Friday, 22 July 2016

Book review: The Supernatural Ways of Royalty by Kris Vallotton

I have found the concepts of princedom and pauperhood quite difficult. I have found it hard to believe that I am truly a ‘prince’ – or ‘princess’ – in God’s kingdom and perhaps that in itself says that I have a pauper’s mentality. I do not believe I am rich, that I am loved or that I have access to the rights and privileges as befits a daughter of a king.

(Having said all that, by the time I got to the end of the book and took the ‘test’, I come out as midway between a pauper and princess, with perhaps a slight bias towards believing in my own royalty.)

Nevertheless, I tend to see myself as a menial kitchenmaid, perhaps, in a medieval castle, knowing that I belong to the Lord of the manor and am part of his fiefdom, but of only lowly status.  I feel it should be enough for me to be the lowest of the low in his ‘kingdom’, not expecting any more because I am so fortunate that I am not relegated to a life of poverty outside the city walls. Yet I do not have to live life as a pauper INSIDE the castle either.

When I started reading the book, with the first chapter detailing how Kris was not behaving as a prince, my first reaction was to say to myself, “well, I don’t say cutting things which tear people down.”  But, of course, there are many other aspects of behaviour which demonstrate that I too have a pauper’s mentality.

I found myself underlining and highlighting many passages as I went along. Moving away from ‘pauperdom’ has been a slow and imperceptible process, but, as I go back over the book, summarising the highlights will, I think, help me make sense of how it has impacted me.

Moses: he was not a slave. “A leader who is in slavery internally cannot free those who are inslavery externally.”  Moses knew he was not a slave – he was a prince of Egypt, he was significant and this enabled him to do what he did.

Kris talked about our circumstances of our birth and childhood causing us to internalize feelings of shame and insignificance.  He also said that paupers have a poverty mentality and live in fear, struggling with feeling that there is never going to be enough.

This is true of all of us. The process of bringing negative influences out into the open so that the hidden effects can be exposed, and the lies we tell ourselves dealt with, is lifelong. As John Maxwell says: “People change when they hurt enough they have to change; they learn enough they want to change, or they receive enough they are able to change.”

I was convicted by Kris’s statement that ‘Paupers...believe that when someone else receives something, it takes away some of the provision that could be theirs. They surmise that someone else’s blessing costs them.” The older brother syndrome in the parable of the prodigal son.   Yes, that has been me, too, but Kris affirms that ‘The revelation of our true identity will destroy the spirit of poverty in our lives. Until that happens we will keep thinking there are limits on what we get to have. As a result, we are jealous of anyone who receives something that we don’t have.’  Now, I don’t think that is universally true in my life but in some aspects – in areas where I have not felt ‘significant’ enough – that is certainly true.

In all of this, one phrase from the song No Longer Slaves by Jonathan David and Melissa Helser has stayed with me: “ 

It is hard to live in a state of constant change: I, for one, want to feel I have aspects of my life ‘sorted’ so I don’t have to keep revisiting issues!  It takes a great deal of emotional strength to change and, sometimes, we just don’t have the energy. Hanging on to the truths that ‘God never intended for us to live in poverty in any area of our lives’ and that we should not be worried about our lives is essential.

One area which has always challenged me is that of finances, and yet I have seen God take care of these even though I have been worried about future finances many times. And I have been worried about poor stewardship of what I have had, hating ‘waste’ of any kind.

Yet Kris asserts that ‘If we stop living by faith when we start receiving a regular income, then we reduce our provision down to our ability to perform instead of the Lord’s ability to provide.... Paupers often lose sight of their priorities when they get money, but princes don’t get their identity from what they have because they know their identity is not dependent on their performance or their possessions. Princes own things, but they never let things own them....Princes don’t work for money, but rather, they work for God.’

This all sounds wonderful – have a prince’s outlook/mentality/attitude – and life is sorted. But really, it is ‘Yes, but HOW?’ as J John would say. I skipped through the chapter (Chapter 4) on what imprisons us: I KNOW that jealousy, envy, fear, unforgiveness etc – all the Seven Deadly Sins and all their permutations – hinder me from stepping into freedom in Jesus. I just want to know how to break free. This is both ‘easy’ – believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ – and difficult.  In Chapter 4, Kris claims boldly ‘In reality, my sinful past no longer exists. The Lamb of God purchased it with a payment in blood... Living in forgiveness does not mean we are to forget our past. Rather, seeing my past through the blood of Jesus brings praise to my lips and frees me from the burden of a guilty heart.’  Kris talks about the scars of the past being rearranged by God to look like carving on a fine piece of crystal – what is despised becomes a testimony of God’s grace. I need the right perspective and I can get that by looking into Scripture and reminding myself of what God says about me.

