Think about it: Joseph and God’s faithfulness

Psalms 105:19

“until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him.”

The Bible had me in a crazy awesome thought today. I was reminded of the story of Joseph. You know, the guy who dreamed a lot and wore the multi-colored coat.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the story, it’s found in Genesis 37-46. To try and sum up the story, it’s about the youngest son of a man who has 12 children. Not only is he subject to all of the “youngest” stigmas (babied by his mother, favored by his father, bullied by his older brothers, etc.) he was given the gift of dreams and interpreting dreams that would foretell the future.

One night Joseph woke up from a dream that foretold of his impending rise to leadership over Egypt, Israel and even his whole household (which, culturally at the time was unheard of. The youngest of 12 leading over the 1st born. It never happened). God spoke to him through this dream though, and Joseph believed to his very core that this was where God was leading him.

It would probably surprise you as much as it did Joseph to learn that his brothers turned on him after telling them of this dream. They bound him and sold him into slavery in the land of Egypt. He was a slave for years, accused of things he never did, thrown into dungeons.

It wasn’t until he was brought before Pharaoh himself that he began to see how God was still working and moving in his life to fulfill the dream that God had given him all those years ago. He interpreted Pharaoh’s dream of a coming drought that would last throughout the land for 7 years. Pharaoh then put Joseph in charge of all food and rations and put him only second to Pharaoh himself.

God fulfilled his promise that he made to Joseph in his dream all those years ago. But God brought Joseph low before he brought him high.

Often times in our lives we find ourselves in the lows. Wondering if God is really going to fulfill the prayer we truly believe He answered or the calling we truly believe he’s called us to.

For the past four years Courtney and I have held fast to the call in our lives that being on staff with Cru is where God wants us. Where he’s called us to be. We’ve been in, and through, the lows. For almost three of the past four years we have been raising our monthly financial support full-time. The whole time believing that God was still calling us to work full-time on the college campus, sharing and teaching the Gospel to college students.

During this time the Lord was testing our faith and commitment to the call that He’s put on our lives. However, I believe this “low” to have truly been a high when looking back on it. Yes, it was difficult, and at times Courtney and I would say to ourselves, “this is not what we signed up for.” But in the midst of it all — God was faithful. He used those times to show us what we’re really made of, and we quickly found that it wasn’t as much as we thought. If it hadn’t been for the strength of the Holy Spirit inside us, I don’t know if we would have had the resolve to still be where we are today.

Often times we compare trials in our lives to working-out or training for a big race. It’s a cliché comparison — “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” — but it’s true. The difficult things we experience that we push and pray through, but still make it out whole on the other side, are the things that refine and define us.

God is constantly making sure that we’re as “all in” like He is. At least I believe that to be part of the reason God brings us to a trial and we follow His leading. In our lives, like Joseph, God was faithful to us in the dream and vision that He gave us for being on staff with Cru sharing and teaching the Gospel to college students. The Lord wants good things for His beloved children (Romans 8:28). Trust and believe in that as you experience trials in your life.

Take a few moments the next time you’re in the thick of it all. Ask yourself if this is worth the costs of the call that God has placed on your life, or is he trying to get your attention to pull up anchor and set sail to somewhere new?

Think about it …

Think About It: God’s Will

1 John 2:17

“And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

Fellow Christian. This is for you. Whoever does the will of God abides forever.

The Word of God talks about the will of God very specifically to us. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Paul reminds us that it is God’s will that we be thankful in all circumstances. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus tells his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. Letting us know that it is by God’s will that we be active in our faith and Go.

We are also reminded in Ephesians 1:13 & 1 Thessalonians 2:13 that those who claim Christ have the Holy Spirit and the Word of God inside of them, and that both are going to guide and lead us into God’s will.

So let’s face it. There’s some solid Biblical evidence that if you’re a Christian walking in a daily relationship with Christ, you’re going to be struck with God’s will for your life.

“So what?” You might be asking yourself. “Why walk in God’s will for my life?” One of the bigger answers is found in 1 John 2:17: “Whoever does the will of God abides forever.” You can’t find any better reason than that. Those who live according to the will of the Lord will abide in God’s presence forever.

What does this mean? It means that if you make it your life’s pursuit to pursue God’s will & plan for your life, you won’t have to worry about how things are going to turn out. The Bible spells it out pretty plainly: Whoever does the will of God abides forever.

As pastor Bob Coy puts it, “Every time you make the deliberate effort to discern and do God’s will for your life, you set another foundational stone for your future that cannot be moved or shaken. As if experiencing God’s will wasn’t wonderful enough, it’s also establishing a reward for us in heaven that far outweighs and outshines any good thing we can ever comprehend here on earth.”

Keep this truth in mind daily because there will always be the tendency of the nature of the flesh to revert back to our own way.

