1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8

How Is Your Vision?

Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” 
 
David Yonggi Cho, founder of the largest church in the world in Seoul, Korea, said about vision:  “Show me your vision, and I will show you your future!” What a powerful statement! The question then begs to be asked, “How is OUR vision?” and “How is YOUR vision?”

There is no doubt that natural vision is important. Without natural vision, opportunity may surround us, but we have no ability to perceive it. Therefore we cannot pursue what we cannot perceive. In addition to natural vision, there is another type of vision—spiritual vision. Spiritual vision is the vision of the heart. If we have no spiritual vision in our heart, we will not perceive and pursue God’s purpose for our life. We all need to walk with a sense of purpose or destiny. We all need spiritual vision to do that.  Without spiritual vision we stumble around in darkness. A lack of vision leads to frustration, disappointment and, in the end, a wasted life. 

The condition of our vision is also important. Perfect vision is 20/20.  With 20/20 vision we are able to see both far and near with clear focus.  Farsightedness is a vision problem in which we see things at a distance most clearly.  Nearsightedness is a vision problem in which we see things close up most clearly.  Either way, our vision is hindered. 

When it comes to spiritual vision, it is also important to have “20/20” vision.  Unfortunately many are spiritually “farsighted.”  They are “dreamers” who always talk about what God is going to do “one day.” They are full of enthusiasm but nothing ever materializes. Why?  Their vision is unbalanced. They lack the ability to see the importance of daily steps of obedience that move them toward the overall vision.  On the other hand, many are spiritual “nearsighted.” They have no long-range vision. They cannot see the bigger picture. Their focus is on the daily challenges without any sense of purpose or destination. Because they have no long-range vision, they perceive every temporary problem or setback as a devastation. They cannot see these challenges as part of God’s character building process. Rather than allow God to form their character, they always look for another “quick fix” to solve the problem. However, these quick fixes are only Band-Aids that will never fix the root problem.  The problems persist until they catch the vision for what God has planned for them and then commit to God’s process to get there. Healthy spiritual vision is 20/20.  20/20 vision sees clearly the destination in the distance while also seeing the daily steps to get there.

Healthy vision enables us to rest as well as work. Vision makes rest possible because it knows that God has determined the destination, has mapped out the journey, and is leading the way.  Vision also “works” by being obedient to take every step to follow the Lord. 

So, how is your vision? Are you walking with spiritual vision from the Lord? Spiritual vision is a revelation of the mind and purpose of God. Without vision we will “drift” toward sin and complacency. Don’t be deceived. If we don’t receive vision from God, Satan is sure to give us a substitute.  He will give us a carnal “dream” for life that robs us of God’s plan.  Many have lived and died without ever knowing why they were created. What a waste of a life!  Without a vision from God, we focus on negative experiences or on temporal fulfillment rather than on obtaining the promises of God.  Like a Polaroid snapshot, what we focus on will “develop.”  Don’t settle for long-range vision that produces no short-range obedience. Don’t settle for short-range vision that is disconnected from God’s eternal purpose. Ask God to give you a healthy vision for your life.
 
Prayer:  “Heavenly Father, give me 20/20 spiritual vision.  Give Me Your long-range vision for my life and the short-range vision that I need to take the next step.  Help me to be at rest in Your final destiny for my life and to work through obedience to follow You each step of the way. I thank You for giving me the vision that I need. I pray this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

The Judgment of this World

John 12:31 NKJV “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.”
 
In April 1912 two thousand two hundred and twenty four passengers boarded the greatest luxury liner ever built up to that time as it embarked on its maiden voyage from England to New York City. Its name was the Titanic. The ship was almost three football fields in length and could carry up to 46,328 tons of passengers and cargo. It had a double-bottomed hull, divided into sixteen watertight compartments. Because four of these compartments could be flooded with water without causing the ship to sink, the ship was considered unsinkable. One comment made was, “Not even God could sink this ship!” So confident were they of this that lifeboats were only available for about half of its passengers. The ship was fitted with this world’s finest food, fun, finery, and pleasure. It was a showcase of what man could achieve and what this world could offer.