This is significant.  The names or labels I accept for myself – whether I have given them to myself or let others define me – affect my perception of who I am.  “Names can be prophetic declarations that define a person’s identity. ....these lies are ultimately acted out in their behaviour.” (p62) The most important ‘name’ we live under is that of ‘sinner’.

Here a dichotomy comes in. Yes, we are ‘sinners saved by grace’ and it is the grace that must prevail. We are new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) and are to live as such. We do not have to struggle with sin because Jesus has paid the price for it and he is able to overcome sin in our lives. ‘There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus... (Romans 8:1, ff)  And yet...I have to ‘struggle’ with sin in that I cannot ignore sin in myself but must constantly confess it and declare its defeat because of my status. I liked Kris’ assertion in Chapter 6 (Training for Reigning, p75): “When we begin to act like royalty, issues that felt like mountains in our lives will become mere stepping stones to demonstrate our character.”    And, although in Chapter 17 (p220) Kris suggests that disaster does not ‘fuel revival’, I know that testing times also develop character.

Finally, in this first part of the book, Kris talks about acting out of friendship with God rather than just obedience. This, too, I find difficult: my view of God is too small, I find it hard to believe that I am a significant friend to him and I am back to ‘lowly minion’ status. Yet, when I look at the world and am paralysingly overwhelmed by its needs, I do know that it is only by developing intimacy with God that I can make sense of my own role. To “...walk by His side, conversing and discussing His plans for the world” will help me find out what little part I should play. (p94)

Some of what Kris said I didn’t understand enough to agree with: I wasn’t sure he was right. For example, when he said that ‘whenever someone values us more than we value ourselves, we tend to sabotage our relationship with that person’. That has not been true in my experience. I have a dear, godly friend (now very elderly) who has always affirmed and encouraged me and, I think, does indeed value me more than I value myself. In fact, I have considered her as one of my very closest friends and she knows all kinds of stuff about me!

I have read the whole book but not finished reflecting on it. However, I found it useful to summarise  each chapter in a ‘soundbite’ and these have helped me internalize what I have learned:

I gain confidence from knowing my significance
  1. Paupers have a poverty mentality – knowing my true identity destroys this.
  2. I need to leave the prisons of the past, especially unforgiveness, behind.
  3. Forgiveness rewrites my history – I no longer live in past bondage.
  4. I can live by my God-given name, not wrong labels.
  5. Ban insecurity! Act like royalty, encouraging others.
  6. Relationship with God comes first, then obedience.
  7. God created me for glory.
  8. True humility is strength restrained, not weakness.
  9. I need to give honour regardless of whether I feel it is deserved.
  10. Commit myself to other believers – be family.
  11. Bring justice with courage and power.
  12. Live bravely.


And so I think the biggest impact the book has had on me is in the positive attitude it offers. Refusing to be bound by past mistakes/failures/labels etc is healthy. Knowing that I am loved and significant: as in the book The Help: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” I need to remember who I am and act with strength and courage out of love.


Thursday, 21 July 2016

Boundaries

Reading on in First 5, I come to Numbers 34, where God tells Moses how to divide up the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel.  This is done by casting lots, according to the size of each tribe. So dividing up the land was not left to the people, where fights and squabbles might have arisen about unfairness, but to God who would decide how the lots would fall and how much land each would get, Indeed, he goes on in Numbers (Chapter 36) to explain what the Levites in particular would have and how their inheritancce would work.

It was all very, very fair - as long as they trusted God and did what he said. As long as they accepted what they were given.

And what immediately struck me - although First 5 concentrates on God's generosity, which is another important lesson to take away from this whole 'given the Promised Land' theme - is that God put BOUNDARIES in place. And how good it is when I accept the boundaries which God has given me. That I am 'content whatever the circumstances', as Paul says.

Circumstances which may, as I reflected yesterday, come as a result of my own sin. It is no good 'backtrading' and living with regrets for my behaviour: I can only go forward, because"...we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:16 - 19)

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Drive out

I'm following First 5 - daily Bible study from Proverbs 31 ministries.  In a rather haphazard and lacklustre fashion, actually, as is most of my Bible study at the moment. I know I ought to apply myself better, exercise more discipline (in every way), etc etc but... but.... well, there are no excuses, actually.

BUT this verse caught my heart this morning: Numbers 33:55. God says to this Israelites, just before they are about to enter into the Promised Land: "But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live."

This was actual advice. The native inhabitants worshipped idols, not God, and God knew that the Israelites would wander away from him if they allowed the inhabitants to remain. This did, indeed, happen: man's fallen nature meant that the Israelites disregarded God's wisdom, with unhappy results.

The idea of killing and destroying the lives of others is abhorrent to us, especially at this present time of war and trouble around our world, of an influx of refugees into other countries, of waves of racial hatred and distrust towards those who are 'different' from us, but this is a picture of what happens when - not even IF - we allow sin to stay resident in our lives.

