Isaiah 49 – Displaying God’s Splendour

When everything else fades, God’s splendour shines brightest. God demonstrates His ability to clearly reveal Himself in every season of our lives, even the painful ones.

In these times, God’s presence is most evident. Even in the darkest, most lonely and broken times of personal trial and weakness, God’s splendour becomes visible.

His magnificence and grandeur,
patience and love,
wisdom and strength,
richness, glory and beauty
are clearly displayed through frailty.

As Christians, the lives we live are not for ourselves, but rather for Him and for others. 

Before Birth

“Listen to me, you islands;
hear this, you distant nations:
Before I was born the LORD called me;
from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.”
Isaiah 49:1

Before I saw, knew, reverenced or honoured God, long before disobedience, failure and rebellion entered the picture, God knew me and had a plan for my life — a good plan. The same is true for every single one of us. How can we define such watchful care, other than absolutely amazing?

God's plan for our life is always good!

My dual name came from both of my grandmothers: Mary and Ann. To carry their names is a true honour.

Grandma Mary’s stature didn’t reach five feet, but none dare challenge her! Familiar with hard times, she raised her family, managed a farm, wore a wide smile, and always found room at her table for others in spite of her own need.

Grandma Ann passed away from cancer far too young. Her siblings told me about her hard work ethic, devotion to God, perseverance, tenacity, and deep love for others. 

My parents were determined that I carry both names equally, foregoing any need for a middle name. I am thankful! In some ways, my name has been prophetic! “Mary” means “bitter”; “Ann” means “grace”.

Like most other people, I have seen hardship that could have easily turned into bitterness. Yet my life continues to be marked with God’s passionate grace.

In fact, God’s grace is having the final say in multiple ways. I am but one small example.

Be assured! God has spoken your name just as clearly as Isaiah’s. He writes His “grace” over every portion of your life as well.

A Sharpened Sword for His Splendour

“He made my mouth like a sharpened sword…”
Isaiah 49:2

Have you ever watched a blade being sharpened? It takes something abrasive to sharpen a good knife, axe, or sword. A sharp edge makes these tools suitable for their task. Many times I have witnessed a blade edge being placed against the grinding wheel. A blaze of flashing hot sparks fly as rough edges become smooth.

A mouth like a sharpened sword.

The painful seasons, we all wish to avoid, sharpen us for greater purposes. God uses the struggling, “how much longer”, barely enduring times to prepare us. Here hearts change! On the other side of these difficulties, proclamation of His goodness rises. In brokenness and surrender, we look up discovering God is present.

“…in the shadow of His hand He hid me.”

The darkest shadow is always the closest to any object. When it seems God is the farthest away, the opposite is actually true. “In the shadow”, we find unparalleled revelation of His glory. “In the shadow”, God demonstrates how closely His hand covers and protects.

Hidden “in the shadow” of His mighty hand fears dissipate and insecurities melt away. “In the shadow” is safety! God is present “in the shadow” — intimately present!

A Polished Arrow

As children, my older brother and I would fashion our own bows and arrows from fresh cut willow sticks and remnants of used baler twine. Nothing high calibre in our childhood play!

God does things differently!

A polished arrow!

God calls us His arrows. He makes us with precision, taking time to design each one of us from His best stalk! The perfect feathers with the finest point! When He has formed us to perfection, He conceals us!

What? Conceal us?

“…he made me into a polished arrow
and concealed me in his quiver.”
Isaiah 49:2

You would think after all His hard work He would be ready to show us off, put us into action, launch us into ministry, or in some way display His immaculate workmanship. Nope!

Now perfectly ready, He puts us into His quiver. It is God, our Maker, who determines when He will take us out, how He will set us in the bow, what direction He will send us, and the distance He will propel us.

It is our responsibility to rest, waiting patiently for His timing and direction.

A Servant for His Splendour

Quiver waiting isn’t idle! Quiver waiters serve in the midst of waiting.

“A single day in your courts is better
than a thousand anywhere else!
I would rather be a gatekeeper
in the house of my God
than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.”
Psalm 84:10

It is better to be a gatekeeper!

David, the author of this psalm, caught the vision! He lived many places during his lifetime: in the tent of his father, on the countryside among sheep, in caves running from the enemy, on the battlefield, and in a king’s palace. Yet he said, “The best place of all is with God, serving Him and His people.”

Why? So God gets the glory — the splendour!

In our simplest offering of service, whatever that is, others must see the greatness, glory and splendour of our God. If people only see us, we are blocking their view of the Magnificent One!

“He said to me,
“You are my servant, Israel,
in whom I will display my splendour.”
Isaiah 49:3

In our weakness, He shows His strength. Out of our poverty flows His abundance. In our brokenness, His tender compassion rises. God reveals His greatness in our littleness. As we willingly surrender to His call, God displays His splendour and majesty, glory and beauty, magnificence and brilliance.

“I pray you learn to know and trust your God now.
Say “God I am willing that You should make me willing.” 
If there is anything holding you back,
or any sacrifice you are afraid of making,
come to God now, and prove how gracious your God is.”
– Andrew Murray

Surrender doesn’t come naturally! Yielded in the hand of the Author of life, surrendered to His movement, defies stubborn self-will. 

“Lord, I am willing, make me willing!” 

For God’s Splendour

As we recognize God’s watch over our lives from eternity past to eternity future, we can come to no other conclusion than He is good. Each one of our lives truly is marked by His grace.

Grace has the final word!

It is better to be a gatekeeper!

As we focus on God and surrender to His will and ways, we begin to demonstrate His power to use our little for His glory revealing His splendour to those around us.

We each have a story uniquely written. Humbly and willingly share yours at every opportunity. Let us live to display His splendour!

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Further Reading:

Fireflies and Lightning Bugs – Let Your Light Shine!

Give Praise to the Lord, Proclaim His Name

 

 

  1.  

Dennis Boettger: Listening to God through Dreams, Visions & Revelations

One thing remains constant — Dennis Boettger passionately communicates the lessons God is teaching him through dreams, visions and revelations of His Word. Defining Dennis, however, isn’t easy! Husband, father, physician, pastor, author, song writer and composer or photographer?

An encourager and contemplative, Dennis is remarkably sensitive to God’s voice. He possesses a sincere love for others, especially pastors. After meeting with Dennis, one cannot help but sense a portion of the Father’s heart!

Godly Beginnings

At the same day as the atomic bomb dropped on Tokyo, August 6, 1945, Dennis was born. It was August 5 in Canada.

“I was just born, but obviously things like that have a deep impact. As a kid I was afraid someone would drop a bomb on me. I can only imagine the pain, fear and anxiety that refugee kids experience.”

The third of eight children, Dennis grew up immersed in faith. His farming father also assumed responsibility as a self-supporting Mennonite pastor. It was natural for Dennis to give his heart to the Lord, when about four years old.

“I will sing to the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”
Psalm 104:33

From very young, Dennis sang the songs of faith from his heart — often in four-part harmony with siblings. “God was good to us! There was a sense of God’s presence.”

Expecting God to lead

The Mennonite church emphasized being born again and walking in discipleship: faithful, servant-hearted and loving. Dennis wanted to please the Lord and personally know His will.

Missionaries, especially missionary doctors, had a big impact on Dennis’ young life. Although nobody in his family had attended university let alone medical school, Dennis nurtured an impossible dream of becoming a doctor.  He equally sensed the call to preach.

Which path should he choose? For advice, Dennis approached one of his teachers who had also been his youth pastor. He received this directive:

“If you go to seminary
you will have answers for people
but you will have to convince them.
If you go to medical school,
people will come to you with problems
and you will give them answers.”

Dennis committed one year to bible school. The Lord also gave him freedom to consider medicine. Dennis’ mother said, he danced when he received the letter of acceptance to medical school.

God’s Call

During his second year in medicine, Dennis married Lucille whom he had known since Grade 3. She was a nursing student who had graduated from Prairie Bible Institute. They had their first of three children while Dennis was interning.

After receiving degrees in both pharmacy and medicine, Dennis and Lucille responded to God’s call to Ethiopia. For two years, from 1972-1974, Dennis became a missionary physician with the Eastern Mennonite Mission. In this time, during Ethiopia’s first modern famine, they witnessed many children dying from starvation and cholera. The experiences deeply impacting the Boettgers.

Not a lot of victory

They attended an indigenous church, but without translation understood nothing about what was going on. A move of the Spirit was taking place in Ethiopia in those years.  This season would prove to be the preliminary to receiving the baptism of the Spirit.

With the deposing of Selassie, the bloodless revolution began and the Boettgers returned home.

