God hears, He looks, and He acknowledges

Exodus 2:24

“So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.”

I’ve just started going through Exodus and this verse really stuck out to me. Sometimes in my life I can feel like God doesn’t care about me, or He chooses not to hear me, but that’s not true at all. I can’t even imagine how the Israelites must have felt at that time, they were oppressed and enslaved; their life probably felt pretty hopeless. Were they asking, “Where is God when I need Him, has He left me all alone, does He even care?”
But what this verse tells us is that God “heard their groaning”, He “remembered His covenant”, and He “looked upon the children of Israel”, and finally He “acknowledged them.” How amazing and incomprehensible is that we have a God that is so close to us? He cares for us and listens to us, He knows every hair on our head. How then could I think that He can’t hear me?
Psalm 40:1 says, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry.” In verse 5 it continues with, “Your thoughts towards us cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.”

He hears our cries, His word declares this truth. But the question is, are we truly crying out to Him? Are we making Him our trust and hoping in Him alone, or are we looking to other things to satisfy us and give us hope? He promises to listen to us and hear us, but He can’t do that if we aren’t calling upon His name! These are things that the Lord must constantly remind me of. I need to be in prayer and constant communion with Him, not only when things get tough, but in every second of every day no matter how I may be feeling.


The Life of Joseph

Genesis 37

Lately I’ve been focusing my morning devotionals in Genesis and I’ve reached the story of Joseph. I didn’t think much of the story, just what I could remember from when I was younger hearing about it in Sunday School. But when I read it this second time, the Lord opened my eyes to see the truths he would have for me to learn from this man’s amazing story.
First was what everyone remembers from the story books, the fact that Joseph had a dream where his brothers bowed down to him. in verse 7 it’s described like this, “There we were, binding sheaves up the field. Then behold, my head arose and also stood up-right; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers were so angered that he would dream to reign over them that they threw Joseph into a pit and sold him to Ishmaelites who carried him to Egypt as a slave. I can only imagine what Joseph felt as this point, completely abandoned and alone, betrayed, hopeless, angry… the list goes on. But those things are never mentioned, instead it says in Chapter 39 vs 2 that “the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.” His master made him the overseer of his house and all that he had because he saw that the Lord was blessing Joseph and everything around him. But the master’s wife saw Joseph and desired him, so she continued to pressure him to sleep with her. Joseph could have consented and slept with her, after all, what did he owe to the master of the house? That’s the worldly view that most would take, but what did Joseph respond with? “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (vs. 9) Joseph wasn’t concerned with what others thought, he was concerned with what God thought. He knew such a sin would have to answer to God.
Even after Joseph continued to do good, he was still persecuted for it. In fact, the master’s wife was so enraged by his refusal that she framed him and had him thrown into prison. What a life to have lived thus far; betrayed, sold as a slave, framed, thrown into prison. But Joseph didn’t let those things define his life. He looked to God to define him. and what did God do? (vs 21) “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.”
It Chapter 40 two prisoners, the butler and the baker of Pharaoh, had dreams that Joseph interpreted for them. His only request was that they remember him when they got out of prison and mention his name to Pharaoh. When the butler was restored to his position, he completely forgot about Joseph. another thing to add to the list of things that COULD define Joseph… forgotten.
He would spend two full years in that prison until Pharaoh himself had a dream that needed an interpretation. The butler remembered all the things that Joseph did for him and told Pharaoh about a young hebrew man who could help him. So Pharaoh called for Joseph and asked him if he was able to interpret his dream, and Joseph’s response in Chapter 41 vs 16 was, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”
Joseph realised that he had nothing to offer. It was God’s work, not his. Many times I think I can forget that. That I literally have nothing to offer God expect to love Him with all of my heart, soul, and strength. That encompasses all that I am, everything that I present to the Lord that is done apart from Him is as filthy rags to Him. If the Israelites couldn’t win a battle without the Lord going before them, how can I expect anything more?
So Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and showed him that God was about to give the land of Egypt 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine. So what then did Pharaoh do with this information? He put Joseph in charge over all of Egypt to collect provisions for the famine! He took the signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand and clothes him in fine linen. Joseph was second only to Pharaoh in the land of Egypt. In seconds, Joseph had everything taken away from him and in seconds he was given everything.
Joseph later married and had a firstborn son whom he named, “Manasseh,” which means, “to forget”. God is more powerful than anyone’s past. He takes care of us and shows Himself stronger and greater than our circumstances. He takes the sting of our past away and gives us new hope in Him. “Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house.” (vs. 51)
His wife bore him another son whom he named, “Ephraim”, which literally means fruitfulness. “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (vs. 52)
When I am in the storm, He remains good to me. His mercy and love are never-ending. Joseph praised God through it all instead of getting overtaken by bitterness, and so should I. I must consider it pure joy that the creator of the heavens and the earth loves me so much to refine me and make me more like Him. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” (James 1:2) No matter how hard it may seem, He is with me through it all. Joseph didn’t lose heart. He trusted that he would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart.” (Psalm 27:13-14)
Because of the famine, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt in search of food. They came face to face with their brother but didn’t even recognise him! Joseph’s dream came to fulfilment as they all bowed before him and called themselves his servants. Later, Joseph would reveal himself to his family in Chapter 45 starting in verse 4, “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life….so now it was not you who sent me here, but God..”
I wonder how it felt for Joseph to understand that what He was put through was ordained by God to save his family. Did he ever once think while being carried away as a slave, “God has allowed this so that I may one day save them!” Doubt it. But what He did do was trust that God was working all things our for the good of those who love Him.
“I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” (Psalm 119:75)
Towards the very end of the book of Genesis, Joseph reassures his brothers once more by saying, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bing it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Gen. 50:19)
God was in control of all of Joseph’s circumstances, and so He is in control of mine. Why should I fear when something comes my way that I wasn’t prepared for, or perhaps something I didn’t want? My whole life is in His hands because it isn’t my life anymore. It was His the day I accepted what Jesus did for me on the cross. Yet even before that day He knew the plans He had for me.
God used the life of Joseph in a powerful way to save the lives of many. He took what was evil and turned it around for good. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to the who are the called according to His purpose.”

