Holiness – it’s a word we don’t hear a lot or generally feel comfortable using these days even in church.
The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 1:15 “But as He who called you is Holy, you also be Holy in all your conduct“.
Our Pastor says when you think of being Holy just think it’s being separated and different to the world because of Jesus.
It seems to me that when we try to be Holy ourselves (apart from Jesus) then it just becomes a religious list of dos and don’ts which lead to frustration and guilt when we fail.
We can end up doing lots of works with little fruit.
A wise person said “Holiness will take care of itself when we see ourselves as the Holy people of God with a Holy destiny“.
The way of holiness is living in and through Jesus.
In Revelation 2 Jesus says to the Church at Ephesus:
“I know your works, your labour, your patience and that you cannot bear those who are evil, and you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not and have found them liars, and you have persevered and have patience and have laboured for My name’s sake and have not become weary, Nevertheless I have this against you; that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen and repent and do the first works“
Jesus said they were patient, hardworking, persistent, hated evil – but they no longer had a fervent love for Christ and God out of which their works were to flow.
They had lost their first love.
Jesus said the greatest commandment is “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind” and then “to love your neighbour as yourself“:
I like to think this expression of love unto God and others is Holiness in action.
Today’s post is no. 8 in my series on Joseph. We have already considered Joseph’s character and what was different about Joseph from his 11 brothers. Today is considering why Joseph’s brothers behaved as they did. If it is helpful here is the link to my earlier post on those behaviours Joseph Hero of the Faith (3)
Where did these bad character traits come from.
The answer is in the bible. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we are all born into sin. That is our human condition. Reading the bible we see that there were these particular sinful characteristics which ran through this family and their influence increased through the generations. We are familiar I am sure with phrases such as “Like Father, Like Son” or “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”.
The bible doesn’t whitewash sin or sinful behaviour and it presents the people of the bible to us warts and all. We see their good parts but we also see their flaws, weaknesses and sinful nature. We only have to read the account of King David to see this. This is why the bible stories are so relatable and we can still learn from people who lived many generations before us.
The first thread of sinful behaviour which really stands out in the family line is Deception.
Examples: – Abraham pretending Sarah was his sister rather than his wife. (Genesis 12:13 and 20:2). This was not a complete lie so there was some truth mixed in. It was only a half-truth though and Abraham purposely did not tell the whole truth which was then misleading and had consequences for others. He kept back the whole truth because of fear.
Deception with a mix of truth is especially dangerous. It’s one way that we as Christians can be vulnerable to false doctrines and teachings today. You can read more about the dangers of deception here Deception – The Gibeonites Story
This same deceitful behaviour was repeated by Abraham’s son Isaac who also pretended his wife Rebekah was his sister (Genesis 26:7) Again the root cause was fear.
Rebekah takes deception further when she persuades her son, Jacob to impersonate his brother Esau and deceives Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing which belonged to Esau. (Genesis 27:6-23). The root cause here being selfish ambition. A blessing stolen.
“ Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing”
There are many more examples of deceitful behaviour spreading its influence through all branches of the family -Uncle Laban deceives Jacob into marrying Leah, Jacob’s sons deceive the schecemites and kill them (Genesis 34: 13-31), Jacob’s sons lied to Jacob that Joseph had been eaten by wild animals and was dead (Genesis 37:29-35)
The other sinful trait which influences this family is Envy and Jealousy.
Examples: Sarah became jealous of Hagar and her son Ishmael (Genesis 16:5-6), Jacob was jealous of Esau, Rachel was jealous of her sister Leah’s children (Genesis 30:1), Leah was also jealous of Rachel’s relationship with Jacob (Genesis 30:5), Laban’s sons became jealous of Jacob (Genesis 31:1). Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him.
This jealousy led to actions which had consequences for all involved. You can read more about the dangers of jealousy here Beware of Jealousy.
The next bad characteristic is Favouritism
Rebekah favoured Jacob over Esau (Genesis 25:28), Isaac favoured Esau over Jacob (Genesis 25:28), Jacob favoured Rachel (Genesis 29:30) Jacob favoured Joseph (Genesis 37) and Joseph favoured Benjamin (Genesis 43:34).
One of the problems with favouritism is it leads to families becoming fractured and split. People take sides. Factions are developed and there is disunity. Resentment, bitterness and anger start to foster and an often overlooked one – Rivalry develops.
Rachel and Leah become rivals for Jacob’s love and affection. They were rivals in who could give him most children which led to the involvement of their handmaidens to provide more and more children. This rivalry influenced their children and the subsequent relationships between the brothers. This was not a harmonious family and so it did not take much to stir up resentment between Joseph and his brothers.
