Power Pack I is Ready!

Exciting News! The devotionals I have been writing for Cedar point Church for the past 2 1/2 years are now a Kindle book! Power Pack I contains the first year (2014-'15) of devotionals, rewritten, repackaged in a Monday through Friday format. You need one!



A Better Idea

Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22

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King Saul had a better idea. He knew God’s command to destroy everything Israel took from their pagan enemies. But he was the king, after all, and shouldn’t he get a vote? So he kept the choicest of the plunder and prepared to offer the best as a sacrifice to God. But God didn’t want it. He had never asked for it. The pretense of a gift did not cancel Saul’s overt disobedience. So God sent the prophet Samuel to Saul to remove him as king of Israel. The reason is found in this verse.

We often think we have better ideas too. What we read in the Bible makes us uncomfortable, so we decide that surely God cannot mean that. Surely He has evolved with the times, changed His mind on some things, and bowed to culture. Surely he will give us a vote. So we cut and paste the Bible to make it say what we want it to say. We then adjust our lives to fit the religion we created ourselves. But God doesn’t want it. The pretense of our gifts, our good deeds, or our lip service does not cancel our overt disobedience. God commands obedience from the heart. He doesn’t negotiate with us or allow us co-god status. If we insist, he removes us from the place of blessing and fellowship, and we never become all we could become.

What are you substituting for full obedience? Are you trying to negotiate with God? He doesn’t buy it.

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What's Your Nature?


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Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Luke 6:46


The energetic pup yapped at the preschoolers as he darted between their legs and nipped at their ankles. He had cornered  three hysterical children by the time his owner caught up with him. “Sarge, no!” the man shouted. He grabbed the pup by the collar and jerked him into a sitting position. He then knelt beside the terrified kids. “I’m sorry, guys. Sarge didn’t mean to scare you. He’s just a puppy, and he’s still learning. He’s an Australian Shepherd. It’s his nature to herd things, anything. Even kids. When he’s trained, he will help me on my ranch. He thinks he’s helping me now, by cornering you guys. You wanna pet him?”

Australian Shepherds and Border Collies were bred to help ranchers with their livestock. From puppyhood, many of them act out those natures in inappropriate and often hilarious ways. They do what they do because of who they are. We also do what we do because of who we are. Our old nature was to sin, to please ourselves, and to act upon every selfish impulse. But when we are born again as children of God (John 3:3), He changes our natures (1 Cor. 5:17).  

This new nature hates the sin we once craved. It wants to please God and surrender those selfish impulses. In this verse, Jesus is identifying His true friends as those who obey His word. Faith in Christ results in a desire to obey Him, and we do that because of who we are. Without obedience, we are not His friends, we are only fans—and He never called us to be fans. Fans talk about Jesus; followers obey Him.

Do you call Jesus “Lord” but refuse to do what He says? 
Let Him change your nature. 

Gaze of the Soul

So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. James 2:17

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“Oh, I’ve always been a Christian,” Shara said. “I’m not into church much, but if the guy I’m living with wants to go, I’ll go with him.” She smiled confidently and nodded toward the baby on her hip. “This little guy’s dad was really into church and threw verses at me the whole time we ran the bar together. But I don’t think the Bible is relevant for us today, so I didn’t let it bother me. I keep crosses and pictures of Jesus all over my house, so I think God knows I have a lot of faith.”

Sadly, stories like Shara’s are very common. Maybe you’ve even said something similar. Because faith is invisible and is used to describe our attitude toward many things, we often isolate it from the rest of our lives. We think we can have spiritual faith while still living for ourselves. But God’s word clearly tells us that the kind of faith that saves us is the kind that changes us. We cannot have real faith in God while choosing a lifestyle contrary to all that He is (1 John 3:6). 

Sometimes what we call “faith in God” is really just a fervent hope that things will go the way we want them to. But God never commands us to have faith FOR something. He commands us to have faith IN Him. Faith is not a “force.” It is the connection between our earthly lives and the spiritual realm. A. W. Tozer writes, “Faith is the gaze of the soul upon a saving God.” Where our soul gazes, our lives travel.

