The Generation of Oholah & Oholibah

There are few places in the Bible I have missed but today I rediscovered a not so hidden corner of God’s Word that shocked me back to the reality of my own life, society, nation and world.

Oholah and Oholibah were the two beautiful sisters whose story comes to us from the prophet Ezekiel. Their beauty, station in life and privilege is unparalleled and yet the prophet uses their account to uncover an unfaithful history / nature, legacy and eventual judgment. While some readers may dismiss this story as an allegory that deals exclusively with the nations of Israel and Judah their journey, and end, remains as a stark warning to today’s modern reader and Christ follower.

If you had to put a rating on the life of Oholah and Oholibah it would certainly be XXX. Their tale is graphic, extremely uncomfortable and throughout the entire 23rd chapter of Ezekiel (see below) you hope their lives will turn for the better….but they never do. Their story is like so many accounts of a proud, blessed and set apart people who manage to trade their love for God for the lusts and illusions of this world.

At first glance the portrayals of Assyria / Babylon are similar to the descriptions we read of God. Both Assyria and Babylon are portrayed as handsome, regal, powerful, enticing and safe. However, where God is always the faithful, forgiving and compassionate Assyria and Babylon are revealed as unforgiving oppressors with a lust for brutality, hate, destruction, shame and death.

There is no mercy for the generation of Oholah and Oholibah as God not only stands back but allows the full might of these two empires to grind these ancient sisters down. Doom and gloom should never be associated with the character of God but we cannot continue to ignore the fact that Yahweh is a faithful God who will not compromise with an unfaithful bride.

Presently our personal and cultural affairs with “Assyria and Babylon” have given us exactly what we desire. The global community has, in large part, rejected the compassion, love and blessing of a faithful God and continue to celebrate drunk on the world’s wine, wealth and security. Sadly, we have become the generation of Oholah and Oholibah continuing to play the role of the unfaithful only to stumble back to God without shame or remembering our privileged place to be called His bride.

WAKE UP! There is nothing  to be discovered in the riches of Babylon, the glory of empire or the regal nature of Assyria but slavery, shame and eventually death. Some of us are racing toward a divorce, with God, of epic proportions and at some point He will allow us to have exactly what we think we desire. If we believe some type of buyers remorse will save us in the nick of time it won’t; because the degrading conditions of Oholah and Oholibah didn’t even shock them back to their only hope for salvation.

Individually and corporately we still have time! There is time to love the Lord our God will all your heart, soul and being. We still have time to stop the affairs and those not-so-innnocent flirtations, and lusts, for this world. We all have places we need to address, clean up and be able to present to God as holy and acceptable; and so the purpose of today’s post is not to scare anyone but to wake all of us up! Time is short, life is fleeting and all you have promised to you is today! 
Make the most of today, fall in love with Jesus and remain committed to Him! Most of us need to dump the world’s lovers and trust God for our security and peace. He is the only one who loves us with a deep love that WILL protect and keep us even in the hardest of times. Let us all learn from Ohloah and Oholibah so as to never make their story our own.

Blessings – JOSHUA

A Warning to the Unfaithful who Lust for Security and Peace Apart from God. (Ezekiel 23:1-21)

23:1–14 The parable of the two sisters, Israel and Judah, is comparable to the parable of chapter 16. While that passage was about the seduction of Canaanite religion, this stressed the political alliances that excluded God from their national life. Oholah (Hb “my tent”) represented Israel and Oholibah (Hb “my tent is in her”) represented Judah (see Jr 3:6–12). Ezk 23:22–35 contain four messages of judgment directed at Judah, and verses 36–42 make up a list of crimes similar to the list in 22:1–12 and 18:5–9, 10–13.

24:1–14 The parable of the boiling pot is a poetic story that expands on 11:3. In that passage and here, Jerusalem was the pot, the people were the meat, and Babylon was the fire.

Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (pp. 1222–1224). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

(Samaria and Jerusalem Acted Like Prostitutes)

1 The LORD spoke his word to me. He said, 2 “Son of man, there were once two women, daughters of the same mother. 3 They became prostitutes in Egypt when they were young. There men fondled and caressed their breasts. 4 “The older girl was named Oholah, and the younger girl was named Oholibah. I married them, and they gave birth to sons and daughters. Oholah represents Samaria, and Oholibah represents Jerusalem. 5 Oholah acted like a prostitute, although she was my wife. She lusted after her Assyrian lovers who lived nearby. 6 They were governors and commanders clothed in purple. They were all handsome young men who rode on horses. 7 She became a prostitute for all the important men in Assyria. She dishonored herself with the idols of all those with whom she fell in love. 8 She continued the prostitution that she started in Egypt. When she was young, men went to bed with her, caressed her breasts, and treated her like a prostitute. 9 “That is why I handed her over to her lovers, to the Assyrians whom she lusted after. 10 They stripped her naked, took away her sons and daughters, and killed her with a sword. Women gossiped about how she was punished. 11 “Even though her younger sister Oholibah saw this, Oholibah lusted after men more than her sister did. Oholibah’s prostitution became worse than her sister’s prostitution. 12 She lusted after the Assyrians who were nearby. They were governors and commanders in full dress. They were mounted horsemen, all of them desirable young men. 13 I saw that she was dishonoring herself. Both sisters acted the same way. 14 Yet, she carried her prostitution even further. She saw pictures of men carved on walls. They were figures of Babylonian men, painted in bright red. 15 The men had belts around their waists and flowing turbans on their heads. All of them looked like Babylonian officers who were born in Babylon. 16 She fell in love with them at first sight and sent messengers to them in Babylonia. 17 So these men came from Babylon, went to bed with her, and dishonored her with their lust. After they had dishonored her, she turned away from them in disgust. 18 “She carried out her prostitution openly, and she lay around naked. I turned away from her in disgust as I had turned away from her sister. 19 She remembered how she had been a prostitute in Egypt when she was young. So she took part in even more prostitution. 20 She lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose semen was like that of horses. 21 So she longed to do the sinful things she did when she was young in Egypt, when young men caressed and fondled her breasts.

GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Eze 23:1–21). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

TRUTH, SEX and the CULTURE

The fear of skeletons in the closet make the conversations that surround adultery and sexual practices off limits for most. For a variety of different reasons many people, especially within the Christian culture, either choose to ignore the dangers of an over-sexualized society or embrace it as normal and necessary.

Culture is culture, for better or for worse, and when the culture is divided among so many rules, regulations, opinions and acceptances the sacrificial lamb ends up being truth. Since the concepts and practices of truth have become relative everything from business to family and even the most intimate places of a person are shielded behind the rights of individual philosophy.

This, in part, is why the culture is what it is. For generations the belief, practice and acceptance of a Biblical world-view used the source material of the Bible. Sadly, as we have embraced alternative facts we have allowed our culture to be re-platformed on other truths with devestating consequences. Our business practices have become more corrupt, politics more divisive, families more divided and intolerance combined with hate have become the new normal.

Unfortunately a Biblical world-view is not enough to maintain the personal integrity of an individual. Even Scripture reveals our greatest hero’s of faith were deeply flawed in keeping their lives consistent with the Word of God. The Bible, and a Biblical world-view, is the GOLD STANDARD for life, blessing, success, fulfillment, joy, purpose, etc…and anything less is fools gold. The challenge remains, from Biblical times to today, every individual must choose to accept God’s best or man’s alternative.

A Biblical world-view never tells the reader you can’t rather it instructs us to incorporate a lifestyle of ‘best practices’  and the consequences of ignoring truth. Likewise the Biblical world-view provides ample evidences, backed by the character of God, of what a life will look like IF we follow the Word of the Lord consistently and practically.

As I am studying truth, and the dangers of lust, I am drawn to a passage from Proverbs (see below). Before Solomon even discusses the dangers of adultery he opens with the wise counsel that comes from Godly parents. Scripture reminds us to honor our parents; but for some their parents refused to live an honorable and Godly life.

So, should you take advice from you parents? Here again Solomon addresses from whom you take your advice: Parents who believe and live in the TRUTH of GOD’S WORD.

It is possible to honor the place and position / authority of your parents without incorporating their misplaced truth when it does not line up with Scripture. However, when your parent(s) have demonstrated a lifestyle of honoring God by living according to His Truth, and they share with you wisdom on any issue, you are best to listen carefully.

The individual that falls into sexual error is one who first ignores the truth that was imparted to them from Godly counsel; as a result of ignoring truth they have lost their foundation and drifted into dangerous waters of error that will eventually destroy everything.

I believe we must have an open and honest conversation about sex and culture but it must begin with an understanding of God’s Truth. Thankfully there are still many people who can attest to living a Godly lifestyle and it’s time we listen so we can pass on God’s Truth to the next generation without fear or shame!

If we want to reclaim lost ground in a culture war we need to embrace God’s Truth, demonstrate God’s Truth, live God’s Truth and share His Truth with our seeking and searching world.

Grace and Peace – JOSHUA

More Advice About Avoiding Adultery

My son, obey the command of your father, and do not disregard the teachings of your mother. Fasten them on your heart forever.
Hang them around your neck. When you walk around, they will lead you. When you lie down, they will watch over you. When you wake up, they will talk to you because the command is a lamp,
the teachings are a light, and the warnings from discipline are the path of life to keep you from an evil woman and from the smooth talk of a loose woman.

Do not desire her beauty in your heart. Do not let her catch you with her eyes. A prostitute’s price is ⌊only⌋ a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts for ⌊your⌋ life itself. Can a man carry fire in his lap without burning his clothes?

Can anyone walk on red-hot coals without burning his feet?
So it is with a man who has sex with his neighbor’s wife.
None who touch her will escape punishment.
People do not despise a thief who is hungry when he steals to satisfy his appetite, but when he is caught, he has to repay it seven times. He must give up all the possessions in his house.

Whoever commits adultery with a woman has no sense.
Whoever does this destroys himself. An adulterous man will find disease and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be blotted out,
because jealousy arouses a husband’s fury. The husband will show no mercy when he takes revenge. No amount of money will change his mind. The largest bribe will not satisfy him.

GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Pr 6:20–35). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

The Principle of Put Off and Put On

Have you found yourself watching TV and a commercial will air that is advertising a new medicine or item? Every type of these commercials use the same formula:

1. There is a pending or present problem.
2. The ‘item or medicine” is the solution. And,
3. the disclaimers, at the end of the commercial, remind you of additional problems that may occur.

A simplified formula is: negative, positive and possible negative.

We are often told never use a negative to try to reinforce a positive; however from your kitchen cleaner to a cholesterol medicine we are daily reminded of potential problems that require solutions.

Most people try to avoid any negatives; but such an approach only results in a problem that becomes less manageable over time. Of course there are also people who ONLY focus on the negatives, and never consider a solution, so their condition persists. 

In matters of every day life, medical concerns, truth and faith there is a principle we are challenged to embrace in every season. The Principle is: Put Off and Put On.

In his letter to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul is writing to a young church that is still wrestling with the old way of living, thinking and expecting while also trying to embrace the truth and reality of Jesus. It is obvious the clash of cultures are causing ripples throughout their routines. The frequent bouts of conflict with each other, their work and world require a choice to be made: Either embrace a new new lifestyle, in Christ, or remain the “old way.” The church of Ephesus is akin to a new patient, with pre-existing conditions, and Paul is performing the role of doctor by informing them they have a sickness that needs to be addressed NOW and the medicine is the Truth of Jesus!

In order to stress the importance of immediate change, Paul prescribes a series of “Put Off and Put On” examples to instruct them how to embrace this new lifestyle practically. The challenge for the Ephesians is, do they want to get better? Thankfully for any Christian the prescription of Jesus’ Truth never has harmful side-effects, like a trail medicine,  or the need for a 30-day money back guaranteed because it may not work for you. Jesus works all the time, every time and without fail a daily dose of Jesus’ Word will change our harmful behaviors, attitudes and physical and mental health if we will only taste and see the Lord is good!

Paul’s words challenge the Christian, for every generation, to “put off and put on” so we can get healthier in mind, body and spirit. While the process begins with me and you it is also a process that is meant to be replicated in the lives of the seeking, searching, hurting and lost. Only a healthy individual can treat an unhealthy person accurately. Only a spiritually mature Christian can identify the spiritual void in another. Only a person who has lived, and continues to practice, “put off and put on” can instruct others how such a decision will free them, heal them and equip them to fulfill their Kingdom purpose and live in their God given identity.

So, put off and put on…..first for yourself and then for others. There is a big world of need out there and we have the only solution: Jesus!

