Archive for the “Success” Category

Yes, I’d like to be one who radically trusts God…but my lifestyle doesn’t always reflect that. I have read this blog from several times, and it’s become material for meditation in between readings.

The first habit – “They accept suffering” – is one that caught my attention. As a middle-class American, suffering isn’t high on the list of spiritual disciplines I practice…OK, it doesn’t even make my list. It makes my list of “things I’m trying to avoid.” What a radically different perspective these radical Christians had.

Yet what I see over and over again in people like Brother Yun is that they have crystal clarity on the fact that suffering is not the worst evil — sin is. Yes, they would prefer not to suffer, and do sometimes pray for the relief of suffering. But they prioritize it lower than the rest of us do — they focus far more on not sinning than on not suffering.

Read more about this habit and the other six here.

The 7 Habits of People Who Place Radical Trust in God has identified several habits I need to improve on. How about you?

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When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.
2 Corinthians 10:18 (NLT)

“The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.” How often do we look for commendations from the world? We want the world to think well of us. We want our friends and family to think well of us – and to tell us how great we are and how great we’re doing. This scripture reminds us that whether we are commending ourselves or others are telling us how great we are, it doesn’t really count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend us.

I was recently asked to speak at an event I had not planned to attend. I struggled with the decision of whether or not to accept the invitation. Having not planned to attend the event, it felt like agreeing to speak was motivated by wanting to look good to others. I talked with my husband about it and he gave me some wise advice – in this case, I needed to ignore the mixed messages my brain and emotions were giving me and just do the right thing. The right thing was to accept the invitation. When I took all the motivations I would have for speaking at the event out of the equation, I knew that accepting the invitation was the right thing to do. It was an honor to be asked and it was an opportunity to serve God and others. I had previously not planned on attending the event simply because it inconvenienced my schedule and strained my finances.

When I called to accept the invitation, I immediately knew that saying “yes” brought relief to the person asking and it brought peace to my heart, mind and spirit. I also knew that if I had declined, I would have been feeling regret at the lost opportunity to bless the organizer and others. I would have known that I had really said “no” to God.

Our emotions can mess us up sometimes. Our sinful craving for attention and public adoration is just that – sinful! That adoration doesn’t count for much. Pleasing God is what matters. In my example, pleasing God would bring me the accolades of others, so I struggled to make a decision. Phil wisely reminded me to please God.

When faced with a decision from which the right answer will bring bad consequences, I often say “do the right thing and leave the results to God.” I’ve learned that when making these choices He often shields me from those anticipated bad consequences. Not always, of course, because bad consequences are part of the process of conforming us to the image of Christ and/or displaying Christ to the world. Sometimes, however, doing the right thing brings accolades our way. In all cases, it’s important to remember that the accolades of others don’t count for much. The important thing is to please the Lord.

Of course, the point isn’t that we should stop giving those accolades! Even though the accolades of others don’t count for much, don’t let that keep you from encouraging others. Scripture is clear that we are to encourage others, especially those in the body of Christ. Encouraging others gives them courage to do the right thing…there will be a blog about that soon. Do both – make encouraging others a priority…but in your own life, always remember – the important thing is to please the Lord.

When have you struggled to make the right choice? Share your experiences below so that we can learn from one another.

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1These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel.
Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise.
3Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair.
4These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young.
5Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance
6by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles.
7Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Proverbs 1:1-7 (NLT)

I don’t always enjoy reading the book of Proverbs, but I appreciate its value. The Proverbs are straightforward in their purpose and advice. There are many who read through the book each month, reading about a chapter each day. After all, who doesn’t want wisdom?

The first verses of Proverbs 1 establish the purpose of the book – to teach wisdom and discipline. Why would anyone want to be taught discipline? Because it leads to a successful life. That’s a pretty good reason.

Notice that the book has value for those who are already wise – they will become “even wise.”

So as we begin to read Proverbs in our Resting at the River’s Edge readings, let me encourage you not to breeze through them, not to allow your mind to go into autopilot as you read. Ask God before each reading to teach you the wisdom and revelation he has for you in each day’s passage.

As it says in chapter 2 (I’ve read ahead just a little):

2Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding.
3Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.
4Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures.
Proverbs 2:2-8 (NLT)

Before reading each day, “cry out for insight, ask for understanding.” Don’t read with earthly wisdom, ask God for his wisdom as you read. The exciting thing is that He’ll respond. Proverbs 2 continues:

5Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God.
6For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
8He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him.
Proverbs 2:2-8 (NLT)

This last passage is the one that prompted me to write today. The Lord grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. I grew up believing that I didn’t have any common sense. I knew I could study and learn things, but things that others knew I didn’t seem to know. That logical answer that many called common sense eluded me. As an adult, I understand that those perceptions were lies and that I do have common sense, but childish notions often haunt us into adulthood despite our best efforts to dispel them. God grants a treasure – a treasure – of common sense to the honest. I seek to be an honest person (because long ago God got my attention with another proverb, but we’ll save that story for another blog). I can trust that God will grant me a treasure of common sense. Along with it He’ll grant me wisdom, knowledge and understanding. He’ll also be my shield and guard my paths. Sounds like great reasons to ask God to reveal Himself to me as I read through Proverbs this month.

