Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

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Dream to Destiny – The Power Test

If this is your first time here, we have been studying the life of Joseph, the son of Jacob, and in our study we’ve watched on the sidelines as Joseph, at age 17, begins God’s school of Character Development.

I hope you’ve been learning a lot these last 6 weeks. Next week we will wind up this series.

Genesis 1:27–28 is the beginning of the human story. And from the very beginning of our story God gives every one of us the same occupation.

“So God created humankind in his own image; and the image of God he created humankind; male and female he created them. Then God bless them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”

From the very beginning, God gave us two primary assignments. One was to have children. The second was to have dominion.

His first blessing on the first couple was to take CONTROL. Exercise God-given AUTHORITY! To employ POWER.

We’re about to find out how well Joseph did in his Power Test.

You can plainly see that God created us to have power. God commissioned us to use it. We were created in the image of God, and our powerful God planned for us to use power the way He does … to create, to do good and to make life on earth better!

We have a built-in desire for power, and a longing to exercise it. Do you know how I know? I watch children!

All too often we think of the desire for power only in negative terms.
Of course, there is a wrong desire for power, a desire that is rooted in selfishness — but there is also a right desire for power. There is a de-sire for power that God has put into each human being when he or she was created.
The question is: can God trust us with His power?

What will we do with the power He gives us? Will we use it wisely?
So far most of Joseph’s tests that we have studied have involved the way he responded when bad things happened in his life. But this power test is different. This test had to do with how he responds when something good happened.

We’ll see that Joseph passed this test perfectly! The question I’m ask-ing this morning is: How do you respond to success? How do you respond to having power? How do you respond to having authority? How do you respond to having influence? How do you respond to having God’s blessings?

It is what you do with the power and blessings of God that is the true test of your character.

This may come as a surprise to some, but God’s blessings can be just as much a test as tribulations or trials can be. Why? Because blessings involve responsibility, and responsibility requires character!

Genesis 40:1-3, 5-8, 20-23
1Some time later, Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer and chief baker offended their royal master. 2 Pharaoh became angry with these two officials, 3 and he put them in the prison where Joseph was, in the palace of the captain of the guard.
5 While they were in prison, Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker each had a dream one night, and each dream had its own meaning. 6 When Joseph saw them the next morning, he noticed that they both looked upset. 7 “Why do you look so worried today?” he asked them.

8 And they replied, “We both had dreams last night, but no one can tell us what they mean.”

“Interpreting dreams is God’s business,” Joseph replied. “Go ahead and tell me your dreams.”

20 Pharaoh’s birthday came three days later, and he prepared a banquet for all his officials and staff. He summoned his chief cup-bearer and chief baker to join the other officials. 21 He then restored the chief cup-bearer to his former position, so he could again hand Pharaoh his cup. 22 But Pharaoh impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had predicted when he interpreted his dream. 23 Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer, however, forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.

THIS WAS JOSEPH’S PRISON TEST.
NOW, WE’LL SEE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.

Genesis 41:1, 8–9, 14 (NLT)
1 Two full years later, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing on the bank of the Nile River.
8 The next morning Pharaoh was very disturbed by the dreams. So he called for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. When Pharaoh told them his dreams, not one of them could tell him what they meant.
9 Finally, the king’s chief cup-bearer spoke up. “Today I have been reminded of my failure,” he told Phar-aoh.
14 Pharaoh sent for Joseph at once, and he was quickly brought from the prison. After he shaved and changed his clothes, he went in and stood before Pharaoh.

Not only did Joseph give Pharaoh the interpretation of his dreams, he also gave Pharaoh some free advice about how to prepare for the com-ing years of famine. And Joseph’s advice was so full of wisdom that it caused Pharaoh to conclude that Joseph must be filled with the Spirit of God!

Genesis: 41:37-40.
37 Joseph’s suggestions were well received by Pharaoh and his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked his officials, “Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are. 40 You will be in charge of my court, and all my people will take orders from you. Only I, sitting on my throne, will have a rank higher than yours.”

I find it interesting that 3 men who were unbelievers – Potiphar, Pharaoh and the keeper of the prison – all recognize that the Spirit of God was with Joseph.

Genesis 41:41–44.
41 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh removed his signet ring from his hand and placed it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in fine linen clothing and hung a gold chain around his neck. 43 Then he had Joseph ride in the chariot reserved for his second-in-command. And wherever Joseph went, the command was shouted, “Kneel down!” So Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of all Egypt. 44 And Pharaoh said to him, “I am Pharaoh, but no one will lift a hand or foot in the entire land of Egypt without your approval.”

A pastor tells the story about a man in his church. Every week this was faithful working in the church parking lot. Every week he was faithful just following orders and parking cars for Jesus.

After a while his faithfulness became apparent to everyone, so he was made the “parking lot captain.” The next week he showed up with a brand-new uniform, a bullhorn, and a flashlight that looked like a light saber from Star Wars!

The point is: If we have responsibility or authority over something, how will you respond when you’re given responsibility or authority? This is the essence of the power test.

Let’s take a look at John 19. THIS MAN doesn’t seem to know where real power comes from JOHN 19:10-11:

10 “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” 11 Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.”

Pilate is SO PROUDLY talking to the One who spoke the worlds into existence, and he’s claiming he has power to take Jesus out.

But Jesus straightened him out … and we need to grasp what our Lord is saying here, too.

God has given us the desire and capacity for power, and every person in this room has power in some area of his or her life. Every person in this room is a leader to some degree. What kind of leader are you? Are you a humble leader? Are you a servant-leader? What are you doing with the power God has already given to you?

God is looking for people who will be good stewards of the power and influence He can give to accomplish His will on earth.

Joseph was only stepping into the 1st part of the 1st phase of his destiny at that time. JOSEPH had the 3R’s – rights, riches and royalty. Now that’s power!

If Joseph had handled God’s power in the wrong way, he never would have been able to fulfill his FULL AND COMPLETE destiny in the way God had planned.

Just like Joseph, you may work hard for 5, 10, 15 or 20 years–and then, in a single day, God can suddenly change everything about your circumstances! In one day God can bless you and put you into your destiny.

One morning Joseph woke up in the dungeon – and the next day he woke up in the palace. One morning Joseph woke up as a prisoner – and the next day he arose as the 2nd most powerful man in the world!

The power test USUALLY comes very, very suddenly.

God has placed you and me on this planet … for such a time as this. The responsibility we have as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ is an important one. We are to give ourselves to God, so that He can empower us to impact our world.

God has called you to impact YOUR world.

I live in a neighborhood. That’s where my world BEGINS.

My work … my occupation … is to be the best husband and father I can be for Christ.

My work is to put Jesus on display in my everyday life.

My work is to serve my wife so that she feels secure in the knowledge that she is my best friend and the number one person in my life, and that I see her as a gift from God.

My work is to put Jesus on display by the way I drive.

My work is to shop like Jesus would shop … totally aware of my surroundings – which means, being aware of who I cross paths with, and what they may need from God.

My work is to impact the children in my neighborhood, by putting on display the love and laughter of Christ.

My work is to be honest … if I am given too much change from a busy little girl’s cash drawer, or I end up in the parking lot of Lowe’s with something in my cart that I did not pay for … it’s my JOB to walk back into the store, no matter how busy I am … and make it right.

My occupation is to be the best citizen I can be – obeying the law even when it’s not fair.

It’s my profession, to pray for all the leaders that impact my life – from the President of the United States, to the Clerk of the Court in my county. It’s my calling, to be respectful to police officers.

It’s my job, to pay my taxes … it is not my work to overpay my taxes.
It is my job … to put in an honest day’s work. When I am in the office I should be focusing on the ministry God has called me to . That means focusing on you, and what I can do to serve you. That means I shouldn’t be surfing the internet, checking out eBay, or playing computer games.

It’s my calling, to give my best effort for the King.

It’s my job … to be a wise and loving grandfather, and to speak life into my little granddaughters’ and grandsons’ heart and mind.

Everything I do is important and impactful.

It is my job, to subdue the earth, and have dominion over everything that touches my hands, and doing so in ways that speak of God’s ownership of my life. He is the Master of my life. He is the Lord of my life. I live and move and have my being in Him.

And wherever I walk, whoever I talk to, whoever I pray with, and whoever I encounter in any way during the day … I view as a divine appointment.

And it is my job to be rested physically, emotionally and spiritually, so that I am able to fight off the at-tacks of the enemy, and take control of my appetites, my attitudes, and my actions.

Are you starting to get it? What are you daily RESPONSIBILITIES? What do you control? Where and when do you exercise authority?

Are you a Christ-following student? Manager? Check-out clerk? Store owner? Judge? Policeman? Accountant? Doctor?

You have power. You have responsibilities! TAKE CARE OF THEM!

That’s the POWER TEST for you and me.

Dream to Destiny – The Prophetic Test

No one can stop my destiny. No one can stop your destiny. No one – no boss, teacher, preacher, parent, etc. No one …. BUT YOU.

God wants to open up the world to you. Maybe God gave you a dream to be a concert pianist and play for Him, or a scientist that wants to develop a cure for diabetes for His glory, or a teacher that influences and blesses students and points to God, or a stay-at-home Mom that raises her children to be world-changers for the sake of God’s Kingdom, or an engineer that discovers the next way to build a safer bridge for God’s glory.

Whatever it your dream is, God wants to partner with you. But before He does that He will always grow you into the person (on the inside) that He wants you to be. He’s committed to purifying your character so that what you do brings glory to Him, and draws people to Jesus!

We’ve been studying the character development of Joseph. His story is found in Genesis 37-50. And we’ve talked about tests that God used to grow him into a man He could use for His glory. Every one of these tests is meant for men and women. And every test is meant to be passed. And it’s God’s way, His style, that He will give you a test until you pass it.

Before he could save nations Joseph had to pass the tests we’ve already written about: The Pride Test, Pit Test, Palace Test, Purity Test, and the Prison Test. Now Joseph will face the Prophetic Test.

