Genesis 39:20 “But while Joseph was there in prison the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.”
Do you ever feel like you’re in prison? Some of the trials and circumstances we face in life often make us feel caged, like we’re behind bars doing hard time. We might feel as though our freedom has been stripped from us and the cell is getting smaller and smaller. You may not physically be in jail but emotionally you are clinking those bars. Although most of weren’t sold into slavery and then thrown into jail we can learn something from Joseph’s time in jail and how God showed him favor even in the direst of circumstances. Poor Joseph he was really given the short end of the stick or so it seems as we read about him being thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, lied on and then put into jail, but we come to see that it was all in God’s plan. When we’re in prison in our circumstances it’s important for us to remember that God is in control. There is one thing we need to do and that is to be obedient to God. Regardless of the hardships that Joseph endured he remained obedient to God. He didn’t grow weary in doing good although he had every reason to and most people would complain and maybe even turn from God in anger, but not Joseph. How do we react when we’re behind the bars? Do we stay obedient or do we fight against God because we’re trying to be in control? Joseph did what was right in God’s eyes and he was given favor. The Lord is with us even in prison and during those trying times he shows us kindness and he will give us favor in the most unexpected ways and through the most unexpected instruments of his choice. The prison warden was trained to handle prisoners, but all that training went out the window when God had his hand Joseph’s circumstances. Later in scripture we learn that the warden put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners and he didn’t pay any attention to anything under him because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. The Lord is with you! God grants his children favor! Whatever prison sentence you’re facing in your own life, know that God can end it! He will bust open those bars and work in your favor all you need to do is continue to obey him and stay in his will. So take heart and know that no matter how dark your circumstances may seem, there is a light, ready to grant you peace, favor and success.
Romans 5:12 “Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.”
How much time do we spend building one another up? Sometimes I think not enough. Too often we’re quick to criticize or jump to judgement, instead of speaking words of encouragement. The body of Christ is supposed to edify one another, to build one another up and give encouragement so that each of us is inspired to do the will of God and to build up his kingdom. Unfortunately, even brothers and sister of Christ aren’t immune to tearing one another down, pointing out faults and dishing out harsh criticism instead of acting on the fruits of the spirit. When you make the choice to encourage rather than discourage you’re giving the person on the receiving end a beautiful gift that can linger permanently in their hearts. They can reach down and pull out that encouragement in the darkest of days and it can bring them through the roughest of times. Words carry so much power and if we don’t use them responsibly we can do some permanent damage. Dreams are ruined, work is left unfinished, hearts are broken sometimes all in part because of the words we say to one another. God is love and we should glorify him and be an example of his love to others. As children of Christ we are supposed to let our light shine, one of the easiest and most impactful ways of doing this is shining it on others. Let others feel the warmth of your spirit, the sincerity of your words, and the light from your heart. Never underestimate the influence of encouragement you can change a life with your words, so why not make them count?
Getting through the week can be tough! Between work, shuffling the kids to school and activities, the TRAFFIC (which can be enough to make you want to go back to bed!), people’s attitudes, and all the responsibilities that come with this wonderful thing called adulthood, life has a way of testing you to your limit! So how do we get through the week? Do we have a guideline? How should we act as Christians? Romans 12:12-13 give us some practical advice that I believe give us a little insight that we can carry with us. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
Let’s break down this scripture, so that we can apply it to our daily life.
Be Joyful in Hope. Even when the world’s weight is bearing down on us, we can find joy in our hope in Jesus Christ our Savior. It may not be easy to find joy in the midst of our troubles, but if we take our focus away from all that worries us and redirect it on all that Christ did for us, does for us and will do for us you will find joy. Our circumstances have the potential to continually change but God is constant, he is the same yesterday, today and always and we should find joy in his certainty when everything else in life is so uncertain. We can have joy in our day we remember his love and promise to us.
Patient in Affliction-This is a hard one right?I’ll admit that when I’m facing any affliction I immediately want the pain to stop whether it is physical or emotional. Whatever pain you may be going through do you know that God is allowing it to happen? Do you know that he knows your needs and how much you can handle? James 1:2 says, “Consider it pure joy my brother whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” In our weakest moments is when we rely on God the most, it is then that we find strength in God.What can make affliction so painful is that we aren’t patient while we’re going through it. Instead we want it to hurry up and be over, we want to move and just feel good again and we aren’t understanding the deeper meaning of the affliction and missing the whole point! It is in our afflictions that we learn the most about ourselves and it is in those moments that our relationship with God is deepened and our faith is strengthened.There is growth in affliction, the problem is when we rush through it we often miss the lesson and continue to repeat the same mistakes or have the same issues occur again because of our refusal to rely on God and allow him to help us work through it, sound familiar? During the week we may face small nuances or we may be dealing with some heavy stuff, but each day if we turn to God and ask him to reveal his purpose for this affliction and pray on his guidance we will be able to eventually come out victorious. Instead of saying, “God stop this now! Walk through your affliction with faith, prayer, and patience. Of course this doesn’t come easy so every day be dependent on him and not yourself for the strength you need.
