God: Idea or Person?



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 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them… Mark 16:20

Julie nudged her friend Rob as a distinguished-looking man walked into the restaurant. “I’ve heard he’s a billionaire,” she whispered, “and the nicest guy ever.” Rob nodded. “Yeah, he is. He takes great care of his employees. His companies offer the best benefit packages in the nation and he personally gets involved with His workers. He even mowed his secretary’s grass last summer when her husband died. Nobody could believe it. Aa-nd—” Rob paused for effect. “He loves strawberry shortcake and hates turnips.” Julie’s jaw dropped. “How do you know all that?” she asked. Rob smiled and shrugged. “I work for him.”

Millions of people are like Julie when they think of God. They have heard of Him, but don’t really know Him. Of those who do know Him as Lord and Savior, many think: “I don’t feel close to God. I read my Bible and pray. I go to church, but He’s not real to me.” Because God is not visible, we can begin to think of Him as an idea, rather than Person with whom we have a relationship. This verse tells us one way we can experience Him personally: We work for Him. God invites us to join with Him in accomplishing His goals for this world. When we obey, we get to see people the way He does. We start to see sin the way He does. We like what He likes and hate what He hates. When our goals, values, and desires match His, we have the joy of truly knowing Him. So when others ask, “How do you know all that?” we can smile and say, “I work for Him.”

When we set our hearts to obey and serve the Lord, He works with us. 

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Seeking Wisdom



Pharaoh said, "Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so…wise as you are. Genesis 41:39 

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University Professor Found Guilty of Embezzlement. “Famous Neurosurgeon Arrested in Prostitution Sting.” NASA Scientist Renounces Faith in God. Headlines like these raise a question: How can brilliant people do such dumb things? Clearly, being smart does not mean being wise. Knowledge is information; wisdom is knowing what to do with it. Our heads can be packed with enough information to win every Jeopardy! round, but we may still be foolish. Knowledge gives us options; wisdom tells us which ones to choose. In Joseph’s case, wisdom had gotten him through family betrayal, the slave market, the valley of temptation, and wrongful imprisonment. And it was that same wisdom that caught the attention and respect of Pharaoh.

Wisdom is seeing life from God’s perspective and acting accordingly. It is impossible to possess much wisdom without faith in God, because He is the source of all wisdom (Pr. 9:10). Unfortunately, wisdom is often discarded in favor of tweeted opinions and instagram values, and our world is beginning to pay a high price for its foolishness. 

Wisdom is acquired when God’s word is our measuring rod. We grow wise when we place our experiences, opinions, and desires beside that measuring rod and adjust them as necessary. No mistake is wasted if we learn from it. If we realize the folly of past choices and head in the opposite direction. Wisdom spoke boldly to a heathen king about an invisible God, and God honored Joseph’s obedience.

Proverbs 2:4 says that we should seek wisdom the way we seek riches. Is wisdom that valuable to you?  

Moral Development



 
"How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9 

Temptation slow-danced before him. She was beautiful, willing, and the boss would never know. Although this scenario is not unusual, Joseph’s response was. He did not hang around to weigh the odds of being caught or try to reason with teenage hormones. He saw this situation for what it was---sin against God. And because his commitment to God was greater than his commitment to himself, he got up and ran. His decision was not made in that moment of temptation. Only fools rely on willpower to come through at the last minute. No, Joseph’s decision was made the day he began to live as a friend of God.  

 We make decisions according to our level of moral development. We start out learning to do right based upon the promise of rewards or punishments. As we age, we are motivated by popular opinion or even our own moral code. But God designed us to live by a higher standard. The Bible calls it the “law of liberty” (Jms. 2:12). People at this level can be called “friends of God,” because they see life as an opportunity to advance God’s purposes, rather than their own. They can be trusted to do right even when no one knows, because their motivation is to please God. Because Joseph’s desire was to please God, he could resist temptation when most would have crumbled. Friends of God have already decided that sin is not worth it. They get up and run.


What is your motivation for making the choices you make? At what level of moral development are you living?




Options



 
The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did… Genesis 39:2

Joseph did not deserve what happened to him. He was minding his own business, obeying his dad, when sibling rivalry got out of hand. His own brothers ambushed him, stripped him, threw him into a well, and then sold him as a slave to a band of traveling salesmen. The rough, camelhair seat cushions on Joseph’s ride were the least of his troubles. Foreign traders. Foreign language. Weird customs. Weird religions. A slave’s future. We are told nothing about his trip from favored son to foreign slave, but the rest of the story implies that Joseph did not give way to hatred. He did not grow bitter or blame God.

