Thursday, August 17, 2017

Perfect timing

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 40:1-23

TO CHEW ON: "'But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house' .... Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph but forgot him." Genesis 40:14-23

I can just imagine how overjoyed Joseph must have been at this opportunity to interpret the dream of Pharaoh's butler who would soon return to the king's service. Can't you see him in the days after the butler has been reinstated, watching the comings to the prison and thinking — One of these people will be for me. Any hour now a messenger will come from Pharaoh to give me a chance to prove my innocence.

But day after day no one came. It was soon clear that the butler had forgotten all about Joseph. In fact, he languished in prison for two more years until Pharaoh had a dream that no one could interpret. Then the butler remembered Joseph (Genesis 41:1,9-13).

However, as we read the remainder of the story, it's easy to see how perfect God's timing was.

Trusting God's timing is still a challenge for us today. When answers to prayer are long delayed, when nothing happens and nothing happens and nothing happens, even when we unaccountably forget things we have no business forgetting (as the butler did), we can remind ourselves of the story of Joseph. We can trust God's ability to orchestrate the circumstances of our lives, as He did Joseph's, with precise and perfect timing.


PRAYER: Dear God, You know the things I am eager to see change. Please help me to wait patiently for You to work in Your way and at just the right time. Amen.

MORE: In His Time
- Words and music by Diane Ball, sung by the Maranatha Singers.




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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Bible Drive-Thru


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Principles of success

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 39:1-23


TO CHEW ON: "The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man..." Genesis 39:2

Who of us doesn't want to be known as successful? However, if what happened to Joseph happened to us—we were sold as slaves and then lied about and put in prison—we would probably feel anything but successful. So how did Joseph earn that label?

His success came despite confusing and unfair circumstances. It was not measured by education, favor or rank (though that would come later) but by the way all he set his hand to flourished. Under his management Potiphar's household was more prosperous than ever before. When he was thrown into prison, his trustworthiness, good sense, and administrative talents soon caught the eye of the jail keeper and gave Joseph favor with him.

The writer of Genesis attributes all his success to God: "Then the Lord was with Joseph.... The Lord caused all that he did to succeed.... The Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake.... But the Lord was with Joseph ... and gave him success...And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed" - Genesis 39:2, 3, 5, 21, 23.

Several principles of God-initiated success are on display in this passage:

1. God-ordained success is not dependent on or measured by our rank or position. Joseph was a successful servant and prisoner. I think we could say that the success that comes from God is available to us whatever our education or lack of it and wherever we find ourselves (at home, in a coffee shop, on the construction site, in the classroom, office or church, or wherever.)

2. God's blessing on our lives may be reflected in the success of those we work for. Potiphar's household reaped the benefits of having Joseph around.

3. A big element of God-initiated success is favor. Joseph gained the favor of the jail keeper. There are many other Bible characters who gained the favor of the powerful people in their lives: Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah are some.

4. God-ordained success is not, finally, about us but about furthering God's bigger purposes. Joseph eventually achieved even greater success when he was installed as one of the most powerful men in Egypt. But it wasn't to feed his own ego but so he could preserve his people, the Hebrews, God's covenant people, the family line from which Jesus would come. When our motivation is to honor God and further His cause on earth, we are good candidates for the kind of God-driven success that Joseph experienced.


PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this encouraging story of Joseph. I would love for my life to be a visible testimony of divine blessing and success so that Your honour and glory are furthered as a result of it. Amen.

MORE: Success - what's my role?

We know we don't just sit around and wait for God to drop success into our laps. Joseph was an unknown quantity when he arrived in Pharaoh's jail. He must have done something, demonstrated some initiative, shown some quality of ambition or energy or willingness to be busy in order for the jail keeper to entrust him with responsibility in the first place.  Below are links to three articles on Michael Hyatt's blog that talk about some rubber-hits-the-road elements of success.


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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Don't miss out! Get book tips on great books to read and my author news. The next newsletter coming September 1st. 





Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Breaking the bondage of confusion

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Isaiah 61:1-11

TO CHEW ON:
“… And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.” Isaiah 61:7

Today, as I read amazing Isaiah 61, verse 7 jumps out at me:
“Instead of your shame, you shall have double honor,
And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.
Therefore in their land they shall possess double;
Everlasting joy shall be theirs.”

I’d like to focus especially on one snippet of verse 7: “And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.”

Isaiah wrote this (entire chapter) to a nation that would spend many years in exile. This prophecy in the immediate spoke to them of a time they would again live in their own land.

A few word definitions:

“‘Shame’ and ‘dishonor’ describe the experience of the Babylonian exile of the sixth century” - Reformation Study Bible (accessed through Biblegateway.com).

“Confusion” (kalimmah) is also translated humilation, disgrace, reproach, shame, dishonor, insult, ignominy.

“Portion” (cheleq) means one’s share, part, territory, one’s possession
.

To the exile, this prophecy spoke of a time when they would come out of the confusion or “humiliation” (NAS) of being exiled outsiders to again owning and rejoicing in their own “portion” or possession of land.

One of the reasons this verse speaks to me at this time is that in our western society, one of our most precious possessions, our gender norms and sexual identity, are under attack. New theories that claim our birth sex means nothing and that we can decide whether we are wishing to identify as male or female on any given day, are being instituted and upheld in society at large. Of special concern to me is that these new theories are now mandated instruction and practice in the schools—whether religious or secular.

This is leading to the need for new pronouns in our dictionary to address those who feel they are neither a “he” nor a “she,” genderless bathrooms, changes on official forms to accommodate those who don’t want to be identified with their biological sex—in other words, a whole lot of confusion.

This is especially troublesome for children who are now to be taught this new fluid sexual identity theory as truth. Who, if they question their birth sex as defining their gender identity are being encouraged to experiment with living as the other sex and in some cases given puberty blocking medications* (drugs that may make them sterile).

As a Christian who lives by the principles of the Bible, I see this gender identity confusion as only one more evidence of the “Has God indeed said...?” rebellion first sown in the human heart way back in Eden (Genesis 3:1). For God has indeed said “…male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27) and has made His position on sexual relations between genders and gender identity clear in passages like Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:27 and Deuteronomy 22:5.

Male and female is how He made us. This is not some cruel edict from a stern, unfeeling deity. It’s wisdom. It’s love. Living as a male or female, according to our physical biology is how we work best. We’re only asking for trouble when we defy the way we were wisely and lovingly created (see Romans 1:24-27).

So Isaiah 61:7 gives us the hopeful assurance that Jesus (who declared this passage was speaking of Him as the One who can bring liberty to the captives - Isaiah 61:1 compare Luke 4:17-21) can also set free from from this. Instead of the bondage of confusion over whether we, our children, and grandchildren are and should identify as the gender we were born, we can rejoice in our portion (our possession of a sure male or female identity).

Let’s pray this for and over ourselves, our children, and grandchildren in these days, as we are forced to navigate this tsunami of lies and confusion.

PRAYER: Dear Father, I pray for the children of this generation. Deliver them from confusion. Help them to recognize this theory as the lie that it is. Please help us as those who believe You created us wisely and well to know how to express Your loving intentions toward all people. Amen.

MORE:


*Additional reading about puberty suppression from The New Atlantis:
Growing Pains: Problems with Puberty Suppression in Treating Gender Dysphoria


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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Monday, August 14, 2017

Are you covered?

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 105:23-45

TO CHEW ON: “He spread a cloud for a covering…” Psalm 105:39

Psalm 105 is a praise poem recalling the ways God has helped Israel in the past. On the list is the cloud that accompanied Israel throughout their wilderness wanderings.