Genesis 40:1-8, 14-15
1 Some time later, Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer and chief baker offended their royal master. 2 Pharaoh became angry with these two officials, 3 and he put them in the prison where Joseph was, in the palace of the captain of the guard. 4 They remained in prison for quite some time, and the captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, who looked after them.
5 While they were in prison, Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker each had a dream one night, and each dream had its own meaning.6 When Joseph saw them the next morning, he noticed that they both looked upset. 7 “Why do you look so worried today?” he asked them.
8 And they replied, “We both had dreams last night, but no one can tell us what they mean.”
“Interpreting dreams is God’s business,” Joseph replied. “Go ahead and tell me your dreams.”
After Joseph interpreted the cup-bearer’s dream he said:
14 And please remember me and do me a favor when things go well for you. Mention me to Pharaoh, so he might let me out of this place. 15 For I was kidnapped from my homeland, the land of the Hebrews, and now I’m here in prison, but I did nothing to deserve it.”

The cup-bearer and the baker’s dreams were interpreted perfectly by God’s servant, Joseph. The dreams were amazing. The cup-bearer would be restored to his position, but the baker would die a horrible death

Genesis 40:20-23.
20 Pharaoh’s birthday came three days later, and he prepared a banquet for all his officials and staff. He summoned his chief cup-bearer and chief baker to join the other officials. 21 He then restored the chief cup-bearer to his former position, so he could again hand Pharaoh his cup. 22 But Pharaoh impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had predicted when he interpreted his dream. 23 Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer, however, forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.

Joseph was still in prison … and it would be really hard to believe that the dreams God to him when he was 17 would come to pass. But here is the primary point I hope to communicate about Joseph’s Prophetic Test, and it is found in Psalm 105.

Psalm 105:17-19 New Living Translatiion (NLT)
17 Then He sent someone to Egypt ahead of them — Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 They bruised his feet with fetters and placed his neck in an iron collar.
19 Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.

Verse 19 is key! But in this translation we can miss something. The words in the original language, Hebrew, make this verse POP off the pages of the Word of God.

Let’s look at verse 19 in the New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Psalm 105:19
19 Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him.

The Hebrew words for “his word” and “the word” are not the same word.

Every thing God has ever done or communicated has come through WORDS!
He created the whole Earth and the Universe we live in by saying words. “Let there be light” and so forth. God spoke!

In St. John, chapter one, the Bible says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through Him [the Word], and without Him [the Word] nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1,3).

When God wants to do anything, He speaks!

With that in mind, let’s look again at Psalm 105:19 again, and I’ll quote from Robert Morris’s book, From Dream to Destiny.

“This verse actually says, “Until the time that his [dabar] came to pass, the [imrah] of the LORD tested him” (Ps. 105:19).

“Now let me explain something to you about these Hebrew words. The first word, ‘dabar,’ is used 1,441 times in the Old Testament and is the Hebrew term most frequently translated as ‘word.’ [‘Dabar’] means ‘a matter’ that is spoken of.
“With that in mind, we can see this verse is actually saying, ‘Until the time that [the word that was spoken over Joseph’s life] came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him.’

“The second Hebrew word for ‘word’ is ‘imrah.’ The word ‘imrah’ appears only 37 times in the Old Testament. It means ‘commandment,’ ‘speech’ … and refers to the very Word of God — the literal Word of God.”

So we see one word means “a prophecy,” or “a prophetic word or words,” and the other word means “The literal word of God.”

Here’s how we could say it in today’s language: “Until his prophecy came to pass, God’s Word tested Joseph!”

God speaks, and sometimes … many times … He speaks through His servants, THE PROPHETS.

Some have what the New Testament calls “the gift of prophecy.”

When God was speaking about His church the Word of God says that He gave the gifts of people. They are called “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.” (Ephesians 4:11)

Every gift person mentioned in Ephesians 4 speaks for God, but prophets speak some very important words. According to God’s Word, you can expect prophets to give comfort, guidance, warning, encouragement, caution, judgment and edification.

Some prophetic words are directed to individuals, and some are meant for a Christian community.

Prophets can make mistakes. But so can every apostle, evangelist, pastor or teacher. God uses humans to speak for Him. Prophets are so important that God not only gives them to the church as office holders, but the Holy Spirit calls others in the Body to exercise the “gift of prophecy.”

Paul said to the Corinthian church that if a prophet or a person with the gift of prophecy speaks to the entire body they should follow these guidelines.
29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace… (1 Corinthians 14:29-33)

We love and appreciate prophets because what they have to say will not only agree with God’s LITERAL Word, but their gift is meant to either gently or forcefully open up the heart of a person or a people group to the heart of God.
If you want to know how God thinks about you, ask a prophet! And if a person with the gift of prophecy says, “I think I have a word for you,” pay attention!!
The beautiful thing about prophetic words is this: they don’t inform. They affirm something God has already said to you, or confirm what God has said to you.

Either one – affirmation or confirmation – is meant to:
• get you moving in the right direction,
• corroborate and validate the direction you’re going, or
• correct the direction you’re going in.

Prophets are appointed by God to speak directly to a certain individual or to a people group. And I like to say that prophets bring a word from the Lord for that moment in time. It is timely!

Sometimes the prophetic word is comforting, sometimes it gives guidance, and sometimes they give a person a warning.

Many times the prophetic word to an individual is encouraging, but sometimes prophetic words warn of judgment coming.

But in every prophetic word there should be a sense of “edification,” or building up. Even in words of warning or judgment a person should hear that God is for them and not against them. He just wants a course correction. He hasn’t given up on anyone!

The literal Word of God speaks to every nation, every tribe, every people group. It is universal. The Word of God is the revelation that God has given of Himself to mankind in general.

I’m not concerned so much with how you respond to the prophecies that speak about you and your destiny. But I am concerned about something.

I believe you will not fulfill your destiny unless you know THE WORD of the Lord. Every apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher should KNOW THE WORD OF GOD because every concerning our destiny will flow from it and agree with it.
Every man or woman of God that has ever had an impactful life KNOWS the literal, written word of the Lord. You cannot live by going from one prophetic word to the next.

If you know the Word of God, He can trust you with His most valuable possession. The anointing. He will not give His anointing to someone who doesn’t know His heart and mind.

And you will never fulfill your destiny if you don’t have God’s anointing!

Dream to Destiny: The Prison Test

Every person has a dream from God, and every person has a destiny from God … a PURPOSE you alone can fulfill … and God wants you to fulfill that destiny. But many people can not move into their destiny because of ONE word. CHARACTER. Their character will not support their destiny. And so God takes us through character building tests so that we can fulfill our destiny.

There are TEN (10) character tests that God used to help Joseph, the son of Jacob, fulfill his destiny

If you want to have the book that I’m using to bring this teaching to you, go to Amazon, KINDLE, or go to “Gateway Church’s” website and look for Pastor Robert Morris’ book – “From Dream to Destiny.” This book has profoundly blessed and influenced my life, and I commend it to you.

This week we’ll examine the PURITY TEST that Joseph had to pass before he could begin to live out his purpose. We can draw inspiration from Joseph’s. When he was faced with great temptation, Joseph passed the purity test with flying colors!

Genesis 39:7-12 (NLT)
6 So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn’t worry about a thing — except what kind of food to eat!

Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man, 7 and Potiphar’s wife soon began to look at him lustfully. “Come and sleep with me,” she demanded.

8 But Joseph refused. “Look,” he told her,“my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. 9 No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.”

10 She kept putting pressure on Joseph day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he kept out of her way as much as possi-ble. 11 One day, however, no one else was around when he went in to do his work. 12 She came and grabbed him by his cloak, demand-ing, “Come on, sleep with me!” Joseph tore himself away, but he left his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house.

I was driving away from the church I serve this week, and typically I use Huguenot Road and Midlothian Turnpike to go home. Up on Huguenot Road the speed limit is 45 miles an hour. I was going the speed limit. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that a person entering the intersection wasn’t slowing down for the stop light. Sure enough, they pulled right out in front of me. I came within inches of crashing into them. The person driving the other car ignored the red light. They ignored the caution signs. They were focused on where they wanted to go, not on safety.

There are reasons why there are traffic signs and speed limits. And guard rails! (It’s not smart to drive as close as you can to a guardrail.)

Driving is not just a necessity …to get to and from work, visit relatives, make trips to the grocery store … but it’s also quite fun.

Traffic signs are not meant to take away the fun or the utility of driving. Those signs are meant to keep us safe. If everybody obeys the rules then driving is much safer. But if somebody chooses to deliberately ignore the rules, driving can become very dangerous.

Joseph understood that Mrs. Potiphar was ignoring the stop signs! He knew Potiphar’s wife didn’t belong to him. Having sex with her would’ve been stealing from his boss. It didn’t matter that she wanted to cross the line. Joseph understood the consequences for that behavior. In Egypt, if a slave raped a woman, that act was punishable by death.

There are THREE reasons Joseph passed the purity test. They are very simple when you look at them. (1) He said “no” to Mrs. Potiphar, (2) he kept out of her way as much as possible … and when the temptation became too great for him to walk away (3) he ran!

God advises us to follow Joseph’s example in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.

18 Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

God created man and woman to join together in marriage, and God created male and female to enjoy each other in marriage. He created us to be sexual beings so that we would be physically, emotionally and spiritually bound to one another … what God calls “one flesh.” When human beings stay within the protective and loving boundaries of marital sex, sharing life together is beautiful … as God meant it to be. Just like obeying the traffic signs.

But in our freedom, human beings discovered the excitement of SEXUAL SIN. Sexual sin has enslaved mankind. Free sex is never free! Sexual SIN has been a burden and relationship breaker in human history.

So God doesn’t just say to walk away from “sexual misconduct,” or immorality. He tells us to run from it! And that is exactly what Joseph did! He had to leave his garment in Potiphar’s wife’s hands in order to get away.

In Genesis 39:9 what DOES Joseph call what she’s suggesting … or demanding! “A wicked thing…” “a GREAT SIN against God.”

It is NOT a sin to be tempted. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness … He walked into a face-to-face battle with Satan, but He overcame the temptations of His enemy and ours. He knew the Word of God, and He could recognize Satan’s lies and trickery.