Will you join me? If you haven’t downloaded the Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedule for May, you can do it here. As you read, I’d love to hear what God is speaking to your heart. Post on our Facebook page or add a comment here. Blessings, friends, as you seek God for wisdom. May He give you a treasure of common sense along the way.

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In his Monday Morning Memo on April 15th, Alan Weiss of Summit Consulting wrote this:

Every day we write the story of our lives, a continuing autobiography. I suspect that if we took the time to read it regularly, we might choose to change the plot. I suspect that if we took the time to read it regularly, we might choose to change the plot! Some of us are rooted in a poverty mentality, as if we’re trying merely to survive; some are in stability, feeling alive; some have an abundance mentality, feeling it’s good to arrive; and a few are in self-mastery, believing they can thrive. As we ascend, the key is to avoid sliding back, and to create water-tight, closed doors behind us. How interesting is your story? You can still change it.

I don’t know if Alan Weiss is a Christian. His Monday Morning Memos are directed to the business community. I couldn’t help but recognize the spiritual implications of his memo, however. As Christians, we know that God has created us for a purpose and that He works the circumstances in our lives to bring us into those purposes…if we pursue Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

The enemy, however, has one goal – to derail us from the path God has created for us. His first tactic in achieving that goal is to keep us from spending eternity with God. When he fails at that, his tactics change from keeping us from heaven to minimizing the impact we can have while here on earth – to keep us from accomplishing God’s purposes for our lives. He does that by convincing us to believe lies about who we are and who God is.

  • He gives us a poverty mentality, when the truth is that our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10).
  • He makes us comfortable in a stability mentality – we’re alive and enjoying our Christian culture…and we’re happy to settle there. That’s enough. No, it’s not. God calls us to more. In 2 Timothy 4, the Apostle Paul write to Timothy “I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season…for the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine…But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge your duties of our ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5, NIV) Paul wrote this shortly before his death. He wrote just a few verses later that he had fought the good fight, he had finished the race, and because of that, there was a crown of righteous waiting for him – a crown that would be presented to him by the Lord. Wow! You may not be a preacher. You may not be an evangelist. But Paul’s message to Timothy applies to you. Whatever God has called you to do, continue in it. Discharge the duties of the ministry God has given you. Don’t become complacent.
  • He gives us an abundance, and with that comes the temptations of  “pride in our achievements and possessions.” But “this world is fading away… But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1 John 2:16-17)
  • He distracts us with pursuing success for the sake of success and the temptations of personal glory. This is what I take from Weiss’ description of “self-mastery.” As we pursue success by the world’s standards, we can easily in our own ability to achieve our destiny. We no longer depend on God for all things, but are confident in our own ability to thrive. We’re to do all things as if unto God (1 Peter 4:10-11), which means we ought to approach all things with excellence, but we’re to rely on Him in the doing. We’re not to rely on our own abilities, our own wisdom, our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Friends, God has gone to tremendous lengths to save us. He works continually in our lives – and that means in our circumstances – to work all things together for good if we continue in our love for him and in pursuing the purposes He has for our lives. Let’s make the story we are writing every day bring glory to Him and echo through eternity long after we’re with Him.

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But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.
Daniel 1:8 (NLT)

In 605 BC King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered Judah. Most citizens of Judah were forcibly taken to Babylon. Soon thereafter, Nebuchadnezzar decided to bring some of the Israelites into his service:

3Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives.

4“Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.”

5  The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.
Daniel 1:3-5 (NLT)

Daniel and three others from the family of Judah were taken. (You’ve probably heard of the three others. They were renamed by King Nebuchadnezzar and you mostly likely know them as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. But that’s another story.)

Put yourself in Daniel’s place. You are part of Judah’s royal family. You are conquered. Your enemy captures you and takes you to his country. Things are looking pretty bad for you. Then the king selects you to be part of his elite counsel of advisors. You’re to be fed the same menu cooked by the same chef as the king and you’re to receive the best training. It’s a lot better than living out your life in a dungeon. But it means serving the king who conquered your land and brought you to his.

Would you be angry or thankful? Would you oppose the king who conquered you or serve him? Would you pretend to be a friend of the king while secretly working against him?

Let’s look at how Daniel responded:

But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.
Daniel 1:8 (NLT)

Daniel made a firm decision. Various translations make this clear:

“Daniel was determined…” (NLT)
“Daniel made up his mind…” (NASB)
“Daniel purposed in his heart…” (NKJV)
“Daniel resolved…” (NRSV)

Daniel made a firm decision, not a wishy-washy, wishful-thinking decision. He didn’t think “well, maybe it would be best if…” He didn’t think “I’m going to try …” His approach wasn’t “if I can, I’m going to…” He made a take-a-stand, Joshua-like decision – “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Often the first step we need to take is simply to make a firm decision. I have been working toward a healthy weight for more than a year now. I am only successful when I make a firm decision to work toward my goals. When I approach them half-heartedly I fail. Consistently. When I approach them with resolve, with purpose in my heart, with a made-up mind, I am successful.

Daniel decided to honor God by remaining as pure as possible in a pagan culture. Daniel’s first recorded challenge to his decision came when he began receiving meals prepared by the King’s chef. There is little detail here about why Daniel might consider it inappropriate to eat the food, but it’s not unreasonable to conclude from the use of the word “defile” that Daniel had concerns about the type of meat he would be served, how it was prepared, and/or whether it may have been offered to Babylonian idols. Without knowing the details, however, we can identify with Daniel because we live in a culture that is increasingly unfriendly toward Christians. We live in a culture that encourages and celebrates lifestyle choices that are not consistent with serving God.

Every decision we make throughout the day involves a choice between honoring God or living life according to our own rules and wants and wishes. Every decision? Yes, every decision – every piece of food we eat, every television program we watch, every word we say to our coworkers, every assignment we complete for our boss, every look we give our spouses, every traffic law we obey or disobey, and every thought we nurture or kill. Regardless of the situation we face, we can choose to honor God or not honor God. But it’s not just the decisions we make, it’s also how we implement those decisions.

Daniel honored God by living respectfully in a pagan culture. When I read the words of verse 8 – that Daniel was determined and resolved, that he had made up his mind – an image begins to take shape in my mind of a man who is going to stand up boldly to authority and resist it if necessary to accomplish his goals. That image is inconsistent with the second half of the verse: “He [Daniel] asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.”

Daniel didn’t approach the chief of staff with a demand or refusal – he asked for permission. This caught me by surprise. Having made a firm decision to remain pure, Daniel then seemingly puts his ability to keep that commitment in the hands of his captors. There is an expression that I truly hate: “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission.” That statement doesn’t honor God in any way. Daniel didn’t subscribe to that statement. Daniel’s approach showed respect for those in authority. It actually went much further than that.

Daniel trusted God to make a way for him to fulfill his commitment. Choosing to ask permission instead of taking matters into his own hands, defying authority and then asking forgiveness, Daniel demonstrated trust in God. Daniel may have made the commitment to honor God, but he also recognized that it would only be by God’s grace that he could keep the commitment.

I realize that Daniel’s humility takes me by surprise in light of his determination because I view determination as strength and deep down inside I view humility as weakness. That would be because I have a flawed view of humility. In God’s economy humility is king:

God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
Matthew 5:5 (NLT)

But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6 (NRSV)

And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:5b (NRSV)

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
James 4:10 (NKJV)

It certainly proved true in Daniel’s case. What was the result of Daniel’s actions? Read it for yourself:

18When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. 19The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. 20Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.
Daniel 1:18-20 (NLT)

Determination and humility – two great qualities that work great together. Who knew?

Do you need to make a firm decision to honor God in a greater way in some area of your life? How’s your humility quotient?

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3And [Jesus] said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:3-4 (NIV)

An element of childlikeness is the freedom to fail; the joy of trying…the “I don’t have to know everything before I try something” attitude. Does it get them in trouble? Yes, sometimes it does. Do they try again? Yes. Sometimes over and over and over again.

As we grow, we lose that spontaneity to try new things before we have all the answers and the resiliency to try over and over again. At the same time, we “gain” too much of an “appreciation” (aka fear) of the stigma associated with failure. So we take less risks and our life becomes safer and safer and safer.

I’m not advocating immaturity or irresponsibility, but I am advocating living in such a way that we take risks, knowing that we might fail sometimes, but also knowing that little is accomplished for the Kingdom of God by playing it safe. Not taking risks means you are living your life within your own capabilities – which are way inferior to God’s.

I want to be known for trying…even if I fail. Sometimes I need to be reminded of that because I don’t like to fail. I like to be viewed as in control, competent and on top of things. Those are good things…except when they’re not. Because quite frankly, faith – the kind of faith I want to be known for – means not having all the answers, but trusting the One who does.

I want to live my life beyond my capabilities so that God’s power can be seen by those around me. And sometimes I’ll misjudge or hear Him wrong and I’ll fail. I want to be OK with that. I’m working on it.