If I substitute 'sin' for 'people', then the Contemporary English Version reads like this:
"If you don’t force out sin, it will be like pointed sticks in your eyes and thorns in your back. It will always be trouble for you,"

Force out sin. Easier said than done, of course. But the chronicle of what happened to the Israelites after they entered the Promised Land and compromised by living alongside the native inhabitants is a sobering reminder of the consequences of living with known sin in our own lives.

Of late, I have experienced these debilitating consequences. Not of the sin or wrongdoing towards others, but the sin of not fully believing and trusting in God's words. Words such as 1 John 1: 9: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

I confess my sins of unforgiveness and bitterness, yet keep dwelling on the relationships and situations where I sinned.
that
I haven't 'forced out sin'. For God is a good God, loving and compassionate to all: as He says about himself when he appeared to Moses, he is : "“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,"  I haven't believed that God has taken my sins away farther than the east is from the west - that is, to infinity and beyond.

I haven't trusted Him and His saving grace. I have relied on myself and do not truthfully claim that 'Christ is enough for me'.
"Christ is my rewardAnd all of my devotion
Now there's nothing in this world
That could ever satisfy

Through every trial
My soul will sing
No turning back
I've been set free
Christ is enough for me
Christ is enough for me
Everything I need is in You
Everything I need

Christ my all in all
The joy of my salvation
And this hope will never fail
Heaven is our home

Through every storm
My soul will sing
Jesus is here
To God be the glory

I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back

The cross before me
The world behind me
No turning back
No turning back"

My challenge. To keep on believing His promises in spite of my feelings of inadequacy. Because I AM inadequate because HE IS ENOUGH.

And how do I know that? because I believe His Word.
And how do I believe His Word?
I read and study it.

There we are. Full circle. The answer to my issues.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Struggles

I've not been posting much at all recently... for all kinds of reasons. Just recording a reference to the doldrums here: If Jesus loves me,why do I feel so does my coffee taste so BLAH?

Why, indeed?

The answer to the doldrums is, though, praise and positivity and prayer and perseverance in studying the words of God....

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Loss and recovery

I have to record this, as a way of processing emotions at a very happy time. I'm getting to some kind of resolution now, I think. Though it is, indeed, a process.

Our daughter had just married.  My heart was filled with sadness.

Don’t get me wrong. We are DELIGHTED for her, in every way. Her wedding day was completely wonderful. She has married a wonderful Christian man who shares her dreams, passions and vision, as well as many of her interests. He is intentional – as she is – about life, living for God, serving Him in everything they do. They have both lived, separately, lives where they work for charities which serve the poor and now work in an underdeveloped country among people who need help in meeting  the basis needs of life. Not only that, but our son-in-law is from a wonderful family. His parents have served as missionaries in Africa and know some of our dearest friends who are still there, even though we all live on different continents now.

Different continents. Part of the reason for my sadness.

Five years ago, my daughter left the UK to continue her work for a charity which helps people who are in desperate need because of debt. In New Zealand. Once there, she fell in love with the country, decided to stay, applied successfully for residency. So that was that: she was committed to living on the other side of the world and would not be returning to settle.

We were glad for her. New Zealand is indeed a wonderful to live. We visited. We still kept in contact through skype and email, maintaining closeness.  As always, we prayed for her: for her health and well being, her work, her friendships, a future partner...and were delighted when she met ‘Someone Special’.  Even more pleased and thrilled when he proposed during our second visit. Excited for them both, when they suggested that the wedding should be held in New Zealand in an idyllic location on the family farm. Travelling to the other side of the world from our home in the UK seemed a small sacrifice to make for their happiness.

It made sense. Many of her friends – for it was four years now since she left the UK – were in New Zealand. Her husband comes from a large family of siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins. So, a Kiwi wedding: why not? A marquee on the edge of a beautiful harbour in New Zealand’s summer: what’s not to like? Again, we booked our flights. Wedding planning happened remotely over the next few months until we flew out again a couple of weeks before the big day.

The reunion was wonderful: we spent a few days together at a beach cottage, discussing wedding plans, drawing up to-do lists and itineraries, preparing wedding favours, going for a final fitting of The Dress.

And then it was all go for the final week before the wedding. Our son and daughter-in-law and other friends arrived and we journeyed north, staying in a house a few doors away from our son-in-law-to-be’s family. Days were spent preparing: wine-tasting before purchasing the table wine; hosting a bridal tea; making decorations and wedding cakes; setting up the marquee; a wedding rehearsal.

It was busy.

In the busyness, we found ourselves delighting in the company of our son and daughter-in-law and other friends who worked tirelessly to make our daughter’s day happen. We laughed, a lot: but less often with our daughter. She was flying around with her fiancé, checking out locations for the wedding photography or up at his family’s house with all his relatives. It seemed that she spent less and less time with us, as if she was already drawing away from her own family even before she officially joined his.

