Posted in Faith

Can’t Top This Belief

Joseph with his brothers in Egypt
Joseph with his brothers in Egypt

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NASB)

Trust me, I understand how hard it can be to believe that something good can come out of a bad situation, but time and again in the Word of God, we see examples of the Lord giving truth to this promise.

Perhaps one of the most amazing stories of God working bad things to the good happens in the life of Joseph, whose drama reads more like a soap opera than the real life that it is. Despite all the terrible things that happen in his life, Joseph always does the best he can do according to the abilities God has given him, acknowledges God’s superiority in all things, and is thankful above all else.

You recall Joseph’s challenges and triumphs:

  • Joseph, a favorite of his father Jacob because he is the son of Rachael, is betrayed by older brothers, who argue over killing him or just throwing him down an empty well.
  • Having determined to spare his life, the brothers sell Joseph into slavery with a band of travelers, ensuring that the young man will never see his father again.
  • Once Joseph arrives in Egypt, he becomes a slave to the captain of the guard. Joseph could wallow in the misery of being all alone in a foreign land and no longer free, but instead he works to the best ability God has given him and rises to be second in the house.
  • Before Joseph can settle into too fine a life, he is faced with another betrayal. His master’s wife, trying and failing to seduce Joseph, falsely accuses him of attacking her and gets Joseph sent to prison.
  • In prison, stuck inside a dank, dark cell, Joseph could give up, but instead, he becomes the best at what God has given him the ability to do at the prison. Once again, he is given much responsibility.
  • While Joseph is in prison, the Pharaoh’s baker and cup bearer are thrown into jail with him. Each has a dream. Joseph agrees to tell them what God says the dream means if they will only remember him to the Pharaoh. When the men try to give Joseph the credit for his interpretations, he is quick to correct them. Not I, he tells them, but only God can interpret dreams.
  • Surely, Joseph held on to a hope that he would be remembered to Pharaoh, especially as the first month passed, and the second month, and the third. But, the cup bearer, upon returning to his duty to Pharaoh, quickly forgets all about Joseph–for two whole years.
  • While Joseph continues to do his best in the situation he is in, even in a place where he is wrongly imprisoned, Pharaoh has a dream no one is able to interpret. The cup bearer finally remembers his promise and brings Joseph to Pharaoh. Once again, Joseph is able to interpret the dream because he gives full credit for the act to God.
  • Because of his interpretation, now Pharaoh entrusts Joseph with much indeed. Through the years of abundance and then severe drought, Joseph becomes second in all of Egypt only to Pharaoh himself. Under God’s guidance, Joseph keeps Egypt and the surrounding areas from starving to death.
  • Finally, when Joseph’s brothers come to get grain in Egypt because that is the only place where grain is available, Joseph exhibits his love of God once more. Instead of refusing his brothers food and shelter as would certainly be his right considering the way his brothers had treated him, Joseph offers them forgiveness and even goes so far as to ensure their future welfare in Egypt.

As Joseph proceeds with this ultimate act of forgiveness, he explains his attitude about the ultimate sovereignty of God in his life:

 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.  Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:4-8 NASB–emphasis added)

Not only does Joseph believe that God’s ultimate plan will be accomplished no matter how many twists, turns and dips our lives take, he also believes that all good things that have happened in his life come from God.

The next time you find yourself in the valley of the shadow, remember to reflect on a life spent like Joseph, who not only lived every day according to the principle that the God who wants good for us is the One Whose will triumphs, but who was also always thankful to God for the gifts He offers, including His grace.

Advertisements
Posted in Christian Fiction, Christian Living, Writers

Legacy: A New Chapter

The Texas Stray cover
Find my latest book at Lulu.com and in the Nook and iBookstore!

I wish I could say I was slick as all get-out and had planned a series on the concept of legacy to end up in conjunction with finally getting my second book published, but I’m just not that smart. Writing on legacy began for me because we had taken it up as the next subject of study in Sunday school class and because, before I started getting to use my writing through blogging and self-publishing a couple of years ago, I really struggled with questioning what God wanted me to be doing. (I still struggle with that, by the way, but it doesn’t consume me as it once did.)

Now that I have spent some time reflecting on what legacy should mean to a Christian, I of course realize even more that worldly things like writing a book are not what legacy is really about. But, since I am trying to use my writing to plant seeds for the kingdom, so to speak, I hope that my writing will be fruitful in that sense.

