that moment, Joseph knows they are different men.

Often we are hardest on ourselves, unable to let go of guilt and shame from the past. We may profess to believe in grace, but we let nagging accusations remain a festering wound in our souls stealing the joy of Christ, holding us back from what He promises to us.  And, sometimes even as we say we hope for redemption, we hold the past over the head of another, refusing to free them with complete forgiveness.

Here is God’s truth – “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ’s ambassadors, and God is using us to speak to you. We urge you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, “Be reconciled to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21, NLT)

God, the Holy Spirit, desires to lead us to transformation – to make us His saints!  Paul, in that amazing transition passage in Romans 7 and 8, points out the deep inner conflict of the sinful nature and the spiritual nature. He teaches us that it is not self-help, not determination of our will, that frees us to for change. It is a work of the Spirit, as we open our lives to Him in confession, faith, prayer, worship, service, and devotion.  There is this grand statement about the reality of God’s work for us and in us.  Because of Jesus’ death and Resurrection we know that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2, NIV)

Will you become wholly new, a truly holy (dedicated to God) person?
Will you receive the grace that is His gift to all who come to Him in faith?
Will you hope for transformation, praying for a new heart and changed mind in yourself?

Our word from the Word is a paraphrase of Romans 8, quoted above. As you read this, pray for faith to make it the living Word today. “With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2, The Message)  Hallelujah and Amen!

__________

No Longer Slaves
(Zach Williams sings this amazing song in Harding Prison and it brings me to tears!)

You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance from my enemies
Till all my fears are gone

 I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

 From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again into Your family
Your blood flows through my veins

 You split the sea so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me so I could stand and sing
I am a child of God

Brian Johnson | Joel Case | Jonathan David Helser © 2014 Bethel Music Publishing

CCLI License # 810055

Ready for Promotion?

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We all know that guy who is always selling himself- the big stories, the careful image built to project the right perception, positioning himself to know people with influence. I suppose that is one path to one kind of success but self-promotion is not a pretty sight to see, in my opinion. There is nothing wrong with aspiring to leadership or desiring to gain a place of influence that can be used for the good of others. However, wanting recognition or power to satisfy ego needs is ugly, prideful, a place where much evil flourishes.

The better way is to build the character and cultivate the qualities that prepare us for God’s promotion!

 Joseph, the teenager sold into slavery by jealous brothers, ended up in Egypt on the lowest rung of society’s ladder.  He did not nurse his wounds, feed resentment, and demand that someone rescue him. He prayed, trusted God, and did the right things. Life took him from slavery to prison, from bad to worse – so it seemed.  But, his intimate connection to the living God did not go unnoticed.

When the king had a dream which nobody could understand, one of his servants remembered that guy he met in jail who had spiritual insight. “Then the king’s cup-bearer spoke up. “Today I have been reminded of my failure,” he said. “Some time ago, you were angry with the chief baker and me, and you imprisoned us in the palace of the captain of the guard. One night the chief baker and I each had a dream, and each dream had a meaning. We told the dreams to a young Hebrew man who was a servant of the captain of the guard. He told us what each of our dreams meant, and everything happened just as he said it would. ” (Genesis 41:9-13, NLT)

Joseph was called into court where he heard Pharaoh’s dream. God revealed the meaning and wise counsel to Joseph which he shared, confidently, with the king. “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. …”

And God promoted him!  “The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”  (Genesis 41:33-41, NIV)

Are you polishing up your resume, working to create that social media image, trying hard to become ‘’somebody?”  God’s success is counter-cultural. The way to leadership is through service. Two of Jesus’ disciples came to Him seeking places of influence. Remember what He said? “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45, NIV)  When Jesus humbled Himself, even to death, God raised Him up and now He is seated at the Father’s right hand.

Let God promote you. He needs faithful people, who are filled with the Spirit, to lead His people, to care for His church, to extend the reach of His reign. Desire the best spiritual gifts. Present yourself to Him, humbly.  And, see where He leads, how He uses you. The center of His will is the place of our greatest effectiveness and deepest peace.