These sinful traits all feed off and influence each other and they got stronger in each generation. The same traits also came through both lines of the family. They were destructive forces in the lives of these families and we see the effects.
This is the problem with the inherent nature of sin. It’s desire is to have us and master us. Once we open the door to it then it’s influence slowly spreads like poison affecting not just us but those around us.
The Lord warned Cain about sin and how it wanted to work in his life.
“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Genesis 4:7
How then can we rule over sin in our lives.
The good news is that we can and there is a way. Jesus Christ is the answer. Jesus has broken the power of sin over us through His death and resurrection and now through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, we can rule over sin rather than sin ruling us.
Through Christ Jesus, we as disciples of Jesus do not have to accept the things of the past. We can get off that treadmill of sinful behaviour.
The influence of sin and it’s bad fruit can be broken in our lives. Our old sinful nature has been crucified with Christ Jesus and we take up our cross daily. We confess our sins and He is faithful through His great mercy and love to forgive us our sins.
God is at work in us for His good pleasure and God desires to bring about change in us. We do not have to persuade Him. God wills to do it. Hallelujah. It is God’s desire to help us rule over sin in our lives.
We become new creations in Christ Jesus. The old has gone and the new life in God’s Spirit has come.
We no longer have to accept the influence of bad character or believe the lie that “I have always been this way and always will ” or “I can’t change, I have my father’s issues”. To agree with that thinking is to deny the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Change is possible through Jesus.
If we accept the truth about Jesus. Submit our lives to Jesus and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to work in us there can be change that is not just one off but will transform our thinking and behaviours for a lifetime.
That change may be instant in some areas of our lives but in others it may require time as we work out our salvation and learn to walk in the Spirit. We fall but we get back up again. We help and support each other with our struggles and weaknesses.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.“ Galatians 5:19-26
Thank you Lord that you have redeemed us from the power of sin in our lives and that you help us in our weaknesses. Refine us Lord and teach us your ways that we may walk like you. Amen.
Isaiah 30: 21 says “Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying “This is the way walk in it”. Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left”.
If you are looking for direction in your life and seeking the path that God wants you to take or a new door is opening up to you then take encouragement from the promise in these verses.
God will direct your way.
This could be your season for stepping into the new things of God.
It may be paths that you or no-one else has travelled before, areas which you have never ventured into, things you or nobody else has ever done but take comfort that God will make it clear that you are on the right path.
God will direct you to move forward into new things.
Don’t look back at the old or try to do things in the same way but with boldness step into the new.
This may be a season for God to show you how to do things in a different way. Don’t worry or be anxious that you don’t know what’s up ahead – trust God. If you are walking where God wants you to walk then you are going in the right direction.
You may face discouragement – people may think you are crazy even to attempt something new but God will give you the vision and you will hear His still small voice saying “This is the way walk in it“.
You will know that it is God speaking to you.
I encourage you to be bold in faith today as you hear Him speak to you.
Take hold of the opportunity or opportunities which God is bringing your way.
I sense this may be a season for some that God will completely turn things on their head. God will flip things upside down but you will emerge unscathed. Allow God to be in the driving seat.
I pray God will increase your vision in these days. To stir in you a new vision, a bigger vision and to break new ground for Him.
To see new things and create new opportunities for the gospel to be preached and people to be reached with the good news of Jesus Christ.
I felt prompted to share this post again today. I hope it is a blessing and encouragement to someone reading.
I’m sure that like me you value good advice from trusted people. As a lawyer I’m paid to be a trusted advisor to my clients. Hopefully, I provide good advice which helps them make their decisions.
There was a man in the bible who was renowned for giving good advice. In fact his advice was so good that it was likened to enquiring at the oracle of God. That’s a huge compliment.
The man was called Ahithophel (a name that just trips off your tongue) and he was a trusted advisor to King David.
There is a fascinating story in 2 Samuel 15-17 of the time when the good advice of Ahithophel was thwarted by God. God had different plans.
The background to the story is that Absalom, David’s son, had secretly conspired to rebel against his father and seize the throne. He had gathered together key people to support him, one of whom was Ahithophel. David had fled with his supporters to escape being killed by Absolam who then took up residence in the King’s house.
Now David and his supporters were really concerned when they heard that Ahithophel had sided with Absolam and would be his adviser. They knew that they had to find a way to ensure that Absalom did not follow his good advice as this was a real threat to David.
