WeepingintoDancing

Overcoming Difficult Trials

Archive for the category “Maturity In Christ”

A Godly Perspective

A person’s perspective is an attitude and viewpoint. It can be positive or negative. A positive perspective sees the good in even the most painful and darkest of circumstances. A negative perspective will eventually lead to a hard heart, a root of bitterness, and a stagnant spiritual walk.

Perspective is an understanding that events, people, and circumstances are interrelated, and a positive perspective means we have the ability to see things from a larger frame of reference. A positive perspective means we are looking through the eyes of Jesus.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

With the eyes of Christ we see the good in all people, even when confronted by rude, abusive, and angry people. With a Christ-like vision, we are less apt to judge and more likely to adopt a compassionate attitude. We will consider why actions and behaviors play out and hold our tongues and judgments for later.

When we consider the life of Jesus, we see he was a friend to prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners. He was able to look past their mistakes or employment choices and see into the heart of the person. His love looked past all rebellion, greed, and lust and saw the desperation and need for acceptance and love in man’s heart.

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’”       Luke 7:34 (NIV)

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:32 (NIV)

As sinners, at some point we will act out, saying or thinking things that cause our Savior grief. One of these things occurs when we doubt the love of God. During difficult trials, our flesh cries out under the pressure and pain. Too often a man thinks, “If God loves me why must I suffer?” It is because of our sin and our need to be sanctified. The pressure of difficult times will bring the dross of our sin to the surface, enabling the Holy Spirit to remove it for our benefit. We are called to be like Christ.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5 (NKJV)

Sometimes we feel like mishandled clay in the hands of The Potter. Under intense pressure, we cry out and protest at every squeeze and pinch He makes. Then, when The Potter places us on His spinning wheel, life seems to spin out of control. No longer can we see clearly, for the world has become a blur. When the turning slows and comes to a stop, we feel the Creator’s hands lift us from the wheel. In fear, we tremble. Why? Because the heat of the kiln awaits us and we can not look past the future discomfort.

With the eyes of Christ, we see how The Potter has carefully placed us in just the right spot on his spinning wheel. As it whirls us around, we take note of how The Potter places both of His loving hands about us, molding us into a vessel of beauty and usefulness. We understand that our life is under His control, so we worry and fret not. When our Creator lifts us from the wheel and places us in the kiln, we welcome the heat. For it is in the fire that our beauty is enhanced, free of imperfections and strong.

Perspective helps when we are faced with adversity. Perspective was one reason Jesus was able to endure the cross. Without perspective, we follow our own natural inclinations. May God grant us eyes to see the good in every person and in every circumstance.

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV)

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”  Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV)

Alone With God

 

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There are several stories in the Bible where God calls one of His chosen into a place of solitude and seclusion. The apostle Paul, who has one of the greatest conversion stories in the Word of God, was led into the desert for three years. During that time the Holy Spirit instructed him in the ways of God. Saul, later known as Paul, had persecuted Christians with near fanaticism until his conversion along the Damascus road. God used the desert years of solitude to renew Paul’s mind and to transform him into the image of Christ. This desert interlude was a part of Paul’s roadmap, and the years of solitude were essential in preparing him for Christian ministry. Certainly, it was a time when the Lord revealed many deep spiritual truths.

“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days.” Galatians 1:15-18 (NKJV)

“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.” Daniel 2:22 (NASB)

It is during those times when we are unseen, hidden away from others, that we go deeper in our relationship with Christ. There are treasures in the depths of solitude, but we have to dig them out. When we silence the chaos of the world around us and meditate on the living Word, our spirit will burn with intensity. We are quicker to recognize the Shepherd’s voice and better able to discern the counterfeit mouthpiece of the enemy. Times of solitude are seasons of absolute dependence and submission, and these characteristics ought to follow us into the daylight hours of servitude and Christian ministry.

