dreams

~Keeping Your Dreams to Overcome Life’s Challenges~

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Joseph had a lot of things going his way in life at first. He was handsome. He was the first son born to Jacob through Rachel, and therefore, he was his father’s favorite son. He had great dreams that made him feel good about himself. But then one day his entire life changed. Can you imagine how it must have felt to know your brothers hated you so much that they would sell you out of their lives? He was forced to leave the comfortable life he had known, full of love from his parents, and go forth into the unknown. How frightening that must have been for a boy of 17. Yet, God had His hand on Joseph. God had a divine purpose for this young man. Joseph didn’t know why God had chosen this path for his life until the very end, yet he never seemed to waver. God was always in control. Joseph kept his eyes on God, and He used Joseph greatly. What an encouragement to us. Let God use you where you are. Let Him use you in the hard times, as well as the good times.

The story of Joseph spans many chapters, Genesis 37-50. We could actually do an entire study just on the life of Joseph, but because of time limitation, we will just focus on the key events in his life.

“Lord, thank you for the lessons you teach me through Joseph’s life. Encourage me through his life to seek you more intimately and to trust you for every situation that comes into my life. Keep me mindful that you are always in control.”

DAY 1: Joseph and His Family

LOOKING TO GOD’S WORD

GENESIS 37

1. How would you describe Joseph’s relationship with his brothers?

2. Could Joseph have prevented the jealousy of his brothers? Why or why not?

3. How would you describe his relationship with his father Jacob?

4. In verses 21-27 Reuben and Judah came to Joseph’s defense. Why would these two, of all the brothers, try to save Joseph?

LOOKING UPWARD

5. How do you see God’s sovereign hand at work throughout this chapter?

6. How do you see God’s hand at work in your own life?

LOOKING DEEPER

  • We are told in Genesis 37:3 that Jacob made Joseph a varicolored tunic. What was the significance of this tunic and what impact might that have had on his brothers?
  • How was God already developing Joseph’s gifts at the age of 17?

LOOKING REFLECTIVELY

God “broke” Joseph by taking him out of comfortable circumstances
and stretching him. God often has to “break” us before He can use us.

  • How has God “broken” you? How did it “strengthen” you?
  • Are you willing to let God do whatever He needs to in your life to make you usable to Him? If not, why? Be honest with the Lord, and ask Him to make you willing, trusting His loving and sovereign hand in your life.

DAY 2: Joseph’s Early Life in Egypt

Chapter 38 seems like an “interruption” to our story of Joseph in Egypt, but it is a narrative of what took place back in Canaan during this time, especially concerning the life of Judah. We pick up our narrative of Joseph in Chapter 39.

LOOKING TO GOD’S WORD

GENESIS 39

1. How did God use Joseph’s captivity for good (vv. 1-6)?

2. How was Joseph able to resist the temptation of Potiphar’s wife day after day (vv. 7-18)?

3. Joseph was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and Potiphar believed his wife over Joseph, resulting in his imprisonment. Yet, how did God use this for good?

4. What was one “mistake” that Joseph made that perhaps could have prevented the false accusation against him?

5. What does it mean that the Lord was “with Joseph”?

LOOKING UPWARD

6. Does God’s favor mean prosperity? Why or why not?

7. Have you ever been falsely accused? How did you handle it? What resulted from it?

LOOKING DEEPER

  • What does Stephen have to say about Joseph and what God did for him in Acts 7:9-10?
  • As you look back over this chapter, note the times God’s favor and blessing on Joseph is mentioned. How does one gain favor?

LOOKING REFLECTIVELY

Joseph lived a life of integrity and was faithful to God in the
midst of prosperity and adversity. He is a great example for us to follow.

  • Are you living faithfully in the midst of prosperity and adversity?
  • Do others around you see Christ in you?

DAY 3: Joseph’s Rise To Power

LOOKING TO GOD’S WORD

We will not be able to look at every verse of every chapter, so I will try to summarize as we skim the following chapters.