So how do we do this? What are some action steps to take? Read the Bible. God’s will is going to be revealed through the Scriptures. Pray often. Not only that God would continually reveal His will for you, but pray for all things in all things. The deeper your connection with The Lord the easier it will be to discern His will. Seek council. Fellow believers and mentors in your life are going to be plugged into prayer and God’s Word too. They will help keep you on-track.

Stop and ask yourself: What does God want me to do? What does His Word have to say about that? What else is He using to indicate and clarify what His will is for my life?

Think about it …

Think About it: The Gospel is Personal

Romans 16:1

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae.”

The book of Romans. Paul’s letter to the church of Rome, 16 chapters, and full of some of the deepest doctrinal truths imaginable. Romans is really unrivaled in terms of the profound nature of the material found within. And yet, as if to keep this lofty piece of literature grounded in reality, it ends with a series of names like Phoebe, Pricilla, Aquila, Mary, Junia, and Julia, and many others.

I love the beauty of this. The needed reminder that at the end of the day, after all of these deep doctrinal truths, real authentic people are an indispensable part of our faith. Yea, Christianity is theological and doctrinal, yet it’s also personal. It includes and impacts real people, people with names and roles that are rooted in real life.

Pastor Bob Coy helps key in why we need to know this, “so often we can distance ourselves from the things we read about in God’s Word. Without even realizing it, we can view it as somebody else’s thing that doesn’t fully belong to us. But it isn’t.”

The Christian faith belongs to us just as much as it belongs to Phoebe, Pricilla, Aquila, Mary, Junia, and Julia. Ours is a personal faith, applicable to real people, and we’re the people that comprise it. God doesn’t want His truths to be carved in stone or on monuments. He wants them to be etched in hearts of actual people.

The truths of Romans and the rest of God’s Word apply to you just as much as anyone else!

The Gospel is personal.

Think about it…

Think About It: Why Are We Here?

Matthew 28:19, 20

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The Great Commission. In the Bible (at least in mine) this section of scripture is entitled “The Great Commission.” Essentially it is one of the handful of things found in scripture that is clearly laid out as “God’s Will.” It’s found in the form of Jesus’ command to His followers to go and make disciples.

This is referred to as The Great Commission, because it’s Christ’s commission, or marching orders, for His Church. These marching orders tell us to lead others to the same eternal truths concerning Jesus that we’ve come to know and embrace.

Making disciples is why we’re here on earth instead of in heaven. Think about it. At the time when Jesus gave these “marching orders,” He had already paid the price for all of mankind’s sins on the cross. He had been raised from the dead as living proof that His sin sacrifice was sufficient and that there was indeed life after the grave for those who followed Him.

Everything seemed to have been completed. Nothing stood in the way of the work of restoration between God and man. Where there once was no way, there was now THE WAY. Those first few disciples were thinking, “Great! Now let’s go with You to Your Kingdom” (Acts 1:6).

But the Lord had another plan. As pastor Bob Coy explains is, “[God’s] plan included many more lives being brought into His eternal Kingdom, a plan that would extend 2,000+ years into the future, a plan that includes us today! That’s why we’re here-to carry out God’s plan-and we do that by making disciples of Jesus Christ.”

What is God’s will for your life? A big part of it is to go and make disciples. He wants you to pass along the things you’ve learned from his Word to those who haven’t yet heard them. Whether it’s people who don’t know Jesus at all or people who know less about Him than you do, God’s will is for you to disciple them.

Think about it…

Think About It: Called to be Saints

Romans 1:7

“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

When you think about the “saints” in the New Testament, who do you think of? Paul? Peter? James? John? Those are the first four that come to my mind for me. Of course there are many more, but lets just look at these four for a moment.

What do we think about when we think on these four men? I think of them as very highly regarded. They were clearly men who encountered Christ in a real and personal way. If not, I doubt they would have given all that they had, including their lives, to serve and give glory to their Savior. They met him in the flesh. I think of them as Christ-like. Direct disciples of Christ. So when I think about them I think of them as somewhat extraordinary. Like they were more Christ-like than I could hope to be because they were discipled by Jesus. Like they are somehow less subject to the same weaknesses and temptations as I am.

But as my thinking turns this way I am forgetting one big truth that CH Spurgeon reminds us of: “The nearer a man lives to God the more intensely has he to mourn over his own evil heart; and the more his Master honours him in his service, the more also doth the evil of the flesh vex and tease him day by day.”

Essentially: “mo’ money mo’ problems.” The more of Christ we have in our lives the more of our sinful nature is revealed. Like a dirty floor, the more light you cast on it the dirtier it seems because you’re exposing the dirt that the shadow was hiding.

