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.  

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!

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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

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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Move Out the Old! Make Room for the New!

This year God is challenging me to move out the old and make room for the new. That means change! Even though I tend to be flexible and open to change, I like to know what change is coming.

My husband is a fully certified “keeper” of all things that may at some point be useful for any unforeseen circumstances. He is a “fixer” — and an excellent one at that! I, on the other hand, am a “thrower”. I resist clutter with a fervency. If something isn’t serving a useful purpose, I am quick to give it away to someone who will make good use of it. We have learned the benefit of “keepers” and “throwers”.

“You will still be eating last year’s harvest
when you will have to move it out
to make room for the new.”
Leviticus 26:10

 

Did you ever try to take food from a toddler? Be prepared! What a child lacks in size they certainly make up for in resistance.

Honestly, I feel the same way when I have to part with something I am enjoying!

Still Eating

It is the “you will still be eating” part that has me a little nervous. The “new” at the end of the verse sounds perfect, but what will I have to give up before actually seeing and holding the new?

“You will still be eating” implies the blessing of God in the preceding harvest was substantial. A harvest that was valued and appreciated!  However, “still eating” also means I’m not yet satisfied, full or content with that proceeding blessing.

Inwardly I groan, “Not yet! Wait until I’m full! Don’t bring change now! All is good!”

But it also bids me to ask,

“What blessings am I hanging on to?
What am I afraid to let go of?
Where is my grip too tight?”

Before every new harvest, storage bins receive a thoroughly cleaning. Any remnant of last years harvest is removed, eliminating any opportunity for the old to contaminate the new.

Jesus gave a similar illustration:

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth
on an old garment,
for the patch will pull away
from the garment,
making the tear worse.

Neither do people pour
new wine into old wineskins.
If they do, the skins will burst;
the wine will run out and
the wineskins will be ruined.
No, they pour new wine into new wineskins,
and both are preserved.”
Matthew 9:16-17

You Have To

“You have to” doesn’t exactly sound favorable either. Give me choice!, Show me the options allowing time to weigh and assess benefits. I can adjust with that! Add the words “you have to” and the dynamic changes!

What makes change so difficult?  Here are my top five reasons for resisting change:

  • Change is awkward! More of my life than I care to admit is lived by learned behaviour! Adjusting to something new takes time and patience.
  • Change costs! Want an example? My old computer stopped working; the new replacement has added features but was expensive. Change often carries an unseen price tag — sometimes financially, maybe relationally, or even emotionally.
  • Change is a process! It is the undetermined span between the now and then, the here and there, that requires effort and time. This unknown discourages movement.

  • Change awakens fear! What if it doesn’t work? Will it be worth it? What will people think?
  • Change requires confidence and trust! When the change isn’t my choice, I need to have a deep trust of the one asking me to change. I need to know my best interest is considered or there is a higher goal or purpose for change.

Some things I will gladly let go of, however. The sooner poor habits, destructive thought patterns, or nagging fear exit my life the more content I’ll be.

Thankfully God attached a promise with the “have to”; it includes “make room for the new.

Make Room

I am an expert at making room! We had five boys in just over eight years in a relatively small three bedroom home. Making room for one more created a welcome challenge.

Now with family grown, we have downsized into a much smaller home. Over the years, I have become proficient at making the best use of even the smallest spaces.

The changes necessary to make room for others includes far more that external space

to broader dimensions of love,
devotion, care, provision,
to sharing and giving,
preferring and protecting.

Just like I am unsure of what I may have to let go of, I am equally unsure of what God is asking me to make room for. These unanswered questions create tension, an uneasiness, that only faith in God can resolve.

The New

Not every harvest is prime quality or quantity on the Canadian prairies. There can be infestations of disease or pests, adverse weather like drought or hail, and any number of other issues that significantly affect the new crop. As a matter of fact, there is no guarantee the new crop will even be realized!

Yet, God promises us new!

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19

It is virtually impossible to forget the “former things” when the flavour is fresh in your mouth. However, there will be no appreciation for the new unless we willingly release the old.

Being a seasoned veteran at “letting go”, Corrie Ten Boom offers us solid advice,

” Hold everything in your hands lightly,
otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”

Perhaps the reason change becomes increasingly difficult is previous experiences with both positive and questionable changes. Such resistance to letting go of something firmly possessed for something not yet visible is understandable.