Moses is another example of a great leader called into seclusion, but the degree of his sequestration varies. Upon his exile from Egypt, Moses lived as a fugitive for forty years in the Arabian Desert. Once a Prince of Egypt, he put on the cloak of a humble shepherd. This was not an easy life since shepherds spent most of their time outside (in all kinds of weather) away from family and friends. Moses spent many nights alone watching over his father-in-law’s sheep.

In Exodus chapter 3 we read that Moses is tending Jethro’s flock in the wilderness near Mount Horeb/Sinai. This is where the angle of the Lord appeared in the form of a burning bush. God calls His people to remote areas for several reason: to learn, to prepare, to test, to strengthen, to direct.

Later, in Exodus 24:9-18, God tells Moses to come up into Mt. Sinai to meet with Him again. This time Moses is gone for forty days. Moses needed time alone with God to receive instructions and so that he would have courage to face the opposition of men. The first time, he needed courage to face Pharaoh with God’s directive to allow the children of Israel to go free.

“So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.” Exodus 24:18 (NKJV)

We read in Scripture that Jesus frequently went off by Himself to be with God. Private time with the Father is necessary for every believer.

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16 (NIV)

After Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit led the Lord into the desert. There, for forty days and forty nights He was tempted by the devil. Jesus overcame every enticement of the evil one, and left His wilderness seclusion to begin His public ministry.

Paul, Moses, and Jesus sought out, or, were led to secluded places. Wilderness and desert locations are not easy environments to abide in. However, under the shadow of His almighty wing, there is protection and comfort. Great treasures are hidden deep in wilderness locations. Treasures that build faith and strengthen godly convictions are worth more than rubies and gold. Do not be afraid to dig deep. If God is leading you to a solitary place, He may be preparing you for a new ministry, or equipping you for the next leg of your spiritual journey.

I have decided to follow Jesus; No turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow; No turning back, no turning back.

~ S. Sundar Singh.

Friend Of A King

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When we become believers, we enter into a life long journey where we discover the many facets of our relationship with God. To start, we come to know Him as our Creator. Then, we learn He is one God in three Divine Persons. From there, many of us develop a loving relationship with God where we view Him as a Father. Through Jesus, we have and Savior. God: Creator, Mysterious God in three persons, Father, Brother, Savior.

Sadly, many Christians never come to know the many additional dimensions of God and how we can identify with Him. King, Brother, Husband, and Friend are just a few more worth mentioning. Every time I meditate on the notion that my Creator wants a personal and intimate relationship with me, His creation, I am befuddled and awestruck.

With worldly eyes, we can grasp the honor of being called a friend to the King. Kings are powerful rulers who are busy with many affairs. They are leaders, champions, and the defender of many. As a King’s friend, we have favor and influence.

Daniel found favor with King Nebuchadnezzar. When Daniel requested that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego have prominent positions over the affairs of Babylon, it was granted.

“Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.” Daniel 2:49 (NKJV)

But Daniel and his friends knew a far greater King and would not worship any other ruler besides Yahweh. For their lack of loyalty to King Nebuchadnezzar and King Darius, all four were persecuted. One King placed three inside a furnace (Daniel 3), and Daniel found himself in a den of lions by the other. Once given exceedingly great favor, they lost their King’s approbation, for it was conditional. But for their loyalty to the one true God, the King of Kings rewarded them with miracles of wonder and life. No harm or injury befell any of the four men.

Then Daniel said to the king, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong to you.’

Now the king was exceedingly glad for him and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God.”  Daniel 6:20-23 (NKJV)

 We have the ear of our eternal King. Continual access to His throne room is ours, for He never sleeps. And we are charged to come boldly to His mercy seat. With all honesty, we are encouraged to pour our hearts out to the King, without any fear of punishment for speaking with forthright candor.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)

Our God and King fights for us, for the battle is His, not ours. He protects and shelters us from harm. He did so with David and Moses, Joshua and so many more.

