But The Lord Was With Joseph

For February 28, 2021
Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob (Israel), and the firstborn from the union of Jacob by Rachel. He was his father’s favorite son and received a tunic of many colors or color pieces. Such was a garment of distinction, which infuriated his brothers, who “could not speak peaceably to him.” At seventeen, Joseph dreamed two dreams that further exacerbated the situation.

When Israel sent Joseph to check on his brothers who were grazing their herds near Dothan, the brothers tossed him into a pit, and eventually sold him to Ishmaelites on their way to Egypt. There Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard, bought him as a house slave. But the Lord was with Joseph and prospered Potiphar entire household because of Joseph.

Potiphar’s wife showed interest in Joseph, and later falsely accused him of sexual assault. As a result, Joseph was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit for thirteen years.

But, the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison (Genesis 39:21 NKJV).

Eventually, Pharaoh had two troubling dreams, and Joseph was summoned to provide an interpretation for both dreams. God supplied Joseph with the interpretations, which pleased Pharaoh to such a degree that Joseph was elevated to a distinction that was only superseded by Pharaoh himself.

Ultimately, the Lord used Joseph to save a nation (Egypt) from the ravages and decimation of a severe, seven-year famine. But the Lord also used him to provide a temporary shelter—during the famine—for the Children of Israel in the Land of Goshen.

From Joseph’s encounter with the Lord, we can learn three fundamental principles about how the Lord deals with His people:

The Lord was with Joseph. This preposition shows proximity or association God calls His people to be in fellowship with Him. It is used frequently to show the promises of God towards us, or to affirm that God is with us, or our petitions to God to be with us.

Everywhere God meets us He places on us a moral demand. It is our obedience and sensitivity to the Holy One of Israel that makes us compatible. Ours is a loving covenant relationship that is based on our faith in Jesus Christ. We love Him completely because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).1

From Joseph, we can know that the Lord is with us today; through the highs and lows; through the happy times and sad times; through bright moments and the dark moments. Jesus promises to be with us always—even unto the end of the earth (Matthew 28:20).

Thus, through Christ, we can say with confidence, even as King David attests,

He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me (Psalm 23: 2—4 NKJV).

The Lord showed him mercy. Mercy is a word we do not hear much nowadays since vengeance and retribution have replaced it. For not only does it convey good deeds, goodliness, kindly, or pity, it presents our Lord’s prerogative to extend His unfailing love and kindness towards us—when punishment or condemnation are due us!2

It was the mercy of the faithful Covenant God of Israel, which rescued Joseph’s life. In the prison itself Jehovah was with Joseph, procuring him favor in the eyes of the governor of the prison, so that he entrusted all the prisoners to his care, leaving everything that they had to do, to be done through him, and Jehovah made all that he did to prosper.3

Even in our modern world today, God still extends mercy—when judgment and wrath are warranted. We are born with having no fellowship with God due of the disobedience of our ancestors. We were fallen creatures. Jesus paid the price for our sin with His own body and blood.

Jesus Christ bridged the gap between us and God providing a new identity as Born Again and new creatures in Christ.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV).

He also gives us a new standing as totally righteous or justified before our Holy God.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1—2 NKJV).

In addition, He supplies us with the Holy Spirit who supplies our inner strength to live out a consistent Christ-likeness, which is our sanctification while He is preparing for us an eternal Heavenly Home.

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:1—3 NKJV).

The Lord gave Joseph favor. Here, the focus of attention is not on the giver (God), but on the recipient (Joseph) of what is given (favor). It was the Lord who caused Joseph to find favor so that he was not just given graciousness and prosperity in prison. God also favored him to become second in command to Pharaoh.4

Joseph suffering innocently, yet he confided in God who gave him favor to endure and prosper. The Lord enables us to thrive during adversity as well,

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body (2 Corinthians 4:7—10 NKJV).

When God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) As we dwell in the secret place of the Most High, under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1), we are certain to experience His peace and favor in all our endeavors,

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:6—7 NKJV).

We are not exempt from adversity, sickness, peril, or death due to the presence of sin in our world. To paraphrase our Lord, “The sun rises on the evil and the good, and it rains on the just as well as the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

When the Lord is leading us, we will be blessed with His favor in all we do as King Solomon observes, “When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7 NKJV).