Blessings – JOSHUA

Walk In Purity (Ephesians 4:17–32)

The first part of this chapter described the believer’s relationship to the church; now Paul deals with the believer’s relationship to the world. Certainly we are “in Christ” and a part of the body; but we are also in the world, where there is temptation and defilement. We cannot depart from the world because we have a responsibility to witness to it; but we must walk in purity and not allow the world to defile us.

Paul starts with the negative: do not walk the way the unsaved heathen walk. He explains the reasons for their godless walk: (1) their minds are darkened because they believe lies and have not received the truth; (2) they are spiritually dead; (3) they have surrendered themselves to do all kinds of sin. Compare this description with 2:1–3 and 2 Cor. 4. We might summarize their plight by saying they were walking in the wrong way because they did not know the truth and had never received the life. Only the Christ of John 14:6 could meet their spiritual needs.

The Christian life must be radically different from the old life. Paul expected the Ephesians to experience changes, and he gave three admonitions: “put off” (vv. 22–23), “put on” (v. 24), and “put away” (vv. 25ff). Romans 6 teaches us that the old self has been crucified and buried, and that, as we reckon this to be true, we “put off” the old man. God has done His part; it remains for us to believe what He has said and “change clothes.” The instruction Jesus gave concerning Lazarus applies to each believer: “Loose him—take off the grave clothes—and let him go!” But it is not enough simply to die to the old life; there must also be resurrection and the manifestation of the new life.

We put off the “grave clothes” of the old life and put on the “grace clothes” of the new life. We are a part of God’s new creation (v. 24 and 2:10) and therefore we walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).
We must “put away” (once-for-all) certain sins, and he names these in 25ff. Note how Paul ties each commandment to a spiritual truth: we are members of each other (v. 25); we are sealed until the day of redemption (v. 30); God has forgiven us (v. 32). Doctrine and duty are twin blessings in the Bible, both the Christian’s wealth and his walk in Christ.

If we belong to the truth, how can we indulge in lies? Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44); his spirits tell lies (1 John 2:21, 27); one day the whole world will believe “The Lie” (2 Thes. 2:9–11).
There is an anger that is not sinful (Mark 3:5). If we are angry at persons, then sin will come along; if we are angry at sin and sinful principles, we can maintain a holy walk. How easy it is for Christians to call their tempers “righteous indignation”! The wrath of man never brings about the righteousness of God (James 1:20).
Giving place to the devil (v. 27) involves both lying and anger; for Satan is a liar and a murderer. Do we realize that lies and hypocrisy and anger give Satan a foothold in our lives? Cain’s lies and anger led to murder (Gen. 4).

Verse 25 ties in with 1 Thes. 4:11 and 2 Thes. 3:6–12. The unsaved thief used to rob to please himself; now that he is saved, he should work to be able to give to others. This is the wonderful change grace makes in the heart of a person.

Our lips should speak that which builds up (Col. 4:6; Ps. 141:3). Corruption from the lips only means that there is corruption in the heart. The Spirit has sealed us (1:13–14); we should not grieve Him by allowing these sins of action and attitude to be in our lives. In Scripture, the Spirit is pictured as a dove (John 1:32), and a dove is a clean bird that loves peace. Anger and clamor should be done away with by means of forgiveness and Christian love.

Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (pp. 548–550). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

“17 So I tell you and encourage you in the Lord’s name not to live any longer like other people in the world. Their minds are set on worthless things. 18 They can’t understand because they are in the dark. They are excluded from the life that God approves of because of their ignorance and stubbornness. 19 Since they no longer have any sense of shame, they have become promiscuous. They practice every kind of sexual perversion with a constant desire for more.
20 But that is not what you learned from Christ’s teachings. 21 You have certainly heard his message and have been taught his ways. The truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught to change the way you were living. The person you used to be will ruin you through desires that deceive you. 23 However, you were taught to have a new attitude. 24 You were also taught to become a new person created to be like God, truly righteous and holy.
25 So then, get rid of lies. Speak the truth to each other, because we are all members of the same body.
26 Be angry without sinning. Don’t go to bed angry. 27 Don’t give the devil any opportunity ⌊to work⌋.
28 Thieves must quit stealing and, instead, they must work hard. They should do something good with their hands so that they’ll have something to share with those in need.
29 Don’t say anything that would hurt ⌊another person⌋. Instead, speak only what is good so that you can give help wherever it is needed. That way, what you say will help those who hear you. 30 Don’t give God’s Holy Spirit any reason to be upset with you. He has put his seal on you for the day you will be set free ⌊from the world of sin⌋.
31 Get rid of your bitterness, hot tempers, anger, loud quarreling, cursing, and hatred. 32 Be kind to each other, sympathetic, forgiving each other as God has forgiven you through Christ.

GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Eph 4:17–32). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

The Darkening

Have you ever found yourself saying, What is happening to our world? Or, Things are not like when I was growing up? 

From popular culture, to education and even in the church I am amazed by the collective “darkening” of understanding and truth. On the one hand we see the economy roaring back, more liberties and freedoms of expression than ever before and churches growing by rapid numbers. Some might say such signs are indications that the good old days are back!!! But are they? In this very same moment in time we can watch entire TV shows dedicated to people living according to their selfish desires, celebrities promoting lifestyles of greed and lust and “liberty” that has bred intolerance all while the church is largely absent as a spiritual voice for the culture….that doesn’t sound like the good old days to me.

Some might say we are loosing common-sense but the Apostle Paul tells us we have lost that and so much more. For all of humanities advancements we are actually becoming less-intelligent in both the things of the Spirit and in the matters of our world. We may believe we are smarter, and more evolved, because we have made life easier; but all of “our easiness” has created endless diversities that make life more confusing, uncertain and divisive. Since we have misplaced our dedicated learning from history with “learning from the here and now” we forget the Apostle Paul lived in a world much like our own. Daily he encountered competing philosophies, a variety of worship practices, shady business deals and even a divided church. Nevertheless Paul understood, in a time of darkening, there was a true light that has always been present and now revealed through Jesus. Paul’s desperate apologetic to share the truth of Jesus’ words are timeless because he experienced, first hand, a darkening that turned to light on the Damascus road.

Paul knew, and therefore had to share, that only the truth of Jesus was capable of illuminating the dense understanding of his / our world. It was not coincidental that Paul was writing his letter to Christians living in Rome at such a time. Daily, these brave men and women of the Christian faith faced unbearable adversities within the “belly of the beast” as the contended for truth in an time of darkness. Paul’s letter to the Romans shows us from creation, to today, we are darkening more and more in our understanding of the spirit and culture and the only solution can be the Truth of Jesus’ Word….the same yesterday, today and forever!

If you pause to consider if we living in a darkening or awakening  you need only look to history, and creation, to reveal Romans 1 is true. So, in an age of increased darkness how do we recapture our understanding? BIBLICAL TRUTH! The age long philosophical question of, What is truth can only be answered through the lens of faith and the with a revelation there can only be ONE TRUTH that holds everyone, from every age, accountable. Many ask, others claim and even more make it up as they go along life’s way; but Paul brings us back to why we are here, how we got here and the only way to get back. We can, and should, engage our culture in the debate of truth; but any discussion, with a darkening world, will prove ineffective if we cannot speak with the authority of Jesus’ Name and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Such a bold apologetic doesn’t need to look like some backwoods church house and is often on display in universities, college campus’ and even in some dedicated churches and ministries. What is missing in the age of darkening is commitment to not just speak the truth but life is consistently and practically in the ordinary of life.

What our world desperately needs is a solid dose of TRUTH and that can ONLY be discovered through Jesus. More on this to follow but I want to leave you with a great commentary note on Romans (see below) and the passage itself. For today, remember to Remain and truth bearer and speaker!

Blessings – JOSHUA

 

Commentary by WW Wiersbe on Romans 1:18-25

A. They knew God (vv. 18–20).
God had given them a twofold revelation of Himself “in them” (conscience) and “unto them” (creation), v. 19. Man did not begin with ignorance and gradually work his way up to intelligence; he began with a blazing revelation of the power and wisdom of God and turned his back on it. God had revealed Himself from the very time of creation, so that people who have never heard the Gospel are still without excuse. (How God judges such people will be taken up in chap. 2.)

B. They glorified Him not as God (vv. 21–23).
Vain thinking and foolish reasoning turned men from the truth to lies. We see indifference leading to ingratitude, resulting in ignorance. People today bow before the Greek and Roman philosophers and honor their words above the Word of God; but Paul calls all of these philosophies “empty imaginations” and “times of ignorance” (Acts 17:30)! The next step was idolatry, honoring the creature (including man) rather than the Creator.

C. They changed the truth of God (vv. 24–25).
This word “changed” should really read “exchanged.” People replaced God’s truth with Satan’s lie! What is Satan’s lie? Worshiping the creature and not the Creator; worshiping man instead of God; worshiping things instead of Christ. Satan tempted Christ to do this (Matt. 4:8–11). Note that in Rom. 1:18, the Gentiles “held down the truth,” and now they “exchange the truth” for a lie! The truth believed and obeyed sets us free (John 8:31–32); the truth rejected and disobeyed makes us slaves.

D. They rejected the knowledge of God (vv. 26–32).
These people had begun with a clear knowledge of God (vv. 19, 21) and His judgment against sin (v. 32); but now they reached the lowest level of their downward fall: they did not even want to have knowledge of God! “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’ ” (Ps. 14:1, NKJV).
It is sad to see the tragic results of this decline. Evolutionists want us to believe that humans have “evolved” from primitive, ignorant, beast-like forms into the marvelous creature they are today. Paul says just the opposite: man began the highest of God’s creatures, but he made himself into a beast! Note the three judgments of God:
God gave them up to uncleanness and idolatry, vv. 24–25.
God gave them over to vile passions, vv. 26–27.
God gave them over to a reprobate mind, vv. 28ff.
God gave them up! This is the revelation of the wrath of God (v. 18).

The sins listed here are too vile to define or discuss, yet they are practiced today around the world with the approval of society. People know that sin will be judged, yet they take pleasure in it anyway. Were it not for the Gospel of Christ, we would be in this slavery to sin ourselves. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15).

Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (pp. 364–365). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

“18 God’s anger is revealed from heaven against every ungodly and immoral thing people do as they try to suppress the truth by their immoral living. 19 What can be known about God is clear to them because he has made it clear to them. 20 From the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly observed in what he made. As a result, people have no excuse. 21 They knew God but did not praise and thank him for being God. Instead, their thoughts were total nonsense, and their misguided minds were plunged into darkness. 22 While claiming to be wise, they became fools. 23 They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for statues that looked like mortal humans, birds, animals, and snakes.

24 For this reason God allowed their lusts to control them. As a result, they dishonor their bodies by sexual perversion with each other. 25 These people have exchanged God’s truth for a lie. So they have become ungodly and serve what is created rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen!”

GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Ro 1:18–25). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

God’s Math: 1 No + 1 No + 1 Yes = All YES

Is there a particular area you are embarrassingly bad in? For me, when I get past fourth grade math I freeze in a petrified surrender. Any math beyond my ability to balance a checkbook, add, subtract and stick within the boundaries of simple multiplication and division quickly becomes an enigma. So, you can imagine when in times of prayer God’s math can also be confusing to my understanding?

Perhaps it is one part God’s Word, another part logic and a good dose of wishful thinking that causes me to develop formulas that create the expectation my math must always be correct? To demonstrate let me provide you with a simple example:

No doubt you have heard the saying, “Two Wrongs Never Make a Right.” It’s true that two incorrect actions do not equal a correct outcome; and part of what helps us understand this saying boils down to a simple math equation.

‘If two wrongs don’t make a right, how many does it take?’

But what happens when we try to formularize God’s Word in an attempt force His will into our math? Let me present you with a series of personal and real-life examples:

Roughly three years ago I applied for a position I was highly qualified for. My work experience, character references, background checks all cleared the necessary hurdles. I passed both physical and educational exams and completed two rounds of interviews. I was even given a number, in cue,  that all but guaranteed I would be given one of the open positions. Furthermore, in that particular season, I needed the work; and the financial influx would have provided an ideal answer to a growing need. Throughout the process I committed myself to prayer, fasting and every day I drove to the work location and anointing the building thanking God for the opportunity. I spoke God’s Word of positive affirmation over the job and just waited for the phone call. Well, the call never came and I later learned they passed over my number three times! 

Simply put, I was devastated when my math didn’t work out. For the first time in my life I was mad at God, with God and couldn’t make sense of what did and didn’t happen. After all, I followed the formula and didn’t have the slightest doubt God was involved in every step of the process. Throughout that venture every door was opening and everything was trending in a positive direction while I was faithfully committing to the spiritual “heavy lifting” of faith, prayer and thanksgiving….it should have worked…..right?