It was a cloud that served many purposes:
  • It gave them direction, i.e. went before them telling them where to go. Exodus 13:21
  • It stopped them. When the cloud came to rest, they were to stop and not move on again until the cloud lifted - Numbers 9:17-23.
  • It gave them light at night, so they could travel by day or by night, to avoid the desert’s scorching heat - Numbers 13:21.
  • It shielded and hid them when the Egyptians pursued them. It was dark on the Egyptian side but light on the Israelite side. Its presence gave them light and time to cross the miraculously dried up Red Sea at night while obscuring the Egyptian’s way - Exodus 14:19,20.
The psalmist calls it a “covering.”

God provided other coverings for people as well.

  • He covered Adam and Eve with clothes, animal skin coverings after their disobedience stole their innocence form them (Genesis 3:21).
  • His covering or protection is sometimes referred to as wings. The picture is of a mother bird sheltering her young (Psalm 57:1) or rescuing them (Deuteronomy 32:11). Boaz referred to God’s sheltering wings when he singled out Ruth with an invitation to glean in his field (Ruth 2:12).
  • Bible writers also refer to God’s covering as a shelter or refuge from the elements of life and nature (Isaiah 25:4).
  • And then there are all the references to God covering His people in pure, beautiful clothes—way nicer clothes than those skin tunics of Adam and Eve:
- Robes of righteousness and salvation (Isaiah 61:10).
- Beautiful embroidered garments (Ezekiel 16:10).
- “Best robes” - Luke 15:22.
- Wedding clothes - Matthew 22:11.
- White clothes - Revelation 7:9
- “Fine linen clean and bright” - Revelation 19:8.

Who would not welcome such covering?

Sadly, not everyone. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, the people who spurned God’s wings of covering with their rejection of His prophets, including the final One—Jesus the Son - Matthew 23:37-39.

He reprimanded the  lukewarm church of Laodicea for their delusions of needing nothing and counseled them to '… buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich and white garments that you may be clothed that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed…'” - Revelation 3:17,18.

So, how do we put ourselves under God’s covering, under His protection, in His clothes? Revelation 3 continues on with this answer from Jesus Himself.
We invite Him into our lives: 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me'” - Revelation 3:21.
Then we listen to His voice and follow Him.  Jesus again: "'My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand'" John 10:27,28. 

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to live constantly under Your covering, in Your clothes. Please show me areas where self will, rebellion, laziness, self-deception, impatience, etc. leave me naked and vulnerable. Amen.

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Tests

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 105:1-22

TO CHEW ON: "His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him." Psalm 105:19


The "his" and "he" referred to in the verses above is Joseph. What is the psalm-writer talking about when he says "...until what he had said came to pass"? I believe it was those outrageous dreams of Joseph's which we read about in Genesis 37:

"Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold we were binding sheaves in the field and behold my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf....Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me..." Genesis 37:6-9.

During his days as a slave in Potiphar's house and later as a prisoner, I wonder if Joseph ever thought back to those dreams and wondered — What was that about? His situation couldn't have been farther from what his dream predicted.

However, there was action toward the fulfillment of those dreams all through that time. The psalm-writer alludes to what was happening behind the scenes. God was testing Joseph.

It's interesting that the psalmist doesn't say that circumstances tested Joseph, or Potiphar and the jailer tested Joseph but "the word of the Lord tested him," telling us that these circumstances had God's knowledge and permission. They issued as "the word of the Lord," that same creative force that brought the worlds into being (John 1:1-3).

Joseph's response to this testing was positive. With faithful dependability he passed every test. Then on one day that began like every other, the test was over (Psalm 105:20-22). And of course, when his brothers came from Canaan seeking food, the fulfillment of his dreams came true in living color before his eyes.

Your current situation may also be far from what you feel God has promised you for your future. Viewing the unpleasant, difficult, and unfair things in your life as God's tests may help you gain courage, inspiration and the hope to keep going.

Joseph's story shows too, how completely and radically God can turn things around in a short while once the test is over. So don't be fooled or disheartened by appearances.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this glimpse behind the scenes of the way You work in human lives. Please help me to pass the tests You bring my way today. Amen.


