Valleys are Just Spiritual Mountains

mountain-reflection_FotorI am going to stray from Nehemiah on this blog and talk about a subject the Lord put on my heart this morning.  My hope is, although a tough subject for some, I can help us change our perspective a little and give someone hope who is walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

We all go through tough times, but our experience is often dictated by our perception What do I mean?  You can walk through the experience feeling like it is hell. Your emotions and your ability to learn will follow; your brain will record the experience from that vantage point, risking a hardening of the heart.  Conversely, you can seek the depths of God through the valley experiences and allow them to shape and form who you are, essentially strengthening your character and ability to endure all the while maintaining a soft and pliable heart.

Many of us are overwhelmed by the challenges we encounter and our natural proclivity can be to enter survivalist patterns.  Have you ever met a “doomsdayer” or a “prepper” who had a positive outlook on life?  Why is that? In many cases they are preparing for the worst, not stopping along the way to reflect on the beauty of creation, and far more importantly not looking out further than death.  When I say further than death, I mean into the eternal home we have in Christ.  I heard it said by someone (I think John Bevere) that one characteristic of Americans is that our hope ends at death, even in the church.  We do not look forward to the hope of eternity with our Father.  We focus on a 70-80 year temporal perspective.  In summary, we are short sighted and it effects our attitude negatively.

I want to give you a practical example of what I am talking about.  About 12 years ago, Danielle and I found ourselves seeking the “American” dream.  We had two vehicles and just moved into our nice country house with 3.5 acres and a large pole barn.  It was a beautiful country setting and from a visual perspective was the epitome of relaxing.  Pictures of sitting in the back yard, sipping lemonade and watching the sunset over the corn fields is exactly what I imagined.  It was the exact opposite.  We were laden in debt, drove a combined 150 miles per day, and Danielle was pregnant with Sidney (our second).  This was the valley of the shadow of death for me; I was a giant ball of anxiety.  In the end, we let the house go (stressing relationships), sold a car, Danielle quit her job, and we moved into an apartment about 13 miles from my work.  We lived on $29k a year.  Danielle would take me to work when I didn’t ride my bike, and we ate at home for every meal.  Danielle and I learned how to be good stewards of what God had provided for us.  We met amazing friends, became members at a Daybreak Church, whose leadership truly changed my life, and I went back to college to finish my degree.  Out of the valley of the shadow of death came life and hope.  I would not trade any of this for any worldly blessing we could imagine.  Nothing was more valuable than walking through the valley with a positive perspective.  Was it always easy?  No!  But my brain has recorded that event as significant personal growth…a blessing in disguise.  Out of the ashes came life.

Jesus fully understood this.  He was fully God, but fully human in His earthly home.  He understood that through suffering, perfection came.  Yes, he was already perfect, but perfection in this case is a kind of completion.  Suffering completed Him and us.

“For it became him, for whom are all things, and through who are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:10)

Jesus Christ is the Author of our Salvation!  If he could walk through the valley of the shadow of death and come out on the other side bearing the scars of trial, yet healed and whole, how much more can we?  He did it for us.  He provided the path for life.  He single-handedly offered us the path to walk through the valley of the shadow of death triumphantly.  Now, do not give the enemy one single ounce of credit for the valley, because the valley was offered to bring you to full completion, not to give the enemy glory for stealing something that never belonged to you in the first place.  Christ arose from the dead, so that we could be renewed.  Hear Paul’s words…

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship him.  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Change your view to one that is eternal, not temporal…focus on the lessons of completion through all seasons of life, NOT on the loss of worldly things.

Blessings in the name of Jesus Christ, the Author of our Salvation…

Scott

 

 

Staying the Course Despite Resistance

20171201_gettyimages-462881839_FotorGod never promises that we will experience easy times, never encountering resistance; after all we are in the midst of the most significant war in history.  In this war, the soul of every man and woman hang in the balance.  I’m not sure I even understand the scale of this war.  It is a war that’s ending is already known, but every single man and woman on this earth has a choice…to follow the ways of Christ and submit to His Lordship or follow the ways of the world and submit to its lordship. To either experience freedom…or bondage.  I believe Nehemiah understood this war. His choice to take the resistance he encountered to the Lord, seek His wisdom, then take action, is a clear identifier that he understood.  (For a better understanding of the personal battle we face, especially as believers in the western world, please read Killing Kryptonite, by John Bevere).