Icy waters lay to the north and advisories to take a more southerly route were given. Because the ship’s captain wanted to set record time for crossing the Atlantic and because it was believed that icebergs posed no danger to the ship, the advisories were ignored. Shortly before midnight on April 14, 1912 the Titanic struck an iceberg that ripped a three hundred foot gash in its side---flooding five of its sixteen watertight compartments.  The unthinkable had happened. The unsinkable Titanic was going down! Because the ship was believed to be unsinkable, many did not realize the peril they were in. While they partied, they were on the verge of perishing. Within two and one half hours after it struck the iceberg, the mighty Titanic sank below the icy waters. The total number of people who died that fateful night was one thousand five hundred and thirteen.

In the same way Satan, captain of the World Party Liner, has promised all that this world has to offer. Multitudes upon multitudes have boarded this ship headed for what they believe will be the good life—the ultimate party. No one seems to realize that the ship’s pleasures are nothing but intoxication to keep its passengers from realizing that it actually is a slave vessel on its way to the prison of hell. But God loved us so much that two thousand years ago He ordained that Satan’s slave vessel would find itself on a collision course with the Cross of Jesus Christ. At that moment this world was judged. This world is going down!  Like a prisoner on death row who has been judged but still awaits execution, this world has been judged but awaits its final destruction. It is only a matter of time before it sinks down into the eternal flames of the lake of fire. Meanwhile its drunken passengers cannot discern that the ship is listing to the left. They are too intoxicated to sense the danger. Because Satan has so convinced them that his ship is unsinkable, its passengers continue to party even as they perish. Others sense the danger. They know that although the world still parties, it is just a matter of time before it all ends. They are looking for a way off the ship. Thankfully, God has dispatched the heavenly Ark of Salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ. All who call upon His name will be saved. As their faith secures them a place on this Ark of Christ, God pleads with the saved to use whatever precious time is left to warn and rescue others before it is too late. 

Are you building a future on a sinking ship?  Are you partying until you perish or are you busy trying to save yourself and others?  Don’t listen to the jeers of those intoxicated by this world. Listen for the cries of those wanting to be saved. This world has been judged. It is going down. Remember, it is just a matter of time.
 
Prayer:  “Heavenly Father, help me to always remember that no matter how alluring this world may become, it is passing away. Only those who do the will of God last forever. Thank You for sending Jesus to rescue me from perishing in hell and the fiery flames of the lake of fire. Use me as Your hands today to rescue others who need to call upon Your name before it is eternally too late. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
 

Meet Me in the Secret Place

Matthew 6:6 (NKJV) “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” 
 
The work of God in our lives is born out of intimacy, and intimacy with God is experienced in the “secret place.”  The secret place is a place of intimacy.  It is the place of secret prayer. As a bride and a groom steal away to the secret place in order to know one another in intimacy, so our Heavenly Father beckons us to steal away to the secret place of prayer.  There we experience the intimacy of His presence.  The secret place is a “place” we must go:  “go into your room.”  The secret place may be an established place set apart for times of worship, meditation, and prayer or it may be a spontaneous place to steal away as directed by the wooing voice of our heavenly Father.  We hear His voice calling to our hearts, “Meet Me in the secret place.” Our hearts are quickened with a longing to be there because we know that we cannot live without Him. Our hearts are captured with His love.  The secret place is a place free of distraction:  “and when you have shut your door.”  The secret place is a place where we can get alone with God and spend time with Him apart from distractions.  We must seek out a “secret place” of prayer. Jesus was on the move in His ministry.  And yet He found time to steal away to the secret place with His Father in the mountains or in the desert.  No matter how tired he was or how late or early it was, He always found time to meet His Father in the secret place.  The secret place is a place to meet with our Father:  “pray to your Father who is in the secret place.”  Our Father dwells in the secret place. The secret place is the place of His presence (Psalm 31:20).  It is there that we can meet with Him, talk with Him, and worship Him.  The secret place is a place of impartation:  “and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”  It is in the secret place that we can receive from Him forgiveness, cleansing, healing, restoration, love, counsel, blessing, peace, joy, friendship, protection, provision, grace, and strength.  When we rise up from the secret place we enter the world refreshed, transformed, and empowered by our Father.  This is His reward to us that becomes openly obvious to those around us. (Read Psalm 27:4-5 and Psalm 91 for more on “the secret place”)