Here is a word from the Word.  May the Lord use it to correct the cultural ideas about power and promotion, making us like Jesus.  “So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7, The Message)

__________

Build My Life

(As you listen, give your life to Him, the Builder)

Worthy of ev’ry song we could ever sing
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring
Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe
We live for You

 Jesus the name above ev’ry other name
Jesus the only one who could ever save
Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe
We live for You We live for You

 Holy there is no one like You
There is none besides You
Open up my eyes in wonder and show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me

 I will build my life upon Your love
It is a firm foundation
I will put my trust in You alone
And I will not be shaken

Brett Younker | Karl Martin | Kirby Elizabeth Kaple | Matt Redman | Pat Barrett © 2016 Martin, Karl Andrew (Admin. by Arkyard Music Services Limited) Kaple Music (Admin. by Bethel Music Publishing) Bethel Music Publishing

CCLI License # 810055

Delighted in God during times of disappointment?

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When life goes in a direction I did not anticipate, I remember the words of Robert Burns, the 18th century Scottish poet, who wrote
“The best laid schemes o’ mice and men
Gang aft a-gley, (go oft awry)
And leaves us naught but grief and pain
For promised joy.”

So, what best-laid plans that you made went awry? It’s not always that big catastrophe that knocks us down is it?  Oh, losing a job, watching your marriage fall apart, or fighting with chronic pain can be hard, but sometimes what disappoints us is much more personal. It’s that stupid choice of a hurtful word that damages a friendship; or that dumb lie we tell; or that impulsive act that leaves us full of ‘naught but grief and pain!

Joseph, hero of Genesis, archetype of Jesus, met some surprises on the way to God’s promised destination! As the favored son of Jacob, he started life with great expectations. One day in a dusty desert, his jealous brothers changed everything and sold him to slavers who took him to Egypt. Game over, right? Not quite!

He persisted and found himself managing the household a rich man. Potiphar’s wife decided she wanted to sleep with the good-looking kid. His refusal earned him a false accusation of rape and a long term in prison. But, he kept on doing the right thing and God used the awful things to bring him to Pharaoh’s attention. He became Prime Minister. It was many years after that terrible day when he was torn from home and family and sold into slavery that his brothers showed up in court. When they found out who was sitting on the throne, they quaked with terror.

Now it was Joseph’s turn to be a game changer. His faithful heart is revealed in what he said to them. “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:19-20, NIV)

In the amazing way that only an all-powerful and all-knowing God can, He is able to turn those ‘surprises’ into opportunities. The Lord says, “Trust Me!” and we really should! “While I wait for God as long as he remains in hiding, while I wait and hope for him.” (Isaiah 8:17, The Message) “Yes, indeed—God is my salvation. I trust, I won’t be afraid. God—yes God!—is my strength and song, best of all, my salvation!” Joyfully you’ll pull up buckets of water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2-3, The Message)

Meditate in this Psalm for a few moments this morning.
Savor the words, pray for the Spirit to sow them deep in your soul. Then, ‘wait patiently’ for God to act.

Don’t worry about the wicked. Don’t envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away.
Like springtime flowers, they soon wither.

Trust in the Lord and do good.

Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence as clear as the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

 Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.
” (Psalm 37:1-7, NLT)
________________

Just A Closer Walk
(Patsy Cline and Willy Nelson sing this classic)

I am weak Thou art strong
Jesus keep me from all wrong
I’ll be satisfied just as long
As I walk let me walk close to Thee

Just a closer walk with Thee
Grant it Jesus is my plea
Daily walking close to thee
Let it be dear Lord let it be

When my feeble life is o’er
Time for me will be no more
Guide me gently safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore

Just a closer walk with Thee
Grant it Jesus is my plea
Daily walking close to Thee
Let it be dear Lord
Let it be dear Lord
Let it be dear Lord let it be

 

God knows, God plans

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I recently listened to a preacher declare to his congregation – “Everything in your life, the good, the bad, the hurtful, when others do wrong to you … comes straight from the hand of God so accept it as part of His plan.” That is not true! There is a huge difference between what God wills for us in His perfect loving plan and what God allows. He is not the Author of sin or evil, ever.

