What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Forgiving Myself

In studying the book of Genesis with a friend, I’ve come to Genesis 45 and was struck by Joseph’s comment to his brothers in verse 5.
First, a little background on Joseph. Joseph was his father’s favorite son, but his older brothers didn’t appreciate the favoritism in any way. In fact, they decided to do away with Joseph. Instead of putting him to death, as was their first thought, they made a little money off of him and sold Joseph to traders going to Egypt. They thought that Joseph was gone for good. Joseph became a slave, but eventually rose in power in Egypt because he listened to God and could interpret dreams given to the ruler of Egypt. Joseph was a boy, then a man, who trusted that God was in control even if he couldn’t see what God was doing.
Fast forward 37 years. There was a famine in the whole land, Egypt and Canaan and surrounding areas. Joseph, in his position of power in Egypt, had implemented a master plan that provided for all of Egypt, and anyone else who came asking, all the grain and food they could need. Joseph’s brothers show up begging for grain for their families in Canaan. Joseph recognized them, but they did not recognize Joseph. So Joseph put them through several tests to see if they were still the vengeful and selfish men they were when they sold him into Egypt. Through these trials, Joseph sees that the brothers became fearful and remorseful of their sins. So eventually Joseph revealed himself to them. His brothers were understandably afraid and repentant before Joseph.
Now verse 5. Joseph says to his brothers, “And now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” [NASB] Joseph, who had every right to be angry with his brothers, was conciliatory towards them. He told them to not be afraid, to not grieve, to not be angry with themselves because God had worked in and through the situation. What the brothers meant for evil purposes, God used for His purposes in preserving Joseph’s family.
Why does this strike me? I identify with the fear and remorse of the brothers. Just as Joseph had benevolently forgiven his brothers for God’s sake, Jesus forgives me for my sins. Yet, I worry and agonize and replay my sins over and over again in my mind. Joseph’s brothers had trouble believing in Joseph’s forgiveness, too. Many years later, after their father’s death, the brothers are again worried that Joseph will repay them for their sin against him. Genesis 50:15 tells us this: “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph should bear a grudge against us and pay us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!’”
They still did not believe Joseph had forgiven them and were worried and anxious that they would be punished. But, just as before, Joseph reassures them, “But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.’” [Genesis 50:19, 20; NASB] Joseph had no intention of holding their sin against them. Jesus has no intention of holding my sins against me. So, I need to stop being critical and self-loathing and forgive myself. I need to recognize Jesus’ forgiveness and move on with my life.
Just for today, I can try and do that. We’ll see if I remember tomorrow.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


As I sit here today recognizing that life, overall, is good, I was trying to remember other good times in my life. I found that for me it is easier to remember the bad times. For one thing, I journal when times are bad and not so much when times are good. That’s been the pattern in my life. However, from reading Ecclesiastes 7:13-18 in my Quiet Time this morning, I need to take the good with the bad. In the NIV the passage says:
Consider what God has done:
Who can straighten
            What he has made crooked?
When times are good, be happy;
            but when times are bad, consider:
God has made the one
            as well as the other.
Therefore, a man cannot discover
            anything about his future.
In this meaningless life of mine I have
Seen both of these:
            a righteous man perishing in his righteousness,
            and a wicked man living long in his wickedness.
Do not be overrighteous,
            neither be overwise –
            why destroy yourself?
Do not be overwicked,
            and do not be a fool –
            why die before your time?
It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other.
            The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.

Basically, this passage says a couple of things to me. First, it says that both good and bad times come from the Lord. When things are going well, we need to fully be in the moment and cherish those good times in our memories. However, the passage also says that God has made those times, too. Both situations that bring happiness and sadness to our lives are part of God’s plans for our lives. I might go as far as to say we should be just as joyful (if not happy) for the sad times as we are in the good times. God is present in both.

This passage also talks to me about moderation in all things. Righteous people may die young in their righteousness, and wicked people may live a long life even as they remain wicked. The passage says that we should not allow ourselves to become obsessed with being the most righteous person on the earth or seeking incredible knowledge. This attempt to control every situation in our lives through our own righteousness or wisdom leads to a great amount of stress. This stress may be the cause of destroying ourselves.

However, the passage also encourages to not be overly wicked because that is just plain ole foolishness. I’ve known some foolish people who, because of their foolish actions, have died at young ages. Wickedness and foolishness in the extremes can lead to life threatening situations and lead us to die before our time.