Corporate prayer is taught in the Scripture, but the power of corporate prayer flows out of the individual time each person has spent alone with their Father in the secret place.  Our effectiveness in life flows out of what we receive in the secret place. Sometimes we feel that we just do not have time to pray. Actually we do not have enough time NOT to pray. God will help us redeem the time for what is most important. Jesus is the Son of God and yet He always made time to be with the Father.  Everything He said and did flowed out of what He received in the secret place. 
When we realize that our efforts apart from Him will always fail or fall short of His glory, then we will spend more time in the secret place.  It would do us good to do less and pray more.  Out of that time in prayer the Father’s reward will begin to manifest in our lives, our families, and our ministries.  Don’t ignore the urge to be in the Father’s presence.  Listen and you will hear Him say, “Meet Me in the secret place!”  You can’t afford to miss this opportunity to be with your Father.  He awaits your arrival! Take the time, make the time, even steal away the time, to meet Him in the secret place.
 
Prayer:  ‘Heavenly Father, thank You for the secret place of Your Presence. Help me to never forget that I need Your presence more than anything else in life.  Father, may the blessing of the secret place be manifested openly so that others will see and desire to be with You also. I pray this in Jesus’ name.  Amen!”

Speak to the Rock

Numbers 20:7-8 (NKJV) “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.’”
 
If you live in a desert, water represents life itself.  Without water, human existence is impossible.  After delivering Israel from Egyptian bondage, God led them into the desert where there was no water. It was a test. When the people cried out for water, God brought water from a rock. The first time God told Moses to strike the rock. The second time God told Moses to speak to the rock. In doing so, the rock would yield its water to meet the people’s need.

There is a spiritual principle here that God wants us to learn. In 1 Corinthians 10:4 Paul tells us that the Rock that followed Israel was Christ. God had not led Israel into the wilderness without that Source going with them. The water that they needed was in that Rock.  In fact, there was a river in that Rock! While the people saw only a rock, God saw a river!  As in Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones, all that was needed for life to be released was for a man of faith to believe God and call things that are not as though they were.

The Rock of Christ dwells in every believer. All that Christ is dwells within us. Consider that for a moment!  We can minister to the sick because the Healer dwells within us!  We can be effective witnesses because the Evangelist dwells within us!  We can be effective pastors because the Great Shepherd dwells within us!  We can prophesy the word of the Lord because the Prophet dwells within us! We can be effective teachers because the Teacher dwells within us! We can fulfill the Great Commission because the Apostle dwells within us!  Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”   Christ within us is waiting to burst forth as a mighty river to satisfy the needs of people around us. That river is the River of the Holy Spirit.

How is this “River” released? It is through our declaration of faith. Although the Rock of Christ dwells within, we can die in our need unless we draw from the supply of Christ. We must release the “River” from this Rock! How? We do as God instructed Moses. We must call forth a release of the unseen realities of Christ within us. As we do, the rivers of the Holy Spirit begin to flow out of us.

Unfortunately, Moses became frustrated with the people’s complaint the second time around. Instead of speaking to the Rock, he struck it as he did the first time. In the same way, we can get focused on the flaws in others and strike out in an attempt to force the character and nature of Christ to come out of them. Rather than try to force change in others, we must begin to speak to the Rock of Christ’s potential within them. The Rivers of the Holy Spirit will begin to flow when we stop striking out at others and start declaring a release of the potential of Christ within them.

Problems are real. However, the “real” problem is not the “problem” itself but our lack of faith in the Source who dwells within us.  Jesus is the answer to every problem. He is the Source to meet every need.  He is also the Source of what others need. Don’t focus on the flaws and weaknesses in others.  Don’t strike out at them. Speak to the Rock and release the River inside!

Prayer: “Heavenly Father, I thank You for the Rock of Christ that dwells within Me. I look to Christ who lives within me and declare a release of the River of the Spirit. I declare, “Soul, you WILL yield to the life and nature of Christ. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I open my heart as a channel for Your Spirit to flow as mighty rivers of living water to this world.  I declare this in Jesus’ name. Amen!”
 

