Fresh Mercies

The sun came bursting through the atmosphere this morning dispelling darkness, fog, and metaphoric depression. It’s Easter. A new day, fresh dawn, with new mercies, the old gone and the new has come.

Their lives, the ones who were cowering in an undisclosed location, changed and transformed; not because of a new mindset, not because of a bible verse, but because their leader predicted his rising up from being dead, then, first thing on the third morning, he pulled it off. He did it; he came alive after being dead for over 30 plus hours.

His eleven men, his inner circle, his disciples saw first hand his coming back from the dead, not as a zombie, not as a convalescing recovering patient, but as the conqueror of death, hell, and the grave. Plus, a growing total of over 500 people saw his resurrected, transformed, new-life body.

That would change your life; needless to say, it changed their lives forever. Appropriately their fear and remorse vanished. They weren’t even afraid of torture or death. Back-room panic and protection broke into shameless declaration. In an instant, fear was dissolved and gone. Gone. Gone!

History shifted that morning. The Son broke through the atmosphere and dispelled the metaphoric darkness, fog, and depression. He changed every life he contacted. He still does.

He is alive!

Monday Morning Blues

It’s Monday morning and who wants to go to work? Really, who wants to leave their weekend behind and embrace the repetitive mundane?

Well, that is indeed one way to look at it.

Or, we can adjust our thinking. Why would we want to do that?

Monday is going to happen whether you are on board or not; whether or not you jump in with your game face, or drag in, hauling your coffee with your IV hookup.

The fact is you can choose; what a great gift. You can choose to live with a good, great, or excellent attitude, or you can choose not to. Too much for a Monday morning? That’s why I waited until now to send this.

Choice is a gift from God. I think he holds it as one of his highest values. He must; it is what makes us human.

Don’t give your choice away to someone or something that will marshal it for another cause. You’ve been given the gift, so use it.

Choose.

Choose to live well, to hope strong, to have faith that God has ‘got this’ and knows where you are at, and what needs to happen next.

Don’t settle for being pushed around by a Monday or anything else that wants to usurp your gift.

You get to choose. So, choose by choice, not by default or any other imposed criteria.

We get to make a choice, so, Happy Monday! You are alive and ‘Get to.’

Hollow Love

Who gets to judge? No, really, who gets to set the bar or examine the evidence?

The simple answer?

Others.

That’s right, those who are looking, those for whom it was intended, those who are casual observers and those who read or heard our words. They get to judge. Actually, whether they get to or not, whether we give them permission to or not, they will and they do judge.

Just recently we completed a document that gives our view of love, its importance, value, and prominence. The document says it well. I like the words that have been crafted and the way they sound when you say them. However, if the recipients of that document would not say that we love, if they would not tell you that when they think of us that they know they are loved, then that document only proves to be noise.

I can tell you all day long that I love my wife. But, if my wife does not feel the love, if she does not think those thoughts when she thinks of me, then my words at best are hypocrisy and at worst a direct lie because I don’t get to be the judge.

I can tell you all day, extrapolate all the nuances, I can even have it nicely written out and ornately decorated on a tablet. But unless it reaches its target and resonates with my wife, decorated or not, it is hollow.

Years ago, I would not have been identified as gentle.  Many other descriptive words that would have been used for me. Hopefully, some of them good, but ‘gentle’ would not have been one of them. 

Then I was reading and came across these words, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5, NIV) I think at that moment God spoke to me asked me a question. “Phil, are you known for your gentleness?” Before I could build a case in my mind he continued, “Would your daughters call you gentle?” The word ‘Gentle’ became very personal, and I had to admit that I didn’t think it would be used to describe me. I realized at that moment that the picture of ‘me’ needed to change.

As I wrestled with my thoughts and how I was going to make this happen, I came upon the criteria that I have used ever since. It doesn’t matter what I would tell you about myself that matters, it is what others would say about me that exposes all and tells the truth.

Today, I believe that each of my four daughters, and my wife, would tell you that I indeed am a very gentle father.

So what about love? What do others say? Do our words have the depth or do they resonate as hollow?

Make a solid contribution to your marriage this Valentines. Let those around you say of you, “He or she is the most loving person that I know.”