“And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.’” Exodus 14:13-14 (NKJV)

“Then David spoke to the Lord the words of this song, on the day when the Lord had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. And he said: ‘The Lord is my rock and my fortress and My deliverer; The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.’”             2 Samuel 22:3-4 (NKJV)

Our King loves us, as David loved his friend Jonathan.

“Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” 1 Samuel 18:1 (NKJV)

In fact, God is jealous for us. He is jealous when someone gives to another something that rightly belongs to Him. God is possessive of the worship and service that belongs to Him. As friends of a King, it is sinful to worship or serve anything other than the King.

You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” Exodus 20:4-5

Our King, our friend, though mighty and all-powerful is still forgiving and full of mercy, grace, and compassion. Peter denied him three times, yet Jesus sought him out and forgave him. He went to Peter in John 21 and showed compassion and forgiveness.

Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:47 (NIV)

As hard as it is to imagine, our King sings and rejoices over us with gladness. Christ praised John the Baptist saying “No man born of woman was greater than this prophet.” He extolled Peter and gave him the title “Thou art Rock.” And while many condemned Mary Magdalene, Christ defended her as a model of generosity, applauding her large heart: “She hath loved much.”

“The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)

“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist.” Matthew 11:11a (NKJV)

We serve a King who calls us His friend. Let us rejoice and be glad in this blessing.

Obstacles

_Never Give Up

Most of us have had an occasion where an unexpected trial or obstacle has knocked us flat, interrupting everyday plans and routines. And when a stumbling block appears out-of-the-blue, a bucket full of emotions is sure to follow. Since God created us with the capacity to express our true feelings, we should do so. God values honest communication.

But once we have vented our frustration, fear, anger, and confusion over the obstacle, we must pause and consider whether God is trying to get our attention. He is a master teacher, always looking for new ways to equip and instruct His children. Once we have accepted the reality of our situation and faced our unhappy hindrance, we can move forward in a way that glorifies God. How? By embracing our new circumstances with the faith that we serve a loving and compassionate God. This is not easy but by doing so, our time in the valley will prove to be a valuable lesson filled with God’s wisdom and strength.

While we work through struggles, our spiritual eyes should search, watch, and wait for the Holy Spirit to speak. Have you found yourself incapacitated, unable to move or work? Maybe God wants you to slow down, or direct you down a different path. Maybe He wants to teach you something that will better equip you for future ministry. Is a lesson of love, forgiveness, or patience in your near future? What about endurance? Do you know how to spiritually persevere? There is also the possibility He is testing your faith. He tested His disciples, Noah, Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and Abraham just to mention a few.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” Ephesians 1:18 (NKJV)

 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.Romans 5:35 (NKJV)

 Whatever the obstacle, we know God will be right beside us. We can rely on Him to be our strength. He is glorified when we are weak for He often uses our weakness to shine brightly to unbelievers. They will watch as help and provisions come our way and scratch their heads as we move through our hardship without fret.

Do not fret—it leads only to evil.Psalm 37:8b (NIV)

 Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you.1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

 And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 CO 12:9-10 (NKJV)

There is no obstacle before us that has not been planned or approved by God.

He is not in the business of discouraging His children and He knows our limits. When we reach those limits and surrender our helplessness to God, we are in the right place spiritually.

Christ alone will see us through. No other but our Savior Jesus Christ will mediate our needs before God. With love, He will provide a way for us to surmount our obstacle and continue onward in our spiritual race. Do not let the challenges and heartaches in life crush you. Through Christ, we can bring the victory of heaven into our experience on earth

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.Ephesians 6:10 (NKJV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 (NKJV)

If God is testing you, as He did with so many others in the Bible, be encouraged by the helps the Father provided for them as they dealt with obstacles. And if the devil has been given permission to sift you, remember God knows you have the ability (with His provision of strength and power) to overcome.