The fact is, if we had seen the apostle Paul, we probably would have believed he was remarkably like the rest of us; and if we had talked with him, we probably would have said, “Wow, this guy isn’t much different from myself. Yea, he’s more faithful, more holy, and more deeply taught than I am, but he has the same trials to go through that I do.” In fact, we would probably conclude that, in some respects, he is going through harder things than we are.

What does this mean for us? Lets stop looking at the New Testament saints as being less prone to weakness or sin. Their holiness is attainable even by us. We are “called to be saints” by that same voice which constrained them to their high vocation.

As CH Spurgeon said on the topic, “It is a Christian’s duty to force his way into the inner circle of saintship; and if these saints were superior to us in their attainments, as they certainly were, let us follow them; let us emulate their ardour and holiness. We have the same light that they had, the same grace is accessible to us, and why should we rest satisfied until we have equalled them in heavenly character?”

The saints lived with Jesus, lived for Jesus, and we would would naturally believe that they grew to be like Jesus. If we would live by the same Spirit we too can draw nearer to Jesus and grow to be like Him as well.

Think about it …

Think About It: Not Our Strength Alone

Psalm 86:16

“Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give Your strength to Your servant,
and save the son of Your maidservant.”

One of the more revelatory truths the Bible tells us (Christians) that we tend to forget about is this: God doesn’t call us to live out our Christian faith on our own strength alone, but He tells us to receive and depend on Him and His strength. “… not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6b)

This is a truth that I have to be reminded of often. So frequently in life we are trying and trying to do things on our own. I find myself in the midst of planning some event or working on something in-the-moment and I realize that I’m operating under the belief that this thing is going to happen because of me and the efforts that I’m putting into whatever it is I’m doing.

I need to be reminded that I need God’s strength to truly complete the tasks that He has set before me. I need this reminder often.

In Psalm 86 David is crying out and asking the Lord to grant him His strength. David knew that his own strength wasn’t enough for what he had to do and that God was waiting and willing to give him all the strength he needed. However, the verse is not just about God giving just anyone His strength.

Take a closer look at the second line in the verse: “give Your strength to Your servant.” That’s an important point. It reminds us that while God gives us His strength, He also expects us to apply His strength toward His service.

Now this doesn’t mean you have to sell all your possessions and spend the rest of your life on the mission field (although it’s not a bad place to find yourself). Serving the Lord is a matter of being obedient to the calling He’s placed on our lives; whether it’s to be a stay-at-home mom who disciples her children, a CEO who represents righteousness in the boardroom, or a sales associate who treats every customer the way Jesus would. Serving is simply doing what God has called us to do.

Sometimes we wonder why our lives aren’t overflowing with the Lord’s power and strength. But the real question is, what are we doing with our lives? Are we just interested in our own thing, or are we committed to using God’s strength in His service?

Think about it …

Think About It: Waiting

Psalm 62:1

“For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.”

Picture the last time you waited in line for something. Maybe it was to get a cup of coffee from Starbucks. Or maybe it was to go see “The Dark Knight Rises.” Either way, the things we wait in line for are things that we deem “worth the wait.”

You’ve probably heard the phrase “worth the wait” all the time. My friends will tell me about a new restaurant in Minneapolis and say, “oh, it’s like a 40 minute wait, but it’s worth it!” Or, “I had to stay up until 2 am to order my iPhone 4S online, but it was totally worth waking up exhausted the next day.”

The simple fact is this: We don’t wait for things that don’t matter to us, and our willingness to wait is an indication of how much we value something.

Now take a moment to re-read what David says in Psalm 62:1, “For God alone my soul waits in silence.” This simple little statement says a lot about the Psalmist’s heart. It reveals how much he valued God. It shows that God was “worth it” to David.

Are you currently waiting for something? A boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife? A job or internship? Satisfaction in where the Lord has you?

The real question for you is this: “Are you willing to wait on the Lord?”

If we’re hesitating even for a second on this one, it might mean we lack confidence and trust in God, and even our value in Him. But if we’re like David, if we’re willing to silently wait on the Lord, then it speaks volumes about how much He means to us and how much we appreciate Him. From Him is where our salvation comes.

Now I’ll admit, I hesitate on this one. I’d LOVE to believe that it is simple and easy for me to “wait on the Lord,” but sometimes it just isn’t. Sometimes you look to God and ask Him “is this really worth the wait?”

It should always be the goal to trust in Him so much that you’re willing to wait outside His doors like those guys who camp-out outside of the Apple Store before the new iPhone comes out. But are we? Are we really?

This is definitely something to check yourself on. We should all long to be more like David in this situation. We should want God more than that new restaurant, that new iPhone, the Pink Floyd reunion tour, or anything else you’ve waited in line for and said was “worth it.”

What we’re willing to wait for shows us a lot about ourselves. It shows us what lies at our core.

Think about it …