The word of God tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experi-ence. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.

So Joseph ran away from temptation! He understood something that our sinful society and American culture seems to have forgotten. Sexual immorality is wicked and sinful!

Like Joseph, the question is, can God trust us to be faithful in this area of our lives? It’s a very important question that each of us will have to face. In order to move from our dream to our destiny we must bring our sexual appetites under control.

The Bible has a word for our challenge. It is LUST.

LUST is defined as unbridled sexual desire or urges. Therefore lust is intense, uncontrolled and passionate sexual desires that travel outside God’s intentions for our lives.

The primary factors that differentiate LUST FROM LOVE is that lust has as its focus pleasing oneself, and it often leads to unwholesome actions to fulfill one’s desires with no regard to the consequences. So lust is about possession and greed.

The Christian faith is about selflessness and is marked by holy living. Lust is in opposition to these ideals.

Nobody will ever be perfect or attain sinlessness while still on this earth, yet Christ-followers aim high, hoping to live lives that are very pleasing to God and absent of bondage, guilt, and selfishness.

The Bible makes a very strong statement regarding our TARGET FOR LIVING in 1 Thessalonians 4:1,and 3-8:

1Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you.
3 God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. 4 Then each of you will control his own body and live in holi-ness and honor — 5 not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and His ways. 6 Never harm or cheat a fellow be-liever in this matter, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before. 7 God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. 8 Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

If lust has not gripped your heart and mind, you must understand that you need to be constantly prepared to fight against its temptation! You can be sure that because we live on this fallen planet, one day each of us will come face to face with lusts temptations.

If you currently struggle with lust, it is time to come clean before God and ask for His intervention in your life. Since lust is a part of our heart, the core of your being, it might be easy to assume that impurity and sexual immorality begins in that area. But it doesn’t. Impurity actually begins with looking!

Notice what the Bible says about Potiphar’s wife casting longing eyes on Joseph. So if you think LUST is a guy problem, think again. Mrs. Potiphar thought Joseph was gorgeous! I suppose it was only natural that she would notice that he was attractive. But at some point she began to not only notice Joseph, but also look longingly at him. It was only a matter of time before looking turned into longing … or lust. When noticing turned into looking and then turned into longing that’s when the trouble began!

Lust has been studied and examined and some of the conclusions are: (1) most woman are not usually drawn to a man’s physique. It is understood that (2) the way to get THE ROMANCE that women long for is to attract the male sexually. In other words, sex is not the end for a woman, but the means to an end.

MEN AND WOMEN … Here’s some advice that will go along way toward steering clear of immorality and battling lust: Don’t CONTINUE to look at people using your sexual imagination! Don’t allow yourself to continue looking because if you allow yourself to continue to look, you were inviting lust into your life.
Look away!

King David’s sins of adultery and murder began when he wandered out onto the roof of his palace and happened to see Bathsheba bathing. (2 Samuel 11:2)

How long did David look before his looking became lust? David could’ve turned and looked the other way. He could’ve walked back into his palace and cried out to the Lord for help. But instead he continued to look … and lust was inevitably stirred up.

Someone may have told you that “… the second look is lust.” Unfortunately, that advice hasn’t helped too many people because that first look can become a long look!

The reason Joseph didn’t fall into sin was because he understood how lust can invade a heart and mind. Lust didn’t come into his heart because he did not allow it to come in through his eyes.

DON’T LOOK should become a motto for all of us.
• Don’t look at pornography.
• Don’t look at inappropriate sites on the Internet.
• Don’t look at movies that are sexually explicit.
• Don’t look at television programs that are seductive.

If you see someone who is not dressed appropriately, the first thought that should come to your mind ought to be “don’t look!”

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’ll just look, but I won’t do anything. I’m just going to look, but I’m not going to buy?” That careless attitude doesn’t prevent anything. Don’t look!

Cable TV has made it very easy for us to satisfy ourselves with long, lasting looks. If you have Netflix you need to be careful. If you travel alone, and you stay in hotels where you can watch explicit movies, you need to be careful! Don’t look!

Not looking is a biblical principle. Psalm 101:3 says, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes.” In another place the Bible says that the eyes are never satisfied. So the eyes are where the problem starts.

In Matthew 5:28 Jesus tells us, 27 ”You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your eye — even your good eye — causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

Jesus is showing us a progression here. He is telling us that looking can lead to sin. Stop looking!

Jesus has more to say about our looking in Matthew 6:22 through 23. ”The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be your full of darkness.”

The Lord Jesus is saying that what we put before our eyes will eventually end up in our hearts, and what ends up in our hearts will eventually affect our behavior. If we continue to set darkness before our eyes, our bodies will end up full of that darkness.

Job said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1) That is a good scripture passage for every man or woman to memorize!

Don’t set yourself up for sexual failure! Learn to recognize and appreciate God’s warning signs and guardrails. Aim for purity.

A Word So Powerful

A Word So Powerful
by Lowell Qualls – February 9, 2019

God’s presence can be dreadful when a person lacks confidence.
One day I experienced a feeling of condemnation and weariness.
I was low, my head was down and my hands were at my sides
I was brokenhearted, so aware of my guilt, and feeling unforgiveable.
Heavily-burdened, I was crushed beneath an overpowering weight
That was never meant for me to own or try to carry.

I knew God’s Word.  And from my past experiences I knew Him
To be so good, always inviting me to come expecting kindness and grace.
It is true – God invites us to come with our hands reaching, our hearts open,
But on this one occasion my mind betrayed me. I thought,
“He knows me too well.  Where is my ‘hiding place?’  I am defeated.
I’ve come too often, and for the same awful reason.”

But then I heard one beautiful word, and as it penetrated my heart
It softened my hardened soul and skillfully disarmed me.
The word was totally unexpected, and His Voice sounded eager!
The word was not a rebuke or a call for repentance;
Instead, the word I didn’t know I so desperately needed
Was remarkably tender as it left God’s lips. “Welcome!”

My Lord said, “WELCOME!  I AM so glad you came into My presence.
Today, let Me restore your soul, and renew your hope,
For ‘here’ with Me is better than ‘there’ alone.
Christ the Lord said on My behalf, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’
David knew that ancient truth and My Holy Spirit inspired Him to write,
‘Your loving-kindness, O God, is better than life … life anywhere else.’”

That day My Father greeted me with the word He knew I needed to hear.
That day He recognized the wounds left by lies, sin and condemnation.
That day I had come into His presence with my hands at my sides.
That day my Gracious King understood my hesitation and shame,
So as He lifted my face, looked me in the eye, and kissed me on the forehead
He smiled and whispered, “Welcome, My child. Please, please come again.”
(more…)

Dream to Destiny: The Palace Test (Part 2)

Every person has a destiny they alone can fulfill … and God wants everyone to fulfill that destiny.   If you know what your God-given PURPOSE is, what does God need to do to prepare you for that destiny?  

The answer to that question is that He must refine our CHARACTER.  He must develop in us the kind of character that will support our destinies.  So God will take us through character building tests so that we can fulfill our destiny and satisfy our purpose.

This truth is illustrated in the life of Joseph, the son of Jacob, and his story is found in Genesis 37 through 50.

What are the CHARACTER TESTS that we’ve talked about so far?   They are (1) Pride Test, (2) the Pit Test, and (3) the Palace Test.

Today I’m going the share with you the second half of The Palace Test.  The palatial home of Potiphar is where we find Joseph in Genesis 39.

2 The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master.  3 Potiphar noticed this and realized that the Lord was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did. …  5 From the day Joseph was put in charge of his master’s household and property, the Lord began to bless Potiphar’s household for Joseph’s sake.

Last week we talked about the first two of four “keys to success” that we saw evident in the life of Joseph.  And, like Joseph, if we want to have success and fulfill our dreams and satisfy God’s design and purpose for our lives we must ….

KEYS TO SUCCESS, (1) The Presence of God in our lives, and (2) Obeying God (maintains His presence in our lives.  Each key builds on the other.  You can’t go to the second key without the first key, and you can’t get to the third key without the second.  Now for the third key.

3.  THE KEY TO OBEDIENCE IS FAITH!

If you truly believe something, you will DO it!  

Let me illustrate this way:  Faith is the reason farmers plant seeds in the spring.  A farmer believes a crop will grow from the seeds he plants.   Faith is not as mysterious as we make it out to be.  Think about it.  We practice faith EVERY DAY in small and large ways.  If you plan to drive a car today, when you get in you will turn the key.  And what is your expectation?

Here’s a good one.  I believe EVERY ONE of us here today has more faith in a hot water heater than we do IN God!   That’s right!  When we turn on the faucet, we expect our faith to be rewarded.  We expect HOT water!!  And we will WAIT at the faucet until our faith is rewarded.  We don’t go by our feelings!  (The water may feel COLD, but we believe the water will eventually get HOT!)

Many Christians turn on the faucet of prayer, and if it feels COLD at the start, they just turn it off.   And many Christians would obey God and live according to His will, but when they turn on obedience and don’t have the results they want, they just turn it off.

You see, obedience for a Christ-follower involves finding out what God desires and doing those things and not our own “thing.”  We have to obey God’s Word, even when it feels cold.  You and I can’t go by feelings.  Obedience requires faith.

If you and I would just turn on the obedience faucet and LEAVE IT ON, it’s going to get hotter and hotter … and MORE POWERFUL because God’s Word says that He rewards those who diligently seek Him!  He said that if we seek Him with all our hearts He will be found by us.

If, by FAITH, we turn on the faucet of OBEDIENCE, and we believe that obedience will lead us into the presence of God, we will be rewarded.

Look with me at Hebrews 11:1 and 6 (NLT):  Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. … And it is impossible to please God without faith.  Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.

There is a simple truth that children practice:   If they believe, they will obey.

Children are a great example of the link between faith and obedience.   Obedient kids love to please, and know there is a reward for behaving properly.

On the other hand …. Have you been around kids that are disobedient?  What do you think the problem is?  It’s quite simple:  they don’t believe there will be any consequences.  “Now Sweetie … stop that right now or you’re going to be in trouble, young man!”

