Category Archives: Our Faith Walk

What I Learned in 2019


The door to 2019 has closed marking the end of our first decade in the 21st century.  I didn’t see all the contraptions featured in “The Jetsons” but I did note changes that, centuries earlier, were only described in science fiction.

As a society, are we better off as a result of man’s accomplishments these past ten (10) years?  Only history will determine that.  The Apostle Paul warned the church at Corinth to “judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God” (1 Cor. 4:5).  We would do well to follow his advice.  I can, however, share what I learned in 2019.

To learn is defined as “acquiring knowledge or skill by study, instruction, or experience.”  As I prayed over this annual exercise of “things learned”, three (3) areas surfaced which fit within the range of this definition.  The things I learned in 2019 are the practice of gratitude, the power of simplicity, and the privilege of family.

The practice of gratitude taught me to appreciate God and to be thankful for His provision, His protection, and His presence.  Failure to practice this spiritual habit often resulted in envy, jealousy, greed and bitterness—fostering dissatisfaction and discontentment. Practicing gratitude equipped me to live life emotionally confident and spiritually content (2 Pet. 1:2-3).

Also read, “Gratitude

The power of simplicity redirected my attention from the trivial to the important things of life.  Jesus sent out His disciples with the bare necessities to accomplish their extraordinary mission (Luke 9:3; 10:4).  The pursuit of simplicity helped me to eliminate “the extraneous” from my life.  This included both things and relationships that hindered my spiritual journey by keeping me tethered to this world (1 John 2:15-17).

The privilege of family reminded me of the value of memories, tradition, and heritage.  As my family came together to celebrate my 70th birthday, they shared bittersweet stories and family customs with a new generation.  It was within the confines of the family that I witnessed our collective identity and shared values entrusted to us by our parents and other relatives long gone but not forgotten. The privilege of family began at Creation (Gen. 1:28; 2:24) and its importance is still critical as we enter this new decade.

Am I better off as a result of the things I learned?  Absolutely!  With each experience, I have learned to see God with greater clarity—His ways and His works—His goodness and His greatness.  It is with this renewed clarity that I can focus on:  #1 what’s truly important, #2 what’s of eternal value, and #3 what glorifies God.

Now it’s your turn.  What did you learn in 2019?

What’s Your Role on the Stage of Life?

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)

It’s been said that the “whole world is a stage and everyone plays a part.”   Within my immediate family, I am the heroine playing many different roles–wife, mother, daughter, sister.

Some roles I “rehearsed for”.  For the role of wife, there were several callbacks and a few rejections.  The other roles, I inherited on the day that I took center stage (my birthday). These roles are challenging, requiring much prayer and patience.

As I reflect on the activities of this week, I considered this thought.  What role did I play in the life of those I came into contact with this week?  How well did I play my part?

  • Was I the villain–the antagonist who is always trying to interrupt the plans of others?
  • Was I a supporting actress–insuring that the lead actor and actress had what they needed to “shine” and deliver the story line?

We have a choice as to how we respond to those God places in our path.  We can either be a help or a hindrance; a bearer of encouragement or the purveyor of strife.

The word encouragement originated in the 15th century from the French word encoragieren which means “cause” and corage that means “courage.”  As I look around our world and yes, our churches too, there is a need for us to “cause courage”.  The role requires minimal rehearsal time and is easy to play–a kind word, a smile, a soft touch on the shoulder.  Let God’s Word begin to frame your role.

  • Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
  • And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

The Apostle Paul spoke often about encouragement.  When his plans to visit the church at Thessalonica fell through, he sent in his place Timothy to establish and encourage them in their faith.  Timothy played the supporting role of “brother, minister of God, and fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ” (1 Thess. 3:1-2).

Everyday we are to go forth in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to play a critical role in this fallen world.  Jesus’ message to His disciples in the 1st century hold true for believers today:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:19-20)

How well are you playing your part on the stage of life?

The ABC’s of Waiting: The Purpose of Waiting

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. (Lamentations 3:26, NRS)

What have we learned to date about waiting?  By definition waiting “is the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something happens.”

How do we feel about waiting?

  • We don’t like to wait.
  • Waiting has emotional costs—stress and boredom.
  • Our “waiting tolerance” is often determined by our generational mindset—Baby Boomer, Gen X, Y, Z.
  • Our anxiety (with waiting) is caused by what we do with the “unoccupied time” while waiting.
  • The Christian view of waiting is different than the secular view because God, from whom we derive our meaning and reality, operates “outside of time”—in eternity.
  • Our difficulty in waiting often stems from our “flesh-based” needs—impatience, pride, independence, and stubbornness.