I can help you get there in your marriage. I’ve created a tool that you can use. Its called The Marriage Consult. Here’s the link, https://philsovdi.com/the-marriage-consult/

Difference Maker

I woke up this morning thinking about the Difference Maker.
I know, it’s Christmas.
There are no chestnuts, the fire isn’t open, but it is on, and it is warming the room nicely.
Mrs. Claus just gave me a morning kiss, and there is a light dusting of snow outside. There are tracks in the snow, but I see no hoof marks.
The lore, the fun, the imagery, are all on cue this Christmas morning. And, oh yah, some of the kids are sleeping in, not kids anymore, even though the stockings are hung with care.
I had a conversation with a great friend on Christmas Eve, and we talked about, “Why does it seem like there are two Gods? One who seemed to be intolerable of any misstep and one now who seems to be okay with it.” This big question came out of a year of his reading through the Bible.
Has God changed? Does he tolerate what he used to punish? Or, does he not care anymore? Is he too weak or obsolete to matter?
We spent a few moments discussing it, what an excellent question for Christmas.
James, Jesus’ half-brother, gives a perspective from personal up-close observation, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17, NIV)
God is absolutely pure; absolutely holy; absolutely true; absolutely just, and he is absolutely loving. He has not, did not and will not change from these attributes, to name a few.
What has happened is that the impossible gap between him and us has been obliterated, what used to be a barrier has now become a bridge.
Our human history shows a less than stellar track record. Our rules, our systems, and our agendas are at best weak. They have fallen short, they have hurt and injured. That is why we needed Christmas, that is why we needed the Difference Maker.
God hasn’t changed, but our approach to him has. We now can come with the full assurance of faith because the babe in the manger has made such a difference.
There is so much more to this story.
Merry Christmas!

Wonderweird

It’s Christmas, or just about, the most ‘wonderweirdfilled’ time of the year.

This is the time of year where we are reminded of all the wonderful things that we can be thankful for and all the screwed-up messes we would like to forget.

Oh, how I wish that all was calm and all is bright.

I referred to it before, but Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly (Prudently) with your God.” (NIV) along with Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (NIV)

These passages relay a humbly, tenaciously, cautiously lived life. That is what we are called to. Regardless of acceptance or reprisal, ours is to live these words out in worship before our God who sees all and knows all. It’s not complicated, but oh boy, sometimes it’s quite difficult.

I have discovered that I am responsible for no one else but myself when it comes to the things that I can change.

So change, I will.

What you do and how you respond, is entirely up to you.

Address The Mess: Sick!

I had completely forgotten about my legalistic tendency.

I was raised in a Christian culture, and my family was considered godly.

Maybe they were, but I was challenged with a legalism which I have come to know is anything but godly.

We had a doctrine of grace and could teach it to you, but an unwritten code of performance. I, being a ‘good’ leader, in kind, passed that on. Grace was given with a smile, but adherence was expected to follow in a not too distant place. Remember, none of this was written down, just expected. I would probably be called delusional for bringing this up because like Jell-O, this code could not be nailed down.

You can only imagine the mess that this spawned.

In this regard, I was like Saul, before he became Paul, knowing that I was accomplishing big things for God, but in fact tying nooses around other’s necks and posturing a righteousness that indeed wasn’t by faith, and indeed wasn’t righteousness at all.

I am so incredibly grateful that this absurdity broke in my life.

There were two significant moments where this was driven home to me.

First:

It had been bothering me for a while, but when I showed up at family functions, I would frequently tell all that would listen about all that I was accomplishing. I couldn’t get the exploits out fast enough. I needed to let everyone know how well I was doing and how neat things were going for me, at least in my fanciful dreams. It was obsessive.

One day, while contemplating another gathering, I realized how I was ramping-up my preparation for the next day. I actually said out loud, “Phil you are sick!”

In a moment of clarity, I knew that my posturing days were over and I was able to walk free.

I started then and continue now to rest in the work that Jesus did for me. One of my favourite passages of scripture reads like this, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV) This passage is actually saying that God has taken our mess, all of it, and has given us in exchange his righteousness. No posturing, no performance, just righteousness.

God has taken my ‘sick’ and has given me right living, if I want it, in its place. I find that unbelievably incredible.

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Joseph Series: A Great Combo

 

A lot can happen in twenty-two years. A lot of dreams and vision can happen; conversely, a lot of dream and vision death can also occur.

Processing takes time. I’ve said it before, but it needs repeating. Processing takes time.

It took me many months for me to forgive an individual who hurt me deeply, and that was after I was trying and working to do so. Years later with plenty of new opportunities, I think I’m doing better. Forgiveness flows much easier. There are a lot of personal checks and balances that get applied along the way. It takes more than a weekend meeting or Saturday training course. Application or processing takes time.

When you are hurt, and it goes deep, you think and dream of what it will look like to be vindicated, but as time grinds on, you begin to lose your fleshly inertia; it gets processed out of you if you so desire.

We don’t know how often Joseph thought of his dreams, or of his vindication, if at all. We just know he was vindicated and could have bitterly judged.

There was no bitterness. No malice. No ill will.

Joseph authenticated what and who was before him, he revealed, he healed, and he restored.

The brothers, self-examined, repented and humbly accepted their new normal.

What a great combination.

Restoration, true to the heart, relational restoration, can only happen when both parties own their own stuff and, not until they do.

Great combos are waiting to flourish.

Are you ready to do your part?

That’s all that matters.

