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Period Of Preparation

“One time Joseph had a dream, and when he told his brothers about it, they hated him even more.”

‭‭Genesis‬ ‭37:5‬ ‭GNT‬‬

Joseph is one of those people in the Bible that no matter how many times I read his story, I always learn more. He was disliked by his own brothers, sold as a slave, lied about, put in prison, I pressed the pharaoh, got promoted to second in command and saved his family. One of the catalysts for this series of events in his life was a dream that God gave him. I’m sure he was excited about what God showed him and he just wanted to share it.

Has that ever happened to you? It has to me. God gave me a vision of the ministry He was calling me to. At first I was terrified and ran from it. When I finally embraced it and gave in, things began happening quickly in my life. People of influence in my life asked what was going on. When I shared with them what was happening, they said, “Well, don’t get too carried away. I don’t know that God will keep doing it like that. Slow down and be patient.” Just like that, the air was let out of my ballon. I lost my momentum and faith in what God called me to.

Another friend recently asked about my calling. After a few minutes of beating around the bush, i finally told him. His response was, “A calling like that requires preparation and that’s what God is doing right now in your life.” It breathed new life into me. Just like Joseph had to go through these years of slavery and imprisonment to prepare him to fulfill the dream God gave him, you and I have to go through preparations too.

If you feel like God has forgotten the dream He gave you or you shared that dream and were made fun of, keep holding on. God isn’t finished working out His plan in your life. It’s not too late. You’re not too far gone. Just like blowing on some embers can rekindle a fire, God can easily move in your life and complete that which He called you to. Look at this time as your period of preparation. It may feel like you’ve been forgotten in a prison in Egypt, but God is placing you where He needs you and giving you the tools to be successful.

Photo by Chase Lewis on Unsplash

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The Cost Of A Dream


What are you willing to pay to accomplish your dreams? The dreams are free, but seeing them come to fruition isn’t. So many of us freely talk about the dreams God puts in our hearts, but so few are willing to endure what it takes to make them happen. When God gives us a dream, He rarely includes the cost. Once the time comes to start paying for it, many of us walk away from it or question if God really gave it to us.

When Joseph was a teenager, God put a dream in his heart that his brothers would one day bow to him. He didn’t have that great of a relationship with them, so he was excited about it. He told them about it, probably in a flaunting way, and they hated him for it. They threw him in a pit, then sold him as a slave where he was carried off to Egypt. From there, he was falsely accused of rape, thrown in prison and forgotten fir over ten years. 

Through all of that, he kept believing in the dream. We don’t read where he questioned God for his troubles. I believe it was because he thought of it as the price of his dream, and he was willing to pay it. God knew that as a teenager, he wasn’t ready to be second in command of Egypt. He tested him and developed in him the character he would need to make the dream in him a reality. Joseph paid the price for the dream.

Psalm 105:19 says, “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character” (NLT). If God gave you a dream and everything is going wrong, chances are that He’s testing your character. He’s finding out if you’re willing to pay the price and if you’re ready. Don’t give up because the dream seems so far away. Keep working hard. Keep paying the price. Don’t quit. God is getting you ready for the fulfillment of that dream. The cost is worth it. 

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Stretching


I saw a funny exchange that a friend of mine put on Facebook. A person told her, “I didn’t think a Christian would be so into yoga.” She replied, “You’re right. Christians don’t normally stretch.” It hit me that she’s right more than she knows. While she was talking about physically stretching, I was thinking of spiritually stretching. It’s not something that most of us do. We prefer to leave things the way they are and to not be challenged.

Brian Tracy speaks to the Law of Inertia. It says that people continue doing what they’re doing until they’re acted upon by an outside force. It’s not until we face a trial or gave a bad day that we wake from our zombie-like spiritual existence and begin to stretch spiritually. If we don’t voluntarily stretch, God is happy to be that outside force that moves us off the path we are on. He’s not content with our spiritual contentment.

We shouldn’t be either. We should each desire to be the best Christian we can be, to have a deeper, more meaningful relationship with Christ. The problem is that desire is only part of the equation. The other part is that we test our faith, push our spiritual limits and strive for the high calling in Christ Jesus. Stretching prepares us for growth. If we don’t stretch, the growth will be painful.

I’ve been in sports my whole life. Stretching has always been a part of every workout, every practice and every game. It warms up the muscles that we are about to use. I Timothy 4:8 says, “Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way.” Paul understood that our spirit needs exercise. If it needs exercise, it needs stretching. The way we do that is to put our faith to the test. We believe God for more than we think possible. I heard He’s able to do abundantly more than I could even ask or think, So why not think big?

