Look for the Joy Around the Corner

Arrested and brought before the Jewish elders of the Sanhedrin council, Jesus is being interrogated. His words are being twisted. He’s being mocked, spit upon, and slapped. 

They’re commanding him to confess that he’s the Son of God…not because they want to believe in him, but so they can use his own words to condemn him. 

And he knows this. He knows what they will do to him. 

And yet, look how he answers them.

“It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matt. 26:64)

Did you catch that? “Hereafter….” Other Bible versions may say “from now on” or “in the future”. 

Even while sitting in this seat of shame, darkness, pain and the knowledge of the excruciating agony he will face come morning, Jesus looks to the future. 

He looks beyond the terrible situation he is in at the moment. He looks beyond the horrible pain and agony of the crucifixion he knows he is about to endure. 

He looks beyond to the victory and the joy that he knows awaits him. 

Follow the example of Jesus. Look beyond your painful circumstances, beyond your fears and anxieties. Look for the “hereafter,” for the joy God has for you around the corner.  

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV)

Never Give UP

No matter how knowledgeable, experienced and skillful a farmer is about planting crops, when he plants seed, he is dependent upon God for the outcome of that seed whether it grows and produces a crop or not.

Even if a farmer doesn’t realize it, he acts in faith every time he plants a crop. He has hope and faith that the seed will grow and produce a harvest.

Life is this way, too. For every dream, goal and purpose you have in this life, it’s important that you “continually” bear seed for sowing. In other words, you never give up. You keep on keeping on even if you must do it in tears and weeping.

Even when you don’t see any way how this is going to ever work, how it can ever materialize, even if all the odds are stacked against you. Just keep on bearing that seed of faith.

And one day, when the timing is right, when the seed has germinated, taken root, grown and produced—-THEN, you will have something to show for all your steadfast faith and relentless hope.

And oh, how you will rejoice!

Until then….water and nurture your seed–even if that means with your tears.

Just never give up.

“Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.”
—-Psalm 126:5-6

Photo by Chloe Si on Unsplash

Did God Put Us in Timeout?

Just a few weeks ago, churches (churches!) were canceling services so their members could watch the Superbowl,

People were celebrating–yes, celebrating!—the right to kill unborn and newborn babies

Families are falling apart because mom and dad have become slaves to their jobs and the almighty dollar

People bickering over politics and calling each other hateful names, rejoicing in division and dissension

And suddenly…..we’re all forced to come to a grinding halt against our wishes…. And sit still

Could it be that God has put us all into timeout?

So we’ll think about what we are doing?

All the things that are being withheld from us are the very things we have allowed to come between us and God. Things that distract us from focusing on Him.

And if it’s true, that God has us in timeout…

What are we going to do about it?

Just think about it.

Photo by Mag Pole on Unsplash

7 Important Things to Remember in Any Crisis

One day, King Jehoshaphat got some very alarming news. A great multitude of armies from several different nations are marching toward his small country of Judah to battle against them. He and all his people are frightened and panicking. What are they going to do? How are they going to survive this? Or, are they?

Can’t we relate to this today? We may not have an army of soldiers coming at us, but the threat of the Coronavirus descends upon us more and more every day like a dark, fierce storm cloud that has sent people running crazy into survival mode. Stores selling out of food and basic needs, restaurants and other businesses shutting down, people’s jobs being put on hold, schools closing. 

Life as we have known it is suddenly being thrown off teeter. Our world rocks in a precarious situation. We’re afraid. Just how bad is this going to get? How long is this going to last? How are we going to make it? What are we going to do?

Want to know what happened to King Jehoshaphat and little Judah? Because you need to know…because knowing what they did may be what saves us, too, from our current crisis.

The following is based on II Chronicles 20:

1. Seek God’s Help

The very first thing King Jehoshaphat did was “set himself to seek the Lord.”

He acknowledges he needs God’s help with this impossible situation and sets his mind to seek God. 

We too, must accept the fact that we cannot fight this crisis on our own, that we need God’s help, and we should set our minds to seeking Him. 