This was difficult for us, not only because we felt isolated and bereft but also because we were – and are – genuinely very happy for her. Conflicting emotions are never easy to deal with. We swallowed down the stress we felt, trying to maintain a happy atmosphere. We recognised that she was leaving and joining with her husband, but we still wanted her to be our daughter, with the close relationship we had always had. We knew this would not – could not – be possible in exactly the same way as before, but we continued to feel torn apart. 

We acknowledged, too, how hard it was for her as she tried to build new relationships, organising her wedding so that her family could enjoy the day without having to stress to ensure that all happened as it should. She worked incredibly hard to include everyone and make sure they had fun. And, in all the excitement of her wedding, she knew that she would be entering a stressful life period of change of friends, home, job, country.... 

But, of us, one of the hardest things to do was to let go of our daughter.

We did not feel this with our son: indeed, we have become closer since his marriage. We love his wife as if she was our own daughter; we love her parents, who have become such dear friends that they do indeed seem like family, just the same. But even then, we had recognised that the son leaves the parents and cleaves to the wife and that truth, somehow, had taken residence in our hearts.  We were able to let him go and, in doing so, began a new, more independent, relationship which has continued to develop. sEven though we have no expectation that they live near us, we know that visits are possible, even probable.

But my daughter is living on the other side of the world. We know that we will see her only rarely.

In our modern world, this separation becomes more and more likely. It may not be a continental divide, but even a two hour car journey may mean that parents see far less of their children than they would like to.

I have shared this pain with other friends. One woman’s daughter cut her off after the wedding: the relationship had been unusually close.  Now they are best friends again, but at the time it was as if the daughter had to create her own, married, identity away from her mother.  Another friend has not seen her daughter for over four years, as they now live on different continents thousands of miles apart. Yet another feels that her son has become more part of the other family than of his own: she feels a stranger when she visits.  A close friend confesses to feelings of intense jealousy towards her son-in-law’s parents, who live only minutes away from the couple.

We have had many years of being empty-nesters. We encouraged our children’s independence, not demanding weekly phone calls or regular visits once they had left home to go to uni, and then on into work. We wanted them to grow and develop to be the people God wants them to be, still with advice and guidance when appropriate, but no longer children in an emotional sense. We knew they needed to become individuals in their own right apart from us: indeed, we have tried to foster and encourage their independence since they were toddlers. But we now recognise that our daughter’s marriage, especially as her wedding took place somewhere which was not our own home, has finally and categorically sealed her departure from childhood into an independent life.

There were several things we knew we had to do.

1.       Hope. We knew, deep down, that we would not always feel as forlorn as we did just before and after the wedding. We clung on to the hope that, once our daughter had settled into her marriage, we would be able to regain a good measure of closeness. We knew that God would work our relationship out for good and His glory. We held on to hope.

2.       Pray. God knows the pain of separation more acutely than we do. He delights in our love for one another and our sacrifice in letting go. He is our Comforter, in every way. As we grappled with our feelings, we reflected on the pain our father must have felt as his son went to live on earth, coupled with the joy that awaited.  We held on to the truth of Hebrews 12:2, fixing our eyes on Jesus, who endured the cross because of the joy awaiting him. We began to accept sacrifice more than living with the sadness of loss.

3.       Continue in relationship. We would write and email our news and be available for skype or facetime chats. Just as God continually calls us to relationship with him, keeping us in his thoughts and demonstrating his love for us over and over again, so we too are called to love selflessly, regardless of how we might feel. Although my mind acknowledged that my daughter was on honeymoon immediately following the wedding, my heart just felt sore at her departure.  It seemed hard not to be in the same easy contact as we had always been, but, when the time seemed right, I emailed a chatty catch up.

4.       Let go of expectations. Of course we would love regular conversations, but these might not be possible in busy lives. We would learn to be alert for opportunities but not grieve if contact was less frequent than it had been.

5.       Refocus. As if we were youngsters leaving home for the first time, we had to build our lives without an undue focus on our children. Now would be the time to pursue new hobbies and interests, take up voluntary work, become more involved in the local community.

6.       Be positive and thankful. We thanked God for our daughter, for her husband, for his family. We thanked him that both our daughter and son-in-law are so committed to loving and serving him. We thanked God for life and promise and love in abundance. We thanked God.

As we did all this, our emotions started to catch up with head knowledge as we waited to reconnect.

Intellectually, we knew that we would, once our daughter had settled into her marriage, with the additional challenges and demands of living in a new country and embarking on a new career, regain some of that closeness again.  (Indeed, that happened far more quickly than we had imagined: almost as soon as they had returned from honeymoon and arrived in their new place.)

