Hearing What God Says

The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) 19 Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced. 20 While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. 21 She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus – ‘God saves’ – because he will save his people from their sins.”

I imagine Joseph as a fairly typical bloke. He loves his woman and is excited about getting married and the future they will enjoy. Then, out of the blue, his world gets rocked. Some incredible ‘story’ about an angel, God and giving birth to a baby that’s not his.

Not sure how he did it but he responds with dignity, he responds respectfully. After all, he could have had Mary killed for such behaviour. Instead, he just wants to do what’s right, to do things in a correct and godly manner.

This was his defining moment. Get it wrong and the story changes. He could become bitter or he could become better. This moment demonstrates the fragility of God’s redemptive plan. Using humans with all of our emotions is the unstable element in the process, yet God knew Joseph was up to the task. There is no temptation that God cannot help you bear, overcome or make a way of escape from.

Perhaps you feel life is at one of those defining moments. The next step you take seems very significant to the future of your life and maybe those closest to you. What if I get it wrong? What if I make a mistake and head off in a different direction?

While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream.

From what I observe, the key to Joseph’s success was a willingness to hear what God was saying. No doubt his mind was racing through the options and I think that’s alright but he still made sure his ear was attentive to any leading from God, in whatever form it happened to come.

It might be a dream for you, it could be through reading the Word, it could the message on a Sunday, a prompting from the Holy Spirit in your time with God, it may even be through a trusted Christian friend.

The one thing I know is this: while you are trying to figure it, God will speak, so put yourself in a position to hear. Then like Joseph, don’t doubt it and respond according to what God has said.

This Christmas, in the busyness of it all, create some space for you & God and listen to what He wants to say to you about the next step in your life.

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When It Looks Wrong, It Might Be Right

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive [Genesis 50:20]

Joseph had a different perspective to everyone. Whatever Joseph thought life would like, it probably could not have gone further off track, what with being sold off by his brothers, bought as a slave, falsely imprisoned and forgotten about.Yet, through it all he still managed to maintain a view of the bigger picture. He still managed to hold on to the idea that God was there and involved in orchestrating it all.

I can have that same confidence with my God. As I walk with Him through all of the ups and downs of life, I can have faith that God is there. Actually when I look back on life I can see when God has been there. His footprints are all over different situations, His interventions that have protected me, promoted me and provided for me.

God’s providence is amazing. What can seemingly look like harm, God can use for good and not just good for us individually, but for the good of many. That’s the amazing grace of God.

When things look wrong to us we have to remember, it might be right to God.

I am careful to not dismiss aspects of my journey but to reflect and learn through everything.

What is God trying to show me? 
How is God trying to grow me and change me? 
How do I demonstrate my faith through this? 

I look for God as I walk with Him so I can see His hand on my life, then I can celebrate the goodness of God even in the midst of the badness that life can bring. It’s not as easy as it is to write. Even if I don’t see His hand I still know that He is there. Why? Jesus told me He would be, that He would never leave me.

That is me putting my faith in action.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose [Romans 8:28]

Whatever you are travelling through right now, hold on to that truth. God is in the midst. He is working out His plans and purposes. They may not look like how we thought they would or should and that’s alright. One day everything will be made perfect on the day we get to see Jesus face to face and all of this ‘stuff’ will seem incredibly insignificant then.

Who Knows Where You May End Up

Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh [Genesis 41:14]

Joseph could have never known that he would end up where he ended up. From favourite son, sold by his brothers, to time in prison, to second only to Pharaoh. It’s quite a journey.

Our journey may not be quite so dramatic but it may be familiar in one aspect, we never know what’s ahead. We can have dreams about the future but we don’t really know what it will actually look like. We can’t control everything so the key is take control of what we can, which means we need to know what that particular thing is.

Joseph demonstrates the ability to continue to do one thing very well – walking with God, through all different experiences of life. Whatever is happening, he choice to walk with God and then just to keep walking with God. He knew a God life was a bigger life. He knew that walking with God was about growing with God. He understood it would bring freedom with boundaries.

I think I know what I would like to see in my future but I don’t know what the actual future will hold. As a Christian I keep walking by faith. Through calm and rough alike, it is just a matter of trusting that God is better at working out the future of my life than I am.

Who knows where I might end up. It could be that I end up before kings.
Thankfully God knows, so I’m of the opinion, like Joseph, that the best place for my dreams are in His hands.

Freedom With Boundaries

But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she (Potiphar’s wife), caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me’. But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. [Genesis 39:11-12]

I have been posting lately about integrity and about how ‘why’ must come before ‘what’. As he walks with God, Joseph is a great example of both of these.

We may think that a result of walking with God is that life becomes restricted but that is wrong thinking. When we walk with God we access a new freedom, one where we are encouraged to live in the wide-open space of all that God has for us.

It is a freedom, with boundaries.

Such a statement can sound like a paradox. How can freedom include boundaries, yet with God I think it’s right. The boundaries come because God’s best for us is contained within them. God is not restricting us, He is protecting us. His desire is for us to flourish in the safety of ‘His green pastures’.

Boundaries though not always enjoyable are good for us. They are not about legalism, but about grace. They are not about religion either. Good healthy boundaries come from strong healthy relationships. Just as we encourage our own children to not go beyond certain boundaries because of dangers that may lay beyond them, God is the same.