“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6) 

“For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel, ‘Seek Me and live.'” (Amos 5:4) 

2. Focus on God

After seeking God, King Jehoshaphat immediately proclaims a fast throughout all of Judah. The purpose of the fast was to clear their minds of all their worries, fears and distractions so they could focus their minds solely on God. Most likely they fasted from eating food, but we can fast in other ways. We can turn off our televisions and unplug from social media–the pipelines that keep fueling our anxieties. Instead, spend time reading the Bible which offers us peace and provides example after example of how people in the past survived their problems with God’s help.

3. Pray to God

“So Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.” (vs. 5)

Jehoshaphat stood before all the people and prayed to God on behalf of the whole kingdom. 

And notice, there is an important pattern to Jehoshaphat’s prayer:

  • First, the king honors God for His power and might. (vs. 6)
  • Secondly, the king offers gratitude for all the wonderful things God has done for them in the past. (vs. 7, 8)
  • Thirdly, the king commits himself and the people to faith–to believing that God is able and willing to help them. (vs. 9)
  • Fourthly, he tells God their dilemma and admits that they don’t know what to do, that their problem is too big for them to do on their own, and that they need His help. (vs. 10-12) 

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

4. Wait on God

After the king’s prayer, the next verse (13) says that all the people, men, women and children, “all stood before the Lord.” They have given their problems into God’s hands, and now they wait on Him to act. 

“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” (Lamentations 3:25)

“For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him.” (Isaiah 64:4)

5. Listen to God

In verse 14, the Spirit of God came upon one of the priests, and he spoke God’s response to the king’s prayer. 

“Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.” 

God also tells all the people of Judah that they will have to go down and face the battle, BUT they will not have to actually fight it because He is the One who will fight for them! 

If your faith seems weak in these troublesome times, grab your Bible and read, read, read, and listen to what God says to you!

6. Praise God

The next morning, they (the king and people of Judah) went out to face their battle all while singing praises to God! How do you sing praises of joy when you are in the middle of a crisis?

Well, look what happened when they did? Verse 22 says “when they (Judah) began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against” the enemies “who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.” So, while Judah was busy singing praises, God was busy winning the battle for them.

In the New Testament, when Paul and Silas were locked in jail, they sang praises, and God caused an earthquake to shake their chains loose, setting them free. (Acts 16:25-26)

When you praise God during the battle, the storm, or the crisis, He does amazing things.

7. Bless God

After God won the battle for Judah, the king and all the people assembled in the Valley of Berachah (meaning “Valley of Blessing”) where they blessed God. (verses 26-28). When God blesses us, we should bless Him in return by offering Him thanks for what He has done for us.

Why Your Problems Are a Good Thing

Have you ever noticed that so many times when pursuing a goal, life dream, a new relationship, or career, etc, obstacles and problems have a way of immediately popping up? And when that happens, what do we do? 

Well, some wise people are driven and refuse to allow obstacles to deter them. But for many of us, we allow the obstacles to make us retreat and think, “Ahh forget it. I should have known this wasn’t going to work out.”

But think about this. When the Israelites entered the land of Canaan to conquer their Promised Land, they did it one battle at a time. Each battle provided them with experience and confidence to take on the next one. 

No dream or goal can be won without battles. If you run away scared or give up at the first challenge, guess what? Rest assured, you’ll never see success. But, if you make up your mind to take on that battle and get through it, you then have a notch on your psychological belt that provides you with confidence and experience to keep marching on and tackling the next battle.

Consider David, the young shepherd who was living a peaceful, content life taking care of his father’s sheep. One day, along comes the prophet Samuel, declaring that God Himself has proclaimed that young David will be king of Israel. 

Do you think God put a crown on David’s head right away? No, He did not. Instead, God allowed David to face one scary problem after another. The current King Saul was out to kill him. David was forced to flee for his life into the barren wilderness. He had to live in a cave. Every time he turned around, there was a spy from King Saul trying to entrap and kill him. 

