Nothing can Separate you from the Love of God!

 

nothing-can-separate-1Back to Joseph who I left in prison several blogs ago…Though Joseph was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and thrown into prison by Potiphar who was furious with him for something he didn’t do, the Lord was with Joseph and continued to show him His love and faithfulness. The Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden so that he was put in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. The warden had no worries because Joseph took care of everything. Once again, Joseph was successful in everything he did.

This is why I am so drawn to the story of Joseph. While I don’t know the purpose of the prison, the ways Joseph’s faith was tested, how his character was developed, how his heart was refined, I do know that Joseph thrived. Joseph’s story gives hope that no matter what man did to Joseph, God remained with him.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

How often do the fears for today or the worries about tomorrow seem to separate you from the love of God?

How often does the enemy accuse you of those things in your past that have already been forgiven?

How often do you think, “If God really loved me…”?

It is only when you are fully convinced that nothing can separate you from the love of God that you will be able to thrive in any situation you face.

Are you convinced that God’s love for you will dispel all your fear?

Are you convinced that God loves you so much that you can trust Him and give Him all your worries?

Are you convinced that God loved you so much He gave His Son, Jesus, to completely forgive you of all your sin?

Are you convinced that God loves you so much that nothing you have faced, are facing, or will ever face, will take away His love from you?

When you are convinced of God’s love for you, you will thrive, no matter what!

When Joseph saw how worried and upset two of the inmates assigned to him looked he had compassion for them and asked them why.

They told Joseph that they each had a dream, but that no one could tell them what they meant. Joseph told them that interpreting dreams was God’s business, and then told them to tell him their dreams.

The chief cup-bearer told Joseph his dream. He saw a grapevine with three branches that bloomed and produced clusters of grapes. He was holding Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, and then placed it into Pharaoh’s hand.

God’s favor was on Joseph and enabled him to tell what the dream meant. The three branches represented three days. Within three days he would be restored back into service as chief cup-bearer to Pharaoh.

Joseph told the cup-bearer that when he was restored to tell Pharaoh to set him free for he did nothing deserving of prison.

Freedom!! Joseph could taste it! Surely when Pharaoh was told of the wisdom of Joseph; that his God gave him the ability to interpret the cup-bearer’s dream, and when Pharaoh heard that Joseph was in prison for no reason, he was sure to find favor in Pharaoh’s eyes and he would be set free!

When the chief baker heard the interpretation Joseph gave the cup-bearer he told Joseph his dream. He saw in his dream three baskets of white pastries stacked on his head. The top basket contained all kinds of pastries for Pharaoh, but birds came and ate from the basket.

Joseph told the chief baker what his dream meant. The three baskets were also three days. At that time Pharaoh would lift him from prison, but impale him on a pole. The birds would come and peck at his flesh.

Three days later the chief cup-bearer was indeed restored to his position, and Pharaoh did impale the chief baker just as Joseph had spoken.

But the chief cup-bearer forgot all about Joseph.

Forgotten instead of freedom!!

Nothing could separate Joseph from the love of God. Not even the forgetfulness of the cup-bearer. As each day went by it seemed to be another day he was forgotten, but in the big picture it was another day closer to his promotion.

Faith is tested.

Character is developed.

The heart is refined…

It began with a conversation that caused me to become very upset. I took offense to a decision a ministry leader made. A ministry that I was involved in was going to be changed and I no longer would be involved in the leadership. I understood some of the concerns, but felt very strongly the changes were based on wrong motives. And of course I was hurt and felt rejected because I believed I was being obedient to the Lord’s was leading.

“This leader is listening to what people want, not to what God wants.”

“I’ve been doing what God has been showing me, this is what He wants.”

“How could this leader do this? I’m not trusted.”

The intensity of the hurt in my heart convinced me there was something in this that the Lord wanted to show me, some work He wanted to do in my heart. Years ago I had read a book, “The Bait of Satan,” written by John Bevere. It was about this very thing, how the enemy uses offense to divide and conquer ministry. I knew I didn’t want the enemy to win. I knew I needed to come under the authority over me. I was convinced God loved me, that He was for me…

So, one morning I got alone with God and had an intense time of ministry as the Holy Spirit began to lift me out of a prison of shame!

 

 

 

Perfect Love Expels All Fear!

You may ask, “How can you know that you were restored that day when the lie was revealed and exchanged with the truth?”

Though I’m not like my car, Zeb, that had obvious repairs done to him, there were some obvious changes I could see in myself that I knew I was changed from the inside out.