A Mennonite pastor, baptized in the Holy Spirit during the Charismatic Renewal, prayed for the Boettgers. Dennis felt convicted to repent of attitudes towards others, but nothing more. The seed was planted!

Ethiopia

During their time at home, Dennis and Lucille did receive the baptism in the Holy Ghost. Dennis experienced healing and deliverance from anxiety and fear. This touch of Jesus transformed Dennis’ life and prepared them both for the return to Ethiopia. 

“God gave revelation to me!
He could heal issues of my life
and restore things that had been damaged!”

As the Red Terror swept across Ethiopia, significant violence filled the nation! Victims of famine and leprosy, plus those beaten, burned and tortured were brought to the clinic.

With tears Dennis recalls, “We could hear the bullets hitting the bodies of innocent victims.”

Communication back home was non-existent! In two years, they phoned home once. But the Lord was gracious!

Ethiopia Testimony

Dennis affirms, “The presence of the Lord in the midst of uncertainty, even death, calms our soul!”

Back to Canada

Back home, the Boettgers asked, “Where do you want us Lord?” Through a prophetic word, God gave a clear call! The Lord miraculously used them to plant a church in McLennan, a French community in Alberta.

Within 3 weeks of holding a bible study in their basement, a study they didn’t organize, a church was birthed. During their 25 years in McLennan, Dennis became ordained as a pastor/elder with the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies while continuing to practise medicine.

So many miracles!

God was opening Dennis’ understanding through pictures and revelations both through him and the voice of others.

Dennis says, “At that time, I totally operated in revelation in the “night seasons”. God told me what to preach about. I had no plan or purpose other than sharing what God wanted me to hear.”

Thus his sermons presented fresh impressions God put upon his own heart.

Lucille developed ovarian cancer. The Lord was very near.

Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his faithful servants.”
Psalms 116:15

Several significant revelations during her terminal illness confirmed her home-coming was near. She went to be with the Lord in 2002.

“We prayed and hoped for healing.
It was revealed to us it was her time to go.”
 

Now What?

In a dream, Dennis saw himself standing on a hill alone. God showed him a river, familiar but diverted, rushing along in standing waves. When he woke up, the Lord said, “…Everything will change. You will be directed along a new path. You will not be able to go on as you thought it would be.”

River with standing waves

Dennis thought, “How can they do this to me and I not know it?”

Not wanting to be single, Dennis questioned, “How can I do this?” At 59 years old and almost ready to retire, he didn’t want to give a woman false hope. He had no interest in dating or having women pursue him.

Through revelation, God showed Dennis that his future wife would be like the sons of Zadok who drew near to minister to God. These priests could only marry a virgin or a widow of a priest.

God said, “I have someone for you. It’s a very narrow field.”

You don't have to wonder

Dennis was neither wondering or looking!

He started a sabbatical, travelling to Israel and Europe. Upon returning, Dennis spent time at the Toronto Airport Church before driving to Quebec to meet pastor friends who had been part of his Alberta congregation.

Seek the LORD and His strength;
seek his face continually.”
1 Chronicles 16:11

Betty, a widow, was already there when Dennis arrived. She had been a farmer’s wife, was the mother of three sons, and didn’t fit the letter of what God had given Dennis. He had no sense there was or could be anything between them.

Just prior, Dennis had been meditating on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and its pervasiveness in our thinking. At the pastor’s meeting, he stayed off by himself, deep in thought.

“Not paying attention,” he comments!

God is drawing pictures

While touring Ottawa together, Dennis had a fleeting thought, “What about Betty? Don’t exclude Betty?”

God’s Direction

That was November 2003. They parted ways. Betty continued her ministry in Quebec bringing hope to the abused. Dennis went to preach in Peace River.

In another vision, Dennis looked out of a window of a high-rise building. He could see a long way. Yet, his focus became fixed toward a “secluded corner, surrounded by snow and trees. There was a swimming pool without any tracks to it.”

An avid swimmer, Dennis recalled recently swimming in “the Dead Sea, Red Sea and Med (Mediterranean) Sea.”

He asked, “Lord, what are you showing me?”

Point of view

“We have an elevated point of view.
We’re educated, can read and write.
As Christians, we’re filled with Holy Spirit.
We’re born again.”

“God was dealing with me!”

God called Dennis to leave his “high” point of view to catch God’s higher view.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:9

God clearly revealed, “What you need is a change in attitude.”

Through revelations, visions and divine encounters involving windmills, God increased Dennis’ understanding. God brought Dennis to realize that with the right attitude the wind of Holy Spirit moves in unknown ways to generate things.

Correction of God

Dennis knew God was answering prayer! The Lord was dealing with something that needed to be changed in order for him to receive all God was prepared to give him.

In 2003, people were talking about the next wave of the Holy Spirit. God said, “I am going to take the former moves of the Spirit and connect them with what is coming. It will be one move of my Spirit. I want to use you.”

“There was a time when
I could not hear God’s voice
and did not understand these things.”

New Thinking

God had already shown Dennis that He had received ministry from Betty. She fit the picture of a “Son of Zadok”. “Lord, was it an accident that I met Betty,” he asked.

“No!” God said, “I am in charge of the micro seconds.”

“You can make many plans,
but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.”
Proverbs 19:21

Dennis was meditating about that when he saw another vision of a large Saskatchewan field. It was an enormous farm with huge implements: tractors, combines, cultivators, discs, all kinds of equipment.

Large field

In my vision, the Lord asked, “Where are you in this picture?”

Dennis thought and thought and thought but said, “God, I have no idea.”

He said, “You are the draw pin. The tractor is the word of God. The fuel in the tractor is Holy Spirit and the driver is the will of the Father. All the other implements are the gifts and operations of the Holy Spirit.”

“The only thing God needs
is someone to be in the word,
in the Spirit
and in the will of the Father.”

God can use anyone!

He says, “I am so thankful for the voice of the Lord. He is able to reveal things to us, taking us through anything!”

Standing Waves

After God showed me that meeting Betty was no accident, I wrote her a letter asking, “Is God telling you anything about us?”

“If there is to be an us, He will talk to you first,”  She curtly responded!

They didn’t physically see each other again until July in Langley, British Columbia. Dennis was preparing to ask Betty to marry him. On his way there, the Lord reminded Dennis about the dream of walking along the river, diverted and rushing along in standing waves. He asked, “Do you know what that rushing water was?”

Dennis said, “No!”

God said, “It was a swift current.”

Betty was from Swift Current. Through one more revelation, God confirmed He brought and put them together.

“I’m so thankful because she has been good for and to me.” Dennis says.

Dennis and Betty were married on Thanksgiving 2004.

“Whoever you are!
Whatever your life circumstances are!
Jesus wants to walk with you,
talk with you,
and go through life with you.”

“With God there are no accidents! God has a plan! We don’t have to wonder or search. He will make His ways known.”

“For I know the plans I have for you,”
declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

Calling Fulfilled

Through the joint calling of ministry and medicine, Dennis has impacted untold lives in many nations. Whether in the pulpit or on a hospital ward, Dennis leans heavily upon the wisdom of God.

On multiple occasions, God has supernaturally spoken to Dennis specifically revealing life-threatening conditions of his patients. 

Inuvik Testimony

Dr. Boettger’s patients, as well as medical staff, know that both he and Betty pray. Those who have worked beside Dennis have witnessed God use him in miraculous ways. A hand larger than his leads! There is more than medical training directing this committed servant of Christ!

“And then he told them,
Go into all the world and preach
the Good News to everyone.”
Mark 16:15

In addition to Ethiopia, he was also part of a team who carried bibles into China. Dennis has ministered in Canada, India, and the Philippines.

Together Dennis and Betty have carried the message of Christ to the nations of Costa Rica, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Singapore, Spain, and the United States of America. In Canada, they continue to impact lives in eight provinces and territories, faithfully returning to Inuvik twice a year.

Dennis humbly defines himself as “semi-retired” working part time in family medicine and surgery. “Semi-retired” hardly describes Dennis!  Ministering hope and healing everywhere possible remains priority for the Boettgers as they follow God’s call!

Just outside our door!

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Image by fernandozhiminaicela on Pixabay

 

Persistence and Tenacity, Qualities Necessary for Excellence

Persistence and tenacity sprout from the soil of adversity. Like mighty trees of strength, they are qualities dominating the landscape of excellence!

There is built into each of us the desire to pursue — to rise! How can we join the ranks of those who refuse to live below full potential?

God often uses natural elements to teach me spiritual truths, like modern day parables. Here is one!