There even came a time when David grew weary in his faith. He was tired of always looking over his shoulder, tired of hiding in caves and trying to stay hidden in the barren, rocky desert. He even said at one point that he felt like he was just a “step away from death.” Even though God said David would be king, David had come to the point where he truly believed he would die by the hand of Saul before he could ever become king. 

But guess what? One day, the battle was won, and David was crowned king. It finally happened. When you read about King David in II Samuel, you can see his confidence, wisdom and ability to lead Israel. How do you think he learned all this? He learned it through all the obstacles and problems he endured. It was facing all his problems that taught him wisdom, strengthened his faith, and boosted his confidence. 

While hiding in caves fleeing for his life in the wilderness, around 400 men came to support David in his cause. In leading these men, David learned to be a leader. He learned to be a king.

God caused the obstacles and all the hard things David endured to teach, build, equip, and prepare him to become king!

This should teach us that when we’re pursuing a dream, goal, career, relationship, whatever, we should never let our problems set us back and cause us to think “This is never gonna work out.”

Not true. God is saying, “I am giving you these problems to help you achieve your goal.”

So, when problems “appear,” rejoice! Because they’re merely stepping stones! Tackle them head on and leap over them with excitement because they are the very things that are bringing you to your success!

What King David wrote:

“Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5)

“Blessed is that man who who makes the Lord his trust.” (Psalm 40:4)

The Giants in Your Way

Tribe of Joseph: God has been good to us and increased our number. We’re outgrowing our land allotment. Grant us a larger territory.

Joshua: Yes, indeed, you are a great people now and have great strength. So, go up to the mountain country, clear it and it will be  yours.

Tribe of Joseph: But….but….we can’t do that.

Joshua: Why not? 

Tribe of Joseph: Well, because there are giants up there, and they have chariots made of iron.

Joshua: (Rolling his eyes). Like I said, you are a great people with great power. Why should you be afraid of giants and chariots of iron? You have God with you. If you want the land, it’s yours. Get your butt up there and take it. Stop being afraid. (Joshua walks off).

What “giants” are holding you back from claiming the blessings God has in store for you? If God is for you, who can be against you? If victory is in God, you have nothing to fear but fear itself. Don’t let the your giants rob you of the happiness that God desires to give you.

“With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes.” Psalm 108:13

(Joshua 17:14-18; Romans 8:31)

Photo by Connor McSheffrey on Unsplash

Go Claim Your Mountain

Out of the 12 spies who scouted out the fertile, abundant land of Canaan, 10 of them advised Moses and the Israelites that they should forget about conquering the land God had already promised them, and instead, go back to slavery in Egypt. 

Why? Because they saw the giants in the land of Canaan and were afraid. So, they opted to settle for less. They chose to trade happily ever after for a life of slavery because it was easier and less scary.

But not Joshua and Caleb. These two men didn’t care about the giants. They knew God was their strength and their victory. They believed in God’s promise to give them the land of milk and honey, and they weren’t about to let giants stand in their way. 

Because of Joshua’s faith, Moses made him his successor, the commander of the Israelite army that conquered Canaan by God’s right hand. 

As for Caleb, Moses promised him a mountain he desired for his family and descendants to inherit. 

Caleb said he was 40 years old when they first began to conquer Canaan. Forty years later at the age of 85, Caleb declared that God had kept him alive all these years and that he was as strong now as he ever was when he was younger. 

Caleb was now ready to claim his mountain. But even after all these years, there were still giants living on his promised mountain. But do you think he cared? No. Caleb remained fearless because he believed in God’s promises.

So, Joshua allotted Caleb his mountain, and Caleb “drove out the sons of Anak from there.” (The sons of Anak were giants.)

At the age of 85.

No matter how young or old you are, how weak or strong, or how long you’ve been waiting… don’t be afraid of the giants that stand between you and your dreams. Don’t settle for less than victory. Believe God’s promises.

“So do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

 I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Now go claim your mountain!

(Exodus 13 and 14; Joshua 14:6-15; Joshua 15:14)

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash