So, What Do You Have?

Every one of us can be caught in a shortfall mentality. When we have undisciplined thoughts, we can free-wheel into the squalor of despair. 

The ancient story of Moses, his beginning and bargaining with God, speaks directly to, and parallels, our wallowing. In particular, the passage captured in the writings of Exodus 4:1-5 is my focus.

With a lifetime of coming up short, Moses has an encounter with God. He is eighty years old by this time. All he has left in the world is a shepherd’s staff, and God asks for that. The very last thing that Moses could lean on is asked for, “What is that in your hand?” (Vs. 2)

What captured my thoughts are not all the things that Moses didn’t have. Moses’ life had been virtually stripped bare. But, the question addressed the one thing he did have left, his shepherd’s staff.

We can commiserate all day over the things that we don’t have, the opportunities we should have received, how we came up short, the unfair, the slanted away-from-us world.  

But God asked Moses, ‘what do you have?”

This encounter with God kept Moses, who wanted to go down the ‘woe is me’ trail, focused on what he had, not what he didn’t.

Author, songwriter, performer, and completely blind Ken Madema captured this moment in a stellar 8:46 sec performance. (Link below)

The story of Moses, in its entirety, is a fantastic account of how God involved himself with the Jewish nation. So much so that some want to disregard it with regards to historical accuracy.

The Jewish nation, however, was meticulous with regards to their writings. The fabrication factor just isn’t there. It was written and preserved just as it happened. The Jewish nation regarded Moses as their greatest prophet. They had good reason.

Back to the point, the greatest prophet before he entered the palace to stand before the Pharaoh had to be there entirely in the strength that God provided.

So today, right at this moment, “What do you have in your hands?” What is the last thing you are leaning on for your identity, your worth, and your significance?

I wonder what miracle would happen if you were to give it to God?

https://ca.video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=crmas&ei=UTF-8&p=ken+madema+moses#id=1&vid=ed7ddb39fd5a7e8a84fd55e74631721f&action=click

ASDP

I went to bed last night feeling like a jerk. 

I had made a broad-sweeping comment to my wife that wasn’t fair or even true. I just said it. After too long of silence, I did apologize, it was sincere, but I was left to go to sleep with my thoughts. 

The thought swirl began to do its work. Slowly, the thoughts started to compile, and I tried to out-sleep them. Eventually, they subsided, but they disturbed my sleep all night. 

Fortunately, as I woke, my thoughts had changed and were God-ward. Somehow my subconscious managed to get involved and began moving me in the right direction. It could be due to the years of practice of running to God, or it could be just grace. Or, maybe a combination of the two, I’m not sure. 

All of that being said, this scripture began to flow through my thoughts:

            “…To give them beauty for ashes,

            The oil of joy for mourning,

            The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

            That they may be called trees of righteousness,

            The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3, NKJV)

The two-bolded parts particularly were catching my drift. “Beauty for ashes, thank you, God.” Garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, yes please.” 

Heaviness is precisely what had settled in my thoughts last night. The Bible identifies it as an actual spirit. 

There is a spirit of heaviness. This was not the first time I had encountered it, but this may have been the first time I quickly identified it and responded accordingly.

Without a whelming feeling, without any music, and without any other cues, I began to sing (out loud, but quietly, it was 3:00am) praise, what I know to be true about God, to him. 

You see, Isaiah identifies praise as a garment that you put on. 

There is nobody that hasn’t dressed appropriately for one occasion or another. It’s how we roll. Going out for dinner? We simply assess what is needed and dress appropriately. If we need shorts and a t-shirt, we put them on. If we need a coat, on it goes. Feeling chilled? A blanket will suffice. 

We don’t battle emotionally when it comes to getting dressed, well mostly, we don’t. We simply assess, select, and don. No big deal. 

So, when you encounter, and you will, a spirit of heaviness? Assess, Select, and Don Praise. 

Praise doesn’t need music, mood, or some other support structure. Praise just needs you. It just needs us to supply the truth about God’s goodness, from the scriptures, from our experience and vocalize it back to him.

Isn’t it time we got appropriately dressed? 

The Joseph Document

The Joseph Document is a compilation of twenty blogs that I did in 2017 on the life and surrounding story of the historic Joseph found in Genesis, starting in chapter 37.

Other than the story of Jesus, there may not be a more impacting and compelling Bible story in my adult life than the story of Joseph.

The story is full of innocent naivety, family dysfunction, and betrayal, brutal and cruel captivity. It shows life’s underside and how even that works for a bigger plan when God is involved, and by the way, God is always involved if we dare to look.

So, take the time. Use this tool to lift you and inspire the drama in your life for good. I guarantee that Joseph will speak from the ancient pages of history and will return the hope that you thought was gone for good.

Without modern communication, social media, church attendance, and face-to-face friends, Joseph was able to preserve his faith and equilibrium.

You can too.

The Joseph Document

 

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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I will share Second: next time.

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: Dressed for Success

Joseph was robbed of his identity as the favoured son; they stole his coat to show it.

Joseph refused to be identified as a traitor and an adulterer; he abandoned his cloak to prove it.

Joseph became the ruler of the land; the garments of royalty declared it.

It took thirteen years and three coats for Joseph to discover his identity.

It would be easy for someone in his sandals to lose heart, to be forced to accept the overwhelming circumstances, to be compelled to give up, but the clothes of authority that he needed to wear demanded success; the leader that he was called to be required no less.

Identity is no easy assignment; it seems to bring with it the very struggle that could derail it. Joseph could have quit, and we would never have known. Conversely we also never would be taking courage from this story of the Amazing.

God was at work in Joseph’s life; growing up he saw his dad struggle with God, and he must have learned it well.

“Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.” (Acts 7:9-10, NIV)

We are instructed in the scriptures that God does not show favouritism. That means that what he does for one he will do for others. That means:

God is at work in your life!

He calls you son, and he calls you daughter he identifies you as his.

What clothes do you need to put on?

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