Have you tried to keep your “faith” separate from your daily life? Unless faith changes us, it cannot save us. 
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Shrinking Back


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My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:38

Al and Hal plunked the last box of dried goods in a corner of their bunker and sank to the floor to wipe sweat from their faces. Their pastor, Ken, had come to see what the brothers had talked about for months. He glanced around the concrete fortress at the canned goods, rifles, and to the left an entire room filled with bottled water. “Wow, guys, I…uh, I never imagined all this. You certainly are…ready.” 
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Hal struggled to his feet and grinned proudly at his supplies. “Yep. No Islamers gonna get us. Them lib’rals, commies, and Nazi’s don’t stand a chance. We can outlast any apocalypse, and look there, I brung my Bible.” Pastor Ken nodded slowly. “I see. But I can’t help wondering how all this fits in with what Jesus commanded us. You know, loving our neighbors, evangelizing the world, sharing what we have with those who don’t.” Al scratched his head. “We used to think that, til things started going south, and now it’s every man for himself. Know what I mean? We’re gonna move in here next week and wait it out. People’s gonna wish they’d thought of this, but it’ll be too late. They ain’t getting’ our stuff, no sir!”

We may not go to the extremes that Al and Hal have, but when we take a close look at our spiritual lives, have we shrunk back? Was there a time when you were passionate about serving your world, but have become too self-focused, too angry, too jaded to care anymore? Living by faith means that we trust God no matter how bleak the world situation becomes. We refuse to shrink back from Jesus’ instructions to “love thy neighbor.” It is wise to prepare when we can. But we must never let fear replace faith, self-preservation replace self-sacrifice, or the world’s values replace God’s commands.

Have you shrunk back from where you used to be? 
Does God take pleasure in your walk of faith?
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Is It Really Faith?

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. James 2:26

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You are standing on the banks of the Grand Canyon. A narrow suspension bridge spans the gulf, sagging several feet in the middle. It sways slightly in the wind and a few planks are missing. Standing with you is the architect of that bridge. He is world-renowned for his brilliant designs and has just shown you the blueprint for the bridge. “Do you have faith in my bridge?” he asks. You eagerly say yes and praise his reputation. But then he asks, “Will you step out onto it and start walking?”

What would you do? As long as you are on the bank, you can say that you have faith in the bridge. But that is not faith; that is hope. Faith steps onto the bridge and keeps walking. Many people stop at Hope on their journey toward God. They agree that He is great, and they like the idea of being forgiven and knowing God. But they stay on the banks, clinging to the very sins and self-will that Jesus died for. Even Christians can profess faith without acting on it. They know what God says, but they place their confidence in what they can see, hear, or feel. When faith stays inside our heads and never makes it to our life choices, it is not real faith. However, when we act on what we say we believe, our hope becomes faith. Faith is an action word. It moves us toward the object of that faith. True faith propels us onto the bridge and empowers us to keep walking.

Our life choices are indicators of what we truly believe. What does your lifestyle reveal about your faith?

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I Surrender All


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I appeal to you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice… Romans 12:1

A young ram stood quietly in the dusty courtyard, tethered to the hitching post with a dozen others. Smoke from the Lord’s altar filled the air, adding its aroma to the holy hush. The man who had brought this offering laid a weathered hand on his sheep’s head and a tear made its way down one cheek. He had sinned, and only perfect blood could make him right with God again. The lamb never resisted when the high priest slit its throat, as though it knew it had been born for this moment. With a few deft movements, the priest and his assistants drained the ram’s blood, sliced him from top to bottom, and arranged the sacrifice upon the stone altar. With a whoosh! the flames licked at the flesh, sending a purifying fragrance toward the heavens.

Now, imagine that you are that ram. You have no will of your own. No one will ask your preference or your opinion. You are there for one purpose only—to submit to the will of God. That’s the picture Paul painted when he instructed us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. God has already spilled the perfect blood of the Lamb for our sin. He has no more use for burnt offerings. However, those of us who have accepted His Son’s sacrifice in our place should now willingly offer ourselves to Him for His purposes. Just as a burnt sacrifice was under the complete control of the high priest, so is a living sacrifice. We must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God (Rom. 6:11). Living as a sacrifice means we choose to live each day on the altar.

Imagine lying on that altar. If the High Priest split your life open, what parts have not been sacrificed?