Faithful

With confidence I step into God’s promise purposefully laying aside fear and comfort. Why? The One who promised is faithful!

If God is asking me to let go of the old,
if He is saying in no uncertain terms,
“you have to”,
I know He has a greater plan
than I can presently see.

I trust Him and His word! Not blindly, but fully!

Faith is never blind! Though I cannot see what the future holds, I see clearly the God who holds my future. He never fails in His promise.

“For all the promises of God
find their Yes in him.
That is why it is through him
that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”
2 Corinthians 1:20

Laying aside yesterday’s blessings, yesterday’s provision and yesterday’s anointing is for the sole purpose of taking hold of today’s increased blessing. I will never fully realize God’s best while stubbornly holding on to yesterday’s good.

So I am prepared “to move out” all that is necessary “to make room” for what is ahead!

It sounds like work! But I’ll let you know how God works it out!

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The First and Greatest! Keeping First Things First!


It is easy to lose focus of what deserves first and greatest recognition. The incessant pressures of life demand much of our time and our full attention. Keeping first things first takes effort! No matter what our circumstance, juggling these pressures will remain a constant struggle.

My father often admonished, “Don’t put the cart before the horse!” He was encouraging me to keep first things first. With wisdom, he gently reminded me that priorities matter. Due to the frequency of his comment, I obviously needed a consistent reminder.

 

 

Don't put the cart before the horse!

 

Unfortunately I have often forgotten! Whatever I put first gives movement and power to what follows. In keeping with my father’s analogy, a cart is virtually useless without something pulling it.

The First and Greatest

Ask a dozen people what the first or greatest priority should be and one may very well receive a dozen different opinions. An “expert in the law” approached Jesus with the question,

“Teacher, which is
the greatest commandment in the Law?” 
Matthew 22:36

Every Hebrew listener, including this legal authority, prepared to hear Jesus recite the first commandment in the law, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) Unfortunately, his driving motivation was to test Jesus rather than to seek wisdom! Jesus used the Pharisee’s twisted intentions to teach.

Jesus replied:
“‘Love the Lord your God
with all your heart and
with all your soul and with all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.”
Matthew 22:37-38

Jesus reminded His listeners “loving God is the greatest!” It is beyond all else, the greatest in size and extent, in weight and importance, and in price or cost. But don’t miss it! It is not only the greatest, it also must first!

Only when the greatest occupies first place will the second commandment of loving others hold any value. Without loving God, loving others becomes impossible.

First

The bible is a love story. It begins in Genesis with a wedding in an immaculate garden, purposely positioned on planet earth, divinely placed in an harmoniously ordered universal. Why? To live, not only in love with each other, but to receive from and reciprocate love with God. God made it all for love! He did it all out of love! All of creation was because of love

 

When mankind sinned allowing separation between themselves and their greatest Lover, God already had a plan. In love He would offer His only Son, Jesus, as a perfect sacrifice for sin to regain relationship with humanity.

The bible also ends with a glorious wedding — the wedding of the bride, the church, and her Bridegroom, Jesus. Relationship eternally restored!

Marriage paints earth’s greatest image of loving intimacy. However, it is only a reflection of the love the Father has for us, his children. The love the Son has for His bride, the church, is insurmountably great! Nothing else supersedes the love of God! Nothing!

The only fitting response is to love Him in return. Not out of obedience to a required law, but because our hearts are etched permanently by His love and we can nothing else.

The Second

Recently, I was feeling emotionally and physically drained. Out of love for others, I was giving myself to family, ministry, and work. However, the once satisfying rhythm of my life seemed no longer fulfilling.

Off course!

I asked God to show me if and where my focus had veered off course. My daily routine of praying and spending time in the bible remained stable and consistent. Even here though the passion grew cold. I could feel it! I could sense it!

In reading this passage of scripture I realized my error.  I was putting “the second” first!

“And the second is like it:
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Matthew 22:39

One version calls loving others “equally important”. I’m not sure!

Jesus clearly says loving God isthe first and greatest! As important as loving others is, it is incomparable to loving God. There is only one first! Only one greatest!

While “first” implies preeminence in place, order and time, “greatest” recognizes no equal!

Loving God is putting the horse rightfully before the cart. It is giving love a place of movement and strength. You could give me a new Lamborghini, but if that shining piece of metal doesn’t have an engine it is powerless. Loving God is like the engine that makes all other relationships function! 