God used Joseph to fulfill His divine purpose for the chosen people. Yet, He can use us to fulfill His unique plan today, so that despite our challenges and obstacles, the Lord yet calls us to trust in Him with our whole heart by obeying Him completely because He is in full control as Romans 8:28 (NKJV) tells us:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

In the meantime, let us commit our ways to the Lord; trusting Him to direct us, obey His Word and His will so that He can use us to fulfill our purpose for living—for His glory alone! The Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. Won’t you trust Him today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

The Lord Our God Sustains Us Forever

For February 21, 2021
While on earth, our Lord submitted Himself to God and resisted the Devil successfully. As we emulate the Lord, James 4:7 teaches we too can “resist the Devil, and he will flee from us.”

Because Christ persevered and triumphed, we have the victory with the promise that no weapon formed against us will prosper (Isaiah 54:17). He dispatches His angels to keep us from danger, while His Holy Spirit dwells within to comfort us (John 14:16-18).

We are not invincible, for even the Lord’s Apostles were persecuted and martyred. Nevertheless, eternal blessing is certain because we belong to the Lord, whether we are living in this world or have gone to the next. He sustains us through our persecution and suffering while protecting us from Satan and the other forces at work against us (Romans 14:8, Revelation 14:13).

The apostle John was the last remaining disciple. While in exile on the Isle of Patmos, he had time to reflect on the three years he shared with our Lord, the other disciples (now gone), as well as Pentecost and the growth of the New Testament church. Despite the persecution from the tyrannical Roman emperors, John did not renounce his faith. Instead, he persevered, just as the Lord predicted,

Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me.c I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold (John 17:11–12 NLT).

There may be times when persecution and adversity cause us to doubt the Lord when we find ourselves in a “fiery furnace,” as in the case of the three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego presented in Daniel Chapter Three.

But we can be assured God has not abandoned us. He will give us the extraordinary resolve to count it all joy because our unspeakable treasure is not on the earth—it is in Heaven. Hardships do not negate God’s love, grace, and mercy, nor do they reveal His desertion because nothing can separate us from His love.

In the final analysis, all the things we experience will work together for our good (Romans 8:28).

Our toils and disappointments serve as constant reminders of the presence of sin in our world, which contrasts His magnificent Kingdom. There, all our toil and suffering will be forgotten instantly the moment we see Jesus Christ in His full majestic splendor (Revelation 21:3-4).

The Bible assures us we can be steadfast and ever vigilant in pursuing our incorruptible inheritance because we are kept by God’s power “through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3–5).

What a Wonderful Savior!

Author And Finisher Of Our Faith

For February 14, 2021
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV) contains the fundamental ideals that have informed and shaped our Christian faith for two thousand years. The passage reads as follows,

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

First, we are surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses,” which confirms  that physical death is not the end of our existence. God created us with a spiritual component that survives our death to thrive long after our bodies have decayed and passed away.

Thus, along with the “Roll Call of Faith” of Hebrews 11:4-40, all those who have died in Christ surround us like spectators whose existence confirms our successful completion of faith journey with God. Just think. We have our own cheering section to affirm us.

Our parents, loved ones, and friends became part of the “cloud of witnesses” when they became absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), awaiting His glorious return. Then, all those who have “died in the Lord,” will be reunited with us who are yet alive (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

The Bible also teaches that we have an appointment with death, and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). So to avert our eternal peril, God  has given us both the capability as well as the opportunity to choose where we will spend our eternity—weather in Heaven or Hell—while we are yet alive today.

In other words, we can either choose to accept His gift of righteousness secured by our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to satisfy God’s righteous requirements, or we can rely on our flawed self-righteousness to appease God’s wrath (due to the penalty of our sin).

It is comforting to know that we can trust in Christ, and we will be with Jesus along with all the saints, “coming in the clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26). A most welcome and most wonderful day that will be indeed. Amen!

Second, we Christians are responsible to make every effort to “lay aside” the continual practice of sin, particularly the ones we find extremely tantalizing and are within easy reach. Instead, we are to pursue earnestly and heartily His righteousness consistently, as Luke 11:35-36 (NKJV) tells us,

Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light.

“No part dark” means our lives are faith-driven, Spirit-powered, Christ-centered, and God-honoring quests for spiritual and moral purity publicly and privately, with no “secret” sins. We strive to be the same spiritual and moral person, whether we are alone or in the company of others.

