Hidden, Awaiting God’s Perfect Time

One of my greatest struggles has been the element of hiddenness. I’m beginning to understand that it is by divine grace I am hidden from public view, awaiting God’s perfect time. God alone knows when that time is. Then He will bring me from hiding.

Have you ever felt like a butterfly trapped in a chrysalis? Or a chick concealed beneath a hardened shell?

Perhaps, those in the public forum wish they possessed such covering. For the majority of Christians, they work for the kingdom like secret service agents. Though their names and faces go unrecognized by the masses, they have profound impact.

Butterfly in chrysalis - waiting for God's perfect time

I am like a mustard seed in this vast field!

Hidden Ones

Hiddenness performs godly purpose. Is God’s hiding of His servants part of a more excellent plan?

God refined Joseph in the darkness of a foreign prison for “the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:21). Moses’ parents hid their new baby in a basket; forty years later God removed him to a desert no-man’s-land (Ex. 2:1-2). Here he “incubated” in obscurity for another 40 years awaiting God’s perfect time. After being anointed as the next king, David spent 15 years inhabiting caves to allude his demon-possessed tormentor (1 Sam. 21-23).

All hidden for godly purposes!

Hidden in a cave

This is only a snippet of the long list of concealed ones — hidden, awaiting God’s perfect time of exposure. Although frustrating by human perspective, God often orchestrates these seasons to bring out the best in us. God is good — immeasurably good. Everything He does flows out His goodness.

Jesus, Himself, spent 30 years in relative obscurity before three short years of ministry.

Protection

Often God establishes secret places for protection, guarding His servants from harm.

“For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
and set me high upon a rock.”
Psalm 27:5

Here “hiding” illustrates the concealing of something of great value — keeping it secret and hidden. David recognized the dual function of this secret place — safe from man while tucked into God’s “sacred” presence.

Alone in the wilderness

Safe from harm and preparing for greatness sounds good, doesn’t it? At least for awhile! Hidden in God’s Presence precedes “high upon a rock” positioning. The cocoon of His “sacred tent” shapes the wings of unrestricted flight.

Permanent Deliverance

There is another interesting aspect of hiddenness to consider:

“You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me
with songs of deliverance.”
Psalm 32:7

The Passion Translation says, “your joyous shouts of rescue release my breakthrough.” These words convey the idea of an escaped refugee.

Breakthrough

Could it be that while we are far from the public eye, God is releasing breakthrough after breakthrough over us? Perhaps while in His Presence we are becoming more like Him and less like the world?

“The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

Never alone! We are always with The One that matters most! Rather than fighting our way out of hiding, let’s experience God’s great pleasure resting over and surrounding us.

Envision it! God literally twirling, spinning in great joy, and breaking off things that have long held us captive.

Patient Trust

People pursue secluded vacations to escape persistent pressures and relentless responsibilities. Perhaps our perspective needs a slight shift. What if we began to see hiddenness as a luxurious retreat?

“You are my place of quiet retreat,
and your wrap-around presence
becomes my shield
as I wrap myself in your word.”
Psalm 119:114

Most versions call this “quiet retreat” a “hiding place.” It is here we “wrap” ourselves and “hope in” God’s word, trusting His promises. All other voices diminish in the cavern of His Presence.

Tree house hideaway

We see this aspect more clearly when Jonathan advised David to “go into hiding and stay there” (1 Sam. 19:2). The word for “hiding” also means “to hush or be silent when referring to voices of certain persons.” (Word Study Dictionary)

The perfect place to eliminate excessive noise pollution is where God hides us. Here we develop an unshakeable trust in Him and His Word. Secretly hidden, awaiting God’s perfect time of both concealing and revealing us.

Perpetual Growth

This passage always makes me smile:

“He told them still another parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed
into about sixty pounds of flour
until it worked all through the dough.”
Matthew 13:33

Are there any bread makers reading this? “Sixty pounds of flour” would feed a good sized crowd! “Yeast”, the secret ingredient, expands the volume and makes the finished product palatable.

Bread and yeast

What makes me smile? Visualizing this strong armed woman. Mixing together twenty-five pounds of flour was enough to break a sweat on my forehead. I can’t imagine sixty pounds! The combination of this woman’s strength and the living momentum within the tiny granulars of yeast created abundance for others.

Jesus illustrates the positive, “hidden permeation and growth of the kingdom of heaven within an unsuspecting world.” Perhaps hiddenness has the same effect when we are released in God’s perfect time.

Perfect Time

The big question and greatest challenge remains. Will I trust God for HIs timing?