For all of my fellow bloggers out there, you know how exciting and frightening sharing a finished work can be. We never really are finished with editing anything we write. Something can always be improved upon, just as we ourselves can always find things personally to improve. But there comes a point when we must let the little bird leave the nest, and so I am ready with my second novel.

I want to take a minute, just a minute, to let myself feel good about this accomplishment. How many people always say they want to write a novel, but never get around to it? Now, by God’s grace, I have been able to complete two! I may never get published by a major house, but with print-on-demand venues like lulu.com, I am able to share my writing with someone other than a person I am related to. If I can touch just one person, haven’t I let God use me to His good purpose just a little bit? You can read more about my book here.

Now, concerning legacy. I need to make sure I don’t put all my hopes of bearing fruit into the proverbial writing basket. In fact, it would be complete arrogance and misunderstanding of the Word on my part to assume I have come close to living a Spirit-filled existence if all I did for others was try to write. Let’s face it, writing is probably 90% for the writer and only 10% for her audience.

No, I need to make sure I am harvesting the fruit of the Spirit in my daily life. I need to shine the light of Christ by being kind, doing things for others, helping those in need when I have the ability and resources to do so, and trying to see things from the other person’s perspective.

This week, with Thanksgiving, I think we will all have opportunities to reach out to others with Christ’s hands. What a wonderful way to begin the ending of the old year and move into the new one.

Thus endeth the lessons on legacy. Thanks for joining me in them.
Posted in Christian Living, Faith, Living

You Want To Know These Three Important Questions For Your Life

We can ALL be this relaxed. Read how.

I have been doing a much better job lately of living day-to-day.  This approach to life, realizing that what I really have is only this moment, taking to heart Jesus’ admonition to take care of this day because each day has enough trouble of its own, is really a great leap forward for a compulsive worrier such as myself.  It is a very freeing way to approach life when you don’t bog yourself down with the “what ifs” that plague the anxiety-ridden.

As God so often works, I happened to read a really great passage in C.S. Lewis’ Scewtape Letters this week that will help me live each moment in an even more Godly way.  After all, it’s easy to live-in-the-moment and fall into the trap of living for the moment, plunging yourself solely into the pleasures and challenges of this life instead of contemplating the next one.

 

What C.S. Lewis proposes is that each person has three questions to ask of herself before doing anything:

  1. Is it righteous?
  2. Is it prudent?
  3. Is it practical?

We need to be sure that we define these questions according to the Bible.  The first word, righteous, means “acting in accord with divine or moral law; free from guilt or sin” according to Webster’s Dictionary.  If we want the Bible’s definition, we need only turn to the Sermon on the Mount, starting in Matthew 5, to learn about this word from every angle.  Jesus simplified righteousness the most when He summed up the law with two edicts: loving God first and most and loving and treating everyone else as we ourselves want to be loved and treated.  So, when I ask myself, is this righteous, I know I have to begin my thinking in the realm of love that IS God.

Something that is prudent is “marked by wisdom or judiciousness” (Webster’s).  We know from the Proverbs that fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.  We also know that we can only gain wisdom of God through daily study of His word, daily time with Him in prayer, and concsious knowledge on our part that we really don’t know anything at all when compared with God’s wisdom.  So, is our action wise according to the dictates laid out by God, according to His goals for a Christian’s life?

Practical things are “manifested in action, not theoretical or ideal.”  They are “capable of being put to use or account/ useful” (Webster’s).  It can be so easy to get caught up in our own thoughts all the time, wondering or complaining about how things should be instead of taking care of how things are.  But, practical actions are more likely to point outward, to think of others instead of just the self.  It’s all very easy to say to ourselves that we love other people.  It is another thing altogether to serve food in a soup kitchen or volunteer for a community group or bake dinner for the older neighbor who lives next door.  Again, Jesus helped define what was practical during His ministry, often to the shock of the “more religious” Pharisees, who could not see the holiness of some of His actions because they could not see past their own rigidly-defined religion.  For example, they did not understand how unclean things like utensils used to eat on the outside do not make a person unclean on the inside.

