Wednesday, July 31, 2013

EN GARDE!...ON GUARD!

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. "Be on your guard against men; - Matthew 10:16-17

Jesus said it, I believe it, that settles it.  However, the Holy Spirit inspired Luke (in the Book of Acts), Paul (in the Book of 1 Corinthians and second letter to Timothy), and Peter (in his second letter) to encourage others to - "Be on your guard" also. 

I encourage the Christian community and myself to take our spiritual awareness to the next level.  At least pay some attention to developing this part of our spiritual walk.  Some like the word discerning, some like the word distinguishing, but this is how 1 John 4:1-3 (NIV) says it - "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God."

I challenge us not only to be on our guard for those that do not acknowledge Jesus is from God, but also challenge us to be on our guard from blatant and subtle attacks from the enemy.  Sometimes our attention level can drop to the point where an obvious demonic attack surprises us.  Other times we can get so complacent and/or comfortable that Christians don't even know they have been subtly attacked until it is too late.

I do want to offer a warning here.  I realize that not every problem and issue we face is of the enemy.  I am of the idea that most of the challenges I face come from me and my environment.  So, I am encouraging myself as well as other Christians to pause before labeling a situation "of the enemy".  However, if you can discern through prayer, study of The Word, and  trusted consultation that you are under demonic attack or there is potential for an attack, then "Be on your guard"

Jesus told His disciples the condition He was sending them out into - "like sheep among wolves".  Nothing like jumping right into the deep-end.  But Jesus did not stop there (thank you Lord).  He threw in a "Therefore".  And anytime you see a "Therefore", you have got to ask what it is there for.  The "Therefore" says - Because of this condition ("sending you out like sheep among wolves") I have special instructions.

My paraphrase of the next part is be cunning and strategic as a sneaky snake, but keep integrity (innocence as a dove) intact.

Notice that the charge to "Be on your guard" that comes afterward is "against men" not against the Devil. Again, we can fall from our own mistakes, from an attack from the enemy of our souls, or like Jesus says here - from our own human brothers/sisters.  The keys are to "test the spirits", have a clever strategy, and keep your integrity.  But before all this, always - "Be on your guard"!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

WHO YA GONNA TRUST?

I like the music of the Zac Brown Band.  However, there is a line in one of his songs that has spurred this blog.  The album is You Get What You Give, the song is As She's Walking Away.  The lyrics that caught my attention I will put in bold - "...ask her to dance, go on son you might fall down on your face, roll the dice and have some faith...".

So, there it is - chance and faith - they are not the same.  Chance is something that is just happenstance.  It cannot be partnered with anything else that may lead to it or predict it.  In fact, dictionary.com defines it as - the absence of any cause of events that can be predicted, understood, or controlled.  Whereas someone who has faith can usually be partnered with their supportive actions or deeds.  "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?" – James 2:14  "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." – James 2:17

Chance is unstable and has no partner to help you rely on it.  So, that leaves faith.  What is faith?  "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." – Hebrews 11:1  "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." – Hebrews 11:6  "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." – Romans 10:17

You know the light is going to come on when you flip that room switch to the "on" position.  You are "sure of what you hope for" - light - because you are "certain of what you do not see" - electricity.

Oh, to have the faith of the royal official (John 4:43-53).  He was sure of what he hoped for - Jesus healing his near-death son.  He was certain of what he did not see - miraculous power was in Jesus and had been displayed previously.  Now, Jesus grants his request, even though the official's son lay on his bed at least a day's walk away.  The next words arrest my heart, mind, and spirit something fierce - "The man took Jesus at his word and departed." - John 4:50  About a day later on the road to his son, the official's servants met him with news that his son was healed at the exact time Jesus has spoken the healing words over his son. Faith was put into action by taking Jesus at his word.  Not chance.

