Monthly Archives: September 2004

When the Dream Seems to Die

Dealing with disappointment may be one of the greatest challenges in life. People tend to build things up in their heads only to be let down by reality. Or maybe your dream soared high for a moment and then quickly came crashing down to earth.

Have you ever felt abandoned by God and everyone who should have loved you? If so, you are in good company. King David wrote in Psalm 13, “How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? Forever? How long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? …But I have trusted in thy mercy my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.”

Even one of the greatest men in the Bible felt abandoned by God. Sometimes when God seems to be the most distant, He is actually molding us the most.

The story of Joseph in Genesis 39-45 shows how even what may seem to be a disaster can be turned around by God’s hand to be a blessing. Joseph appeared to have it all, especially his father’s love, and his brothers hated him for it. And in a flash, his world fell apart.

Joseph unwillingly traded his coat of many colors for slave clothes. Jealously led Joseph’s brothers to do the unthinkable.

You may feel like one of the brothers who hated Joseph. Do you look around at what others have and feel like you are getting left out of the party? You may desire what others have and feel like you will never get what you want. Are you angry with God and jealous about how others seem to be living the life you want to live? When they saw Joseph walking toward them, they said, “The dreamer cometh.” Filled with jealous rage, they reacted. They thought about killing their brother. Instead, they decided to sell him into slavery.

In a matter of minutes, Joseph went from a life of privilege to a life of hopelessness and servitude. He became a slave – a piece of property with no rights. Imagine what must have been going through Joseph’s mind as he heard his own brothers negotiating a price for His life. Part of him probably hoped it was just an act to scare him. Part of him probably feared they were serious.

What about his dreams? How could God turn around this situation? Where Joseph’s dreams just silly childish ideas like his family had said? Through it all, Joseph trusted in God. He kept to the vision even as things went from bad to worse.

Joseph quickly worked his way up until he became overseer of his master’s house. Just when things were looking up, the bottom ped out of his life again. When the wife of his master tried to seduce him, Joseph fled. He did the honorable thing even though it got him thrown in prison. He had the opportunity to win the favor of a very influential woman. She could help make Joseph’s dreams come true. Or she could make even more trouble for him. Joseph feared God more than any man. The woman claimed that Joseph tried to rape her. Even though Joseph was innocent, the false accusations stuck, and he was thrown in prison.

When life seemed darkest, God was working behind the scenes. The Bible indicates that God was with Joseph in prison. By interpreting dreams, Joseph gained the attention of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.

Even when Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams led him to gain Pharaoh’s favor, he gave the glory and recognition to God. And when he had the opportunity to take revenge on his brothers, he ultimately blessed them. Sure, he played a trick on them just to see the condition of their hearts. But when he saw their humble attitude and brokenness, he wept and kissed them. God gave him the ability to forgive and love those who had treated him so poorly. Joseph’s trials made him who he was – a person who discovered how to trust God with his dreams.

God used the trials of Joseph to save His entire family. Every little minor crisis led Joseph to where he needed to be when famine swept through the land. All along God was orchestrating things for Joseph’s good. Joseph correctly identified God’s hand in his life. He looks back and credits God for sending him to Egypt. We cannot see into the future. But God can.

We can trust God because He holds time and our very lives in His hands. He sees everything with perfect vision. To God, all of history has already been written.

There are dream slayers out there who will try to deter you from what God has put on your heart. No matter how powerful your enemies are, God is stronger. Ultimately, the only one who can rob you of God’s dream for your life is you.

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The Revolving Door

Just imagine that you are walking into a swanky hotel. Your mind is full of expectation. You’ve heard that the lobby is amazing, beautiful beyond description. As you casually go through the revolving door, you find yourself stuck. You could enter the door, but there appears to be no way out. You keep on going around in circles expecting to find an opening. But each new moment brings a greater sense of helplessness and despair. You keep going yet go no where.

As you walk in circles, you get a glimpse of the beauty awaiting you inside the lobby of this prestigious hotel. You want to go inside, but you are locked in a circle of reasoning. In the end, you discover that the revolving door is your mind.

Your reason can lead you into streams of thought that have no exit. You think in circles and become mired in despair.

The only way to escape your circular reasoning is to stop trying to find the exit on your own. You have to stop walking by the power of your own reason and let the Spirit lead your life. Being still in the presence of God will allow you to see the opening in the revolving door.

But the longer you keep on walking, the further you get from your goal. Eventually, you may give up and accept that there is no way out. Imprisoned by a lie that you sold yourself, you live apart from the joy of enjoying the luxury of the hotel. You miss out on God’s blessing.

But life does not have to be a series of dead ends. A renewed mind sees the way into the hotel. God can take your eyes off the problem and fix them onto the exit.

Strangely, you discover the exit is the cross of Christ. What at first may appear to be a closed door may be the path to God’s plan and blessing. What you think is a wall really is the step to the future. You just need to step back and take a different perspective of your situation.