Don't Be Deceived by the Devil's Distortions

One of the greatest tools the devil uses to deceive a generation is to take Biblical terminology, distort its meaning, and then replace it for the original meaning. Examples include "Jesus", "Holy Spirit", "Grace", "Truth", "Hell", "Judging", "Christian", "Church", "Gospel", "Revival", "Marriage", "Family", "Freedom", "Rights", "Tolerance", "Love", and a host of other things. The devil has worked so masterfully in this biblically illiterate age that we are living in a time when Truth is now regarded as a lie and the lie is regarded as the truth, when good is regarded as evil and evil is regarded as good, when light is regarded as darkness and darkness is regarded as light, and when those who stand for God's Truth are regarded as bigots and those who defend and promote perversion are regarded as liberators. This is the Satan's means to bring in the great apostasy among "Christians" prior to the revelation of the man of lawlessness upon the earth. I came across some notes from a graduation I attended several years ago. Judge Cynthia Kent's words are truer now than then.

"We are living in an age of distortions. People are taking foundational concepts such as the family and distorting them until they are unable to be recognized. There really is a right and there really is a wrong. We must confront these distortions by confronting them--challenging them--with the truth. The power of distortion is in who is asking in the questions.

Example: 

Pick a number between 2-10.

Multiply that number by nine.

Add the two numbers in the two digits together.

Subtract 5 from that number.

Transpose the number to a letter (A=1, B=2, C=3, etc.)

Pick a country or state that starts with that letter.

Take the second letter in that name and think of a circus animal that starts with that letter and its color.

(Note: The answer is below. No peeking!)

The truth is not complicated for those who believe the Word."

--Judge Cynthia Kent, Tyler Christian Fellowship School Graduation, May, 1993

Don't be fooled by the devil's distortions! Stay true to the Word of God.

(ANSWER: Gray Elephant)

God's Hunger Test

God designed our natural bodies to hunger. The LORD set certain trees in the Garden of Eden from which Adam and Eve could eat and one tree from which they were forbidden to eat. In the Old Testament God used the dietary laws to teach His people to discern between what is clean and what is unclean. Eating what is unclean made them unclean in regard to their worship. It was not for them to determine what was clean and unclean based upon their opinions, philosophies, traditions, reasoning, or experiences regardless of their intentions or sincerity. Their responsibility was to believe and obey what God said. God created us with spiritual hunger. How we choose to satisfy our spiritual hunger will determine our spiritual health. Satan deceived Eve into satisfying her hunger with forbidden fruit. Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread to satisfy His hunger outside of God's will. The Word of God rather spiritual hunger is to guide our lives. Spiritual hunger should drive us to the Word of God. God uses spiritual hunger as a test to see if we will be loyal or disloyal to what the LORD has spoken. Our hunger will lead us either to truth or to treason, to discernment or to deception, to holiness or to heresy, to worship or to wickedness, to deliverance or to death. The LORD has set His table of truth before us. Don't feast at Satan's table of lies. Satisfy your spiritual hunger on the Word of God and pass God's hunger test.

Deuteronomy 8:2–3 (NKJV) "And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD."

True Success

Matthew 16:24-27 NKJV “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.’”
           
Are you successful? Who determines whether or not you are successful? What is your standard for determining success? The answers to these questions have eternal implications.

A businessman’s idea of success is usually based on how well his business is doing. An investor’s idea of success is usually based on how his investments are doing. A politician’s idea of success is usually based on how popular he or she is in the polls. Hollywood’s idea of success is based on how many tickets are sold at the box office and how many Oscar’s are sitting on the shelf. For the average person, success is usually based on how much money is in savings and in the possessions he has acquired. For others it may mean a marriage that lasts, finishing college, or landing that big job opportunity. Success means different things to different people. However, are any of these measures of true success? Do they really indicate true success in the light of eternity?

Isn’t the true evaluation of success found, not in how well things begin but, in how well things end?  Who will determine whether or not we are successful anyway—Wall Street? Hollywood? Friends? Family? Bankers? Fans? Ourselves? No. Ultimately the One who will determine our success is the Lord. The day when all “success” will be evaluated is the final Day of Judgment.