Ha!  That child knows he’s not going to be in trouble because this parent hasn’t developed FAITH in the boy.  Instead, Sweetie’s unbelief is tied to the FACT that disobedience has NO consequences.

MY MOM AND DAD taught me to be obedient because they believed God’s Word.  They never used a literal rod to correct me.  They used the “rod of discipline.”  It took all kinds of forms.  

Proverbs 13:24 (NLT):  24  Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children.  Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.

FOR SOME CHILDREN … the rod of discipline is “time out.”  For another, just a stronger word works.  For other children, taking away a privilege will do the trick.   

My mother believed that a SPANKING helps a child BELIEVE that there’s a consequence for their disobedience … and I believed her when she said, “Do not … whatever.”  Or “Do this …”

Any kind of discipline also needs to be complimented with REWARDS!  If a child is obedient, they should be rewarded.  You shouldn’t reward disobedience, nor should you ignore the fact that rewards are part of the equation.  If you’re just punishing bad behavior you’ve got parenting all wrong.

God has told us that if we trust Him, love Him, and obey Him, HE has a ton of rewards that He can’t wait to dole out.  Lovers love to give, and our God so loved the world that He gave His Son.  And there’s more rewards to come.

So far … the KEYS TO SUCCESS are: (1) The Presence of God in our lives, and (2) Obeying God maintains His presence in our lives, and the key to obeying God is FAITH … what God says is true!   Okay … So … what is the KEY to FAITH?

4.  THE KEY TO FAITH IS THE WORD OF GOD!

This may blow you away … but SUCCESSFUL LIVING is easy!  You will be successful if you live in the presence of God … you can live in His presence if you obey Him … you will obey Him if you have faith … and you will have faith if you are drinking in the Word of God.  Read it, study it, meditate upon it!

Listen to this:  ROMANS 10:14 & 17:  14 But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him?  And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? … 17 So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.

God’s Word will not return to Him “void” … WITHOUT ACCOMPLISHING IT’S PURPOSE.    His word is living and active, and sharper than any “two-edged sword!”  His Word is a lamp to our feet and a light unto our path.  IF His Word is hidden in our hearts, God’s Word will keep us from sinning.  Those are all promises from God that you can read in His Word.

It’s the Word, the Word, the Word.  Jesus said God’s Word would never pass away.  Heaven and earth may pass away, but not God’s Word!

The key to having faith is OBEYING the Word of God.  We’ve already touched on that!  The KEY to having FAITH is HEARING the Word of God!!

Have you noticed today, and every Sunday, that we take long drinks of the Word of God? I hope so!  Faith doesn’t come “by Pastor Q” or any other preacher … unless you want to have faith in a preacher and not God!

And the more of God’s Word you have in you, the more faith you will have in Him!   Why?  Because His Word is life and truth!

How much of the Word of God do you have in you?

Why the Bible always under attack!  If Satan convinces you that God is a liar, and that God doesn’t keep His promises, and that living without God’s Word will no bring death upon you … he’s got you.

When Jesus was being tempted by Satan in the wilderness, HE kept quoting the physical, written Word of God.  Satan tried to twist God’s Word to trick Jesus into sinning!  Cult leaders and propagators of false religions work very hard to convince people that God’s Word isn’t enough.  That why they bring “another revelation.”  

Both Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons, and Mohamed, the founder of Islam, claimed they were visited by an angel of God and given a “new Word.”  It’s obvious both men never read in God’s Word, “… even if an angel comes to you with another Gospel, let him be cursed.” (Galatians 1:8 & 9!)  Or if they read it they didn’t care.  

Joseph had God’s Word written on his heart.  He knew what God expected of him.  So, if you want the blessing of God and the SUCCESSFUL fulfillment of your purpose, it will require (1) practicing the presence of God, (2) practicing obeying God, (3) practicing faith in God, and (4) knowing the Word of God.

That’s what Joseph began doing in Potiphar’s home, and you and I can do it in our life, too!

Dream to Destiny: The Palace Test, Part 1

Every person has a dream from God, and every person has a destiny from God … a PURPOSE you alone can fulfill … and God wants you to fulfill that destiny.

But many people can not move into their destiny because of ONE word.  CHARACTER. Their character will not support their destiny.  And so God takes us through character building tests so that we can fulfill our destiny.

There are TEN (10) character tests that God used to help Joseph, the son of Jacob, fulfill his destiny.

Three weeks ago I began this series – From Dream to Destiny– and I’ll repeat what I’ve said every week:  If you want to have the book that I’m using to bring this teaching to you, go to Amazon.com or KINDLE, or you can GO to “Gateway Church’s” website and look in their bookstore for Pastor Robert Morris’ book – “From Dream to Destiny.”

This book has profoundly blessed and influenced my life, and I commend it to you.

So, it’s week THREE.  Let’s see if you’ve been paying attention. What was the first test that Joseph had to take to move from his dream or dreams to his destiny?  (Pride Test)  And the second?  (Pit Test)

This week is THE PALACE TEST.

Genesis 39:1-6  (The New King James):  1Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt.  And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there.  The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.  And his master saw that the Lord waswith himand that the Lord made all he did to prosperin his hand.  So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him.  Then he made him overseer of his house, and all thathe had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time thathe had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field.  Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate.

Potiphar noticed something about Joseph.  He saw that the Lord was with Joseph, and because God was with him, EVERYTHING JOSEPH TOUCHED WAS MADE TO PROSPER. He put Joseph in charge of his business.  He became second-in-command in Potiphar’s house.

And whatever Joseph did, the LORD made it prosper!

I have a very simple question for you.  Would you like everything you do to prosper?  Would that be OKAY with you?

God wants you to succeed!  God wants to make you successful in your life, in your marriage, in your family, in your education, in your job, in your career, in your health, and in your finances!  God wants to prosper you so that you can help others to prosper.

For many people, as soon as they hear the word, “prosper,” they automatically think about MONEY.  Why?  Because our culture defines success with money, position and power.  But God wants to bless you so that you can be a BLESSING to others! The Bible says that God wants you to succeed.

Genesis 26:12-13 NLT:  12 When Isaac planted his crops that year, he harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, for the Lord blessed him.

There are FOUR KEYS to living a successful life … and I believe God loves to take complex things and make them simple … doable … understandable and practical.  You might want to write these keys down.

  1. THE FIRST KEY TO SUCCESSIS THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD!

If God is with you, you’re going to be successful.  Why?  Because EVERYTHING God does is successful!  He’s NEVER failed at anything He’s done. So, if you’re with Him, in step with Him, and focused on Him, everything you do with prosper, too.  If God is with you, you can’t help but be blessed!

Question:  Would it be alright with you if, in your job, in your career, and in your family God was blessing you?

This is the first KEY.  The Presence of the Lord.  Joseph HAD the presence of the Lord in his life:

The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. 

Potiphar was NOT a believer in God, but he was still able to put two and two together and come to the right conclusion.  He was able to recognize that God was WITH Joseph.

Question: Does ANYONE in your life who may be an unbeliever, recognize that God is with you?

And if you’re the boss or the leader of anything, do your employees or your team recognize that God is with you?

The phrase, “The Lord was with him” is found throughout the Bible.  And you’ll see that when God is with His people, everything they do succeeds!

Henry Blackaby, in his book,“Experiencing God,” he repeatedly says, “Find out what God is doing and join Him.”   I like that, because Henry is encouraging us to be WORKING WITH and FOR the Lord, and not necessarily asking God to bless what we’re doing.   DO YOU SEE THE DIFFERENCE?

The Lord was with Joseph!  AND GOD WAS WORKING THROUGH HIM.  Joseph was watching “God in action”in and through his life.

So … we see that the FIRST KEY TO SUCCESSis to have the PRESENCE OF THE LORD with you at ALL times.  NOT JUST SOME OF THE TIME.  So … what is the KEY to the PRESENCE OF THE LORD?

  1. THE KEY TO THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD is OBEDIENCE!

 2 Chronicles 17:3-4 (NLT):  The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the example of his father’s early years and did not worship the images of Baal.  He sought his father’s God and obeyed His commands instead of following the evil practices of the kingdom of Israel.

We don’t like the word “obedience” very much!  We just want OTHER PEOPLE to like it!! (HA!) But the KEY to experiencing God’s presence is obedience.  If we don’t obey God He can’t walk with us. He is holy and righteous. That means He’s perfect and always RIGHT.

1 Samuel 18:12 & 14 (NLT):  12 Saul was then afraid of David, for the Lord was with David and had turned away from Saul. …. 14 David continued to succeed in everything he did, for the Lord was with him.

 REMEMBER THIS:  God gives us a choice.  “If” “Then” statements are throughout the Bible.  God says you can choose to obey or not.  But remember this, God says … there will be blessings with one and a curse with the other.

Moses was speaking on behalf of God, after he came off Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments.  This is what the man of God said:

 Deuteronomy 10:12-13 and 11:26-28(NLT):  10:11 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you?  He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases Him, and love Him and serve Him with all your heart and soul.  13 And you must always obey the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.”

11:26 “Look, today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse!  27 You will be blessed if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today.  28 But you will be cursed if you reject the commands of the Lord your God and turn away from Him and worship gods you have not known before.”

Please … understand that God is not talking about your salvation here. Salvation is something you can’t earn, no matter how well you try to live by the Ten Commandments! Salvation is a gift of God’s grace through faith in the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ!  What God is talking about here is about LIVING A BLESSED, SUCCESSFUL, PROSPEROUS LIFE in the here and now!

Jehoshaphat, David and Joseph walked in obedience. They showed their love for God by obeying Him with willing hearts.  And God blessed their lives!  Have you ever met someone who obviously has the presence of God ON them and IN them?

YOU CAN’T HELP BUT NOTICE.  Joseph was a person like that, and Potiphar noticed!

Here is my heart’s desire …   I want to live like that.  I want to live and move in God’s presence every day of my life.  AND I HOPE YOU SHARE MY DESIRE.   But we’ll never experience God’s blessings and God’s presence is we don’t obey Him.