For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” (Isaiah 57:15) 

God is drawn to weakness, He will not despise those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need Him. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) It’s when I can admit my own faults and weakness that God delights to work in me and show His power, but only when I first put off my pride. My weakness is what makes room for His power to work in my life; where I can humbly put aside my own will and desire and give it to Him so His will can worth through me.

Being in a place like Guatemala, it’s easy to see all my weaknesses like not speaking the language as well as I’d like to and having no experience with kids. I get so frustrated with myself when I don’t measure up the way I imagined I would in my head and that gives room for the enemy to speak lies. What I have to realise is that I can’t please others and God at the same time. Am I allowing Him to work in my life the way He wants to or am I allowing other things to take that place over Him as an idol? An idol is anything you worship, and what you worship you serve. Am I serving my own self interest and what others think of me or am I serving God? I pray I never fail to see Him as great as He is, nor forget that His power is immeasurable. How can I expect Him to work when I’m not allowing Him to by my own disbelief?


Abide in The Vine

John 15:4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 

This is a verse that has been on my heart a lot lately during my field time here in Guatemala. Many times I find myself fearing the responsibility on my shoulders and looking at it with a attitude of discontentment and fear. Orchestrating three different kid’s clubs throughout the week with children who don’t even speak the same language as me can seem a bit intimidating, and in my mind it seems out of my reach. Not to mention school starting in January, which means the majority of my time will be spent in the classroom teaching kid’s all day long. Why has the Lord put in me in this position to do what seems impossible?

Before I continue with that thought, I first have to remind myself of just what exactly it means to abide in something. Basically, it means to follow, obey, stand by, or act in accordance with. But often when I hear that word I think of relying or being dependent on something . “Obey and rely on me. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it depends on the vine, neither can you, unless you depend on Me.” 