Imagine if a person was able to acquire all the money, wealth, possessions, popularity, and power this world had to offer. Most would consider him to be the ultimate measure of success. But Jesus said that a man profits nothing if he gains the whole world and then loses his own soul.  What is our soul worth? It is worth more than everything in this world. On the final Day of Judgment when men’s souls are cast into the lake of fire, every “successful” man would not hesitate to offer all his money, wealth, and power to buy his own soul. On that day, the reward of true success will be unanimous among all. It will be the prize of a man’s own soul.

How does a man gain his own soul? He gains it by giving it to the Lord.  How does a man give his soul to the Lord? He does so by laying aside his own definition of success in order to embrace God’s definition of success. True success is what we have accomplished in light of what God has planned. We will never know God’s plan unless we let go of our own. We will never discover the true meaning for our lives until we let go of our own reasoning. We will never have true success until God’s standard becomes our standard.  One day Jesus is coming back in the glory of His Father with His holy angels to reward all who have lived by His true and eternal standard of success. How will our idea of success stand on that Day?

In light of this, what definition of success have you adopted for your life?  Have you adopted a definition of success that ignores the will of God?  Are you trying to live up to a standard of success placed upon you by others?  If so, then you will either be deceived by your worldly success or discouraged by a lack of it. We will never be satisfied trying to be something God never meant for us to be or to gain something that He never intended for us to have. When we seek to gain success outside of God’s will, it always comes at the high price of our own soul. True success is doing the will of God. Doing the will of God includes giving our life to Jesus and then following Him daily. It means dying to our own dreams and plans so that we can embrace His destiny and plan for our life. We will find His purpose for our life. Living the life God intended for us is the life that will most fulfill us and make us a success in light of eternity. Granted, people may not recognize your success in this life, but one day they will. So embrace His will for your life and discover true success that promises a reward that will never fade away.
 
“Heavenly Father, forgive me for adopting a false standard of success. Forgive me for selling my eternal soul for temporal treasures. I choose to lay aside my own definition of success in order to embrace Your eternal definition of success. I choose to deny myself and to follow Your will completely. Thank You for the reward that comes with true success.  I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
 

The Word of Truth

2 Timothy 2:15-18 (NKJV) “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth…”
 
What is truth? That question was of a Roman Governor named Pilate. Upon being questioned by Pilate during His trial, Jesus testified, “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.  Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’” (see John 18:37-38) Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” remains unanswered in many minds today.

We live in the midst of a post-modern era. We are continually subjected to a barrage of different versions of “truth” as “preached” by the news media, Hollywood, the music industry, politicians, religious sects, social media, books, magazines, radio, and television. It seems everyone is quick to share his or her opinion of truth and to label as intolerant anyone who challenges that opinion. To make things even more confusing, this world’s concept of truth is ever changing. 

The post-modern mindset has no tolerance for absolutes. In fact, in the name of promoting tolerance for their own views, they have become intolerant of anyone who disagrees. The post-modern mindset has infiltrated our schools and universities and has subsequently filtered down to every other social order. It is now a part of our culture. According to post-modernism, there is no such thing as absolute truth. Truth is never certain or constant; it is something relative and ever changing. In the post-modern mind, truth is not determined by external standards but is determined by what a person feels to be true on the inside. For them, truth is found in self-discovery. It is truth based upon feelings and perceptions rather than facts.

The claim that there is no such thing as absolute truth is a self-defeating statement since it is itself an absolute statement. It might be asked of those who make this claim, “Are you absolutely certain that there is no such thing as absolute truth?” In contrast, absolute truth is not determined by feelings, experience, reason, or experiment. Absolute truth is fixed, constant, and unchanging.  Absolute truth can only be discovered, not debated.

What is truth?  Jesus came to bear witness of the truth—that God’s word is truth (John 17:17). God’s word is His gracious revelation of absolute truth to a fallen and depraved humanity who are at odds with the truth. God does not defend truth: He simply declares it. Without the light of truth, man would be hopelessly condemned to walk in spiritual darkness.  People choose to either accept the truth by faith or to reject it altogether.