MORE: The test of waiting

You may find my article "In the Waiting Room" helpful if your test is waiting...and waiting... and waiting some more

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Storm—a faith adventure

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Matthew 14:22-36

TO CHEW ON: “But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves for the wind was contrary.” Matthew 14:24

Here are some interesting details to note about this story:
  • Jesus “made” (NKJV) or “directed” (AMP) His disciples to get into the boat and precede Him to the other side (Matthew 14:22).
  • Jesus stayed behind to pray. It was during prayer He must have sensed the disciples were in trouble (Matthew 14:23).
  • The disciples were no doubt stressed, anxious, and busy fighting the wind and waves. The boat might even have been out of control, seeing how it was  in the “middle of the sea,” “tossed,” and the “winds were contrary” (Matthew 14:24).
  • However, it wasn’t until almost morning (the “fourth watch” is between 3 and 6 a.m.) that Jesus came to them (Matthew 14:25).
  • When He came, He encouraged Peter to risk, rather than react with caution (Matthew 14:29).

This incident impresses several things on me.

1. Since Jesus “made” or “directed” the disciples into that boat and then let the trouble go on for a while before coming to them, perhaps we can conclude that facing that storm was His plan for them. And perhaps storms and trouble are also part of God’s plan for us—a preparation for our continuing earthly life or destiny in eternity?

2. Jesus sensed they were in trouble during His prayer time. Has it ever happened to you that as you are praying, a name, face, or memory of an old friend or acquaintance comes to mind? Could that be a supernatural nudge that they have a need and we should intercede for them?

3. When Peter kept His eyes on Jesus, he had faith that helped him do the impossible. Let’s take from that that when Jesus is with us in the storm, we too can step out and risk rather than pull back in caution. My Bible’s study notes express it well:
He gives His followers the power to follow Him, even in adversity, and encourages adventurous discipleship” - J. Lyle Story, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1317.

PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, thank You that You know about my storms and that they are under Your control. Help me to view them as faith challenges and adventures. Amen.

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Friday, August 11, 2017

How to have beautiful feet

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Romans 10:1-21

TO CHEW ON: "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!'" - Romans 10:14,15


This passage tells us some foundational things about the gospel (good news).
1. Its content is simple. To be saved (that would be saved from eternal separation from God) all we need to do is call on Jesus.

2. We nail it down with our words. This faith (calling on Jesus) works together with our confession (speaking about our faith) to cement God’s work in our hearts.

3. The gospel is for any- and everyone. Race or ethnic background is no consideration.

4. God needs and uses people to spread it.

Has it ever struck you that the feet of the gospel spreaders are called beautiful, and not their mouths? This says something about the importance of spreading the gospel far and wide.

Though not all of us may be sent to do this in a physical, cross-the-ocean kind of way, we can still all have a part in Operation Beautiful Feet.
  • We can support the ones God calls to go physically – with money, prayers, and thoughtful service when they return on furlough (like supplying a place to live, vehicle etc.).
  • We can support organizations that translate and distribute the Bible to peoples around the world (like Wycliffe, and our national Bible Society).
  • We can now go virtually. With the internet, distance and boundaries have all but disappeared. Web sites proclaiming the gospel abound. (Over the 2+ years my children’s devotional has been running, for example, people from dozens of countries have visited. If you write a blog, I’m sure you’ve had the same experience.)
  • Of course, no matter how much we feel “sent” to stay home, there’s nothing stopping us from taking the good news next door, across the street, across town – using our beautiful feet to reach our neighbors.

I ask myself, how have I done in the beautiful feet department? How have you? As we work together, we can accomplish the beautiful feet goal: “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Romans 10:18


PRAYER: Dear God, please make me more aware of my responsibility (and privilege) to share the gospel wherever I am and by whatever means I have. Amen.

MORE:
“Shout to the North” by Delirious




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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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