This week…go for it! Step out in some way – trust God to catch you if you fall and be willing to look less than 100% in control, competent and on top of things for the furtherance of His Kingdom.

By the way – my experience is that living in such a way increases the likelihood that you will see God move in your life tremendously. If you want to live an extraordinary life considering making yourself available to God to use in extraordinary ways. Then just enjoy the scenery!

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12Therefore, since we have such a hope [that is, the hope of our glorious salvation], we are very bold….17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Cor 3:12, 17 (NIV)

Dog Running Through Field with AbandonAre you bold? Do you live in freedom?
God asked me that question recently. My answer was “[gulp]…sometimes?” and God used that as a conversation starter.

“Where the Spirit for the Lord is, there is freedom.” Do you live in freedom? What does freedom look like? To me it looks a lot like the image at the right. Living in freedom looks a lot like “living like someone left the gate open.” It’s living without chains and fences and gates. It’s walking through open doors…no, it’s running with confidence through open doors.

I have some exciting news for you today. God has set an open door before you! He’s opened the gates! I am not being prophetic in any way. I’m simply being biblical. Scripture is so clear that God has prepared works for each of us. Ephesians 2:10 says:

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

God has called us, prepared us and prepared work for us. That means there are open doors. They may not be the doors we expect. They may not even be the doors we want. But they are open doors.

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to squander the opportunity to accomplish God’s purposes. I don’t want to live my life on the sidelines, especially when it comes to fulfilling God’s purposes. I want to live my life knowing that God has left the gate open and any door He’s opened I want to run through because what’s on the other side is the fulfillment of God’s purposes in my life.

Let me repeat that. What’s on the other side of doors that God opens is the fulfillment of God’s purposes in my life. And I can’t think of anything greater. I truly can’t. I can’t think of anything greater than accomplishing God’s purposes.

Yet I don’t always live like that. Why? When my heart’s desire is to run hard after the purposes God has for me and to love Him with abandon, why don’t I? I’m sure there are many reasons, but the one at the top of my hitlist is fear. I hate to admit that. I prefer to believe I fully trust God. But I know that sometimes fear still holds me back. It can take many different shapes, but all of them have the same root – lack of faith.

Fear is trusting that God can’t or won’t come through for you. It’s not trusting that God loves you so much that He will deliver you from whatever the enemy throws your way. It’s wondering if He will deliver you. It’s wondering if you’re worthy enough, important enough to Him or good enough for Him to lead you safely to the other side.

Today’s blog is going to begin to look at the lack of faith that comes from not fully understanding and embracing God’s love.

I see a relationship between three things: Faith, Freedom and Action (living like someone left the gate open). If I were to create a formula from the relationship, it would be expressed like this. Translate the symbol => as “leads to.”

Faith => Freedom [Faith leads to Freedom]

Faith + Freedom => Action [Faith plus Freedom leads to Action]

If we are not living like God left the gate open, it is in large measure because of a faith issue. And for most of us, I don’t think it’s an issue of believing that Christ died for our sins. I believe it’s an issue of understanding how that act flowed out of a heart that loves us more radically than we can imagine.

Because when we know how much we’re loved by God, freedom comes into our life. We are transformed from the Much Afraid people we are in the natural to men and women who step out in boldness.

There was a long period of time in my life when I was extremely buttoned up — uptight, fearful of what others thought, never doing anything to draw attention myself. There are two things that I attribute the changed me to. One is the unconditional love of my husband. I know that he is so much in love with me that I can fail a thousand times and he’ll still love me. And I fully understand that God has given me Phil to illustrate God’s unconditional love is for me. When I began to understand that God is not the Authoritarian in the sky waiting and watching for me to make a mistake, but always cheering me on, always enabling me to do better, always loving even when I fail…when I began to grasp that, an amazing freedom came into my life.

Let’s start at a very fundamental verse.

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned…
John 3:16-18a (NIV)

The fact that God would love us enough to send His son Jesus, the fact that Jesus would willingly leave all the glories of the Godhead and heaven and come to earth to live within the limitations of a human body and then die a horrible death – these things demonstrate – prove God’s love. God didn’t just say “I love you,” He proved it. His deeds prove His Word.

And yet, we believe verse 16 but somehow verse 18 doesn’t become part of our faith. Whoever believes in Him is NOT CONDEMNED.

Say it out loud “I am NOT CONDEMNED.” Go ahead – say it! I’ll wait!

Do you believe it? Has it gotten into your spirit to such a degree that you live life like God left the gate open? Are you ready to run through His open gates?