Winners and Losers

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I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send…?" 
Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"  Isaiah 6:8


Annie gripped the seat back in front of her and braced for the last altar call. The voice of the Holy Spirit was so strong within her that she was sure it was obvious to everyone. ““Lay it all down,” He whispered. “Surrender to my plan for your life.” Sweat dripped from her chin as snaky thoughts crackled inside her head. “No!” they hissed. “If you let go of control, you’ll be miserable. You’ll have no friends, no money, and you’ll be really ugly!” This internal battle was not new. Annie had fought it for weeks as the yearning to know God grew stronger. But fear, lies, and self-will remained in charge. When the music ended, so did the Voice. But as she wiped her hands on her jeans, she was acutely aware that, despite her resistance, she had lost.

The still small voice of our God can be overwhelming when it comes. Yet, He never forces our wills. He allows us to resist Him if we want to. But when we do, we are the losers. He works to make us so complete in Him that we would rather die than walk away. We are created for purpose, for service, and for relationship with our Creator. We are becoming all He designed us to be when we eagerly respond to His call with “Here am I! Send me!” When we resist, we forfeit the experience of becoming all it means to be created in the image of God. In God’s kingdom, the losers are those who continue to resist Him. The winners are those who surrender. Winners have counted the cost, and understand that full surrender is the only way to win at life.

According to kingdom values, are you a loser or a winner? 
What must change for you to win at life?
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Denying Jesus


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He chose to be mistreated…rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. Hebrews 11:25

“Just say it!” the turban-clad soldier screamed. He rammed the rifle barrel into the ear of a man on his knees. The blood-streaked captive replied, “I can’t. I cannot deny my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God who died for me and I—” An explosion ended the sentence and the captive slumped dead onto the sand. He was just one more of thousands through the centuries who have faced a similar fate. What makes it more compelling is the fact that they, like Moses, chose it.

When Moses walked away from the luxuries of Pharaoh’s palace to identify with his Hebrew brothers and sisters, he forfeited his privileges as Egyptian royalty. Instead of enjoying a full ride at Pharaoh University, he sat around a slave’s campfire and learned about God. He knew God’s purpose for his life would require sacrifice and difficulty, but he chose it anyway. We can do that too. We may not be offered a full ride at Pharaoh University, but the world makes plenty of other offers. It dangles wealth, fame, popularity, or sexuality before us, whispering, “God will understand.” So we surrender. Or we don’t. We are each given a choice, every day, every moment to surrender to something, either sin or God—but never both. We cannot serve both.

Denying Jesus is not always verbal. How might you be denying Him instead of surrendering to Him?
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Not My Will


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"Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." Luke 22:42

The plan had been in place since the beginning of time. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had forever been in perfect agreement, but now… now the Son saw it from the vantage point of dusty sandals and human flesh. From this perspective, the price to buy back sin-drenched humanity looked almost too high. He’d stubbed His toe, cut His arm, and taken some breath-stealing punches in his brothers’ wrestling matches. He’d felt the ache of rejection, the passion of temptation, and the cry of loneliness. God’s spiritual idea had become His physical reality. The cross. Evil. Abandonment. His hands quivered at the thought of the spikes. Sweat beaded on a head that would soon be filled with every vile thought Satan could produce. Dread was a rabid lion roaring so loudly in His heart that it threatened to destroy the plan. “Father, please! Isn’t there another way? Please...”

None of us will ever face such a horrendous intersection of flesh and Spirit, but we have our own crossroads. When we accept God’s offer of salvation, we also receive a new nature that desires to please Him. But with that new nature comes the sudden realization that some of the things we have cherished cannot stay. Relationships. Dreams. Lifestyles that clearly contradict everything it means to follow Christ. God’s plan collides with ours and we fall to our knees in the garden and cry out, “No! Please, isn’t there another way?”  But, thankfully, Jesus’ prayer didn’t end there. Because of His next words, we can be made right with God. Because He said to God, “Not my will, but Yours,” we can say that too.  


Jesus never asks us to do anything He did not do first. Are you following His example in surrendering to God? 

What Time I Am Afraid


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When I am afraid, I will trust in You. Psalm 56:3

From the stock market to ISIS to Donald and Hillary, this world provides thousands of opportunities for us to be afraid. And the internet provides thousands of opportunities to express that fear in destructive ways. Fear and hopelessness are fast becoming our nation’s gross national product. But fear is nothing new to humanity; we’ve just found faster ways to pump it into our brains. If you were asked to rewrite this verse from your own experience, how would you end it? “When I am afraid, I will _______.”