Faithful in Prayer. Prayer is not a quick fix. Prayer is an intimate conversation between you and your heavenly Father. Prayer shouldn’t happen only when we’re sad, desperate or tired, not saying we shouldn’t pray in those times, but prayer needs to be part of our every day life if we are going to be able to clearly hear God when he is speaking to us. Many of us struggle with prayer, I know I do. But, I also know when I spend the quiet time in prayer with God I am in union with him and there is a sense of peacefulness and completeness that comes over me. For example, this morning I was walking and started thinking about how far God has taken me and I literally started crying! I began praying and thanking God for his mercy, grace and forgiveness. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and talking with God in those moments was an unbelievably joyful experience. Now, if I did that every day faithfully just imagine how much richness I’d bring into my life. I’m working on becoming more faithful in prayer, not to be ritualistic, but because prayer is an important part of my walk with Christ. There is a reason we’re told to pray several times in the bible. God knows all the obstacles we face on a daily basis, he knows the devil is always on the prowl and he wants us to walk with him and to talk with him.
Share with God’s People in Need. If we begin our week seeking to share with God’s people in need, do you know how much happier we would be? We were made to love one another, this means we should take every opportunity to care for others. One of the the best way to take our focus away from the negative it is to focus it on others in need. Every one of you will do this differently and that’s okay. Maybe sharing with others in need is writing a check to the church for their youth program or buying a homeless person a sandwich, whatever it is don’t pass up the opportunity. Our hearts are the fullest when we are obeying God’ command to love one another.
Practice Hospitality. You may be thinking, look I’m busy I don’t have time to invite people over for coffee or tea. I want you to rethink how you can practice hospitality in a way that isn’t a burden, but a blessing. Our homes should be havens, holy ground made to nurture our children, friends, family, and sometimes even strangers. I think so much of our stress, sadness and feelings of isolation comes from us being in a culture that place so much value on individualism and so little value on community and togetherness. Some of my favorite memories are gatherings of my family or friends. I still yearn for the days of Sunday dinner at grandma’s house and now grandma is gone and I’m in a different state from the rest of my family I treasure those memories even more. Use your home to bless others! Open your heart and use your hands to make invite others in. There are so many ways to practice hospitality that will be a blessing to you and your children as well. Don’t be timid, host a fellowship or a bible study, do Sunday dinners with friends and their kids, or have movie night with the neighbors. Start each week thinking about how you can practice hospitality, it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, it just needs to come from you heart and I guarantee your week will be brighter. When you practice hospitality you are also showing your kids the beautiful example of a Christian at their best.
In a world that can be pretty dark it is important for us to stay in God’s word and to apply it our lives. This is just a few of the ways the scriptures can be practically applied to our own daily grind, but we’re so blessed to have life’s little instruction booklet at our fingertips!
I’m obsessed with chalkboards and there are so many ways you can use them. One way to use a chalkboard is for scripture memorization for you and the kids.We have a small chalkboard hanging in our entrance, so each week I’ll write a scripture on the board and we’ll memorize it. This is a good location for us because we’ll see it in the morning which is great because we’ll start our day out with scripture. If you have a chalkboard put it someplace central in your house and try this little tip!
“Create in me a pure heart, O’ God and renew a steadfast spirit in me.”
I believe that before we can actually do the Lord’s work and pursue our dreams we need to make sure our heart is pure. When our heart is pure it pours into every aspect of our life. Including our goals, our purpose and our relationships with family and friends. When our heart is pure we are more focused, disciplined and aware of our opportunities, when it isn’t everything is a bit fuzzier. Think about how difficult it is to finish a task when you are angry, or how hard it is to live authentically when you are harboring anger or resentment. Our sin will entangle us and keep us from fulfilling our purpose because we become so wrapped up into it. Personally speaking this is one of my prayers for myself that God give me a pure heart and that he renew in me a steadfast spirit. A steadfast spirit will move your forward on the path that God has for you to walk in this life. As children of Christ we should desire a spirit of faith that can’t be shaken when obstacles, disappointments or even failures arise.