In God’s perfect time, He ordained for each of us to enter the world. He knew us long before we came to be. He created us with uniquely designed sets of abilities and inabilities, gifts and talents, strengths and weaknesses.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together
in the depths of the earth.”
Psalm 139:15

Yet until His perfect time, we remain hidden — sometimes protecting, always providing, often purifying.

“He made my mouth like a sharpened sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me into a polished arrow
and concealed me in his quiver.”
Isaiah 49:2

Arrows hidden in quiver

To prepare Isaiah as God’s voice to ongoing generations, he remained double hidden. Hidden beneath the protective hand of God and hidden within the quiver of preparation.

Preparation

Preparation develops in hiddenness. Paul encourages those hidden to “set your hearts” and “minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

“For you died, and your life is
now hidden with Christ in God.”
Colossians 3:3

Resting in the process enables the seclusion of hiding to reap its full effect. The greater the mission, the greater the preparation. The broader the influence, the deeper the roots of focused devotion must reach.

You are the light of the world.
A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Matthew 5:14

Though, at times, we may feel unnoticed, unimportant, or undervalued, our light still shines! Light cannot be hidden. The full impact of our lives will be revealed only in eternity.

Though hidden for a season, let’s wait patiently for God’s perfect time to reveal what has been concealed. “Wait patiently” are perhaps two of my least favourite words. But let’s trust Him for the right moment to reveal His finished work in us. And when you are perhaps feeling a bit lonely, remember, I am there in hiding right beside you.

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The Posture of Peace – Peace The Most Powerful Weapon

The posture of peace outperforms any other ammunition we possess for combating the enemy. Peace perhaps is the most powerful weapon God gives us. When Paul describes God’s power to crush Satan, He doesn’t call Him “the Lord of mighty armies.”

“…I want you to be wise
about what is good,
and innocent about what is evil.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan
under your feet.”
Romans 16:19-20

It is “the God of peace” who crushes Satan.

The Dream

God sometimes uses dreams to capture my attention. Such was the case the other night. I was being driven down a fairly steep embankment. We weren’t following any kind of marked trail. It was obvious few people travelled here.

Suddenly, before me was a peninsula jutting out into a lake. On the east side sheltered in a peaceful cove, a little cottage nestled among trees. On the west, a similar cottage stood stoically. Fierce waves, dangerously peaked a full ten feet above the shoreline. An invisible shield was restraining the waves from obliterating everything in their path.

Towering waves

Both cottages were offered to me — the peaceful and the dangerous. A woman stood tall and strong on the peninsula, facing the angry tide.  With a camera equipped with a telephoto lens, she captured images — first of a flowering vine bridging two outbuildings, then of clouds framed in golden beams above the storm. She produced multiple images of beauty found within the ominous storm.

I stood on this little piece of land dividing the fierce from the calm, the frightful from peaceful shores — opposites of each other, yet part of the same property.

Then God gave me understanding of the posture of peace. While unpredictable onslaughts threaten my security, stability or livelihood, simultaneously, peace co-exists, undisturbed by violent circumstance.

Examples of Peace

Three perfect examples come to my mind: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These men determined from youth to settle into the perfect haven of peace with God without compromise. They experienced both peace with God and the peace of God!

“You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”
Isaiah 26:3 

How do I know? You cannot prove a person’s character by what they say, but you can accurately evaluate them by what they do!

Fire and flames

Nebuchadnezzar, perhaps the most powerful king that every lived, ordered everyone to bow down and worship a magnificent statue he made of himself. These godly men refused! Talk about facing a storm!

Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego…
if you do not worship it,
you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace.
Then what god will be able to rescue you
from my hand?”
Daniel 3:13-15

Nebuchadnezzar knew only little “g” gods! These three knew big “G” God! The posture of peace filled them with strength as they faced the king’s unreasonable fury.

Peace of God

The King threatened with the clenched first of an unpraised hand; these servants of God trusted a hand much stronger!

“… we do not need to defend ourselves
before you in this matter.
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace,
the God we serve is able to deliver us from it,
and he will deliver us
from Your Majesty’s hand.
But even if he does not,
we want you to know, Your Majesty,
that we will not serve your gods
or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Daniel 3:16-18

Political correctness collapsed before truth! The king’s rage intensified as he ordered the furnace heated “seven times hotter.” (3:19) The king’s strongest men cast these brave ones into the blaze.

The other day while standing over a small bonfire, I managed to singe my hair, scorch one eyebrow, and come away cloaked in the aroma of smoke. Not these fellows!