Understanding these realities, it may be helpful at this time to revisit our personal perspective of waiting.   From a Christian perspective, why is it good to wait?  Consider these ABC’s of Waiting.

Waiting helps believers:

Accept the sovereignty of God (Acts 17:28).   God’s sovereignty is defined as His preeminent power and authority, a natural consequence of His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.  While God has given man “free-will”, it is critical for believers to “choose God”—to trust Him unconditionally.  God will always do what is best for His children including delays in privileges, plans, and purposes. The Prophet Jeremiah asserted that it was good for Israel to wait because God had the best solution for their situation—His salvation.  Waiting embraces God’s sovereignty.

Build strong spiritual muscles (1 Peter 1:13-15).  While we have been delivered from the penalty and power of sin, we still live in sin’s presence and in our “fleshly” bodies.  Believers in Christ must be able to remain faithful during this postmodern era when our tenets of faith are continually under attack.  We must be patient as we listen for God’s instructions on where we are to serve.  Believers must endure hard trials and temptations, as we expand The Kingdom of God and wage spiritual warfare against Satan.  Waiting strengthens our spiritual muscles.

Create godly character and intimacy with the Father (1 John 3:3).  While waiting we draw near to God and listen for His voice through prayer and reading His Word.  As we practice the presence of God, we taste the wonders of His transforming power and His future rewards.  Because of this, believers are willing to accept delays and interruptions rather than demand “instant gratification” based on fleshly lusts and worldly influence.   Waiting transforms our lives.

I end today’s teaching with God’s Word to His people Israel through the Prophet Isaiah—a word to prepare them for their 70-year wait in exile:

“He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted;  but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Isaiah 40:29-31

There is always purpose in God’s wait—embrace it, let it strengthen you, let it transform your life.

What I Learned in 2018

This people I have formed for Myself; They shall declare My praise.  Isaiah 43:21 (NKJ)

Yes, it’s that time again.  Another year has passed and I find myself asking, “where has the time gone and what did I do with it?”   As I glance over at the grocery store newsstand, I see the various renderings of what 2018 has been about—politics, weddings, and celebrations of life.

As it is with the dropping of the New Year’s ball in Times Square, it is the tradition of In the Word Ministries to mark the start of the New Year by asking, “What did I learn this past year?”  This year, I avoided looking back at 2018 WordBytes or my journal to give me a hint.  Instead I simply asked the Holy Spirit to distill all I had experienced in 2018 into two or three areas I could share with you.  The Holy Spirit (as usual) exceeded my expectations and gave me one word—PURPOSE.  Although one word, my learning about purpose could fill volumes.  I will attempt to be succinct.  See if any of these resonate with you.

  1. It is critical to understand God’s purpose (Acts 17:28). Every New Year a dear friend asks me what I am believing and depending on God for in the upcoming year.  The better question should be, “how can God best use me for His purpose in the upcoming year?” Key to understanding purpose is accepting the sovereignty of God—the “True Source” of our purpose.  As we begin our year fasting and praying, we should seek to understand our purpose as a direct outgrowth of God’s divine plan (Eph. 2:10).
  1. It is important to pursue God’s purpose (Heb. 11:13). Not to follow God’s purpose is willful disobedience that can result in negative consequences.  This year, God challenged me to undertake an area that did not “fit” the core competencies or strategic plan developed for the ministry.  God had spoken this new direction to me in three separate prophetic messages over a four year period.  I knew it was a mistake—mine!  But God was patient.  And yes, God has the authority to “change our direction” and do a “new thing” in our lives (Is. 43:19). I finally accepted the direction although I haven’t a clue as to where God is taking me.  God, however, knows and that’s what is important (Gen.12:1-4).
  1. It is essential to position ourselves for God’s purpose (Heb. 12:1). In Isaiah 43, God shares His future plan to redeem His people, Israel, now living in captivity.  They had historically rejected God’s purpose which was to reflect God goodness and glory to the world ultimately bringing them into His eternal Kingdom.  But Israel pursued its own purpose (Jer. 17:23).  They were not in position to accomplish God’s purpose, therefore they were sent into captivity for 70 years.  Their disobedience and distrust of God deprived them of God’s glorious purpose.

Like the children of Israel, we as believers often miss God’s divine purpose for our lives because of a number of factors.