Joseph Series: Serious Vetting

Joseph was number two in all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. It was his job to make sure that the country’s wealth was secure and properly accessed. He was well within his job description to ‘make sure.’
His brothers were on the other end of this process of scrutiny with no clue, but they were rocked by the uncanny, accurate, deserved and pointed treatment.
Was Joseph just going to an extreme? Like really, didn’t he take it too far?
Thirteen years, no, that was just until he entered Pharaoh’s service, then there were seven years of abundance where he collected the supply for the coming lack. Then, the famine started. Another two years into the famine once every other option had been used, financed, leveraged, Joseph’s ten brothers showed up in Egypt and immediately bowed to the man in charge. How could they have known? Twenty-two years about to be vetted and cross-examined. It wasn’t the brother’s intention to move to Egypt. They were just looking for food.
When I moved to the city I now live in, I heard the story multiple times, “I came for two weeks for the summer, and I ended up staying for twenty-five years.” My story isn’t quite that extreme, but I was on a ten-year plan in my mind. I’ve lived in Fort McMurray now for fifteen years.
That’s what happens when you come to a place of abundance. It shows how desperately your former life needs change.
Joseph was the saviour for his family, but they didn’t know it yet.
But, saviours aren’t effective until the need is abundantly clear.
Joseph knew what he had to offer, but he didn’t know that he could, thus the vetting. It wasn’t just a selfish motivation on Joseph’s part to grandstand over his brothers, but He knew what could be theirs. They had to have it presented in the context of their great need.
Do you have enough context yet? Is it time for you to need a saviour?
Joseph knows, he says, “Yes!”

Joseph Series: Family Games

Joseph knew his family’s dysfunction, his brother’s propensity to lie and deceive. He knew that they only lived for their agenda. He didn’t know that it had changed.

Families play games.

My wife and I do, but we do it on purpose, with our kids now adults, and with delightful intent. We’ve done it their whole lives. For the most part, they loved it! How do I know? I told them so. Ha.

It’s the family games that everyone denies that has me greatly concerned. In fact, they aren’t games at all; they could more accurately be called deceptions, family code, and elephants in the room.

You know what I’m talking about. It’s the demand that you fit into your role when you are with the family, the way that you act when your buttons get pushed; and no one can push your buttons like your parents and siblings. It’s the stuff no one will talk about, but everyone knows it’s there. And, you and your family do it every time!

Enter Joseph. Joseph was thirteen plus years removed from the family dysfunction, game, code, and he had to know if the code was still in play. He went to quite some length to make sure things had changed. Joseph tested his brother’s in their most vulnerable spot. He for lack of a better term pushed their buttons. Any future with them, had they not changed, would not have been pretty.

Joseph was satisfied to the depth of his emotions that change had come. What a delightful moment.

Thirteen years had taken its toll on the brothers, on Jacob, their father, as well as on Joseph. The brothers had come to realize that their shameful behavior had cost their family deeply.

They came forward and owned their stuff.

This action gives us an awesome picture of repentance. It was almost that the brothers were getting in line to say, “If there is any blame here it is to fall on me, I’m the one.”

Whether they grew into this or got forced into this through circumstances, they owned it.

In absolute humility they prepared for their fate, they couldn’t expect anything else.

This moment overwhelmed Joseph. I don’t think he could have hoped for such a spectacular outcome. Spectacular happens when such depth and hurt get healed.

So in this story, we see a beautiful picture of repentance and forgiveness. One is not complete without the other.

So this begs the questions?

What do you have to own?

What do you have to forgive?

Joseph Series: Breakthrough

“Get changed! Get shaved. The king wants to see you now!”
You waited and waited, and then you waited some more, now things are moving so fast you hardly know you are involved.
This was Joseph’s breakthrough moment, well; this was the moment when all things changed.
Joseph’s breakthrough moment happened earlier. I wasn’t there, neither were you. Joseph in the privacy of his privacy had his wrestle with God and with no one else. He wrestled with the same God that changed his dad and the way he walked. How do we know? Joseph held his values. They came out his mouth every time there was an opportunity. It used to be he had a dream and was going to be… Now, God is the interpreter of dreams.
There still was a common thread, dreams. Joseph never gave up on his dream. I’m sure that the dream became very refined, but Joseph knew that God had given it, and he knew that God would now interpret it. He just didn’t know when.
Finally, we get to see the breakthrough.
The king’s dream must have been very compelling and convincing. He moved the entire responsibility of the Egyptian economy into Joseph’s care before a single crisis ensued.
We now read the story within a fifteen to twenty minute sitting and if we are not careful will miss the magnitude of what God did in, to, and for Joseph. We will miss what God did in, to, and for Pharaoh. We will miss what God did in, to, and for Jacob. Oh yes and remember those boys? We might miss what God did in, to, and for them.

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You Don’t Have To Live; You Get To!