It’s often been said to count to ten before speaking when you are angry.  I like this idea of taking time to ask myself three questions before I take an action or say something I may otherwise regret.  I especially love the way that God works for the good the things that happen in our lives.  Just as I am learning to live without worry, God gives me something positive to think about to make my “moment-living” even more productive from a Christian perspective.  Thank you, Jesus!

Posted in Christian Living, Christianity, Faith

Do You Live Like You Believe It?

A Pool of Water Used for BaptismsThis little pool of water may not seem like much, but at different points in time, it has actually served as the site where some were baptized into the family of Jesus.  We all remember the moment when we ourselves were baptized and those fledgling years of our Christianity when everything was just a little brighter, when our zest for God fairly glowed.

But life has a way of catching up to us.  If the race we are running were an easy one, it would really not be worth the effort of putting one foot in front of another.  The glow of our early years of Christian faith can begin to tarnish with the cares of this world.  We start to hold on to what is right in front of us instead of offering up the cares of this world to the Ruler of the next one.  We let worry creep in, no matter what Christ told us about worrying, no matter that the Creator of everything knows the number of hairs on our very heads.  We cling to treasures on this earth under the auspices of security, like the rich young man unable to sell all and follow the Son of Man.

Many years ago, my father-in-law asked a series of questions to a younger person he was counseling.  This person was facing several family crises, depression, and budget woes.  Knowing that she believed in Christ, my father-in-law began by asking her about her belief.  When she strongly proclaimed her faith in God, my father-in-law asked her to consider if she were living like she believed Christ died for her and rose again.

How about you?  How about me?  What does it mean to live like I believe it?  In the past several years, it has come to mean my spending more time doing and less time wringing my hands wondering if where I am and what I am up to is what God wants from me.  I don’t mean that I have quit praying to God about His purpose for my life, or that I have quit aligning my actions to the principles of the Bible as best as I can.  What I have started to do is to give my actions over into God’s hands, where they have really been all along.   Now, however, my mind is recognizing God’s authority.  If He wants me somewhere else or doing something else, I have to live like I believe and step forward in the faith that He will get me where He wants me to be.

This process is not easy, like all growing pains, but through the gift of the Spirit that God has granted us believers, we can make it through life’s challenges aided by the One and Only, proof positive that “His burden is light.”   Living like we believe involves prayer time, worship time, helping others, and doing instead of worrying.  The more I can live like I believe, the more God’s light will shine through me.  And what more could any of us want than that?

Posted in Christian Living, Christianity, Faith, Living

Is Your Truth THE Truth?

   Like a winding set of stairs (especially like the stairs in the “Harry Potter” films that change on a whim), when you define truth according to your own rules, by what you think is right or, even more deadly, what feels right,  you start upon the journey of a very slippery slope that can only land you in the world of self-delusion.

Self-delusion is a favored land for popular culture.  “I’m OK, you’re OK” is the slogan here.  In popular culture, there are segments of society against which nothing bad should be said and other segments against which any barb is OK.  This reality is nothing new.  The Romans did an awesome job of persecuting Christians while allowing a variety of cultures to continue in religions which were in opposition to popular Roman thought.

But reality doesn’t equal truth.  Think about this.  Just because something IS does not make that something TRUE.  When truth is actually TRUTH, it is also RIGHT.  And who claims sovereignty over right?  For us Christians, the answer to that question is easy–God.  And the reference for TRUTH is not what we think or feel, but what is written in the Bible.  But not just the parts of the Bible you’d like to pay attention to.  The TRUTH comes from understanding the Bible in its totality.

I had a Sunday school teacher when I was young who explained that the Bible is so wonderful in part because it is at the same time simple enough for the most challenged of minds to understand and yet so complex that even a genius has difficulty deciphering all of it.  Without a strong knowledge of the Bible, think how easy it would be for someone to pick and choose the parts they needed to convince you of something that is actually the opposite of what God really says.  That is exactly how we have wound up in a world where more than half of marriages end in divorce and a shocking percentage of teenagers have already lost their virginity outside of wedlock.

Francine Rivers wrote a wonderful novel on just this premise: The Last Sin Eater.  In this novel, a prominent individual convinces an entire community that a sacrifice for the dead other than the sacrifice Christ made for us all is needed for each departed soul.  In the novel, the people have lost connection to the Bible and its TRUTH.  It takes hearing the Word and the bravery of just a few characters to believe that Word to begin to heal that community and teach them who the last sin eater truly is.