In other words, what we do, and how we act on Sunday during church services should be the same way we act on Monday at home, work, or school. The “what I do in the privacy of my own home” should never be shameful or embarrassing if ever disclosed publically, since our lives are to reflect an integrated, consistent ethic that flows from our genuine conversion in Christ,

Sin is turning away from God. As someone has said, it is aversion from God and conversion to the world; and true repentance means conversion to God and aversion to the world. When there is true contrition, the heart is broken for sin; when there is true conversion, the heart is broken from sin. We leave the old life, we are translated out of the kingdom of darkness unto the kingdom of light.1

Finally, our “spiritual eyes” must remain focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the source and consummation of our faith in God, as His Spirit actively works within us. In Jesus’ Intercessory Prayer in John 17, He foretells how His followers live “in the world,” yet they will never become “of the world” (John 17:15-18). This remains true for us today.

God commands us to be holy, just as He is holy (Leviticus 20:26). Jesus calls us to be perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Jesus is the Vine, and as His branches, we can yield His fruit consistently, just as He states in John 15:5. Although only Jesus was perfect, yet we can make every effort to refrain from habitual sin and let our lights shine before the world. Then we can glorify God and be a blessing to others just as the Lord teaches in Matthew 5:16.

Unfortunately, dishonesty, deceit, and debauchery have become commonplace for many professing Christians as three-quarters of Americans identify themselves as Christian, yet only 13 percent say they have no faith at all. Only one in every four is Bible-minded, although nearly two-thirds have an orthodox view of God.2

Oh, how I long for a time when noble character with principled behavior is deemed as innate Christian characteristics. To the modern-day society, inconsistent conduct has hampered our noble Christian witness,

Christianity is often not portrayed well in media. It is not “politically correct” to be a Christian anymore. Social pressure to “fit in” as a Christian is largely absent. In contrast, it is considered more socially acceptable to embrace non-Christian identities and lifestyles that stand in conflict with biblical values.3

God’s eternal purpose for His people—to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before Him each day—has not changed (Micah 6:8). Jesus declared that as the Light of the World, His followers will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life instead (John 8:12). In this way, He affirms His righteousness and ours.

Christian faith changes human lives as we enter into the presence of the Living God. Drastically changed human lives think, speak, and act in ways that improve the welfare of others without being motivated by race, gender, culture, social status, or political affiliation. Such is our destiny,

We don’t have to be victims of our glands. We are not automations or victims. We are free to make choices, whether noble or ignoble. To live for money, power, or pleasure is to die one day and leave it all behind. Indeed, to live for anything except Christ will mean reaching the end haunted by guilt and despair.4

Ultimately, Jesus paid the price for our sin when He died on Calvary so that we can share in the perfect joy that was set before Him. It is His joy that captivates our hearts and minds today and always as we receive His unfathomably precious gifts of forgiveness and freedom.

 What a Wonderful Savior!

 

But What About Forgiveness?

For February 7, 2021
When asked how many times we should forgive, the Lord Jesus Christ’s response was immediate, “Not just seven times, but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:22) We must be willing to forgive to the extent that He has forgiven us.

In other words, it is incumbent on us as Christians not to seek revenge, harbor grudges, or express ill will toward others whom we feel may have wronged us. Instead, the Lord challenges us to give them a “clean slate,” by treating them as if they have never wronged us, just as He does for us.

He expresses this Kingdom principle in His Model Prayer,

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:12-14 NIV).

Romans 12:19-21 (NLT), which cites from Deuteronomy 32:35 and Proverbs 25:21-22, elaborates further on the necessity for forgiveness,

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

While on the earth for nearly four years, the Lord taught incomparable lessons  on humility and self-denial such as, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 KJV). But the Twelve Disciples were slow to capture the essence of His teachings, much like we are today.

In addition, we have the Lord as our prime example of humility and self-sacrifice. He freely emptied Himself of His deity and took on a human form so that He could offer Himself as our payment for sin. Yet again, we do not understand that the Kingdom of God encompasses the spiritual realm of God’s glory, majesty, and dominion over the heavens and the earth. It is not a visible kingdom now, but it will be gloriously and incredibly visible soon.

As it was two thousand years ago, it is still true today. We prefer retaliation over reconciliation. From childhood to adulthood, we are taught not to “show any weakness” or let someone “take advantage” of us.