We discover absolute truth through reading and studying God’s word.  Paul calls it “the word of truth.”  Because God’s word is the revelation of truth, we must take heed how we hear it and handle it.  We are to be “diligent” to present ourselves approved before God.  How do we do this?  We do so by living in the light of His word, by living according to “the word of truth.”  If we do not make the word of God our final authority for truth, then we will fall prey to the “profane and idle babblings” of fallen and ever-changing philosophical reasoning of men who deny the truth. These twisted and fruitless ramblings only lead to more ungodliness and to a straying from the truth. That is why Paul exhorts us to “shun” or “stay away from” such things.

If we are to build on a lasting foundation, then we must build our lives upon the absolute authority of the word of God.  His word is truth.  God’s word not only contains truth, it is the truth.  We must accept the word of God in its entirety or reject it all together.  We cannot pick and choose what we want to believe.  If the word of God is absolute truth, then we do not have the right to impose on it our own self-willed opinions.  The word of truth is a precious gift from God. Let’s be faithful to study it diligently and to interpret it correctly so that we will not have reason to be ashamed when we stand before Him. Let us hold fast to the word of truth that alone can present us approved before God on that final day.
 
Prayer:  “Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your precious gift of the word of truth, the Bible.  I receive by faith Your word as truth.  I make it the final authority in every area of my life. I thank You for this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
 

The Word of the Lord Tested Him

Psalm 105:17-19 (NKJV) “He sent a man before them—Joseph—who was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters, He was laid in irons.  Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him.” 
 
I don’t know of anyone who really enjoys taking tests. A test tells the teacher if their student has mastered the material. We might assure the teacher that we have mastered the material but the test reveals what we really know and what we still need to learn. In school we can’t advance until we are able to pass the tests. In life we also experience tests. They are, of course, of a spiritual and moral nature. They test our character. They tell us whether or not we have made spiritual progress. Joseph is an example in the Bible of how God tests His people.

Joseph, the son of Jacob, was a man who had two dreams that confirmed the Lord’s will for his life. His dreams revealed that he would rule over his family.  However, once he voiced these dreams to his family, everything seemed to go in the opposite direction.  Have you ever received a promise from God only to find everything going in the opposite direction?  I know I have.  Before you begin to believe that the promises of God are not true or that God really doesn’t care, consider the life of Joseph.  Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. He was falsely accused of trying to commit adultery with his master’s wife.  As a result, he was thrown into prison.  While in prison he correctly interpreted two dreams—one that Pharaohs’ butler would be released and the other that Pharaoh’s baker would be executed. Both interpretations were proven true. Joseph asked the butler upon his release not to forget him but to secure his release from Pharaoh. Joseph, however, was forgotten again. Two years later Pharaoh had a dream which no one had been able to interpret. The butler then mentioned to him Joseph who came and interpreted Pharaoh’s dream. In addition, Joseph gave Pharaoh a plan to save the people from a severe future drought. Because of this, Joseph was promoted to second in command over the land of Egypt under Pharaoh. Once the drought came, his brothers also came to Egypt seeking food. Just as the dream foretold, his brothers bowed down before him not knowing who he was.  Still feeling the sting of their betrayal, Joseph tested them to see if they had really changed. Once they passed his test, Joseph revealed himself to them.  He and his family were reunited. The dreams which Joseph had in his youth came true but now he was a different man. God matured and proved Joseph’s character through severe tests to prepare him to sit in such a prominent position. Our passage tells us, “Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him.” 

I am sure that Joseph through the process experienced times of anxiety, fear, disappointment, doubt, discouragement, questions, anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness, yet he remained true to the Lord and passed every test. He did so even though there was no evidence that passing these tests would even matter.