Focusing on building loving community will never create unity in the body of Christ, unless our attention is drawn first to the greatest love. Misplaced priority will leave us impotent and divided! 

In Order

The only way to fulfill the second and vitally important command of loving others is by loving God first. He must come before and take precedent over every other relationship. Our love for others will be artificial and forced unless we are heart to heart in intimate and loving relationship with God. Then, like a river flowing downstream, our love for others will automatically maintain consistent motion.

“This is how we know
that we love the children of God:
by loving God and
carrying out his commands.
In fact, this is love for God:
to keep his commands.
And his commands are not burdensome.”
1 John 5:2-3

We can easily become Pharisaic in our response to others when separated from the Father’s love. Whenever doing becomes more important than being, we will fall into that trap! I am a recent example!

In all my doing, I wasn’t resting and responding from the heart of the Father. What was amiss? My first love! The order is vitally important! To experience the life of Christ tangibly within earthly relationships, God alone must occupy first place!

Like a Bride

My husband and I have been married for over 46 years. Our relationship is exclusive to all others. The love we have for our children and grandchildren is beyond explanation. We love our siblings and extended family. Nothing can adequately quantify the deep and loving relationships we experience with many others.

However, our love for each has a protective boundary defined, “You and you alone!” Within this boundary, love thrives; without it, love pays a heavy price!

Jesus rebuked the church of Ephesus,

“Yet I hold this against you:
You have forsaken
the love you had at first.”
Revelation 2:4

That word “forsaken” in the Greek doesn’t necessarily mean to totally turn your back on, abandon or desert. Rather it carries the thought of “to send forth, yield up or depart” in any measure.

I must continually ask myself, “Do I love God like I did at first? Has another love attracted my attention?”

This call to our first and greatest love is nothing new. God’s word to His people through Jeremiah reads,

“… this is what the LORD says:
I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed Me in the wilderness…”
Jeremiah 2:2

The Bridegroom continues to call His bride back to her first and greatest love. Will she listen? Will I? Only then will we reach new heights, individually and corporately, having the momentum to become a bride worthy of the Bridegroom.

May we focus on keeping first things first!

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Thanksgiving – Family, Friendships and Faith

Several nations, on virtually every continent, designate a specific time each year for thanksgiving. Some mark with appreciation harvest, freedom from slavery, life itself or a new homeland. Thanksgiving for me, however, is built around three primary relationships: family, friendships, and faith.

Canadians join in Thanksgiving festivities a month before our American counterparts, but the traditions are strikingly familiar. I am thankful for this national time to reflect and be thankful.

It is surprisingly easy to become content, even apathetic, in our blessings.

While out with my grandchildren recently, they all stopped to say “thank you” when someone offered them a treat. I was glad they remembered their manners without being prompted and surprised by the response they received, “You are the first children to say thank you all day!”

Something to Learn

Appreciation doesn’t come naturally to our selfish nature. It must be taught and learned!

Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you
who belong to Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Paul commands his readers to “be thankful” not just when we feel like it, but “in all circumstances”. We are not always thankful for our circumstances, but it is possible to be thankful in our circumstances. Yet I have witnessed faith grow so deeply secure in many whose peace and joy were tangibly evident in all circumstances. In their lives. expressions of continual thanks seem to flow freely even for all circumstances.

No matter how heavy, or how overwhelming life becomes, God is bigger! It is helpful to train our focus not on present situations, but rather on the One who

knows far more than we know,
loves beyond measure,
and cares above all others.

I applaud parents who instill in their children the value of gratitude. Our Heavenly Father also smiles upon those whose hearts overflow with appreciation.

Family

With a broad grin, my husband often says in reference to our five sons, “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for any one of them, but wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for one more!” It is his way of declaring the blessing he recognizes within the gift of family.

When we were married, we both considered two children to be the ideal number. God had a better plan! Presently, our family is 23 strong!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,
declares 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

The joy of family is hardly measurable. The loss of a family member through death, or absence through separation, is the most painful experience we will each endure. Holidays are difficult for those feeling the weight of such a burden. Searching for thankfulness takes concentrated effort in the midst of such brokenness and pain.

Yet even then, as we focus on eternal reality, fragments of gratitude radiate through grief bringing strength to sullen days.

Friends

Second only to family, friends fill my thankful list. My husband and I made what seemed like a radical move out of our comfortable home and familiar community about a decade ago. We cannot image what life would be like without the many friendships that have been nurtured since that time.