The snow banks stubbornly staking claim in my yard dispute the fact that spring is soon upon us. I, like many other garden enjoying people, anticipate its arrival! Beneath the snow, dormant but waiting, diversity of colour prepares to burst forth transforming the bland landscape.

Winter

With it will be a few surprises!

Surprises!

When we moved into our home, the yard was surrounded by immaculately cut hedges. Unsurprising, immaculate is a contradiction to my nature!

As soon as possible, more natural landscape replaced the pristine conventional look. Flowing substituted fixed, as a variety of shrubs, trees and flowers took root.

Not long after the sod was turned, “it” appeared! One day only well positioned healthy shrubs, flowers and greenery were visible. The next day, “it” was there!

“It” sprung forth in domineering fashion staking claim where it had no claim. “Its” roots descending beyond the depth of sight or shovel, determined and invasive. 

Weeds in the garden

Resistant to my effort, “it” refused to yield or die. “It” is a weed. “It” waits for spring, too! Hopefully, this time I’m ready!

Questions?

Frustrated with “its” reappearance, I sat upon the ground questioning God how to possibly rid my yard of such torment. I sensed within me His voice say, “Persistence and tenacity!”

“I walked by the field of a lazy person,
the vineyard of one with no common sense.
I saw that it was overgrown with nettles.
It was covered with weeds,
and its walls were broken down.
Then, as I looked and thought about it,
I learned this lesson:
A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.”
Proverbs 24:30-34

Goats in the garden

I instantly knew that now the conversation had uncomfortably switched from the garden to my heart. “It” breeds in multiples here too — invasive and dominating! God invited, “Look and give thought!”

As soon as I try to take a step forward rising in excellence for God’s kingdom some otherwise hidden “root” will instantly show “its” burly face,

laughing at my intention,
scorning my effort,
tripping any progress,
devaluing my worth.

“Its” roots go deep to Adam’s fatal fall. Though I work and pray to remove “it”, these remnants of fallen nature spring forth, attempting to diminish my progress.

Raising the bar of excellence starts with getting off the ground and doing whatever it takes to achieve what God has called me to. Some days that is harder than others!

Weeds

Jesus told a parable about the sower faithfully sowing seed. Some fell along a path, others on rocky land, still others among the weeds. The only seed that produced in abundance landed in good soil.

“Other seed fell among thorns,
which grew up and choked the plants!”
Matthew 13:7

This Greek word “epnixan” means to “choke or throttle!” It describes the effective cutting off of the air ways, killing by suffocation.

Tangled vine

Sounds a lot like the “it” in my garden and my heart! Those who listened to Jesus knew about weeds! They too had things in their lives that were cutting off and strangling, the breath of life God gives.

There is good news, however! As soon as they present their crippling heads to the light, weeds can be eradicated!

The cross of Christ overcomes every “it” — all sin and failure. With persistence and tenacity, we bring each pernicious thought, attitude and action before Him. Cooperating with Christ, we roll up our sleeves committing ourselves to digging until every root is exposed and disposed of.

Persistence

Many would say that persistence and tenacity are synonymous. Not true!

Persistence is that ability to take a stand, going on resolutely in spite of opposition. Persistence maintains consistency of character and purpose while pushing away every obstacle.

No wonder God nudged me with that little admonition. If I am going to win at uprooting the negative in my life and reaching for excellence, persistence is needed.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded
by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance
the race marked out for us.”
Hebrews 12:1,2

Weed or flower?

Many things can hinder excellence from characterizing our life, disrupting growth, or limit reaching our God given destiny. It takes perseverance to ceaselessly dig up every “it” growing invasively in our lives.

Even small things are capable of producing great damage! Everything that potentially entangles our progress must by God’s grace be dug out!

Tenacity

But how is tenacity different? Tenacity simply means “not easily pulled apart.” It is the glue, the stick to it ability, either to something or someone.

Have you ever walked through a patch of burrs? Then you have experienced tenacity! A little burr knows how to stick, refusing to leave its place of attachment.

After Jesus taught a particularly difficult concept, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” When the going got tough, those who lacked tenacity got going, but in the wrong direction!

“You do not want to leave too, do you?”
Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him,
“Lord, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and to know that you are
the Holy One of God.”
John 6:67-68

Right answer, Peter!

Peter possesses tenacity, sticking like glue to Jesus! Why? He had “come to believe” that Jesus really was “the Holy One of God”. Peter stuck to God and his faith! He wasn’t about to switch allegiance mid stride.

Unlimited possibility and opportunity for excellence awaits those who tenaciously stick like glue to Jesus.

“For I can do everything
through Christ,
who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:13

Winning Team!

Persistence and tenacity! Persistence pushes against opposition! Tenacity holds to what is valuable! We need wisdom to know when each is needed.

Do you possess far-reaching goals? Are you aiming for excellence? Don’t expect a “quick fix” or an easy come scenario!

Tug-O-War

Whether your goal is an enduring marriage a thriving business or a vibrant ministry, persistence and tenacity will assist in achieving that outcome. Whether something grand or simply living each day well, these qualities form the path of success.

On the ground is where I was when God whispered these words into my heart. Getting up is always the first step to excellence!

Together, let’s get off the ground and start digging again?

It is encouraging when people stop and comment on the beauty or productivity of our little garden. Sometimes people even comment on changes they have noticed in my life! Whether outside in my garden or inside in my heart, there is a reward for persistence and tenacity.

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Laughter is Good Like a Medicine! It is Time to Laugh!

Solomon, the wisest man who lived, said laughter is good. Just as good as medicine! Tell that to the 1150 billion dollar pharmaceutical industry! Perhaps with a little more chuckling, those figures might drop!

Let’s face it, the cares of this world easily rob us of joy.

“A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.”
Ecclesiastes 3:4

Laughter is contagious! Few can hold back a smile when deep, belly laughter erupts. I’m not talking about the kind that is serrated with sarcasm, barbed with ridicule, or is a satirical stab. Just that free unrestrained joy in the present.

It is Good!

Let’s look at the “good” hidden in this joyful behaviour.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”
Proverbs 17:22

Laughter is like medicine

“Medicine” means “a healing and cure“. Several studies declare a cheerful attitude can improve the outcome of even the most serious illness.

One commentary says laughter makes good recovery!”  I like that! Even when ailments inflict, a good recovery sounds promising! If a “good recovery” includes healthier hearts, relaxed bodies, and boosted immune systems, then laughter delivers.

Believe it or not, joy is a personal choice — a way of “recovering”. Choosing joy creates a perspective that can make a big difference.

A few years ago, a difficult swirl threatened to engulf me. Every morning God encouraged “Choose joy!” So each day before my feet hit the floor, I agreed with God’s view and aligned my thinking.

That decision prevented the dysfunctional atmosphere from drowning me emotionally.  Joy kept strength from being “sapped”!  To “sap” here means “to be ashamed, confused, disappointed, to dry up, and wither.” 

Was it easy? Certainly not!

Was it possible? By God’s grace, yes!

It is Godly

Do you know that God laughs? Discovering God’s response to situations will change our own view of things.

“The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.”
Psalm 37:12-13

We have an enemy intentionally stealing, killing and destroying everything he can. He specifically targets our joy!

Laugh! I am!

Recently, I was feeling the intensity of an onslaught.  Problems of all sorts were hitting hard: physically, financially, relationally and spiritually. The enemy’s thrusts worked overtime in the lives of those I love and are close to.

During prayer, I felt God prompt, “Why don’t you laugh? I am!”

So I did! First strained and loudly! Then authentic laughter rolled naturally from some deep recess.

First, it was an act of obedience. Then I remembered I have a lot to laugh about. The enemy is still “gnashing his teeth” at us, but he was

crushed at the cross,
defeated on resurrection morning,
rendered powerless by the blood,
and sentenced to destruction.

Laughter is good! It reminds me the enemy’s “day is coming” when God brings justice. It produces alignment with God’s attitude, in some way bringing heaven’s glory to earth.

A time to laugh!

Strength

In Nehemiah’s day, the exiles returned after a long banishment to reestablish their homes. Under Ezra’s instruction,

“They read from the Book of the Law of God,
making it clear and giving the meaning
so that the people understood
what was being read.”
Nehemiah 8:8

The grief stricken people realized that disobedience to God brought about their captivity.

Mourning sounds logical to me! Countless times, I’ve been on my face distressed over the contradiction between my attitudes, words or conduct and God’s holiness. Reading “the book” puts things into perspective!