Does it seem that circumstances are going contrary the word of the Lord you have received or to the promise of God you have claimed?  It may be the word of the Lord is testing you in preparation to receive it. We are after promise fulfilled. God is after character revealed. Don’t be surprised if, like Joseph, the season of testing lasts longer than you imagined. Keep your eyes on Jesus who also, in His time of severe testing, endured great suffering lest we “become weary and discouraged in our souls” (Hebrews 12:3)

When we begin grade school, the promise of a high school or college diploma is years away with many tests still to pass.  But the diploma is sure if we will not quit in mastering the materials.  Determine in your heart today to pass life’s tests when they come.  Don’t judge God to be unfair based on the classes He requires you to take.  Joseph didn’t.  Whatever classes and tests you are given are part of the preparation needed to fulfill your unique role in the kingdom of God. Don’t drop out!  Determine to pass every test that comes your way. God’s promise is ON THE WAY!  “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” (Hebrews 10:35-36) Learn from the life of Joseph.  Don’t quit and don’t drop out. Let the word of God test you until you pass. God is faithful to keep His promises. 

The Gospel of Self-Denial vs. The Gospel of Self-Esteem

Matthew 16:24 (NKJV) "Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.'"

 

The Gospel is a gospel of self-denial rather than a gospel of self-fulfillment. Self-denial is opposed to the modern versions of the self-esteem or self-help gospels being promoted today in books, pulpits, and on radio, television, and internet. The self-help gospel is clearly articulated by Robert Schueller, one of the fathers of the modern self-esteem gospel, in his book written years ago, "Self-Esteem: The New Reformation": "It is precisely at this point that classical theology in its insistence that theology be God-centered and not man-centered...This masterplan of God is designed around the deepest needs of human beings. And what are those needs? Self-dignity, self-respect, self-worth, self-esteem. The pearl of great price is genuine self-respect and self-esteem...If we follow God's plan as faithfully as we can we will feel good about ourselves...God needs you and me to create a society of self-esteeming people."

 

That message "feels" so good! Many people are "feeling saved" by that message. But is their "soul" being saved or something else? Is this a gospel of "self-salvation" rather than "soul-salvation"? The difference is huge. Could it be "another gospel" that Paul warns us about? (2 Corinthians 11:4) Compare the self-esteem message with the message of Jesus: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me." There seems to be a contradiction here. Are we to assume that Jesus did not "get it"? Did He not understand that the "deepest needs of human beings" is "self-dignity, self-respect, self-worth, self-esteem"? Was He too negative? The great delusion of the self-esteem gospel is that good is trapped within the human heart by negative thinking caused by negative influences. The belief is that men are by nature good but are trapped in a cycle of bad behavior because of negative thinking. They will be good if they will think positively about themselves. Is that true? Is there good trapped within the human heart? Consider Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV) “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" Are we to believe that men left to themselves without law, restraint, or consequence will do what is right? Would not anarchy rule instead? Would not men become utterly wicked instead? Consider again the words of Paul: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells." (Romans 7:18 NKJV) Paul says there is "nothing good" in self. Was Paul wrong? Aren't there good people? Jesus said that there is none good except God. (Mark 10:18) Paul said, "There is none righteous, no not one." (Romans 3:23) The Bible teaches that there is nothing good in self. Self has no goodness by which to save itself. If it does, then the Cross was unnecessary. Jesus should not have come to save sinners but rather negative people. The self-esteem gospel is another gospel. It is a gospel that offers redemption of self rather than the soul. It offers salvation without the Cross. The self-esteem gospel fails to see self as the enemy of the human soul. It fails to see the utter corruption and deception of the self life. Self is by nature self-centered, self-promoting, and selfish. It is consumed with self-fulfillment. Self seeks to find a life of its own apart from God. Self counterfeits life as lust counterfeits love. Freedom of the human soul will never be found in the gospel of self-esteem but only through the message of the cross. Wherever self lives and reigns, the soul is lost: "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 16:25 NKJV) Therefore it is no wonder that self hates the message of the cross that confronts and destroys it. It is no wonder that self seeks a gospel that eliminates the cross so it can live and prosper. Through the message of the cross God awakens a desire in the lost human soul to follow Jesus. Self rises to resist that desire. "Self" is like a husk around the seed of the human soul that must broken for new life to begin. Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain." (John 12:24 NKJV) The true Gospel is a call for men to deny self to follow Jesus. It is a call to take up the cross and die to self so that the soul might live. It is the only hope of freedom for the lost human soul.

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8