Another example of choosing faith is found in the meeting of Jesus and the Centurion.  When the Centurion explained his faith to Jesus - that Christ's physical presence was not required in the room to heal his servant, that Jesus was one of special authority - Scripture says, "he [Jesus] was astonished".  That's quite a feat. Jesus continued, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." - Matthew 8:10 Wow!  What a compliment!  Maybe I can learn something from the Centurion and the Royal Official.

Chance doesn't have a chance when placed next to faith and deeds that support one's faith.  When it comes to your life and especially your walk with God don't leave it to chance.  Be sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.  How are you gonna be certain of what you do not see?  Trust.  Chance comes with no partner.  Faith comes with God.  Who ya gonna trust?  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

TAKE HIM AT HIS WORD

I read my second favorite story in the Bible today - Lazarus.  I saw that I am spiritually where Mary and Martha were the fourth day Lazarus was dead and Jesus arrived on the scene.  Both sisters said the same thing to begin with - "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11:21, 32).  This statement by itself is not true.  John 4:43-53 speaks about a long-distance healing of an official's son who lay sick at least a day's walk away from where Jesus was staying.  The sick boy's father approached Jesus and pleaded with Him to come to where the child was, but Jesus stayed and said, "You may go. Your son will live."  The next verse I struggle with sometimes and I shouldn't - "The man took Jesus at His word and departed." (John 4:50).  However, the real zinger is the conversation Martha had with Jesus.

Jesus said to Martha "Your brother will rise again." (11:23).  She must have been well educated in eschatology because she says, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." (11:24).  Although this gave credit to God's Word, the Word of God in flesh was standing before her.  She knew Jesus as Master and Teacher (Lord and Rabbi) in the brain - from all of her senses.  Now, in the next verse Jesus takes her to the next level.

  • "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?'" (John 11:25-26)

Martha finally gets it and says, "'Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.'" (11:27)

Jesus had the same kind of conversation with Martha's sister Mary.  His end statement was - "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God? (John 11:40)

And it is no wonder Jesus had the daunting task of belief in Him as Christ (the Anointed One), The Messiah. The Jews were looking for militant relief or rescue from their Roman oppression, but Jesus visited humanity the first time just as the Scriptures foretold - as the suffering servant.  Even with this outlook by the Jewish people Jesus asked them to believe.

One other story I hear myself quoting from a lot is the Healing of a Boy with an Evil Spirit (Mark 9:21-24).  Jesus asked the boy's father, 'How long has he been like this?' 'From childhood,' he answered.  'It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.'  'If you can'?' said Jesus. 'Everything is possible for him who believes.'  Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'

That last underlined phrase is my plea for many areas in my life.  "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"  It screams of head-knowledge from here to eternity but little to no experience.  I desire so much to be a well-rounded Christian.  I want to be a Christian that is sound, experienced in every area and has faith that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6).  I guess I have not lived long enough and am a little impatient. 

For now I pray...Dear Lord, help me.  It seems like I have so much head-knowledge but I lack terribly in some areas concerning belief.  Help me to overcome my unbelief... realize who you said you were to Mary and Martha and me...and to take you at your Word!  In your name, Jesus, I pray, Amen.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

UNTIL THE APPOINTED TIME

Jesus came, made some friends and influenced people, but He sure stirred the pot while He was here too!  He had people wanting to make Him king on one side (Jn. 6:14-15).  He had people/Priests trying to kill Him on the other (Jn.7:30; Jn. 7:44; Jn. 8:59; Jn. 9:22; Jn. 10:31; Jn.10:39; Jn. 11:53).  Then right in the middle Jesus confirms the turbulence when He says,
  • "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn " 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-- a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:34-38)
However, in the midst of all this upheaval there was complete control.  As referenced above, many people tried to cut Christ's ministry and life short because of the threat of loss to their place as priests and nation (Jn. 11:48).  But to borrow and manipulate a common-day phrase - No-one laid a finger on His Butterfinger!  

Here are some verses that mention Father God's control and timing in the life of Jesus.  And knowing that The Plan worked out and timed out perfectly for Jesus, how much more will God take care of His kids - His true Christ followers.