In Genesis 4:16 the Bible says, “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord!”

If you know the story you know that Cain was disobedient … and disobedience will cause us to leave the presence of God.  It’s NOT as if God moves.  We choose to leave His presence when we don’t follow Him and His ways.

God never expects perfection!  You won’t get it right every time – maybe most of the time.  But you and I need to be like David.  When he disobeyed God and he was confronted with his sin, David REPENTED!!    David sang, “Cast me not away from Thy presence, O Lord.  Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.”  He sang, “Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me!”

Okay, so if we want to PROSPER we must live and move in the PRESENCE of God … and if we want to live in His PRESENCE we must OBEY Him! Right?

Next week we’ll look at the last two KEYS to success …

From a Dream to a Destiny, Part 2

I’m going to repeat the follow paragraph at the beginning of every blog in the series, “From a Dream to a Destiny.”  Here’s why:  Robert Morris is the pastor of Gateway Church in Dallas, TX.  I really respect him and appreciate him as a man with a heart for God.  He wrote a book that changed me!  It is entitled “From Dream to Destiny.”  If you wish, you can pick it up at a bookstore, go online to Robert Morris’ website, or order it at Amazon, as a Kindle Book.

The contents of this book impacted me in a way that’s hard to describe.  Suffice it to say, I was wrecked for good!   So … I want to share with you, my friend, that much of the content of this blog series will be directly from Morris’ book, and I want to honor the copyright laws.  That said, I give Robert Morris full credit for every element of my writing except the personal illustrations.  Those are mine.

Here goes:

In Genesis 37 we’re continuing to study the life of Joseph, and in this part of his story he finds himself in a pit. He didn’t walk into it.  He was thrown into it … and motivated or not, Joseph couldn’t get out. 

Text:  Genesis 37:12-14, 18-20

12 Soon after this, Joseph’s brothers went to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem. 13 When they had been gone for some time, Jacob said to Joseph, “Your brothers are pasturing the sheep at Shechem. Get ready, and I will send you to them.”

“I’m ready to go,” Joseph replied.

14 “Go and see how your brothers and the flocks are getting along,” Jacob said. “Then come back and bring me a report.”

18 When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. 19 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. 20 “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”

On January 9th, my dear friend, Bishop Darryl Husbands, the pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church located on Church Hill in Richmond, Virginia, sent me (and a bunch of his other friends) a text.  He was really troubled.  I’m going to paraphrase some of what he said:

“I was talking to one of my friends who teaches school.  He told me he asked one of his classes the question, “When you look around the room, who do you see becoming an attorney, clergyman, physician, politician or the like, and making a significant impact in the future?”

“Their answer was breath-taking.  They responded, “Nobody!”

“The teacher was stunned, so he asked the class if it bothered them that they didn’t see anyone in their class (not even themselves) with that kinmd of potential?  They replied, “Not really!”

“Well, it didn’t bother them, but it bothered both he and I.   My first response was, “We’re in trouble!”    Are they the microcosm of an aimless generation?  Weak in self esteem, apathetically meandering through a critical stages of their life without a dream or hope.”

Martin Luther King, the man our country celebrates this year on January 21, gave a speech that has become known as the “I Have a Dream Speech.”    Close to the end he tells the crowd and all of America,

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  I have a dream…”

Do you have a dream?

When Joseph was 17, God gave him two dreams that described his destiny.  In the first part of Genesis 37 we read about Joseph’s two dreams – and both of them described a wonderful future.  God promised Joseph that eventually his brothers, mother and father would kneel before him.

But Joseph did something really, really foolish with that information … and we wrote about it last blog.  He couldn’t keep his mouth closed.  He bragged about his destiny.  He pridefully told everybody about his dreams!  He didn’t have the sense … OR THE HUMILITY … to just keep God’s promises quiet.  He had to tell everybody.

Pride has to speak!  Pride is compelled to speak!  Joseph miserably failed his first test – the pride test.

Now, God may have given YOU a dream that will eventually lead to your destiny, but before you fulfill your destiny, your purpose, God is going to work on your character.  You will have to go through some significant tests that will adjust your character.  A pride test most likely will be the first one.

Why?  Because your destiny is all about fulfilling GOD’S purpose for your life and that purpose – that destiny – will involve GLORIFYING GOD, not you.

But failing the Pride Test didn’t seem to affect Joseph’s character.  That’s why God continued the process of refining Joseph’s character IN A PIT.

READING: GENESIS 37:21

21 But when Reuben heard of their scheme, he came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said.  22 “Why should we shed any blood?  Let’s just throw him into this empty cistern here in the wilderness.  Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.”  Reuben was secretly planning to rescue Joseph and return him to his father.

23 So when Joseph arrived, his brothers ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing.  24 Then they grabbed him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.  25 Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them.  It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm, and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother?  We’d have to cover up the crime.   27 Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother — our own flesh and blood!”  And his brothers agreed.  28 So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver.  And the traders took him to Egypt.

Maybe we should be asking ourselves, “Why am I in a pit?”

Many times you and I find ourselves in a pit, and it seems like we had very little, if anything, to do with how we got there.

Several years ago I found myself in a pit of despair … a pit of depression … a pit of death.  I just wanted to die.  I went to some lengths to plan my own death.  I would make it look like an accident so my family (my grandchildren especially) and friends wouldn’t know.  No note would be left.  I was looking for a big tree on the side of the road.

And here’s how I got there:  I had come to believe some lies.

You do know, don’t you, that Satan wants to kill you and have you end up in “the bottomless pit” that God created for him?

The lies that had the most profound impact on my life had to do with my purpose.  I kept hearing, “You’re 63 and you’re done.  Toast.  Your life is over.  No one wants to hear what you have to say.  You were a lousy pastor to begin with.  No church is going to risk taking you in.  You’re too imperfect … flawed.  Nobody cares for you.  You’ve burned too many bridges.  Who would want to be your friend.”

I was isolated by my own choice.  Satan told me that everyone was against me, that I had no future, that I had no hope, and that I couldn’t get out of my pit!   All lies … but I was deceived!  I could go on, but I’ve made my point.  All I heard was constant condemnation.  Constant accusations.  Sadly, I believed every cruel lie.  I was so deceived.

Satan has a pitiful future.  He is going down, and he is trying to take everyone with him.  He hates God and anyone God loves!  That’s you.  That’s me.

I knew Jesus had said that Satan is a liar and the father of ALL lies.  I could take you to the text.  I had preached it many times, and I believed what the Lord said about His enemy and mine.  But knowing Satan is a liar doesn’t inoculate us from his lies.

Here’s what Jesus said in JOHN 8:44.  Christ was speaking to religious leaders.

For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does.  He was a murderer from the beginning.  He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.

If you’re in a pit you must FIRST, LOOK OUTWARDLY.   When the lies come you have to take every thought captive.  You’ve got to intentionally detect, discern and dissect every thought.  This is a battle of life and death!  You’ve got to look under every rock.  To do that you need to speak what you’re thinking out load.  That’s my strong advice to you.  Speak your thoughts.  Bring them into the light.  You can do that with a therapist.  That’s what they want you do do.  But whether or not you get help from someone trustworthy, you’ve got to do some heavy lifting.  Being in the pit isn’t time to get lazy.

I’m in totally agreement with Robert Morris.  Your mind is where the battle is!  Satan tells lies and then reinforces them through peer pressure, advertising, family conflict, hate-filled arguments, sarcasm, bullying, fear of failure, unrealistic expectations, other people’s expectations, performance living … etc.  Satan is a master at lying.  It’s constant!

Let me be clear.  If you believe his lies, you could end up staying in that pit indefinitely.   Or dying.  But if you resist Satan’s lies with God’s TRUTH, you’re going to get out of the pit, your feet will be back on solid ground, and you’ll be on your way again to fulfilling the dreams and destiny God intends for you to enjoy!

The first step out of your pit involves finding out what God thinks about you and your circumstances.  Dig!  Stop listening to the lies and hear the Other voice.  God has a voice.  Stop preferring Satan’s voice over God’s.

SECOND, LOOK INWARDLY.  When we do, we usually find out that we had some part in getting ourselves into the pit.

To be honest, it’s much easier to blame others than to take a good, honest, hard look at ourselves and our own behavior.  We seldom admit to having character problems.  We’ve lied too long we don’t remember the truth.  We’ve stolen stuff so often it’s like trying to kick an opioid habit.  We have murder in our hearts.  Our sarcasm is second nature.   We’ve learned to stealthfully engage our lust, our adulterous heart, and our wandering eyes.

There’s never a shortage of people we can blame!  It’s become very popular in our society to adopt a “victim mentality” – in other words, to blame all our problems on other people.

Don’t blame Satan for your character issue(s).  He can tempt you, but he can’t make you do anything.  You choose, right?

Have you ever heard someone say, or say yourself“People are just jealous of me!  I’m not the one with the problem!  It’s not the way I act, or the way that I talk that’s the problem! It’s not the way I present myself!  Everyone else has the problem!!”

Joseph had the PERFECT opportunity to develop a victim mentality.  After all, he was just obeying his dad when his brothers decided to throw him in the pit. And Joseph could have properly reasoned that his brothers were jealous.

It is true that Joseph’s brothers had an evil attitude … and even murder in their hearts … but what about Joseph’s attitudes and behaviors?  Did his attitude contribute to the bad situation?  Did his pride produce some of the strain in the horrible relationship he had with his brothers?

  • Why wasn’t he out in the wilderness with his brothers, tending the family herds, in the first place?  What’s an able-bodied 17 year old son-of-a-shepherd doing back in the tents?
  • Did he avoid work because it was beneath him?
  • Or did his dad shield him from the hot sun and not make him do family chores?

Ponder this:  why do you think Joseph stayed home?  Do you have any similar behavior?

Let’s go on.  Genesis 37:18 tells us that Joseph’s brothers saw him coming from a long way off.  Do you think they saw the coat?  Absolutely!