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar
leaped to his feet in amazement...
‘Weren’t there three men that
we tied up and threw into the fire?…
‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire,
unbound and unharmed, and the fourth
looks like a son of the gods.”
Daniel 3:24-25 

Lightning Storm

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s posture of peace before the storm, equipped them to walk serenely in the storm. When we choose to walk with God in times of testing, He will walk with us in that testing.

“When a man’s ways please the LORD,
he makes even his enemies
to be at peace with him.”
Proverbs 16:7

Posture of Peace

The posture of peace unravels the enemy’s power over any situation. No wonder our adversary attacks our peace!

“The peace of God is an impregnable fortress.
Never ever, lose your peace, and you will always know victory.”
Rick Joyner

Paul prays for believers,

“May God himself, the God of peace,
sanctify you through and through.
May your whole spirit, soul and body
be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls you is faithful,
and he will do it.”
I Thessalonians 5:23-24

The victory of and through “the God of peace” goes beyond external appearance to the depth of heart and soul — purifying and preserving completely.

Prepared in Advance

In my dream, the menacing waves were invisibly held back from crashing down upon the shore.

“And the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and
your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:7

This word “guard” comes from a compound word meaning “to be a watcher in advance, to mount guard as a sentinel, post spies at the gate, of figuratively to hem in, protect, or garrison.” Peace prepares us beforehand — protecting from present and future harm.

Mount a garrison

No matter how difficult the circumstances God provides His peace in advance!

Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27

Honestly, the storms of real-life create waves more threatening than any dream. Challenges, at times, seem insurmountable. Ask Shadrach, Meshach and Abedneggo! These three men were prepared in advance by God. God was with them in the fire, protecting, preserving and sanctifying them. The same God is with us too.

Be Still

Sometimes, like a boatful of worried disciples, we cry out for help and the storms are hushed.

“And he (Jesus) awoke and rebuked the wind
and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”
And the wind ceased
and there was a great calm.”
Mark 4:39

Peace be still!

But not always. I associate with David’s honest psalm: “my thoughts trouble me…because of the threats…my heart is in anguish…terrors of death...fear and trembling.” (Ps 55:2-6) David wished he possessed wings to fly away from his personal storm. When his closest friends stood against him, David turned to his only option, calling for God’s help.

“He will redeem my soul in peace
from the battle which is against me,
For they are many who strive with me.”
Psalm 55:18

I have no idea what you are facing today — what waves threaten your “little cottage” home.  May I encourage you to maintain the posture of peace? Peace is the most powerful weapon you possess.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself
give you peace at all times and in every way.
The Lord be with all of you.”
2 Thessalonians 3:18

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Leadership Promotion – Man’s Choice Versus God’s Chosen

Leadership promotion comes either through human intervention or the supernatural aid of God. Biblical and recent history proves how often we get it wrong. For churches, parachurch and non-profit organization, choosing leaders takes prayer, wisdom and discernment.

At times, I have blamed hindrances to personal promotion on human restrictions, rather than seen them as acts of God’s grace. At other times, God boosted my area of influence or ministry capacity when I felt least prepared or qualified.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

When God gives leadership promotion, the results are obvious! God sees with equal clarity the present and future, our inner reality and outer facade, one’s natural limitations and supernatural faith. He advances ministers and ministries in indisputable ways.

Daniel

King Nebuchadnezzar enrolled Daniel, an exiled captive, into a rigid three-year training program. The candidates for this elite opportunity possessed specific qualities.

“… Israelites from the royal family and the nobility
young men without any physical defect, handsome,
showing aptitude for every kind of learning,
well informed, quick to understand
and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.”
Daniel 1:4

Daniel’s commitment to God, the true King, actually added to his resume of qualifications. He was “resolved not to defile himself” by eating and drinking things opposed to his religious standards. (1:8) “God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning”, as well as visions and dreams of all kinds.” (1:17)

The king recognized gifting! God decided on anointing!

Psalm 89:17

God multiplied Daniel’s natural gifts! At the end of the training period, the king personally interviewed each candidate.

“The king talked with them,
and he found non equal to Daniel,
Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah…
In every matter of wisdom and understanding
about which the king questioned them,
he found them ten times better than all…”
Daniel 1:18-20

This was Daniel’s first leadership promotion, but not his last. He remained humble, submitted and dedicated to God in spite of severe opposition. God unequivocally propelled Daniel to the forefront.