  • "At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come." (Jn. 7:30)
  • "Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him." (Jn. 7:43-44)
  • "At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds." (Jn. 8:59)
  • "His parents [the blind man's parents] said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue." (Jn. 9:22)
  • "Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him," (Jn. 10:31)
  • "Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp." (Jn. 10:39)
  • "So from that day on they plotted to take his life." (Jn. 11:53)
The other side wanted Jesus alive, but seated as King and they were willing to forcibly make Him so.
  • "After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself." (Jn. 6:14-15)
Jesus addressed both concerns.  To the ones wanting to make Him King or know when that time shall come, Jesus said,
  • "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:7-8)

To the one's trying to kill Him, He said,
  • "I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." (John 10:17-18)
With Jesus being one with God the Father (Jn. 10:30), Jesus was in control.
 
With Jesus victorious over death, hell, and the grave Jesus says, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matthew 28:18).  Jesus is in control.
 
With Jesus promising to come again and manifest the restoration and redemption of all things that He paid for with His blood, the Scripture says - God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11).   Jesus will be in control.

I challenge you as well as myself to not panic when our life and the world seems out of control.  Observing that God's Plan happened just as He planned it for Jesus, I choose to believe in His sovereignty for my life - that He has me in this world for His purpose(s) Until The Appointed Time.  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

BAD EXAMPLE...GOOD PRINCIPLE

I will admit, I am not the sharpest knife in the tool-set or of the silverware, BUT I sure would love to think and believe I have enough common sense that I would not follow in the footsteps of Gideon.  This guy was clueless and God still used him.  That is no grounds for a clueless lifestyle.  God called Gideon - "mighty warrior" (NIV).  However, Gideon never realized this Godly perspective throughout his experience as supposed "Champion" of God for Israel.  Instead, he focused on all the weaknesses and imperfections of himself and his environment.  The only time anything really started to get accomplished was when "the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him." (Judges 6:34)  This lack of Holy perspective or vision of one's self as "mighty warrior" eventually led to a complete full-circle event for Israel.

Anytime the Israelites got complacent with their lifestyle they would always resort to the cultures of the nations around them.  This meant forsaking Yahweh and worshiping their newly found god.  Yahweh would then be displeased and send some kind of calamity, natural or man-directed (army invasion), upon the Jews until they cried out for salvation.  In Judges 6-8 it is Gideon's turn to be God's "Champion" of His people.  But even in picking the weak to confound the strong, God selects Gideon who has a host of character flaws. However, one in particular is blatantly obvious once you read to the end of Gideon's story.

I have heard the phrase spoken in sports terms, especially the action of taking a shot in basketball.  I have heard the phrase uttered when referring to completing a task that requires additional leg-work (on the job stuff).  The phrase I speak of is Follow Through and Gideon is an example Not To Follow!  But to truly appreciate Follow Through, let me point out some of Gideon's other missed moments of character development.

"The LORD turned to him and said, 'Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?'  'But Lord, ' Gideon asked, 'how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.'" (Judges 6:14-15)


  • Wimp!  Come-On Man!  You know the cycle.  He has picked you to be the next "Champion" for Israel!  Is anything impossible with God?


"'If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.  Please do not go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.' And the LORD said, 'I will wait until you return.'" (Judges 6:17-18)


  • Really?!  Well, I guess I can't fault you there, we are still sign-driven today too.  But look!  Was it not awesome and gracious of the LORD to wait until you returned?  He is still gonna use your wimpy self!


"So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the LORD told him. But because he was afraid of his family and the men of the town, he did it at night rather than in the daytime." (Judges 6:27)


  • Yeah..oh...Just when I was going to give you praise about doing what the LORD told you to do, you go and hide your light under a bushel (oh no!) by working in the dark/at night.  You are supported by Almighty God, yet afraid of your own family - don't quite get that one.