When life explodes around us, we have a choice. We may not be in control of what is happening to us, but we have complete control of our responses to it. We can: 1) Grow bitter and blame God, 2) Deny that we are suffering, 3) Turn to addictions or immorality, or 4) Remain faithful to God in spite of it all. The fourth response is the one that catches God’s attention when He searches hearts and minds for those who are wholly His (2 Chron. 16:9). Sometimes it takes being stripped of everything we depend upon before the true condition of our hearts is known. God actively seeks those who will cling to Him, regardless of what is going on around us. When He finds us faithful, He promises to be with us and bless whatever He’s given us to do.

Which of those four options do you choose when life explodes around you? 

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Stand Up, Speak Up, Step Up



 
But Joseph reported to his father some of the bad things his brothers were doing. Genesis 37:2

He was the baby, Dad’s favorite. But Dad’s sentiments were not shared by the ten jealous brothers. Ten pairs of ears listened as Joseph ratted them out. Ten pairs of eyes narrowed when they saw him coming. They’d had a good thing going until Dad started sending the kid to spy on them. They could goof off, skim the profits, deal under the table, as long as Dad didn’t find out. Then the kid ruined everything. They may have tried to bargain with him, cut him in on the deals. But he refused, and their anger exploded. No one is as self-righteously indignant as the person whose sin has just been exposed.

We learn from kindergarten that no one likes a tattletale. We are taught to be loyal to our peers and keep our knowledge of their wrongs to ourselves. But as we age, we can face a real dilemma. Someone is doing evil, harming another, and we know about it. Our repeated pleas to them for change are ignored. Do we look the other way for fear of being branded a tattletale? Do we excuse our inaction as “not my business?” Or do we stand up, speak up, and step up to right the wrongs, no matter the personal cost. Joseph made that choice. He told his father about those goof-off brothers because it was the right thing to do. He knew they would hate him as a tattletale. But even as a teenager, Joseph was committed to doing right, no matter what it cost him. And it would cost him greatly. But because he was faithful in smaller things, God trusted him with a greater mission.  
 
Can God trust you to stand up, speak up, or step up when needed, no matter what it costs you? 
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Unexpected Plunder




There was so much plunder that it took them three days just to collect it all!  
2 Chron. 20:25

Jim shook the bank statement at his wife. “How is this possible?” he asked. “We’ve both been out of work for nearly a year, but look at this. We’ve actually got money left over this month. In fact, our balance is higher than it was when we were working. How can that be?” Jena glanced at their balance and shrugged. “I don’t know. You lost your job when you wouldn’t lie for your boss, and my company folded. Since neither was our fault, maybe God is just taking care of us.” Jim nodded. “…and then your aunt died and left us a little money, and those odd jobs that came out of nowhere…” They stared at each other until Jena broke the silence. “Only God could do this! He has provided for us even better than we did when we were working!”



When God gave victory to His people, He wasn’t stingy with the profits. Not only did they defeat their enemies, but God heaped treasures on them as well. Since God owns everything (Ps. 50:9-11), provision is nothing for Him. He also loves to be generous with His children, when He knows we won’t make idols out of His gifts. His provision often comes in unexpected ways, because He enjoys reminding us that He is working on our behalf. Those “coincidences” that came along at just the right moment were not accidents: that opportunity to make extra money, the medical bill that registered an unexpected zero balance, the sudden change of heart in someone you were praying for. God is creative in the ways He provides, even working through what we consider “natural means.”  But when God gets involved, the natural becomes the supernatural. 

  
How has God provided supernaturally for you? Take time to remember and thank Him for it.

Praising Right Through It


 


At the very moment they began to sing…the LORD caused the armies... to fight among themselves.  2 Chron. 20: 22

The problem is overwhelming, more than you can handle. The bills are due. The relationship is over. The medical report looks grim. You don't see a way out, and that gleam in the enemy’s eye challenges your faith. Your frantic prayers seem like wasted breath, so they begin to sound like wasted breath. “Lord, if you can do anything...” “Oh Jesus, they're gonna get me…” “God, if you don’t come through, I’m gonna have to take matters into my own hands. Why won’t you help me?”

That heavy sigh coming from heaven is not your imagination. How the Lord must weary of our faithless prayers! Our problems are not frustrating to Him, but our lack of faith is. He did not need the Israelites’ weapons or their strength. He required their praise instead. Only when the people began to sing and praise God did He step in on their behalf. They never even broke a sweat, because God did the whole thing without them. When the Lord fights our battles, He rides in upon the winds of our worship. He is eager to show himself strong to those whose hearts are wholly His (2 Chron. 16:9). Darlene Zcheche, former lead singer with Hillsong, writes this: “Praise is the proclamation that the enemy’s intent to plunder you, won't rock you.”

What do you proclaim when you face your battles? 
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