There were 2 steps to David’s plan. First he rightly gave the situation to God and prayed:
And David said, “O Lord, I pray, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness!” 2 Samuel 15:31
I find this prayer quite amazing. Praying to God to turn away the good advice of someone. It made me think of the advisers to those in governments especially with the current situation in Ukraine. Whilst advisers may provide good advice to their leaders, is it Godly advice to bring about God’s purposes and plans. Does their advice lead to peace and goodness.
The other part of David’s plan was that one of David’s other trusted advisers, a man named Hushai, would pretend that he had swapped allegiance to Absolam. He would then provide different advice in the hope of persuading Absolam to ignore the good advice of Ahithophel.
The time came for Absalom to make a key decision. He had usurped the throne but David and his supporters were still alive. What should he do. He asked Ahithophel for his advice. He wisely advised Absalom to let him pursue that night with 12,000 armed men and strike whilst there was this golden opportunity to defeat David when he was tired and vulnerable from fleeing in haste. David was in the wilderness with no protection. He would kill David only and bring back his supporters in peace which would please the men of Israel.
Absalom approved of this advice but asked Hushai what he thought. Hushai was bold. He undermined the good advice by introducing doubt of David’s weakness and reminding Absalom of the mighty men of David who accompanied him and of the mighty and crafty warrior David was. Hushai advised Absalom to rather gather all of Israel to pursue David thus delaying the strike whilst the army was gathered and buying David time. He subtly introduced doubt and fear into Absalom’s mind. The result was that Absalom chose to ignore the good advice of Ahithophel and follow the bad advice of Hushai. Therefore the good advice of Ahithophel was overthrown.
So Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Archite is better than the advice of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had purposed to defeat the good advice of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring disaster on Absalom. 2 Samuel 17:14
Now when Ahithophel heard that Absalom had not followed his advice he took drastic action. We read that he returned to his home, put his affairs in order and then killed himself. Now that is an extreme reaction and it wasn’t done in a fit of pique that the King had not followed his advice. Ahithophel realised that his days were now numbered. He knew that by not following his advice, Absalom was going to be defeated by David and lose his grasp on the throne. This meant that as someone who had betrayed David, he would be killed once David returned.
I find this whole story fascinating and especially how it played out. It has really made me think. If you would like to read more of the story then I recommend reading from 2 Samuel chapters 15-19. This includes the subsequent defeat of Absalom and then the wise advice of Joab to David.
“Moab is My washpot; Over Edom I will cast My shoe; Philistia, shout in triumph because of Me.” Psalm 60:8
I read this Psalm today and it reminded me of a time many years ago when the Holy Spirit prompted me to cast (throw) my shoes over a large wire fence onto some waste ground. I’m sure some of you are reading this and thinking that’s a bit strange but please read on and I will explain.
I had been walking with my friend around a local estate where our church had an outreach work. We helped out with a Sunday School and breakfast for the children once a month. It was a deprived estate with a lot of social problems and we were walking and praying for the families on the estate.
As we walked past a piece of wasteland, which was surrounded by this metal chain link fence, I felt stirred that the Lord wanted us to pray for this spot in particular. As we prayed I saw a picture of this barren piece of land becoming a garden. A barren land being redeemed by the Lord and brought back in to use. I was reminded of the verses from Isaiah:
You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; For the Lord delights in you, And your land shall be married. Isaiah 62:4
We continued to pray into the picture and that is when the Holy Spirit impressed on me to throw my shoes over the fence into the land. Not something I had ever done before, nor has it been something the Lord has prompted me to do since.
I shared this prompting with my friend and it witnessed with her too. The thing was she had just bought some brand new boots. She looked wistfully at her boots, looked at the land and then she said Yes…her new boots were going over.
So we prayed and threw our shoes and boots over that fence.
It meant walking back to our car with no shoes on (which drew some strange looks) but we knew in our hearts that the Lord was about something and our obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit was a key.
Roll forward several years and that barren wilderness became a community garden. A Christian charity had a vision to create a garden where the residents of the estate could go and learn how to grow veg, fruit and also provide a place where people could meet, talk and engage with each other.
Now it wasn’t just our prayers that brought that about. We were just a small piece in God’s plan and there would have been much prayer, planning and vision from others many years later that made that happen. In that moment though, the Lord showed us with eyes of faith the vision that He had for that land and the community. Perhaps our prayers and actions of shoe throwing were the seed that was sown in God’s timing.
God is so wonderful that He gives us these opportunities to serve Him. To partner with Him in His plans for His glory and to show His love, mercy and goodness to others. When the Holy Spirit prompts you and you know (you know in that deep inner place) that it is the Lord, then I encourage you to step out in faith and trust God with the rest.