Why would Joseph be wearing his “prestige coat” out in the wilderness?  (He might have worn it everywhere he went.)

Joseph was very proud of the gift his father, Jacob, had given him.  He may have started to find his identity in the gift that identified him as his father’s favorite.

But he lost “the gift,” and you and I can lose our Father’s gifts, too, if we get caught up in the gift and ignore the Giver. We could lose the gifts of God if we let pride overtake our hearts.  And usually we lose our gifts in a pit.

I’ve known “men and women of God” who have lost their gifts because of pride.  I’ve heard many stories of preachers that were nationally known, who felt their giftedness would shield them from the consequences of secret sin.  But they fell hard into a pit of their own making.  They dug their own pit and stumbled into it.

Be assured of this: anytime you fall into a pit … one of your own making or one that is there because we live on a fallen planet … Satan will be right there!  I’m goin to keep beating that drum.  Like I said before, he will quickly begin to lie.  He will accuse you.  And he will fabricate evidence to keep you in the pit!

Think about these two statements and then read the texts.

Satan accuses us.  God does not!  (Look at Rev. 12:10-11)

Satan will fabricate evidence!  (Look at Gen. 37:31-33)

Joseph’s brothers misled their father, Jacob, and kept the lie about Joseph’s death going for 20 years!  They manufactured evidence, that Joseph was gone forever by bringing their father the coat of many colors covered with blood!

Satan will fabricate “evidence” so that he can defeat you and foil the destiny God has in store for you!

BUT WAKE UP TO THIS FACT!!   Being in a pit is not the end of your story.  It wasn’t the end for Joseph, and it won’t be for you … IF … you learn from your sin and failures, and get a solid, strong grip on your thoughts, fantasies and ideas.

EVENTUALLY  … Joseph got back something a lot more important that a coat.  He GOT HIS DESTINY BACK!  Eventually he fulfilled God’s purpose for his life!  And so will you.  Whatever you’ve lost, God can replace it if you will repent, and walk in humility.  To get out of our pits we must humbly cry out to Him.  James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

When you read the Bible, you will quickly see that God’s Word is entirely about RESTORATION, redemption, and realized dreams!  The Bible is filled with stories of people who messed up, and messed up badly … and ended up in pits.  But they didn’t stay in the pit.   Joseph’s story is one such story … of coming out of a pit and into God’s destiny.  So are the stories of Moses, David, Jonah, Solomon, Peter, Paul … and so many more.  Read the Bible and you’ll discover stories of victory snatched from defeat!

BELIEVE THIS:  Your story of victory can be added to theirs.  Your story is your testimony.  It’s your story and no one can tell it like you.  And if God wants you to tell your story, don’t sugar-coat it or camouflage your failures.  Don’t dwell on them, either.  The people around you will listen as you describe how you got into your pit, but their ears will really perk up when you share God’s remedy, redemption, and revelations.  Why?  Because they are looking for ways to get out of their own pits.

Conclusion:  We all need to pass the PRIDE TEST.  (See the January 19 entry.)  But if we don’t, God loves us and He will work on our character in order for us to rediscover our purpose and fulfill our destinies.

And one more thing:  if you don’t pass your tests in proper order, God’s so good.  He lets us RETAKE the test we failed until we pass.   Ha!    God desires for you and me to live full and abundant lives while we fulfill our purpose.

Thanks for reading.

From a Dream to Your Destiny, Part 1

Robert Morris is the pastor of Gateway Church in Dallas, TX.  I really respect him and appreciate him as a man with a heart for God.  He wrote a book that was life-changing for me!  It is entitled “From Dream to Destiny.”  If you wish, you can pick it up at a bookstore, go online to Robert Morris’ website, or order it at Amazon, as a Kindle Book.

[On December 30, 2018, I felt I should begin a series based on “From Dream to Destiny” and the life story of Joseph that is found in Genesis 37-50.   This is the “sermon” from that Sunday.    Each week hereafter I’ll be adding the sermon notes to this site so if anyone wants to follow along, they can … or if you miss a Sunday at the English service at Emmaus Korean United Methodist Church in Richmond, Virginia, you can stay caught up.  We had a combined service on January 6, 2019, and an ice and snow storm that prevented me from making it to the January 13th service … so, we move right along with.]

In this book Robert Morris writes, “Every person has a dream from God, and every person has a destiny from God.  Sadly, many individuals live ‘WITH’ the dream instead of IN the destiny.”

Maybe you haven’t had your dream yet … but before you do, and before you can fulfill your destiny you have to pass 10 Tests. Before you can live out the purpose God has for your life, you must pass 10 character tests.

Throughout the Bible God used dreams, daydreams, and creative imagina-tions to communicate with His people.
One of those people was Joseph, the son of Jacob. His story is found in Genesis 37-50.

God destined and then designed Joseph to exercise great power. Joseph was destined to be the instrument of God’s deliverance for his family and the nation of Israel, but before he could exercise that power and purpose he had to endure great testing along the way.

At the tender age of 17 Joseph had received a glimpse of that destiny in a dream — but he failed to understand that the journey toward his destiny had only just begun when he received his dream.

Between the dream and his destiny, Joseph had to live out 13 years of hard lessons, testing and preparation. It wasn’t until Joseph was 30 years old that he stepped into the first phase of the extraordinary destiny God had ordained for his life. It was only after Joseph passed 10 tests … 10 character tests … that he was prepared to walk out that destiny and to fulfill the dream to its fullest.

Remember … every one of us has a destiny. Do you have a dream?

Perhaps you, like Joseph, have had some dreams that are yet to be fulfilled.

We all have dreams for our families, dreams for our finances, dreams for our chosen vocations — but right now I want to challenge you to dream a little bigger. Allow God to stir in your heart His dream for you. I promise, His dream for you is better because you and I can’t dream a bigger dream than God can dream! His destiny for you is bigger and better! God’s thoughts for us are higher than our thoughts. His plans for us are better than our plans.

Each person’s dream is unique; but somehow each dream is supernaturally intertwined with the master plan of our loving heavenly Father … to share the Good News about His Son, Jesus, and to bring people into relationship with Himself.

God has assigned a role for each one of us — a destiny that is essential to His plans. There are things He has created you to do that only you can accomplish. The same is true for me. Each one of us has a unique assign-ment from God. And if we don’t do our assignments, they won’t get done!

That is why I believe this message about Joseph is so vital at this hour. I believe a day is coming (and has already begun) when we will see a worldwide harvest of souls. Each of us has a part to play — and our parts will be fulfilled only to the extent that our God-given destinies have been fulfilled.

Every one of us is destined to do great things for God and His kingdom. Like Joseph, we must pass TEN (10) tests to get there. I know that doesn’t thrill you … but that doesn’t matter. God is GOOD … and He knows what He’s doing. Do you trust Him?

I’m so glad God doesn’t “flunk” any of us on our tests. (If He did, He could have written “F” on the pages of my life many times!) No, each time we fail, He graciously writes, “Re-TAKE” on that life-page — and He allows us to keep retaking the test until we pass it. Why? Because it is only when we pass the tests that we will be able to step into the destiny He has planned for us. Many people have had dreams, but they haven’t lived out their destiny because they haven’t passed these tests yet.

The first test we have to pass is THE PRIDE TEST.

GENESIS 37, VERSE 1-11.

So Jacob settled again in the land of Canaan, where his father had lived as a foreigner. This is the account of Jacob and his family. When Joseph was seventeen years old, he often tended his father’s flocks. He worked for his half brothers, the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. Joseph was working his half-brothers. Bilhah and Zilpah were handmaid-ens of Leah and Rachel. Leah had six sons, Bilhah had two, Zilpah had two, and Rachel had two. That would explain the Tribes of Israel.

Joseph and his little brother Benjamin were sons of Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife. Rachel died when Benjamin was born. There are a lot of unique family dynamics going on in the tents of Jacob. That would explain the next few verses.

But Joseph reported to his father some of the bad things his brothers were doing.

Just notice, before Joseph ever had a dream he was a tattletale. Telling on your brothers isn’t “endearing.”

Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph — a beautiful robe.  But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.  One night Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers about it, they hated him more than ever.  

This is what spoiled 17-year-old favorite sons do. When we read about this dream you’re going to be in awe of the “wisdom” of this kid … that he told it to his brothers … even though they hated him!

Maybe this would be a good time to suggest that if you have someone in your life that hates you … it would be best to refrain from sharing your wisdom and insights from God.

“Listen to this dream,” he said.  “We were out in the field, tying up bun-dles of grain. Suddenly my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!”

That just brilliant … to tell your older brothers something like this!

His brothers responded, “So you think you will be our king, do you? Do you actually think you will reign over us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dreams and the way he talked about them.  Soon Joseph had another dream, and again he told his brothers about it. “Listen, I have had another dream,” he said. “The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!”   This time he told the dream to his father as well as to his brothers, but his father scolded him. “What kind of dream is that?” he asked. “Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow to the ground be-fore you?”  But while his brothers were jealous of Joseph, his father wondered what the dreams meant.

About now in the story you might be asking, “How is God going to use someone so self-focused and immature?

Genesis 41:46 says that when Joseph stood before Pharaoh, he was 30 years old.

Joseph dreamed the dream when he was 17, and 30 when he stepped into his destiny. What happened during those 13 years?

I want to establish at the beginning of this study a first point:

God Has a Dream For You!

Joseph was pretty excited about the dream that God had given him. Re-gardless of the consequences, he just had to let everyone know about it! After all, it seemed obvious from the dream that Joseph was destined for great power and influence.

The dream was from God, but the bragging was all Joseph.

There was a test on the horizon for Joseph. Something was standing in the way of Joseph’s moving toward that destiny God had shown him. The reason for the test was really quite simple: Joseph had pride in his heart.

It is important to notice that Joseph had pride in his heart before he ever got the dream from God. The Bible says that Joseph “brought a bad report of them to his father” (Gen. 37: 2). Never mind what the bad report was about. Perhaps Joseph’s brothers weren’t exactly perfect, and they may indeed have deserved some correction. But this verse reveals that Joseph thought of himself as someone qualified to make that type of judgment about his brothers.