"Gideon said to God, 'If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised--look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.'  And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew--a bowlful of water.  Then Gideon said to God, 'Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.'  That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew." (Judges 6:36-40)


  • Signs again?!  And you are asking God to jump through hoops concerning these signs too!  What is your fascination with this?  I mean an offering to God for identity purposes I might can buy into, like before, but this just seems useless.  Come on man - Gird-up!


"During that night the LORD said to Gideon, 'Get up, go down against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands.  If you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.' So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp." (Judges 7:9-11)


  • Man!  Not only are you of the weakest clan, the least in your family, sign-driven, and wimpy, but you are a straight-up coward too!  After the Lord God Almighty has satisfied all your requests - you still have to hear the other army say they are the ones that are afraid of Israel and her God!  But God still used you!  Wow!


"The Israelites said to Gideon, 'Rule over us--you, your son and your grandson--because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian.'  But Gideon told them, 'I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.'  And he said, 'I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.' (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)  They answered, 'We'll be glad to give them.' So they spread out a garment, and each man threw a ring from his plunder onto it.  The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels' necks.  Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family." (Judges 8:22-27)


  • Even your follow through stinks!  You come up with some snazzy catch-line - "I will not rule over you...the LORD will rule over you" and deny leadership responsibilities.  Instead, you take plunder, make it into a gold  "ephod" which "All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family."


"No sooner had Gideon died than the Israelites again prostituted themselves to the Baals. They set up Baal-Berith as their god and did not remember the LORD their God, who had rescued them from the hands of all their enemies on every side.  They also failed to show kindness to the family of Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) for all the good things he had done for them." (Judges 8:33-35)

Well Gideon your responses and follow through did not leave Israel very far to fall after you died.  I don't think you are a good example of much of anything.  However, the Lord still used you and your experience is priceless, but that is no reason to be dull about recognizing God's presence, seeing yourself as God sees you and executing His plan with the best Follow Through.

So, it is my prayer that we all acknowledge The Lord when He visits us in a powerful, undeniable fashion.  That we obey His Spirit, which always lines up with the written Word.  That we believe what God says about us in His Word because of Christ Jesus.  And that maybe we go a little above and beyond by making sure our "t's" are crossed and our "i's" are dotted with God's help as we strive to Follow Through!  Amen.

Monday, July 8, 2013

POSITIONING (Part 3/Conclusion)

Daniel was a young man mature beyond his years.  He was a nobleman who was "without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king's palace." (Daniel 1:4)  Then on top of all these blessings he was favored by the Lord.

Daniel and his gang of merry men (Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah) were to be assimilated into the Babylonian civilization.  These men were to be taught the language and culture while being fed from the king's table for three years. However, Daniel made a resolution not to defile his traditions, culture, and beliefs concerning his "Holy Diet" and refused the food from the king's table.  Instead, he asked for only veggies and water.  Because of his loyalty to God's law, God displayed His favor on Daniel and The Boyz.  No difference in physicality could be determined from those that were eating at the king's table than those that were eating at Veggie World.  In fact, "At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead." (Daniel 1:15-16)

The Scripture verses that summarizes this event are Daniel 1:8-9 -

  • "Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel,..."

Notice Daniel's spiritual maneuvering or positioning as soon as he is in the Babylonian house.

  1. He resolved.
  2. He stepped out and asked.
  3. He received immediate favor.

So, immediately, these young men of Judah had the opportunity to show their loyalty to God's precepts, standards or Word and they came through in flying colors with Daniel leading the way.  As a result of their steadfastness to God's Word "these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning." (Daniel 1:17)  In addition, "In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom." (Daniel 1:20)  However, specifically "Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds." (Daniel 1:17)  And Daniel would use this gift several times to calm the king from bad or perplexing dreams, deliver messages from God, or simply show God's greater power wielded through him and his Crew because they were in perfect position to do so.

