faith

Rise—Flee into Egypt

Photo by  Inbal Malca  on  Unsplash

Photo by Inbal Malca on Unsplash

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’  

And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt.” (Matthew 2:13-14)

God speaks in a dream

It was some time after Jesus had been born—just after the wisemen departed—that Joseph was given this dream warning him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt. King Herod had received word of the newly born King of the Jews, the Messiah, and he was fully set on destroying Him.

It was at this crucial time that God spoke to Joseph in a dream for a second time.

Before Jesus was born, Joseph had heard from God in a dream, instructing him to take Mary as his wife. That dream had come at a time of sorrow and distress for Joseph. He had been suffering the confusion and disappointment of a broken relationship with his new bride.

It was in that moment that God spoke to Joseph, bringing words of comfort, reassurance, and direction. And Joseph had listened. 

The 2nd dream

This dream was different. Joseph and Mary were unaware of the wicked plans laid out for their new son. When Joseph was given this dream warning him to take his family and escape by night to a foreign country, it would have been alarming and unexpected.

But God knew that Joseph was obedient, and he had already tested Joseph through the first dream He had given him long before. 

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When God speaks to us, do we listen?

Even in the small things, the Holy Spirit is continually speaking to our hearts—convicting, correcting, directing, and encouraging us in our journey of faith.

When we hear His voice in our heart, it is crucial that we develop a pattern of obedience. Because when we listen to His voice in the small things, we create a life that is built on faith and obedience.

When we listen to God’s voice in the small things—we create a life that is built on faith and obedience

Faith and obedience

Faith and obedience are qualities that grow within us the more we practice and apply them.

Just as Joseph listened and obeyed God by taking Mary as his wife, he also listened when God told him to do something far more urgent, even if it didn’t make sense to him at the time.

Let’s trust the Holy Spirit when He speaks to our hearts and respond in faith and obedience in the simple things. And may God give us the faith that we need to follow Him wherever He leads us.

May God give us the faith we need to follow Him wherever He leads us


This is a guest post by Laura Williams whose husband (Daniel) pastors Redemption Church in Delray Beach, FL

This devotional is taken from Laura’s Advent devotional– God’s Plan for Christmas

Daniel also produced an online leadership resource– EELeaders

Purified By Fire

The crucible is for refining silver and the smelter for gold,

but the one who purifies hearts ⌊by fire⌋ is the Lord. (Proverbs 17:3 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 17:1-6 GW)


No one can purify their own heart. No one. We can try but we’ll fail. We fail because we don’t have the right material to work from to develop a pure heart. We’re flawed.

Each of us is born with a selfish nature—a self-will.

This selfish nature isn’t obvious at first. When I first see and hold a newborn grandchild, well, it’s hard to imagine anything but purity in them. Each baby is wholly dependent on their parents, especially the nurturing care of their mother.

But over time—actually, not much time at all—this selfish nature becomes evident. It’s not just a child’s fascination with the word “no!” or their constant pushing of boundaries, it’s deeper than that. It’s embedded in each of us at birth—our individual self-will.

Our self-will is powerful, especially when it’s challenged and even when it appears to be subdued. No matter what the circumstances, it will eventually make its presence known. This can be a good thing many times but not when a pure heart is desired.

Many spiritually-minded people either claim or desire to have a pure heart. But this can only take place when the Creator of our hearts is allowed to work in us. Rather, when we allow the Lord to work our innate rebellion—aka, our selfish nature—out of us.

How does God purify a person’s heart? He uses external pressure. In this Bible version, the idea of fire or intense heat is expressed giving us a graphic illustration of God’s purifying process. But in most other Bible versions of this verse the word test is used to describe the process God uses to purify a heart.

Photo by  Ihor Malytskyi  on  Unsplash

God’s testing

It’s the tests of life that bring our selfish nature to the surface. Just as in purifying a precious metal like silver or gold in a furnace with intense heat that reduces the metal to a liquid, so God uses various tests in our life to reduce and refine us.

The intense heat of the refining process brings the impurities of the metal to the surface. These initial impurities are scraped off the surface. Then the process continues until the metal is pure enough to reflect an image on the surface like a mirror or still water.

Ever wonder why you undergo certain tests in life over and over? Tests related to hard-to-break habits, unhealthy relationships, or other internal struggles are intended to reduce us to a place of dependence upon God to overcome whatever the target is of this testing in our life.

God refines us so His image is reflected in us

As we experience these tests and allow them to melt us into a trusting submission to God, God will purify our hearts. Each test brings impurities to the surface. When the Lord scrapes these impurities out of us, He also heals the wounds they leave in us.