Joy in the Lord is strength

Nehemiah says something surprising under the circumstances,

“…This day is holy to our Lord.
Do not grieve,
for the joy of the LORD
is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10b

Sometimes we need encouragement to move from grief to joy, sorrow to gladness, or wailing to laughing. When they felt like grieving, Nehemiah reminded them, “Laughter is good!”

This word “strength” means “a place of safety and protection.”  It pictures standing on a solid rock, protected within a fortress, or secure in a strong defense.

A sports motto states, “The strongest offense is a powerful defense.”

God affirms that laughter implements both offensive and defensive action against Satan’s attacks.

Laughter is good! It creates a synergy between heaven and earth. Laughing at the enemy, no matter what his ploy, reminds me that God remains in control.

Laughing at Myself

I don’t purposely do incredibly foolish things! They spontaneously occur naturally and often! Laughter seems only logical in this moments.

A solid sense of self-worth releases me to laugh at my blunders and make light of my forgetfulness. Whether I have a particularly good day or not, my value securely resides with God alone.

Second, I demonstrate grace in even my ungraceful moments. I’m not what I used to be, but I sure haven’t arrived. Allowing myself time to laugh at my shortcomings liberates me to get up and try again.

Third, deliberately create time to laugh. It takes less energy to smile than to frown, I’m told.

Laugh together

Fourth, laugh at life! My father taught me well how to laugh during times of stress and pressure. He possessed an incredible ability to find a pool of joy in an ocean of despair.

Fifth, laugh at the past! I’m “getting long in the tooth”! Or in other words, I have more life behind me than ahead. Many situations threatened to crush me forever. By God’s grace, they served to refine me instead and in many ways make me stronger. Now, I smile in remembrance of those once painful times.

Life’s Journey

Pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem for the Jewish festivals sang the Songs of Ascent, Psalm 120-134. The priests also repeated them as they ascended the steps to the temple. One song declared at each step forward and upward.

Joy resonates throughout these psalms.

“I rejoiced with those who said to me,
Let us go to the house of the Lord.'”
Psalm 122:1

Songs triumphantly raised in praise to a God so faithful!

“We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Psalm 124:7-8

Laugh throughout life

Listen to this declaration of praise and rejoicing!

“When the LORD restored
the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
P
salm 126:1,2

And hear the promise!

I will bless her with abundant provisions;
her poor I will satisfy with food.
I will clothe her priests with salvation,
and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.”
Psalm 132:15-16

If the pilgrims going to the temple praised God with rejoicing, perhaps I should take time to laugh as I journey through life’s course. If the priests sang praise while entering God’s presence, I’m thinking the same is important as I approach our Awesome God.

Laugh often!
https://www.facebook.com/glimpsesofgloryphotos

Have you captured the importance yet? Let’s all make today a time to laugh!

**********

Betty Boettger – Letting God Lead the Way!

For this supercharged senior, letting God lead the way is paramount! The difficulties that have crushed and silenced others have become her platform announcing victory and hope found in Jesus Christ.

The following verse appropriately describes this woman’s life:

We are hard pressed on every side,
but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed.

We always carry around in our body
the death of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus
may also be revealed in our body.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-10

A leisurely withdrawal from active service is the desire of many women her age. Betty is far from typical however!

Beginnings

Betty was born and raised in the Swift Current area of Saskatchewan. Her father, a Royal Air Force pilot from England, left his wife and his daughter in Saskatchewan when he returned to England after the war. Betty lived with her grandparents until her grandmother died of cancer when she was twelve.

Feeling angry, alone and abandoned, it was the age of turning for Betty.

The woods became a shelter where no one could see her play, wait and hide. In the seclusion of trees, Betty encountered a personal relationship with Jesus as Saviour. She simply talked to Him and He became extremely real to her.

“I love you, LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my saviour;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.”
Psalms 18:1-2

As a teenager, Betty met Bob who was seven years older than her. He was the same faith, good looking and had attended university.  Intrigued, she became his wife at 16.

Marriage

Because Bob was polite and courteous while dating, Betty was unaware of the abusive situation ahead. Unknown to Betty, he was a “drunk”, a severe alcoholic. Only ten days into their marriage, she was beaten for the first time. This pattern of drinking and abuse marked the next 17 years.

Two to three times a week, Bob would come home angry and for no apparent reason, severely beat his bride. It formed a painful cycle their children witnessed on multiple occasions.

Betty called out to God many times in those years, as she sat at the window, watching, waiting, knowing what would occur when her husband returned. Even in the midst of brutal attacks, Jesus was always there!

What kept her in the marriage?

She knew Bob never liked what he did. She also knew he was never unfaithful to her. Lastly, in spite of the violence, Betty knew somehow he loved her. Yet, he didn’t seem to have any control over his conduct.

“But in my distress
I cried
out to the LORD;
yes, I prayed to my God for help.
He heard me from his sanctuary;
my cry to him reached his ears.”
Psalm 18:6

Difficult Years

Early in marriage, Betty also carried the responsibility for her brother-in-law’s four children, when their mother abandoned them. The basic comforts and conveniences of running water or central heating were unavailable. It was a difficult life — physically, emotionally and spiritually.

After 17 years, Bob fell to his knees at the hitch of the farm tractor. He said, “God if you are real, there has to be more to life than this.”

“He reached down from on high
and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy.”
Psalm 18:16-17

Instantly God healed, saved and delivered him from all his addictions and violent behaviour. Bob began to experience the freedom of letting God lead!

He didn’t disclose to Betty what had happened until two years later. He came in from the tractor and announced, “Things are going to change!”

Betty’s first thought was, “How?”

A dramatic and welcome change occurred, however!

Delivered

In the remainder of their 21 years together, he never drank, smoked, threw food or beat his wife. Bob became a powerful man of God, praying his family into the kingdom.

“As for God, his way is perfect:
The LORD’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him.
For who is God besides the LORD?
And who is the Rock except our God?”
Psalm 18:30-31

Together they started watching Christian television. Many times Betty recommitted her life to Christ watching 100 Huntley Street. Betty began to walk hand in hand with her husband, letting God lead them together.

They read the bible believing all that was promised. Miracles were the norm. They saw God do many things during those years. They knew they just had to ask and God would provide.

Though Bob’s transformation and deliverance was instant, it took about 10 years for Jesus to heal their marriage. Betty never hated her husband. However after years of abuse, she did not love him.

Restored

Many who live in abusive situations experience this reality, because the love of God available for them is consistently undermined.

Betty knew in her head God loved her. “The space between God and I was no problem! The space between my head and my heart was!” she confesses.

One weekend, Betty travelled to Medicine Hat to their son’s hockey tournament. Bob stayed at home. While reading in the bedroom, he saw a vivid vision of Betty standing in the doorway. She appeared more beautiful than ever before.

Amazed by her beauty, he said, “God, I don’t see her that way.”

“Well, I do!” God’s voice boomed so loud it cracked the window in the bedroom.

“Ok! Ok!” Bob fearfully said.

As he later related the vision to Betty, the realization of the God’s great love for her shifted from her head to her heart. Such love has never left her!

Through the power of God, the family grew and became strong. Betty completed a university degree while her children were in school. She became a rural municipality secretary, a notary of public, and served on the hospital board and a school board for many years.

Letting God lead in a new way, Betty started a home based business which grew over the next 35 years. For nine years she owned her own kitchen supply store in the Swift Current mall.

Bob went to be with the Lord in 1997 as a result of cancer.

God’s Lead

Ordained with two Pentecostal organizations, Betty was launched into ministry with a heart for evangelism and bringing hope to the abused. After experiencing healing and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, she ministers the same at every opportunity.

“It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights.”
Psalm 18:32-33

Speaking opportunities soon opened for Betty from Vancouver Island to New Brunswick. Betty’s motto, “If you’re not a missionary, you’re a mission field.” 

Pursuing itinerant ministry, she had no intention of marrying again. She was single, happy and fulfilled!

Unexpected Turn

While staying with mutual friends between ministry engagements, Betty was introduced to Dennis. In spite of there being little time for interaction, one night God laid Dennis on her heart.

Betty wanted no part of marriage!

She challenged, “God if this is You, You are messing up my life.”

Nonetheless Betty added, “But I know that You know what is good for me better than I do, so if this is You, You are going to have to make it plain to me. If this is You, tell him to ask me to go to Ottawa tomorrow.” Never one for the “tourist thing”, the request was unusual!

The next morning as Betty was making breakfast, Dennis asked, “What are you doing today? … I am going to do the tourist thing and go to Ottawa. I wondered if you would like to come along.”

Shocked, she sat in a chair! God had given confirmation. Even while letting God lead, Betty stayed three feet away from Dennis all day, unwilling to even use the armrest in the car.