Joseph had a big enough view of God to know that even though staying within God’s best may not always make sense in the natural, that he could be placing himself in trouble, he also knew the benefits of living within those boundaries were of far greater value. God was there in the middle of it all.

Joseph’s boundaries came from his values and beliefs, from the WHY he was here, not just from a check list of WHAT had to be done.

The boundaries caused him to do a number of things…
…to keep walking with God
…to work hard wherever he was
…to honour those he worked for, wherever that may be
…to always be listening to God
…to have a helpful attitude
…to known when to flee if in a compromised position

I am challenged to look at the boundaries in my life and why they exist and to be honest enough to change them if they don’t line up with the boundaries that God has laid for me. After all, God’s are the better than mine.

Walking With God Grows You

As it turned out, God was with Joseph and things went very well with him…his master recognised that God was with him, saw that God was working for good in everything he did…He put him in charge of all his personal affairs…From that moment on, God blessed the home of the Egyptian – all because of Joseph. The blessing of God spread over everything he owned… [Genesis 39:1-6]

But there in jail God was still with Joseph: He reached out in kindness to him; he put him in on good terms with the head jailer…the head jailer gave Joseph free rein, never even checked on him, because God was with him, whatever he did God made sure it worked out for the best [Genesis 6:20-23]

Last time I wrote about walking with God I commented that walking with God is living life a higher level. Living life with a panoramic view. It’s that kind of view that Joseph had which kept him strong, despite his situation.

I guess we have a choice. We are either choosing to grow or we are choosing to try and maintain or worse still, we are just giving up. Walking with God is Gods way of growing us. It provides multiple opportunities for Him to show that He is always with us.

Think about it. Joseph is in a foreign land, sold for profit, bought as a slave, ending up in prison having been falsely accused. Yet all the time, God was with him.

Joseph is amazing. Could I hold on to my beliefs amidst such trials? It may seem almost impossible but I have to hope that I would have the strength and courage of my convictions. My trials may not have been that extreme but they have still been real to me.

Joseph reminds me of a few things…
God is all over it 
I must not let go of the hope I have in my God
Even when I am not in control, God is
I can’t just believe in God when things go the way I want them to
If I say I believe in God then that’s through all circumstances, not just the good stuff
He makes sure that it, [whatever IT may be], works out for the best

May my walk with you God be as certain as Joseph’s was. May my walk with you God cause me grow and not to give up.

A Bigger Life

‘Please hear this dream I have dreamed’ [Genesis 37:5]

Adam had all of creation presented to him
Noah was party to the future of the world
Abraham was told to imagine having sons more numerous than the stars
Jacob wrestled the Angel of God
Joseph saw his life in the way that God saw it….BIGGER

Walking with God is living life at a higher level. Living life with a panoramic view.

Life can only truly be at its biggest when we place God at the centre of it. Joseph had a sense of his future based on this thought, although I’m sure he didn’t see it exactly as it happened. He just made a determination to walk with God, the rest was the adventure of living it.

A dream though is one thing. Holding on to it through all eventualities is something completely different. Unfortunately many people don’t make it. Feelings and emotions can get in the way. Problems and challenges can become obstacles that seemingly cannot be overcome.

Joseph held on to what he knew. God was for him. God had a plan for his life. He walked as someone who had faith in his God. I think even if the dream had not been fulfilled he would have held on to his faith. It was after all the most important thing to him. It’s what helped him make decisions along the way and it’s why Gods favour was on him wherever he happened to be.

When it comes to my walk with God I look at Joseph and some thoughts come to mind…
I want that same kind of life.
I want to live with that greater level of faith.
I want to see my future in the way that God sees my future.
I don’t want my emotions to get in the way of the BIGGER life that God has for me.
I am determined to keep the main thing the main thing.

How about you? What’s the dream God has given you? 
What will you make sure doesn’t get in the way of holding on to your faith?

Destiny: Get Locked On [2]

destiny006Continued this series yesterday.

When I first thought of doing a series on destiny I always wanted to come at the subject from a different perspective but I’m not sure if I have managed that. Staying away from a ‘7 Steps to Success’ idea was one of my ultimate aims.

Loved what my Senior Leader said the other day in our staff training. ‘Your destiny is more robust than you think’. When you look at the lives of Jacob, Joseph and others from the early part of the Bible then this certainly rings true.

Last week I challenged people to take responsibility for how they viewed life and themselves , with the purpose of getting locked on to their destiny. This week continued those thoughts by looking at Joseph.

Here are my points
1. Having a dream is okay…but so is not having one.
Just don’t live only for the dream and miss out on what the journey brings. Don’t hold unrealistic expectations of what God could do in your life or be intimidated by what God could do in your life. The dream is great…just don’t force it!
2. Hold on to your integrity
Easy to moan, complain, become bitter. Hold on to your integrity.
Easy to compromise or cheat. Hold on to your integrity.
Saying no. Do the right thing. Even if it means pain to yourself. Hold on to your integrity.
3. Always be in the zone
Be ready. You don’t know when the opportunity will come. If you only turn on the style when you are on show, then I think you miss the point. Joseph was in the zone, whenever, wherever, good times and bad.
4. What looks wrong may be right
Often we make a change because it looks wrong. This cannot be God’s best for us. Or maybe it is just part of the journey. God bringing you through something, shaping you, teaching you, changing you…learning to trust completely in him, becoming the person He needs you to be.

[What are your thoughts on this subject?]