Paul

Judas suicide decreased “The Twelve” to “The Eleven”. Together they were “constantly in prayer,” (Acts 1:14)

“… Peter stood up among the believers
(a group numbering about a hundred and twenty)
… it is necessary to choose one
of the men who have been with us the whole time
the Lord Jesus was living among us,
beginning from John’s baptism to the time
when Jesus was taken up from us.
For one of these must become a witness
with us of his resurrection.”
Acts 1:15 & 21 

Through prayer, Peter caught God’s plan of replacing Judas. Unfortunately, human reasoning took over!  Surely 120 people, constantly in prayer, couldn’t get it wrong. So they nominated two candidates for leadership promotion: Joseph and Matthias.

Proverbs 19:21

After much prayer, Matthias, whose name means “gift of Yaheweh”, was added to The Eleven. Matthias, though a gift, wasn’t God’s chosen! God’s choice was absent from the list of elect candidates. God’s choice was on a personal rampage, killing and imprisoning new believers. Until God held a face-to-face confrontation along the Damascus Road!

“And last of all (Jesus) appeared to me also,
as to one abnormally born.
For I am the least of the apostles
and do not even deserve to be called an apostle,
but by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me was not without effect.”
1 Corinthians 15: 8-10

Matthias fell into obscurity! Paul received undeserved leadership promotion in an organization he hated — writing 14 letters included in the Holy Scriptures. Quite the difference between man’s choice and God’s chosen!

Aaron

 “Korah … Dathan and Abiram …
became insolent and rose up against Moses.
With them were 250 Israelite men,
well-known community leaders
who had been appointed members of the council.”
Number 16:1-2

Picture it! Moses and Aaron on one side. Powerful and influential leaders, on the other — 250 delegated spokesmen! Over a million men, women and children witnessed the mutiny. Accusing Moses and Aaron of exerting too much authority, they forcefully expressed their opposition!

These were not rag-tag back-benchers! These men formed the spiritual and civic leadership of the nation. All were members of the ruling council!

Leadership Promotion - Deitrich Bonhoffer

Several times God pressed against the agitators to bring order out of chaos. Nothing was working! Finally, He gave Moses an indisputable plan,

“Speak to the Israelites and
get twelve staffs from them,
one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes.
Write the name of each man on his staff.
On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name,
for there must be one staff for the head
of each ancestral tribe.
Numbers 17: 1-2

Each tribal leader brought his staff — the symbol of his identity, authority, and ministry. A man’s staff was more than a piece of wood! It bore lasting generational significance.

“Place them in the tent of meeting
in front of the ark of the covenant law,
where I meet with you.”
Numbers 17:4

God’s Chosen

Each man surrendered his ministry, calling and gifting — hope for future generations, laid first in Moses’ hands, then in God’s. With the names of each written on his staff, there would be no disputing the results. All that long night, their staffs lay hidden before God. He alone would decide leadership promotion.

Leadership Quote - Frank Damazio

Similarly, we too lay our hopes and expectations, visions and calling, gifts and abilities before God. In surrendering our rights, we allow God to determine the duration of hiddenness, trusting Him to bring forth His divine purpose.

“The next day Moses entered the tent
and saw that Aaron’s staff,
which represented the tribe of Levi,
had not only sprouted but had budded,
blossomed and produced almonds.
Then Moses brought out all the staffs
from the Lord’s presence to all the Israelites.
They looked at them,
and each of the leaders took his own staff.”
Numbers 17:9

Can you imagine that moment? Take your staff Simeon — dry, bent and worn. Look at yours Reuben — rubbed smooth. Barren! Check yours Dan — fruitless as before! Each leader “took his own staff.”

The Presence of God brought supernatural fruitfulness to one man’s staff, while leaving the others still dead. Each man needed grace to accept God’s decision, whether chosen or left. God publicly revealed His irrefutable choice for leadership promotion.

Lay it Down

All leaders require grace to lay down and pick up the “staff” of either promotion or limitation. Not once, but continually! Setting everything before God’s Presence! Graciously and humbly “owning” our staff — living or dead.

Those who by ungodly promotion, via self or others, press beyond their God-given parameters become disqualified. God invariably exposes all interior motivations. Even publicly if necessary!

1 Peter 5:6

I relate to the eleven tribal leaders as I lay my “staff” before God. Will He return it without substantial change? I have vision for more! Prophetic words over my life declare more! Yet, the timing is God’s. The position and dimensions of my influence remains His.

I’ve been deceived to believe that the right people with the right gifts, accentuated by the right training program, makes great leaders. I’ve slipped into the faulty, half-right, totally-wrong, reasoning of Peter and others in making leadership decisions.

If only God would mark his “Daniel” ministries clearly, propelling them ten times better than all others. Perhaps if there were more Damascus Road conversions, we would recognize God’s choice. Or maybe if every “Aaron” ministry would stand out with miraculous growth and fruitfulness, discerning leadership promotion would be easy.