How could a relationship even develop? One from Saskatchewan, the other from Alberta! One a farmer, the other in medicine! Both from different denominations! Yet her heart was being stirred!

Though Betty knew God was speaking, it would take a little longer for Dennis to hear. And Betty was in no way willing to help the process along!

By a sovereign work of the Lord, they were married in 2004 at Thanksgiving. Together they have six sons, six daughters-in-law and 20 grandchildren. All love the Lord and are serving Him.

New Beginning

You have given me your shield of victory.
Your right hand supports me;
your help has made me great.
You have made a wide path for my feet
to keep them from slipping.”
Psalm 18:35-36

Today Betty touches lives at every opportunity, bringing hope and assurance that God loves and cares.

Before remarriage, Betty ministered itinerantly across Canada as an evangelist and in healing ministry. She has seen many lives changed, hearts and bodies healed. Jesus remains unquestionably her first love.

Accepting God’s change became a great blessing! Betty now says, “I would not know what it is like to be so incredibly happy.

She counsels all ages, “If you are looking for someone in your life, let God do the choosing. Go to Him to choose your mate. Don’t go looking yourself!”

Together Dennis and Betty have ministered to the nations of Costa Rica, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Singapore, Spain, and the United States of America. In Canada, they continue to impact lives in eight provinces and territories, faithfully returning to Inuvik twice a year.

The impact of their ministry continues from the Arctic Circle to Virginia and from British Columbia to New Brunswick.

“The LORD lives!
Praise be to my Rock!
Exalted be God my Saviour!…
Therefore, I will praise you, LORD,
among the nations;
I will sing the praises of your name.”
Psalm 18:46-49

God made no mistake in bringing this couple together! Easing back is not in the Boettger’s near future!

Dennis and Betty exemplify letting God lead all the way! Supercharged and ready to go? Absolutely! Together they minister with liberty and transparency, wherever God gives opportunity.

**********

Watch 100 Huntley Street Interview 2019:

http://www.100huntley.com/watch?id=228012

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdODC1as7Co 

 

Joseph – A Man Favoured by God

I know God’s favour is evident even in my little life, yet I often misunderstand what favour really is. The life of Joseph gives a clear image of a man favoured by God.

Does favour include the logical expectation of rapid promotion, public approval, unlimited opportunity and untroubled living? Perhaps not!

Psalm 5:12

Favoured Young

After years of barrenness, Rachel, Jacob’s second wife but first love, conceived and gave birth to Joseph. I appreciate the way God honestly reveals the dysfunction within this large family. They were genuine people with real struggles! Jacob openly showed favouritism not only between his two wives but also among his children.

“Now Israel loved Joseph more
than any of his other sons,
because he had been born to him in his old age;
and he made an ornate robe for him.”

Genesis 37:4

Joseph received more than his fair share of his father’s attention. While his brothers worked, he stayed close to home in his ostentatious robe. Of course, the animosity increased between him and his older siblings.

Then came the God dreams of seeing his brothers and father bowing before him, thus escalated the problem.

“They hated him all the more
because of his dream and what he had said
His brothers were jealous of him,
but his father kept the matter in mind.
Genesis 37:8,11

Perhaps immaturity contributed to Joseph’s inability to keep quiet about his dreams.

Psalm 30:5

Favour Needs a Place

A mathematician would become extremely discouraged digging ditches. An anointed speaker feels powerless without a platform! A teacher needs students! A musician needs an instrument to produce a melody?

Although Joseph was showered with support,  frustration and disappointment grew when he could not find his rightful place.

“Come, let’s sell him…”
Genesis 37:27

His brothers reject and sell Joseph into slavery at the first opportunity. A slight diversion from their initial murderous plan. I can hardly imagine the level of confusion and discouragement that overwhelmed this young lad on his way to the unknown.  He was dragged away from all that was loved and familiar.

Is this your image of favour? It isn’t mine!

Even in Egypt, however, God’s hand directs Joseph. One of Pharaoh’s officials seeing potential purchases him.

The LORD was with Joseph so that he prospered….
the LORD gave him success
in everything he did…
the LORD blessed the household
of the Egyptian because of Joseph.”
Genesis 39:1-5

Joseph rises like cream to the top! The righteous always do! The favour of God upon one man results in blessing for others. For the moment at least, the situation appears to improve.

Psalm 106:4

Often favour attracts adverse attention! It did with his brothers. Now it brings more of the same. Potiphar’s wife seductively pursues this vulnerable young man. Who would see? Who would know? Would anyone even care?

Godly Character

Yet Joseph does everything possible to protect his master’s honour and marriage. What is the reward for such integrity? A prison cell!

North American prisons resemble luxury suites in comparison to what Joseph experienced! This was no peaceful time off work!

“They bruised his feet with fetters
and placed his neck in an iron collar.”
Psalm 105:18

Yet even here, Godly character allowed Joseph to rise above circumstance finding favour with the prison official. Joseph continued to give himself for the benefit of others.

He even found a way to release others in their dreams while his own went unfilled.

“Within three days Pharaoh
will lift up your head and restore you
to your position.”
Genesis 40:13

Favour Takes Time

It is tempting to overlook the seemingly endless cycle of neglect, abuse, and suffering Joseph endured. We want to quickly rush past the process to happy endings. Favour cannot be rushed!

Psalm 90:17

For fifteen years Joseph worked out the true character of favour while living in the tension of unfulfilled desire. He came to understand favour is ultimately a call to serve.

Such commendation upon a life cannot be lived selfishly!

Wherever he was, Joseph served with uncompromising excellence. The favour of God is always and only for the benefit of others.

Did he ever lose hope of seeing his family? Did he doubt his calling? Were the dreams of long ago fading? Had even God forgotten him like people did?

“The chief cupbearer, however,
did not remember Joseph;
he forgot him.”
Genesis 40:23

I have more questions than I find answers for.

The Committment of Favour

For two more years Joseph continued unnoticed within the confines of prison. Then a need arose! Favour flourishes in the soil of someone else’s need.

Pharoah has a disturbing dream. The cupbearer remembers!

“So Pharaoh sent for Joseph,
and he was quickly brought from the dungeon.
When he had shaved and changed his clothes,
he came before Pharaoh.”
Genesis 41:15

I love the “quicklies” of God! I want to ignore the long preparation to reach them, however. God gives Joseph both the interpretation and strategic wisdom on how to save a nation from destruction and multitudes from starvation.

Psalm 84:11

In a single day Joseph goes from

the dungeon to the palace,
darkness of obscurity to public view,
bound in chains to riding a king’s chariot,
loneliness to the comfort of home and family,
disgrace to honour.

Why? Favour was ready, when favour was needed!

The Confirmation of Favour

God did not forget Joseph or his dream. Joseph’s brothers appear on their faces before him. The final test in the confirmation of favour is power.

Power to retaliate! Power to execute justice! Or power to forgive!

Only here do we witness the response of one truly walking in harmony with God!

“He turned away from them
and began to weep.”
Genesis 42:24

It is impossible to continue in the favour of God without tenderness — even to our greatest offenders. Joseph foreshadows another Man, Jesus, who one day would proclaim from a brutal cross,

 “…Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

The test of favour is extending grace, mercy and forgiveness to the undeserving.

Joseph weeps so loudly the entire palace hears the agony of his wails. Abuse by and separation from those he loved, could not quench the genuine love Joseph freely expressed.

Proverbs 3:3,4

Joseph had made peace with the pain of walking in God’s favour. He recognized God’s plan as perfect.

“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 …
to preserve for you a remnant.”
Genesis 45:5-7

Favour Defined

As I consider Joseph, I recognize there is a high price to walking in God’s favour. It is a trust given to only those willing to be refined in the fire of affliction.

Favour often marinades in obscurity for extended seasons. It is the preparation of those God chooses for specific times and needs. God’s favour is never for personal promotion, but rather for God’s glory and the benefit of others.

Seek God’s favour, but carefully. Then be prepared to accept the training and tests that accompany it. Through the painful process, favour will allow the recipient to rise to unparalleled heights.

Joseph’s conclusion was,

“You intended to harm me,
but God intended it for good
to accomplish what is now being done,
the saving of many lives.”
Genesis 50:20

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Further Reading:

The 3 Keys of Effective Ministry! Secrets of Success!

Leadership 101 – Take it from the Eagles

Forgiven: The Freedom of Forgiveness

To know you are forgiven is one of the greatest gifts this side of heaven. Yet few people experience the fullness of forgiveness toward themselves or others.

A question I often hear repeated is, “How can I counsel others to godliness when I fail so miserably myself?”