  • We may operate out of fear. We are afraid of God’s purpose.  We fear we may not have the skills and capability to what God desires.  You may not have what you think you need, but God, through His Holy Spirit within us, will equip us for every assignment He gives.
  • We may lack trust. We’re afraid God won’t give us what we want.  God may not give you what you want but, be assured God will always give you what’s best for you.  Learn more about the nature of God—His goodness and His greatness.
  • We may be bound by sinful habits and relationships that we aren’t willing to release. Even King Solomon in all his wisdom was hindered from fulfilling God’s purpose because of willful disobedience and sinful patterns in his life.  Confess, repent, and lay hold of the extraordinary purpose which God has for you today.  Trade in what you think is “good” for the “best” God has in store for you.

The Westminster Catechism is a series of questions and answers (proof texts), on which Believers, affirm their faith in God.  The first question (out of 107 questions), is this:  “What is the chief end of man?”  In other words, what is man’s purpose?  The answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

“To glorify God” is realized when we represent His rule and presence on the earth.  Created in God’s image, man can bring into reality the kingdom of God on earth and be in intimate relationship with Him.  With and in Christ, we now can pursue God’s unique purpose for our lives (1 Pet. 2:9).

“To enjoy God forever” has begun with the presence of the Holy Spirit with us—a foretaste of the ultimate glory that we will experience in full when we next meet Jesus—in heaven (upon our death) or in the air (upon Christ’s Second Return) (John 14:3).   The end will be the same—“eternal enjoyment.”

In 2019, I am living to understand, to pursue, and to position myself for God’s purpose.  “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen. ” (Matt. 6:10, 13)

What did you learn in 2018?

Sitting in Darkness with the Lord

“Enemy, don’t crow over me.  I’m down, but I’m not out.

I’m sitting in the dark right now but God is my light.”

Micah 7:8 (The Message)

Life is comprised of a myriad of experiences that test both our patience and our faith. The activities of daily living–caretaking for family, practicing our profession, and maintaining a “normal” schedule, often present a challenge for us. Although we may not always admit it, we sometimes feel overwhelmed, despondent, and “down right” depressed. We call this feeling by many names–bluesy, out of sorts or “in the mulligrubs” but the end result is the same. We feel like we are “sitting in darkness.”  What do we know about darkness? Darkness is the absence of light.

Darkness conceals potential dangers and pitfalls that would be evident with the aid of light. In Scripture we are warned about the influence of darkness in our lives and about the Prince of Darkness, Satan.  It is Satan’s desire to keep us in spiritual darkness where he can “kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10:10).

Darkness can refer to the condition of our spirit. The prophet Micah was in great despair as he looked upon the wicked lifestyles of both Israel and Judah. There was great “darkness” as the nation God had chosen to bless the world was mired in idolatry, wickedness, and corruption. Sound familiar?  Though Micah sat in darkness, he found comfort and assurance in the future promise of the Light of the World, Jesus Christ (Matthew 2:5).

What are the light sources God has provided to us?
  • God Himself is our light and “in Him there is no darkness” (1 John 1:5). God is light personified (or deified).  In Him there is no flaws, defects, blemishes or error. He is the source of all knowledge and wisdom.
  • God’s Word is a “light unto our feet and a lamp unto our path” (Psalm 119:105). God’s Word provides the guidance needed to traverse the circumstances we face in our life. His Word contains His promises and His power; He personally oversees His Word to perform it in your life (Jeremiah 1:12).
  • God’s Spirit is “the Spirit of truth” (John 16:13) who guides us into all truth” (John 16:13). He reminds us, that we are the beloved of God and heirs to His throne. Our knowledge of who we are in Christ should dispel any feelings we may have of inadequacy and hopelessness. We can replace these feelings with God’s joy and peace.
Even when we feel as if we are “sitting in darkness”, we can confidently proclaim that the LORD is our light. We are never alone. He is always with us.

Things I Learned in 2016

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves,  that Jesus Christ is in you? 2 Cor. 13:5 (NKJ)

At the beginning of each year, I take time to reflect on the lessons I have learned during the past year.  Reflection, time given to consideration or serious thought, is a luxury we often deny ourselves.  It has been said that self-reflection is the school of wisdom.  Confucius described self-reflection as the noblest method by which we learn wisdom.  I especially like the Apostle Paul’s directive on self-reflection to the church at Corinth—examine yourself.  So I begin 2017 with this reflection—things I learned in 2016.