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”
When we’re feeling discouraged or hopeless sometimes talking to a friend just doesn’t help. When we’re in the rut the only one who can give us the strength and encouragement we need is our Father. He can lift us up and give us the will to moved forward. This scripture hits me in the heart because I know the comfort we are in search of when we are disappointed and heartbroken can only come from the Lord. No one loves us like the one who created us. So if you are stumped or at a crossroad start by going to God in prayer and then believe in his mighty power and hand in your life. His encouragement isn’t a ten minute conversation it is eternal encouragement that is never ending. He allows us through his grace to make mistakes, fall, and even sin, but he is there to pick us back up and heal our hearts. Remember your God WILL help you!
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Set before us is a race and to finish this race we must exercise self discipline. There is spiritual training that we need to prepare our mind, body, and spirit. If we are lazy about our spiritual growth than we will fall behind. If we lack self discipline our thinking and our goals will be scattered and unfocused causing us to be aimless. God didn’t give us a race we can’t finish, he has quipped with us everything we need, we just have to utilize our resources wisely. If you are trying to accomplish anything you need perseverance, endurance and discipline. A marathon runner doesn’t wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll run 21 miles today.” If they did they’d be pretty sore and most likely they wouldn’t come close to finishing the race. That runner had to train consistently, be diligent and self disciplined to reach their goal. The race isn’t usually easy and that is when we get discouraged, but if we can keep our eye on the prize and not on the obstacle we can stay focused and accomplish what we set out to do.
4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
We have a responsibility as a member of the body of Christ to use our spiritual gifts given to us by the grace of God. We have to ask ourselves, 1) What are my gifts? 2) Am I using them to build up the body of Christ? I know this can be a difficult one, because I think many of us may be unsure of what our spiritual gifts are and how to use them. I think the first thing we need to do is pray and ask God to give us clear guidance on what it is that he has for us to do as a member of the body of Christ. Ask him what your spiritual gift is, but also take time to examine yourself. Think about what you are good at, maybe it is teaching, serving others, or encouraging whatever those qualities that people tend to rely on you for may be a clue to what your spiritual gifts are.
Once you discover the spiritual gifts you’ve been blessed with, then look for opportunities to serve. Ask the Lord to put you in the place and around the people that you can best serve or work with to accomplish his purpose. Our goals aren’t always his goals so we have to be very cognizant of listening to the Holy Spirit. Never think you do not have a gift because you do! I believe when we don’t use our gifts we are being disobedient and not living up to the potential that God gave us (remember this has nothing to do with man). Let’s not waste what the Lord has given us!
1: 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 Confidence That Comes from God
“Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.”
When we are working towards a goal or aspiration one of the distractions we come up against is feelings of insecurity or incompetence. We working along and maybe we come up against an obstacle, all of a sudden we are filled with doubt and worry and then we stop. We stop working towards our goal because we don’t want to fail. Our confidence is shaken and halts our ability to move forward. This insecurity is straight from the enemy. Remember that with God there is no fear! If we lean on our understanding we can’t accomplish anything! Our competence and confidence comes through God. Do you think the disciples were able to fulfill their work on their own accord? Do you think that if they depended on their own human ability that they would have the confidence to spread the word of God knowing that they would be persecuted? Absolutely not. The Lord promised them that he would give them the words they needed to do his work, just as he gave the words to Moses to speak in the Old Testament. If confidence is stopping your progress than it is time for you to stop and pray. Ask God to give you the confidence through him and remember that nothing is impossible with him.
Luke 11:25 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”
When I read this verse my thoughts went immediately to the importance of giving our children a spiritual foundation. Our walk, relationship and study of the Lord’s word is vital in so many ways personally and for our kids. It is first through us that they experience the scriptures, praying and going to church. In a sense we introduce them to God. I never thought about this until of course I had a daughter. When I was intentional about reading the bible to her, praying with her and taking her to church I sensed that she was developing her own love and curiosity for God. Do I think that God won’t interject even if we don’t introduce our children? No, God IS and that means he can touch anyone’s heart and come into a person’s life whenever he chooses to do so. However, I do think we are his instruments that were made by his own handiwork to spread his word and guide our children to understand what it means to be with him and not against him.
It is a responsibility and honor to raise our children up in his way, so that they can live a fruitful life. When we aren’t in right relationship with God everything in our life is scattered, nothing is whole and can’t be because we are not aligned in him. Being scattered causes lost opportunities, sorrow, voids and so much more we come up against in this world. I’ve been scattered and it is a hopeless feeling that I never want to experience again. The world is scattered and that is what the enemy’s purpose is, to scatter the children of God and lead them away from his word and into the world! Don’t allow it! Dress your children for battle and equip them for what is needed to stand firm in their faith. When we’re intentional about giving our children the spiritual foundation that God intended for us to pass on as parents we are introducing them to his goodness, nurturing their spiritual growth and fostering a love for God that sparks that desire to walk with him. Only they can choose to give their life to Jesus, but we can continue to be our Father’s instrument in our children’s lives both through example and actions.