Or maybe not!

This I know:
the favor that brings promotion and power
doesn’t come from anywhere on earth,
for no one exalts a person but God, the true judge of all.
He alone determines where favor rests.
He anoints one for greatness
and brings another down to his knees.”
Psalm 75:7-9 TPT

There is one thing for certain, God’s choice is often not man’s! One option remains! Continually place everything before His Presence, trusting Him with leadership promotion.

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God Seeker – Seeking God With All Your Heart

There appears to be a distinct difference between a “nominal” Christian and a true God seeker — the one who pursues God with all his or her heart! This passionate pursuit of God’s heart and His Presence forms an umbilical cord powerfully nurturing life to those who seek Him with diligence. 

Becoming a God seeker requires tenacity. We can effectively do any number of Christian activities without major disturbance. Begin to prayerfully seek God and life turns into a battle ground!

First, there is an unexpected knock at the door. Then the phone rings, random thoughts flash rapidly through your mind, the kids fight, the dog needs to be let out, the smoke detector beeps, hunger pangs grip, and on it goes.

Have you been there? It can feel like a game of “Hide-and-Seek”, except God isn’t hiding and few people are seriously seeking. 

Finding God

“Then you will call on me
and come and pray to me
and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me
when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,” declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 29:12-14

Hiding place

It can be fun playing Hide-and-Seek with young children. One can’t miss the blanket hump that giggles, the plump statue-like body behind the pole lamp, or curled bundle under the table. 

Does God “hide” from us in similar fashion? Whispering our name, He invites us to find him while He “hides” in plain sight. Yet, complacency quickly turns wasted days into years of neither “seeking” nor “finding” the One who begs to be found by us.

God’s promise remains! If we seek Him “with all (our) heart, (He) will be found!”

Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.”
Isaiah 55:6

But why is seeking so important?

God Seeker

Suzanna Wesley is a remarkable example of a God seeker. She was the mother of 19 children, although ten died in early childhood. She was largely unsupported by her husband.

Suzanna took every responsibility seriously! Homeschooling her children included far more history and mathematics. She laid a biblical foundation in the lives of each of her children. In her spare time, Suzanna gave leadership to a small congregation of about 200 others. 

How did Suzanna carry such a heavy load? She consistently pushed aside every distraction, spending a minimum of two hours daily in prayer. On a chair into the middle of her kitchen she sat with apron over her head. No one dared interrupt! Momma Wesley talked with God. God spoke to Momma Wesley!

Susanna, a true God seeker, is recognized as the mother of the Methodist Movement, with four of her sons becoming pastors.

Hide and Seek

In Suzanna’s dedicated time with God, her spiritual senses were awakened, giving her divine insight, biblical understanding, and practical strategies to equip her children and hundreds of others to live victorious, godly lives.

Seek the LORD, all who are humble,
and follow his commands.
Seek to do what is right and to live humbly.”
Zephaniah 2:3

The Choice

Such God focused seeking prayer comes with promise! Not only does God guarantee He will “be found”

“and (I) will bring you back from captivity.
I will gather you from all the nations and places
where I have banished you,” declares the LORD,
and will bring you back to the place
from which I carried you into exile.”
Jeremiah 29:14-15

God welcomes back His wayward sons and daughters — prodigals whose disobedience had drawn them far from Him. They were refugees — slaves held captive in a far off land!

Such bondage may not be as literal in our lives, but real nonetheless! Without God, we are all wanderers gone astray in a lost world. 

“I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me.”
Proverbs 8:17

Sheep hiding

Our cry is never too far from His hearing. The choice is ours! Will we turn back to the God who loves us?

Time with God is never wasted! Here we gain wisdom and understanding, see our own waywardness and rebellion and discover the path of grace to find our way home.

Love and Goodness

God’s promises are all inclusive! When we choose to seek His face, we will find Him. He will “gather” us and “bring” us “home”. Back to His Presence! Back to the place of love! God is ready to welcome us, restoring us to freedom, security and purpose.

“God did this so that they would seek him
and perhaps reach out for him and find him,
though he is not far from any one of us.
‘For in him we live and move
and have our being.'”
Acts 17:27-28

Unfortunately, God’s desire for relationship with us is much more intense that our craving to connect with Him. Our seeking ranks lethargic! His pursuing intentional!

Frog hiding

“He is not far from any one of us!” 

Let the reality of those words sink in! “He is not far!

God has not moved! Each step we take toward Him reveals another attribute of His character and awe of His being. It is in those quiet times of His Presence that we find a greater sense of His love and goodness. His promises await those who choose to seek.