Fear and doubt can hold you prisoner. But hope based on divine truth can set you free.

John 8:32 (NIV)

Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Why Are You Seeking the Living Among the Dead?

Why are you seeking the living among the dead?It was a day like no other. Life itself seemed to stop. For the disciples of Jesus, everything was dark. Their hopes and dreams appeared to have died when Jesus gasped his last breath on the cross.

The hours after the crucifixion must have been filled with questions, doubts, and despair for Jesus’ followers. Those closest to Him were probably numb, overcome by emotion. They had cried so much over the night that they had no more tears left to shed.

The taunts of the Pharisees were ringing in their ears, “He can save others. But he can’t save himself.” They must have been wondering what went wrong. Jesus brought people back from the dead. He talked with Elijah and Moses on the mountain. He walked on water. But he did not come down off the cross. Why? They were numb and scared at the same time.

Jesus talked so much about His Kingdom. He even told the disciples that they would rule and reign with Him. But they did not understand they envisioned an earthly kingdom. They thought they would rule with Jesus when he kicked out the Romans. But God had a different plan. Instead of sitting on a thrown, Jesus hung on a cross – the ultimate symbol of shame.

A handful of women (Luke 24:1-12) dealt with their grief the only way they knew how. They sought to honor Jesus through service. They brought spices to treat His body. And they were stunned by what they found – an empty tomb.

These women went to the tomb expecting to find the dead body of their Messiah. Instead two men in shining garments met them and asked, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” It can be easy to miss the significance of this question.

How many times do people have preconceived ideas about God and His plan only to discover that their first inclinations were wrong? Our expectations can get in the way of understanding God’s plan. We frequently look for God to move in the wrong places. We seek living fruit in places where there is only death. Nothing works out like we had planned and then we begin to doubt God’s promises.

The angelic messengers reminded the women of Jesus’ words. He talked about his suffering on the cross. But his followers missed the point. God wants us to understand His plan. Prophecy has existed for years to guide those who would have ears to hear. But frequently we miss it because we look in the wrong place.

The one thing we think could never achieve God’s plan is the exact thing that God uses. To the Jews, the idea of a king conquering through dying as a common criminal on a cross seems completely absurd. Kings conquered through conquest not suffering a shameful, barbaric death.

If you are faithful to serve despite the pain of your circumstance, like the women at the tomb, you will see the power of God materialize. It may not happen in your timing or how you would do it. But God rewards those who are faithful by visiting them with His presence and power.

After finding the tomb empty, the woman went and told the apostles what they had seen. But the apostles rejected their claims. Their words seemed as “idle tales.” How often do we react to what God does in the same way as the apostles did? God does something incredible, and we think it is impossible – a fairy tale. Is there anything too great for God? Has He ped out of the miracle business?

Some are like Peter. They have a hard time believing it to be true. But they go and check the tomb just to be sure. And when they discover it empty, they scratch their head wondering what happened. They know the tomb is empty. But their reason gets in the way making it hard for them to accept what they know to be true – God did the impossible.

Where is the power of God moving today? If you are having a hard time seeing God’s hand in your life, maybe you are looking in the wrong place. Maybe you need to look in the one place where you have given up. Maybe God is in the one thing that you think is a lost cause. When you look at God’s track record, you see that He loves to tackle the impossible and specializes in the business of bringing life to death.

Thanks for the Flattery, but You’re Missing the Point!

While reading Luke today, I was struck by the apparent harshness in Jesus’ response to a woman who appeared to give Him a compliment. Jesus shrugged off the comment and turned it into an object lesson for His followers.

After Jesus cast out demons and taught on demonic possession, a woman yells out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” Jesus said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28).

The woman was obviously caught up in the moment and did what people tend to do when something really spectacular is taking place. She tried to become part of what was going on by yelling words of praise to Jesus. I’ve done it. It’s easy to fall into the habit of being an “active” spectator. No real risk or faith required. But you still get to share in the glory.

There are many time that I have shouted “Amen” without living out what is being preached. That is exactly what I believe this woman was doing here. Jesus called her on it and many others in the crowd who did the same thing. He basically said, “Thanks for your words of support. But I would rather you go and live out what I have told. The kingdom of God is not about words but actions – truly living for the glory of God.”

Jesus is basically saying that talk is cheap. If you want to be blessed, you have to do more than “claim the promises of God.” You have to live by faith and not by sight. You have to love not your life unto death. You have to hear what the word says and do it. You can’t live by your reason. You must live by obedience.

Blessings come only through the cross. This seems so hard for people in the modern world to understand. It’s not that God helps those who help themselves. Truly God blesses those who live for God and not themselves. God’s blessings cannot be defined by what happens on this earth. God’s blessings will be tallied and distributed on judgment day. Many who are first now will be last then and visa versa.

Praise be to God that He helps us live it if we just stop talking a good game and start listening for God’s call and submitting to His divine power at work in His people.