Well, if you’re like me, you’re not all the way there yet – at least not all the time. If you’re like me, there are still voices in my head that are condemning and negative. “I’m never going to be able to …” “I can’t possibly…” “If I were good I’d…” “I just can’t…”

I’ve come to understand that if I truly believed that I am not condemned, the voice in my head wouldn’t say many of the things it says. Because the things that the voice in my head says are inconsistent with God’s Word. God’s Word says that if we believe in Jesus we are NOT CONDEMNED.

God’s Word says it, but we don’t believe it because we still sin. Sin is bad. God loves us, so He convicts us of that sin. We feel it in our hearts and our spirit. And that conviction leads us to repent, to ask forgiveness. And (hallelujah!) we’re forgiven. But the enemy steps in and takes conviction and twists it into condemnation. He hammers us with it over and over again. He distorts God’s truth, which is what he’s good at, and we become willing accomplices when we embrace his condemnation and repeat it over and over to ourselves.

The Apostle Paul understood the relationships between sin and forgiveness and condemnation. In Romans 7 he said this:

15I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. 16I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good…

21It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22I love God’s law with all my heart. 23But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.

24Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? 25Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 7:15-25 (NLT)

Does a slave have freedom? No. A slave does what his or her master requires. And in this case, the master is sin. So what is it that Jesus does – he frees us from the slavery to sin – but there’s so much more – He doesn’t just free us from the slavery to sin, He frees us from the condemnation – the charge of guilty – of sin. Let’s pick it up in Chapter 8 verse 1:

1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death….

15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,…
Romans 8:1-17a (NIV):

There’s that word again – “condemnation” – and Romans 8:1 says there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Say it out loud again – “no condemnation.” The word literally means “no judgment against” – There is no judgment against us! Tell your heart, “heart – there is no judgment against you!”

Why is there no condemnation? Paul explained why – because the Spirit of Life has set us free – delivered us. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

God loves us so much that He has made us equal with His Son. I’m not saying that we’re God or we become God. But I am saying that God says we are co-heirs of all that is His. Co-heirs with Christ. God didn’t do this out of obligation. He did this because His heart is to bless His children. His heart is to give all that is His to His sons and daughters.
Messed Up Hair and All

Good parents don’t condemn their children, they love them unconditionally. They may discipline them to teach behaviors and principles that will lead to a good life, but they don’t condemn them. God is the perfect parent. He loves you. He even really likes you! You are the apple of His eye (Deuteronomy 32:10).

We’ll continue on this theme, but for today let’s pause – again and again through the next few days – to remind ourselves that we are NOT CONDEMNED by the Creator of the Universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Let that be the starting place, or perhaps the next step, in your journey to freedom…your next step to living like God has left the gate open…even if it messes up your hair!

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As we’ve read the final chapters of Genesis during our Resting at the River’s Edge readings this past week, we’ve been immersed in the life of Joseph. What a godly man he was! And what a man blessed by God! Phil and I have talked about him several times over the past week. It’s interesting that different elements of Joseph’s story impacted each of us. That’s one thing I love about the Bible. No matter how often you read it, God will always bring new things to your understanding or highlight different truths that specifically impact your current life situations. The Bible is truly a “God breathed,” living document.

Joseph’s Story
If ever there was a person who seemed to be a magnet for bad things it was Joseph. Ok, I can understand the jealousy of his brothers, but selling Joseph to traders was a bit over the top. If you’ve been reading with us, you know that Joseph was then sold to Potiphar, the captain of the Pharoah’s guard – essentially, his Chief of Security. Potiphar’s wife then falsely accused Joseph of raping her, so Potiphar put him in prison. While in prison, Joseph was joined by the Pharoah’s cupbearer and baker. After being in prison for “quite some time” (Genesis 40:4, NLT), both of these gentlemen had a dream. God gave Joseph the interpretation and the cupbearer promised to remember him when they were released from prison. It didn’t quite happen that way. The cupbearer “promptly forgot all about Joseph” (Genesis 40:23, NLT) and Joseph spent quite a bit more time in prison. Eventually Pharaoh had his dreams and the cupbearer remembered Joseph. God gave Joseph the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream and Joseph was promoted to Prime Minister of Egypt.

In all, it was thirteen years from the time Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery until he was made Prime Minister of Egypt. Quite a long thirteen years I imagine. But you would never know that from reading the story and watching Joseph’s forward and backward progress in life. We never see Joseph complaining, and we consistently see him honoring God.

How easy it would have been for Joseph to feel sorry for himself when betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery. How easy it would have been for Joseph to succumb to an entitlement mentality when Potiphar’s wife begged him to sleep with her. After all, didn’t he deserve better than this? God had given him dreams of grandeur and he had been betrayed and sold into slavery. He had no family, no prospects of being married and Potiphar’s wife was beautiful and available. Scripture says that Potiphar’s wife “kept putting pressure on him day after day.” (Genesis 39:10, NLT). Didn’t he deserve some happiness? That’s how the world thinks. Joseph thought differently. “How could I ever do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.” (Genesis 39:9, NLT)

While in prison, “Joseph noticed the dejected look on [the cupbearer’s and baker’s] faces” (Genesis 40:6, NLT). After being sold by his brothers and then unjustly thrown into prison, Joseph was still showing concern for others. He wasn’t dwelling on how bad his own circumstances were, but was focused on those around him.