Intimacy

Scripture tells us that David was a “man after God’s own heart”. His psalms reveal his seeking heart:

One thing I ask from the LORD,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.”
Psalm 27:4

David desired one thing — God’s Presence!  What about me? What one thing would I long for? Am I like David or am I distracted by lesser things

“One thing above all else,” David declared, “the one thing I desire is You, Lord!” God met David in his seeking.

Peeking

David hungered for a divine intimacy found only with God. No other relationship compared! In the seeking and finding, bearing himself in raw transparency before Holy God, David developed a deep childlike trust, an unquestionable knowing that he was welcome and accepted.

The door of intimacy remains open for each of us, too.

One Thing

God seekers are “one thing” people!

“You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.”
Psalm 63:1-2

There is power in the Presence of the All-Powerful One. However, displays of power never satisfy a God seeker. Miracles, signs and wonders reveal God’s glory, but are cheap substitutes for one moment with Him. 

God continuously provided for David’s needs, fulfilled every promise spoken, and brought him supernatural victories in battle. Yet, nothing compared to time with God.

Like David, Suzanna and generations of others, it is essential to purposely set aside time, ignore distractions, and seek after God. It will require a heart fully devoted to “finding” Him!

Hiding!

Indescribable unlimited benefits abound!

“But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you…”
Psalm 70:4

Seek and Find

I am no better at “hiding” from God, than my grandchildren are at hiding from me. Even when I see them clearly. I keep “searching”, waiting for them to make noise or movement to draw me close. Patiently, I allow them to hide as long as they want. 

The game with my grandchildren always ends with giggles and exuberant cheers! The “lost” is found! My “little ones” have ceased from hiding! 

God’s welcoming embrace awaits those who delight in both seeking Him and being found by Him. In the seeking and finding, man with God in prayer, God with man in whispered invitation, is reciprocated joy! Here alone dwells abiding peace and security!

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Further Reading:

The Prodigal Returns, Prayer Answered! Running no More!

 

 

Imitating Others While Staying True to Yourself and Remaining Authentic!

Imitating others is a biblical principle  for effective discipleship. We must choose wisely who to follow, while staying authentic to ourselves. It’s not an easy task!

One spring day, while sitting at the piano practising drills, I became acutely aware the musical phrases were being echoed just outside my window. Perched among the blossoms of the flowering plumb, a small grey-feathered, non-descript, bird eyed me intently. Over the next five minutes, I tested his reciting ability, only to have this talented little mimic follow my lead precisely.

Mockingbird

For some reason I felt deeply saddened when he took flight and our musical conversation ended. Though excellent at imitating, I never did hear his song or appreciate his individual melody.

Authentic

We must first come to acknowledge our own God-given identity, nature and calling before we will effectively live it out. Without even realizing it, we can begin to imitate those around us and lose the essence of our uniqueness. In so doing, everyone misses out!

“If two people think the same thing
about everything, one of them isn’t necessary.”
Ben Carson

Peer pressure isn’t just something teenagers deal with! We all face it! The catchy clichés, snappy lyrics, and emotion grabbing images of advertising are aimed at capturing our attention and influencing our decisions. Peer pressure of sorts!

David sang,

“I praise you because
I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.”
Psalm 139:14

There are no duplicates with God! No carbon copies of you! Why? Because God has a specific purpose in mind!

You alone can connect with others through your specific gifting, talents, perspectives, history, personality. Only you can bring your special combination of joy, compassion, and sensitivity to the people around you. God has given you an individualized ability to create, design, and solve problems. He has planted you specifically where you are to influence, encourage, and make a positive difference.

How  authentic are we willing to be? You totally being you! Me really being me!

Stand Alone

The little mockingbird has the capabilities to even imitate a cat, his fiercest and much larger enemy! This bird’s ability to imitate or “mock” other sounds, beyond its own song, is actually how it got its name.

For people, however, parroting the pattern of others can lead to problems.

Colourful parrot and boy

At one point Paul sharply confronts Peter for doing just that. Fear caused Peter to wronging imitate others!

“… I opposed (Peter) to his face,
because he stood condemned.
For before certain men came from James,
he used to eat with the Gentiles.
But when they arrived,
he began to draw back and separate himself
… because he was afraid
of those who belonged
to the circumcision group.”
Galatians 2:11-12

Fear and the need to belong can potentially draw us away from being true to ourselves and God’s purposes. Peter, by imitating others, caused many people to stumble spiritually!

“…they were not acting in line
with the truth of the gospel…”
Galatians 2:14

It takes strength to stand alone under pressure. This strength comes when we know who we are and to Whom we belong.