No doubt I am not alone in such experiences and I have read more than enough stories, from Scripture to the great men and women of faith, that remind me God’s math and my math don’t operate the same way. After that disappointing season it took me a while to “make up” with God and I plummeted into a depression. For a few months I just existed between sadness, dismay, anger and sleep and the last place I desired to visit was my prayer closet. I had been in that room and even wrote a book on fasting; I had listened and quoted all of the faith preachers to no avail and even when casting my cares on God I felt as if He just dumped them back on me.

If you are expecting my story to suddenly shift to an amazing “WOW Factor” you would be wrong….sort of. Eventually, I repented and pulled myself out from underneath the bed sheets. I slowly re-gathered myself and started the gradual climb back toward prayer, work and patience. Since those three years have passed it feels as if  have met with more failure than success; but this brings me back to the title of today’s blog: God’s Math: 1 No +1 No + 1 Yes = All Yes!  

Recently, my family made a huge moved from our home of thirteen years and a church where I pastored for eight. The circumstances of life necessitated a change and despite our best efforts to remain where were enjoyed life, family and community 2017 began in entirely new surroundings. While the year was still young I was excited with the prospects of several ministry opportunities that showed potential of opening a new season for me as well. It was a welcomed change especially as I reflected on the events of three years ago; but here again comes that tricky “math thing.”

With each new prospect I found myself adding all the factors up, just as before, and doing all the same things I knew to do. I attacked each venture with a new found hope and expectation one of these opportunities was going to open and, to the best of my ability, kept God in the center of it all. So, what happened? 

This week, as I was praying, working (doing my natural part) and waiting for the Lord to open the doors of His choosing I was met with “Two No’s” and “One Yes.” In fact, the “One Yes” was for somebody else as I was praying for God to heal their body….which He faithfully and miraculously did! And guess what? The “Two No’s” were for items I was personally asking God to performed in my life.

But something amazing happened throughout this process. As I received the Two No’s and One Yes, all on the same day, I heard the Holy Spirit tell me, “It is all YES!” All of the no’s in my life, and places where I felt as if I had been passed over, are irrelevant to the one yes God has yet to speak. For the person who had just received the great report of healing they were no longer giving thought to the despair of the “no” because they were rejoicing in the “yes!” It was in this moment, where I might default into despair, I was greatly comforted  because I finally understood Jesus was not concerned about the “no” or “yes” because He cares about my responses throughout the process.

My math dictates all the known factors must equal an outcome of my choosing. However, God’s math allows for many known and unknown factors that confound logic, and even defy math, but result in answers of His will. Honestly speaking is my life about, My will be done on earth as it is Heaven  or Thy will be done? I often reflect back on the events of three years ago and wonder, What if and the only answer is in every season God’s “No” is charting my course toward His “Yes!” The challenge facing me, and everyone who can relate to today’s post, is not surrendering the call of God throughout the process and becoming unfaithful while waiting for God’s next. 

In life it may be true we are faced with many more closed doors and no’s than open doors and yes’. But I also believe it is true when God provides us His yes all of our past failures and missed opportunities fade into distant and forgotten memories. God is developing a far greater person throughout this journey and it is for us to choose to trust the process and believe that His math will always reveal the correct answers at the right time.

Blessings – JOSHUA

 

PRAYER….WORK….PATIENCE

The following is a short list of what I need every day: Prayer, Work and PATIENCE (in that order)!

The list of items, people  and circumstances I am praying for is growing daily. What started with a few moments of passing prayer, and a short list, has now approached one hour with little end in sight.

Of course the natural part of my understanding says, “God…answer some of these requests quickly so I can shorten my list and get on with my day!” But I am beginning to understand, ever so slightly, the will of God through my present season. The “getting on with my day” cannot succeed without a proper balance of prayer, work and patience. As a result I am also learning  a valuable life-long lesson I hope to pass along: Through personal circumstance, and times of waiting, God desires to teach us patience while also discipling us into a life of prayer. Said another way, Prayer requires patience and patience fuels prayer.

I suspect my prayer life will not lessen because the Lord also has to to teach me how to pray, work and wait. Therefore,  “my day” will have to hold on a little longer as these conversations with God develop to such a feverish pitch that I desire to pray, work and wait longer than what I may hope to accomplish without Jesus.

The commentary and verses from James (read below) fill in the gaps of what encourages me; and I hope you will take some time to read them and get a farmers perspective. 

Every day a farmer works, checks and monitors his fields for signs of change. Yet, a farmers season of reaping is never overnight (even with Miracle Grow). Likewise, patience is never just sitting idly by…..but it is understanding after you have done all you know and are able to do….wait on the Lord and continue to pray. The challenge is sometimes we choose to not work hard enough, other times we are too impatient to wait for God and some of us forget to pray.
So it is my prayer the Holy Spirit will guide you toward a balance of prayer, work and patience. Once you discover what God is doing through your present season embrace the moment  and don’t be afraid to commit to the process of being discipled by Him! – JOSHUA

 

Commentary Note from WW Wiersbe on Patience.

The patience of the poor (vv. 7–11).

James encourages these suffering Christians to get their eyes on the promise of Christ’s coming. The word “patient” (v. 8) does not mean that they were to sit idly by, doing nothing. Rather, the word carries the idea of endurance, bearing the burdens and fighting the battles until the Lord comes. He uses several illustrations to hammer home this lesson of patience. 

(1) The farmer (vv. 7–8). The farmer plants the seed and prepares the soil but does not reap a crop immediately. God sends the rains to water the soil, and then comes the harvest. (The early rain came in October and November and the latter rain in April and May.) Even so, the Christian must be patient, knowing that “in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).

(2) The judge (v. 9). Apparently their trials had made some of the Christians critical, and complainers emerged in the church. James reminds them that they are not to judge; Christ, the Judge, is at the door! He hears what is said, and He will come quickly and make things right. Murmuring and complaining is a serious sin among God’s people. If we would all remember that Christ is coming, we would not complain and criticize so much.

Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 734). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

7 “Brothers and sisters, be patient until the Lord comes again. See how farmers wait for their precious crops to grow. They wait patiently for fall and spring rains. 8 You, too, must be patient. Don’t give up hope. The Lord will soon be here. 9 Brothers and sisters, stop complaining about each other, or you will be condemned. Realize that the judge is standing at the door. 10 Brothers and sisters, follow the example of the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. They were patient when they suffered unjustly. 11 We consider those who endure to be blessed. You have heard about Job’s endurance. You saw that the Lord ended Job’s suffering because the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”

GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Jas 5:7–11). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

FIDELITY or NOT….

Since yesterday was Valentines Day my FB feed was full of couples surrounded by logos of love and romance. Even I decided to forward a humorous meme about love, my heart and my beard; and while I have little doubt these couples do love one another I began to wonder what is the most important foundation stone in a loving relationship?

Certainly we cannot build our strongest relationships on a single day, a box of candy, jewelry or a nice dinner. For most, Valentines Day is that “special day” where perhaps we do something a little different or try to express our love and appreciation in a more meaningful way; but one great Valentines Day cannot rebuild or mask a relationship that may be needing serious repair.

While gifts and movie are very enjoyable they  are still unable to underpin a meaningful relationship, which brings me back to those essential foundation pieces. While everyone’s answer will be slightly different I decided to turn to Scripture and discover what a relational, and loving God, considers necessary for a strong relationship. (See Nehemiah 9:23)

While much is often said about Nehemiah’s wall building project what is often lost in the narrative is the “why?” Why did Nehemiah have to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem? Setting aside the prophetic and political the answer of “why” comes down to Israel’s lack of faithfulness. Both literally and metaphorically when the walls are down it is a sign your fidelity has been compromised.

You may be experiencing broken walls in your marriage, work, family, friends and even God….yes, GOD! It is here we are quick to say, “We love God….we would never be unfaithful to Him!!!” Yet, sadly and too often we use Sunday, or some other random day, to be our spiritual valentines in a feeble attempt to rekindle a cold relationship or gloss over our fallen walls.

Let’s not go there! The passage of Nehemiah (see below) tells us all we need to know about how God responds to fidelity or the lack thereof. Nehemiah tells us how loving God is even when we are far from loving Him. The Scriptures remind us how faithful God is even in the “bad” seasons of life; and so as I ponder what are those crucial foundation pieces for a meaningful relationship….and I have come to this conclusion: Fidelity…..Be Faithful!

Temptation surrounds us daily but God’s faithfulness surrounds us all the more. If we think giving into temptation, and sin, will somehow escape the vision of a faithful God we are only fooling ourselves; because His faithful character loves us too much to just “let it slide.” Fidelity matters to God and the relationship He has extended to us demands faithfulness from us.

Of course, the expectation of faithfulness is not too much to ask for if we really love Him….So, do we REALLY love Him? Our relationship with God is bigger than one day, a simple praise song, a passing prayer or a FB meme. Our relationship with God is 24/7 and requires a level of genuine faithfulness; and if you are concerned this is a call to rules and regulations don’t worry……it’s not. But perhaps a few of our broken walls need to be rebuilt and we need to set up some barriers that we have allowed to slip? Maybe we all need a few more rules to help us preserve our fidelity, because it matters to God.

…Something to consider, pray and build on as you aim to develop a meaningful and faithful relationship with Jesus. – JOSHUA

 

“Against the dark background of Israel’s unfaithfulness shines the bright light of the faithfulness of God. When Israel obeyed Him, He was faithful to bless; when they disobeyed Him, He was faithful to chasten; when they asked for mercy, He was faithful to forgive. God is willing to give His people many privileges, but He will not give them the privilege of sinning and having their own way. God’s purposes are more important than our pleasures, and He will accomplish His purposes even if He has to chasten us to do it.”

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Determined (p. 115). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

THE PROMISE OF INNER CHANGE (Hebrews 8:10)

For the past five months I have been growing a beard and while I have always kept a “close shave” this is the first time I have allowed my beard to grow out. (For the record I am not trying to compete with Duck Dynasty)

As I looked back at the progress I noticed subtle changes along the way but after five months I have reached my goal of a healthy full length beard. Of course, I look little like the person of five months prior (for obvious reasons); but one thing my beard never did was change the inner being of Joshua Johnian. 

For better, or for worse, who I am on the inside still remains with or without a beard. If I am dealing a particular issue, struggling through a place of doubt, harboring anger or fear or even possessing great faith and allowing the HS to transform me daily my exterior image cannot change the inner man.

Too often we try to clean up or hide behind the exterior and with enough effort we can even trick ourselves into believing it is making some lasting and significant change. (Again, a good shave, trim, haircut and set of clothes go a long way in making you feel good) But any exterior change wears off, gets boring and given enough time also needs to be freshened up.

So, what’s the point?

The Promise of God brings with it the Promise of Lasting Inner Change. Certainly the outer image is important to God but we are all guilty of trying to trick God and fool ourselves with an outer “coat of paint” without allowing the HS to change what is in need of desperate repair and remodeling on the inside.

One more example: My wife loves the show “Fixer Upper” and we will watch the amazing rehab projects Chip and JoJo perform week after week. You know what I have noticed? While they will spend time fixing the outside the bulk of their energy, expertise and resources are spent totally remodeling every detail of the inside. With a careful attention every house is redone to perfection and with great joy to the future homeowner.

Often we hear mantra’s that tell us, “look within…” and I can’t help but wonder if I, or you, need to allow a “fixer upper” project on ourselves?

God created us with “great bones” and our bodies, like a natural home, are created to house God’s beautiful, and original intention, from the inside-out. The Promise of Inner Change, for me, is an enduring reminder I can’t get around what is needed most in my journey: Inner Change.

If we will allow God’s promise to actually be manifest in our lives then we will experience change both in and out. And, best of all, we will be living with an active Promise of God operating in our lives and positioning us for further blessing!

Today, ask the HS to start the remodeling process and trust God that He has the master design for you while Jesus reassures us the project of the inner you is much better than what you are working on today. – PASTOR JOSHUA

 

“Read Jer. 31:31 for the promise of the New Covenant, and note that it involves an inner change of the heart. Read 2 Cor. 3 for additional light on this wonderful topic. The Old Covenant was written with the finger of God on tablets of stone, but the New Covenant is written by the Spirit on the human heart and mind. An external law can never change a person; it must become a part of the inner life if it is to change our behavior. See Deut. 6:6–9. This is the meaning of Rom. 8:4—“That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.” This is accomplished, of course, by the Holy Spirit, who enables us to obey God’s Word.”

Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 698). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

DARE TO BE FIRST

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It was a warm summer day and hundreds of parents, children and infants were huddled in groups of ten or more waiting for their turn to line up and race. The Field Day of my childhood was always an exciting time of the year when the beautiful downtown of Winchester, Massachusetts took on a festival-like nature with booths of arts and crafts and foods that lined Main Street. Eventually our group name would be called and at that moment I remember desiring only one thing: TO BE FIRST! Of course, there were some races I won, most I lost and a few I never finished, but in every race I always wanted to be first.

The Bible has quiet a lot to say about being first:

“This is what the Lord says: I am the first and the last, and there is no God except me.”[1]

“But first, be concerned about his kingdom and what has his approval. Then all these things will be provided for you.”[2]

However, many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”[3]

“I’m coming soon! I will bring my reward with me to pay all people based on what they have done. I am the A and the Z, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”[4]

If God has this much to say about being “first” why then is our culture determined to replace first for fairness? Merriam –Webster defines FIRST as: preceding all others in time, order and importance; or, having the highest or most prominent part among a group of similar voices. First can also be explained as a first occurrence or an item that is of the finest grade; and in the case of my Field Day experiences, winning highest place in a competition.

The priority of what we keep first and how we do so is of the utmost importance and Scripture clearly affirms where our heart, mind and soul should primarily be focused. However, I find it curious why even in the body of Christ many Christians shy away from a desire to be first. Doesn’t God wanted His people to be pioneers, champions, leaders in principle, paramount in our faith and outstanding in our godliness? Is to too much to ask Christian’s to consider God doesn’t want us to live secondary to this world or a subsidiary to the culture and subordinate to evil. Do we ever read God desires for us to be the slightest, smallest or trivial? On the contrary if God is first than He has first place plans and purposes for every life that loves, trusts and honors Him as Lord.

“Abraham Lincoln used to remark that he could get any number of men who are ‘willing to shed their last drop of blood.’ but he found it difficult to get men to shed their first drop to make a beginning.”[5] Don’t talk about what you will do for Jesus tomorrow, just begin by placing Him first today through loving Him, serving Him and following where He may lead. Dare and desire to be first again!

Grace and Peace.

Pastor Joshua-Paul Johnian Sr., M.A. / www.maranathach.com

 

[1] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Is 44:6). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[2] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Mt 6:33–34). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[3] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Mt 19:30). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[4] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Re 22:12–13). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[5] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1630). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

ARE YOU RESILIENT? (Exodus 17)

 

Resilience_2Have you ever owned a motivational poster? Perhaps you have seen them hanging on an office wall or have given one away to a graduate? Most posters usually capture your attention with a confident picture followed by a bold title such as Teamwork, Strength or Courage. I have owned and given away my fair share of such pictures and often drawn from an abundance of histories, legends and tall tales that stir me. One theme that not only inspires but challenges my ordinary of life is: RESILIENCE. When I hear the word resilience I conjure images of strong warriors, tough pioneers and irrepressible people. Whether I draw such examples from men like William Wallace, Lewis and Clark or the colonial patriots labels such heros and famous battles begin to dot the historical landscape of my thoughts. For most, stories of resilience encourage and motivate us to not surrender despite the struggle, hardship or insurmountable odds. Resilience is the ability to work with circumstances, often adverse, in such a way that one comes through the change and transition better for the experience. Resilience means facing life’s difficulties with courage and patience – using one’s training and refusing to never give up. Resilience is discovered in the quality of character that allows a person, or group of people, to rebound from misfortune, hardships and traumas.

Resilience is also rooted in a tenacity of spirit—a determination to embrace all that makes life worth living even in the face of overwhelming odds. You will find examples of resilience from great to small and written in and on the lives of men and women who possess a clear sense of identity and purpose; and with identity and purpose we all become more resilient because we can hold fast to our vision of a better future, a greater hope and a glorious return.

Much of what we understand as resilience is learned from community before it is ever personally experienced. Stories you pick up along life’s journey teach you how to develop and trust in certain relationships that allow you to lean on others for added support when it is needed most. Resilience forces everyone to actively apply their training so as to face the awkward and uncomfortable while expecting, by faith, God is for us and with us!

While resilience, for most, falls too conveniently into a discussion on willpower and strict focus to live resilient is not solely dependent on determination and heart. Some of the most acute thinkers give up too easily when faced with the slightest adversity. Examples of gifted athletes waste their skill preferring to approach their training in an undisciplined and casual manner and even the most dedicated use of willpower can be dogged by addictions, fears or insecurities. Therefore, the pursuit of any man or women being trained to live, behave and develop into disciples of Jesus cannot rely on willpower, focus and self-help to equip them for a resilient faith. Rather, the secret of the Christian’s resilience is never in us but in Jesus! Our success is a result of a life deeply rooted and trusting in Him.

Think about your own story and ask when was the last time you faced a circumstance, transition or change? When was your last or current encounter that seemed impossible? What set-back or failure sent you reeling? Yet, after all the difficulties of transition, change, circumstance and impossibilities you still got back up, pressed on and refused to give up on your God-given vision. If you have or are currently journeying through a similar path as the one I have outline above, and you are not giving up, then you have planted a mustard seed of faith and resilience for this season and the next to come.

Of course any set back can slow the most determined for a time. I equate such moments like the athlete who gets the wind knocked out of them after a big hit. Maybe you are a student who unexpectedly fails a big test, the musician that blows an audition, a professional who doesn’t get the promotion or even the pastor that feels stuck in the grind. Yet, the resilient athlete will be back on the field expecting to make the next big play. The resilient student will study better for the next exam, the resilient musician will practice more efficiently, the resilient professional will continue to pursue that next opportunity and the resilient pastor will go back to the drawing board knowing God has a better and best.

resilience_1Even with a mustard seed of resilience you have a tree of great faith and hope growing inside of you! Given time, and opportunity, that “tree” establishes you in such a place where you are able withstand storms, trails and even broken limbs. But let me ask you to consider a question: Is any tree able to withstand all of the adversities of life and grow just because it is a tree? Or does the tree require assistance? I have seen the mightiest of trees felled by even stronger storms and I have planted a few trees knowing in those early stages they would need stakes and ropes to help them withstand the seasons ahead. To the naked eye the tree’s only support is in how deep its roots are able to extend but Scripture reveals it is not in the tree or its roots but where the roots draw their life that guarantees its future. (See Jeremiah 17:8, Psalm 1:3, Matt 12:33)

What if I told you after the Red Sea crossing and before the Jericho stand off the children of Israel would encounter 15 key transitions over 40 years. Forty years of failures, wars, disappointments, delayed promises, betrayals, financial set backs, moral failures, spiritual blindness but also lasting friendships, faithful friends, disciples, God’s presence, signs, wonders, miracles and eventually victory. Willpower and focus couldn’t prepare them to endure the roller coaster of events for such a long and tumultuous period of time. Likewise, if you are attempting to work through such tough times with a few self-help manuals, a favorite podcast and a little Jesus on the side you also may loose your resilience. Why? Because you may have missed the key source of what makes you resilient and why you are called to live resilient.

Two Questions: Who makes you resilient? And, Why Remain Resilient?

Exodus Chapter 17 records an amazing story of faithfulness, miracles and most of all resilience (read Exodus Ch.17). Many will read this chapter and either focus on the Lord allowing water to be drawn from a rock or the events surrounding Israel’s victory over the Amalekites. But the multiple themes of resilience that are dispersed throughout this chapter can easily be overlooked if you don’t consider what the Lord was depositing into the fabric of His people for the journey ahead.

Resilience Test #1 Can You Trust the Lord for Every Step of the Journey?

Exodus 17 opens with, The whole community of Israelites left the desert of Sin and traveled from place to place as the Lord commanded them.”

It is difficult to imagine a Red Sea miracle followed by bitter waters turned drinkable and a journey through a wilderness could be part of the over-arching plan of God. Most would conclude in some way Israel, and Moses, must have missed a divine cue and were now wandering without any quick resolution in plain sight. Yet, the Scriptural evidence is clear Israel was travelling from place to place as the Lord had commanded them. Can you trust the Lord for every step of the journey even when it seems you may be off course, in a desperate season or completely out of options? This is the first battle line when resilience is tested. The “Exodus 17 moments” have a way of crashing reality into our theoretical and when such moments occur all one is able to due is hang on to God’s direction or look for a way to escape back to our Egypt. Some might claim it is in the circumstances of life we learn how to live resilient but I would counter that opinion with it is God who makes us resilient and He allows the circumstances to test our trust of His character, faithfulness and love.

Resilience Test #2: When Relief Comes and You Are Still Attacked.

Despite their complaining God allowed water to come from the barrenness of the wilderness and, for the moment, Israel was resupplied. But the temporary respite from adversity was only long enough to catch their breath when they soon discovered the Amalekites were planning to attack them. I have certainly been guilty of complaining to God about my seasons of circumstance and I have even more loudly objected when I felt my eventual deliverance was cut short by and unexpected, and a far greater, challenge. Do you recall I mentioned earlier when you pass a challenging season God deposits a mustard seed of resilience for the next season? It may be hard to imagine but the faithfulness of God’s provision, despite the complaining, placed enough of seed of resilience for an even greater test ahead. Thankfully Israel was up to the challenge and not because they were now well supplied but because they saw God was their faithful supplier and He could be trusted in this next battle as well.

The Amalekites fought Israel at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men. Then fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill. I will hold in my hand the staff God told me to take along.” 10 Joshua did as Moses told him and fought the Amalekites, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, Israel would win, but as soon as he put his hands down, the Amalekites would start to win. 12 Eventually, Moses’ hands felt heavy. So Aaron and Hur took a rock, put it under him, and he sat on it. Aaron held up one hand, and Hur held up the other. His hands remained steady until sunset. 13 So Joshua defeated the Amalekite army in battle.” [1]

Hur_1The battle sequence of events is nothing short of spectacular and filled with resilience throughout. From Joshua, and the men who fought the physical battle, to Moses standing in intercession and Aaron and Hur who held Moses’ arms upright throughout the battle everyone was committed to resilience and the victory was guaranteed. We often think our battle is just between us and whatever we are up against, but this is not true. The community of faith that knows where their true source of victory resides will always be able to rely on one another for support, encouragement and prayer.

When your relief comes and you are still under the attack remember your deliverance will not be in rocks, staffs and whatever you can grab hold of. Certainly God can, and often does, use a variety of tools to deliver His people but the answer is always Him. Blessed are the individuals who have the community that prays, trusts, loves and even fights for one another when facing adversity. Blessed is the community that understands where their resilience comes from, because that community will survive and thrive with God’s favor and blessing.

Question #1: Who Makes You Resilient? The answer is God!

Finally, let me answer the last question: Why Remain Resilient? To understand the why we do not need to skip past the closing verses of Exodus 17. 14 “The Lord said to Moses, “Write this reminder on a scroll, and make sure that Joshua hears it, too: I will completely erase any memory of the Amalekites from the earth.” 15 Moses built an altar and called it The Lord Is My Banner. 16 He said, “Because a hand was lifted against the Lord’s throne, he will be at war against the Amalekites from one generation to the next.”[2]

Our circumstance is always experienced in real, deep and profound personal ways. When we are struggling through any season it is reasonable to think we are walking through that particular battle alone. While it may feel like our circumstance is, “Me versus them” the reality is many others are in this battle with you. You are not alone! There may be family, loved ones and friends who are emotionally and spiritually invested in your circumstance and standing with you for your support and hope during such times. This is important to remember because any circumstance tends to create tunnel vision when, during such times, we should ask a deeper question as to why we remain resilient.

Exodus 17 reveals God’s master plan at work in not only planting the seeds of resilience within His people but also allowing Israel to face an adverse circumstance for the greater vision of the future Kingdom and future generations.

Forgotten in the journey, miracles and tests of resilience was the great sin of the Amalekites against God. As a people, and even from their decedents, they had “gone on the record” as being against God and His Kingdom. Furthermore, God had now raised His hand against them, for every generation, and was going to use Israel to deliver His divine judgment. Do you see what is happening? God allowed Israel’s journey through the Wilderness of Sin, Rephidim and now the battle with the Amalekites to extend the Kingdom plan beyond the immediate circumstances facing Israel. This is the opposite of tunnel vision by seeing your seasons through the lens of God’s vision. Exodus 17 reveals the final and greatest reminder of victory for every person who actually sees it and remembers: Jehovah –Nissi, the Lord my banner.