Nehemiah had a few people who were relentless in their pursuit of making his and the builders of the wall lives completely miserable…Sanballat and Tobiah.  I am not sure these two knew it, but the enemy’s goal through them was to prevent the protection of Israel and its people and to ensure they continue to be blended into the world so as to remove their identity in God. Ultimately, his goal was to ensure their soul, in this great war, fell on the side of hell. They harassed Nehemiah and the people rebuilding the wall.  And this was Nehemiah’s response:

Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders. So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. (Nehemiah 4:4-6)

A couple points I want to make about this passage and what follows in chapter 4 of Nehemiah.

  1. Nehemiah and the rest of the Jews who were rebuilding the wall were being criticized and threatened. The threat was real and it was physical in nature.  At the beginning of the chapter it was noted the Samaritan army was involved and later, Nehemiah and the people took up arms.  BUT, in the face of a real and significant threat, Nehemiah’s gut reaction was to pray and seek the Lord FIRST.  Nehemiah’s prayer displays the fact he refused to take matters in to his own hands, but instead asked the Lord to deal with the threat.  What is your reaction to a threat?  Fight or Flight?  What about prayer, even in the midst of a threat?  All God needs to hear is an open heart and a cry for help…He will respond.
  2. Nehemiah took action after he sought God’s wisdom, “Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night” (Neh 4:9). He charged his men to take up arms and every man had a sword on his side…they built with one arm and defended with the other arm.  Nehemiah himself kept a man with a trumpet next to his side, so in the case there was a battle, all parties could gather at the sound.  Throughout this ordeal Nehemiah kept encouraging the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome” and “Our God will fight for us.”  Nehemiah prayed, took action, encouraged his people, and trusted the Lord.  The results? “When our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work” (Neh 4:15).

James says that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20b); I would suggest that prayer without action is powerless and weak prayer.  What kind of faith does it take to sit down and pray for the Lord to build the wall in the middle of all my enemies?  None what-so-ever!  On the other hand, what kind of faith does it take to seek the Lord, hear His voice, and begin rebuilding the wall under a pagan king, surrounded by people that hate you? SIGNIFICANT FAITH.  Now, I want to caution you that action without seeking the Lord is just as foolish…action for the sake of action, success for the sake of success, trying to prove your worth…is simply an idol in the way of the Lordship of Christ and God’s will for your life.

Stop now!!! And ask the Lord where he needs you to take action today.  If you are willing to pray that prayer and truly mean it with no exceptions, He will use you in a significant way.  Just get ready for the adventure!!!

Blessings!!!

Scott

 

Where Does True Strength Come From?

broken-rampart-wall-sindhudurg-island-fort_Fotor

And it came about in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, that wine was before him, and I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. So the king said to me, “Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever. Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?” Then the king said to me, “What would you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 2:1-4, NASB)

This short section is quickly becoming one of my favorite parts in the Bible, because it is probably my greatest weaknesses.  For many years I operated under the lie that I needed to be strong, or at the very least, appear strong.  It was not until the Lord opened my eyes, through a few humbling experiences, to the fact that in my weakness, He is strong (2 Cor 12:10).  This is when I found a lot of freedom in my faith and journey. When we come to this place and submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a burden is lifted and freedom is realized. My weakness…forcing things to happen, taking control and forcing the outcome to be what I think it should be.  This is something of which Nehemiah did the exact opposite.  He prayed, fasted, and trusted the Lord to take action in His timing.

From chapter 1, when Nehemiah wept over the wall not being rebuilt to chapter 2, about 4 months took place.  Nehemiah had been fasting and praying for God’s direction during that 4-month span.  At this point, Nehemiah is before the king serving him his wine, when he makes the statement, “Now I had not been sad in his presence.” This is important, because it was dictated that no one would show sadness in front of the king, under penalty of death.  I believe it set up Nehemiah (and us) to experience a miracle of God. I believe the Lord quickened a pagan king (divine intervention) to see Nehemiah’s heart and understand that Nehemiah was sad. The king said, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of the heart.”