I’m fortunate still to be away this week having a refreshing break in the beautiful hills and valleys of Wales. Truly beautiful part of this world and our Father’s creation.
I’ve been able to keep up with my reading and enjoyed Alan’s post on refreshment which comes from reading our precious bibles. Praise God.
It inspired me to share a post from last year on refreshing company. I don’t know about you but I know some people who are “drainers”. I come away from time with them feeling emotionally drained. They’ve sucked everything out of me.
Paul talked about another type of people “Refreshers”. I hope you have plenty of those in your life too. Perhaps you are one of them 😀.
“I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition”. 1 Corinthians 16:17-18
These bible verses really inspired me today. Oh how blessed we are to have people like a Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus in our lives and in the body of Christ. People who refresh us.
These type of Christian believers are commended by Paul. They must have been a great source of encouragement and Godly wisdom to the early church.
We all need times of refreshing. One of those ways of refreshing is also through other believers, just as Paul and the Corinthians were refreshed by the visit of these 3 men.
As Paul says, such people deserve recognition.
Can I encourage us all to take some time to think about the people who are the refreshing company in our lives. They make us happy when we see them. They give and impart good things. Positive people.
Let’s thank God for them. They are a blessing.
Let’s also make a point of thanking them. It’s good to let such people know that we value them.
Finally, let’s all try to be the “refreshing” company we enjoy so people are happy to see and hear from us. We can be that source of refreshment to others.
I don’t know about you but I’ve found that is actually very hard to let go as a parent. I know it needs to be done. It’s the natural rhythm of life – to let them find their own way and do their own thing without interfering. It’s hard though. To trust that our Father in Heaven is the One looking out for them. You’re not the protector any more. You have to give them over to God. They were His all the time anyway. I guess my parents felt the same way about me…
My youngest is currently 2 months in to a solo back packing trip of the Far East. Her dad dropped her off at Heathrow Airport in early March. She flew into Bangkok on her own and then a few days later (after complying with COVID restrictions) she booked and took a night train to the North of Thailand. All on her own at 19. She still seemed a baby to me. Too young to be making her way in a foreign land on her own. It’s COVID times as well. No friends or travelling companions. How would she cope. More to the point.. How would I cope?
My friends were all asking me .. how could you let her go? Why didn’t you stop her? As if I were a reckless parent leaving her in danger. But how could we stop her? I guess it would have been easy enough to have interfered and put fear into her and obstacles but it wouldn’t have been right. We had brought both our girls up to explore this world. It’s a beautiful world with a wealth of opportunities to meet incredible people. Created by our wonderful Father. We love to travel and have adventures.
When she was 4 we took her to America. No big deal but it was a holiday when we hadn’t booked any accommodation. A road trip with endless possibilities. Wonderful. Trips followed to Sri Lanka, Dubai, South Africa…. A school trip to Indonesia for her World Challenge. We had opened her eyes to the world and now she wanted to explore it without us. Oh my…that was the hard bit. On her own. No Mum, No Dad. She wanted to go on her own. I wasn’t prepared for that.
It’s hard. I’m not going to lie. She’s on the other side of the world. There is 6 hours difference in time. I’m awake, she’s asleep for some parts. I can’t hold her, comfort her, guide her. I have put her in God’s hands. I fasted and prayed before she went. I thank the Lord for His protection, grace and favour over her. I’m overwhelmed with the grace and favour shown to her on her travels so far. So many incredible examples of God being on that journey with her. I can’t wait to see what God has in store next.
She is in Cambodia now. The next stage of her journey. More new experiences and adventures. God is with her. I thank God that however much I love her, He loves her more than I can possibly love her and understand His love. She is His and I’m so grateful for that. God is good, all the time. I’m so thankful for His faithfulness and still after all these years learning to trust Him in all things. Amen.
We’ve been looking at Joseph’s character over the last series of posts, which had so much to encourage and teach us about Godly character as disciples of Jesus, but today’s question is Why Egypt? Why was it necessary for the action to take place in Egypt.
Jacobs’ family lived in Canaan. They were shepherds with livestock who moved their flocks around in search of pasture. Their environment and pastures were suitable for that but not for large scale agriculture. The famine that was coming was going to be devastating on an unprecedented scale and preparation was key.
It was not uncommon to have famines in those times. We read in the bible that there had been several famines already. In Abraham & Isaac’s time they had been forced to travel to foreign lands to buy food. This famine was going to be different though. 7 years was a long period of famine. It was going to affect a large number of people.
Where was a fertile place that could produce enough food to sustain the people and surrounding nations over seven long years with planning and preparation. Egypt was the answer. It was a natural resource.
