Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Remaining faithful even in jail (Genesis 39:22)

SCRIPTURE: Genesis 39:22 (TM) -  larger reading Genesis 39:19-23
The head jailer put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners - he ended up managing the whole operation.

According to the Bureau of Standards in Washington, a dense fog covering seven city blocks to a depth of 100 feet is composed of less that one glass of water. That amount of water is divided into about 60 billion tiny droplets. Yet when those minute particles settle over a city or the countryside, they can almost blot out everything from your sight.
It is seldom a good thing to be thrown into jail. Poor Joseph. Potiphar was an Egyptian official. Joseph was a handsome dude. Potiphar’s wife had designs for Joseph. He refused. She got mad. BINGO – Jail time for Joseph.

This couldn’t be a good thing. Usually jail time isn’t. But God had other plans. Even in bad times God still has a plan. Mountain or valley, day or night … it really doesn’t matter if God is trusted to be in charge.

Life is easy, when you're up on the mountain
And you've got peace of mind, like you've never known.
But things change, when you're down in the valley.
Don't lose faith, for you're never alone.

For the God on the mountain, is the God in the valley.
When things go wrong, He'll make them right.
And the God of the good times is still God in the bad times.
The God of the day is still God in the night.

We talk of faith way up on the mountain.
Talk comes so easy when life's at its best.
Now down in the valleys, of trials and temptations
That's where your faith, is really put to the test.

For the God on the mountain is the God in the valley.
When things go wrong, He'll make them right.
And the God of the good times is still God in the bad times.
The God of the day, is still God in the night.
The God of the day, is still God in the night.

And so for Joseph (and us) “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – it was time in the valley. He remained faithful. No anger. No sorrow. No “poor me.” No looking around and asking, “Where is God”. For Joseph’s God of the Mountain was still going to be his God in the valley. Day or night it didn’t matter.

Fogs, like our problems, are simple little things that are divided into lots of little things. So what if we stumble through the fog or get thrown into jail or lose our best friend or (insert your own worst thing) … Be faithful. God is in charge. Joseph did and look what happen to him.


It gets a little hard to see sometimes in the fog. Give us spiritual eyes to see throw it even when we are in “jail”.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Does the resurrection faith scare the "bejeezus out of us"? (Genesis 17:2)

SCRIPTURE: Genesis 17:2 (TM) - larger reading Genesis 17:1-8
I'll make a covenant between us and I'll give you a huge family.

Faith in God makes great optimists. Over in Burma, Judson was lying in a foul jail with 32 lbs. of chains on his ankles, his feet bound to a bamboo pole. A fellow prisoner said, "Dr. Judson, what about the prospect of the conversion of the heathen?", with a sneer on his face. His instant reply was, "The prospects are just as bright as the promises of God." 

“The prospects are just as bright as the promise of God” or being told well into his nineties that he, Abram, was going to be the father of many nations or the disciples running to find the tomb empty. Such is faith.

Faith is believing that all of this is possible and probable. Faith is betting our life that it is true... all of it! Faith is committing to go where we least want to go. I’m 71 and am enjoying my three grandchildren and just the thought of starting over with the full time responsibility of raising a baby sends shivers up and down my spine, but hey, who knows. Such was the case with Abraham and Sarah. They already had one foot in the grave and were about to have the other one in the nursery. Such is the issue of faith.

Are we ready for whatever God has in store for us?

But doesn’t our companionship with the living Christ take us down the path of the least likely scenario? Shouldn’t it open us up to all sorts of unbelievable possibilities? Dare we stoop down to look into the empty tomb and thus encounter the resurrected Lord and hear him say: “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!” It will scare the “bejeezus out of us”… or at least it should.

Or as I like to think: it should “scare us spitless”, because if it doesn’t than we don’t understand what comes next in the story of resurrection faith… our resurrection to a transformed life, a life heading in a totally different direction than the one we have planned out for ourselves. As they say: “What to make God laugh?  Just go ahead and tell Him your plans for your life.”


We say we are ready, but we really aren’t. We say we will do whatever it is you want us to do, but we won’t. We say a lot of things that when push-comes-shove … well, just forget it. And yet, we desire a resurrection faith that will take us there.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Acknowledging our real strength (Psalm 121:1-2)

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 121:1-2 (TM) – larger reading Psalm 121
I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

In a speech made in 1863, Abraham Lincoln said, "We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us."

How often in the course of our day do we forget who we are and where we have come from? Too often we push to the back burner the reality that none of this stuff in life really came from our hands. We are not self-made no matter what we might think.

Even further along this line of thinking is the fact that our strength and abilities are also a gift from God. Oh, we might have worked hard, got an education, honed our skills, developed our muscle… but everything that we are and everything we have comes from God and unto God it shall return.