Let me sum up what occurred here.  Nehemiah was broken for his people.  He fasted and prayed, seeking God for wisdom but never taking things into his own hands.  He was a trusted and high employee of the king, having an audience with him every day, but never asking him for help.  The burden for his people wore heavy on him, yet he knew that he could NEVER show sadness in front of the king, so he put on his best face.  And then one day, God intervened and quickened the king to the knowledge that Nehemiah was carrying a burden, of which the king had the resources to address that very burden.  Nehemiah was patient.  He was persistent in his prayers and fasting.  And God honored His faithful servant by providing.

Lastly, after the king recognized Nehemiah’s sadness, what was the first thing Nehemiah did? In front of the king he “prayed to the God of heaven.” This is equally amazing to me, because what would my response be if the king asked me what it is I wanted?  Most likely I would list everything I thought I needed to accomplish the desire on my heart.  Not Nehemiah.  He was so aware of his need of God that he stopped and asked his Heavenly Father for guidance.  It is obvious from the generosity of the king in the next few verses that God was in this situation, and I cannot help but believe, much of it was due to Nehemiah’s humble heart of a servant.  I have said this many times, but we look at Nehemiah as this great leader, but the leadership qualities we admire are simply a byproduct of a man fully submitted to God. Nehemiah’s strength came from his ability to submit to God’s plan.

So my challenge to you…

  • What areas of your life do you need to fully submit to God?
  • Where is pride preventing you from understanding that in your weakness, He is strong?
  • How can you remember to put prayer first, prior to taking action in your life? (This doesn’t mean we stay stagnant and take no action, it means we seek God first.)
  • What areas of your life have you forced the outcome with mediocre results?
  • How can you discipline yourself to simply wait upon the Lord?

Recognizing our weaknesses is one of the most difficult things to do, especially in the United States, where the culture is one of independence.  We were not designed to be independent, we were designed to function as a body, some being the arms, some the legs, but God always being the head.  There is freedom, there is community, and there is true success when we realize this life was not meant to be journeyed alone.

Much love and many blessings to you!

Scott

 

 

 

Fasting For Breakthrough

Presence

Todays post is written by my friend and pastor, Matt Wagner.  I met Matt in 2001, while Danielle and I lived in Bartow, Florida. Matt is an amazing leader who is driven to make disciples who make disciples.  He has church planting flowing through his veins, successfully planting six churches to date, with another 999,994 on his heart.

Exodus 33:15

Over the years I have not blogged much but have found myself standing at the window peaking in, desiring to experience the power and transformation that comes from a consistent and steady diet of articulating thought.  So, here goes!

As many of you know, we as a church recently started a 21 day fast.  What is interesting is that I have done fasts for many years now.  I have fasted for a few days and I have fasted for 21 days.  I have fasted and fallen off the wagon and I have fasted for some breakthrough only to find that my discipline ended up being nothing more than a glorified diet.

You see, historically speaking, when I have fasted in the past my goal has been for the hand of God to be extended in some area of my life, but not necessarily Him.  I have wanted the impact of God but not necessarily the presence of God.  I have wanted the faithfulness of God, the dream of God, the power of God, the influence of God, but not necessarily His presence.

This is a new-found revelation for me, for if you would have asked me in years past if I desired the presence of the Lord I would have said, “Of course I do.”  It was just that my prayers to God communicated something different.

In Exodus 33, we find a young man by the name of Moses sitting on Mt. Sinai with the Lord.  And it is here that we read Moses had an intimate relationship with God.  As a matter of fact, the Bible makes it clear that Moses was a friend of God.  He experienced God in a personal way.  It was that personal understanding of God that allowed Moses to remain humble and aware of the presence of the Lord.

In this passage, God tells Moses that He is going to keep His promise to the nation of Israel, and He will continue to watch after them, but He himself would not go with them due to them constantly violating His standards.  It is here that Moses makes a powerful declaration, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.  For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight.” (Ex. 33:15, NKJV)

As I read those words, my heart was cut because suddenly I realized that I wanted the impact of God in my life, but did not necessarily want Him.  I guess I would say I could not honestly answer whether or not I would have said the same thing Moses did.  I probably would have said, “Lord, we are going to miss you.  Thank you for blessing us.  We will come visit often.”  You see, I wanted the promised land, without the promise keeper.  Here is the problem with that…if you ever want to forfeit your impact, then short change your intimacy with God.