If you don’t like to stretch, you’re not alone. Don’t wait for an outside force from God to get you to stretch your faith. Find ways today to stretch it out. Give more than you thought you could give (I’m not just talking about money here). Go farther than you thought you could go. Step into waters that are deeper than you’ve been in. Believe for more than you think is possible and watch what a God does. Don’t be a Christian who doesn’t like to stretch.
  

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Wake Your Dream Up


I recently asked a group of people what was the difference between a goal and a dream. I got several answers, but one stood out to me. They said, “A goal is something you can attain through making a plan, but a dream is that thing that is unattainable.” I thought, “If a dream is unattainable, then why have them?” Because so many of us think our dreams are unattainable, we let them die. We never chase them or go after them, so we focus on goals.

When I was younger, God gave me a dream of who I was to become. Yes, it was a calling, but it was so far out of reach, I treated it like a dream. I felt like if God wanted me to be who He wanted me to be, He’d just have to do a miracle. I lived all of my life with that dream in the back of my mind, but never had a thought of how I could attain it, so I never worked towards it. I knew the things I could do to move in the direction of it, but I stayed still.

In 2012, my former youth pastor was invited to speak at our church. I hadn’t seen him since the mid 90’s. After his sermon, I sat in my pew and quietly prayed, “God, if you want to make this a reality, I’m ready to do the work.” Immediately, he spoke into the microphone, “God just told me that someone in here has been running from their calling and just surrendered to it. If it’s you, He wants me to pray for you.” He actually got into more specifics than that and it was clear he was talking about me.

On that day, the dream God put in my heart came back to life. I began to do things, like starting this website, to get me closer to that dream calling. It’s no longer just a pipe dream. Each day that I do something about it, I get closer to God completing it. When I think about the Israelites, they couldn’t get to the Promised Land unless they were willing to leave the desert. They couldn’t enter it from the Sinai desert. They had to go towards the Jordan River. Once they got to the Jordan, God could perform the miracle for them to cross over into their dream land.

If you’ve allowed the dream God placed in your heart to die or lie dormant, I want you to take a step today from Ezekiel 37:9 and say what God told Ezekiel to say to the army built from the dry bones. Say, “Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again” (NLT). I believe if God placed a dream in your heart, He wants to revive it. You don’t have to be afraid that it’s too big. If you can’t accomplish it without His help, it probably didn’t come from Him. Speak life into that dream today and do something that moves you in the direction of your Jordan. 

You’re not too old. It’s not too late.

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Missing Abilities

Write down clearly on tablets what I reveal to you, so that it can be read at a glance. Put it in writing, because it is not yet time for it to come true. But the time is coming quickly, and what I show you will come true. It may seem slow in coming, but wait for it; it will certainly take place, and it will not be delayed.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 (GNT)

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Chasing Vultures

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In Genesis 15, God spoke to Abraham (Abram) and told him that his reward would be grand. Abraham fired back at God, “What use are your gifts as long as I’m childless.” He wasn’t being rude. He just wanted someone to give an inheritance to. He had been blessed by God in every way, but had no one to give it to. That’s when God planted the dream of having a son on his heart. He took him outside to count the stars to number his descendants. God said, “You’re going to have a big family!”

It was then that he made a sacrifice to God for giving him the dream of a big family. While the sacrifice was on the altar, verse 11 says, “Some vultures swooped down to eat the carcasses, but Abram chased them away.” When I read that, I thought, “That’s a weird verse to have in the Bible.” The more I think about it though, the more I know it was on purpose. You are going to have to protect the dreams that God gives you and you are going to have to protect them. The enemy wants to come in like a vulture and steal them.

I looked up vultures on the internet and found that there are many types of them. They are all birds of prey. They can spot their target from miles away. They will pick at their food and eat it until it’s gone. That’s what our enemy does. He circles above our heads and threatens to take our God given dreams away from us. He picks at them until we let them go and give them up. We wonder why God gave us the dream only to have it picked apart and eaten. It’s up to us to chase the enemy away.

One thing I learned about vultures is that they don’t mess with things that are healthy. They only prey on the weak, the sickly or the dead. The first line of attack is to keep the dream God has given you alive and healthy. Don’t let it sit dormant in your mind. Write it down. Tell others about it. Own it. Steward it. When it feels like it is taking forever for it to happen, keep believing in God. Habakkuk 2:3 says, “If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.” The dream God gives you will take place in His time, not yours.

If your dream is weak, sickly or dead it is still not beyond God reviving it. Joseph’s dream must have seemed dead to him. He had been given it over 20 years earlier. Since the time God gave it to him, he had been betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape and was forgotten in prison left to die. I’m sure there were many times as he sat in that prison that the vultures circled his dream, but he refused to let it die. He knew that God had given it to him so he chased the vultures away. He kept believing until the Pharaoh called for him one day.