There is some truth to be discovered in the old story that goes something like this: A newly appointed pastor went to visit the home of a congregation member. Upon arriving there the minister discovered his host was an avid gardener, and was only too delighted to show his pastor around the garden, a magnificent sea of greens, purples, blues, whites, yellows and pinks. Wanting to set the relationship off on a strong, positive note, the pastor said, “Praise God for the beauty of his handiwork”.
But his host replied in a somewhat offended tone, “Now pastor, don’t go giving all the credit to God. You should have seen this garden when the Almighty had it to himself!”
God does expect a return on His investment in us, but He also expects the praise and glory for having the wisdom in depositing those riches into our hands. My comment when people praise me for something is usually: “I’m amazed what God does with what He has to work with!” Let’s acknowledge that we are nothing without God and whatever strength we might think we have won’t get us very far in this world without God taking our meager offering and doing something might with it. To God be the glory!

Help us at all times and in all ways to give you, O God, the praise and the glory for all that you are doing in us and often in spite of us.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday's inspirational story - A Million Dollar Lesson

A MILLION DOLLAR LESSON – author unknown

A cab driver taught me a million dollar lesson in customer satisfaction and expectation. Motivational speakers charge thousands of dollars to impart his kind of training to corporate executives and staff. It cost me a $12 taxi ride.

I had flown into Dallas for the sole purpose of calling on a client. Time was of the essence and my plan included a quick turnaround trip from and back to the airport.

A spotless cab pulled up. The driver rushed to open the passenger door for me and made sure I was comfortably seated before he closed the door. As he got in the driver’s seat, he mentioned that the neatly folded wall street journal next to me was for my use. He then showed me several tapes and asked me what type of music I would enjoy.

Well! I looked around for a “Candid Camera!” Wouldn’t you? I could not believe the service I was receiving. I took the opportunity to say, “Obviously you take great pride in your work. You must have a story to tell.”

“You bet,” he replied. “I used to be in corporate America, but I got tired of thinking my best would never be good enough. I decided to find my niche in life where I could feel proud of being the best I could be. I knew I would never be a rocket scientist, but I love driving cars, being of service and feeling like I have done a full day’s work and done it well. I evaluated my personal assets and, WHAM! I became a cab driver. One thing I know for sure, to be good in my business I could simply just meet the expectations of my passengers. But, to be great in my business, I have to exceed the customers expectations! I like both the sound and the return of being ‘Great’ better than just getting by on ‘average.’”

Did I tip him big time? You bet! Corporate America’s loss is the traveling folks friend!

Easter People should go well beyond the expectations of others. We have a great Savior therefore, our service… our “servanthood”… should be GREAT … not just average, getting by, doing the expected. The world expects average, we should WOW the world with exceptional attitude and service.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Living an unshackled life because He lives (John 20:19)

SCRIPTURE: John 20:19 (TM) – larger reading John 20:19-31
Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, "Peace to you."

Seeking to know God better, John Chrysostom became a hermit in the mountains near Antioch in A.D. 373. Although his time of isolation was cut short by illness, he learned that with God at his side, he could stand alone against anyone or anything. That lesson served Chrysostom well. In A.D. 398 he was appointed patriarch of Constantinople, where his zeal for reform antagonized the Empress Eudoxia, who had him exiled. Allowed to return after a short time, Chrysostom again infuriated Eudoxia, who sent him away again. How did Chrysostom respond to such persecution? With these words: "What can I fear? Will it be death? But you know that Christ is my life, and that I shall gain by death. Will it be exile? But the earth and all its fullness are the Lord's. Poverty I do not fear; riches I do not sigh for; and from death I do not shrink."

Out of fear the disciples locked themselves in as they locked the Jews out. Things were coming at them faster than they could process. Calvary, burial, and now Jesus’ body has disappeared… or was it more… could it be true what some of their own were saying… resurrection? But they were gripped by fear.

What fear grips us? Where are we paralyzed by fear? Fear of the unknown… or of the known. How have we locked ourselves up because of this crippling fear? And even more to the point, how badly do we need to hear Jesus or God say to us: “Peace to you”?

Testimonies like that above from John Chrysostom should encourage us that we have nothing to fear in this life or in the life to come. There is no one and nothing that authority over us… even though we have backed ourselves into a corner thinking so. Once we really learn that there is nothing in this world to fear then the locks come off and we become unshackled.

I believe that scripture speaks about having “Holy Boldness” – the unshackled soul. Therein lies the true power of resurrection and freedom of Easter. Not the free ticket to heaven stuff that is so often heard, but a fearless living in the reality of the here-and-now.

And because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives


May the chains fall off and the doors open wide as we escape from the fear that holds us back and locks us in. Help us to embrace the power of resurrection and hear the “Peace to you” message of the living Jesus.