It’s not an easy process for most of us but it’s worth the work. The goal is to have a pure heart that we might see God (Matt 5:8). For now, we walk by faith—trusting in Him and His work in our hearts as He prepares us for the day we shall see Him face to face (1 Cor 13:12).

Reflection—

When you experience God’s testing in your life, allow it to melt your heart and submit to God with a full trust that He’s purifying your heart. As each test brings impurities to the surface, allow the Lord to scrape them out of you so He can heal and restore your heart.

Prayer Focus—

Be willing to surrender your heart to the Lord as you come before Him in prayer, this will lead to a greater confidence in Him to answer your prayers, as you draw closer to Him through the purifying of your heart.

Here’s a link to a beautiful worship song about the purpose of God’s refining work in us— Refiner’s Fire

©Word-Strong_2018


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The Lingering Toll of Laziness

Photo by  Alfonso Ninguno  on  Unsplash

Like vinegar to the teeth, like smoke to the eyes,

so is the lazy person to those who send him ⌊on a mission⌋. (Proverbs 10:26 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 10:22-32 GW)


Laziness is not a virtue. But the thought of being lazy is appealing when faced with the daily grind of life. In the midst of time demands and the tyranny of the urgent, we may daydream of taking a day to just do nothing.

But laziness as a lifestyle or a lazy approach to life—with no ambition or motivation—has an accumulative effect. Laziness becomes its own treadmill of dread with no jumping off point.

Childhood play is not laziness nor is recreation or vacation for adults. There is a creative and restorative purpose in playing and having fun or taking time for rest. Much is written on this.

But laziness is neither play nor rest. At its best, it's apathy and slothfulness. At its worst, it is destructive and disruptive—for the lazy person and for those impacted by their laziness.

This proverb is quite descriptive—

Like vinegar to the teeth, like smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy person to those who send him ⌊on a mission⌋. (Prov 10:26 GW)

If you've been around a campfire when the wind shifts and smoke blows in your eyes, you know how much it burns and how this lingers after you get out of the path of the smoke.

Vinegar has a distinct and lasting taste. If you've tasted bad wine, certain home remedies, or an oil and vinegar dressing with too much vinegar, you know the taste. Drinking water doesn't wash it all away—something sweet is needed to counter the acrid, bitter, and sour taste left in your mouth.

How is this proverb of any value to our daily life?

Depending on someone who is lazy or does their work in a lazy manner is more than futile or frustrating. It leaves a bitter taste in our mouths that lingers. The burn of being let down by someone has a ripple effect.

It's easy to see this with others but how about ourselves? We only fool ourselves when we make excuses or blame others for our own slackness in carrying out a task.

I've heard complaints from people who work with Christian believers who don't do their jobs well and excuse their poor work performance because they are "witnessing for the Lord." The trouble is, they are a poor example of Christianity and this leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of those who work with them.

Those of us who are people of faith—people who have chosen to follow Jesus—need to show excellence in the workplace, as well as with any task or service we're engaged in at church.

We also need to do whatever we do with a cheerful and gracious attitude. This honors the Lord and won't leave a bitter taste in anyone's mouth or heart.

Reflection—

If you are a person of faith and follower of Jesus, you are to be an honorable example in your workplace or any other place you serve others. Do so with a cheerful and gracious attitude so the Lord is honored and others are blessed by your presence.

Prayer Focus—

Ask God to show you where you might need to improve your effort at work or while serving in some ministry or church role. If the Lord shows you things that could be done better, ask Him to show you how to do make those necessary changes.

©Word-Strong_2018


Would you like a free study guide for Proverbs?

Click Here to get a Free Study Guide for Proverbs

Wisdom Is a Tree of Life

What's your great pursuit in life? What do you put most of your energy and interest into? Success... fame... love... pleasure... honor... respect... fulfillment... peace... contentment...?

Short-sighted pursuits are easily short-changed, even leaving a person empty. Taking the longer view may lead to discouragement and impatience along the way.

Leaving the Worry Chair Behind

As a young believer, I had to learn how to trust God. It wasn't natural for me. It isn't natural for any of us. Just as toddlers exert their free will before they can say it clearly, we like to "do it by our self!" American culture only reinforces this innate self-willed resistance to trusting God.

We had a wing-backed, turquoise chair I called my "worry chair." It was vintage modern furniture from the sixties. My dearest grandmother gave it to us when my wife and I set up our new home and life together.