The failure on our part to live in moderation (not too righteous or too wicked, not too wise or too foolish) can have disastrous outcomes in our lives. We should take God’s warning in Ecclesiastes to heart: “The man who fears God will avoid all extremes,” and learn to be satisfied in the good times and the bad.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


I’ve been working on riding a stationary bike since Christmas. I started slow and for a small amount of time. I realized I was not very fit at the time and needed to start slow. However, as time has passed I’ve been able to increase the speed, time, distance, and resistance level. It took a daily commitment to getting on that bike. As time went on it became less of a chore and more a part of the routine of my days. It became a habit. A healthy habit.
I also found that healthy habits are easier to break than unhealthy habits. This week I discovered how quickly I can forget all about the healthy habit, even with the bike sitting right in front of me as I enter my office each morning. It kind of snowballed. Miss one day, and it’s easier to miss the next day, and the next, and the next. Fortunately, I only made a snowball and not a whole snowman. Today I got back on the bike, but I’d lost a little ground and had to pedal slower than I had been doing. I still went the same amount of time, but the overall speed was slower and I didn’t go as far.
There are other healthy habits we need to develop in our lives. The habits of an obedient Christian take as much effort to keep as riding the bike. And, just like with the bike, if I miss one day, missing the following days becomes easier, too. The disciplines of a Christian should include daily time in the Word of God and prayer. Our spiritual muscles depend on those healthy habits as much as our physical muscles need the daily exercise. Gaining knowledge of the Word on a regular basis allows us to grow and change into the person Christ wants us to be. Prayer keeps us connected to God.
I’m thankful that I have accountability in following the Christian disciplines. There are people in my life who will ask me what I got out of the Bible for the day. They also expect me to tell them how I’m applying the truths learned. There are people who expect me to be praying for them daily. I’ve told them I will pray and I need to be a person of my word. These daily disciplines keep me spiritually fit and the more I do them, the greater benefit I get from them.
I might want to consider finding a person or people to hold me accountable to my physical discipline of riding the bike. As I think about it, accountability might be the difference between my easily breaking a physical habit and keeping my spiritual disciplines. That is something for me to think about, but thinking about it won’t translate into action unless I apply it to my life.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Being Odd

Let me start with a bold statement: We are all a bit odd. Everyone has a unique personality, unique physique, and a unique set of emotions. Those things make up who we are as individuals. And isn’t it grand that no two of us are exactly the same! Even twins have something different about each one of them (from experience with a set of identical twins I can tell you that not everything is identical about them). Whether it’s our personality, our physical appearance, or our moods, there is something about us that is like no one else on the earth.
God made us that way. Psalm 139:13 says, “For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb.” And our response to God for His creating us: “I will give thanks to Thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well.” (verse 14, NASB) I marvel that we are each created by a living and active God. God knows me intimately, because He made me.
He also knows me intimately, because He keeps tabs on me. Verses 1 and 3 talk about that. In part, it says, “O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me . . . Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down, And art intimately acquainted with all my ways.” He even knows “when I sit down and when I rise up;” and He “understands my thoughts from afar.” (verse 2) He’s not a god who made me and then just let things happen. He scrutinizes my daily happenings, and I believe He intervenes when I need help or comfort.
It is a comfort to me to know He knows everything there is to know about me. It also challenges me to do the next right thing, whether or not that action seems “odd” to someone else or not. For me, this means actually getting up and getting ready for my day in a timely manner – not because someone is watching me, but because God is watching and knows when I rise up.
I was talking about being odd or different. It’s a good thing because it’s the way God made each of us. God plans to use the ways we are different for specific purposes. I can’t say I understand or know what God is thinking. I don’t know how my oddities will be useful to God and for His glory. I just know that God made me this way and that He did it for a divine purpose. I can rise up each morning and expect Him to do something wondrous. I just have to be looking for His work in and through my life. And, keep letting me do things and be “odd” according to how He made me.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Thanks for Freedom

I read in one of my devotions today that giving thanksgiving and praise can help “snuff out the lies of the one who wants you bound.” I’ve actually seen the benefit of engaging in the activity. I’ve felt more secure in my spirit as I remember the One who has already won the battle between good and evil. It doesn’t always translate to lasting peace, but it helps for a while.
I just have to do it more often.
This particular devotion focuses on certain health battles I’m dealing with namely weight management. I get down on myself because things aren’t necessarily going the way I want them to. I get down on myself for not doing the things I need to be doing. I get down on myself for blaming God for making me this way. However, all these thoughts and feelings are lies of the one who wants to keep me bound. God desires for us to be free. He’s already arranged for that to happen. In fact, it has already happened in Jesus’ dying on the cross and rising from the dead. The victory is already His.
Romans 7:24 – 25a reminds me that there is One who has provided freedom and victory for me: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” My body may be one of death and destruction, but God has already saved me. That’s something to thank and praise Him for. Jesus actually told us how to gain freedom, and it’s not through the lies of Satan. In John 8:32, Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” And, in John 8:36, Jesus said where the freedom comes from: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
So I need to combat the lies of Satan and hold fast to the Truth. The truth is what sets me free. I may still struggle with my earthly body, but even that can be remedied if I focus on the truth instead of believing the lies. In order to do this on a regular basis, I need to be committed to praising and thanking the One who sets me free from the bondage of earthly things. I know I feel better about myself and have more energy to do the next right things when I’m filled with the security that praise and thanksgiving brings me. When I’m believing the lies, I struggle and waste a lot of energy beating myself up.
Today, I will go to praise and thanksgiving every time I start to give in to the lies and believe that I am stuck and worthless. I’ve been set free by the Truth.