Human beings are free to choose to seek and follow Him, or to reject and rebel.  When we reject Him, our choices are sinful and the inevitable result is suffering – for us, for others. But, there is an assurance that keeps us at peace even when we suffer because of the sinful world in which we live. Nothing surprises the Lord and “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV)

The story of Joseph reveals God’s amazing ability to work through sinful people and circumstances; that knowing all things, He is able to weave together the threads of life to accomplish His plan for those who love Him.  As a young man, Joseph’s heart was sensitive to the Spirit. His father unwisely showed favoritism and the older brothers jealously hated the boy. God, knowing the awful road of suffering ahead for him, prepared him with two prophetic dreams.  He shared those dreams with his family stoking the fires of resentment.  They are recorded in Genesis 37.  The brothers sheaves of grain bowed down to Joseph’s; and the sun, moon, and stars gave honor to him. His brothers, in hateful resentment, first plot to kill him and then, when presented with an opportunity, sold him to traders headed for Egypt.

While God did not orchestrate their sin, He knew their hearts, knew the choices they would make, and He prepared grace for Joseph in the middle of it all!  Stored in Joseph’s mind is the dream that will sustain him through the next 2 decades of unbelievable difficulties.

My friend, finding the peace of God does not require that we make Him a monster that deals in evil and suffering. We need not become fatalists that resign to His supposedly terrible dealings with us. Indeed, James reminds us that God is good! “Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer. So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle.” (James 1:13-17, The Message)

Rest in this: nothing that happens to you today is a surprise to the all-knowing Father and He has already prepared grace for you to meet the challenge.

Jeremiah reminded the children of God, when they were suffering the results of their rebellion in captivity in Babylon that God was at work for their restoration. “This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” (Jeremiah 29:10-12, NIV)

Are you in a time when your heart is broken by the sin of another?
Are the circumstances of the day marked by disappointment or difficulties?
Do you find yourself hemmed in by choices made by others that seem to have no good end?

Don’t blame God! He did not do this to you.  Yes, He is God and He allowed it. We can never deny His power and His mastery of all things. But, sin is a destroyer of what is good, what is precious, what is blessed. In that He is a Restorer of those who turn to Him.  He frees us from slavery to sin and enables us to live in His kingdom. He works through us to accomplish His will and to bring honor to His Name. So, trust His saving grace through it all.

Many years after those brothers sold Joseph, they were standing before him in Pharaoh’s court, bowing down, just as God had revealed. Joseph, full of grace and forgiveness, declares this faithful statement. Make it your word from the Word today and be strengthened to stand. “But Joseph told them, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, to judge and punish you? As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil. He brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:19-20, NLT)  Amen!

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Good, Good Father  (listen, learn, and worship at this link)

I’ve heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night
You tell me that You’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

 You’re a Good Good Father
It’s who You are
It’s who You are\
It’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am
It’s who I am
It’s who I am

 I’ve seen many searching for answers
Far and wide
But I know we’re all searching for answers
Only You provide
Because You know just what we need
Before we say a word 

You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us 

Love so undeniable I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable I can hardly think
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
Into love love love

 You’re a Good Good Father
It’s who You are
It’s who You are
It’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am
It’s who I am
It’s who I am

Anthony Brown | Pat Barrett © 2014 Capitol CMG Paragon (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Common Hymnal Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

 

The REAL you

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In his book, The Life God Blesses, Gordon MacDonald tells about a visit with his grandfather in a nursing home. Time had dulled the keen edge of the old man’s mind. After attempting conversations with his grandfather, who had served Christ faithfully through many years, Gordon asked if he might pray with him before he left. Then, the old man asked to pray and a change came over his person. He prayed a prayer that called on God to bless those around him, a prayer that included specific Bible references. His prayer was clear and focused. Then, he prayed for the man in front of him, “Lord, bless,” and paused to ask, “who are you?” “I”m your grandson, Gordon.” “Oh, yes, Lord bless Gordon…” When age and a failing mind had stripped nearly everything of value from this saint, including awareness of his own grandson’s identity, what was at the depth of his being was revealed. He was, more than anything else, one who loved and knew God!

 What kind of person are you at the core of your being?
If your job, your ‘stuff’ of life were stripped away, who would be left?

Superficiality is the curse of our age. We can live day after day without a serious thought, distracted by trivial matters, television dramas, fashion, and/or political nonsense. We can get caught up in a life that measures worth by attractiveness, wealth, IQ, possessions … anything but the things of God.  Paul writes about that empty way of life. “Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.” (Philippians 3:19, NLT)  If we live only for earth’s rewards we will become living ghosts drifting through this world with empty souls. I believe that one of the reasons our culture is so taken with pursuit of perpetual youth is our general lack of depth of spirit. If life is only about how much we can enjoy earthly pleasures, it follows that we will be terrified by the losses that accompany advancing years.

