A Choice of How to Respond…

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Genesis 39:19-23 (KJV)

19 And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled.
20 And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.
21 But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.
23 The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper.

When the problems of life seem overwhelming, we need someone to come alongside and help us to see our difficulties through the eyes of our sovereign God.

Joseph is just such a person. Although he lived thousands of years ago, his story still speaks to us with great insight into the Lord’s purposes.

Joseph experienced a wide variety of trials—hatred, rejection, and betrayal by his brothers; loss of home, family, and freedom; false accusation and imprisonment; and the loneliness and disappointment of being forgotten.

His life was a series of difficult and unfair situations, yet Scripture never records any bitterness or revenge in Joseph’s responses to all these circumstances.

Though outwardly it may have seemed as if God had abandoned the young man, He was doing some awesome work in Joseph’s heart. The Lord had big plans for him, and He knew that these trials would be the most effective tools in preparing His servant for the work that lay ahead.

As Joseph responded to each situation with faith in God and diligence in every task assigned to him, one fact became obvious to all who knew him: The Lord was with Joseph (Gen. 39:2, 21, 23).

We need to remember this when we are going through hard times: The Lord is with us even when our circumstances seem to shout that He has deserted us.

We may have little control over the difficulties we face, but we each have a choice of how to respond.

Joseph calls to us from out of the past, urging us to trust God.

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Why does He delay?

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Isaiah 64:1-4 (KJV)

1 Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence,
2 As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!
3 When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence.
4 For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.

The Lord is a God of action.

Even when He rested on the seventh day of creation, it wasn’t because He was tired and needed to recuperate. Although He deliberately made a choice to stop His creative activity, He never ceased working.

While the Lord is always controlling the universe, He is, at the same time, intimately involved with individual lives.

God has a plan for each one of us and wants us to know what it is. Every time we take a step of obedience, He sheds more light on our path. But sometimes He asks us to pause awhile, and we may not know why.

We long for direction in a particular matter, but our prayers just aren’t being answered, and we wonder, Why does He delay?

When you aren’t seeing any answers, it doesn’t mean that God is not working.

He’s still actively involved in your life, but He works in ways that are not always visible He orchestrates circumstances, changes people’s hearts, and protects His children from making hasty decisions that will have disastrous consequences.

Perhaps the Lord knows you’re not yet ready for the next leg of your spiritual journey.

Waiting times are opportunities for growth in character, obedience, and faith. He may also need time to train you for future responsibilities and ministries.

When you intentionally choose to be still, God unleashes His mighty power on your behalf.

He has planned good things for those who wait, and I believe what He has in store for your life will surpass all expectations.

When He knows you’re ready to receive His blessings, they’ll flow into your lap.

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Instruction, Accountability, and Encouragement…

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Romans 12:1-5 (KJV)

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

God’s kindness to us is demonstrated by the fact that He doesn’t leave us in the condition we were in before coming to faith.

How tragic it would be if we still thought, felt, and acted the same way we did before receiving Christ as our Savior. Throughout our lives, the Lord uses His choice tools to shape us into the image of His Son.

Prayer.

By talking to the Lord in open dialogue, we develop a relationship with Him. He becomes not just our Savior, but our friend, and as the intimacy grows, so will our passion to be with Him. Setting aside time for prayer each day will become a delight, not a duty.

God’s Word.

You can’t grow in your Christian life if you keep the Bible closed all week long. No one lives on one meal a week, yet many Christians try to get by with just a Sunday dinner of the Word served up by their pastor. How can we expect God’s truth to do its transforming work if we never let it into our minds and hearts?

The Church.

Christ uses His body of believers as a place for transformation. That’s where we rub against each other and have the rough edges of our character smoothed. It is a place of instruction, accountability, and encouragement.

Are you letting the Lord use His character-shaping tools in your life?

Our culture has no shortage of worldly voices and pressures that fill minds and influence behavior.

Only when we intentionally schedule time for God, His Word, and His people can Christ do His transforming work in our lives.

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Plenty of Wrong Reasons…

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Revelation 2:1-7 (KJV)

1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Ephesus was home to a tremendous ministry.

Despite opposition and harsh persecution, the church planted by Paul spread the gospel and was quick to challenge false prophets. But 30 years after the apostle left, John’s revelation included a stern warning for those believers.

Imagine how these words must have struck the Ephesians.

After complimenting their service for the gospel, Christ said, “But I have this against you . . .” (Rev. 2:4). That phrase was, without a doubt, extremely disconcerting. The Lord warned them that they had left their first love.

In other words, all of their work was being done with wrong motives.

Christ called the Ephesians to remember their love for Him and their delight in His salvation. Service is no substitute for an intimate relationship, but modern believers continue to fall into this subtle trap.

The commendable things that we do count for nothing unless they stem from a vibrant personal connection with God.

Our work cannot be effective or fruitful unless He is in it.

In fact, God is more interested in you and your personal relationship with Him than in a thousand lifetimes of good works.

He desires to be the satisfaction and delight of His children so that their service is a result of loving devotion.

There are plenty of wrong reasons to labor for the kingdom.

God wants all believers with selfish intentions to return to their first love.

In that way, hearts and minds can be renewed, and service to the Lord will be more effective.