There were unforeseen benefits from this time of waiting:

1.       As we exercised our hope, we found it increased. We trusted more that God would bring our relationship back into order. We found it easier to wait.

2.       Prayer brought us closer to God. Our understanding of the tremendous sacrifice he made in sending Jesus deepened in a new way, as we reflected on the act of ‘giving away’ our daughter.

3.       Deciding to wait until the honeymoon was over – yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds but I felt quite desperate after waving my daughter off on her wedding night, with no communication since then – was an act of self-denial and discipline.  She had always kept in touch during her previous adventures, but this new Adventure into Marriage had to begin with her new husband alone. In fact, our daughter messaged us first and we were soon chatting again, catching up with her adventures and hearing about the joys of settling into married life on a tropical island. She began skyping as regularly as before.

4.       Letting go of our expectations helped ease us into our new relationship. Where, before her marriage, we had chatted to her on her own – particularly as her fiancé did not live in the same city, anyway – now we talked to both of them together. The period of no contact had given us a break and we were glad to be in communication again. Indeed, talking to both of them was a richer experience, in some ways. They were so happy, relaxed after the busyness of the wedding and enjoying the adventure of life as a couple.

5.       Refocusing our lives was a wake-up call. We had ‘let go’ of our children when they left home, finding a different way of living Life Without Kids, but had then become accustomed to a close relationship with our adult daughter.  We realised anew that we had entered a time of life – particularly as we faced retirement – when WE needed to become more independent.

6.       Being thankful healed our spirits as we reflected on God’s goodness.


Of course, we still look forward to the next time we will see the happy couple.   Now, beginning our own adventures and without living overmuch in future expectations, we are excited to see what God has for us.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Notes about Joseph...

Notes on the life of Joseph... 'homework' for The Love church's Supernatural School.

Genesis 37
He was poorly parented – being the favourite made him precocious and perhaps big-headed? He was loved most by Jacob just because he was ‘born to him in his old age’ – not because he was particularly talented or marvellous. He was the youngest, yet told his brothers how important the dreams made him feel.
It was not wise of Joseph to relay his dream: it provoked enmity.  He was foolish- the brothers reacted badly to the first dream and yet Joseph STILL told them the second.  Arrogance?
Joseph’s brothers hated him and wanted him out of their sight – at least they relented from killing him.
Getting rid of Joseph didn’t make him less popular with Jacob – Jacob mourned Joseph for the rest of his life.

Genesis 38
The story of Judah’s hypocrisy and then his realisation. The birth of Perez – who shoved his brother Zerah aside to be born first – ancestor of David, so ancestor of Jesus. Perez like his grandfather Jacob in this respect. So Judah’s immorality (sleeping with a ‘prostitute’, his daughter-in-law Tamar in disguise) was used by God. (In fact Judah, who instigated Joseph being sold as a slave, is included in Jesus’ lineage whereas Joseph isn’t.)

Genesis 39
The Lord was with Joseph and made him successful. The Lord blessed the household because of Joseph. Potiphar left EVERYTHING, except the food he ate, in Joseph’s charge. Potiphar gave Joseph everything (for his use?) except his wife. To sleep with her would have been a sin ‘against God’ – and this was hundreds of years before the ten commandments were given.
Joseph did what was good and was unjustly punished for it.

Genesis 40
God gave Joseph supernatural wisdom to interpret dreams but this did not seem to benefit Joseph – he remained in prison even though the dreams came true. We do not always seem to prosper in spite of the gifts God gives us: perhaps it was not yet the right time?

Genesis 41
Joseph had to wait two more years in prison. Then he was made to look Egyptian again (he was shaved and given new clothes) and brought before Pharaoh to interpret the dream. He straight away said it was only God who could do this, then he gave such a clear interpretation and direction for action that Pharaoh decided Joseph was the best man for the job. Did Joseph now forget the hard time he has had now that he is installed as number 2 in the whole country? Just as the thin cows swallowed up the fat, did the fat time swallow up the thin time of slavery and imprisonment? Or did his past continue to inform his future?
I wondered that he had to save only one fifth of the harvest – why not more?  But there was so much that he stopped keeping records. With such a harvest, the Egyptians must have grown rich in the seven fat years, surely selling their grain to other countries as well? They themselves were not provident in storing grain for the future because they quickly ran out of food.
Joseph was thirty when he stood before Pharaoh – and Jesus was thirty when he started his ministry.