This fasting season, I encourage you not to focus so much on the breakthrough but rather focus on His Presence.

The Ending and Beginning of Seasons

seasons_FotorThis morning I have found myself reflecting on all the amazing things that have happened over the past 9 years in Hudsonville.  We have made amazing friends, have been blessed with an amazing church family, are close to family, been a part of an incredible running group, and have been blessed beyond what we could ever imagine. And now the season is coming to a close…and honestly, it hurts…beyond words.  But, I find rest and peace in the fact my Father knows and feels what I feel.

I want to honor some of the people who have had an impact on my life in a significant way…Please know that if you have been a part of my life (even if you haven’t) I love you. If you know me, you know I believe we were all created in God’s image and worth loving.

Wes Dupin: Wes gave me an opportunity of a lifetime by introducing me to a man who has become a significant friend and influence in my life; Bill Clark and Hope Water Project. Wes saw this amazing running team (HWP) that had a vision for something greater than any single church could accomplish.  He gave me the opportunity to start and lead Team Daybreak, which will go down as being one of the most impactful things in my life. We saw physical, emotional, and significant spiritual breakthrough as a team, and it was all because he gave me an opportunity.  Wes gave me another opportunity that would change the course of my life forever; the ability to lead Student Ministries for Daybreak. There is no way I can explain the impact that every student and volunteer leader had on me.  Because, Wes believed in me.

Bill Clark: Bill inspired and will continue to inspire me in many ways.  Mostly, because he is willing to listen and take action from his Heavenly Father, but at the same time is very open with the struggles that go along with sacrifice.  Bill makes the right choices for the strength and growth of his family and I get to call him my friend.

Julie Albright: Julie was my first “target” for Team Daybreak.  Eventually I wore Julie down and she agreed to run the Grand Rapids 1/2 Marathon (not sure she will ever fully forgive me for that one).  Julie has the amazing ability to serve both her family and her church with great balance.  This is a skill I needed to grow in, and Julie was a great example to watch and learn from.  She was always fully engaged in Student Ministries and seeing her small group grow and develop.  I love Julie’s sarcastic sense of humor and her love for her husband and kids.

The Sierra Leone Team (Ron, Todd, Matt, Harvey, Jada, Vanessa, Steve, and Jon): This was an amazing missions team.  This group truly put personal preferences aside and put the team first.  I have never been a part of a team who cared for each other more and was willing to compromise to maintain unity.  This team heeded Paul’s wisdom in Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”

Daybreak’s Student Ministry Team (Jon, Deb, and Danielle): Combined, we had a total of 1 years worth of formal student ministry experience, but this was an amazing group. Why was it so amazing?  Every team member understood their need for God’s wisdom. We were able to learn together, fall together, learn from our mistakes, rejoice in our wins, but most of all follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance in what He wanted to do in the life of the students.

Bailey Moseler and Jada Murphy: Two unique and gifted young ladies.  Both with amazing gifts and talents, who are doing their best to navigate a difficult world while serving Jesus.  Do not give in, do not compromise, when you fall down, get back up, have grace for yourself, and follow Jesus to the ends of this earth.  You will make a difference in this world.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life at a very significant time…and this does not mean it is ending.  🙂

Jeff Moseler: We all have best friends but, Jeff is a true friend, because he cares about my soul and my relationship with Jesus.  He always challenges me through our ridiculous and fun philosophical conversations.

Jeff Leys: You are a true friend.  One who stretches, strengthens, challenges, and helps me be a better person.  You have taught me more than you will ever know and will hopefully continue to do so.  I love you brother!

Danielle, Riley, and Sidney: Danielle is the love of my life and someone I am incredibly thankful for.  From early on in our marriage she always said there could be no opportunity for resentment and that is one reason our relationship is what it is.  We are surrounded by broken and hurt marriages, which makes me all the more thankful for my amazing wife.  My daughters are amazing young ladies, who God has blessed me with.  They are treasures that I will protect with my life and a few weapons of choice.  I am so thankful for their willingness to follow God’s plan for our family.

The rest of my family and friends: Thank you for your support, prayers, and encouragement.  Without that, it would make all of our journeys a lot harder.  We should never look at each other’s path with jealousy or disdain, but only prayer, support, and encouragement.  God has created us all unique and together, if we allow Him, He will use us for His eternal purposes.  We are the Body!