Direction

Living fully in the uniqueness of our identity in Christ sometimes calls for a change of direction. Many aspects of the world threaten to draw us into unfruitful conformity.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test
and approve what God’s will is
–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:2

The “pattern of this world” is to create clones — in organized mass production — carbon copy reflections of the latest craze. The enemy of our souls delights in incarcerating us in his prison of conformity.

Father and son walking

Rather than align ourselves with the world’s pattern, we often need to disagree, disregard, ignore and even reject it. Powerful action is required to break free from the down-draft that threatens to deny the potential hidden within our unique identity in Christ.

“Don’t let your character change colour
with your environment.
Find who you are
and let it stay in its true colours.”
(Columbine Martyr, Rachel Joy Scott)

Be assured God does have a perfect colour, His “good, pleasing and perfect will”, for each of us! His design will be clearly seen as we turn from the world around us toward Him.

Follow Me

It isn’t surprising that Jesus invited people to follow. He called out to Peter and his brother Andrew,

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said,
“and I will send you out to fish for people.”
Matthew 4:19

That door of opportunity remains open! His words still resonate with anticipation! When He washed the disciples feet, He said,

“I have given you an example.
You should do as I have done for you.”
John 13:15

In following Christ’s example, we become imitators of Him and find our otherwise hidden purpose and meaning. Though there are similarities in us as Christ-followers, how we actually walk out our lives will vary when we stay true to ourselves.

Among other things, “follow me” includes:

  • Accepting Christ as Saviour and Lord (Matthew 16:24)
  • Becoming a servant of all (Matthew 25:28)
  • Forgiving others even as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Loving unconditionally (1 John 4:16)

To truly “be ourselves”, we must first be “like Christ!” Each of us is made in the image of God. Yet, each of us represents that image from a slightly different perspective. It is impossible to be fully you or fully me, without being like Him!

Imitating Others

Watching sons mimic their fathers and daughters reflect their mothers can be humorous, challenging and sobering. Wanting to emulate those we esteem is inherent in us all, Everyone desires to belong within a community.

Sailors - a son imitating a father

Paul boldly tells others,

“Follow my example,
as I follow the example of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 11:1

In imitating others, wisdom will guide us to chose those who consistently pattern themselves after Christ!

That word “follow”, “Mimetai”, is the Greek word from which “mime” originates and means to imitate. Paul tells us to closely follow his living example to “the same degree and manner” that he is imitating Christ.

Take an honest look at those in the lead. Are they following Christ? Are they living in the fullness of God’s call in their personal lives?

“Those who say they live in God
should live their lives as Jesus did.”
1 John 2:6

Live Fully

May we find a way to both follow godly examples while faithfully leading those who are stepping into rhythm with our own footsteps.

Let faith move us to live authentically, refusing to settle for “average” or the status quo. May we be propelled to rise to the fullness of our God-given capabilities.

Perhaps, there is an artistic expression
only you can deliver.
Someone is waiting to hear the story
only you can tell.
You alone have the exact match
of audacity and patience,
fortitude and meekness,
gentleness and fierceness
that God needs right now,
right where you are at.

Make a splash! Humpback whale

So live boldly! Live graciously! Live for God’s glory and the benefit of others.

“Whatever you do, work heartily,
as for the Lord and not for men,”
Colossians 3:23

Let’s not be like the mockingbird; may the world be imprinted by the genuine mark of our lives. By following Christ and imitating others who walk closely with Him, let’s each discover our own unique “normal”.

 

**********

The Love of God! What More Do We Want?

The love of God is more than enough to satisfy the deepest longing and hunger of the human heart! A cry rises unabated within the church today for “more”. But what “more” do we want?

Is the Christian church of North America occupied by “spiritual” consumerism or is this plea for “more” birthed from a completely different source?

Giver or Taker

There is within every believer the competing agendas of giver and taker. Inherent personal needs demand to be satisfied; while godly desire delights to confer on others.

Peter and John came upon a lame beggar. His hand stretched toward them expecting support.

“Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have,
but what I do have I give you.
In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
walk.”
Acts 3:6

Children giving

Peter offers him much more than an hand out! Grasping the man firmly, he offers a hand up!

Taking him by the hand,
he helped him up and
instantly the man’s feet and ankles
became strong.”
Acts 3:7

Offering money rather than messy love would have been easier! Tangibly reaching others is far more costly than parting with pocket coins. Love costs! Sometimes deeply!

This was but one cry among a multitude of other voices. Meeting this man’s unspoken need, God gave “more”.

A Different Cry

The cry among North American Christians contradicts the voice surging Godward from many other nations.