Genesis 42
As governor, Joseph personally sold the grain – all who came to buy would go through him.Joseph remembered his dreams – that his brothers would bow down to him – so he treated them as inferiors. Joseph put the brothers in custody for three days – three days in prison when they did not know if they would ever come out alive. Jesus spent three days in the grave...
Then he gave them a hard time – treating them as liars, demanding that they bring Benjamin – which would distress his father (as shown, in v38)  – to him. Joseph hears them – vv 21 onwards – saying that these bad things were happening to them because of what they did to him. Now they recognise the evil they did, Joseph is upset: why? Because his brothers seemed to repent and his heart melted? Or tears of anger, for all the years at home he had lost because of them?  And he had SIMEON bound (v 24). Why Simeon? Why not Judah, who had him sold into slavery?  The commentary suggests he had been the most violent of the brothers towards Joseph.

Genesis 43
Joseph did indeed have complete authority – not just over the Egyptians, but the brothers believed everything he said because Joseph had said he would refuse to sell them grain if Benjamin wasn’t there as well.
v19 the brothers again seemed to be changed men – fearful, worried, no longer so arrogant that they believed they would get away with murder.
Joseph is emotional – v30 – when he sees Benjamin, his younger brother, the only brother who had not been unkind to him.

Genesis 44
Joseph shows he has his father Jacob the Schemer’s talent (v15) – accusing the brothers of having stolen the cup when he himself had ordered it to be put there.

Genesis 45
Judah, who sold Joseph into slavery, shows his responsibility to his father by offering himself as a slave in place of Benjamin.
Joseph finally loses control of his emotions, unable to keep up the pretence any longer: because he has seen Judah’s change of heart and seen how his brothers have abased themselves before him?
He shows his spiritual maturity when he says, vv5, 7-8: “...do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you....But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance... So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” Then Joseph is reconciled with his brothers.  God must have been working in Joseph’s heart during the years of imprisonment and slavery for him to respond so quickly in this way.

Genesis 46
Joseph is overjoyed at seeing his father again: he “wept for a long time”.

Genesis 47
Joseph made sure that his family would be well settled on the best land in Egypt. Then he ‘saved’ the Egyptians from starvation by reducing them to servitude. The commentary suggests that the livestock was returned to their owners after the famine had ended?

Genesis 48
Joseph tried to correct his father when Jacob was blessing Joseph’s two sons. How much did he honour and respect Jacob? Or did his experience and status convince him that he knew better than his father? Perhaps he did.... 

Genesis 49
Joseph is praised and blessed by his father, especially for responding with strength when he was attacked. “Your father’s blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
    than[
n] the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among[o] his brothers.” The commentary says: “The patriarch describes him as attacked by envy, revenge, temptation, ingratitude; yet still, by the grace of God, he triumphed over all opposition, so that he became the sustainer of Israel; and then he proceeds to shower blessings of every kind upon the head of this favorite son. The history of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh shows how fully these blessings were realized.”

Genesis 50
Jacob is given full honours in his burial, with Pharaoh’s agreement and support. The brothers then worry that Joseph, no longer needing to honour his father, will turn on them, but Joseph says: “But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”

When Joseph himself died, he remembered and referred to the promise of the land that Abraham was given and insisted that his bones should be taken there, when the promise would eventually happen.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Fasting from lies...

Taking part in a 'negativity fast' and learning to fast from lies and speak truth.

Here is a lie, from Ann Voskamp:

"By Grace, today I fast from the lie that my calling
isn't great enough because God isn't calling
for people great in skills, schooling, or spotlight -
He's calling those simply great in community,
in confession, in communion, in courage, great in Christ.
Today I will do ordinary things with extraordinarily great love.
We repent of wanting to be great
*instead of loving greater.*

‪#‎Day12‬ ‪#‎PeopleofTheCross‬ ‪#‎LentRepentRefresh‬   [ Free Printable Devotionals for ‪#‎40Days‬:http://bit.ly/TakeBackLentFreeDevotional ]


Some lies, from Matthew 3: 
Lie: I am what I DO.       

Truth: I AM WHAT I AM: A MUCHLOVED CHILD OF GOD.

Lie: I am what I HAVE    

Truth: I AM ENOUGH. I CAN BE MYSELF, WHOLLY AND COMPLETELY.

Lie: I am what I PRETEND to be.

Truth: I AM WHO I AM.

Repent, recognise lies, in an accountable relationship with good friends. #can'tdowithoutthem   And, in doing so, a reminder from Bob Rasmussen: 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The way

Bob posts again: 'Not only is the Jesus way is a path of allegiance, it is a course of worship of Christ. Therefore you cannot bow your knee to another. It is a course of service for Christ. Therefore you cannot put your own needs first. And it is a course of giving all for Christ. Therefore you cannot keep or hold back anything for self.'

And from Michelle, about what is really important in life:

Staying - When we stay in the valley and become honest with God something remarkable happens

The last SATURDAYS post talked about God redeeming even the darkest parts of our story. I love that idea...God turning despair into hope, Night into day, dark into light. But often the idea is a lot easier than the execution. How do these dark-wait-days become redeemed? How can we practically find God in them? Have you asked these questions? I know I have!