As input to this process I reviewed my daily journal, memorization cards, and the 2016 WordBytes topics.   These three sources reflect my spiritual mind and the areas of focus that the Holy Spirit has directed my attention to.  While my final list could expand to the last WordBytes of 2017, I have chosen those which I feel were most impactful to my learning and hopefully, added wisdom.  Here is my “short list”.

God is “much more” than anything I can ever imagine.  “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Eph. 3:20) “More” (mallon) when added to verbs or adjectives denotes greater quantity, a larger measure, or a higher degree.  Following are just a few examples of God’s “much more”:

“Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”  (greater quantity)  (Rom. 5:20)

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (larger measure)  (Rom. 5:9)

“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”  (higher degree) (Heb. 9:14)

With the changes in local policies and the upheaval in national politics, I have found God extraordinarily capable of providing me “much more” than I have needed for the circumstance at hand (Ps. 62:5).  In all my situations, as varied as they have been, whether in prayer for special healing or special intervention: in need of provision or protection: in time of praise or in need of His presence, God has shown Himself to be “much more” than I could have ever anticipated.       

Pursuit of God’s kingdom is to be the guarded focus of my life. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33) The disciples didn’t fully understand what Jesus meant when He taught in the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus continually reminded them to “keep their eye on the prize” (heaven) and on their “purpose” (preaching the Gospel).  In spite of all our biblical teachings, women’s conferences, and TV evangelists, it is easy to become entangled with the things of this world—“the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 John 2:16)  These things promote “self” versus “Christ.”  It is critical that I remember “this is not my home” and I am merely a “time traveler” on a mission until I am called to my eternal home (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11).

Christ-like boldness is needed to address the changes of the 21st century.  “And for me, that utterance may be given to me that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel…that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”  (Eph. 6:19-20)  Whether through the ministry or through WordBytes, I must boldly proclaim God as Sovereign Creator and Ruler of all life and Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior upon Whom I await His imminent return.  Pursuit of God’s truth is critical in a postmodern society where there is no absolute truth.  Therefore, denouncement of Scripture and its relevancy is to be expected (2 Tim. 4:3-5).  Let me “be prepared in season and out of season to correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2, NIV).  While we aren’t persecuted like our Christian brothers abroad, Christians in this country are daily being muffled by orchestrated cries of religious bigotry and intolerance.  Christ has given me a voice, I am to use it.

A dear friend and ministry partner asked me this week, “What are you believing and depending on God to do for you in 2017?”  Two powerful words emerged from her question—believing and depending.  First, I believe that God is able to do exceedingly above all I can ask and think.  And secondly, I will continue to depend on God to guide me into His perfect will.  Lastly, I am believing and depending on God to take those things I have learned in 2016 and leverage them into teachings that strengthen women for the journey God has purposed for them in 2017 (Jer. 29:11-13).

Now it’s your turn.  Scroll down to the “Leave a Reply” box and share what you have learned in 2016.  It’s time for you to reflect and develop your “short list.”

What I Learned in 2015


“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)

As is my habit at the start of each year, I’d like to share in this first WordBytes of the year my list of things I learned in 2015. Socrates, the great Greek philosopher stated that, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” A bit strong for me, but what he was inferring was that human life has great value and is worthy of thoughtful inspection.

The Psalmist invited God to examine not only his actions but also the motivation behind them (Ps. 26:2). In the church at Corinth, Paul urged new believers to examine their character and beliefs to insure their continual walk of faith (1 Cor. 11:28; 2 Cor. 13:5). Thoughtful reflection brings great insight into what God is saying to us as we move through life.

Standing now on the backside of 2015, I share my lessons learned.

#1. Be content with such as you have. (Heb. 13:5) Life is short! Enjoy what God is giving you right now versus fixating on what you ultimately desire. Hidden in this teaching is the practice of gratitude. One of Satan’s favorite weapons is to create dissatisfaction with our lives and to turn our focus on “what could be.” Our commerce system thrives on discontent. Instead of complaining about “what isn’t”, we need to spend more time appreciating “what is”—the blessings God is currently providing.

#2. Seek first the kingdom of God. (Matt. 6:33) There’s never enough time to do everything you want to do! Planning and prioritizing won’t always work when the number of tasks exceeds the available hours in a day. Instead I have learned to go to the Creator of time and asked Him to help me identify the “critical few” that will make the greatest impact for the kingdom of God. The lesson for me in this activity is the practice of peace. I am not to worry but I trust in the Lord to lead me in the way I need to go (Ps. 25:4-5) and to establish the work of my hands (Ps.90:17).