GENESIS 40:1-8

1. The king’s cupbearer and baker offended him, resulting in their being thrown into prison with Joseph. What do you learn about Joseph from the way he responded to them in prison?

2. The rest of the chapter tells of their dreams, Joseph’s interpretation of the dreams, and how the interpretations were later fulfilled. In Genesis 40:14-15 and 20-23, how was life once again “unfair” to Joseph?

Genesis 41:1-8 tells us of Pharaoh’s dream and his inability to find someone able to interpret it. In verses 9-14, the cupbearer finally remembers Joseph and his interpretation of their dreams in prison, and Pharaoh called for Joseph to come and interpret his dream. Joseph interpreted the king’s dreams, which foretold of the coming seven years of great abundance in Egypt (41:29) and the following seven years of famine (41:29). Joseph proceeded to tell Pharaoh what should be done (41:32-37).

3. Why did Pharaoh place Joseph in charge of Egypt (41:38-45)?

4. How old was Joseph at this point (41:46)?

LOOKING UPWARD

5. How had God worked in Joseph’s life during his captivity (see 40:8 and 41:16)?

6. How can you keep a proper perspective when you know you have been “wronged” by others and you are paying the unjustified consequences?

LOOKING DEEPER

  • Who are some other people in the Bible who had “delays” in their lives?

LOOKING REFLECTIVELY

There is no mistake in where God has you.
Allow Him to use you where you are.

  • How are you allowing God to use you right where you are?

There is often a delay before seeing God work through us.
Delays are a necessary time of spiritual preparation.

  • How do you see God’s hand in the “delays” in your life?

Josephs’ life teaches us that disappointments are vital to spiritual growth
because they demand faith and resting all hope upon God.

V. Raymond Edman wrote, “Delay never thwarts God’s purposes;
it only polishes His instrument.”1

  • How is God “polishing” you?

DAY 4: Joseph’s Reconciliation With His Family

LOOKING TO GOD’S WORD

GENESIS 42

1. Jacob sent his sons, with the exception of Benjamin, to Egypt to buy grain during the famine. When his brothers came before Joseph, why didn’t he just tell them who he was and why do you think he recognized them but they did not recognize him?

2. Why do you think Joseph responded to his brothers in the way he did?

3. Describe what his brothers were feeling in verses 21-23?

In Genesis 42:29-38, the brothers returned to Canaan to retrieve their younger brother Benjamin, having left Simeon back in Egypt. Jacob first refused to let them take Benjamin, but after all the grain was eaten, he sent his sons back to Egypt with Benjamin (43:1-15). When Joseph saw Benjamin, he responded with emotion (43:16-34). In Genesis 44, Joseph sent his brothers back to Canaan and played a little trickery on them. He “threatened” to keep Benjamin as his slave, and Judah pleaded with him to keep him instead of Benjamin. This brings us to Chapter 45, when Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers.

GENESIS 45:1-8

4. What was Joseph’s perspective on what his brothers had done to him when he was seventeen?

5. What emotions were his brothers most likely experiencing when they realized this was indeed Joseph?

LOOKING UPWARD

6. How do you view painful or hurtful events in your life? How have hurtful events molded your life?

7. How is one able to gain the type of perspective that Joseph had about his life?

LOOKING DEEPER

Read the entirety of Genesis 42-45. Trace Joseph’s actions throughout these chapters toward his brothers. Why did he do what he did?

LOOKING REFLECTIVELY

We must trust God with our emotions when we are
face to face with those who have hurt us deeply.

  • Is there someone who has wounded you deeply? How have you handled it? Can you trust God’s sovereign hand in the midst of it?
  • Is there someone you need to forgive?

DAY 5: Joseph’s Last Days

In Genesis 46-47 Jacob moved his family to Egypt. God once again spoke to him, encouraging him to not be afraid to go to Egypt and reminding him of His promise to make him a great nation (Gen. 46:1-4). Genesis 48-49 records Jacob’s final days. Today we look at Joseph’s last days after his father Jacob died.