The answer is, “We are people of promise not prisoners of our past. The past neither defines nor limits us.”

Like most people, forgiving others and receiving forgiveness is a recurring pattern. I can go through the process of forgiving and think I have overcome, until …

I see the offender,
rehearse injustice mentally or verbally,
or a sadness infects
random moments
with recurring pain.

Have I really forgiven? Am I forgiven?

Justice and mercy

Necessary

Jesus taught the disciples to pray,

“And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Matthew 6:12

Forgiveness is a pivotal piece! To be forgiven, first we must forgive!

“For if you forgive other people
when they sin against you,
your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not
forgive others their sins,
your Father will not forgive your sins
Matthew 6:14-15

To forgive and be forgiven is not optional! God explicitly states, “To be forgiven, one must be forgiving!” Our willingness to show mercy, opens the gate to receive mercy.

Forgivenss Corrie Ten Boom

Forgiveness removes the invisible but powerful bondage of past hurts. Setting others free releases us to live unhindered.

Neil Anderson in his book “The Bondage Breaker” defines forgiveness as a “crisis of the will.” Rightly so!

Misconceptions

There are many misconceptions surrounding forgiveness:

  • Forgiveness is not forgetting. It does begin the healing of wounds, however.
  • The offender is not “let off the hook” through forgiveness. Everyone remains fully accountable to God.
  • Forgiveness is a choice of the will not a feeling. Feelings will follow choice.
  • Forgiveness never approves hurtful conduct.
  • No circumstance is too difficult to forgive. Only after forgiving will you be released from the pain.

Jesus carried every offense to the cross. In the midst of indescribable agony he prayed,

“Father, forgive them,
for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

Forgiven - Robertson

Jesus set the example, giving each of us the ability to forgive and be forgiven. Every act of forgiveness demonstrates God’s grace.

We all remember Peter’s sincere confession before the cross,

“Even if all fall away on account of you,
I never will.”
Matthew 26:33

We also know how that scene played out! Jesus knew the frailty of His closest followers. Three times Peter betrayed the Master; each time more vehemently,

“He began to call down curses,
and he swore to them,
‘I don’t know this man
you’re talking about.'”
Mark 14:71

Tears of grief and shame were powerless to wash the agonizing pain of his betrayal! One moment confessing unquestionable allegiance; the next cowering in fear and treachery.

Peter Restored

As Jesus hung on the cross, He spoke words that span all time or circumstance,

“Father forgive them,
for they don’t know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

It would take even more than this to penetrate Peter’s wounded heart.

Often the hardest ones to forgive are ourselves. Where is the limit on God’s grace? Does it include my adultery, my lying and deception, my thievery, or shedding of blood  through abortion or even murder? Does forgiveness have limits?

Agonizing questions many have wrestled long and hard over. Can I be forgiven? Is the blood of Christ enough?

Jesus confronts the point of Peter’s deepest pain, his betrayal. Three times Peter rejected Jesus and three times Jesus presses his hand of compassion and grace on that tender spot:

“Simon son of John,
do you love me more than these?…”
“Simon son of John, do you love me?…”
Do you love me?”
John 21:15-19

The painful public reminder of Peter’s personal failure cut deep. Betrayal of Jesus tore every thread of Peter’s resolve. For days he was stuck in the quagmire of guilt and shame, questioning his identity, purpose and calling to “feed my sheep.” 

Like a skilled surgeon, Jesus took the knife of forgiveness cutting away Peter’s failure. Every cancerous source of doubt exposed and removed forever!

Forgiven

In the natural, I view such public confrontation of a man’s failure as bordering on cruel and unjust. Since the offense was public, Jesus knew the restitution also must be public. What to me seems cruel became a powerful turning point in Peter’s life!

How am I so certain forgiveness became personally grasped and possessed in that moment?

Forgivenss has no rights

A few days later, forgiven and free, Peter declared to the Jewish crowd,

“The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.
You handed him over to be killed,
and you disowned him before Pilate,
though he had decided to let him go.
You disowned the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
You killed the author of life
but God raised him from the dead.”
Acts 3:13-15

Peter could never so boldly confront others for disowning Jesus if he remained haunted by personal guilt, condemnation, or self-loathing. “Forgiven” was stamped across every word! By God’s grace alone, he “fed the sheep”!

Refreshing

His words, unmarred by condemnation, were bathed in the compassionate mercy and grace only those fully forgiven can express. From the depths of a heart radically forgiven, Peter grants to others what he so lavishly received.

Repent, then, and turn to God,
so that your sins may be wiped out,
that times of refreshing may come
from the Lord.”
Acts 3:19

The Greek word rendered “refreshing,” means “breathing,” or “refreshment“, after being heated with labor, running, etc. It denotes “any kind of refreshment, rest, or deliverance from evil.” Only here is this word used.

Peter rested forgiven before the Saviour he once denied. He experienced the deep refreshing, strength and energizing promised!

Many Christians who declare Christ as Saviour continue to

live as powerless victims,
prisoners bound by personal sin or
the offense of others,
weaponless warriors worn from fighting
battles long gone and eternally won.

Mark 2:5

Jesus still speaks clearly as He once did to a paraplegic (Mark 2:5), a woman caught in adultery (John 8:11), and a notorious sinner and social outcast (Luke 7:39),

“My child, your sins are forgiven.”
Mark 2:5

Who are we to withhold from others or ourselves, what Christ has freely given?

**********

Extra Resources:

Steps to Forgiveness:

Neil T. Anderson recommends making a list of every painful memory and the persons involved. Then one by one go through the list with this prayer:

“Lord Jesus, I choose to forgive (name the person)
for (what he or she did or failed to do)
because it made me feel
(Share the painful feelings,
such as rejected, dirty, worthless or inferior).”

After you have forgiven every person for every painful memory, pray this prayer as well.

“Lord Jesus, I choose not to hold on to my resentment.
I relinquish my right to seek revenge,
and I ask You to heal my damaged emotions.
thank You for setting me free from the bondage of bitterness.
I now ask that You bless those who have hurt me.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

(Taken from Interactive Workbook, The Bondage Breaker, Pg 73-74, Harvest House Publishing)

Booklet:

“What Christians Should Know About the Importance of Forgivenessby John Arnott, Sovereign World Limited

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Wrestling With and For Truth! The Truth About Wrangling!

Many people today are wrestling with truth! Some are sure there is no absolute truth. Meanwhile, others are giving their lives for truth! Lengthy wrangling, articulate debating, and bull-headed dogmatism abound.

Truth is more than a concept; it is a Person!

Throughout the ages, many people have spent their lives searching for truth, others have fought fiercely in its defense.

At the trial of Jesus, 

“What is truth?” Pilate retorted…”
John 18:38

Wrangler

A wrangler is more than someone who debates eloquently or a favorite pair of jeans. A wrangler is someone who takes care of livestock.

Our family were cattle producers. One spring, the season of serious wrangling, a “town boy”, who happened to be a pastor’s son, was anxious to enter the corral and experience true wrangling.

Into the pen of spring born calves he confidently pranced. In short order the poor lad was dragged, dangled, trampled, kicked and bunted. There wasn’t an inch of his apparel not caked, covered and layered in a mixture of mud, sweat and manure.

Wrangling cattle

Though we felt sorry for the young green-horn, the real life drama playing out before our eyes was worth far more than any trip to the movies. Although lacking the skill of catching, flipping and holding a calf, he deserved top marks for the effort he brought to the ring.

Surprisingly, he had as much fun trying as we had watching. Years later, the image of his arms and legs flailing the air continues to bring smiles and chuckles.

Persistence

If there was one lesson I learned that day it was that persistence pays! Quitting was no where to be found in this boys genes!

Those who wrestled and wrangled in the bible carried the same attitude.

Cowboy persistence

Remember Jacob?

“So Jacob was left alone
and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 
When the man saw that 
he could not overpower him, 
he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip
 so that his hip was wrenched 
as he wrestled with the man. 
Then the man said, 
“Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied 
I will not let you go 
unless you bless me.” 
Genesis 32:24-26

Jacob’s painful wrangling gave him more than a permanent limp; he gained a new identity and a generational promise.

Until this point, condemnation shadowed Jacob’s life, “You are a thief, a trickster, a liar.” That day, Jacob wrestled for the truth of his belonging. He received a new name, Israel, meaning Prince of God.

Working hard!

Others

What about Elijah? The Mount Carmel show down between 400 prophets of Baal and Elijah wasn’t about strength or power. It ultimately was a contest of what is true? Who is God? Is it Baal or is it the LORD?