Any time we pass judgment on the behavior of others, it reveals a prideful attitude on our part. And Joseph had a prideful attitude.

Now don’t miss this: God KNEW that Joseph was prideful — yet God still gave him the dream. God had a big destiny in mind for Joseph — and He knew that prideful attitude would have to go if Joseph were to succeed.

You may wonder why God would give such a huge dream to such a young man — especially when He knew that Joseph already had pride in his heart. Why not wait until he was a little older, a little wiser, a little more humble, perhaps?

The answer is really quite simple. God planned for Joseph to step into the dream at the age of 30 — and God knew that could never happen until Joseph had dealt with that pride. So God allowed Joseph to see the big dream at 17, so the pride in his heart could be exposed and dealt with.
Joseph failed the first test, yes — but God knew that he would fail it.

Remember, although we may fail, we never actually flunk a test with God — we just keep taking it over and over again until we pass it.
In giving Joseph the dream, God was helping him to take the first neces-sary steps toward his destiny. How? By revealing the pride in Joseph’s heart and by allowing Joseph to start working on passing that test.

Every one of us deals with pride, and every one of us must pass the Pride Test some day.

• Pride – a sense of superiority and willful boasting.
• Arrogance – condescension, or disdain and contempt for others.
• Conceit – narcissistic self-love, cockiness and unwholesome self-importance.
• Egotism – always talking and thinking about oneself, excessively.
• Vanity – excessive admiration of one’s own appearance or achieve-ments.
• Superiority – dominance, primacy, unwelcome leadership, and a sense of one’s own greatness.

We may have to go lower and lower before we finally pass it — but God will see to it that we pass this test somehow.

Never forget the truth of the promise found in Philippians 1:6, And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

There’s something you should know, and that is … WE can have our own dreams.

• Selfish dreams can confuse us, and crowd out God’s dreams for us.
• And there are some dreams you just need to lay down.

Would you like to know what God’s dream is for you? How can you know the dream God has for you?
Let me give you something directly from God Himself. Let’s not get a man’s opinion. Let’s hear what God says about knowing His dreams for you.

Numbers 12:6-8
Then God said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.   Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house.  I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings

Let me interpret this plainly:
• BELIEVE … GOD HAS A WONDERFUL DREAM FOR YOU.
• AND …. If you want to know God’s dream for your life, GET TO KNOW GOD! GET TO KNOW HIM!
• GET TO KNOW THE GIVER OF THE DREAM.
• GET TO ONE WHO CAN REVEAL IT AND FULFILL IT!

The first step to passing the PRIDE TEST is humbly acknowledging, “My life is NOT my own. God has a dream and destiny for me, and I will have it and live it.”

The Battlefield of Your Mind

The week leading up to the first Easter, Jesus knew He was headed for a week of war.  His war would be physical, emotional, and spiritual.  He knew that the battleground for this fight would be His mind.  Jesus knew what was ahead.  And phase one of the battle for His mind began on “Palm Sunday,” the day Jesus was celebrated by the crowd.

Matthew 20:17-19

17 As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to Him. 18 “Listen,” He said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law.  They will sentence Him to die. 19 Then they will hand Him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified.  But on the third day He will be raised from the dead.”

I’m going to put the goal of my blog treatise out front, in plain view.  It is this:  I hope to convince you that if the Holy Spirit of God has our mind, our will and emotions will follow God’s leading.  If God has our minds we will live our lives God’s way, with all the perks!

Satan knows that if he has our minds he can ruin us!  Confuse us.  Cause us to doubt God.  If the enemy gets your mind then every part of your being is open to his control … your mind and your will and your emotions!   You’ll say “yes” to every dark and sinful idea that he brings to your mind.  And as he gets you say yes over and over again, you are taking steps toward addiction and spiritual slavery and ultimately spiritual death.

The bottom line is … OUR mind is the prize.

On that first Palm Sunday Jesus was  popular!  His reputation had preceded Him.   People in the crowds that day were testifying, “This prophet JESUS raised a man from the dead, a man that lives just over the Mount of Olives, in Bethany!!”

Some others were saying, “Oh, well, you think that’s impressive?  This Man fed two huge crowds of people… thousands of people each time … the first time with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and the other time with 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish!  What do you think of that!”

Matthew 21:8-11 tells us, 

Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of Him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around Him were shouting, 

“Praise God for the Son of David!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in highest heaven!”

 10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as He entered. “Who is this?” they asked.  11 And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

While during that first Palm Sunday Jesus had the approval of multitudes of people, just 5 days later these same people that were singing “Hosanna” would be shouting, “Crucify Him!  Give us Barabbas!  But crucify Jesus!”

Do you see the battle taking shape?  What Jesus was receiving from the crowds on Sunday was “the approval of man.”   Is that something you long for?  Ache for?  Would die for?

It is important we understand that our desire for approval and fear of disapproval, and why both is so strong.  We all long for approval and significance.  That’s why the fear man is so strong.

When God created Man He designed Adam to be motivated by these emotionally powerful forces – approval & disapproval – because they uniquely reveal what we love.

Because we are created beings our identity, our value, our meaning comes from the One who created us – God.  He has the rightful authority to define who we are, what we are worth, what we should do, and how we should do it.  He is called “the Lord,” not “a lord.”

That is why Jesus said the greatest commandment is to LOVE the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, all our strength and ALL OUR MIND.  All the other commandments will be obeyed if we love God totally.

God designed us to obey the one we love … or the one we fear.

So if we elevate Man to the highest place in our life, we will obey what we believe Man wants us to do, and how Man wants us to think.  Fear of Man is giving God’s rightful position in our lives to people, and that, my friends, is called idolatry.

The Bible says, in Proverbs 29:25, 25 Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.

How do we battle and win over the fear of Man?   I wish it was simple, but it is not.  We must love God more, and place Him at the highest place in our hearts.   We must long for His approval!   His “thumbs up” should mean the world to us.

And while your battling the Fear of Man get ready to experience betrayal.  Betrayal will mess with your mind!

Just days after the crowds were praising Jesus, Judas would betray Him.  Judas, one of The Twelve Disciples, had his feet washed by Jesus.  Judas had seen the miracles.  He was there when the blind saw and the lame walked.  He watched as the demons came out of people.  He even saw the dead raised on THREE occasions.

And still he betrayed Jesus.

We won’t go into the whys and wherefores of Judas’ betrayal.  We just need to remember,  all of Christ’s DISCIPLES except John ran and hid for the three days of Jesus’ torture and death.  John and many of the woman, including Christ’s mother, went with Jesus to The Cross.

I don’t think the Holy Spirit is saying, “Prepare to be betrayed.  Don’t  trust anyone … even your inner circle!”  NO.

I believe the Holy Spirit is saying to us, “Prepare for YOUR OWN betrayal of Jesus.”

Part of spiritual warfare is understanding the nature of human beings.  Jesus knew He would be betrayed … but His betrayers were shocked by their own weakness!   Peter almost didn’t recover.  He was so surprised and embarrassed by his actions!  His betrayal of Jesus almost broke him.

I digress, but think about this:  Judas betrayed the Lord and felt he was UNFORGIVABLE.  My friend, if you fail the Lord don’t ever believe He won’t forgive you.  He knows that you aren’t perfect, and still He loves you so much. Unconditionally!  Ask the other disciples of Jesus.

Peter and the other brothers and sisters of Jesus stayed close enough to experience His resurrection, and the JOY of having a second chance!!

Give yourself some grace as God pours out His forgiveness on your heart when you blow it.  But also, let’s give some GRACE TO OUR FRIENDS!  No pointing fingers!  No “holier than thou!”  None of that stuff should ever surface.  We must understand, followers of Jesus (and that includes you and me) are just one mind-game away from breaking faith with our Lord.  If you want God’s grace, share in God’s grace!  We are not to judge our brothers and sisters.  We are to love and encourage anyone who sins.

Another powerful truth about spiritual warfare is THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER!

EVEN JESUS needed His Garden of Gethsemane!  His best preparation for what He was facing and would be facing would take place on His knees.

Your time of prayer … your Garden of Gethsemane … is your opportunity to address GOD!  Commune with Him.  Drink in His living water.  Feast on His Word.  Bend the knee in worship.  We must take advantage of our opportunities to speak to Him and to hear from Him if we ever hope to be victorious in the battle for our mind.

I believe if we take some time on our knees we will, like Jesus, come away from our prayer time saying, “NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS!”

Here’s a good question.  Are you walking in self-confidence or God-confidence?  (Are you living a successful and God-honoring life in your own strength or His?)

I’ll tell you what also comes out of our times of spiritual warfare prayer.  Look back at the Garden of Gethsamane.   Observe:  while others are cutting the ears off of the people around them you will be prepared to heal even your enemies.

After we pray and clear our minds our goals will change. After we spend time in God’s presence we won’t judge sinners but we will do everything we can to help them become His friends.  We’ll lay down our swords and pick up the servant’s bowl and towel.  We’ll wash feet instead of having to clean things up after a blood-bath.

The last thing I’ll share about spiritual warfare and the battle for our minds is this:  YOUR CROSS WILL REVEAL YOUR TRUE HEART.

Not too many days ago I celebrated “Good Friday.”   Does it ever strike you as ODD that Christians celebrate the death of our Savior?  It does me.  We Christ followers glory in the Cross of Jesus.  We sing about the Cross of Jesus.  We love the Cross of Jesus.  We wear reminders around our necks and get tattoos of a gross instrument of capital punishment.

We love the Cross because there is a strange beauty that is revealed while Jesus is dying.  If it is true, that whatever is in our hearts comes out through our mouths, and I do, then listen to what Jesus said from His heart.  What He said while He was dying proves my last point.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)

No anger!  No cursing!  He preached forgiveness, and then He demonstrated forgiveness.

If you have anything against anyone, from your cross, forgive. Is it in your heart to do so?

“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Again, this is about forgiveness.  This time directed to one who asked for mercy.  Our challenge many times is to not hold forgiveness as a weapon.  Don’t withhold forgiveness to teach someone a lesson, or to punish someone.  Release forgiveness.  Is it in your heart to do so?