Battles as well as blessings mark the course of a believer’s pilgrimage. Sometimes the Lord fights for his people (IE: The Red Sea), and sometimes through his people. In any case believers can be confident that He who is in their midst is greater than any enemy which may be encountered. How often do we try to fight alone, suffer alone and think we won the day by ourselves? Our life is greater than the here and now; and while the struggle is very real the larger plan unfolding is even more real. The individual that develops the God-based resilient life will live greater in this life and in the life to come when they comprehend and trust:

  1. God Makes You Resilient
  2. Your Resilience is For Kingdom
  3. Your Circumstance Establishes the Lord is Your Banner

Let me close today’s reflection with two remarkable stories of resilience and I pray these true stories will plant and nourish the seeds of resilience in your life.

Live resilient and stay resilient!

Blessings – Pastor JOSHUA

STORY #1

Dan Crawford, the successor to David Livingstone, carried a copy of the New Testament in the pocket of his jacket. At the time of his death someone found the following verses penned on the flyleaf of that well-worn Book: “I cannot do it alone! The waves dash fast and high; the fog comes chill around, and the light goes out in the sky. But I know that we two shall win in the end—Jesus and I. Coward and wayward and weak, I change with the changing sky; today so strong and brave, tomorrow too weak to fly. But He never gives up, so we two shall win—Jesus and I!”[3]

STORY #2

One evening Lord Radstock was speaking at a meeting in Woolwich, and afterwards nearly missed his train home. He had just time to jump in as the guard blew his whistle. But a young army officer had followed him to the platform and, running up to the carriage window, said to Lord Radstock, “Sir, I heard you speak tonight, but tell me, how can a fellow keep straight?” The train began to move. Lord Radstock pulled a pencil from his pocket and laid it on the palm of his hand. “Can that pencil stand upright?” “No,” said the young officer. Lord Radstock grasped the pencil in his hand, and held it up in an upright position. “Ah!” said the young fellow, moving beside the train, “but you are holding it now.” “Yes,” said Lord Radstock,” and your life is like this pencil, helpless, but Christ is the hand that can hold you.” As the train rounded the curve and was lost to sight, the last thing the young officer saw was Lord Radstock’s outstretched hand holding that pencil upright. Twenty-five years later the same officer met Lord Radstock in India, and told him that all those many years ago, on that railway platform, he had trusted his life to Christ, who had upheld him and kept him ever since.[4]

 

[1] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Ex 17:1–16). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[2] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Ex 17:1–16). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[3] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 523). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

[4] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 523). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

“TRAINED, BEING TRAINED & TRAINING OTHERS” PT. 2

Not to long ago the heating unit in my house quit working. Fortunately I purchased a service warranty that included labor, but the contract didn’t cover replacement parts. After a phone call, my best attempt to explain the issue and a visit from the repairman the furnace was once again working and soon warming my house. As I reflect on this story I am reminded that a few tools, a Youtube video and a general idea of what a problem sounds like doesn’t make me a trained HVAC specialist. I could have tinkered, tested and attempted to fix the problem but even if I was able to restore my heating unit to a working state I still could not advertise myself as a licensed professional.

Everyone possesses several sets of transferrable skills that enable them to accomplish quiet a bit of work in a pinch. Sayings like, jack of all trades and master of none come to mind when I think of a person who can do just about anything but doesn’t have the professional training to qualify them as being able to teach others. My brother, Don, is an excellent example of the type of person that can repair, jury rig and even invent anything. But if you were to ask my brother if he considered himself an expert in any one of these “fixing” areas he would have to say no. Like me, my brother, has spent a life time being trained in ministry and his training has matured through seasons of Bible college, pastoring as well as serving in a variety of ministry vocations for over forty years. So, while Don may be able to partially repair anything he is far better trained to minster Jesus to a broken soul.

While few would accept an untrained individual to fix their HVAC unit, do a repair on their house, present  financial advise or care for personal items of great value we tend to overlook the need for essential training in places most necessary… and especially in the ministry. Somehow it has become vogue to present oneself as an optimistic spiritual mystic that between God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit possess enough skill and training to carry the full work and burden of the Kingdom. While God does call everyone from seasons of immaturity some choose to avoid the tried and true journey of preparation, testing and training that equip them for ministry and the holy work of God’s business. The results of personal laziness and spiritual / cultural acceptance have couched false doctrines, accepted strange redefinitions of theology and even adopted pseudo – Christian behaviors in a new meta-narrative that ebb and flows on the tides of cultural and spiritual syncretism. While the truth of God’s Word has always been the shield and sword against such attacks, on Biblical Orthodoxy, another strong line of defense has resided in the personal commitment to anchor oneself in proper training. Therefore to commitment to being trained, re-trained and training others is essential for the effectaul work of the Kingdom.

It (the Word) trains us to avoid ungodly lives filled with worldly desires so that we can live self-controlled, moral, and godly lives in this present world.” [1]

In my last post I quoted examples of men and women who can attribute their success toward a commitment to training. From Queen Elizabeth II to Herschel Walker or Arnold Schwarzenegger the dedication to being trained, re-trained and training others is not just a principle for good business, or successful living, but a very Biblical method that has been repeated time after time with remarkable Kingdom success.

Peter_1THE VALUE OF TRAINING

While it might make for a fun sermon illustration or clever way to present Jesus, and His twelve disciples, the Biblical and historical facts have never supported a Messiah, and His followers, that were simple, uneducated or untrained. From Jesus and throughout the development of the church the call for trained individuals has always been a repeating mantra of the “Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven.” A very brief exploration into the lives of the men and women of our faith reveal:

Jesus: A trained general contractor, for close the thirty years, and skilled carpenter.

Peter: A trained fisherman, business partner and owner in a successful fishing business within the heart of an ethnically diverse community of Jews and gentiles.

Andrew: A trained fisherman and business partner with Peter.

James and John the sons of Zebedee: Trained fishermen and business partners with Peter and Andrew.

Matthew: A Roman sanctioned tax collector.

Luke: A physician

Paul: The greatest theological mind of his age trained by the greatest rabbinical thinker of his generation (Gamaliel).

Apollos: A wealthy Alexandrian born Jew with an education in philosophy and law.

Priscilla and Aquila: Wealthy Roman – Jewish tent makers in an age when the tent industry and trade was essential to 1st century living and commerce.

Lydia: A wealthy merchant in fine and expensive fabrics.

Philemon: A wealthy land owner.

This list goes on……

While one may search long and hard for the solitary individual that has somehow avoided the rigors of training it is evident the Bible reveals an ongoing process to live as one trained, being re-trained and committed to training others. Here are some additional Scriptural examples that present the value of being trained for a season of Gods larger vision:

“When Abram heard that his nephew had been captured, he armed his 318 trained men, born in his own household, and pursued the four kings all the way to Dan.”

“The descendants of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh had 44,760 soldiers ready to go to war. They were skilled fighters who could carry shields and swords and shoot arrows.” [2]

“They, along with their relatives, were trained, skilled musicians for the Lord. There were 288 of them.”[3]

“Send me a man who has the skill to work with gold, silver, bronze, and iron as well as purple, dark red, and violet cloth. He should know how to make engravings with the skilled men whom my father David provided for me in Judah and Jerusalem….He was the son of a woman from the tribe of Dan, and his father is a native of Tyre. Huram knows how to work with gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, wood, purple, violet, and dark red cloth, and linen. He also knows how to make all kinds of engravings and follow any set of plans that will be given to him. He can work with your skilled workmen and the skilled workmen of His Majesty David, your father. [4]


Jesus-and-PeterTHE VALUE OF RE-TRAINING

In a rapidly evolving economy industry changes, business’ adjust their best practices and anyone seeking gainful employment pursues education….and in some cases re-education. At the turn of the twentieth century the horse and buggy was still a booming business. From the horse breeders, carriage makers and drivers it would be hard to imagine the new demand for faster transportation could outpace the horse and carriage. Nevertheless, technology inspired locomotive, later the automobile, and within a few decades the horse and buggy disappeared. Have you stopped to consider what happened to all of the artisans, breeders and laborers in this once thriving industry? In one word….Re-Training!

If the industries of the world  are willing to embrace re-training why are we slow to incorporate such an attitude within the community of faith? Too often we make the mistake believing since we are skilled in one particular field we become instantly trained for another field. Again, while some skills are always transferrable the reality is to become successful, in any new field, you must embrace an ongoing approach of re-training; and so, in the ministry of God’s work, it should not be any different.

Peter and the other disciples were certainly trained in the industry of their upbringing and for the time. But trained fishermen, tax collectors, doctors, thinkers, captains of industry and theologians will not immediately transfer into effective Kingdom disciples unless they are re-trained by a master teacher. Many of Jesus’ parables drew from the events that surrounded everyday life and everyone  understood these examples relative to their paradim. Therefore, Jesus chose an amazing tool of parables to communicate and re-train the hearers to the principles of the Kingdom. Jesus wasn’t just talking in theory or idealistic opinions; rather He was applying the real “nuts and bolts” of how the Kingdom of Heaven really lives, moves and has purpose in the same way their world moved around them. Even still, these multi-purposed parables had the ability to penetrate the understanding of untrained individuals with the express intent to invite them on a journey of discipleship or re-training. It could not have been easy re-training professionally trained people but within roughly a three-year window the disciples were trained enough to  advance the Great Commission beyond Jerusalem and into the far reaches of the known and unknown world.

“So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua, son of Nun, a man who has the Spirit, and place your hand on him. Make him stand in front of the priest Eleazar and the whole community, and give him his instructions in their presence. Give him some of your authority so that the whole community of Israel will obey him… Moses placed his hands on Joshua and gave him his instructions as the Lord had told him.”

So Jesus said to them, “That is why every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a home owner. He brings new and old things out of his treasure chest.”[5]

gathering3TRAINED AND TRAINING OTHERS

Throughout any person’s journey they will encounter circumstances where training is the difference between success and failure. While failure is not final we would all agree success leaves a far better taste in our mouth than the sour memories of failure. Even the best-trained person can, from time to time, encounter a well-trained adversary and when this occurs a committed, and trained, professional will re-train so as to  move past their adversary. This past week I watched a 30 for 30 documentary featuring the story of two great female tennis athletes. Their rivalry, commitment to success, training and re-training pushed the other to compete, all the more, so as not to loose. The result of their professional rivalry  gave both athletes long and highly successful careers with the added bonus of a deep and meaningful personal friendship. But their journey hasn’t drifted into retirement because they still apply their experience, skill and training to training future tennis athletes.

The years Jesus spent with His disciples was not for “hanging out” and trying some new ideas. These critical years of re-training were for Kingdom purpose and a time soon coming where these disciples would need to train others. It should come as no surprise to us Jesus’ twelve (and there were many more) did exactly what they were trained to do…keep the great commission and make disciples! Just look at some of Peter’s early examples of leadership,  teaching and training others:

  • After the ascension of Jesus Peter was the main leader of the Church in Jerusalem (Acts 1:13–14).
  • He initiated the replacement of Judas (vv. 15–26), showing by this that he was in some sense aware of the future mission of the apostles (v. 22).
  • When the Church’s growth was initiated by Pentecost, he stepped forward as interpreter of the event and the preacher of the Gospel to the crowd that assembled (ch. 2).
  • Peter played a significant part in the Church in Israel. He healed people (3:1–10; 5:15–16; 9:32–43), preached to crowds (3:12–26; 5:21, 42), was jailed (4:1–3; 5:17–18, 26; 12:3–5) and miraculously released (5:19–20; 12:6–17), as well as spoke to government authorities about Jesus (4:5–12; 5:27–32).
  • Peter played a central role in some of the events that took the Church beyond its original limitation to Judean Jews (8:14–25; 10:1–11:18; cf. Gal. 1:18–19). At the Apostolic Council, which took place after Pete_Cornhe could safely return to Jerusalem, Peter took a leading part in the defense of evangelism of Gentiles, which did not require conformity to Judaism (Acts 15:7–11; cf. Gal. 2:8–10).
  • Peter, after Antioch, (Gal. 2:11–14) went on missionary journeys farther into the Gentile world (1 Cor. 1:12; 3:22; 9:5).
  • According to strong evidence from the early Church, Peter went to Rome (“Babylon” at 1 Pet. 5:13) and died as a martyr there under Nero.
  • He was later called a founder (with Paul) and a bishop of the church in Rome, but it is unlikely that he was recognized as either during his lifetime.[6] 

We can all learn from the valued lessons of being trained, open to re-training and committed to training others. The full authority of Scripture is committed to the process of training and always discourages the lack of training which is why one of the key purposes of Scripture is to train and equip us for the days we walk with Kingdom purpose. Every Scripture passage is inspired by God. All of them are useful for teaching, pointing out errors, correcting people, and training them for a life that has God’s approval.”[7]

Sadly some try to avoid Godly training as much as possible partly because they are bogged down with training for everything else life presents them with. Family, work and even recreation all take a measure of dedication to do it well, and by the time we split our life into four or five different paths of training it is Kingdom training that tends to fall into that optional “thing we do on any given Sunday.” The end result? The mission of the Kingdom is stunted and our spiritual purpose / identity suffers most. Unfortunately, if we are relying on our pastor, or occasional pursuit of Godliness, to get us through life we will soon be frustrated and disappointed when our spiritual development is underdeveloped and lacking due to a lack of training.