Life isn’t Fair!
Just ask Joseph. Yet God calls us to honor Him in our circumstances – whatever they are. And God blesses our obedience. I am impressed by several things beyond Joseph’s steadfast lifestyle. First, by not focusing on what was taken from him or how wrongly he was treated, Joseph’s life wasn’t consumed with bitterness, hatred or any kind of negativity. He accepted his circumstances and glorified God in the midst of them. Secondly, his life, then, was characterized by the blessing he was to others and the blessings he received from God, not by his unjust circumstances. He lived a life that wasn’t fair and he lived in the midst of blessing.

God Gives Wisdom
Phil read the same story I did, but God spoke differently to him. He was impressed that in each situation Joseph found himself, he excelled – because God gave him wisdom beyond human wisdom. God put things into his mind that he had no way of knowing. Sometimes it was the interpretation of a dream and sometimes it was simply knowledge about how to excel in a new position. As Phil meditated on this a bit, he became overwhelmed at the love God has for each of us individually. God treats each of us personally – the God who created the universe speaks to each one of us. We have His undivided attention. Words can’t express the awesomeness of that truth. He loves us! Wow! And beyond loving us, He interacts with us and gives us all we need to live for Him. He impacts our circumstances. He gives us knowledge.

I hope you were blessed by reading about Joseph’s life as much as we were. Let us know what impacted you the most. Comment below or on facebook. Blessings, friends.

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2Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. 3Cry out for insight and understanding. 4Search for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure. 
Proverbs 2:2-4 (NLT)

That which we tune our ears to is what we begin to hear. Mothers tune their ears to the cries of their children. Doctors tune their ears to hear abnormal sounds in our lungs and abdomen. I could listen through their stethoscopes and every sound would seem either normal or abnormal – but I wouldn’t be able to distinguish one from another. In a room of crying babies I would not be able to distinguish one specific voice.

Similarly, with all the sounds that assault my hearing, unless I tune my ear to God’s wisdom I will not hear it. And I want to hear it. Proverbs 2 continues with some of the benefits of hearing God’s voice:

5Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. 6For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7He grants a treasure of good sense to the godly. He is their shield, protecting those who walk with integrity. 8He guards the paths of justice and protects those who are faithful to him.

9Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will know how to find the right course of action every time. 10For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. 11Wise planning will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe.
Proverbs 2:5-11 (NLT)

What tremendous benefits await those who tune their ear to wisdom! They are benefits that are clearly worth the effort. The question is how does one tune their ear to something that we’ve never heard before? What is the “sound” of wisdom? How do we find it and how do we recognize it?

God is so good! He doesn’t tell us to do something without providing a way to do it. Our key verse provides God’s approach. Let’s break it down:

Verse 2a: Tune your ears to wisdom – I see two elements to this simple statement.First, is the imperative to take action. The verb isn’t passive, it is active. So let’s start by recognizing that it’s something we need to do and making a decision to do it! Too often we pursue education for our profession or vocation, but assume that we either have wisdom or don’t. That’s not consistent with Scripture. Scripture says clearly that we can gain wisdom, just as we might gain a college education. We don’t get a college degree without applying ourselves to our studies, and wisdom isn’t something that we gain by osmosis. Just as we can glean some knowledge by hanging around others who have invested in it, we can glean some wisdom by those who have already tuned their ear to it. But do you want just the little bit of God’s wisdom, knowledge and understanding that you’ll gain from befriending a wise person, or do you want the whole gamut of wisdom God has for you? Do you want just a little of the good sense He has for you or all of it? Do you want just a little of His joy or all of it? I want it all (and I suspect you do, too).

The second element in this sentence is the kind of action we’re to take: Listen! You can’t tune your ear without listening closely. Each Sunday morning as our worship team tunes up, they strum their guitars, turn a knob or two, strum them again, turn the knobs again, and repeat this process until the strumming yields the sound they’re listening for. Quite frankly I don’t hear much difference between the first strumming and the last strumming. The musicians have tuned their ears – they’ve listened to their instruments over a period of time and know what it should sound like. We must listen closely, over a period of time, to learn the voice of the Lord. As we tune our ear to hear the Lord, sometimes we’ll get it wrong. That’s OK. God will correct us, and He loves that we are getting to know him.