The devil knows he cannot destroy us. The victory is ours through Christ. But our enemy will look for every opportunity to make our time on earth unproductive. He will tempt and encourage us to sin, harass us with fear, speak lies and tickle our ears to the point where we doubt the love of God. Satan wants to steal our hope. Do not let him! Persevere while you face your trial because the testing of your faith will develop spiritual maturity, enabling you to overcome every obstacle the devil can conjure.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.James 1:2-4 (NIV)

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

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The Words Of My Mouth

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Our words indicate what is in our heart. Love stimulates words of encouragement and good will, but unrighteous anger and hatred drive us to spew remarks that cut to the very bone. The tongue, though a small muscle, is mighty in power. It is strong enough to break a heart. The apostle James stated that no man could tame his tongue, adding that it was full of deadly poison.

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good, and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45 (NKJV)

“But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”    James 3:8 (NKJV)

 At one time or another we have all sinned with our words, be it a curse or active participation in gossip. Hopefully, harsh and rude comments are not flying from our mouths with little thought or reflection. We need to be conscious of our remarks and the tone that we take. Thankfully, when we recognize our sin Christ freely forgives. But even with His forgiveness, we still suffer consequences for our hasty utterances. We cannot take back words. Once spoken, the damage is done. Wounds heal but scars remain.

But what if we merely utter a curse word in a fit of anger or frustration? Who would it really harm, especially if nobody else is present? The answer is that it harms YOU and wounds God. If we take the Lord’s name in vain, we forget our position and disrespected our Creator.

You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.” Exodus 20:7 (NKJV)

And if we do not take God’s name in vain but utter another curse, what then is the harm? The worry is that it shows the condition of our heart. Uncontrolled anger, frustration, and bitterness are not the fruit of the Spirit. Cursing of any kind is a sign of spiritual weakness.

“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?”  James 3:10-11 (NIV)

Do not despair, dear reader. Most poisons have an antidote, and there is an antidote for foul language and other sins of the tongue. The remedy (not absolute cure if considering Js.3:8) is God’s Word. When we fill our minds with the truth and promises found in the Bible, it helps us temper our actions and words. Scripture reminds us of our many blessings and with grateful hearts, we are less likely to speak ill of others. Memorizing the Word of God enables the Holy Spirit to bring it back to memory at opportune times.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)

There are also things we can practice. Take a day to speak less and listen more. There is wisdom to be found in times of silence and it develops self-control and patience.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20 (NKJV)

“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”  Psalm 141:3 (NKJV)

“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.”      Proverbs 21:23 (NKJV)

 If we speak less, we are able to hear and observe more. When a person of few words speaks, his/her audience takes note and seriously considers their words.

“Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.”   Proverbs 10:19 (NIV)

“Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.”  Proverbs 18:2 (NIV)

Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:2 (NKJV)

Consider your words this week. Do they edify God and encourage others? Are your words spoken with love and do they reflect Christ, our role model? Scrutinize your vocabulary and purpose in your heart to revise/edit any word that is not pleasing to God. Ask for God’s help as you attempt to harness your tongue and control your reactions during moments of frustration and anger. Strive to speak less and hear more. Make a point to listen with expectancy when fellowshipping with God. I pray your efforts are rewarding and fruitful.

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)

“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)

“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” Matthew 12:36 (NKJV)

Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.  But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:34-37 (NKJV)

 

 

Valley of Detours: Trusting God

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Have you ever read the wonderful book by Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet In High Places? If not, I highly recommend that you do. The main character, Much Afraid, decides to trust the Good Shepherd and travel to His kingdom, which are on the high places. He appoints two companions to assist her along the way, but they lead her up and down paths that often seem like detours.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.Psalm 32:8 (NKJV)

In reality, every twist and turn, valley and rough patch Much Afraid journeyed were necessary for her equipment. Each apparent detour trained her for the challenging ascent. As the book unfolds, Much Afraid learns that she must cooperate with God while in the valley of detours. When she lays down her self will and accepts the Shepherd’s path for her life, she finds peace and joy.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.Psalm 143:10 (NIV)

Joseph was the favored son of Jacob, which stirred the jealousy of his other brothers. Not only did their father present him with a special coat of many colors, but Joseph also had a dream that made his brothers hate him even more. The dream implied he would reign over them some future day.

“Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.” And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” Genesis 37:5-9 (NKJV)

Joseph’s life story did not play out as he would have expected. No, the hateful plan his brother’s scheme landed Joseph in Egypt, far from family and Canaan. Into slavery, he was sold and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh was his master. But God did not forget Joseph.

And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field.Genesis 39:3-5 (NKJV)

By this time Joseph had endured several detours in his valley of sorrow. The betrayal of his brothers and the passing from the favored son of a rich patriarch to a mere slave are two examples. Another detour sent Joseph to prison, simply because he maintained his morality by rebuffing the advances of Potiphar’s wife. (Gen.39:6-8) God was watching over Joseph the entire time.

Our heavenly Father cheers us on while we run our spiritual race. But the enemy is bent on harming us. The Devil does not want to see a sinful man transformed into the image of his victor, Jesus Christ. Nor does he want us to reach our eternal home. One of the fastest ways he can disrupt God’s plan for us is to tempt our morality.

Once he was in prison, God again showed Joseph favor and mercy.

But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.  And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.Genesis 39:21-23 (NKJV)

 Who would have thought that time as a slave, and years in prison necessary training for Pharaoh’s right-hand man? But then, who of us can understand the mind of God? Joseph remained steadfast in his faith. He was in an awful state, but he did not sit on his laurels and give up. He did not moan in self-pity and grow bitter.

There were many other valley detours in the life of Joseph. They made him stronger and wiser. They equipped Joseph for the jobs God had designed for him.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

Haphazard Plans?

_God In Control

God’s way will turn a man’s thoughts inside out and upside down. We can’t forecast the way God works. The wisdom of the world would argue that God is haphazard, but He is not calculable in His providence. He works in ways we cannot predict or understand.

’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)

God’s sovereignty is a reality. His love for us is undeniable. There is no other Father who has sacrificed His only son for the redemption of mankind. So, when life seems to be out of control, even hopeless, we must remember God is behind the scenes working things out according to His perfect will.

“Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

Matthew 18:2-4 and Mark 10:15 both mention children. Their innocence and faith should be our example. By taking on a cloak of humility, we can submit to the Father’s will and trust where He has placed us, even if it is within a turbulent storm. Why? Because He loves us!

Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-4 (NKJV)

Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Mark 10:15 (NKJV)

The ‘whys’ in life can plague a person’s heart. The proper place for our questions is at the feet of Jesus. But, when we lay them down, we can’t assume He owes us an answer. He owes us nothing. He might not reveal His reasons for our discomfort. But with the innocence of a child, we can trust our Savior and believe that our present circumstances are for our benefit.

God does not punish His children. However, because He is a loving Father, He will discipline us. Rooting out sin, character flaws, and transforming weaknesses into strengths will not occur overnight. And the time it takes a believer to lay aside self-will, surrendering everything to God, is different for everyone.

The more obedient we are to His leading, the faster He will mold us into the perfect vessel He envisioned. But, the transformation from sinful man to that of one reflecting Jesus Christ in every way requires time. A potter molds clay and reshapes his medium over and over until it stands out, unique and worthy of his initials. Uncomfortable pressure, painful twisting, and a dizzying spin on His wheel will eventually get us the kiln. Then, agonizing heat will purify the last of our impurities. Oh, how precious it is to share in the sufferings of Christ! We can take comfort in knowing He records each one of our painful tears. They are in His record. They are valued.

You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?Psalm 56:8 (NKJV)

God will send the perfect circumstances our way to get this job done. We won’t understand our entire journey, but we don’t have to, right? We simply need to trust in the love of God. He is our hope, and hope will never disappoint.