There is no quick way around training. It takes time, commitment, vision and purpose. But when you set your heart to the heart of the Kingdom, first, God has a way of making life fall into perfect order and timing. Our aversion to training is best explained by the author of Hebrews, We don’t enjoy being disciplined. It always seems to cause more pain than joy. But later on, those who learn from that discipline have peace that comes from doing what is right.”[8]

Seasons of training, re-training and training others are deliberate, take time, resources, valuable energy and patience. The need for training is essential not just in the ordinary of daily life but also in the call of the Kingdom. Everyone falls into one of three categories of training and whatever particular season you are in set, in the forefront of your mind, you will always be living in seasons of training. Let us learn from history, Scripture and the process of Kingdom development so we may also be useful and satisfied in this life and for the age to come.

Blessings – Pastor JOSHUA

 

[1] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Tt 2:12). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[2] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (1 Ch 5:18). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[3] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (1 Ch 25:7). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[4] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (2 Ch 2:7–14). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[5] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Mt 13:52). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[6] Myers, A. C. (1987). In The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (p. 818). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

[7] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (2 Ti 3:16). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[8] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Heb 12:11). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

“TRAINED, BEING TRAINED & TRAINING OTHERS” PT. 1

imagesThis past week I set reservations for my family to participate in our son’s first college visit. Of course there is certain anxiousness in the entire process as we move through the steps of selecting schools, financial aid, scholarships, grades, ACT’s and the reality that our son is preparing for his next big step into life. While everything feels as if it has happened “all at once” the truth is we didn’t arrive at this season overnight. In fact, the journey started fifteen years ago when Jeannette and I made a small deposit into Joshua’s college fund; and the many years that followed we have continued to make deposits into his ongoing training for this eventual step into adulthood.

The-Queen-Elizabeth-IIIt’s all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you’re properly trained. Queen Elizabeth II

Joshua’s journey has not been any different than training you or I have experienced. At some point the circumstances of life initiated seasons of change and transition; and with every transition we needed to learn how to survive, adapt and succeed. Often the process of training is difficult, tedious and even painful and in the moment we may have a difficult time discovering the rewards for finishing the process. The inescapable truth is, naturally and spiritually, a properly trained person will always accomplish more than an untrained person. But what is proper training? What if you have been trained properly in improper methods and approaches? You may achieve the goal of accomplishing “more” but the results of the efforts will not be for your better or God’s best.

Training is important but proper training is essential! Without the proper approach, mindset, commitment and even technique we will develop into misshapen and underperforming individuals. God’s best is that we are molded in His likeness, with His heart, complete, fulfilled, satisfied and whole in our body, mind and spirit. To achieve God’s desired returns us to the principle of proper training and the acceptance of the hard work that is ahead of us. But just when you think you are incapable of doing anything more remember you are stronger than you think you are right now, you have more ability than limitations and, with God, your reward is greater than what you can imagine.

arnold-schwarzeneggers-8-best-training-principles-musclepharm-arnold-series-graphic-1What we face may look insurmountable. But I learned something from all those years of training and competing. I learned something from all those sets and reps when I didn’t think I could lift another ounce of weight. What I learned is that we are always stronger than we know.Arnold Schwarzenegger

Pumping Irion is a remarkable documentary capturing a snapshot of the Mr. Olympia contest during Arnold Schwarzenegger’s final years of professional competition. Several prominent bodybuilders were featured throughout the film but it was obvious Arnold was the main star. For almost a decade Arnold dominated the world of competitive bodybuilding and every rep, set, failure, victory and hours spent training propelled him from a tall muscular Austrian, in an obscure sport, to a world known action movie star and future politician. Have you taken a look at yourself in the mirror lately? Don’t get caught evaluating the exterior because looks are deceiving. Rather look closely into the places where God is examining the true you. God always uses circumstances and transitional seasons to train and equip us. At times, those changes will be very natural and obvious but in other instances God will use the unseen to properly train the places in our Spirit (heart) that weights, pulleys and books cannot develop.

Webster’s dictionary defines to TRAIN as:

1 a: the act, process, or method of one that trains

b: the skill, knowledge, or experience acquired by one that trains

2: the state of being trained[1] (also see Training: instruction, schooling, teaching, tuition, tutelage)[2]

Even I bristle at the idea of process and method; and for me such a definition feels mechanical and lifeless. But those are undisciplined excuses I prefer to use to avoid the reality that training is not just a worldly professional pursuit but a God ordained endeavor that He initiates, develops, encourages, uses and blesses.

Judges 3:1–2: “These are the nations the Lord left behind to test all the Israelites who had not experienced any war in Canaan. The Lord left them to teach Israel’s descendants about war, at least those who had known nothing about it in the past.”

2 Samuel 22:35: “He trains my hands for battle so that my arms can bend an archer’s bow of bronze.”

stubborn-as-an-oxWILD OX VERSUS TRAINED CALF

An example of our resistance to training is found in the book of Job when God uses the illustration of a wild ox to address Job’s endless questions of, Why me Lord?

 “Will the wild ox agree to serve you, 

or will it stay at night beside your feeding trough?

Can you guide a wild ox in a furrow, or will it plow the valleys behind you?

Can you trust it just because it’s so strong or leave your labor to it?

Can you rely on it to bring your grain back and take it to your threshing floor?[3]

Like the wild ox everyone possess enough strength and ability to accomplish anything. We can plow, we are physically capable and we are even able to reap great returns. Yet, despite this unlimited potential we will never accomplish Kingdom goals unless we have a teacher, who will harness our ability (talent), to train us in accomplishing Kingdom tasks ahead. In contrast to Job’s wild ox consider how God speaks about His people in another part of Scripture,

“Ephraim is like a trained calf that loves to thresh grain.

I will put a yoke on its beautiful neck. I will harness Ephraim.

Judah must plow. Jacob must break up the ground.”[4]

What a difference between the wild ox and the trained calf! For the individual who will commit to the process, and method, of training God sees them as beautiful and useful instruments with Kingdom purpose and reward. Both the ox and calf are designed for labor. They will both work, be fed and bring in a harvest; but the trained calf will always accomplish more for the King and Kingdom than the wild ox who, for a season, appears as if he /she may be able to do more but ultimately misses the mark due to lack of training.

img_1141My God given talent is my ability to stick with training longer than anybody else.Herschel Walker

Far too often we rely on what we believe to be our God given talent translating into Kingdom training when, in reality, we will be more effective disciples if we will commit to the process, method and approach of proper training born from Kingdom perspective. Certainly God uses “transferrable skills” but He doesn’t rely on our skills to accomplish His work. God will always enable what He has blessed us with, but in an un-trained state we will revert back to the wild ox and fall into the trap of trusting ourselves through works of strength, intellect and will. This is never how God works! God does work with the trained, skilled and willing but most important He works with person who recognizes they still require more training, from Him, beyond what they think they have or need. God doesn’t require our strength, intellect or willpower to accomplish His Kingdom desires; but God enhances our talent (through the power of the Holy Spirit) of trained hearts to amplify the seasons of reward and harvest.

God is set on training! He is always looking for the next willing heart to be harnessed under His gentle yoke and plow for Kingdom reward. Best of all God’s training is the most proper training of all because it is perfect, complete and entirely beneficial for the man or woman who will commit to the method and process.

Next week we will look at a man who was trained, went through re-training and continued to train others for the glory of God. Today I want to encourage you to ask yourself, “Am I a wild ox or a trained calf?” If you are a wild ox then this year is an excellent opportunity to restart with some proper training and engage God’s method and approach. If you are a trained calf then get ready, because this year you will bring in some new harvest as you continue to labor for King Jesus and His Kingdom.

Blessings – Pastor JOSHUA

[1] Mish, F. C. (2003). Preface. Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.

[2] Merriam-Webster, I. (1996). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate thesaurus. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster.

[3] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Job 39:9–12). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[4] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Ho 10:11). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

TRANSITION THAT COMES FROM CIRCUMSTANCE AND CHANGE BORN FROM TRANSITION

Two weeks ago the opening round of the NFL playoffs provided the perfect canvas to present the idea of The Oddity of Circumstance? In what appeared to be the “random” event of every visiting team winning (a NFL first) was corrected, this past week, with every home team winning the following round. It was as if the anomaly of chance and circumstances transitioned into a scenario of what was supposed to happen all along.

dm_150102_nfl_live_predictions_cardinals_panthers

There is nothing odd in circumstance because all circumstances have the unique ability to trigger transition and everyone is need of change at some point in time. Most people like the idea of change but seldom are they truly open to what change will really do to their status quo. For example, we would gladly welcome a positive change in our financial circumstances; but nobody would want a change, for the worse, in their health. Obviously everyone wants a change for the better but it is also in how we presently view any circumstance do we color the seasons of transition as “good” or “bad.”

Steve jobs“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” – Steve Jobs

At some point your life will require a series of circumstances, to occur, that will initiate a season of transition and eventual change. We have all looked in the mirror and said, Today will be different…it needs to be; but just when we are prepared to break from our established mold we discover the familiar patterns and mindsets are to entrenched to break free.

shaw3George Bernard Shaw said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Shaw’s changing of the mind is what needs to be challenged and it is during the moments of circumstance God initiates a transition that, if followed through to the end, will lead to a necessary and lasting change for God’s best.

Consider the life of Abraham, before he was father of our great faith, the intercessor for his nephew Lot or even the man of Mt. Sinai; Abraham was first Abram. Remarkably it is in what we learn about Abram that helps us discover a pattern for every man and woman. Stephen (see Acts 7) fills in the “missing history” of Abram’s Genesis calling and the unfolding of a man who had “the right kind of God stuff.” But Abram was also a man of his age, culture and un-renewed mind every bit trapped by his circumstance, as you and I, until God initiated seasons of transition.

Genesis recounts the story of God’s invitation for Abram to join in covenant, with God, and even after his initial agreement it still took over twenty years for Abram to first settle in Canaan. Why did it take Abram so long to travel from Ur to Canaan with temporary stops in Paddam-Aram (Haran) and Egypt? I would suggest God knew the life that was familiar and acceptable to Abram required a series of circumstances and transitions to prepare Abram for the future calling of Abraham.

While Abram is a derivative of the name Abraham the two names carry very different weight, authority and promise. Originally the name of this patriarch was Abram (Heb. ˒aḇrām; e.g., Gen. 11:26; 12:1), but God subsequently changed it to Abraham (Heb. ˒aḇrāhām). According to Gen. 17:5 the latter name is composed of Heb. ˓aḇ “father” and hmn “multitude,” thus meaning “father of a multitude.” As a variant Abram can signify “love of the father, he is of good ancestry” or simply “exalted father” (Clements, pp. 52–53); but Abram was not the best name for a man who was the father of many nations.

From Abram’s family upbringing, culture, way of life, obligations, personal wealth and comfort it would have been next to impossible for Abram to carry his part of the covenant agreement unless God allowed circumstances to push Abram into seasons of transition. Here is a simple, yet brief, outline of Abram’s early transitions and major life changes.

  1. Leaves Ur due to the political and economic stresses caused by the Amorites and Elamites.
  2. Settles in Paddan Aram with wife, brother (Nahor) and father Terah.
  3. Following the death of Terah, Abram becomes the patriarch of his family and departs for Canaan.
  4. Settles in Canaan with his family and nephew Lot but famine drives them further south into Egypt.
  5. Forced by Pharaoh to leave Egypt Abram re-enters Canaan and after a dispute with Lot, a war in the region surrounding Sodom and the birth of Ishmael he will be given his new name, Abraham.

abraham-journeying-into-the-land-of-canaan-1866It would be easy for most to quickly move from Abram to Abraham or from Ur to Canaan without considering all of the transitions and changes God allowed to refine a man who established generations of God’s covenant people. Still we can’t gloss over how difficult every transition and change must have been for Abram along the way; as well as what each transition did in shaping the man. CS Lewis said, It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.For change to occur we need to be willing to be hatched or risk going bad; and that is why God will always use circumstances to encourage us in the pursuit of His will and purposes.