“At the time of sacrifice, 
the prophet Elijah 
stepped forward and prayed:
“LORD, the God of Abraham, 
Isaac and Israel, 
let it be known today 
that you are God in Israel…”
1 Kings 18:36

When God responded with fire, the people declared in unison,

The LORD — he is God!
 The LORD — he is God!”
1 Kings 18:39

Truth ultimately wins, though usually not without a struggle of faith.

The struggle

It was true for Jonah, Esther, David, and Moses. It was true for Abraham and Sarah, Gideon, and Jeremiah. 

Faith and Truth

Most of the deepest wrangling comes when God bends our experiential truth into alignment with the way of The Truth, Jesus Christ.

A man brought his demon possessed son to Jesus. The tormenting spirit had attempted to kill his son many times by throwing him either into fire or water. He doubted if even Jesus could or would help.

“…But if you can do anything,
 take pity on us and help us.” 
‘If you can’?” said Jesus…”
Mark 9:23-24

As truth spoke, faith grabbed hold! The wrangling began,

“…I do believe
help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:24

In prison, John the Baptist wrestled in faith to believe Jesus was The Truth, The Messiah sent from God (Matthew 11). Thomas wrangled to believe Jesus was raised from the dead (John 20). Peter grappled with the truth that salvation was for Greeks as well as Jews (Acts 10).

Laying hold of truth

Faith and truth collided on the Damascus road, as Paul brutally faced the reality of his spiritual blindness.

Truth Check

Perhaps tangling with truth is necessary for us all! 

My thoughts are nothing
like your thoughts,”
says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond
anything you could imagine.”
Isaiah 55:8

Thankfully, God consistently bends our minds, wrangles our attitudes, and wrestles our intentions into alignment with His. He never quits – never leaves us as He find us.

Sometimes I stubbornly resist! It doesn’t make sense! My futile thought processes cannot instantaneously connect faith and truth.

Wrangling together

I ultimately end up a lot like our young helper many years ago! My wrestling for and with truth sometimes feels dangerous, downright messy, and thoroughly exhausting.

Three times in Acts 10 God pushed Peter beyond former paradigms,

“…Do no call anything impure 
that God has made clean.”
Acts 10:15

God’s truth united with Peter’s faith opening wide the door to preach the Gospel of salvation to non-Jews. The implications of this single instance of receiving truth cannot be measured.

The Truth

My little contending undoubtedly isn’t as dramatic, but I cannot allow myself the luxury of refusing the invitation to come into agreement with God. 

The bible is the unmoving standard of all truth.

“All your words are true,
all your righteous laws are eternal.”
Psalm 119:160

God’s word is true! That word is eternal! Never ending, never changing, never varying!

How can I be so sure? Jesus made the astounding declaration, 

“…I am the way, the truth, and the life…”
John 14:6

Truth isn’t a relative concept that changes with times or seasons. Truth is a Person. Jesus is Truth. Truth never changes because God never changes!

Taking the lead

In fact, whenever I find myself wrestling with the definitive truth of the bible, I am attempting to wrangle with God. Resist His truth and I can expect to come away limping like Jacob! Yield to it by faith and God alone knows the grandness of the repercussions. 

Never!

Divine truth must be received by faith. That doesn’t mean we throw out sound judgment, critical thinking, and careful consideration.  Actually, acknowledging truth is giving full mental assent to its reality. In so doing, God gives us a new lens with which to view Him and the world around us. 

My source of wrestling for truth is often like Peter’s, 

Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied.
“I have never eaten anything
impure or unclean.”
Acts 10:14

How many times have I responded similarly to God, “Surely not! I have never…”?

Wrangling clenches tight-fisted to “never“! Placing experiential truth ahead of God’s eternal truth will reveal terminal fault lines in our thinking.

God proves patient, however. He is relentless in drawing us into ever increasing ways of truth. We may wrangle like Peter, wrestling with ourSurely not, Lord!” attitudes. Peter got the message and responded with new understanding.

Will our “never” yield to God’s truth? Because God’s ways really are so much higher than ours, we will continue to wrestle both with and for truth. But it is a wrangling that pays benefits!

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Making the Impossible Possible – Clarity, Courage, and Committment

The rugged path between impossible and possible is navigated through clarity, courage and commitment. Each quality is essential!

Our hot water heater sprung a serious leak. Four days without hot water is a minor inconvenience. However, when outside temperature dips to -40°, a steaming hot bath before bedtime is a luxury I appreciated.

Representatives from two companies estimated the cost of replacing our near prehistoric heater. The first young man came, looked at the situation, and in less than one minute announced, “It can’t be done!” The second young men came, checked inside, outside, upside, downside, around the side, and over another side, before confirming, “Yea! No problem!” 

What made the difference? Both men were presented the same problem; both were experts in their trade. “Impossible” to one perhaps meant, “too much trouble!” “Possible” from the other displayed a willingness to overcome any obstacles.

Overcome

Challenge

A Chinese Proverb says, 

The person who says it cannot be done,
should not interrupt the person doing.”

Many vivid accounts of men and women who overcame impossible obstacles are written within the bible.

I think of Caleb one of 12 leaders Moses sent to spy out the promised land. “It can’t be done!” ten declared! Forty-five years later while the ten nay-sayers were cold in their desert graves, Caleb continued to believe, “With God’s help, I can“.

“So here I am today, eighty-five years old!
I am still as strong today
as the day Moses sent me out;
I’m just as vigorous to go out
to battle now as I was then.
Now give me this hill country
that the LORD promised me that day.”
Joshua 14:10-11

Caleb remained willing to face the challenge head-on! Ominous giants could not prevent him from possessing God’s promise.

Mountain

We all have “hill country”, an impossibility larger than personal ability. The nature of the obstacle is unimportant!

The way up!

A job promotion or demotion,
a dream delayed or one in the making,
managing financial abundance or
facing bankruptcy.

Problems can be polar opposites! Glass ceilings waiting to be broken, fragile mirages before omnipotent God! 

Sheri Fink reminded me recently clarity, courage and commitment are three essential ingredients necessary to accomplish victory. My past failures consistently resulted from a deficiency in at least one of these areas.

Nay-sayers and critics abound in every generation. “It can’t be done,” the noisy entourage gloats! Jeering relentlessly as the brave press against an impossible situation! Caleb’s resistance came from his own “tribe”. Our greatest detractors may be those who are the nearest to our hearts.  

For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
    then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
    then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
    my companion, my familiar friend.
Psalm 55:12-13

Mockers, with potential to stop us, ascend from the ranks of both friend and foe. 

Clarity

Clarity is “being certain or definite“. To an artist clarity means “sharpness to the image or sound”. Clarity for the Christian comes from knowing God’s intention, hearing His voice, and perceiving His direction. 

Impossible to possible

The wise ask, “What is God saying?”

It would be foolish for Caleb to face the military prowess of mighty mountain defenders without God’s direction.  

“I brought him back a report
according to my convictions
I followed the LORD my God
wholeheartedly.”
Joshua 14:7

There is a palpable difference between truth and conviction — between fact and faith! That veritable mountain we face is insurmountable without God!

Every person who stumbled in the bible, from Eve forward, doubted God. Each questioned and reasoned until faith dissolved into fragile unbelief before the very thing God meant them to overcome.

Clarity, genuine unshakeable clarity, is to know the presence, power and word of God for our specific situation.  Without clarity one will effortlessly fall into rhythm behind the fear mongers. Without clarity conquerors become quitters

The enemy’s devious voice still echoes, “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1) 

Caleb set his face like flint!  His resolute conviction slapped the Deceiver up the side of the head! He knew,

“…Humanly speaking, it is impossible.
But with God everything is possible.”
Matthew 19:26

Everything is possible

Courage

Courage separated Caleb and the masses!

“But my fellow Israelites
who went up with me made the hearts
of the people melt in fear.” 
Joshua 14:8

A few fear-filled words turned believers into doubters, the brave into cowards! “Be careful little tongue what you say,” is more than a children’s chorus. Words carry the potential to destroy like wrecking balls or form building blocks!

“We can’t … they are too strongpowerful … cities are fortified and very large … Anakites, Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, Canaanites”. Panic raced through the entire camp causing hearts to faint and knees to tremble.

Two brave men courageously stood in the gap,

“We should go up
and take possession of the land,
for we can certainly do it.”
Numbers 13:30

It takes courage to “go up!” Only the brave will “take possession!” Courage affirms, “we can!”

Such courage germinates in the knowledge of God’s abiding presence. It flourishes in the shadow of the One who promises to never leave nor forsake us.

Every overcomer rises above fear to “go up” in faith!