“We love You, Lord!” is the anthem heard in the developing world.  Whereas, the prayerful expression  in North America calls, “We want more, Lord!”

Enduring love

One day the unified voice from every nation, tribe and tongue will speak,

“And they sang a new song, saying:
You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood
you purchased for God persons
from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
Revelation 5:9

People from nations far and near lift a song of love and exaltation without contradiction before God’s throne!

I Love You

“Love” in the English language expresses multiple meanings!

  • “I love you, Grandma” might mean “I want another cookie”, or “take me to the park”.
  • “I love you” could be the manipulative voice from someone refusing the commitment of marriage but desiring the benefits.
  •  One might even feel the pressure to say “I love you” out of obligation.

Unfortunately, we use the same word, “love”, for ice cream, animals, and sunsets, as we do for the deepest, most intimate relationships. No wonder confusion exists!

Sacrificial love

Beyond a doubt, the one thing this world needs more of is love — genuine love that comes only from God!

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another,
for love comes from God.
Anyone who loves
is a child of God and knows God.

But anyone who does not love
does not know God, for God is love.
G
od showed how much he loved us
by sending his one and only Son into the world
so that we might have eternal life through him.

This is real love—not that we loved God,
but that he loved us
and sent his Son as a sacrifice
to take away our sins.
Dear friends, since God loved us that much,
we surely ought to love each other.”
1 John 4:7-11

John, “the beloved”, understood! Such knowledge left him crying, “More, Lord, more!”

Much Love

“Vines Expository Dictionary” explains the differences in the biblical Greek words for love.

In my Father's steps

“Agapao” describes the attitude of God toward His Son, humanity, and those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. It also includes God’s desire concerning our attitude toward each other.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8

God and others are to be the primary recipients of this love that moves beyond impulse or feelings! This love runs contrary to natural inclinations — never self-seeking. Originating from God, it does not spend itself only upon those who will reciprocate.

“Agapao” love values, esteems and serves!

“Phileo” represents tender affection between Father God, His Son Jesus, and believers. “Phileo” specifically demonstrated a love Christ had for His disciple, John. This love displays friendship and affection.

“No, the Father himself loves you
because you have loved me
and have believed that I came from God.”
John 16:27

“Storge” used as part of a compound word with “phileo” refers mainly to the love between parents and their children.

“Be devoted to one another in love.
Honor one another above yourselves.”
Romans 12:10

River of Love

Neil Bigpond shares about a visit with his sick mother. “I love you,” were the first words she spoke to her son. Immediately, he affirmed his mutual love for her.

Strong to protect

“Nin-zo-de-tow-yoot,” she corrected, explaining the meaning of the Yuchi word for love:

“You are like a river that brings me life.
Without you I cannot exist!”

“Nin-zo-de-tow-yoot” far surpasses, “I love you”! The Yuchi perfectly capture the deep essence both of God’s love for us and also what He desires us to emulate.

God’s love flows like a river from the depth of His very nature — an unfailing spring, rich and deep, filled with mercy and grace! Without it, truly, we cannot exist!

“Anyone who believes in me
may come and drink!
For the Scriptures declare,
Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.'”
John 7:38

God fills us with his love empowering us to be

Spirit-filled,
water-giving,
love-spreading,
life-imparting
channels to others.

We gratefully immerse ourselves in the river of God’s love! Spiritual consumerism, however, has potential to warp such an extravagant flow of love when we want more from God than we are prepared to extend to others!

More Lord, More!

God’s river of love flows in unprecedented proportions in our day! All over the world, God is revealing Himself through supernatural encounters with “the Man in white”, dreams and vision, signs and wonder, healing and miracles!

Too easily we become captivated by the visible and miss the essential!

Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind and with all your strength…
Love your neighbour as yourself…”
Mark 12:30-31

Don’t get me wrong! God’s gracious outpouring upon this generation is humbling to say the least.

The rain is falling

But does the church cry for more displays of God’s power? Are we focusing on the power of God or on the God of power?

Or is there a genuine cry rising, “More Lord, more! May we be vessels of more love for You and others!”

Are we focused on God’s heart, or looking to what His hand will give? Hymn writer Francis Brook says it well,

“My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace,
Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God…”

Has the church in the developed world developed an unhealthy craving for more? Or is she struggling to articulate a deep longing for more of the God we love?

No matter where we live, may we be drawn into the pure wonder — the amazing opportunity — to love God and others!

We love because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:19

“We love You, Lord! We want more!”

**********

Further Reading

Rivers of Living Water From Within – The Holy Spirit

 

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!

**********

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!

**********

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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