The river Nile regularly flooded and the delta region around the Nile with its mud flats was rich in minerals and natural fertiliser. It was an extremely fertile region and capable of producing great harvests. A land of abundance.
Joseph was found and placed in the place where the resources were. God put those resources in his hands to be a blessing to many.
Has God given you a vision or mission field but at the moment you just don’t see how it’s going to be possible because you don’t have the resources currently. If God has given you the vision then He will provide. He is Jehovah Jireh. The Lord who provides. God knows where the resources are and can make them available to you for His glory and His purposes. God will provide according to His riches in glory.
God can provide not only the resources to make the vision come to pass but can also direct your paths to the place that is ready to receive. Your mission field. The place of harvest. God can take you to a place which is fertile and ready to receive God’s Word. You might already be right in that fertile place. A place where the soil of men’s hearts, through the work of the Spirit of God, been turned from stone into flesh, softened and ready to receive the Good News of Jesus.
Prepared in prayer with tears of intercession for men’s souls. Brother Alan posted recently the passionate plea of John Knox “ Give me Scotland, or I die”. What passion in prayer for the lost. You can read that post here John Knox
The Nile valley was so fertile that any seed which was sown didn’t need to be ploughed into the ground. The ground was so softened by the regular floods it was ready to receive the seed and the seed could immediately take root and grow.
The Lord will show us those people whose hearts are prepared ready to receive the Gospel of Jesus. They are out there desperate and thirsty for the gospel. Jesus told His followers that the harvest was great. There are people who are open and desperate to hear the Good News of Jesus.
Then He (Jesus) said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Luke 10:2
One of the greatest lies the enemy would have us believe is that people are not interested in what Christians have to say. They are interested. People are hungry for the Truth and are looking for it in all sorts of places. Be encouraged and bold that the Lord will direct your steps to share with those who are open and ready to receive.
If the ground is hard and not ready to receive then the seed is going to wither and die. Have you seen what happens when a heavy rain storm falls on hard ground. The water can’t penetrate the ground quickly enough and there is flash flooding. The ground was not prepared ready to receive the rain let alone the seed. It doesn’t penetrate the soil but runs off.
We don’t want run off.
We don’t want our words to run off like that water but we want them to penetrate and water the soil of men’s hearts. Ploughed soil is ready to receive. Ground that is broken up is ready to receive the rain. Little raindrops from heaven. Little words sent in due season.
If the soil is not ready to receive then it needs to be prepared. If those around you currently are hard hearted to the gospel message then we can intercede in prayer for them before God’s throne for the Holy Spirit to minister to their minds and hearts. For those hearts of stone to be turned to hearts of flesh. We can cry out for them to God. May our cries reach the ears of our Father in Heaven who sent His son to seek and save that which was lost.
If you are like me then I’m sure you have experienced rejection by people who were just not ready to receive you. It can be discouraging and cause us to hold back in future. I am learning that I need to recognise the conditions and discern when to sow and when to reap. To be led by the Holy Spirit and move on if the conditions are not ready yet.
Jesus told those that He sent out to minister that if there was no Peace in the house i.e the place was not ready to receive them – then their peace would return to them. If the disciples were not received then they were to shake the dust from their feet and move on.
And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Matthew 10:14
Even though those disciples must have encountered some of the rejection that Jesus warned them about, they still returned with joy to tell Jesus the things they had accomplished in His name.
We will do likewise. We will rejoice over those who receive Christ and come into the Kingdom of God.
Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him. Psalm 126:5-6
I woke up this morning thinking of the words of this wonderful old hymn. Hymns are beautiful and declare precious truths about God. I hope these words from How Great Thou Art bless you this morning. I hadn’t realised but according to information I have read, the words were originally a poem by Swedish Carl Boberg. The title was translated as “O Mighty God”.
It was years later that a missionary in Ukraine heard locals singing the song who translated it into the English version we know today.
I pray today that with all this terrible situation in Ukraine that this song and it’s words will be once again be a mighty declaration over that country of How Great God Is. May these words be heard ringing in Heaven’s courts today,
Oh Lord, my God When I, in awesome wonder Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder Thy power throughout the universe displayed
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee How great Thou art, how great Thou art Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee How great Thou art, how great Thou art
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing He bled and died to take away my sin
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee How great Thou art, how great Thou art Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee How great Thou art, how great Thou art
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart Then I shall bow, in humble adoration And then proclaim, my God, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee How great Thou art, how great Thou art Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee How great Thou art, how great Thou art How great Thou art, how great Thou art