I have been given new life, I have the Lord of all creation on my side fully ready and willing to help me and guide me, but how often do I allow Him to? How often do I forget my absolute need for Him and continue about my life according to my own will and strength? Only until I hit a roadblock in my path do I realise that my own strength isn’t sufficient. I mean sure if I really wanted I could go about my life satisfying my wants and desires, in fact that’s what most people do, but where does that leave me? Empty. Broken. Dissatisfied. How would I know? Because I’ve been there already; I lived life completely dependent on myself and what I wanted and it left me so empty and broken that when I hit that roadblock I was ready to give up. I realised I was empty and had nothing to offer, but that’s when God let Himself be known in my life. He picked me up from the ashes and gave me new life because I allowed Him to. He’s not going to force His way in my life nor is He going to save me without me first coming to Him. His love for me was so great that He allowed me to go through that time just so I could realise how selfish I was. That’s just how God works, He gives us the free will to choose death or to choose life, and sadly so many of us choose the first. Why? Because it’s easier. Yes, it’s easier to go about my life doing as I please, but the end result is ultimately death. 

I realise that this new life I have is truly not even mine. It’s the Lord’s life that He has bought with the lofty price, one of His own blood. “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Wow, if that hasn’t stirred my heart I don’t know what could. It’s so sad to see how mundane the image of the cross has become to the world today. I remember during my training here a man named Keith Wheeler came to teach me class. You could definitely say he was bit different from a normal teacher, considering he carried around a huge cross on his back which he has carried almost all over the world to proclaim the message of just what exactly the cross meant. He took the verse in Matthew 16:24 very literally. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desire to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desire to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’”

He gave a message one Sunday at our church here in Antigua, where he explained with great passion just what exactly was the price that Jesus paid for us. I vividly remember a part where he took a massive metal nail and began to slowly hit it with a hammer with such force that the sound rang in my eardrum over and over. Keith explained as he continued to hit the nail that it was God’s love for our that allowed Jesus to be put through such pain; for His hands to be nailed through, and for His body to be marred beyond recognition. I couldn’t even tell that my eyes began to water. Next thing I knew tears were pouring from my eyes and I couldn’t help but to just weep at the sight of it. I wasn’t the only one either. Almost the entire church echoed with the sound of people just wailing and sobbing. How can I ever look at the cross and think nothing of it when I truly understand the price that was paid on it? The cross was an instrument of death, yet Jesus made it the means of our salvation: salvation from the sins that had overtaken us. 

That lofty price wasn’t paid just so I could go to church every Sunday and feel like a good christian, and yet do whatever I wanted the other 6 days of the week. Not that I’m implying church is a bad thing. It’s a wonderful gift and opportunity for the body of Christ to come together to worship, edify, and witness to others. But that shouldn’t be the only time we do these things. Church isn’t the dwelling place of the Lord. He doesn’t live within any one building but rather in us, so why do we act as if He doesn’t? I should desire only that my life be used to glorify His name on this earth and that others may know of this powerful message. But why am I still finding myself stressing out about things like teaching kid’s, as if it were some kind of burden? What God is allowing me to take part of is such an amazing gift. I get to show these kid’s the love of Christ and to see them grow into the next generation with it implanted in their hearts. I’m not worthy of such a thing! Looking back, it’s only the Lord who has brought me this far. He is the vine and I am the branch. If I go about these next 4 months assuming the role of the vine, I’m putting all the responsibility and government on my shoulders when it truly belongs to the Lord. It is not my fruit to bear, but His to produce in me. This is all His work. I am simply the branch who’s life comes from the vine itself. I must remember to surrender my rights and let go of my control to allow Him to assume His rightful place as the vine in my life. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (vs.5) Without Him I can do nothing, I can’t produce any fruit of my own- it’s His to bear. I’m not just talking about teaching kid’s and being apart of their lives. I’m talking about even the mundane stuff, like up keeping the property and cleaning… cleaning… and more cleaning. It’s easy to get a bad attitude when sometimes all I feel like I’m doing is cleaning all day long. It’s easy to get frustrated when kid’s aren’t listening, or when things aren’t going my way. But I can rest and trust that the Lord is working even when my eyes can’t see it.”By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (vs. 8) It’s not just on the mountaintop that God is glorified and much fruit produced in the lives of Christians. A lot of times its in the valley, where life is at it’s most dull and difficult that He is glorified through our constant faith and obedience.