There will always be changes of seasons in our lives; leaves will fall, snow will fly, flowers will bloom, and trees will blossom.  It is not inherently bad; it is simply the changing of seasons and the rhythm of life.  Even so, they can be difficult changes for all people involved.  But, we find peace in one thing.  This life is but a blip on the radar of eternity.  We are given the opportunity to follow God’s calling on our life and make the most of our time on this planet.  Because, in the end we stand before the most Holy Father and give Him and account of what we did.  To my family and friends who love and serve Jesus, that means we get to spend an eternity together.

Never good bye…always see you later!  I love you,

Scott

 

 

My Mission

Purpose_Fotor

Last fall I began to ask the Lord for my mission; what was it He was calling me to focus on as a pastor/leader.  Accepting a call into full time youth ministry put me in a position where I was surrounded by other pastors more than any point in my life.  What I realized was most of these individuals had very defined missions when it came to their ministry and I did not.  I could not take on someone else’s mission and call it my own, I knew that would not last, nor be fulfilling.  Asking the Lord for my mission began a 9 month journey of conversations, prayer, conceptualizing, and writing up to last Friday.  Friday morning I was driving down the road, listening to a podcast by Ravi Zacharias (Faith Under Fire – Christian Ethics in the Workplace Part 2, 3, and 4) and the Lord formed my mission in my mind.  “To call every person I encounter to a higher level through identifying and helping them develop their God given gifts and talents.”  The funny thing is, we often look for specifics from him, but he gives us a mission we can accomplish wherever we are…

I am not going to go into all the details of the podcast as you can listen for yourself, but I want to give you a taste of my mental journey with Lord as I was listening to Ravi.  My hope is that it speaks to you.

Faith Under Fire – Christian Ethics in the Workplace Part 2:

Principle #1 of this series states,  “Anything that refreshes you without distracting you from or destroying your final goal is a legitimate pleasure in your life.” In order to understand what is a distraction to my purpose, I must first understand my purpose. That is exactly what my prayer had been for the past 9 months and what the Lord had been revealing to me in this past season of being a Youth Pastor at Daybreak.  Through this question he began to formalize my mission in my heart and mind so that I could ask myself a very simple question:  what distracts me from my mission?  What distracts me from be an amazing father?  What distracts me from ensuring my wife knows she is the most valuable and loved woman on this planet?  What distracts me from speaking into the lives of those individuals whom God puts in my life?

Faith Under Fire – Christian Ethics in the Workplace Part 3:

Principle #2 states, “Any pleasure that jeopardizes the sacred right of another man or woman is an illegitimate pleasure.”  Any pleasure that I partake in that harms or hurts someone else is wrong for me.  Listening to Ravi and evaluating my own life I could not help but reflect on times where I have pursued fulfillment in a job (including ministry), spent time with an individual for all the right reasons, but then realized that the time I was away jeopardized the sacred right of my family to have their father and husband present.  No thing that brings me personal pleasure or fulfillment is good if it robs my wife and children of the right they have for me to be a godly husband and father…I believe that is sin and I missed the mark in God’s eyes.  My past excuses of, “I am just providing the best possible life for my family” is complete and utter bunk!  They need me, not the material crap.

Faith Under Fire – Christian Ethics in the Workplace Part 4: 

Principle #3 states, “Any pleasure, however good, if not kept in balance will distort reality or destroy appetite.”  I have multiple missions in my life; my mission to be the best husband I can be, my mission to steward my children well, and my personal mission.  All of these require careful and intentional balance.  I cannot get so focused on the individuals God puts in my life to mentor, only to forget about my mission as a father and husband.  At the same time I cannot stay at home all day with my wife and kids; although that sounds like fun, we would live in four separate cardboard boxes because we would not like each other very much.  Seriously though, God call us to find balance and he gives us many individuals in the Bible who had NO balance (King Solomon is one) and he gives us an example of perfect balance (Jesus).