I invite you to share what you have learned in 2015 with the ITWM Community. At the bottom of this post, share what you learned in 2015.

Good to the Last Byte…
As you read my list, you will notice that the common theme is time and personal energy—both of which affect our ability to accomplish the purpose that God has designed for us. As you create your goals for 2016, ask God to help you select those activities that would glorify Him and His kingdom. God will then give you both time and energy to accomplish the task.

Experiencing the Fullness of God in the New Year

“… that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:19b (NKJ)

In last week’s WordBytes, I recounted some of the things I had learned in 2014. It was freeing to reflect on how the Lord had used circumstances and relationships to shape me into the person He has purposed me to be. Upon sharing these insights, I am now ready to develop specific goals and strategies for 2015, especially with regard to my spiritual growth. My chief goal is to “experience the fullness of God” in my life and in ministry. If I am successful in accomplishing this goal, what will it look like? Here is my “short-list”.

Love given freely. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

Love is both a description of who God is and also a key attribute of His goodness. It was through His love that He revealed Himself to mankind. God could have chosen to first disclose Himself as our Creator or as our Righteous Judge, but instead He chose to show Himself as the Lover of Our Soul. God loved us before we loved Him and because of that love for us, He sent His only begotten Son that we might live (1 John 4:9). Should we not love others in the same way? “He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). I experience the fullness of God through His love.

Joy that fails expression. “Though now you do not see Him (Jesus), yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” 1 Peter 1:8

Warren Wiersbe, noted theologian and Bible teacher, described joy this way: “Joy is not something that we manufacture for ourselves; joy is a wonderful by-product of our fellowship with God.” Joy originates from gratitude and contentment regardless of circumstances. It culminates in unbridled praise and worship as we show our appreciation for God’s abiding presence. Jesus taught the meaning of this kind of joy through His illustration of the “True Vine”. By abiding in Him, like the branches to the vine, they would have fullness of joy (John 15:11). I experience the fullness of God through His joy.

Peace that passes human logic. “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3

Peace can best be defined as a sense of wellbeing. “Wellbeing” goes by many names—happiness, comfort, security, welfare, and safety. These are used to describe the “feeling” generated within our soul when all is “going well.” These feelings, unfortunately, are “circumstance-dependent”. In contrast, the peace that is provided by God is based on His faithfulness and infallibility, regardless of the circumstance. We need only to pray and in return, we receive His peace to “guard” our heart (Phil. 4:6-7). God is the source of our peace (Ps. 55:22). I experience the fullness of God through His peace.

It is not surprising that my list mirrors the first three “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23). Experiencing the fullness of God begins with the “filling” of the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit controls more of our mind, will, and emotions, the fruit grow and bear witness to a changed life—conformed to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29; 12:2) and transformed into the persons God would have us to be (2 Cor. 3:18). The fullness of God is evidenced by the fruit we produce (Matt. 12:33). With Him, we are guaranteed “good success” (Jos. 1:8).

Good to the Last Byte…
These expressions of God’s fullness are not impossible. They can be attained through the work of the Holy Spirit resident within believers. He is “the critical factor” in successful living. We need only “trust and obey” (Isa. 26:4).

Never Alone

“And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” Genesis 2:18a (KJV)

We are never alone because God has promised always to be with us (Heb. 13:5).  This seemingly simple affirmation concerning God’s presence reflects our assurance that in spite of present circumstances or situations, we are never in it by ourselves—we are never alone.

In the Old Testament, God’s presence was associated with specific places.  After witnessing God’s messengers ascent and descent upon heaven’s ladder, Jacob humbly responded, “Surely the LORD was in this place and I did not know it” (Gen. 28:16).   Jacob then erected an altar to acknowledge God’s presence and named that place, Bethel, which literally means “House of God”.  Jacob realized he was never alone.

During Israel’s journey to the Land of Canaan, God revealed His presence in “smoke and fire”—first at Mt. Sinai (Exod. 19:18).  Later when the Tabernacle was erected, the Israelites would observe (from afar) the Presence of the Lord descend as a pillar of cloud and stand at the door of the Tabernacle as the LORD talked with Moses (Exod. 33:9).  Even in the wilderness, the Israelites discovered they were never alone.