The Hebrew word translated “trust” means to be boldly confident. The same word in Arabic can mean “to throw oneself face down,” which is a good mental image of trusting God. In order to throw ourselves face down before God, we must be boldly confident of His character and of our relationship with Him. We are more likely to seek God in our fear when we have also sought Him in our joy. If we seek Him when the sun is shining, we are more confident to seek Him when the tornado threatens. But sometimes what we call “seeking God” really means “seeking a better version of myself.” Bold confidence cannot be based upon what we think God should do, because we will often be disappointed. Seeking God in every season means that we are positioning ourselves to be in agreement with the outcome He chooses, knowing that it is for our good.

How do you respond to fear? Are you positioning yourself to be in agreement with the outcomes He chooses?
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Bullying God


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“…Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you…”  Nehemiah 1:11

“Daddy, I need new shoes. Look at these.” Five-year-old Macy held out one foot where a ragged tennis shoe dangled by one lace. Her father, Dan, smiled at her. “You’re right. We’ll go tomorrow, soon as I get my paycheck.” Someone banged on the front door, and when Dan opened it, twelve neighborhood kids glared at him from the porch. He recognized a couple of bullies who had terrorized his daughter and others who painted graffiti on his garage. “Hey, dude,” one bully shouted. “We heard you give out shoes. We’re here for ours, so hand ‘em over!” Dan shook his head. “I’d like to, but I can’t. You’re not my children.”

Some people treat God the way those neighbor kids treated Dan. They have no interest in loving and obeying the Lord, they merely want His blessings. They ignore His commands, but “claim” His promises. When they find themselves in a tough place, they demand that God rescue them. And sometimes He does, because He’s good. But He is not obligated to, because they are not His. Nehemiah could come with confidence before the Lord because He understood that God listens to His own children who delight in honoring Him. When we seek the Lord, we must do it His way. He knows His own children and is not fooled by those who pretend spirituality only when they need something. He delights in those who delight in Him.


Are you seeking God as a neighborhood kid, or do you delight in honoring Him?
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Yes or No

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And the LORD told him, "Yes, go after them. You will recover everything…" 1 Samuel 30:8


We LOVE those kinds of answers! “Lord, should we buy that house we want?” YES! “Lord, will I get a promotion at work?” YES! “Lord, will I be cured of cancer?” YES!  God is a Father, and He loves to say “YES!” when our requests are within His plan. But   when we assume that “YES! is His only answer, we ignore the “No’s.” We don’t like “No’s,” so we decide they cannot be from God and we plunge ahead with our plans anyway. That view of God is flawed, because we are treating Him as a divine slot machine—plug in a couple of prayers and get ready for the jackpot of our choosing.

 God is not a genie or a slot machine. He is Almighty God. He can do anything He wants, and He wants us to seek Him for Himself. He loves to say “YES,” but sometimes His plan requires the word “No.” “Lord, should we buy that house we want?” “No, I have a better one for you.” “Lord, will I get a promotion at work?” “No, the company will lay off everyone in that department in six months.” “Lord, will I be cured of cancer?” “No, I’m ready for you to come home, and four people will be saved because of it.” Seeking God’s answers means we are open to either a Yes or a No from Him. Seeking God means we want to know His heart, not use Him as a rubber stamp for our ideas. David and his men were victorious when they chased after the raiders because God had said “Yes.” But if God had said, “No,” it would have meant that He had a better plan.

When you seek the Lord, are you prepared to work in harmony with His answer?


Should I?


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Then David asked the LORD, "Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?..." 1 Samuel 30:8

A new job. A new house. A new spouse. Should I? Should we? How can I? Questions pelt our minds 24/7 like shot from a pepper gun. We poll the audience, phone a friend, and often charge recklessly into a decision because it looks good on the surface. Or, we freeze in place and never progress an inch from where we started. Neither is how God designed us to live. He offers a better way. He instructs us throughout His word to call upon Him about everything (Ps. 50:15). Everything? Even family problems? Job frustrations? Loneliness? Depression? Yes, every-thing because He is that involved with our lives (Psalm 139).