“Jesus said to His mother: “Woman, this is your son.” Then He said to the disciple: “This is your mother.”  (John 19:26-27)

There are at least four people at the foot of the Cross.  There are three Marys mentioned, and John.  There is (1) Mary, the mother of Jesus, (2) Mary, His mother’s sister, and (3) Mary Magdalene.  And there is John, the one disciple that didn’t fade into the crowd and go into hiding.

While you may be suffering your cross there are others around you that are suffering, too.  Is it in your heart to love others even when you are longing for love?   Is it in your heart to care for others in spite of your personal pain?  Or is it always about you?

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34)

After three hours of suffering Jesus cried out in anguish!   Friends, we have this record of Christ crying out to God, “Have YOU deserted Me, too?”

One of the beautiful things about our loving God is that He never leaves us, but sometimes it feels like He does, doesn’t it?   Don’t be surprised if, while you are struggling on your cross, you get discouraged and you feel alone.  Is it still in your heart to cry out to God?   Is it in your heart to be honest with yourself and with God?

BE HONEST WITH GOD!  It’s important.  Don’t hide behind what you think is faith.  And don’t have faith in your faith.  Sometimes … many times … faith is crying out to the God you can’t see or touch, and believing that He is still listening … because He is!

This is truly spiritual warfare!

“I thirst.”  (John 19:28)

I don’t want to be whimsical and try to make a point by stretching what happened on the Cross of Christ when He said, “I thirst.”  But I can’t help thinking about an incident that happened earlier in the ministry of Jesus.  He had an encounter with a woman at a well, and He said to her, “Can I have a drink?”  (“I thirst.”)  They ended up having a conversation about well water and something else.  Jesus said, “Whoever drinks this well water will thirst again.  But whoever drinks the water I give will have eternal life!”

Was this moment on the Cross our Lord’s cry for eternal life?  Is it in your heart to thirst for the love of God?

Are you thirsty for the salvation of your family?  Your friends?  Your schoolmates? Your workmates?

Going back to the Cross, the Lord’s body is now giving out.  He has a tremendous thirst.  Next the Word of God tells us:

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished;” and He bowed His head and handed over His spirit.   (John 19:30)

Luke’s Gospel says, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.”  (Luke 23:46)

I believe a part of spiritual warfare is this simple thought.   When you’ve done all you can do, can you trust Him with the end of the story?

When you are battling against the enemy of your soul, and your strength is giving out, is it in your heart to say, “I can trust You with the outcome!  Let it be what You want, O God.  I confess that You are strong when I am weak.   I want You to do the work.  You are God.”

It takes tremendous faith to let go of whatever you’ve been trying to fix.  It takes a lot of faith to intentionally surrender the outcome of your fight to God.  That kind of surrender is all about trust and hope.

Now, you should never surrender to Satan.   Don’t ever give up by surrendering to the enemy!

Let me be clear:  you should surrender yourself and all of your desires, totally, to the will of God.  Is it in your heart to trust God?  Are you ready to confess, “You are the way, You are the truth, and You are the life, Jesus!”  Paul said it this way:  “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Think (meditate) on this from Romans 12:2 … “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

One Man’s Bridge

On February 8, 1999, I was laying on a mat on the floor of Henrico Doctors’ Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. My wife Vicki was in her bed, battling the cancer that would eventually take her life four years later. As the following vision unfolded I shared it with her, and she recorded it – word for word – in her journal.

I was in the Spirit one day when I began to see a path begin unfolding before me … a path that gradually stretched out for miles. The pathway rested between two very steep mountains; these two unnamed mountains formed a “picture frame” for what I saw next.

About 100 feet in front of me a Person suddenly appeared. This Person was walking away from me, but when He glanced back over His shoulder I instantly recognized Him. It was Jesus!

Jesus stopped, turned toward me and smiled a warm, welcoming smile. Then, turning again to continue His walk, Jesus gestured to me to catch up, beckoning with His hand extended over His head. Jesus continued waving until I began to run toward Him.

As soon as I began to pick up some speed the path that had been clear and free from impediments suddenly disappeared! It just melted away, replaced with a 30-foot wide chasm. I skidded to a stop. I knew I couldn’t jump across the gorge. And when I peeked over its side, the chasm appeared to be bottomless. Certain death awaited anyone foolish enough to attempt the leap!

When I looked up I took note that the pathway continued on the other side of the chasm; it still stretched out to Jesus, and The Lord was still gesturing to catch up. What did all this mean?

Then, I noticed to my right, and just off the path, a pile of boards. Each board was sturdy and strong, and each was longer than the chasm was wide. Here was the answer to my dilemma! Instinctively I grabbed the board that rested on top of the pile and dropped it across the chasm. Perfect! It had no problem reaching the other side. Problem solved!

But when I attempted to walk across this one board, as sturdy as it appeared to be, it began to sag. With each step toward the middle of the board, the board’s ends would move closer and closer to the edges of the chasm. I froze! I thought, “With the next step I take I will surely fall into this ‘bottomless’ abyss and I will die!” I very cautiously retraced my steps and returned to my side of the chasm.

Then I heard a Voice thundering in my heart: “You, my son, must build a bridge. Your weight is too great from just one board, or even two or three boards. You must use all the boards. You must use ALL of the materials provided for this bridge’s construction. Jesus will wait for you … unless you try to shorten the process. That is, if you disobey this command, Jesus will move on.”

While I was concentrating on listening to the Voice, Jesus had turned around and walked back to the far edge of the chasm. He stood there so majestically for a moment, waiting for the Voice to finish, and then He spoke to me, saying, “My dear friend, you must build the bridge. And this bridge will be built because you have the heart for it.”

The Lord opened up my mind to understand that every person who had walked with Him in intimacy in the past had had to build a similar bridge. Jesus said to me, “Walking with Me is never based on a man’s talent. Walking in intimacy with Me can not be based on a person’s effort, or even sincere or passionate desire alone. You see, my friend, I have work for you to do, and the work I intend for you to do cannot be accomplished in your own strength. Your wisdom and your strength will never be enough, and you need to learn this truth now. Thus, you must build this bridge. Bend to the process. And cheer up! Remember, you have the heart for it.”

In true humility I asked, “Lord, may I know what work You have for me?” And with amazing grace Jesus replied, “God, my Father, created you to do wonderful things. Let us call your work, ‘signs, wonders and evangelism.’ These three elements are interlocked, interdependent, and are meant for ‘the last days.’ And signs, wonders, and evangelism will take place in and through your life, but that’s later, after we walk together for a time. As for today … build the bridge!

After such encouragement I got to work. First I took note of the boards. Each had a name burned onto its surface. The first board I had impulsively dropped across the gorge was in its proper place, and on this board was burned the word “PRAYER.”

• The second board was named “WONDER & AWE.”
• The third board was “HUMILITY.”
• The fourth was “DISCIPLINE.”
• The fifth, “FASTING.”
• The sixth, “SUBMISSION.”
• The seventh, “TIME.”
• The eighth, “INTIMACY.”
• The ninth, “CHARACTER – INTEGRITY.”
• And the tenth and last board was named, “LOVE.”

And so the work began. Each board was dropped into place, each next to another, and each placed “in its proper time.”

After the ten boards were in place I noticed that hidden under the larger, long boards were shorter boards, and each shorter board had the same word written on it: “WORSHIP.” I laid the first “Worship” board across the width of my bridge, and the fit was perfect! Starting at my end and progressing toward the side where Jesus stood watching, I worked my way across the cavernous void, all the while on both knees and weeping. And as my tears fell they became silver nails that I pounded into my Worship boards. Beginning with the first board, silver tears for nails and on bended knees, I sang to my Lord.

As I finished my last Worship board, I stood and faced Jesus. I was within 10 feet of The Master, and within seconds I could have been at His side. But I noticed that Jesus was looking past me, toward what was now the far side of the bridge. So I turned and looked back over my work. My bridge was in place and solid. But something else caught my eye. On the far side another pile of “building materials” appeared out of nowhere … and I KNEW, these, too, must be added to the structure of the bridge … and my Lord would wait for me.

This is when my vision became very mysterious. Up to this moment I felt I understood the need and purpose of the bridge. I felt I had grasped the importance of building into my life each aforementioned element of the bridge as it appeared. But as I approached this newest pile of revelation I was truly puzzled. There was a canvas cloth, heavy and dense, long and wide enough to perfectly cover over the bridge. And then there was a smaller board with no name burned on it, sitting next to the canvas. I turned and faced Jesus … and I knew. Stretch the canvas cloth over the bridge. Cover the structure. Make the ten long boards and numerous Worship boards disappear so that only you and Jesus would know what it had taken to cross the deep chasm that would finally lead to intimacy.

As I went to work the name of the canvas cloth slowly revealed. “Brokenness, Sorrow and Loss.” Three haunting words. But I knew, this canvas is the reason the ‘Humility’ board was the hardest board to lay across the chasm. Fearfully but courageously I completed the task of stretching the canvas across my bridge.

When I returned once more to the beginning side of my bridge to retrieve the “final board” of the project, as I bent over to pick it up its name appeared. A stake that would serve to hold this little board appeared as well. The stake and small board would make a sign in the form of a cross. I pounded my cross-sign into the hard soil at the end of the bridge farthest from The Lord. “COST,” the sign read.

As soon as the “Cost” sign was erected I ran across my bridge and into the arms of My Friend, Jesus … the One who had witnessed and supervised the building of a bridge that would make intimacy with God a reality. My bridge had crossed a Chasm of Despair and led to a pathway of Joy.

Today I walk in step with the One who created me and Who had mapped out my destiny long before the path and the chasm had appeared in my mind … and in my life.
Every discerning follower of Jesus who longs for intimacy with God knows that they, too, will have to build a bridge and cross their own chasm of despair.  St. John of the Cross called his chasm “the dark night of the soul.”   But true believers will build their bridge for the sake of walking with Christ, for He said, “If any man would come after Me …”