God Intended it for Good

07-27-14 298

Prodigal: Help! Help! Help!

Me: Prodigal, how in the world did you get stuck in there?

Prodigal: Well I was just trying to help out with the canning and then I got stuck in this mason jar and I have been sitting here trapped. I was just waiting and waiting hoping that someone would come and help me.

Prodigal: Prodigal, I am so sorry that you got trapped in that mason jar. It does remind me though of Joseph and when he was trapped in prison.

Prodigal: Please tell me about this Joseph.

The story of Joseph takes place in the book of Genesis. He goes through several trials with God. He has a dream that God gives him that he will have power one day and his brothers will bow down to him. He also is his father’s favorite. His brother’s sell him into slavery in Egypt. He then becomes overseer at the home he was sold too. The owners wife decides that she likes him and she tries to get physically intimate with him. He refused so she then says that Joseph was trying to rape her. He is thrown into prison. In prison he holds another leadership position. He then interprets a dream for the King’s baker and butler. He interprets the dream correctly and ask for favor to the King’s butler when the butler goes back to working close to the King. The butler then forgets all about Joseph for two years. After two years Joseph finally interprets a dream for the King and his trials are over and he is now the second person in command of the kingdom.

I love the story of Joseph! I have been blessed to be able to teach this story to several groups. I remember when I first had to teach this story. The part that really got to me is the verse Genesis 40:23 Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgot him.

Lets look at this story. This is not Joseph’s first trial. He has already had his fair share. He is in a foreign land, one of the only believers in the one true God, he has tried to stand by his values and has done no major wrong. Here he is sold into slavery, accused of sexual battery, thrown into prison and then he does a favor for someone and he is forgotten. Not forgotten for two days, two weeks, or two months. He is forgotten for two years. Now if I was there, in that prison before being released I would start having some talks with God. Emotionally it would be time for the pity party of a life time. The emotions of bitterness would flow freely with shouts of, haven’t I served you faithfully, why me, and there are others who are not living “rightly”!

The true fact is that God allowed Joseph to stay in that prison for another two years and seemly forgotten. Some of you are now saying how cruel God is and jump in with the bitterness. I would like to quote though from Philip Yancey ” Shift for a moment to the perspective of God the parent. Had he deliberately “pulled back” to allow Joseph’s faith to reach a new level of maturity? And could this be why Genesis devotes more space to Joseph than to any other person? Through all his trials, Joseph learned to trust: not that God would prevent hardship, but that he would redeem even the hardship. Choking back tears, Joseph tried to explain his faith to his murderous brothers: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.

Listening to Chuck Swindoll this week in his sermon he made a great point. He said that if you hurt long enough and deeply enough there will be no pride left in you. How true is that. I found that all great leaders in the bible and also in this life today are the ones that have hurt and suffered. I became a better therapist when I learned not to pity my clients in there suffering but to be able to experience the pain with them. We don’t like seasons of our lives when they are difficult but I can tell you this. If you are suffering and it has been going on for longer then you want. If you are suffering and you have been forgotten in a prison that is not made of walls, but a prison where the walls are the emotional pain of your suffering. God will not forsake you. He is just bringing you to a new level of maturity so that you can then lead others.

Genesis 50:20
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Jennifer Van Allen,

Strongest Temptations

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Me: Howdy Prodigal!

Prodigal: Hey, good to see you again.

Me: That is a rather large shoe.

Prodigal: Only in our consumer driven culture can you find so many types of shoes, even gigantic ones.

Me: Yes shopping can be a real addiction for several Americans and also can be a form of temptation.

Prodigal: Temptation? Please explain.

In the Discipleship Journal printed several years ago a list was printed. Readers were asked to name their strongest temptations.
In order of priority they were:
–Anger/Bitterness (tie)
–Sexual Lust

Do you see your struggles from today on that list? I do. For one thing we are not alone in these struggles that we have, and on the other hand Satan has found a list of things that seem to work for a lot of people. I see a lot of people struggle with temptation. The hardest part of my job is when I see people over powered by Satan. It is so sad and the outcome is never good.

Temptation is allowed by God so that our faith may be proven. He wants to see if we do love him and are submitted. Think of your loves ones and friendships. Real friendships and loved ones are based on moving through the tough times. Every lasting relationship has those times. Our relationship with God is the same, we have a deeper meaningful relationships after several times of testing. Of course we should submit to God and resist the devil and he will flee. We also need to be able to recognize temptation when it is in front of us. I see a lot of people who do not recognize temptation or do not take it seriously. Satan was a beautiful angel and so we must remember that temptation often looks very attractive. It looks easy, it looks like the answer. If you had to tell me how Satan temps you and want does it look like. Could you tell me? Could you tell me your top three?