Back to Friday.  After listening to Ravi in the car I arrived at my destination, grabbed a coffee, and sat down to write out the statement.  Nine months of prayer and within a 35 minute drive he formed my mission statement.  And the icing on the cake; as my friend and I were talking about this journey, he tells me exactly what I need to be doing…and it was almost word for word what I had written down not 2 hours earlier.  That is God.  He takes an impatient individual who likes to take risks, yet control how the risk happens, then slowly strips him of all his plans.  What has he left me with?  One step at a time, a mission, and complete and utter confidence that He will fulfill the mission He has called me to.

Pray for purpose…

Be patient…

Be obedient…

Live life His way…no distractions, honor other’s rights, and find balance.

Blessings,

Scott

Vision for the Future

mountain-03_FotorFor the majority of my adult life I have had this unending sense of something more, something greater, more exciting, more effective…a better future.  There have been times where people encourage me and times when people discourage me.  There are times when I listen to the encouragement and there are times when I have listened to the discouragement, but in the end the sense of something greater always comes back to the surface.  For many years I wondered what was wrong?  Why could I not simply be happy with the status quo?  Why can I not just settle down?  And now after 40 years I have come to a conclusion.  This is who God has created me to be; He has created me to push the limits, expect better, and pursue what I know to be excellent in every relationship or organization I am a part of.  I now know I have two things that I must pursue: 1) to call people to a higher level (spiritually, physically, emotionally, occupationally, etc.) and 2) to recognize individuals God given gifts and talents to help them walk in those things.

The risk is, I must be willing to accept the fact that not everybody has the same desire to challenge the norm, ask the hard questions, do things differently, and that is ok… If I hit a brick wall I need to simply keep going in the direction the Lord calls me to go.

Before I dive into this, I am going to give a disclaimer that this is my opinion and me asking what if questions.

Joseph was a young man with 10 other brothers, but just happened to be the most loved son of his father, Jacob.  I am sure he was a snotty, know-it-all, little brother who knew his dad liked him the best.  Put yourselves in his shoes, how many of us wouldn’t act the same way?  We also know that Joseph had some pretty interesting dreams that he happily shared with his family.  Being a little brother myself, I am certain that when he told his family about the dreams, he was full of pride and hormones that made him feel invincible.  But, what if at the same time Joseph knew God had a big plans in store for his life?  What if he knew he was going to make a significant difference?  What if he was determined to figure out the path God had for his life?  And, what if a lot of that determination was perceived to be cocky, prideful, and illogical youthfulness?

I ask these questions, because can you imagine being thrown into a dry well by your own family as a young man and coming out with hope?  Almost certainly, there were mean and personally hurtful words being thrown around as he was dropped into the well.  Then a little later you are fetched from the well and sold to strangers from a foreign land.  Stop, and think about that for a second…was Joseph discouraged beyond all hope, was he consumed by anxiety, was he on the verge of giving up?  No, scripture says God was with him.  He proceeded to become great in the eyes of Potiphar, being a humble servant of the his master’s house, just as Jesus would do decades in the future.  Then he had it all taken from him again because someones selfish desires were not met and they couldn’t deal with their own sin.  Betrayal, the worst feeling of them all, and Joseph was not deterred from who God called him to be.  Again, God being with him, he becomes an even lower and humble servant of the king’s prison.  And again, he rises to the occasion because he knew God had called him to something great in His Kingdom.

I don’t need to go any further in the story because many of us know it.  God used Joseph in a pagan land, with a pagan king, to save His remnant.  Joseph did not lose hope, he did not let people discourage him, and his circumstances were NEVER beyond God’s help.  He did not despair, because he knew he belonged to a loving God who had a loving vision.  He knew God would bring good out of a hopeless situation.

My sense of a better future has nothing to do with material possessions, because honestly, I have learned that material possessions only leave me wanting.  My sense of a better future is my desire to raise up leaders who are willing to lay down their lives for others just as Jesus did.  We need people who pursue relationships for the sake of seeing the other persons life improved, not filling their own personal holes.  We need a church who is willing to lay down personal preferences in favor of biblical absolutes and that means loving people in spite of what people’s perception of us is (did Jesus care what people thought of him when he was speaking with the woman at the well?).  We need believers who are willing to sacrifice their own comfort for the sake of the Gospel message they carry within them. We need Christ followers who are willing to give up the head of the table for the wash basin and a willingness to wash the junk off of people’s feet.  Am I willing?  Are you willing?

Be encouraged…don’t lose the vision God has planted in your heart,

Scott