Daniel took the initiative in his situation(s).
Joseph lived his troubles-to-triumphs out of a "I still must be about my Father's business" attitude/perspective.  This is because in every predicament he found ways to continue working with what God had given him at that point in his life.
Esther and Mordecai watched, waited, and capitalized on their opportunities as they arose.

The similarities between all three lives are (1) availability, (2) advancement of their people, The Jews, and (3) The Formula.  However, all three of these blend together to harmonize beautifully.

Daniel, Joseph, and Esther in some form or fashion all made themselves available to God and to man.  Right off the bat, because he abstained from unclean food and made himself available to be used in captivity, Daniel's position saw great favor personally, for his three friends, and for the Jewish people.  His following of The Formula - (Obedience + God's Favor = Being confident in your perfect position) - made Daniel a young man mature beyond his years and a man of God positioned for The Lord's Plan of Action instead of assimilation.

Joseph's willingness to obey God from "Go", but especially when life started getting rough, saw God's favor send him all the way to second in command of Egypt and savior of his people during a time of great famine.

Esther's readiness is heard after Mordecai's encouragement when she says, "'I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.'" (Esther 4:16)  Even though God's name is not mentioned in this book, you can see God as the one moving the Chess Pieces - those who make themselves available to His plan.  For if Esther didn't make herself available and didn't obey when instructed - "relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish." (Esther 4:14)

I encourage me as I encourage you - get alone with God and pray a prayer of availability unto Him.  Even though He knows your strengths and weaknesses, your gifts and talents - lay them all out on the table, wait for His instruction, and obey.  From then forward, if you continue in this groove with God, you and I will know or have a Holy confidence that we are in perfect position.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

POSITIONING (Part 2)

Want another rags to riches story?  Joseph can supply that and then some.  The twist to his story is what he possessed in the face of hate as he was placed in a position of influence throughout his life's journey.

Joseph was hated by his brothers because he was so highly favored by his father (Genesis 37:3-4).  He was hated by those same brothers for his dreams and/or visions (Genesis 37:5-11).  He was hated because of his obedience to his father (Genesis 37:12-20).  He was hated by Potipher's wife because he obeyed God's laws (Genesis 39:9).  However, five words jump off the page when I read about his troubles and triumphs - "The Lord was with Joseph" (Genesis 39:2).

In order for Joseph to handle each situation, as well as knowing how to respond to his neglectful family in the end as second in command of Egypt, Joseph's life definitely needed the Lord.  I believe it also took Joseph having the right attitude and perspective on matters.  He seemed to be a man that did not take anything for granted and waited to see how things played out - with God as his guide.

God's favor truly rested on Joseph.  When he was about to be killed by most of his brothers, one brother, Reuben, spoke up and offered to throw him into a near-by, dried-up cistern.  Reuben said this so he could later retrieve Joseph himself.  However, it must have been Reuben's turn to graze the flocks because on his return to the camp, Joseph was gone from the bottom of the cistern.  He had been sold into Midianite slavery by the rest of his brothers.  So, back-and-forth starts the tug of war kind of life for Joseph.

Joseph eluded death but gets thrown into a cistern.  Joseph gets sold into slavery but ends up in complete care of Potiphar's (Captain of the Guard) household.  Joseph gets falsely accused by Potiphar's wife and thrown in prison but ends up being promoted to Associate Warden by God's favor.  It is here, years later in Egypt, as second in command of the entire land of Egypt, where Joseph's journey levels out and makes sense.

The Lord knows the truth about all things and although it was in the plan for years to transpire before being released from prison, Joesph was summoned by Pharaoh to explain a recent, perplexing dream.  The result - Joseph, with God's help and favor, interpreted the dream.  In addition, Pharaoh said something like - You interpreted my dream, you and your God have The Plan to save Egypt, so I appoint you in charge of executing The Plan with my full support and authority (Genesis 41:39-43).