One example happened several months later when I was asked to share my testimony on video to promote the ministry of Ancient Paths. You need to remember the lie the enemy planted years ago, “If I speak up for my convictions I won’t fit in” and how it had brought fear of speaking and of making mistakes… Now, I was asked to share on video for everyone to see what I believed about the ministry I had experienced.

I admit there was a battle between the old lie and the new truth.

“I can’t do this! Talk in front of a video camera? I’ve never done that before.”

“What will I say? How will I remember what to say?”

“My voice will shake, I’ll be so nervous, what will people think?”

But then new thoughts started to come to mind…

“I know what happened during the ministry time was real. I know the Lord showed me myself as a little girl and revealed the lie I believed, and I know He replaced it with a truth that I can believe in.”

“If God did that for me, I want others to know so they too will find the freedom I have found.”

“God has set me apart, and He has plans for me, I can trust Him to make me brave!”

So, I said “Yes.”

I began to write out a script. If I was going to do this I wanted to have my lines well memorized so I could speak as freely as possible. With my script well memorized I went to the taping of my testimony. I was amazed how well I shared, feeling very thankful and confident when I was finished.

Until I heard, “That was great, except that it took three minutes and you only have a minute and a half. You need to cut it down.”

Once again thoughts came crashing into my mind…

“What?! That was what I want to share! I can’t cut it down!”

“I don’t have time to rewrite. You can’t expect me to cut it down without a rewrite.”

“I can’t get my thoughts together just here on the spot.”

“What am I going to do?!”

None of these thoughts came out of my mouth. Instead, I found myself saying,

“Okay, I’ll give it a try.”

I opened my mouth and out came words. Words I had said before, but put together differently. I was speaking, but I wasn’t figuring it all out. I don’t know that I ever experienced that before. All I know was that all of a sudden I was finished. When the time was checked it was exactly one and a half minutes!

“God, that was truly amazing! You helped me to do the impossible!”

I was asked if I would like to see it.

See it?! Of course! I needed to see the miraculous thing that just took place! When I saw myself talking on the video I couldn’t believe it. Now, I know that sounds really proud, but you have to believe me when I say it was a huge miracle in so many ways! The quiet little girl that feared speaking up for her convictions, the insecure woman that lived in fear of making a mistake, whose voice literally shook when speaking in front of people, she was on a screen in front of me sharing her personal testimony of how she was set free! I knew then and there that I was changed, forever changed. I was no longer a slave to fear. My voice was restored, and I knew I had stepped into a what God had set me apart for, the destiny He had created me for.

To be a speaker of truth…

To share the ways fear brought harm to my life,

and to prove how the amazing grace and love of God expels all fear, restores, and sets free!

This lie of the enemy isn’t unique to me. Yes, it came to me in a unique way during music class, but the enemy plants lies that steal people’s voices all the time in many various ways. Individually we have been lied to and our voices have been stolen.

I believe much apathy and compromise in the church, among the people of God, is rooted in fear.

Fear is the enemy’s number one strategy to keep God’s people quiet and from living the lives God intended for us. When we are born again we often say this verse to describe who we are now that we belong to Christ.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

It is a great verse, but I believe it is a verse that we know in our heads, but our hearts don’t fully embrace its truth. The lies of the enemy are often planted when we are very young. We develop habits because of the lies we believe. They become our truth. When we are born again we often continue to believe our “truth” and live from the habits and patterns we have developed.

We can be a child of God, yet living as a slave to fear.

As a child of God we will experience God’s blessing and favor, but as long as we are slaves to fear we remain in bondage to compromise and striving.

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.” 1 John 4:18  

“Lord, show me any lie the enemy planted in my heart that has caused me to fear. Show me what has become my “truth” and the sin I have committed because of believing it.”

“Father, I confess my sin of believing the lie that__________________. Lord, please forgive me for the sin I committed because I believed that lie. Thank You for Your forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus. Thank You for revealing the lie and the ways believing it has caused me to sin against You.”

“Now Father, I ask You to show me Your truth. What did You have to say to me during that time when the enemy lied to me? What was Your truth of that situation I experienced?”

“Thank You for showing me Your truth. I choose to exchange the lie I believed with Your truth. Please help me to live in Your truth. When I begin to respond in my old ways by striving or in compromise because of fear, remind me of Your truth.”

“Thank You, Father, for Your perfect love for me. As Your child I can walk in love and freedom, no longer a slave to fear!”

 

Restored!