When David had a big decision to make, He first asked the Lord about it. The wives and children of his soldiers had been kidnapped, and the grieving men blamed him for it. Instead of retaliating in rage, or taking off on his own, David first sought the Lord. The solution to their dilemma seemed obvious, but even then, David’s habit was to ask the Lord. Because he had made it his custom to seek God and wait for His answer, it was natural for him to go there first. When our passions run high, anger burns fierce, and revenge boils in our veins, we want to take matters into our own hands. We think the solution is obvious, while forgetting that we cannot see around corners or over mountains like God can. When we seek the Lord’s counsel on every decision, we can live in confidence that we are on His side.


Final Thought:  Have you developed David’s habit of seeking the Lord in every decision?

Running Out of Time


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Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Isaiah 55:6

“I’ll get my life straight when I’m old,” Juan boasted. “I’ve got plenty of livin’ to do before then!”
“I know I should get right with God,” Emilie confessed. “But that means I’d have to change some things, and I’m not ready.”
“Yeah, I’ll get serious about spiritual things one day,” said Pat. “But I’m so busy right now at work, I just don’t have time.”

These people are all making a huge and costly assumption. They are assuming that God will work within their timetables and that when they have decided they are ready for Him, He will come running. But the Bible tells us that the opposite happens. Jesus said that no one can come to Him unless the Father first draws him (John 6:44). He means that our hearts have no desire to repent, to change, or to know God unless the Holy Spirit has first prepared us. So God commands us to seek Him while we can, because that option may not always be available. To seek Him means we first acknowledge that He exists. Second, we agree that He is who His word says He is and that we need Him. Then we ask Him to reveal truth to our hearts and we act upon whatever truth we have been given. We seek God when a hunger has begun gnawing within our souls for something that this world cannot offer. That hunger was placed there by God Himself to cause us to seek Him. And because His character is so vast, we can seek Him all our lives and never come to the end of all He is and all He wants to reveal to us.

Are you seeking the Lord while He may be found?

Life's True Purpose



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For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. Romans 11:36

James held the nail steady and picked up a screwdriver. With the handle, he began to pound. Harder and harder he pounded on the stubborn nail head, but it barely moved. Sweat broke out on his forehead and a blister on his hand before he finally sat back on his heels and hurled the screwdriver into the trashcan. “Stupid tool! What’s the matter with it? I give up.”

There was nothing wrong with the screwdriver. James was trying to use it in a way it was not designed to be used. We often do that with our lives. When we insist upon a path for which we were not designed, we make the same mistake that James made. We compare ourselves to the ungodly and decide that’s the life we want. We compromise God’s standards and assume that He doesn’t mind. When we do that, we are chasing Satan’s suggestions like a child chases soap bubbles. Even when we catch them, they never quite satisfy. After years of this, some hurl their lives into the trashcan and give up. OR, we meet Jesus. In His Instruction Manual, we discover that we were trying to be something we were never designed to be. We understand that we were designed to love and serve God. 

True service is not a list of do’s and don’ts tacked to a chart of endless expectations. The kind of service God desires is that which flows naturally from a grateful heart that has been shown its true purpose. 
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Whose Shield Are You Holding?


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For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

“I always wanted to teach a girls’ class, but I’m too shy. What if they don’t like me?”

“I was asked to lead the greeters, but I’m afraid of failing. What if I don’t do a good job?”

“I felt God wanted me to go on a summer mission trip to Haiti, but I’m scared to fly and there is disease over there.”

How many opportunities have you said “no” to because of fear? “I wanted to do this, but…” This verse might be paraphrased to say, “God wants to kick you in the But!” We convince ourselves that BUT is a free pass for our disobedience. “I would obey you, God, but…” He tells us plainly that our spirit of fear is not from Him. So if fear is not from Him, who is behind it? Who would be most threatened by your wholehearted service to the Lord? Whose kingdom might be shaken by your befriending that Muslim classmate, by your offering to mentor children, or by your sacrificial giving to missions? Satan defeats many of God’s plans for us by suggesting that the obstacles are too great. But when we listen to FEAR instead of obeying God, we have enshrined it as our new god. We use it as a shield between us and obedience; God is warning us that this shield is not our friend. Instead, He offers His shield of Faith (Eph. 6:16). With it in place, we can then serve wherever God calls us to serve—without fear.




Whose shield are you holding? Satan’s shield of Fear, or God’s shield of Faith?

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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