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Lasting Value and Fulfillment…

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Matthew 25:34-40 (KJV)

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Stop for a moment and consider the purpose of your life.

Are you living to pursue your own interests or success? Does your energy revolve around your family members?

Perhaps your ambition is to change the world for the better.

All of these aims—even the last one, which sounds so selfless—are futile.

The only goal of lasting value and fulfillment is serving Christ.

As His followers, we should model our life after His.

And Mark 10:45tells us that “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” We honor Him by doing likewise.

Yet, sometimes we can feel overwhelmed when we consider the amazing ways that other believers are serving the Lord.

With God on His side, King David led great armies into war. Today, there are evangelists who speak to tens of thousands, and many lives are saved. How could anything we do compare to accomplishments like these? And while comparisons may discourage us, Christians use other excuses for not trying—such as a lack of experience or having the wrong personality for the task.

But God’s call for each person is unique.

He will provide the words, ability, and circumstances so that you can achieve what He wants done. Remember, our Father is the one who makes the difference. We are merely tools, and we’re blessed to be used by Him.

Are you demonstrating your love for the Lord by serving others?

Live in such a way that each evening you can tell Him, “Lord, as best I know how, I have attempted to serve Your purpose today.”

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The Power of Forgiveness…

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Ephesians 4:30-32 (KJV)

30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

At some point, no doubt, you have been hurt.

Probably, a person you loved and trusted did something unthinkable—something so devastating it changed your whole perspective on that individual.

When this happens, we have a choice either to wallow in self-pity or to forgive.

Forgiveness is the act of giving up both the resentment we have toward someone and the desire to retaliate.

It involves three important steps.

First, we must release the general feeling of resentment.

That is, we must decide not to languish in our pain. This can be hard. Many people seem to enjoy harboring self-pity or an overarching sense of martyrdom. They sigh, “Oh, it’s just my lot in life to suffer.” No, it is not! You can choose to move past the hurt.

Second, we must surrender specific feelings of resentment toward the individual.

That means we’re to give up our anger at being hurt and also seek to restore the broken relationship.

Third, we lay down all claims to retribution.

You cannot forgive someone with your words while secretly wishing him or her harm. True forgiveness seeks the other person’s good, not punishment.

Forgiveness says, “Though you hurt me, I choose to pardon you. I won’t dwell on this, nor will I allow it to destroy my life or attitude. I won’t spend one minute plotting revenge. You are God’s precious child, and I love you.”

Truly, forgiving another person carries a price, but the rewards are worth it.

Unleash the power of forgiveness in your life today.

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The Promise of Clear Guidance…

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Ephesians 4

People are saved when they trust Jesus Christ as Savior and choose to follow Him.

Right then, most Christians realize that they will dwell with Him forever in heaven. But many don’t understand what they can expect for the remainder of their lives on earth.

One benefit that’s available immediately is a growing relationship with the Lord.

The Father’s oneness with Jesus (John 10:30) illustrates the intimacy God wants to have with His children. He had this type of closeness in mind at creation—a relationship with man is an avenue for Him to express His love and for us to worship and understand our Maker.

Another advantage is that Christ-followers are promised clear guidance through God’s Holy Spirit.

Decision making is a part of everyday life. It is impossible for a mere human to know every variable and nuance before choosing which path to take. But the Lord knows all things—past, present, and future. With godly wisdom available, it’s hard to understand why anyone would prefer to trust his own hunches.

Provision is yet another blessing guaranteed for believers.

There will be hard times, but God gives Christians everything necessary for following Him (Phil. 4:19). And His grace will always prove more than sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9).

How abundantly God gives to His children!

One word of caution, though: these gifts are effective only when believers walk obediently with Him.

Sin can stifle them.

The heavenly Father desires that all of His sons and daughters have these blessings; if you’re living in obedience before Him, they are available to you.

Is anything getting in the way of your total submission to Him?

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Beyond the Moment…

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1 Peter 2:9-17 (KJV)

9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;
12 Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. 17Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

God’s call on our life extends  we receive salvation.

He wants to develop Christlike character in us through the Holy Spirit’s presence and power.

Every believer is given this call to sanctification…

God’s intention is for all Christ-followers to be set apart.

His Spirit enables us to turn from our old patterns of action and attitude so we can give ourselves exclusively to the Lord. Sanctification brings about genuine freedom from self-centered desires that keep us in bondage (Titus 3:3-7).

The Lord’s call to service requires total surrender….

When God revealed His glory to Isaiah, the prophet offered himself completely (Isa. 6:8); Paul submitted his whole self to Christ on the Damascus road (Acts 9:15-19); even Jesus, our ultimate example, daily surrendered to His Father’s will (John 5:19). A life of surrender says, “God, whatever, whenever, wherever, and however You want it, my answer is yes.”

A willing response to each of these divine calls prepares the believer for God’s call to accountability. 

Scripture tells us that every person will experience a day of judgment. For those who refused God’s invitation to salvation, it will mean wrath and eternal separation from the Lord. For God’s children, it will be a day in which our response to His call on our lives will be evaluated. Only those things done at His direction and in His way will matter when that time comes; everything else will count for nothing (Ps. 127:1-2).

Daily, God is calling to you, wanting to speak with you about important matters.

Are you listening to Him and responding?

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