Whatever dream God has given you, it’s worth fighting for. It’s worth chasing the vultures away. Even if they are circling overhead, don’t get discouraged. Stand your ground. Own your dream. Patiently wait for God to bring it to life. What He started in you, He will finish. What He planted in your heart will grow and come to life. While you are waiting for that to happen, grab the Word of God and chase those vultures away. Your dream is worth fighting for no matter how bad things look right now.

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Death of a Dream

Yesterday at church, we did something that we haven’t done since I was a kid. We had people share their testimonies. It wasn’t like it was back then either. I remember as a child sitting on the pew as people would get up and share what The Lord had done in their lives. This wasn’t quite like that. This was a pre planned time of testimonies built into the sermon that went along with it. I thought it was very good.

The sermon was about people in the Bible who’s dreams were crushed, changed or died. We can relate because we’ve all had dreams in our lives that have met similar fates. It’s hard not to get discouraged when that happens. We often think we’re the only one who has dealt with the death of a dream. We feel alone and isolated. Defeated.

That’s where I think testimonies are the biggest help. It shows people in the church that there are others like them who have gone through something similar. It builds a point of connection. It shows that the church isn’t full of people who have it all together. It shows we’re human. It also helps us to overcome. Yes, overcome. Scripture says that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. It’s when others hear what God has done for us that they can become encouraged to keep fighting.

Yesterday, I heard stories of parents who raised their kids in church and how they have quit going. In tears, these parents poured their hearts out to the congregation telling them the struggles they faced during those times. Some had returned while others had not. After reaching the point in believing the dream was dead, God revived the dream and there is hope again.

Another shared of the struggles of expecting to be married by a certain age. They shared about their feelings of worthlessness and that no one wanted them. They shared that they had to let their dream of what they wanted for their life to die, so that God could show them His dream. When we release our dreams and embrace His dreams, we don’t have those feelings of worthlessness and failure anymore. We learn to depend on Him for our sense of worth and not what someone else says or does.

I got to share my own dreams that died. Dreams of a picture perfect life where I had it all. I was poised for a comfortable life and had laid the foundation for a bright future for myself and my family when suddenly it was all taken from me. I shared how there was no hope, no joy and no future. But God, in His mercy, came and met me in that dark place and replanted a dream in me of who He wanted me to become. He gave me hope and restored my joy. I came back from the brink of suicide and murder to a place where He can use me.

Where are you? What dreams have died in your life that you are holding against God? It’s time to let go of them so you can embrace His dream for your life. We can become bitter when we look at Jesus like Mary, the sister of Lazarus, and say, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother (my dream) would not have died.” It’s when we release those broken, crushed and dead dreams that God can plant a new one in you. It will be greater than the dream you had before. When you look back, you will be thankful he let that dream die because the new one is so much better. I can say that with confidence because I’m there right now.

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Approachable Jesus

My pastor asked a question last Sunday that still has me thinking about it. He asked, “Are you approachable by the world or are you so self righteous that they want nothing to do with you?” His next point was that Jesus was approachable. So approachable in fact that a prostitute came and washed his feet, a tax collector invited Him into his house and a Samaritan woman brought her whole village out to meet Him. His life wasn’t about showing how much holier He was. It was about showing love to others despite how the world labeled them.

It’s easy to not want to associate with certain types of people. It’s become normal for us to wonder about those who hang out with sinners. Why? I heard Kirk Franklin say, “If everyone I know loves Jesus, I don’t know enough people.” I get it. We need to surround ourselves with other believers and grow in the faith. We also need to make sure we have relationships with those who aren’t believers.

How can we have influence on someone we don’t have a relationship with? Jesus taught in the temples on the Sabbath, but the rest of the week He was in the streets, villages and hillsides building relationships with those who weren’t in the temple. He left the 99 who were safe in the temple to search for that one who would listen outside. He made Himself available to others. He healed those who weren’t religious. If He didn’t, why did He often say, “Go and sin no more”?

We limit God by thinking certain things are only for believers. God wants us to demonstrate His love to all so that none would perish. I was praying this week a prayer that I heard from a friend of mine. The prayer he told me he prays isn’t, “God show me your will and I’ll do it.” He said, “I’ve been praying, ‘God, what are you dreaming of doing? Pick me. I’ll volunteer to make that dream a reality.'”

As I was praying that this week, I asked God, “What do you dream about?” The answer was, “That none should perish.” God’s dream isn’t that we have large churches, debt free buildings or an amazing light show during praise and worship. Are those things great to have? Yes. But are we putting our time, energy and money into building relationships that grow the Kingdom? That’s where God’s heart is.