Verse 2b: Concentrate on understanding – It’s not a lackadaisical approach that will tune your ear and give you understanding, it is the concentrated approach. Have you ever watched someone when they’re learning something new? Think of the child learning to tie his shoe. Or perhaps you’ve watched a great basketball player in slow motion as he concentrates on the basket as he sets up his shot. In both examples, you can see the concentration on the person’s face. They are focused on the task at hand, shutting out all outside influences that might ruin their concentration. God tells us to approach understanding like that – concentrate on it! Don’t just try it once, but concentrate on hearing God and understanding His ways. Block out the influences of this world and seek His wisdom.

Verse 3: Cry out for insight and understanding – Don’t go it alone! Cry out to God for insight and understanding. Ask God for it! He promises to give it:

If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking.
James 1:5 (NLT)

Notice the word “gladly.” He doesn’t give it begrudgingly. But you must cry out for it!

Verse 4: Search for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure – Search high and low for it, as you would for money that you’ve lost or hidden treasure. Don’t give up easily! I lost my passport once. I emptied drawers and filing cabinets. I looked under furniture. I even cleaned off my desk – and I’m not a clean desk person. What have you searched for lately? Think about your search, then think about applying those same methods and intensity in finding wisdom, understanding and insight.

As I’ve been reading through Proverbs, God has been reminding me that I don’t seek His wisdom often enough. When I do the results are tremendous. Just today Phil was trying to do something on our website that he couldn’t figure out. He had spent quite a bit of time researching and trying various things, all to no avail. Then he started thinking about how God gave Joseph wisdom for succeeding in every position he held. So Phil paused to pray. He went back to working on the website, did a few things that made no sense to him and within minutes he had accomplished what he’d been trying to do for days! God’s wisdom is so good. We’ve had experiences like this in the past. Seeking God’s wisdom brings success. It was the topic of my last blog, and God is impressing it upon me enough for it to be the topic of this blog.

Let’s ask God for His wisdom before we waste time trying to live in our own wisdom (or lack thereof). He’s so good, He’ll give it generously! We have His promise.

 5Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

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God is challenging me to believe His Word. I mean really believe it. That challenge has just started, so I’m sure there will be future blogs about it, but let me give you a taste of what God’s been whispering in my ear lately.

In Matthew 9:29 Jesus said the following to two blind men as He healed them:

“According to your faith let it be done to you.” (NRSV)
Matthew 9:29b

This is not blog about healing, healing faith or faith healing,  and I don’t want to take the verse out of context. On the flip side, I don’t want my lack of faith to limit God’s work in my life.

Do you believe this…or that…

God can heal you…or that you have a condition that you’ve had all your life and at best God can alleviate some of the symptoms sometimes?

God can give you favor with a boss…or that your boss hates you and you will never succeed until he or she retires?

Your marriage can be the most satisfying relationship you’ve ever imagined or…that things will never change?

You can change (set you free from) that habit that keeps you from moving forward…or have you tried so many times and been unsuccessful that you believe it’s a hopeless cause and you just have to keep fighting

While I would like to say that I believe everything on the left side of these equations, I’m afraid some of my actions would suggest that my “faith” falls on the right side. You see, we act upon and react based on what we believe. Our actions are based on our beliefs – our faith! The old adage “actions speak louder than words” is true. Our actions (and inactions) demonstrate our faith.

So when things don’t go quite as I had planned or hoped, do my actions say “I trust God’s Word to bring the outcome He’s promised” or do my actions say “I lost this and will never…” or “I don’t know if…”

What kind of faith do you have?
In the above “this…or that” examples, we see two different kinds of faith. The first might be called “positive faith” and the latter “negative faith.” (1) Positive faith believes God and lives in such a way that our trust in Him is obvious. Negative faith has more confidence in the enemy’s ability to thwart God’s plans and blessings and is just as obvious to those around us. These two kinds of faith are very different but have at least three things in common:

  • Both kinds of faith are obvious to those around us people around us can see from our actions and hear from our conversation that we are trusting God or have given up hope that God can/will impact our situation.
  • Both kinds of faith impact what actually happens! In Matthew, Jesus didn’t say “According to your positive faith let it be done to you, but your negative faith has no impact on the situation.” No. He said “According to your faith let it be done to you.” While I believe that God’s grace and mercy transcends all, I also believe that when we have no hope – no confident expectation – that God’s impact is muffled.
  • Both kinds of faith have an influence on those around us that goes beyond the blessing they receive when our faith was more active. In other words, others are seeing us stand for and take action based on a confident expectation that God has spoken and God will do what He says…or they are seeing us accept (believe) that the enemy has won. Our actions impact their faith and actions. I want my faith to help others grow in their faith. The alternative is that I am a person who makes it harder for them to believe. Lord, please help me be the positive influence!