Christian, we who profess to love Jesus can get trapped by a kind of ‘spiritual’ superficiality characterized shallow ‘bless me’ prayers, avoiding hard places of service to which He calls, and even refusing to endure those valleys where He becomes nearer and dearer to us. Of those someone has said that they “play at their worship, and worship their play.”

How I want to be a person whose love for God goes deep, a man of integrity who loves Him more even as eyes dim and mind clouds! Jesus reminds us that “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26, NLT)

Let’s pursue God and stop passing the time in diversions.  Solomon, the king who lost himself in pursuit of earth’s pleasures, circled around to this conclusion of wisdom – “Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and no longer enjoy living. It will be too late then to remember him, when the light of the sun and moon and stars is dim to your old eyes, and there is no silver lining left among the clouds.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1-2, NLT)

Here is a word from the Word –“Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. . . . There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.” (Philippians 3:16-21, The Message)

______________________

 Be Thou my vision
Oh, Lord, of my heart.
All else be naught to me
save that Thou art,
Be my best thought
by day and by night,
waking or sleeping,
Thy Presence, my Light.

Amen

Wrestling With God?

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A small group of Christian friends gathered and as we usually do, we made a list of our concerns for prayer. This week the list was long, evidence of the ways that we encounter sin and suffering in our world. Our list included sick friends, the grieving Christians in Sri Lanka, people who have lost their way, among other things. That we would pray is, hopefully, evidence that we are engaged, not apathetic about the state of the world in which we live! Ah, it’s a struggle, isn’t it? Are you ever tempted to lose yourself in distractions, to watch too much TV, play mindless games? Perhaps you want to be like a turtle and just pull into your shell and forget about the struggles out there?

I meditated on an episode from the life of Jacob this morning. His name means ‘Deceiver’ and he lived up to it! He ripped off his brother, tricked his old father, and manipulated his father-in-law. He is a shameless schemer until one night when he has a life-changing encounter.

Here’s how it’s told: “…during the night Jacob got up and sent his two wives, two concubines, and eleven sons across the Jabbok River. After they were on the other side, he sent over all his possessions. This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until dawn. When the man saw that he couldn’t win the match, he struck Jacob’s hip and knocked it out of joint at the socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is dawn.” But Jacob panted, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.” “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “It is now Israel, because you have struggled with both God and men and have won.” “What is your name?” Jacob asked him. “Why do you ask?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. Jacob named the place Peniel—“face of God”—for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” (Genesis 32:22-30, NLT)

Like many of the Genesis stories, the details are spare and sometimes mysterious, but the core lesson comes through here, loud and clear. God had not given up on Jacob. In the middle of the night the Lord (or an angel representing Him) met Jacob and challenged him! It was a wrestling match that lasted all night and left Jacob a changed man with a new name, and a limp to remind him of the encounter.

God wants to lead us, to love us, to transform us from sinner to saint, but it won’t happen without struggle.  The character of Jesus develops as we experience the life of the Spirit Who comes to us through the daily practices of the disciplines – prayer, meditation, Bible intake, worship, service, confession – among them.  We don’t just drift into spiritual maturity. We wrestle with Self, Satan, and Systems that resist God’s work in us.   We must be willing to contend prayerfully for the work of God to be accomplished in us and through us.  Will we?

Don’t be discouraged by the struggles of life!
Don’t think you’re doing something wrong because you’re in a wrestling match.
It may be the very means that God is using to develop you into a champion for His purposes.

After Jacob spent that exhausting night, he realized that the strange encounter was more than a night of bad dreams! “I’ve met God!” And, “Mr. Slick”  became Israel, meaning “God wins.”  Everyday when his new name was spoken, he was reminded that his best life was found in submission to the Lord, that God always prevails. He came to understand, more deeply than ever before, that the center of God’s will is the place of greatest peace. That revelation came at the price of wrestling, not apathy.