Today, think about your life. How approachable are you by those outside the church? If an unbeliever is around you at work, are you the type of person they could come to and ask questions about faith? Would you give them the churchy answer? Or do they know you will be real and transparent about your faith? None of us are perfect. We just serve a perfect God and do our best to be like Him. Build relationships. Win the lost. That’s God’s heartbeat.

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Chopping Trees

I’m reading “Greater” by Steven Furtick right now. I’m only a few chapters in, but already I am being challenged. The premise of the book is to dream big, start small. I’ve had no problem dreaming. It’s the starting that is the problem. When you have a big dream, it’s natural to think you have to start big. In reality, you have to do the little things first.

Noah was called to build a big boat. His small start was chopping down the first tree. Think about that. He didn’t have a Home Depot to go to in order to buy the lumber he needed. He had to chop down trees, form them into lumber and then build the boat. That’s a lot of work. I think that my problem, as well as others, is that when God gives us a dream, we think He’s going to do everything and we forget we have to work towards that dream.

God plants the design and the desire in us, but we are the ones who have to walk by faith to make it happen. We have to chop down the trees and build what God has planted in us so that when the time comes for us to do what He called us to do, we’re ready. If Noah had waited until he saw a storm cloud to chop down the first tree, it would have been too late. The time to build an ark is while it’s sunny, not when the storm clouds are on the horizon.

It took Noah 120 years to build the ark. None of us have that kind of time, but it shows that just because God plants a dream in us, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen overnight. We may have to chop trees for a while. We may even cut down an entire forest before that dream becomes a reality. In that time of preparation is when our faith is tested. Thoughts like “Did I really hear from God” and “What if I do all of this and nothing comes from it” pop in our head to challenge us and cause doubt.

It’s in the chopping of trees that our faith grows. It’s believing God when we can’t see ourselves getting closer to the dream. Faith is knowing we heard from God and continuing to work towards that dream even though we can’t see how it will ever happen. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

If I could see the entire road and how it would happen, it wouldn’t be faith. Faith is about believing God when all I see are trees. It’s about putting it all out there and trusting God with everything. Others may laugh, ridicule or even stand in your way, but you have to keep building. You have to keep chopping. You have to keep trusting so that when the time comes for the fulfillment of your dream, you’re ready.

Noah could have dreamed about the ark for 120 years and then prayed for a miracle once the storm clouds started rolling in. Thank God he didn’t. He would have been in disobedience if he had only dreamed and never picked up an ax. Because he took small steps toward his dream, his family and the animals were saved. There’s no telling how many will be saved by your obedience. You’ll never know unless you start chopping.

What dream has God placed in you? What trees do you need to start chopping?

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Let Go

As I mentioned here I will be studying Joseph’s life more in depth this year. I want to share with you something else I found while reading about him. In Genesis 42, the famine had spread from Egypt to the surrounding countries. Jacob, his father, heard that there was food in Egypt. In order to keep from starving, he sent 10 of his remaining 11 sons to go buy food there.

Since Joseph had correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, he was placed in charge of selling the food they had been storing in the seven years of plenty. His brothers came in and bowed before him. He recognized them, but they didn’t. Immediately God reminded him of his dream and how it had just been fulfilled. He used an interpreter to speak to them and accused them of being spies. He then put them in jail for three days.

After three days he visited them and said he would release 9 of them and hold one until they returned with the youngest. He also filled their sacks with grain and secretly returned their money to them in the bags of grain. When they got home, they told their father what had happened and what the Egyptian wanted. They then emptied their sacks and found the money that was to pay for the grain. In verse 36, Jacob exclaims, “Everything is going against me!”

I find it interesting how Jacob crumbles in this situation. You and I have the privilege of knowing how the story ends, but he didn’t. We can see how God was lining things up for him to take care of his family and then to return his son he thought was dead. All that was being asked of him was to send all of his sons back to Egypt to get the last one. In his mind he was giving up everything, not knowing that he was about to be completely taken care of.

I wonder how many times in our own lives, God is trying to work things out for our own good and we think the sky is falling. He asks us to give things up that are precious to us and we cry out, “Everything is going against me” when really everything is lining up for Him to give us more. Our perspective is so focused on the now that we can’t see what God is trying to do. What if Jacob had decided not to send his 10 remaining sons to get the one? What if he chose not to give up everything? How would history have changed?

God is lining things up in our lives. He is asking us to let go of things we’re holding onto so He can fulfill dreams in your life. Everything is not working against you. It’s being worked for your good. You have to trust Him and let go of what He’s asking you to. So what is it that He’s asking you to let go of? What is it that He wants you to trust Him with? Are you willing to let go of everything so He can fulfill your dream and His promise?

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