Just like Mordecai's encouraging words to Esther to take advantage of her royal position "for such a time as this" - Joseph's words echo the same kind of sentiment at the end of his journey.  Famine conditions had touched many neighboring territories around Egypt, including Israel where Joseph's family was still living.  Hear his divine ah-ha moment as you read Joseph reflecting upon his past and present with his reunited brothers.
  • And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.  For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping.  But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  "So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. (Genesis 45:5-8)
Reading the story of Joseph, I observed no negative attitude from Joseph.  I did not hear or sense any backlash from him.  Now, maybe some of his gripes were not recorded and deemed as not that important.  Or maybe, it happened just like it was written and because of where Joseph was working from to begin with and God's favor - his attitude and perspective were kept in check by the Holy Spirit his entire life.

Why was the Lord with Joseph (Genesis 39:2, 20-21) as his life and circumstances snowballed?  Because of obedience.  He obeyed both his earthly father and Heavenly Father.  I believe there was a formula that developed quickly in the mind, heart, and spirit of young Joseph.  That formula is -
Obedience + The Lord's Favor (as a result of obeying) = Knowing wherever you are in life, you are perfectly positioned for His plan and the fulfillment of your life!

If you or somebody you know is going through a Joseph lifestyle - tug-o-war, but walking in obedience - I encourage you and challenge you to encourage them.  You both know now that you are in perfect position!

Friday, July 5, 2013

POSITIONING (Part 1 - Revised)

Several times in various settings within the last few months I have heard the Holy Spirit speaking to me. Maybe what The Spirit is saying to me will help you too. The Holy Spirit keeps saying, “Position yourself. You have plenty of knowledge, now it is time to position yourself in Christ and live (act out your faith-walk).”

I asked the Lord if I have “positioned” myself before and to show me examples of this in my life. God showed me that as soon as I made my heart, body, and mind available to Him and His work last year for the Puerto Rico mission and this year for the Ecuador mission – He worked all things for the good because I love Him and have been called according to His purpose [Romans 8:2].

I then asked the Holy Spirit to show me Biblical examples of Positioning Thyself. He promptly said, “Read the accounts of Joseph, Esther, and Daniel.” So, I did and these are my findings.

Ladies first. Esther, also known as Hadassah (2:7) is associated with an infamous saying. Within her story her cousin Mordecai encourages her to stand-fast for her people, even in the face of death.  He says to her,

  • “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this.” (4:14)

Esther’s journey to royalty, her part in saving her people, and a promotion of an incredible degree was in no small part a direct result of the dealings of her cousin Mordecai. In my humble opinion this book of the Bible should be entitled – “Mordecai” or “Mordecai and Esther” instead of Esther.  After cousin Mordecai successfully submits Esther as potential replacement Queen, the story is heavily weighted in Mordecai’s camp. I always get the image of Mordecai being a puppet-master. While events unfold outside the palace involving him and the Jews, he has his influence, Cousin/Queen Esther, to execute his plan(s) within the palace walls.

Still, Esther does her part. Her willingness to sacrifice her life, if necessary, by saying “and if I perish, I perish” (4:15-17) was a quick attitude adjustment for Esther. I believe it was because of this quick change that King Xerxes extended her the golden scepter, heard her request, and honored it. Esther used her courtly sway to set-up two banquets before telling King Xerxes her request. These two banquets allowed time for Haman, the villain of the story, to show his true colors, especially toward Mordecai. The banquets also provided an alternate location for King Xerxes to save face concerning the guiltiness of one of his high, honored officials (Haman at the time). By having the banquet outside of the public, royal court, the Queen made sure matters where kept from disgracing the King.

In the end Mordecai’s contributions toward saving the king years before and his relationship to his inside influence, Queen (Cousin) Esther, came back around to position him as “second in rank to King Xerxes” (10:3).

In addition, Esther followed through on Mordecai’s encouragement to use this position for "such a time as this" and made the most of her opportunity.  The Jews were saved, she became Queen and her cousin became second in command.  Both came to their respective positions for such a time as then.