Is your truth the TRUTH?  Can you hold it up to the guidelines of unconditional love of God and your fellow humans that is laid out in the Holy Word?  And how many things do you hold as true that aren’t actually in line with what the Bible says?  Do you think you are too far gone to be redeemed, for example?  God never says that in the Bible.  In fact, Christ even accepted the confession of the robber who died on the cross with Him!  Talk about getting in by the skin of one’s teeth.

Because TRUTH is more often than not more ugly than truth, it becomes so easy to fall into the popular culture sense of what is right.  I’m ashamed to admit that, despite the time I spend studying the Bible and theology books and Christian fiction, I still spend more time watching television.  How many lies have I let slip into my definition of truth from this bad habit?  How many more so for those who only interact with popular culture without understanding the TRUTH that is God?

I’ve constructed a visual STOP sign in my mind for this week, and I plan to use it whenever I think, feel, or say anything that is truth as opposed to TRUTH.  I challenge you to do the same.

God bless.

Posted in Christian Living, Christianity, Faith, Self-Help

Learning to Lean

“Fully Rely on God,” the radio broadcaster explained one morning this week, encouraging his audience to add the familiar F.R.O.G. acronym to their electronic signatures, just as we type LOL for “lots of laughs.”
Now, anxiety is my middle name, and yet as a believer in Christ, it should be farthest from my imaginings. Fully rely on God. If I could just really live what I believe, how would I ever feel anxiety at all?
From whence comes each anxiety or fear? Aren’t they connected to our ultimate fear of the unkown, death? Again this week, listening to a relaxation tape, I was reminded that death is not something to fear, but a thing to rejoice in that it is a necessary step to another, better stage in existence. Fully rely on God. Seeing this life and its troubles as a stepping stone to a better, at this stage unknowable, existence should be a source of solace instead of fear and anxiety in a Christ-centered world.
Twice this week, I have been encouraged to turn to God when I feel the pressures and anxieties of this world coming down on me. How will I turn to Him? In prayer? By reciting my favorite verses to myself? By stating to myself that there is a purpose to what I am feeling or experiencing that means something to God, even if I can’t see it in this moment?
Christ seemed to know that we would be challenged by anxieties in this life. We are encouraged to “cast our anxieties on Him because He cares” for us. His parables tell us about people who faced harsh masters, life-altering mistakes, and the early death of loved ones. Even Simon, called Peter, who certainly fully relied on God, fell victim to the devil and denied Christ three times before the cock crowed.
When I think of all the time I have wasted on feeling unnecessary anxieties, I wonder how I haven’t learned from them. What is it going to take for me to fully rely on God in even the smallest of things, not to mention the really big challenges of life?
For those who are predisposed to overmuch anxiety, relying on God is a daily struggle. But even the most steady of personalities faces challenges where relying on God’s will helps to make the challenges more emotionally manageable.
Maybe a little more F.R.O.G. in our correspondence is really a good idea, especially if we refuse to forget the fully part and practice a little more reliance.

Posted in Christianity, Faith

God is not restrained

The last time you read about the adventures and perils of David and his good friend, Jonathan, the son of David’s enemy, King Saul, did you happen to linger for any time at 1 Samuel 14:6?
I didn’t, but I’m glad today that the preacher at church did, for in that verse, Jonathan, who is about to face down 20 Phillistines with only the aid of his armor-bearer, proclaims his faith in the Lord by stating that God is not restrained by many or by few when it comes to accomplishing His will.
As the preacher asked this morning of the congregation how many of us had let ourselves give up because we were too few, I was struck anew at the concept of the mustard seed and God’s ability to do more than we can ever imagine with even the smallest gesture on our part that is in keeping with His will and accomplished through faith.
God cannot be restrained. God will not be restrained. I find that comforting in the wake of so many crazy things that seem to be happening in our world. I also find that comforting as a struggling writer who feels that God gave her an ability to write for a reason. I, of course, am often thinking that reason should be something much more grand and glorious than I have heretofore accomplished, but Jonathan’s example reminds me that the smallest thing I do with my writing might just be what God had in mind when He handed that talent to me.
So, ask yourself today, where in my life am I forgetting that God cannot be restrained by many or by few? Go ahead. Prayerfully and with faith, take that tiny step you’ve held yourself back from when you were thinking, as I was, that it would not be enough.