It should come as no surprise that growing up in the Boston area has made me a dedicated New England Patriots fan and so this weekend I will be fixed on the game hoping “my team” will have another chance at winning the Superbowl. But I also know a game, on paper, is very different than a game tpatriotsbroncoshat must be played. An entire week of experts picking their winners and fans best guesses will boil down to a game that still must be played out and rest assured there will be some series of circumstance(s) players and teams will have to overcome if they want to emerge victorious. Circumstance will always initiate a transition and it is my prayer we all remain open to the changes that follow. “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill.

winston_churchill

As I close today’s post I want to leave you with a short story that I feel best illustrates the this point:

In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the big stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. On approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. As the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many others never understand. Every obstacle (circumstance) presents an opportunity to improve one’s condition or change.

Blessings – Pastor JOSHUA

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy

1 “Everything has its own time, and there is a specific time for every activity under heaven:

            a time to be born and

a time to die,

a time to plant and

a time to pull out what was planted,

            a time to kill and

a time to heal,

a time to tear down and

a time to build up,

            a time to cry and

a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and

a time to dance,

            a time to scatter stones and

a time to gather them,

a time to hug and

a time to stop hugging,

            a time to start looking and

a time to stop looking,

a time to keep and

a time to throw away,

            a time to tear apart and

a time to sew together,

a time to keep quiet and

a time to speak out,

            a time to love and

a time to hate,

a time for war and

a time for peace.”[1]

 

[1] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Ec 3:1–8). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

THE ODDITY OF CIRCUMSTANCE?

1 Thessalonians 5:18 [widescreen]This past weekend I was watching the AFC / NFC playoffs and, while my favorite team was not playing, I was very interested in the various games for different reasons. Initially I wanted to know which AFC team the New England Patriots would be playing later this week. After the final game was played an odd, but new, statistic was revealed. For the first time, in NFL history, all of the home teams lost in the opening round of the playoffs. It may seem unlikely but for such an occurrence to happen a lot of circumstances had to transpire. Every game had the challenges of fumbles, missed field goals, interceptions, broken plays, big plays, weather conditions, injuries and uncharacteristic performances that allowed for this new statistic to be set. Die-hard fans will seek out conspiracy theories, casual fans will find it odd but the reality is circumstance is more purposed than random and there is nothing “odd”  in the situation. Of course would be immature to say that God controls who wins and looses a football game but it is easier to comprehend, through life, God allows circumstances to occur which will test our character, faith, trust and heart.

Have you ever stopped to consider the same circumstance that provides the opportunity for failure can also be an opening for success? The opportunity to sin can also be the occasion to live holy, and the chance to not forgive can also be the opportunity to extend forgiveness. James writes, My brothers and sisters, be very happy when you are tested in different ways. You know that such testing of your faith produces endurance. Endure until your testing is over. Then you will be mature and complete, and you won’t need anything.”[1] And the Apostle Paul follows by saying, Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this.”[2]

Often we approach challenging circumstances through a negative paradigm. A bad medical report, lost job, failed exam, broken relationship or missed opportunity are followed by a series of questions such as, “Why me? Why now? Why Not?…Lord?!?” Most agree a good and perfect God is not the author of evil and suffering but the reality of a fallen condition, in humanity and creation, exposes everyone to challenging circumstances that will immediately test our heart, faith and character. Still, we must also be reminded, as we go through any circumstance, the character of God is merciful, grace-filled, compassionate and loving. The circumstance is therefore an opportunity for God to reveal His best for everyone and for all people to experience and witness His fullness.

Personally, I find it “odd” how we respond when we are recipients of fortunate circumstances because we express little doubt God was the chief architect of the blessing. I also find it “odd” we can so easily  switch our love toward Him based on our immediate feelings. Can we have it both ways…thanking God for the good and cursing Him for the bad? The circumstance always reveals the genuine heart condition in us all.

When the Minnesota Vikings field goal kicker failed in his opportunity to win his team’s playoff game player and fan reactions were very telling. Would these same people be thanking God if the kick was successful? Furthermore, would the team that benefited from the missed scoring opportunity be cursing God if the kicker had succeeded?

Jan 10, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh (3) reacts after missing a field goal attempt against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter of a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

In the shock or excitement of any circumstance we will react in many different ways but after we have had time to consider the turn of events are we able to take a step back and discover the deeper purpose in the situation?

snapshot_20160110_150959As I write this post my family is experiencing circumstances that reaffirm the obvious: God is in control! Yes, we are to pray, seek His will, worship Him and ask God for relief in all circumstances; but after you have done all you are able to do and after you are standing in faith you come to a single conclusion: The circumstance is being allowed; and God will use the situation to refine us because He loves us with a larger vision for our lives than the one we see, or understand, in the moment.

Is our circumstance odd? Is your present season of testing out of place? Certainly not! In fact, all circumstances are in perfect sync for the present part of the journey we are on. Jeannette and my personal circumstances are allowed, by God, to reveal yet another layer of our hearts. You would be correct to ask, What if the circumstance turned out to be different? Would you respond the same way? Truthfully our human emotions would have quickly generated a very different response. But, having had time to process such moments, as well as learn from other life changing occurrences, I feel confident we would understand God’s sovereign purpose in the present, and for the next, no matter how the circumstances will resolve.

Here is the lynchpin: While any circumstance is being lived in the here and now it is also building your faith, patience and character for tomorrow. Rest assured every football team will approach next year with the expectation to learn from their past year’s circumstances in a desire to better prepare for the next season. A loss is always difficult to forget and a win is easy to remember; but both circumstances have the God-allowed opportunity to make us stronger, more mature and usable for the next season.

Blessings – PASTOR JOSHUA

[1] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Jas 1:2–4). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[2] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (1 Th 5:16–18). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

 

Living on the Edge of Expectation

Star_Wars_Episode_VII_The_Force_AwakensThis past December 2015 ended, for the film industry, with a blockbuster bang that is still carrying momentum well into 2016. From the first summer trailer until its winter release national, as well as global, anticipation grew for the newest installment of Star Wars. Opening in the 1970’s the Star Wars franchise has always jumped onto the screen backed by the iconic John Williams score and trademark scrolling text which never lacked in building fan anticipation; but anticipation can also set a high level of expectation. So, when George Lucas’ early 2000 prequels failed to meet expectations many were hoping for the best, while also bracing for the worst, from this newest film. From swirling internet rumors ranging from casting, to plot and direction everyone waited to see if the December release would surpass expectations and, most of all, if the newest Star Wars would create enough anticipation for a sequel.

Have you ever lived on the edge of expectation? Or, have you found yourself anticipating the weeks, days and even hours drawing close to a certain “something?” Perhaps such a question sounds a bit melodramatic but everyone has lived, is living or will soon live on the edge of anticipation and expectation. Perhaps you first remembered this feeling when you were counting down the seconds for the final school bell to ring? Maybe you recall anticipating your first car, blind date, wedding, vacation or new job? Whatever moment(s) created anticipation, one thing is certain, you hoped your expectations would be met. But, the reality is, there are certain events that fail to meet expectations; and if you combine enough missed expectations you can unknowingly become a person of disbelief and hopelessness.

The day following Christmas can be an interesting event to witness. At any given store you will discover a blend of shoppers anticipating after Christmas sales while other shoppers are returning gifts that failed to meet their expectations. But there is also another post- Christmas phenomenon, in progress, and that is the New Year’s resolution shopper. From the elliptical machine to the treadmill and all of the complimentary gadgets that accompany the New Year’s fitness quest many will once again try to tackle their extra five pounds, rediscover their swimwear figure or just try to set some new healthy habits for the New Year.

US News and World Report reported that by the second week of February, some eighty percent of resolutions will have fallen by the wayside and according to Dr. Markman, the author of Smart Change and a professor of psychology and marketing at The University of Texas at Austin, the reason resolutions don’t succeed is because “people don’t put in enough effort to allow them to succeed.”

If one of the greatest challenges, everyone encounters, is the emotional swing we experience when we go from great anticipation to missed expectations we may, purposely or not, set our target achievements to low. Why do we do this? Perhaps it can be best understood in how we “feel in the moment” and after we have undergone feelings of disappointment we try to protect ourselves from further failure, hurt and loss? For me, parts of 2014-2015 were marked with several very large missed expectations; and what began as a year of tremendous hope, and opportunity, was greeted with one set-back after another, closed doors and befuddling silence to my downward spiral of circumstances. It was during my heaviest moments, of frustration, I began to set my bar of expectation so low I felt I could manage my set-backs; but in doing so I was also robbing myself of the anticipation and expectation God had better plans for my life.

In my particular situations I hadn’t arrived at this point because of Dr. Markahm’s “lack of effort”; but I had arrived at a new crossroads and at every crossroad I, as with all of us, will face choices between managing disappointment or expecting God’s good, better and best.

From Star Wars to the ordinary of life anticipation, expectation, failure and resolutions will always be apart of our journey; and if you look to Scripture you will also discover how much anticipation and expectation is built into the character of God’s people as well as the rich fabric of our deep faith. Here are just a few examples that remind us to live on the edge of anticipation and expectation even in the shadows of adversity and missed opportunity:

The hope of righteous people leads to joy, but the eager waiting of wicked people comes to nothing.”[1]

 Delayed hope makes one sick at heart, but a fulfilled longing is a tree of life.”[2]

 I consider our present sufferings insignificant compared to the glory that will soon be revealed to us. 19 All creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal who his children are. 20 Creation was subjected to frustration but not by its own choice. The one who subjected it to frustration did so in the hope 21 that it would also be set free from slavery to decay in order to share the glorious freedom that the children of God will have. 22 We know that all creation has been groaning with the pains of childbirth up to the present time.

However, not only creation groans. We, who have the Spirit as the first of God’s gifts, also groan inwardly. We groan as we eagerly wait for our adoption, the freeing of our bodies from sin. 24 We were saved with this hope in mind. If we hope for something we already see, it’s not really hope. Who hopes for what can be seen? 25 But if we hope for what we don’t see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.[3]

 “If Timothy comes, make sure that he doesn’t have anything to be afraid of while he is with you. He’s doing the Lord’s work as I am, 11 so no one should treat him with contempt. Without quarreling, give him your support for his trip so that he may come to me. I’m expecting him to arrive with the other Christians.”[4]

 Joshua told the people, “Perform the ceremonies to make yourselves holy because tomorrow the Lord will do miracles among you.”[5]

 “Therefore, you, too, must be ready because the Son of Man will return when you least expect him.” [6]

“If any of you needs wisdom to know what you should do, you should ask God, and he will give it to you. God is generous to everyone and doesn’t find fault with them. When you ask for something, don’t have any doubts. A person who has doubts is like a wave that is blown by the wind and tossed by the sea. A person who has doubts shouldn’t expect to receive anything from the Lord. A person who has doubts is thinking about two different things at the same time and can’t make up his mind about anything.”[7]

If in the feelings of deflated anticipation we  feel “safe” in lowering our expectations we accept an approach, and world-view, that is neither Biblical or God’s best for our lives. Merriam Webster’s definition of expectation is: a person who is anticipant, expecting, open-eyed, openmouthed; hopeful; eager; alert and watchful. Just the definition alone is enough to stir some sense of excitement while the opposite, of an expectant individual, is one who is apathetic, indifferent, uninterested; unconcerned, unimpressed and unmoved.[8] Both types of people remind me of Dickens’s Great Expectations where we read about the many lives of people who live on the edge of anticipation and expectation.

Micah 7:7 [widescreen]

Charles Dickens’s classic story led me to think on another early Christian disciple, Titus, who lived the expectant life and had to anticipate a great many challenges throughout his life, calling and mission. While Paul’s letter to Titus doesn’t reveal too much about the recipient’s personal life other areas of Scripture fill in the unknown of Titus’ life of great expectation. Titus was a Greek, apparently from Antioch, and converted to Jesus through Paul’s ministry. Throughout Titus’ next years of ministry we find him serving in many roles beginning as the Apostle Paul’s secretary, interpreter, courier and eventually serving as an administrator, mediator, teacher and even apostle in his own region of ministry. From the years 51-56, Titus had accompanied Paul to Jerusalem, Ephesus, Corinth, Crete, Nicopolis and even Dalmatia with his entire life being known as a peacemaker, administrator and missionary.

Did Titus experience difficulties, setbacks and struggles? Of course! But could Titus have overcome such challenges by accepting setting his bar of expectation too low? No! Titus chose a life of anticipation and expectation, through the Holy Spirit, and became a man who saw the opportunity in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity.