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.Romans 5:5 (NKJV)

Hope in Christ! He has a plan for you and it is not a haphazard one. The ups and downs of your life were designed long before you were knit within your mother’s womb. God sees you, as you will be perfected, and purified. Eventually, when you look in a mirror, you will only see Jesus. Your reflection will glorify God and honor Him. Praise Jehovah!

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For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

“If you try to forecast the way God will work you will get in a muddle; live the life of a child and you will find that every haphazard occasion fits into God’s order.” ~ Oswald Chambers

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)

“While it looks like things are out of control, behind the scenes there is a God who hasn’t surrendered His authority.” ~ A.W. Tozer

Dusting Away Distractions

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Everyday life is filled with distractions. Daily goals are met with enticements and diversions that hinder or impede their achievement. Then, while slipping into bed, we review our day and roll our eyes over the many different directions our rabbit trails took us. Distractions once again sideswiped our well-intentioned plan to move forward in our ventures.

When it comes to our spiritual walk, distractions are a key strategy utilized by the devil. Whether he shoots fiery arrows of condemnation and blame in our direction or the enticements of the world call out to us, fellowship time with God is curtailed. The Bible warns believers to be alert and sober minded, lest we find ourselves devoured by this prowling lion.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)

 John MacArthur sheds light on how to fight distractions.

“The more you focus on yourself, the more distracted you will be from the proper path. The more you know Him and commune with Him, the more the Spirit will make you like Him. The more you are like Him, the better you will understand His utter sufficiency for all of life’s difficulties. And that is the only way to know real satisfaction.”  John MacArthur

Focusing less time on ourselves and spending more time in fellowship with God will accomplish several things:

First, our peace of mind will increase and our stress will decrease. Meditating on the faithfulness and love of God will build up our faith and remind us that there is no life circumstance hidden from our all-knowing God. Worry and stress are a distraction. Focusing on problems is a trap. Doing so will consume our thinking, and eat us alive, leaving us with no time or energy to meditate on things that are noble and pure.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

Our time would be better spent by seeking God through prayer; asking the one who loves us most, to provide solutions and to direct our path. Then, through the discipline of self-control and patience, we must let go of our frets, trusting an answer is on the way.

Distractions also come in the form of pleasure. Taking a hike, going to a movie, shopping, getting a manicure, and having a leisurely lunch with a good friend are all pleasurable activities. But if they prevent fellowship time with God, they are distractions. Lunch with a friend is not a bad thing in itself. In fact, the Bible encourages us to fellowship with other believers so that we can lift each other up. No, lunch dates are not the problem. The trouble occurs when the cares of the world and the busyness of life cuts into our time with God. Carving out a set time to fellowship and focus on God is a good way to attack distraction issues. God needs to be a priority.

Distractions of the flesh are probably the most common. Sex, food, wine, and a lust for money have made many a prodigal. But these distractions are manageable, if we keep our focus on God. When we commune with the Lord, He will remind us that we are to live as aliens in this world. That home is heaven. To love the world is to be an enemy of God.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” 1 John 2:15-16 (NKJV)

And the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.Mark 4:19 (NKJV)

Another distraction many of us struggle with is ministry work. Many believers get so busy with church activities that they struggle finding time to be alone with God. A thought or word God would have revealed, had time been spent at His feet, is a grievous loss. We are to serve the Lord without distraction, but to do so, we must also learn to abide in Christ. A constant awareness of His presence, a continual lifting up of praise and worship, and a daily knowledge of His desire to speak to hearts will help to eliminate our struggle with distractions.

I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways.” Psalm 119:15 (NKJV)

And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.1 Co 7:27 (NKJV)

 A steadfast heart is a loyal heart of devotion. It is focused and strong. It keeps a believer from turning aside to the right and to the left. The path before them is clear and by making God our spiritual “nerve center,” forward progress happens.

Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left.” Joshua 23:6 (NIV)

If we want spiritual growth and maturity, we must consider our fellowship time with God. Is He a priority? Do we spend time meditating on His word? What distractions keep us from Bible study and how can we change things? Periodically, we all need some dusting off and a little spring-cleaning is always a good place to start.