LOOKING TO GOD’S WORD

HEBREWS 11:22

1. How did Joseph show his faith in God’s promise to Abraham?

GENESIS 50:15-26

2. How has Joseph changed in his relationship with God and his family since he was a young boy?

3. What stands out to you about Joseph’s life and the way he dealt with life?

4. How old was Joseph when he died (v. 22)?

LOOKING UPWARD

5. How does harboring an unforgiving spirit affect us?

6. What makes it difficult to trust God’s sovereignty?

LOOKING DEEPER

REREAD GENESIS 50.
  • What was Joseph trying to convey to his family in verse 24?
  • Why would he want his bones carried back to Canaan?

LOOKING REFLECTIVELY

God is in control even when it seems that your world is
spinning madly out of control.

  • Is there something going on in your life today that is hard for you to understand? Take it to the Lord and trust His hand.

God uses even the negative motives of others to bring about His perfect purpose.

  • Meditate on Genesis 50:20. “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”

Joseph had a divine purpose. His life was not always easy and was filled with ups and downs. Yet Joseph found favor with God and he allowed God to use him wherever he went. Where does God want to use you? What is His divine purpose for your life? Are you focused on Him, or are you focused on your circumstances and the situation in which you find yourself? Let God use you to accomplish His divine purpose through you.

~Re-inventing Self~

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My desire to jump into a new line of work seemed perfectly obvious and natural to me because I wasn’t changing my strongest, underlying interest: Why do we humans do such unexpected and often irrational things?

“You’re never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.” ~C. S. Lewis

Change means reinvention. Each time a major shift happens in our lives—leaving a job or a relationship, moving, losing a loved one—we have to take control of who we will become or risk never reaching our full potential.

I’ve reinvented myself several times in my life. Most adults have.

But what I always forget is that we have to choose reinvention. Each time I’ve done it, I’ve forged my new path deliberately and with foresight.

When I’ve waited for my future to find me, I’ve waited in vain, lost in confusion and sadness, or I’ve gotten tangled up in a situation I didn’t want.

One morning, after struggling for months with grief and loss, I woke up and realized that I was having so much trouble moving forward partly because I had no idea what it was that I wanted to move toward. I was thinking about my past, but not what I wanted for my future.

Man with hands up

That morning, I woke with a vision: a crowd of people from the life I needed to leave behind with the sun rising opposite them and me standing between the two, the sun beating down on my face.

In the vision, I decided, finally, to turn from the group and walk toward the sun, my new life.

That vision told me what I needed to hear—that I had to take control of my future instead of letting my pain choose for me.

1. Create a vision for your future.

Sit quietly, close your eyes, and imagine the people, places, or situations that you need to leave behind. Now, imagine the future that you want, whether it’s simply a feeling, a group of people, or a situation such as a wonderful new job.

Imagine how it will feel to be in that new place.  Allow the picture to shape your future, the warm emotions began to appear on your face.

Stand for a moment and silently voice your appreciation for everything that came before. Once you’ve thanked the past, turn your focus toward God, and with compassion and gratitude, imagine yourself walking away from the past and into the future.

2. Write about your reinvention.

Imagine a scene from it or write about how you’d like it to play out. Where are you living? What do you do in the mornings, afternoon, and evenings? Who are your friends? What do you spend your days doing?

Continue writing for as long as this exercise feels invigorating and exciting. Write scenes, dialogues, lists, and plans. Make the future come alive. Write about how it will feel to be there. Keep your writing somewhere where you will look at it occasionally. Feel free to add to it.

3. Surround yourself with visual reminders of the life you’d like to create.

If it’s a new job in a particular field, put objects or images from that field someplace where you’ll see them every day. If it’s a home, find a picture of a house that you love and put it near your front door. It can be anything that reminds you of what you’re moving toward.

4. Now that you have a vision of your future, break it up into workable tasks.

What do you need to do, every day, to create that vision? Look for work? Meet new people? Search for a place to live in your chosen town? Make it specific. Make a list of everything you need to do and a schedule for when you’ll do it. Then do it and commit to keep doing it, one day at a time.

