Friday, August 26, 2016

First Impressions

“The man, the lord of the land, spoke roughly to us and took us to be spies of the land." - Genesis 42:30

Partway through the account of Joseph in Genesis, Joseph has been promoted to second in command in Egypt. During the massive famine that ravaged the land, Joseph's brothers came to Egypt to purchase food. By this point, it had been a considerable number of years ago that they had sold Joseph into slavery and they assumed he had likely died or been killed. They would have never guessed that the harsh Egyptian lord who stood before them could possibly be their long lost younger brother, and they certainly didn't think that this encounter could end up leading to one of the greatest blessings their family could have (an invitation to come set up residence on a nice parcel of land in that region!).

The fact is this: things aren't always what they seem- we can't take everything at face value or first impressions. When my friend and I were walking through Seattle, we didn't think terribly much of that iPhone billboard at the time. It was just another advertisement among many. Well, guess what? Later that day, it turned out to be the one landmark that enabled us to find our car after nearly two hours of searching! You just never know what God could use to ultimately bring about His blessings.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Cup Bearer

"Then Joseph said to him, “This is its [the dream's] interpretation: the three branches are three days. In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh's cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cup bearer. Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house... 

...On the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cup bearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. He restored the chief cup bearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand. But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief cup bearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him." 
- Genesis 40:12-23

How often are we like the cup bearer in this situation in regards to God's blessings in our lives? How many times in our lives has God provided for us, but ended up going without the proper thanks or even a second thought from us? So often it can feel like where we are is our own doing- we worked hard for this, we made the choices that brought us to this position; while yes, we have been making choices, it is God who directed our steps and provided the opportunities and the impactful people we've met along the way.

Even if we are not currently in a high point in life, it is worth remembering that things could always get worse, were it not for God and His mercy holding back some of life's trials from us. Whether you are at a high point or a low point in life, take a step back and consider the blessings He has given you, whether in the form of the amazing things that have happened or in the form of the terrible things that could have yet did not.

Give thanks to God today, and every day. To Him be all glory.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Navigating the Path of Life

Tip: Pay attention to your light spots, especially if you are shooting near or under trees. You may need to move your subject into a light patch (or alternately, a shade patch, if you so choose) to keep the colors even.

Many of us are familiar with Proverbs 3:5-6, where we are told to acknowledge the Lord in all our ways and He will make our paths straight. As I was scrolling through some photos I've taken over the past 12 months, I saw the one above and it reminded me of that passage. Upon looking it up, I noticed there is so much more to it that is important to take to heart. All of Proverbs 3 is full of wonderful truths, but verses 3-8 especially struck me:

"Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
    bind them around your neck;
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
    in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment to your bones."

Not that I am some health & wealth gospel sort of person, but I believe the verses that state the healthful benefits of following the Lord's ways can absolutely be taken in the literal sense. I must confess that as of late, I've had a very difficult time displaying steadfast love to those around me, my faithfulness in constant Bible study has been failing, I've had doubts of God's direction for my life, and in many areas I've not acknowledged Him and consequently leaned upon my own understanding. 

Guess what? I had the most miserable month of my life as a result. Stress levels increased, I slept less, energy and appetite decreased, my general attitude wasn't great and over all I just felt sick and unhappy. Have you been struggling? Know you aren't alone, but also know this: it's time to redirect. It's time to be faithful again, it's time to be loving again, it's time to put your trust back in God instead of yourself, and it's time to turn away from evil. Not simply for your sake, but for the glory of your Creator. It won't be easy. We might even fail a number of times, but let's do this.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Be Filled

Tip: It can be tricky sometimes, but strive to use natural light as often as possible. It can yield enchanting results.

We hear people talk about being full or filled quite often. Whether it's in regards to food, feeling loved or accepted, or even that age-old phrase "he's full of the devil", there is always something in us or that we desire to have in us or our lives. Conversely, there are also people who speak of feeling empty inside. Like that coke bottle above, we were made to be full- but of what? Here is what the Bible says on the topic:

In regards to God, we are to be filled with: 

*Awe/amazement (Matt 27:54)
*Fear (Mark 4:41)
*Knowledge of Him (Romans 15:14)
*Gladness for His presence (Acts 4:32)
*Knowledge of His will (Colossians 1:9)
*Comfort in Him (2 Corinthians 7:4)

However, those who disagree with him are apt to be filled with fury (like the Pharisees - Luke 6:11).

As believers, our lives should be filled with:

*Goodness (Romans 15:14)
*The Holy Spirit (who gives boldness to speak God's word - Acts 4:31, Eph 5:18)
*Joy (Acts 13:52)
*The fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19)
*Wisdom and understanding (Colossians 1:9)
*Grace and power (Acts 6:8)
*Good works and acts of charity (Acts 9:36)
*Faith (Acts 11:24)
*Peace, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy, good fruits, impartiality, sincerity (James 3:17)

There are also many things we should NOT be full of:

*Unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness (Romans 1:29)
*Greed and self-indulgence (Matt 23:25)
*Uncleanness, hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matt 23:27-28)
*Curses and bitterness (Romans 3:14)
*Jealousy (as the Jews toward Paul- Acts 13:45)

Which of these traits do you see displayed in your life? Are they traits that should be in your life?