Lessons From An Olive Tree

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The Hebrew word for olive tree is es shemen, which literally means “tree of oil.” It is from a primitive root meaning “to shine.” It is related to the word shemesh, “to be brilliant,” which is also the Hebrew word for the “sun.”

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12 (NKJV)

Jesus commands us to shine our light before mankind in hopes of glorifying the Father and leading the lost to His saving grace. The light within us is the Holy Spirit and He enables us to live righteously within a crooked and perverse world.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)

The first mention of an Olive tree is found in Genesis 8:11 (NKJV) “Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth; and Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth.” Olive trees and olive oil is regarded as a symbol of honor, joy, and favor. Many scriptures speak of using the oil from the olive tree as an anointing.

“You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” (Psalm 45:7).  

“To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV) 

Says the Encyclopedia Judaica, “There are trees in Israel estimated to be 1,000 years old that still produce fruit. In old age the tree becomes hollow but the trunk continues to grow thicker, at times achieving a circumference of 20 feet” (“Olive,” vol.12, Page 1361).

Have we become hollow within, like ancient olive trees? Hollow and empty of self-will and selfish desires? If so, we are in a place of spiritual maturity where the Holy Spirit can fill us beyond capacity. Have we developed strong trunks, trunks thickened by a resolve to live righteously for God, even through times of drought and suffering? Have we been filled with God’s love, wisdom, and truth or has bitterness and hate pushed aside the indwelling Holy Spirit?

Olive wood is very hard and beautifully grained. The olive was one of the most valuable trees to the ancient Hebrews. It was used by King Solomon to carve cherubim for the inner sanctuary of the first Temple.  Inside the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olive wood, each ten cubits high.” 1 Kings 6:23 (NKJV) Our strength and beauty should call out to those who are blind, to those who no longer see beauty. Although we live in a fallen world, beauty remains everywhere; we just need to look a bit harder.

And like ancient olive trees, let us strive to bear fruit for our entire lifetime. This means producing a crop that is pressed into oil, which will hopefully heal, feed, and light the way for many. Each of is has been given a set number of days. Commit to using every moment of every year to glorify God.

Make us Olive trees, Lord! Grant us thick trunks, fruitful crops, and new shoots when we are weary from the pressing.

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. I will praise You forever because You have done it; And in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good.” Psalm 52:8-9 (NKJV)

Plant A Seed In My Heart, Lord

Ancient Olive Tree:Garden Gethsamene

Plant a seed in my heart, Lord                                                                                        WATER it, so I thirst no longer

Make the seed that of an Olive Tree                                                                            Steady in its growth                                                                                                        Fruitful, feeding many who hunger

Roots deep                                                                                                               Supported by the words Jesus spoke                                                                         While in the Garden of Gethsemane

Make me an ancient tree                                                                                               With a substantial trunk                                                                                         Patiently waiting for the Lord’s return                                                                                A quiet witness of Your noble worth

Plant a seed in my heart                                                                                                   TEND it with Your loving hand

Make the seed a mustard seed                                                                                      Small and humble but eager to grow                                                                             Quickly sprouting to an amazing height

Faith resounding                                                                                                             No doubt present                                                                                                          Mature in the assurances of God’s Word

Make me like Joshua                                                                                                 Who called upon Your power                                                                                          To hold the sun and moon still                                                                                            Trusting Your faithfulness

Plant a seed in my heart                                                                                                  GAZE upon it, a flower of infinite beauty

Crush the buds, enjoy my fragrance                                                                         Transform me into perfume and oil                                                                            Wear my love, blessed Savior

Make me a seed                                                                                                               Sow where You desire                                                                                                             I know I’ll grow… No matter the soil.

Creator of all beauty                                                                                                  Sower of every seed in my heart                                                                                                                        I praise You!

*Inspired by my recent trip to Israel and the Garden of Gethsemane              https://www.facebook.com/cherylzelenkaauthor

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