Don’t miss your opportunity or opportunities. In addition, discern or at least start looking for the advantages God has for His kingdom and His purposes wherever you are. Just like God positioned Mordecai and Esther for his plan, allow God to use you in your position to make a difference for Him.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

DANCE WITH THE ONE WHO BRUNG YA!

Initially, God had selected the entire nation of Israel to be his priests (Exodus 19:5-6).  This meant all the people of the nation would represent God, be treasured by God and change the world for Him by "working for the honor of the one who would send them" throughout it. However, after the nation proved to be inadequate as a priesthood (the Golden Calf event Exodus 32:7-10), the Levites who supported Moses (found in Exodus chapters 26-28) were selected as God's priests (Exodus 32:25-26Numbers 3:5-9).

Fast forward to the time of Jesus.  Jesus spoke about focus and perspective on "dancing with the one who brung me" when He said,

"...he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him." - John 7:18

Christians had a perfect example of this in Christ.  Jesus worked for "the honor of the one who sent him".  You can plainly hear it in the prayer Jesus prayed before the tomb of Lazarus.

  • "Then Jesus looked up and said, 'Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.'" (John 11:41-42)

In John 5:19 Jesus says about Himself, "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.  The challenge for Christians here is to be attuned to God through His Holy Spirit like Jesus was when He was here in the flesh, SO THAT we might be an effective man or woman of truth when we "work for the honor of the one who sent us".

There are so many benefits to being attuned to the Spirit of God.  For Jesus, being in tune with god the Father meant knowing what to say or do and when to say or do.  This is also now available to Christians through the Holy Spirit.  However, confidence, His abiding presence, and His praise are a few key advantages I would like to magnify.

Confidence - there is nothing like the Holy Spirit speaking to you through His Word or any other means and confirming you are right where He wants you to be in life.  I can think of two instances right away when Father God broke through from Heaven within earshot of humanity and voiced His pleasurable support concerning His Son.  The first time is when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river (Matthew 3:13-17).  The second instance is the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-6).  What confidence this must have installed in Jesus to hear His Father break-in to the human scene and support Him like that!

The second benefit of working for the honor of the one who sent us is abiding with God and His Word abiding in you (John 15:7).  This must become the Christian's First Nature. Christians can do that if we stay connected with God, trusting in His development of us by studying His Word and lifting-up challenging life experiences to Him in Faith by prayer.  It is then I believe His voice will become clearer.  If we are abiding in/with God and His Word abides in us then God says, "ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you."  Another great benefit.

It is a blessing to know how to accept praise from others.  As a new Believer in Christ or veteran in The Faith, guard against pride.  Speaking to the religious, Jewish teachers of that day, Jesus asked,  How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? (John 5:44)   Read this verse backwards and in the positive and it will help.  For instance,
If you make an effort to obtain the praise of God, you will know how to accept praise from one another.  It all starts with God.

Christ made a way for us to be a part of something bigger than one's self.  He supplied an even better covenant than the old one given through Moses.  This New Covenant was arranged by Father God and paid for by the life of the Anointed One Himself.  The benefits of this Covenant were and are so awesome that those who truly accept Christ's payment in Faith will desire wholeheartedly to be sent abroad, telling everyone the Good News of Jesus Christ.  

So, who sends you out into each brand new day?  Your husband?  Your wife?  Yourself?  Nobody, you just go?  Hopefully, God sends you.  Now if the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells within each Christian (Romans 8:11)... if He that is in each Christian is greater than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4)... if greater things we will do than when Christ was here (John 14:12)... if Father God supported Jesus - we can be sure our confidence is strong in God, His presence always abides with us, and His praise is valued the most. Even though Christ was human and surrendered to the weakness of this human creation, He always knew who He was, who sent Him, and His Father's plan.  All of this is available for the Christian too.  It is all a matter of being attuned to the Holy Spirit and allowing God to lead as you Dance With The One Who Brung You!