Lastly not all temptations are set you make your life miserable. Some of them is just to take you away from God’s purpose for you life so that you are not a threat to Satan. You can sit in church with your spouse, 2.5 kids, house and never effect the kingdom of God because your purpose was something different or with those things listed but different then what you imagined. The point is that you didn’t do it God’s way but your way and therefore have missed out on God’s best for your life. Recognize those temptations today and run the other way before it snares you and you can’t run!

James 4:7
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Jennifer Van Allen


Verbal Darts

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Me: Hey Prodigal! I love your heart.

Prodigal: Thank you, it is from a friend. I was tired and needed a nap so my friend was nice enough to give me this heart shaped pillow to lay down on.

Me: That was very compassionate of your friend. You could say that your friend was showing you love with a heart shaped pillow.

Prodigal: Of course you could say that, but I have a feeling you want to say something about love and not my pillow.

Me: Of course, you are learning my style Prodigal and I want to share the love of a servant.

Prodigal: Please hurry, like I said it is about time for my nap!

I am currently reading a book called Stories for Struggling Servants by Dr. Kenn Gangel. It is a very good read. I came across a paragraph that made a statement that hit me right in the spirit. He was talking about a lesson we can learn from the gospel. Dr. Gangel states We must make sure that we do not aim verbal darts at God’s servants whether they behave with the legalism of the Pharisees or the liberty of Jesus.

If we have been in church culture at least a little then it will not be long before we hear the word legalism. What is that though? Here is the definition from dictionary.com. The first one states the doctrine that salvation if gained through good works. The second one is the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws. We could take a whole theology class on these two topics but I need to keep this short. How do you know legalism? When you feel the pressure to have a check list of your life based on the people in the church instead of what God has told you in his word and through his spirit. One of the biggest issues is with women and being married and having children. No where in the bible does it state women have to be married and have children to be godly women. Time and time again the church culture will have an atmosphere of disapproval if they are not married or at least extreme pressure. That is a check list from men and not of his word. It makes you feel condemned instead of God’s love and grace he has for us.

The other side of that is the freedom of liberty. Some Christian will take the liberty to extreme. They say Jesus has forgiven me of my sins and I will go to heaven so I am going to live my life anyway that I want too. The same example would be is you are a single woman then have sexual relations outside of marriage. The bible clearly states that this is a sin but our culture does not. God will forgive you of this but to have a close relationship with Christ we should strive to be obedient toward what Christ would want for us.
I could write on forever about these two topics but I want to focus it again on the short passage from Dr. Gangel. What happens when we get a friendly checklist from a Christian? What happens when we find out a way of life that is taken liberty to the extreme? How do we respond?

I will be the first to say that I can be compassionate to someone in the in the second example but when faced with legalism against me I tend to throw out several fiery darts. In fact I might just have a bucket load of fiery darts. God loves both these people the same. Why cant I show love to both of them like God. Just because the first one may hurt my feelings does not give me a right to beat them over the head with my words. I pray right now for God to turn my fiery darts to arrows of compassion and help me to really be a compassionate servant.

John 13:34-35

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Jennifer Van Allen

Learning to Pray

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Me: Howdy Prodigal!

Prodigal: I was just finishing up a prayer.

Me: Do you need time alone?

Prodigal: No, It was short. I don’t really know what else to say.

Me: I agree, there are so many ways to pray but what should I have in the prayer?

Prodigal: I don’t know sometimes I get confused. Should I say As I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep

Me: Actually I found a cute little story to remind us of key pointers in pray. This is just one way to pray.

Prodigal: Please share.

This is a method of learning how to pray with your fingers that was found in God’s Little Devotional Book for Women.

Your thumb is the digit nearest to your heart, so pray first for those who are closest to you. Your own needs, of course should be included, as well as those of your beloved family and friends.

The second finger is the one used for pointing. Pray for those who point you toward the truth, whether at church or school. Pray for teachers, mentors, pastors, and those who inspire your faith.

The third is the tallest. Let it stand for the leaders in every sphere of life. Pray for those in authority-both within the body of Christ and those who hold office in various areas of government.

The fourth finger is the weakest, as every pianist knows. Let it stand for those who are in trouble and pain-the sick, injured, abused, wounded, or hurt.

The little finger is the smallest. Let it stand for those who often go unnoticed, including those who suffer abuse and deprivation.

Of course there are several ways to pray and this is just one of them. The point is to remember to pray and also remember to pray for others and not just ourselves or just the people that we know. It is the 4th of July and I ask a challenge that on this fourth take and say a prayer of praise for living in a country that has religious freedom. Also pray for our president, our governor, our local body of government in your area. Pray for the supreme court judges. Pray that our country will grow a stronger foundation with Jesus Christ. Enjoy your day whether it has rain or shine because at least we are all free!

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed John 8:36

Jennifer Van Allen