Friends, this is impacting my spirit so strongly. I am seeing things in every area of my life where I have exhibited negative faith – where I have been a “doubting Thomas” – and God is opening my eyes to how that very well may have limited God’s blessings in my life. Let me give you two examples from my own life.

  • I have written a Bible study on the book of Jonah. While I wrote it quite awhile ago, I have not finished formatting it for publication. That process is nearly complete. I’ve been heard saying “I don’t know if anyone will want the study when I’ve finished it, but…”

Wait a minute! Or as Phil would say “roll back the tape!”

>  Do I believe that the study holds powerful truths gleaned from a book that holds more sovereign acts of God per page than any other book of the Bible? Yes.
>  Do I believe that God gave me those studies? Yes.
>  Have they impacted my life? Yes.
>  Have they impact the lives of others who have seen the material? Yes.
>  Do my actions demonstrate that I believe those things? Uhhh…no, not really. My actions say that I’ve not made this a priority and probably even say that I’m a bit afraid to actually release the study.
Where is my confident expectation in God?

  • We’ve owned our business for 23 years. During that time, our income has been very cyclical – we have a good year, then we have a not-so-good year. During the good years we save. During the bad years those savings are depleted. While God has blessed us by keeping our business alive through years when many of our competitors have failed, we’ve not see the kind of steady growth we would like. It has occurred to me as God is teaching me about faith that I have believed that this cycle is “the nature of our business” – I’ve fallen into an expectation of prosperity followed by lack. Don’t get me wrong – God is always blessing and even in our lean years we are blessed more than most of the world. We started this business, however, to be a conduit of blessing to the church – believing that God would use our business and businesses like ours to fund end time ministries. I am seeing my negative faith impacting our business…and therefore all who would be blessed through it.

Laying Aside That Which So Easily Entangles
Now if you’re like me, this also brings up questions and objections. I am laying those aside for now! I am confident that God is speaking to me about faith. I don’t want to stop that flow by throwing in all my “yeah, buts.” I am confident that God will teach me a proper perspective and throwing the “yeah, buts” into the mix right now will simply interrupt the Teacher. It’s not that the Teacher can’t answer my questions, it’s that He knows the best order to present the material. I’m confident that some of those “yeah, buts” will get answered. I’m also confident that some of them will end up on the “you’re too young to understand” list. (Don’t tell me your mother didn’t use that line on you!)

Joining the Great Adventure
This is an exciting journey, friends. Imagine what might happen if the Church (yes, that’s you and me) really believed God’s Word and acted upon that belief. I know God has a great adventure in store for me. He also has one in store for you…will you join Him in the great adventure? I hope so!

(1) One of the books God is using to draw my attention to positive and negative faith is 10 Curses that Block the Blessing by Larry Huch, Whitaker House Publishing.

682080: 10 Curses That Block the Blessing 10 Curses That Block the Blessing By Larry Huch / Whitaker House Publishers
Have you been suffering with depression, family dysfunction, marital unhappiness, or other problems and been unable to overcome them? Within the pages of this book, Ten Curses That Block the Blessing, Larry Huch shares his personal experience with a life of anger, drug addiction, crime, and violence. He shows how he broke these curses and reveals how you can:

  • Receive dominion – what it is and how to use it
  • Recognize the signs of a curse,
  • End cycles of abuse and violence
  • Be set free from generational curses
  • Bring your children to Christ

You might also find these books by Larry Huch helpful. Click on the title to learn more:

84282: Free at Last--Book and CD Free at Last–Book and CD By Larry Huch / Whitaker House Publishers
You can break free from your past! Don’t let what’s happened to you and your family hold you back in life! You can find freedom from depression, anger, abuse, insecurity, and addiction in Jesus Christ. Pastor Larry Huch reveals powerful truths from Scripture that enabled him and many others to quickly break the destructive chains in their lives and receive God’s blessings. Learn the secret to true freedom and you, too, can regain your joy and hope, experience divine health, mend broken relationships, and walk in true prosperity – body, soul, and spirit. A study guide and teaching sermon are included on a CD.
741187: The Torah Blessing The Torah Blessing By Larry Huch / Whitaker House

Discover the Jewish roots of your Christian faith in The Torah Blessing. Author and pastor Larry Huch takes you on a incredible journey through the hidden truths in the Torah and God’s Word. You’ll learn deep spiritual truths from Israel’s heritage which will connect you to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus in new powerful ways.


742580: Unveiling Ancient Biblical Secrets Unveiling Ancient Biblical Secrets By Larry Huch / Whitaker House Publishers
In Unveiling Ancient Biblical Secrets, Pastor Larry Huch reveals God’s ancient blessing for your life, such as: destruction of the curse of poverty, healing beneath the wings of the tallit, the covenant of success and more. By understanding and tapping into these timeless truths, Christians can rediscover the destiny that God intends for His people.

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