As January 2016 marks a new calendar year I want to encourage you to set a resolution, before any other personal goals and resolutions, to grow deeper and stronger in your Christ-centered faith. We will always encounter difficulties and trails; but the life that anticipates and expects God’s next, and best, is the life that will also experience the journey of success, joy, happiness and fulfillment.

Imagine if there was not a visionary to consider another Star Wars film after the critics considered the franchise finished and completed? If so, than a film that cost $200 million to produce would never had reaped the reward of $1.5 billion. The expectant life, with and for Jesus, will always result in the fulfilled and successful life.

What will the year 2016 look like for you? Will you live determined, anticipating and expecting God’s next? Will you change? Transition? Face challenges? Certainly! But will there be fulfillment and expectation as you pursue God’s best for your life? CERTAINLY!

Blessings – Pastor JOSHUA

[1] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Pr 10:28). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[2] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Pr 13:12). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[3] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Ro 8:18–27). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[4] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (1 Co 16:10–11). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[5] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Jos 3:5). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[6] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Mt 24:44). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[7] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Jas 1:5–8). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[8] Merriam-Webster, I. (1996). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate thesaurus. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster.

The Comeback

James 4:10 [widescreen]Who doesn’t enjoy a good comeback story? I, for one, am always encouraged when I witness what I like to call a “redemption in progress.” As the 2015 football season approaches there are no shortages of men trying to make a team, get a second chance or attempt one final push for a Superbowl ring. Among the many athletes playing for a roster spot is Tim Tebow. Yes, the same player who was cut from the Denver Broncos, NY Jets, New England Patriots and, after sitting out a year, has another chance to make it in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles. While it still uncertain if he will survive the final cut, to witness him pursuing his dream after so many setbacks greatly encourages me.

In a similar story I was watching a boxing match that featured one fighter who was re-entering the ring after many years of being out of competition. In his youth he was a highly touted fighter with limitless potential; but the combination of poor choices and reckless living had derailed his career with many never giving any thought of his return. Nevertheless, with his past behind him, the boxer rediscovered a new appreciation for second chances and to the amazement of most professionals, and experts, his career continues to prove comebacks are possible.

What do these men reveal aside from focus, determination and tenacity? Humility. Both have been quoted numerous times expressing how thankful and humbled they are to have the opportunity to pursue their calling and dream. Pressing past the doubt, failure, hurt, fear and critics they joined the many who have lived the comeback; and while everyone experiences challenges not everyone desires to press on after defeat. Why? I believe the Apostle James gives us some insight to this question when he writes,

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Aren’t they caused by the selfish desires that fight to control you? 3 When you pray for things, you don’t get them because you want them for the wrong reason—for your own pleasure….6 But God shows us even more kindness. Scripture says, “God opposes arrogant people, but he is kind to humble people.” 7 So place yourselves under God’s authority. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. 8 Come close to God, and he will come close to you. 10 Humble yourselves in the Lord’s presence. Then he will give you a high position.”

Selfish desire, the chase of the right things for the wrong reasons and arrogance are three key pursuits that derail even the most willing, talented and eager. The Apostle James refers to these dangerous ingredients as the “perfect mix” for quarrels; and when I take the time to consider how much I have fought with others, myself or God I can’t help but wonder if the humble life, before the Lord, might achieve more than the contentious one?

Clearly James is addressing a hot-tempered attitude that works contrary to a spirit of humility. The powerful disposition of humility not only equips us for a better life but also prepares our hearts as an ideal seedbed where Jesus can deposit His blessing, wisdom and favor. Yet, despite knowing He wants to bless us we still approach God with contentious hearts. Again, I ask why? Could it be we don’t trust Jesus’ goodness and genuine love for us? Could it be we have become so used to fighting we can’t imagine laying “the fight” down for Him? Could it be we have yet to humble ourselves before the Lord so He can redeem our story and invite us to join in the comeback?

Returning to what the football player and boxer both possessed was a life rediscovered through the lens of humility. The mere fact they were grateful for just another chance to pursue their call became a reward in of itself and in the case of Tim Tebow he has often used his opportunities to glorify God through his circumstances.

While the boxer’s career has been long, successful and financially rewarding, and Tebow’s career been uneven, both men speak with an integrity and refreshing perspective that should encourage us to pursue Jesus, remain humble, resist fighting and allow Him to open doors for us on the “field of life.”

How many of us are missing out on God’s choicest blessings because we are instigating fights when we could be pursuing the path of humility before the Lord? How many more of us are walking through seasons of living humbly, in the Lord’s presence, and now beginning to experience seasons of reward?

We all desire to reach the high places with God where our life story is shared as the comeback tale of redemption. But to begin such a journey starts with living the humble approach before Jesus and allowing Him to exalt you before others for His plans and purposes.

Remember our current circumstances are not inviting us to fight more but rather to love more and trust that the love of Jesus, toward us, is building our story even after we have fallen. When He lifts us up our story of redemption will echo all the louder because it was through His might and not our own; and those are the best comeback stories everyone desires to hear.

Blessings – Pastor JOSHUA

‪#‎redemption‬ ‪#‎secondchance‬ ‪#‎humiltiy‬ ‪#‎stopfighting‬ ‪#‎love‬ ‪#‎liftedup‬‪#‎thecomeback‬ ‪#‎lovesick‬

Walking, Leaping and Letting Everyone Know it!

Acts 3:8 [widescreen]Pastor Joshua’s Two Minute Blog: Walking, Leaping and Letting Everyone Know It.

I have always been of the opinion the best testimonies are those you continue to repeat. Daily the miraculous is performed in our lives, and before our eyes, but the grind of life causes us to downplay the extraordinary and miss the unexpected.

There is nothing ordinary about being crippled. Whether you encounter a physical, mental or emotional obstacle to be crippled prevents you from living a high quality of life and reshapes your identity around “what you are” and not “who you are.” 

For many years the crippled man, from the Book of Acts, was all known to his community and written of as just another sad fixture in society. He was a man to be pitied, perhaps laughed at and often passed over. Do you not think his physical handicap also effected him mentally? How many hurts, tears and wounds did he accumulate over the years he sat “stuck” and unable to do anything but beg?

But one day God’s redemptive power walked past his life and the result was a new narrative, and identity, that forever reshaped this man. Rightly so, the Acts account, focus’ on the physical healing that pulled a cripple from the streets to his feet, but if we only stop at the physical healing we may miss the deep identity healing that took place as well.

“He went walking, leaping and praising God…” The long time cripple could no longer be identified as, “the man who is” but now, “the man who was.” Do you know what he did with his miracle? Now given a second chance at life (born-again) he became the man who let everyone know God performed a miraculous work that was so amazing it was worth seeing and hearing.

Some of us may be bogged down in adversity, hurt, regret and even physical challenges that are crippling us. While they are all very real we must trust the love of God, and His desire to restore us, by refusing to allow these “crippling moments” to shape our identities. Remember the God who heals and restores can restore your life and purpose as well!

While you may be in a season of begging and pleading trust He is walking by your street corner today and looking to perform a miracle in your life. But don’t stop with your miracle and don’t just get up and walk away after you receive it. Continue to allow the miracle to bore down deep within and heal you entirely so you can testify as one who also knows how to walk, leap and praise God.

You have a story to tell and an identity to live in Jesus! So speak loud and live boldly!

Blessings – Pastor JOSHUA

Rebuild…Renew…Restore…Revive

John 2:19 [widescreen]Pastor Joshua’s Two Minute Blog:

Several years ago, in my neighborhood, there was a beautiful home that caught fire and burned throughout the night into the early morning hours. While fire crews had the situation well in hand by the next day it was evident the structure would be a total loss. Over the following months the house continued to decline as legal parties debated what would happen to the property and eventually the house was demolished. Two years later all that remains is an empty lot where a beautiful house once stood.

How often do things get torn down without any hope of ever being rebuilt? Daily you can find old buildings being restored, new subdivisions built and towering structures pressing up toward the sky; but what should you do when, in your life, something is torn down and you can’t see any way it will ever resurrect?

Set backs, failures and burn downs are hard to overcome but they are not impossible. In fact, nothing is impossible with God! Imagine Jesus speaking in front of accusers, skeptics and supporters when He shares the words of John 2:19. Most agree Jesus was speaking prophetically as to His identity and soon coming passion, but do genuine people of faith doubt that God could have also done the naturally impossible supernaturally?

When we experience the tearing down process the last thing on our mind, or in our will, is to imagine rebuilding. In fact, Scripture shares the responses of shock and disbelief at the very idea of rebuilding a structure that took centuries to build. But Jesus’ revelatory words, then, speak to our short sightedness and shortcomings today.

In a world of decay it is accepted that all things will fail at some point in time. But Jesus, and His Kingdom, is not of this world while He is very present in the world. Scripture affirms His Kingdom has no end, will endure throughout every generation and will even usher in a new age that will look, feel and behave nothing like the world we live in or comprehend.

What a promise we have in knowing our citizenship gives us residency in an everlasting Kingdom and under the loving care of a King who is always renewing and reviving. Therefore, while most of us may feel as if our plans and purposes have been torn down, by the fires of circumstance, don’t forget what is true of the King is also true of the King’s people.

If God meant to resurrect, for the glory and restoration of all things unto Himself, then part of His Kingdom culture is to also resurrect, restore and revive the Kingdom dream in your life. Don’t allow a negative and skeptical world to leave your “lot” empty without any hope of rebuilding. Rather, accept the remarkable promise that God means to restore you to place of honor so your life may glorify the King.

Perhaps some things, in your life, needed tearing down to make room for Jesus’ rebuilding project in you? Many of us have great structures waiting to be launched for the Kingdom so don’t allow a temporary loss to rob you of hope; and don’t allow and your lot to sit empty…it is meant for a new structure! Be a person of great faith and ask the Holy Spirit to breath on your emptiness, once again, and help you rebuild. It’s time to rebuild and revive with Jesus as your chief architect.

Blessings – Pastor Joshua

‪#‎dontgiveup‬ ‪#‎Godwins‬ ‪#‎songofsolomon‬ ‪#‎rebuild‬ ‪#‎restore‬ ‪#‎revive‬ ‪#‎renew‬

Purpose in Your Heart…Don’t Give Up…He Will Deliver

Daniel 6:16 [widescreen]Pastor Joshua’s Two Minute Blog:

There is nothing fun about a lion’s den, that is unless your the lion. The wild, powerful and predatory instinct of a lion kills without mercy or remorse and yet Daniel found himself locked away with these massive cats awaiting a certain death. Or was he?

Often we hear people say, “God would never…” but for Daniel God had placed him face to face with very real and deadly lions and for one reason: “That your God, whom you continually serve may deliver you.” 

For some it may seem as God sort of made His point backwards. But we cannot loose site of the fact that God didn’t place Daniel in the lions den, Daniel’s uncompromising faith, in God, put Daniel in the den of lions…and God delivered him!

I often look at my own circumstances and wonder, “How did I get here?” Or “What have I done wrong to find myself in this trap?” Certainly, at times, we can all make poor life choices that place us in challenging circumstances. But not every adversity is because of something negative you have done; nor have you arrived in such a place because God has put you there.

Again, consider Daniel…he was placed in the den of certain death because He loved God with all of his heart, soul and being. It was known to Daniel’s enemies, friends and earthly king Daniel continually worshipped and served God above all others. The result? He was now face to face with lions. Was this a test of faith? Certainly! Was it a personal bad decision followed by worsening situation? Certainly not!

I tend to think everyone knew (except the lions), from Darius to Daniel, somehow Daniel’s God was going to deliver Him. Do you know why? “Because I was found blameless before him.” Like Job, despite how bad the situation became, Daniel didn’t give up on God’s deliverance. You may have questions, doubts and even lion like struggles but never give up on God’s love for you and His desire to deliver you from all adversity because you are committed to a life that is blameless before Him.

This amazing testimony of uncompromising faithfulness, a blameless heart and God’s miraculous work should encourage us to better understand our own “lion’s den” moments and remember the conclusion of our story can read like the king’s decree, when we are delivered,

“I decree that in every part of my kingdom people should tremble with terror in front of Daniel’s God, the living God who continues forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed. His power lasts to the end of time. He saves, rescues, and does miraculous signs and amazing things in heaven and on earth. He saved Daniel from the lions.”

May God deliver you from your lion’s den and allow the fame of His name be spread far and wide!

Blessings – Pastor JOSHUA

GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Da 6:26–27). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.