The Lord characterized the End Times as a period of escalating hostility. We see overt “Signs of the Times” in heightened levels of national and international warfare, the proliferation of hostility and rage, and increasing random violence.

In our modern world, we keep track of offenses, and we bear grudges when we need to overlook the offense and forgive the offender. We also “rate” sins on a “sliding scale” as though one sin was more heinous than another looking to justify ourselves.

 But no one can make comparisons since all of us have sinned, and we are deficient of God’s righteous standards (Romans 3:23). Rating sin can lead to falsely characterizing others for past criminal behavior, drug use, marital infidelity, divorce, or an abhorrent lifestyle—even when they now live for Christ fully.

Most of all, it’s hypocritical to condemn someone for his or her past when we have “skeletons” in our closet, as Jesus observes in Matthew 7:3-5 (NLT):

And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, “Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,” when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

All our sliding scales need rescinding and must be replaced with true forgiveness—that is to say, forgive the offender while forgetting the offense.

We cannot impose our self-righteous human standards on God’s divine principles by forgiving certain offenses or forgiving only to a certain level. We must practice what I heard my parents, teachers, and ministers say to me while I was growing up, “God hates sin, but He loves the sinner.”

Just as God does, we too must distinguish between the offense (or sin) and the offender (the sinner) through forgiveness. Certainly at the very least, our lives would be much healthier and happier as a result.

What a Wonderful Savior!

We Are Living Proof!

For January 31, 2021
For many of us, 2020 was a most unfortunate year with the repressive sanctions against the church, small business closures, random and senseless mob violence, destruction of historical artifacts, election controversy, racial strife, ideological conflict, and world-wide pandemic.

Modernist postulate how humanity is ever-evolving for the better and will create (and worship) a government where love and harmony reigns. This is not new, for in Jesus’ day, Rome enforced emperor worship, which posed a serious threat to all Christians as violators were executed,

The refusal of all Christians to participate in [Emperor Worship] precipitated violent persecution, for the Christians consistently objected to worshipping a human being. The polytheistic Romans, who could always add one more god to their list of deities, looked upon their refusal as a lack of proper recognition for the emperor and a distinctly unpatriotic attitude. Between these two viewpoints, there could be no reconciliation.1

Many today worship a government that proposes a godless ideology to adversely influence politics, business, schools, colleges, media, and even clergy, promoting an empty utopian promise that we can provide for ourselves—apart from God. In other words, we have no need for Jesus Christ, God, or the Bible because human effort and ingenuity are all we will ever need.

Love and harmony will not be found in godless utopia; this is a lie from the pit of hell. Instead, hostility and disrespect will replace civility and common courtesy. Such is happening before our eyes just as Proverbs foretold nearly three-thousand years ago,

When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan. When the wicked are in authority, sin flourishes, but the godly will live to see their downfall. When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful. (Proverbs 2, 4, 18 NLT)

Since the onset of sin in the Garden of Eden, we have expressed rage, hate, petty animosity and jealousy towards each other. The first murder was perpetrated by Cain, who killed his brother Abel primarily out of hatred and animosity (Genesis 4:1-8, Matthew 23:35, Hebrews 11:4).

All of us sin and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). However, the “Born Again” experience transforms our sin nature spiritually and secures our access to the Kingdom of God. This is our regeneration as we invite Jesus Christ into our lives by faith, and we receive a new internal nature that allows us to perform God’s perfect will and show His favor.

We are no longer spiritually dead, because the Holy Spirit lives inside us, transforming us into “new” creatures (1 Corinthians 5:17). With our old life gone and defeated, our new life craves the Lord and His righteousness at all times.

We are living proof of God’s marvelous plan of redemption and transformation to affirm that Jesus Christ forever reigns as Savior and Lord. Our identity as followers of Christ allows us to live morally responsible and spiritually astute, so that we can enhance and preserve a civil, global society.

It is the will of God that we become the benefactors of His grace and love, as John writes,

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God (John 1:12–13 NLT).

We are neither “barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” for the glory of God, and the benefit of others and us. Human lives change drastically in the presence of the Living Christ, and drastically changed human lives (Christ-centered and Spirit-controlled) think, speak, and act in ways that are not detrimental to the health, welfare, or safety of others regardless of race, gender, culture, social status, or political affiliation.

It is possible to change the world…one person at a time.

What a Wonderful Savior!