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Zebulun Restored! One month after the accident my car has been restored back to its original condition! And, Yes, I named my car Zebulun because I love that name and my children have let me know that I will never have a grandson by that name!

This accident experience has reminded me about the ways in which the Lord has restored me throughout my life.

Something that was once good, became broken, and then was made new.

I have been bumped into.

Had some pit experiences.

Been a slave to fear.

Taken captive in a prison of self.

I was raised in a Christian home where my parents loved God and lived according to the Bible. We attended church regularly and I learned the truth of  God’s word since birth. I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit draw me into a relationship with God through faith in Jesus when I was twelve years old. I know at that moment I prayed “the sinner’s prayer” the Holy Spirit came into my spirit and sealed me for the rich and satisfying life God intended for me.

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10

But, as you can see from this verse, there is an enemy who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. This enemy takes advantage of your weaknesses and the vulnerable times of your life.

When I was in elementary school my music teacher played a song during class one day and in my young heart and mind I realized it was a song that I wasn’t allowed to listen to. I went up to the teacher’s desk and told her that I wasn’t allowed to listen to that type of music. I’m not sure what I expected her to do, but her solution was to put a chair out in the hall and have me sit there until the song was over. This may not seem to be a pit experience or a reason for fear, but the Lord has shown me since that this very experience was when the enemy planted a lie in my heart. “If you speak up for your convictions you won’t fit in.”

This lie became my truth. I felt different, isolated from others. I feared speaking up for myself, for what I believed. I feared what people would think of me.

I became very conscientious. I tried to blend in with those around me. Always striving to do the right thing, to always say the right thing. Never wanting to make a mistake. I answered people with, “I don’t care,” “Maybe,” never wanting to commit myself in fear my answer wouldn’t “fit in.”

I was bumped into that day. I was broken, but I didn’t even know it.

The enemy planted a lie that was meant for my harm. A lie that caused me to fear. A lie that caused me to strive. A lie that kept me focused on self.

After the car accident the officer said that Zeb was drivable, but with the exhaust pipe damaged as it was, it wouldn’t be a good idea to drive the two hours home.

That little girl in the hallway was damaged, but she kept on driving without being restored. The damage that was done stole from my life. The fear of not fitting in stole my voice, my convictions, my identity of who I was as God’s child.

While I can’t blame the enemy for my behavior and responses in life, I have a greater understanding of why I responded to life situations in the ways that I did.

I have learned the strategy of Satan is to plant lies into the hearts of the young and innocent. These lies are meant to bring harm through fear and shame. It is fear and shame that keep you in a prison of self. And in this prison of self you will never know your identity and destiny that God has for you. This is how Satan steals, kills, and destroys.

But Jesus has come to give you a rich and satisfying life!

Throughout the many years of striving as a slave to fear, God never left me. He was for me! There is more I want to share about those years; the tests I failed, the amazing grace of God, and the testimonies that have come from them. I’m sure they will show up in future blogs.

But for now, I will tell how God restored me from the damage the enemy did that day in the hall.

About six years ago I was at a seminar called Ancient Paths. There was a video teaching and small group times to allow the Holy Spirit to personally minister His truth. During the teaching the Lord put these three words in my mind, “Lack of affirmation.” When I went to the small group I told the facilitator these words and he said to ask the Lord about them. We went to prayer and right away the Lord showed me in my mind’s eye a little girl sitting in the hallway. I knew right away it was me back in elementary school. I remembered the situation like it was yesterday. The Lord spoke to me and told me the enemy planted a lie that day, the lie that, “If you speak up for your convictions you won’t fit in.” The Holy Spirit then connected the dots for me…I realized that my striving to fit in, not wanting to make a mistake, afraid of what others thought of me, afraid to speak…these came from that lie. It all made so much sense! It was so clear to me!

That’s what I love about God, when He shows you the truth it’s without shame or condemnation, but with love and kindness. I told the facilitator what the Lord showed me. He told me to confess believing the lie and the sin that I committed by believing it. I was ready and willing to do that. I knew this was what I needed, this is what I wanted. After I confessed my sin I asked God to show me the truth He wanted me to know that day. As I allowed the Holy Spirit to speak He showed me the little girl again and said, “My truth to you that day was, I have set you apart! It wasn’t to keep you from fitting in, but to protect you because I have a greater purpose and plan for your life.” Then, when I saw myself as that little girl in the hall I had a new truth; God’s truth, and that truth set me free. Today I am free and restored from the damage (lie) of the enemy. Free from the pit of isolation. Free from fear of not fitting in. And I am free to speak of what I believe.