Rather than leaving friends behind, our circle of friendships has widened, then widened again with overwhelming surplus. God has enriched our lives surrounding us with many loyal and true friends.

“Every good gift and
every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no variation
or shadow due to change.”
James 1:17

Genuine friendship is a gift from God! No amount of material wealth can replace the good and perfect gift of friendship.

The ability to simply “do life” together with others is something truly to be grateful for. Laughing and crying! Supporting and encouraging! Sharing and caring! Loving and lasting! Friendships fill our lives with colour and vibrancy.

Faith

Faith may be listed last, but it is actually first!

Give thanks to the Lord,
for he is good;

his love endures forever.”
1 Chronicles 16:34

Thankfulness begins with God! To finish well, we must start here, with an attitude of gratitude towards God. Void of thanksgiving, our faith inevitably slides into the realm of delusion and confusion.

“Yes, they knew God,
but they wouldn’t worship him as God
or even give him thanks.
And they began to think up
foolish ideas of what God was like.
As a result,
their minds became dark and confused.”
Romans 1:21

It is surprisingly easy to know God and yet neglect to appreciate Him — not just for what He does, but for Who He is.

Is the darkness and confusion woven in any culture visible evidence of hearts hardened against the worship and thanksgiving of God? Perhaps!

Remember

Even in writing today, I am reminded of so much more to be thankful for. Is it possible to cultivate a continuous level of thankfulness crowning every day with gratitude?

Here are a few practical ways to create a lifestyle of thanksgiving:

  • Use a journal! One of my daughter-in-laws has a thankfulness journal. Each day begins by writing something she is thankful for.

  • Several of my friends recharge their appreciation by doing a 100 Day Challenge. Each day for 100 days they share with others something they are thankful for.
  • Express it! Tell the people in your lives what you appreciate about them. Weave it into your family and friendship times until it is naturally spoken and expressed. Say “thank you” often and regularly.
  • Pray! Has prayer become a list of “I wants”? Expand you time with God to include more!

“Devote yourselves to prayer,
being watchful and thankful.”
Colossians 4:2

  • Look for “silver linings!” Even the most difficult situations have some kind of positive aspect. Is it the compassion others show in times of pain, the generosity that surfaces at points of need, or humility that flourishes in seasons of struggle? Be thankful!
  • Focus on others! When life’s challenges press hard, focus on helping someone else in need. Changing perspective by improving the life of someone else, will often stir thanksgiving within ourselves.
  • Notice the little things! Looking with child like simplicity often helps us see the beauty and wonder around us with new appreciation. Choosing to look at even the smallest of blessings can generate multiple reasons for thankfulness.

Just Do It!

Enough reading! It is time to do it! Starting a pattern of gratefulness will reap abundant blessing today while creating a pattern of thankfulness that will flow to subsequent generations.  Now is the best time to begin a new chapter of appreciation right where we are.

Start a fresh movement of thankfulness! Be the person others can emulate in their journey toward thanksgiving!

Lingering Long – Joshua, The Making of a True Lingerer

A young man named Joshua learned how to linger early in life. But how did this attribute develop? What is the making of a true lingerer — one whose heart is in constant pursuit of God.

Whether it is a good book, pleasant conversation with close friends, or beautiful surroundings, most of us have experienced that same longing to linger, a reluctance to leave. We cling to each moment, not to overstay our welcome, but rather desiring to engage fully in the experience.

Rest in the Lord and wait for His Presence

“The LORD would speak to Moses face to face,
as one speaks to a friend.
Then Moses would return to the camp,
but his young aide Joshua son of Nun
did not leave the tent.”
Exodus 33:11

Here is a perfect example! Duty called Moses to “return to the camp”, while Joshua lingered in the Presence of the LORD.

The Beginnings

Of course, this wasn’t the beginning of Joshua’s God experience. He was among those who witnessed the miraculous intervention of God bringing an entire nation out from the midst of Egypt

“with a mighty hand and outstretched arm
Psalm 136:12

The awesome deeds of God continued in the desert, turning bitter water into sweet, providing daily provision, and defeating Israel’s strong military enemies.

After the desert comes rest

This is where we first meet up with young Joshua.

“Moses said to Joshua,
‘Choose some of our men
and go out to fight the Amalekites.
Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill
with the staff of God in my hands.’ ”
Exodus 17:9

Later on we would get more details about the Amalekites and their guerrilla tactics. At first they picked off the weak and stragglers of the camp; now they form a serious frontal attack on the nation. An impressive foe to be sure! Joshua takes up strategic position on the field, while Moses assumes a safer spot on the hill!