Commitment

I heard a story of a runner who intently prepared, conditioning body and mind, to run a marathon. He trained on a 26 mile course. After passing the 25 mile marker during his first marathon, he increased his pace pushing toward the finish line. The official length of a marathon is actually 26.2 miles. Miscalculating the distance, he started the sprint too soon and collapsed unconscious at the finish line. He was unprepared for the last .2 miles! 

Distance matters! It takes the tenacity of a marathon runner to face the impossible! It requires commitment to finish well!

“So on that day Moses swore to me,
‘the land on which your feet have walked
will be your inheritance
and that of your children forever,
because you have followed the LORD
my God wholeheartedly.'”
Joshua 14:9

Even though Caleb heard the clear word from God through Moses, it still took commitment to claim his promise. His entire generation died in the wilderness. Were there times of doubt in the desert?

Commitment

Caleb endured seemingly endless wandering in the wasteland, survived plagues, judgements and wars.  Yet, the promise echoed in his heart as clearly as the day it was spoken. 

Caleb refused to quit before he conquered! 

“Now then, just as the LORD promised,
he has kept me alive for forty-five years…”
Joshua 14:10

Forty five years of trusting, waiting, training, and persevering. Forty five years of commitment to God who is faithful. Caleb looked to the finish line; he ran the distance.

Take Your Mountain!

With Caleb as our example, let’s remember God is bigger, stronger, and greater than any mountain standing in our way! 

May we choose to fix our eyes on Jesus! Acknowledge that “great crowd of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) cheering us on! Seeking the clarity needed from the Word of God, may we each take courage in His Presence, with commitment to conquer.

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus.
Everything is possible
for one who believes.”
Mark 9:23

Whether the mountain is a difficult obstruction or a dream unfulfilled, let’s go for it! How many new songs will be song, books published, and missions accomplished if we do? God is ready to partner with you in your impossible, creating a place for Him to receive glory?

Don’t quit! Conquer! Turn the impossible into possible!

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Further Reading:

Second is Better Than First! When Second is Best!

Tamar, Contending for Her Inheritance! A Woman Who Would Not be Denied!

Meet a contender wrestling with cultural inequality to secure her inheritance. Tamar would not be denied life, dignity and destiny.

Tamar is the first woman listed in the genealogical record of Jesus the Messiah. What merited Matthew’s inclusion of this incredible woman?

God intends for man to take his place as defender, protector and provider of his household, walking faithfully before Him. What happens when men stumble and lose their way? When deliberate choices to abandon personal identity, home and family invade, then what?

Choices

Judah

Genesis 38 begins with the words, “at that time

What time is “that time”?

“At that time” when Judah was involved in a jealous conspiracy to kill his own brother, eventually selling him into slavery. It was “that time” when lies couldn’t conceal sin or soothe a father’s grief. “At that time” when guilt haunted and self condemnation screamed.

“At that time,
Judah left his brothers
and went down to stay…”
Genesis 38:1

Little words containing enormous ramifications! Judah “left”Running away from his family, he hoped to escape himself. He “went down” the well-travelled road ultimately leading to dead ends.

Boundary crossed

Judah withdrew from more than his family, however. He crossed God’s boundary line of protection by marrying a Canaanite woman.

Together their marriage produced three sons: Er, Onan, and Selah.

Tamar

Tamar enters the picture as the wife chosen for Er.  Er was wicked in the LORD’s sight“, so wicked God put him to death. (38:7). Are there any willing volunteers  to take Tamar’s place? Instead of the fulfillment of a little girl’s dream of happy marriage, Tamar found herself in a painful nightmare.

Judah instructs his second son to fulfill the Levirate marriage requirement to ensure the continuation of his brother’s family line and protection of his widow. Onan also was “wicked” (38:10). He was all too happy to use Tamar for his own sexual pleasure while refusing to fulfill any obligation to her, his family or God.

Stubbornly refusing to face his own sinful heart or the blatant wickedness of his sons, Judah casts all blame toward Tamar.

Sin is never “private”! It’s twisted deception infects and affects everyone! 

Live as a widow
in your father’s household
until my son Shelah grows up.”
Genesis 38:11

Unknown path

An hollow empty promise, to be sure! With a word, Judah cut Tamar from her inheritance pushing her out of his sight — a widow, childless and vulnerable.

Her story unfolds like a soap opera! Tamar waits! Years pass! Still she waits.

Tamar means date palm, the ultimate symbol of life and productivity. Her confinement concealed the true destiny and calling within her name! Would she settle as castaway? Would she bare the burden of another’s sins in powerless obscurity?

Life

How long the wait was, we are uncertain. The bible simply says,

After a long time,
Judah’s wife … died.
When Judah had recovered from his grief,
he went to Timnah…” 
Genesis 38:12

Judah too had experienced great loss; no one dare minimize his anguish and grief. However, he gave himself permission to “recover from his grief.” 

His daughter-in-law was granted no such grace!

Because of Judah’s unwillingness to give his youngest son Shelah to Tamar, he alone could fulfill the Levirate Law.  With courage and boldness, Tamar veils herself and waits by the road, risking all to defend her family rights.

“When Judah saw her,
he thought she was a prostitute,
for she had covered her face.
Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law,
he went over to her by the roadside and said,
come now, let me sleep with you.”
Genesis 38: 15-16

One black sheep

Judah’s journey took him further than he ever thought possible! The cost was incalculable! 

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go,
keep you longer than you want to stay,
and cost you more than you want to pay.”
R. Zaccharias

This account of Judah is nestled within Joseph’s larger story.  A young goat’s blood was given to convince his father of Joseph’s staged death. Now Judah reaches into the flock a second time to mask another dark deception.

The Pledge

Judah promises a goat as payment for her services — a payment woefully lacking! Not searching to satisfy lust or fleshly desire, nor seeking revenge for gross injustice and mistreatment, she asks only for what is due her.

Boldly she claims her inheritance!

“What pledge should I give you?”
“Your seal and its cord,
and the staff in your hand,” she answered.
So he gave them to her…”
Genesis 38:18

The seal was a symbol of a man’s identity marking his personal worth, while the attached cord symbolized the binding of two things together. The staff in Judah’s hand was far more than a walking stick! It was an emblem of his authority, like a royal sceptre. It was probably hand carved; the length carefully etched with the names of his ancestry.

Staff of authority

Yet Judah willingly placed everything into the hands of an “unknown” woman! For one moment of sexual pleasure, he yielded his identity, authority and generational inheritance. Astonishing! 

Judah later sent his friend with the goat to pay the woman and retrieve his pledge. Unable to find her, his friend returns empty-handed.

Let her keep what she has,
or we will become a laughingstock.”
Genesis 38:23

“Let her keep what she has?” Judah flippantly disregards the value of what has been lost. Nonetheless, words prophetically spoken.

Tamar’s Honour

Tamar became pregnant in the encounter. The life growing within her forming the connecting link between Abraham and Jesus. The promise protected in her womb outweighed any treasure in her hand!

“The “widow” is pregnant!”

Years of suppressed resentment and anger burst forth from Judah with hot volcanic force,

Bring her out
and have her burned to death.”
Genesis 38:24

What could satiate a man’s tormented mind and heart? Public disgrace? Cruel aggression? Murder?

The flames of anger

Tamar’s godliness shines through in polar opposite,

“As she was being brought out,
she sent a message to her father-in-law,
“I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said … 
“See if you recognize whose
seal and cord and staff these are.”
Genesis 38:25

Tamar’s strength of character and honour toward a man unworthy of such kindness overcomes. No public accusation of his failure! No shaming the guilty or demanding justice! Tamar privately presents the evidence and leaves the result to God.

Destiny Secured

Judah is humbled by Tamar’s integrity, wisdom, and bravery.

“…She is more righteous than I…”
Genesis 38:26

Within her, Tamar carried a double portion — two sons! One of them, Perez, would carry the DNA of his courageous mother who refused to forfeit her destiny. The DNA of a woman worthy of inclusion in the bloodline of the Messiah!

Tamar spurned the victim’s stool! She disdained the wicked example of those around her. By living above reproach she saw fulfillment of her destiny. Without compromise, she humbly followed the God others openly rejected.

Her reward? Her name forever written in God’s record of great women

Tamar's inheritance

Tamar modelled godliness in ungodly circumstances. Will her example of contending for inheritance be duplicated in our day? Who among us will choose integrity and honour in the face of injustice? Who will lay claim to the spiritual blessing available for this and future generations?  

Is there anyone who will stand against the cultural currents bringing Christ to the world today?  

Tamar presents a challenge worth considering!

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