Perhaps it begins when we stop trying to turn on the light ourselves. Of course it's only natural to look for light in dark places. When my dad got sick I wanted to find ways to alleviate the pain and shock of it all. No one with any appetite for life initially enters a difficult season by saying, "Oh yeah baby! Bring it on...the more desolate the better!" Nope... We initially want out! But skipping across the top of pain does not allow us to be present with it, which is what brings healing.

While I believe being present with pain is the best way through it, often I need to learn how to do that. In the case with my dad, the only thing I really knew was that I didn’t like it. I wanted things to go back to the way they were. I dreaded the journey ahead for him, my mom, for everybody. So, secretly in my heart, I tried to find a light switch to turn on. I wanted to illuminate this path and find something better, but there was no light switch. (Now, before anyone corrects me, don’t worry, I already know Jesus is the light of life...I don't need a reminder) Since I could not find a way to illuminate that path, I groped for a door and looked for a way out, but every door opened to the same reality. I was so frustrated and overwhelmed. But God had a plan, He still does. And one of the gifts of such sacred darkness is that there is no escape. 


To find the light of Christ we must be willing to journey the dark, solemn places of our soul that rise up and question the goodness of God. Job did that and he wasn't scolded, he was actually reminded of God. Perhaps some would say, we shouldn’t question God’s goodness, or that we should trust him more. Well, that’s a good idea and when you meet someone who has that figured out, let me know. I have tried bringing my “should” or “shouldn’t” self to God. It doesn’t work very well, because it isn’t my real-self. I don’t need God to love the person I should be, I need him to love the person I AM. Nothing discloses the real-me more than moments of desolation.

I suppose that’s why raw honesty works best...at least it does for me. In that hotel room near Stanford sometime around 3 am I could cry out, “God, I don’t like this! I’m overwhelmed with sadness and disappointment. I don’t trust you to be good right now because the pain and shock I feel eclipses much of what I’ve learned about you....or at least what I've come to believe. If you are who you say you are, please come and meet me here.” …And he did, and he brought his goodness with him. Like Job, I wasn't scolded in his presence, I was reminded.
So I asked God to open my eyes to what was real and to see His goodness in it. As I came across a garden at Stanford I was reminded there is a Gardener that grows beautiful things from dirt that holds seeds; and the soil bed of our hearts are being prepared, all the time, for sacred work and beauty. Walking through the many waiting areas God gave me eyes to see past the medicine and notice the sleepy sojourners in waiting rooms, unforgotten by the One who is high above it all. He's the one who remembers our waiting condition and keeps us present before the Father even when we can't do so ourselves (Rom 8, Isa 55:8-9). He collects our tears and carries our sorrows (Ph 56:8). He does it while we work out our disappointments with Him, with our story and with ourselves.

It takes time to make room for such soul-space. Silence and solitude are key. In them, the many screams from this crazy roller-coaster can be silenced. His still small voice finds an echo that carries its way to the canyons of our dismay. And while we wait in the basin of darkness, we learn to die. We loosen our grip on what we must have, who we must be, the things we must accomplish, and we simply begin to rest in who we are and what we’ve been given. We become present with ourselves and, if we invite him, Jesus shows up too. The sinner dines with Holiness and in the power of God’s loving presence, we are changed.

I am slowly learning to let the Light of Life love me in honest visitations. This, after all, is our inheritance. Let us receive it with…joy.

Become silent for a moment. Stay quiet long enough to notice what's rumbling in your heart and mind?
What honest plea might you have for God?
Practice trusting Him by voicing that plea before him. Set your 'should' and 'shouldn't' aside and dare to speak what rises up.
Let the Light of Life love you in the darkness and hold you present before Himself.

Hear Him say, "Oh beloved, show me your face, let me hear your voice. For your voice is sweet and your face is lovely. There's nothing in your story that I have not seen and remembered."

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Faith


I'm going through a little Bible plan by a (previously unknown to me) writer called Nicole Reyes.

Daring Faith.

Today, it was a reflection on Peter's Step

"Recently, I was speeding down a flight of stairs and had the brilliant idea of skipping over a couple steps for sake of time. Let's just say it wasn't my finest moment. Thankfully, my tumble down the stairs only left me with a bruised knee and a bruised ego. And I guess a funny story that still makes me laugh!

Beyond the laughter, there is a lesson: Each step to our destination is an important one. If we try to skip over necessary steps, it will only lead to unnecessary pain.

There’s no shortcut to becoming more like Jesus and fulfilling your God-given assignment. There’s no secret out there that will put you on a fast track to success. There’s no in-crowd that can get you out of simple faithfulness. There’s no magic pill to avoid daily taking up your cross in order to experience Christ’s resurrection power.