Those struggles that are making you wrestle with faith, that cause you to question God’s plans and purposes, that make you groan in prayer, that drive you to seek out the wisdom of the Word, are not a bad thing. God will use them to shape  you into a person worthy of His high calling and to reveal new depths of Himself to you. Don’t throw up your hands and just drift with the current. Prevail in prayer. Let God make you new.

Here’s a word from the Word. “And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.” (Ephesians 6:10-13, The Message)
_______

Defender
(a prayerful recognition of His love in our struggles)

You go before I know
That You’ve even gone to win my war
You come back with the head of my enemy
You come back and You call it my victory

 You go before I know
That You’ve even gone to win my war
Your love becomes my greatest defense
It leads me from the dry wilderness

 All I did was praise
All I did was worship
All I did was bow down
All I did was stay still

 Hallelujah You have saved me
So much better Your (this) way
Hallelujah great Defender
So much better Your (this) way

You know before I do
Where my heart can seek to find Your truth
Your mercy is the shade I’m living in
You restore my faith and hope again

 When I thought I lost me
You knew where I left me
You reintroduced me to Your love
You picked up all my pieces
Put me back together
You are the defender of my heart

 All I did was praise
All I need to do is worship
Lord I will just bow down
I’m just gonna stay still

John-Paul Gentile | Rita Springer | Steffany Frizzell Gretzinger © 2015 Gateway Create Publishing (Fair Trade Music Publishing [c/o Essential Music Publishing LLC]) Kindred Joy Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.) Bethel Music Publishing

CCLI License # 810055

Make a life-changing choice

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Yesterday around 10 am my office phone brought a call from a pastor I knew 40 years ago.  “Jerry, I just wanted to thank you.” His appreciation for ministry that I do was authentic and heart-felt. It was encouraging. Among the voices of the critics, hearing one of with affirming words is a blessing! “Thanks-living” has the capability of transforming another’s bad day into a good one, changing a miserable situation into one that is tolerable.

Do you realize that offering sincere praise to God opens our hearts to the inflow of the Holy Spirit? “Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. … Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:2,4, NIV) You can break the grip of discouragement with a genuine offering of worshipful praise. Go beyond the trite – “Thank you, God, for beautiful flowers.”  Thank Him for grace, for faithful friends, for forgiveness, for strength, for promise and purpose.

Praising Him is sometimes easy, almost spontaneous!  “Thank you, Lord! Praise God!” bursts from my lips.  There are days when we offer what the Bible calls a ‘sacrifice of praise.’  A choice is made to look past the problems, to thank God for His goodness, that He is indeed Lord of life, in spite of situations that defy understanding.  Avoid the error of implying that God is the author of terrible things like war, disease, or sinful oppression by thanking Him for those things. He allows us great freedom – to create good and to do evil. And, in the middle of the messes that the sinful of humanity (ours and others) create, He invites us thank Him for His faithfulness, for His love, for His goodness.

 When we are filled with worshipful praise of God, there is a shift in our human relationships. We more readily offer genuine thanks!  When you hear yourself slipping into criticism, pause. Find a word of appreciation. Watch the tone of the conversation change. It will amaze you. And you’ll feel so much better, so much more encouraged, at the end of the conversation.

Take these simple thoughts to heart today and make it a day for “thanks-living.” Why not start right now with 5 minutes of praise prayer? Don’t ask God for anything, just thank Him – profusely for people who bless you, for His plan in situations that challenge you, and for His love for you! Then, as you go through the day, look for opportunities to drop a word of affirmation and thanks into the lives of people.

Here is a word from the Word. Read it slowly, pausing to let the truth sink in.

“I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are discouraged take heart.
Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.” (Psalm 34:1-3, NLT)

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who trust in him!
Let the Lord’s people show him reverence,
for those who honor him will have all they need.” (Psalm 34:8-9, NLT)

One last thought- Thank you for sharing life with me through this daily blog called CoffeeBreak with the Word!

________

O worship the King all glorious above,
and gratefully sing his power and his love:
our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.

 Your bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
it streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
and sweetly distils in the dew and the rain.

 Frail children of dust and feeble as frail –
In you do we trust, nor find You to fail;
your mercies, how tender, how firm to the end!
our maker, defender, redeemer, and friend.

 O measureless Might, unchangeable Love,
whom angels delight to worship above!
our ransomed creation, with glory ablaze,
in true adoration shall sing to your praise!

Robert Grant, public domain