Praise God, I was restored!

 

Test before Testimony

Joseph was busy as he kept Potiphar’s household running well. He had Potiphar’s favor, and most likely the favor of all who were in his household, including Potiphar’s wife. Favor soon turned to lust and Potiphar’s wife demanded that he sleep with her.

Joseph was working hard with little time for himself, didn’t he deserve some pleasure? After all, she was enticing him and making herself very available. No one would ever know. With the favor of all who were in the household, nobody would tell Potiphar, and besides that, his family was far away, they would never know.

How many things have I done because I felt justified?

What have I done out of blaming others?

What choices have I made because, “No one will ever know?”

Joseph could have chosen any one of these responses.

“But Joseph refused. Look, he told her, My master trusts me with everything in his entire household. No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.” Genesis 39:8-9

Joseph looked beyond himself, beyond his position, beyond others, and saw the big picture. He recognized who he was, what had been entrusted to him, and how great a sin against God it would be. He stood for his convictions and didn’t waver no matter how much she pressured him.

Then one day…

With no one around, Potiphar’s wife approached Joseph. She grabbed him by his robe and demanded him to sleep with her. Joseph tore himself away, leaving his robe in her hands, and ran from the house.

Finding herself with his robe in her hands she called out to her servants and told them that Joseph had come to her room to rape her. She told them that her scream sent Joseph running, but in his hurry he left his robe.

She repeated her story to her husband when he came home, showing him Joseph’s robe to prove it. Potiphar was furious when he heard what happened to his wife, how Joseph had treated her. He took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held.

Falsely accused!

No chance to defend himself.

No witnesses to prove him innocent.

Joseph had been thrown down into a pit.

Joseph had gone down to Egypt.

Joseph was sold down as a slave.

Joseph was taken down into a prison.

Once again Joseph found himself stripped of his robe and thrown down.

“Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with fetters and placed his neck in a iron collar. Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.” Psalm 105:17b-19

“For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:3-4

Character tested…

Faith tested…

Before every testimony there is a test.

As with tests in school, God’s tests come in all shapes and sizes. The purposes of God tests are to test your character and your faith. They are intended for your good; to refine and improve your character, to stretch and increase your faith. And because God tests are intended for your good, even when you fail, there is always opportunity to take the test again. And just like any test, the more you go over the material, the better you understand what is being taught.

Joseph was given many tests with similar material. He was faced with jealousy, hatred, greed, lust, blame. With each stripping of his robe, and each throwing down he received, Joseph was faced with the battle of his flesh and the battle of his soul. The choice to defend self, or to die to self. The choice to doubt God or to trust God.

The battlefield is in the mind.

God had given Joseph two dreams showing him lifted up, while others bowed down before him. Yet, there he was, down in a prison.

Throughout my life I have faced all sorts of tests where my character and my faith were tested. I’m sure I have passed some tests, but I know I have failed many. I have justified my answers. I have blamed others for my answers. And I have answered questions believing that no one would know. I have focused on myself, defended myself, and I have relied on my own understanding, with no thought of the bigger picture or the good that was intended.

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12

But, praise God for His amazing grace! God is for me and has allowed me to take some tests over and over. The Holy Spirit has gently instructed me and guided me into God’s truth. He has opened my eyes to see the lies I believed and the tests I have failed because of them. He has replaced those lies with His truth and that has made all the difference in the world! Knowing His truth by studying His word has helped me to understand His ways, to die to self, trust God, and therefore I have actually passed some tests!

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, says the Lord. And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” Isaiah 55:8

“Father, thank You for what You have taught me about the purposes of the tests I  face. Though I haven’t always been aware before, I see now how they have been intended for my good; to refine my character, and to increase my faith. Because You are for me and Your ways are beyond anything I could ever imagine I choose to trust You no matter what test I face. Thank You for this example of Joseph that I can learn from; that no matter how many tests I face, no matter how impossible my dreams may seem, there is a bigger picture. When I keep my eyes on You and trust You I will come through the test with greater character, increased faith, and with a testimony that will give glory and praise to You!”

Purpose in the Far Away Land

 

Joseph’s unexpected journey brought him to the far away land of Egypt.

Once Joseph arrived in Egypt he was bought by Potiphar, an Egyptian officer, captain of the Guard for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.

Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Jacob.  Joseph, an Israelite, of the chosen people of God, was now a slave in a pagan country. He found himself in a far away land, away from everything and everyone he knew. He was stripped of his identity and sold into a life of service. The teen-age boy who proudly wore the robe his father gave him, the one who tattled on his brothers when he checked on them in the fields, the dreamer who had been given two amazing dreams which he passionately described to his family; this teen-age boy was now a slave with no rights of his own. His only purpose was to serve the one who bought him, to give his all for the sake of the one who owned him. To die to self and to live for his master.

Satan is a liar and he came after Joseph to steal his identity, and to destroy the dreams God had given him. The pit experience was meant to harbor anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness towards his brothers. The unexpected journey was meant for Joseph to wallow in self-pity, fear the unknown, and to doubt God. And now slavery in a far away land was sure to cause Joseph to forget who he was, to doubt God, and to give up on his dreams.

But God…

God was for Joseph! God had a destiny for Joseph to fulfill, and nothing the enemy brought against Joseph could stop the plan of God. God loves His people. He promises to never leave them or forsake them, no matter how far away they may be.  Even in a far away land…

“The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. Potiphar noticed this and realized the Lord was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did. This pleased Potiphar, so he soon made Joseph his personal attendant. He put him in charge of his entire household and everything he owned. From the day Joseph was put in charge of his master’s household and property, the Lord began to bless Potiphar’s household for Joseph’s sake. All his household affairs ran smoothly, and his crops and livestock flourished. So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn’t worry about a thing – except what kind of food to eat!” Genesis 39:2-6

As with Joseph, you have an enemy that wants to steal, kill, and destroy you and your dreams.

Jesus said, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. John 10:10a

The enemy will accesses the offense of others around you to plant seeds of anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness in your heart. He looks for opportunities to plant fear, lies, and doubt in your mind. His plan is to strip you of knowing who you are as God’s child and to cause you to doubt God and give up on the dreams He has given you.

But, that is why this story of Joseph is so encouraging, because you can see that God gives grace to serve no matter what position you may be in. As a child of God you have God’s favor and blessing that others can see and promotion will come. You can see the big picture of how God worked all the difficulties together for Joseph’s good and for the good of many.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Though he was a slave, the favor of God was on him. The favor and blessing of God brought promotion so that even in his far away land, with no identity and no hope of his dreams being fulfilled, Joseph thrived and succeeded in all he did.

Though he was overwhelmed with all the work and the responsibility of Potiphar’s entire household, he was being prepared and equipped for greater responsibility yet to come.

Each time Joseph denied himself and did the will of his master, he was being humbled for it is the humble that God will exalt in due time.

You may wonder how you ever arrived in your far away land, and what purpose it could ever hold. You may be facing challenges that are beyond your ability, beyond your understanding. You may be doing menial jobs that don’t seem to have any significance at all. You may need to deny yourself on behalf of the needs of those around you. You may need to let go of things that you love, things you love more than God. You may resent your far away land because it seems to be keeping you from realizing your God-given dreams.

The far away land has great purpose for the destiny God has for you. When God gives dreams and desires they are way beyond your own ability, your own figuring out. They can only be fulfilled in God’s ways and in His time. The time between receiving the dream and the fulfillment of the dream is often filled with opportunities to be humbled, purified, and prepared. This time between is necessary. It is just as important as the fulfillment of the dream.

It is how you face the difficulties in the far away land that will make the difference of seeing your dream fulfilled or abandoned.

No matter what far away place you may find yourself, take courage from this story of Joseph. Though the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy…Jesus said,

“My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10b

Prayer –

Oh Lord, Your word says that You have a rich and satisfying life for me. Right now I feel as though I’m in a far away land. The difficulties are way beyond what I can handle and it is so hard to take my eyes off myself and put them on You. The enemy has been stealing the truth of who I am in You and the dreams You have given me. I choose to look to You, to listen to Your truth, and to receive the grace You have for me even in this difficult place. Please give me wisdom and knowledge for the difficulties I face. Please give me grace to do the insignificant jobs that seem so meaningless. Lord, you know how hard it is for me to die to self, I ask Your Holy Spirit to empower me to do the impossible. And talking about the impossible, Lord You know the things I love, those things that distract me, those things that I can’t do without. Those things that interfere with my time with You. Even those people I have made an idol, because I go to them instead of to You. Lord, please forgive me for putting these things before You. I choose to lay them down so that I will lift You up. Lord, if Your grace was enough for Joseph in his far away land, then I trust that Your grace is enough for the things I am facing today. Thank You for Your favor and blessing upon me, and in this place the enemy meant for harm, I trust You are working everything together for good. Amen