There’s just the next step. Jesus is always faithful to lead you to the next step. He illuminates your path through His Word, through the counsel of the Holy Spirit, and the wisdom of others.

It’s never a question of whether or not there’s a next step. The question is: will you take it?

The next step will most likely require courage, humility and discipline; and it will always require faith.

Peter's next step certainly required faith! In Matthew 14, Peter is sailing across storm-raging waters with the disciples when in the distance he spots Jesus walking on water! And when Jesus invites Peter to join him on the water, Peter has a choice to make. Will he stay in the comfort of the boat with his friends or will he take the audacious step out of the boat and onto the water to be with his Savior? Peter chose the way of daring faith: Peter not only stepped on the water, but he began to walk on it as well! With one simple step, Peter’s story took a dramatic and miraculous turn!

Your next step matters. Just like Peter, without it you will never experience God's power at work in your life! The next step is always worth taking. So take your next step. Don’t put it off. Go for it! Jesus is calling; He is beckoning you onward!
"

Reflections

Facebook is a bad, yet fascinating, habit. It's great for news of friends...or acquaintances, rather.  It's also GREAT for drawing my attention to topical items. Sometimes I cry. Often I pray. Usually, at some point, I smile or even giggle.

I pray for Syrian refugees when I see the work that our dear friends' daughter has done, rescuing people from the sea as they arrive on a tiny Greek island. Or when I see other friends posting about Europe's reluctance to take in the homeless and the stranger.

I ponder as I read many, many thoughtful posts from Christian writers. Thank you, Proverbs 31 Ministries. Thank you, Bob.

And it was today that Bob's words rang most true, among the encouragement to godly living, the inspiration to begin each day afresh in loving God and others.

Bob talks about the grieving he is going through after his wife, Lyn's, death from from cancer. He quotes a story from a missionary to India, Paul Hiebert: "Yellayya, a village elder who had come to faith in Jesus, came to Mr Hiebert to report that children were dying in his village from smallpox. The elder said that the other elders in desperation had sent for a diviner who told them that the goddess of smallpox was angry. To satisfy this goddess and stop the plague, the village would have to perform the water buffalo sacrifice. Further, every family in the village would need to contribute toward the purchase of the buffalo. The Christians refused to do this. After much pressure however, many Christians were about to concede, planning to tell God they did not mean it. But Yellayya refused to let them contribute. However, now one of the Christian girls had come down with smallpox. Yellayya came to Mr Hiebert to ask him to pray for healing of the girl.
The missionary wrestled with this because, being from the West where we do not really deal with this realm of spirits and healings very skillfully, he was not trained nor experienced in this kind of prayer. (btw, you may be able to find this article online, "The Flaw of the Excluded Middle." The article counsels a balance avoiding either extreme of secularism or Christian animism.)
Anyway, Mr. Hiebert joined in a prayer meeting for the sick child.
(Still with me?.....)
A week later, Yellayya returned to say that the child had died. Hiebert felt thoroughly defeated, "Who was I to be a missionary if I could not pray for healing and receive a positive answer?" But a few weeks later Yellayya came again with a sense of triumph. Hiebert asked how he could be so happy. The elder replied, "The village would have acknowledged the power of our God had he healed the child, but they knew in the end she would have to die. When they saw in the funeral our hope of resurrection and reunion in heaven, they saw an even greater victory--over death itself--and they have begun to ask about the Christian way."


Glory! For me the capstone is Hieberts comment: "I began to realize in a new way that true answers to prayer are those that bring the greatest glory to God, not those that satisfy my immediate desires. It is all too easy to make Christianity a new magic in which we as gods can make God do our bidding."


We prayed fervently for Lyn to be healed from acute leukemia in 2000, and God chose to overcome the power of that illness. To God be the glory! In 2015 we prayed fervently for Lyn to be healed from esophageal cancer, and God chose to display our victory through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God has loved Lyn so much -- and trusted you and me so much -- that He has chosen to display an even greater glory than healing. He has shown, through your faith and mine, that Jesus has defeated death through His resurrection. And that is the greater glory, and for that I am glad! Even as I weep now, I am profoundly joyful. Thank you for journeying with us. May your hope be renewed as you reflect on the powerful witness of Lyn Perrin Rasmussen."


True answers to prayer are those that bring the GREATEST glory to God. And, sometimes, that glory is to show our faith in Jesus.

I ponder these words as I negotiate the tricky minefield of relationships at work, as I seek to live humbly, love mercy and do justly. Often, in teaching, I err on the 'justly', seeking 'justice' for the children I teach, trying to show them the right way to behave. Often, I feel as if I am light on mercy and love. Often, I am tempted to first defend my corner when challenged, rather than taking the humble path and admit that I could be wrong.

So I will aim, again as I begin a new day, to focus on God's glory.