The Temple in Jerusalem would ultimately be the place where the Nation of Israel would worship Jehovah.  It was there that “God dwelled’ and where His people would journey to observe the three Hebrew feasts—Passover (Lev. 23:5-8), Pentecost (Exod. 23:16) and Tabernacle (Lev. 23:34-44). The Temple and the city of Jerusalem were often referred to as Zion (fortress).  Zion was used figuratively of God’s spiritual kingdom where He dwelled (Ps. 125:1).   Those who worshipped God had to go where God dwelled.

“God with us” (Immanuel) was fully realized through the incarnation of Jesus (Matt. 1:23). This was the first time since the Garden of Eden that man would again experience fellowship with God.  This time it would be through His Son.  Imagine then, after three years of unbroken fellowship, the sense of abandonment Jesus’ disciples must have felt as they prepared for His departure.  But Jesus promised that He would not leave them comfortless or alone (John 14:17).  After His ascension into Heaven, Jesus would send the Holy Spirit to be their Comforter, Guide and Teacher (John 14:8; 15:26; 16:13).  On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4) they received the full measure of God’s presence through the Holy Spirit and with it the power and boldness to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Apostle Paul wrote of his unwavering confidence in God’s presence even in the midst of persecution for his faith (2 Timothy 4:16-17).

“At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.   But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me…”

The Apostles knew they would never be alone.  Believers must echo that same confidence knowing that Deity resides within each of them.  Today we can experience the fullness and power of God’s Presence through His Holy Spirit.  God is with us in unbroken fellowship and joyful intimacy (John 17:22-23).  During this time of transient relationships, it is reassuring to know that God is and will always be with us.  In spite of trials and tribulations, we are never in it by ourselves—we are never alone.

Good to the Last Byte…

With each new dispensation, God revealed His presence in different ways that reinforced the fact that His chosen people are never alone.  Throughout the writings of the Psalmists, God’s presence was recognized to extend beyond the spatial limitations of tabernacles and temples.  In Psalm 139:7-10, God’s immensity is featured:

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?   If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.   If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.”

Sure Facts, Overwhelming Odds, and God

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”  Genesis 50:19-20 (KJV)

What do sure facts, overwhelming odds, and God have in common?  These are factors which often determine a person’s chance of success in the world.  While these may be actual considerations, they are not the final word.  We must always factor in the sovereignty and providence of God to not only level the playing field, but also to become the obvious advantage.

Sure facts take into consideration those elements we are born with or born into.  They include our “family factors”—our race, our gender, family structure (i.e., parental influence, number of siblings, birth order) and socio-economic position.  We had little control over their selection.  In the case of Joseph, he was born into the family of Jacob as the second youngest of thirteen children.  Jacob had two wives (Leah and Rachel) and two handmaidens (Bilhah and Zilpah) who bore his children (Genesis 30) but Joseph was Jacob’s favorite (Gen. 37:3).  This created an unhealthy and toxic environment for child rearing marked with sibling rivalry and jealousy.

Overwhelming odds are circumstances that minimize the possibilities of success in life and relationships.  They sometimes affect one’s ability to earn a living, care adequately for one’s family, or to live safely and confidently.   Joseph was sold by his jealous brothers to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver and was brought to Egypt.  Being a Hebrew slave, the odds of Joseph rising above his new found station in life was slim to none.  The odds became even smaller when he was thrown into prison as a result of the lies of Potiphar’s wife.  When it appeared release from prison was nigh, Joseph became the victim of the baker’s forgetfulness further obstructing any hope of freedom (Gen. 40:23).  But God was about to do exceedingly above all that Joseph could ask or think (Eph. 3:20).

God was on the scene for Joseph as the Holy Equalizer and Change Master.  What appeared to be sure facts and overwhelming odds for Joseph soon became “biblical history.”   God, the Holy Enabler and Way Maker, reversed the circumstances for Joseph whose journey began as a slave from Canaan but ended as a powerful ruler in Egypt.  He went from servant to savior for his people who would have perished from the famine in their land.  Joseph could have used the 16th Psalm as his personal testimony:  “O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.  The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance.”

Succumbing to what we believe are “sure facts and overwhelming odds” in our life can only result in despair and hopelessness.  Belief and trust in our God becomes the refreshing promise of rescue and provision regardless of the circumstances we face.  God’s plan and purpose for our life supersedes indisputable facts and devastating odds (Habakkuk 3:17-19).  Our future is not dependent on our family history or our personal past, but on Who we serve.  So the next time you’re weighing your options based on “facts and odds”, remember to factor in God.  God always has the final word.

 “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” Psalm 20:7