Together, the battle was won! No one lingers on a battlefield! Get in! Do the job! Get out!

Taking a moment to linger over a sunrise

Next Meeting

Our next meeting with Joshua is quite different. God instructs Moses. The camp is directed to stay away from even the foot of Mount Sinai, or they will die.

“Then the LORD said to Moses,
Come up to the LORD,
you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu,
and seventy of the elders of Israel …
but Moses alone is to approach the LORD …”
Exodus 24:1,2

Count them! Out of approximately 2,000,000 people, 74 are invited to meet with God. And they do — face to face! Most people think it was only Moses who saw and talked with God. Actually, this whole group of prestigious leaders received special invitation.

“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu,
and the seventy elders of Israel went up
and saw the God of Israel
But God did not raise his hand
against these leaders of the Israelites;
they saw God, and they ate and drank.”
Exodus 24:9-11

Linger on the mountain with God

A feast on the mountain! Eating and drinking with God! Who wouldn’t want to be included in this group?  Wouldn’t that change your perspective of God forever? Maybe not! These very leaders would, within days, be involved in mass rebellion, forming a golden calf to worship, then declaring with their own mouths

“These are your gods, Israel,
who brought you up out of Egypt.”
Exodus 32:4

They witnessed God’s miraculous intervention, saw Him in His glory, and tasted of His goodness. Refusing to linger, they left the mountain, and God, quickly following after the delusions of men.

Except for one!

The Uninvited

Have you ever attended an important function uninvited? Honestly, I have been too embarrassed to try. Without an invitation from the host, I have graciously declined several occasions.

What if the host is God — the LORD of all? This invitation was specific, “Moses alone is to approach the LORD”.

“Then Moses set out with Joshua, his aide,
and Moses went up on the mountain of God.
He said to the elders,
Wait here for us until we come back to you…”
Exodus 24:13,14

The leaders were instructed to wait, to linger; they didn’t. Moses was instructed to proceed alone; he didn’t.

Alone but never alone!

Was Moses falling to the old temptation of fear, like he had at the burning bush? Then afraid to approach Israel on his own, he had Aaron join him. Was he again afraid to go alone? There is no preempt to Joshua’s presence.

Uninvited!
Not included in the list of dignitaries!
Not chosen!
A silent, unnoticed witness!
A humble and faithful servant!

Joshua’s humility and servant heart to his master not only gained him access to see the LORD, eat and drink in His Presence, but then to go higher … higher up the mountain.

Lingering Begins

One taste of the Presence of God was not enough. Joshua was never content to boast of his mountain experience, or lounge in yesterday’s glory. What began on the mountain marked Joshua’s life from this point forward.

Waiting and resting!

Every opportunity Joshua had in the Presence of God became one of lingering.

“The LORD would speak to Moses face to face,
as one speaks to a friend.
Then Moses would return to the camp,
but his young aide Joshua son of Nun
did not leave the tent.”
Exodus 33:11

Right here my heart grieves! What draws each of us so easily and quickly away? What duty is so pressing? Why are other pleasures so enthralling? Not just for the young, but also for the mature!

Linger to Lead

It is no surprise that when God summoned Moses to step down from leadership, Joshua was ready as successor.

“The LORD said to Moses,
“Now the day of your death is near.
Call Joshua and present yourselves at the tent of meeting,
where I will commission him.”
So Moses and Joshua came
and presented themselves at the tent of meeting.”
Deuteronomy 31:14

The tent of meeting! The place where Joshua lingered long, refusing to leave God’s Presence, became the very ground of His commissioning into greater service.

How many commissioning moments have been missed because those God would have chosen have failed to linger? How few commissioned are so captivated by the Presence of God they seek nothing else?

It is in His Presence that every promotion, elevation and advancement begins. Here we are transformed, equipped and ordained. Here our hearts remain subtle and wills flexible to the moving of The Spirit and the promptings of God.

Oh that we would all become lingerers, learning from Joshua’s example. That we would inhabit the Presence of God, coming more often and staying longer. What an example to emulate!

Welcome the Presence of God

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Further Reading:

A Hero – “If You Need Someone Strong, I’m The One!”

Leadership 101 – Take it from the Eagles