5. Every day, go back to that vision of you walking toward your future.

Every morning or evening, close your eyes and see yourself walking into the rising sun, toward your dreams, and reconnect with why you’re moving toward this new possibility.

Reinvention is neither easy nor always smooth. Often, we encounter resistance. We don’t want to let go, even of things that cause us pain or that are obviously already out of our grasp. We often struggle with limiting beliefs or stories about ourselves that hold us back from trying new things.

But there is one way to keep your compass pointed to this new life, even in the midst of any resistance or struggles you may encounter on your path.

Each time you find yourself slipping into old habits—isolating yourself, making excuses not to look for work, procrastinating on a task that might help you advance in your career—don’t bother wondering why you’re doing it or beating yourself up.

Just ask yourself this: “What can I do in this moment to keep moving forward?”

Then, no matter what you feel in the moment—lonely, self-critical, tired, lazy, or disappointed—do something to maintain momentum, even if it’s one small thing. There’s an old adage that says that true courage isn’t about not feeling fear; it’s about feeling fear and acting anyway.

Choose courage instead of letting your fear choose your future for you.

 

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I’m currently reading  Thinking: Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman; it’s provocative in terms of making me think about the way I think – and is making me think about ways that I might “reinvent” myself (which, like Madonna with varying degrees of success, I try to do regularly. Ha!).  I’d suggest picking that up, if you’re interested in the way our brains work, and how we might rethink how we process information and make decisions – and so, identify how to reboot, reinvent and re-examine our biases and assumptions about the world.  How we make decisions and choices is critical to how you decide to reinvent yourself.

 

~God Is Doing A New Thing- Isaiah 43:18-19~

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Second Chance Alliance

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live the life of your dreams? To wake up every morning feeling excited, inspired and passionate about your life? If you want to be more engaged in your own life you need to find the courage to pursue your secret hopes and ambitions. Perhaps you want to run a marathon, write a book, give a speech or start your own business. What’s stopping you? What’s getting in your way? Chances are your number one obstacle is you…your shoulds, beliefs and fears. Want to blast away these roadblocks to your happiness? Then it’s time to get out the dynamite and that power is only available in God (Promises)!…..

My Dream

This is a part of my dream also coming to a store near you soon…

God is always on the move. He created us to have goals and dreams, to be reaching for more in our life in Christ. When God gives you a dream, it’s like becoming pregnant: you conceive (think or imagine) a vision of the “new thing” He’s planned for you. Now you have to make it through the pregnancy and get to full-term to birth the fulfillment of it (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Ecclesiastes 5:3 says, For a dream comes with much business and painful effort.… This is why many people abort their dreams before they reach full-term. God plants a seed (dream) in them and they become pregnant. But when they find out it will take effort, be costly and uncomfortable to complete their preparation for the birth, they decide it wasn’t really God’s will after all and go and do something else.

I want to encourage you to go through the hard part because if you give up, you will never be completely satisfied. There will be a part of you that doesn’t feel settled or fulfilled.

So how do we successfully make it through preparation and give birth to our God-given dreams? Here are three keys May & I used to stay motivated.

1. The Power of Putting Your Expectation in God

When a woman is pregnant, we say she’s “expecting.” This is part of what we must do to reach full-term and not give up or abort the dream God put in us. We must keep expecting, be aggressive and talk to God about it, preferably every day because the devil is a thief and he wants to kill, steal and destroy the plans God has for us (see John 10:10).

It’s easy to fall into a passive attitude that says, “Well, we’ll just see what happens…” But we must resist becoming a “wait and see” kind of person. Instead, we need to be focused on God and determined to expect from Him, like David. In Psalm 27:13, he said, [What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living!

Waiting on God is not a static, passive place where you’re doing nothing. It’s a time in your life when you aren’t taking matters into your own hands, trying to do what only God can do. You are waiting physically, but you are active spiritually, seeking His face and putting your trust in Him.

2. The Benefit of a Good Attitude

You can’t please anyone if you have a bad attitude. In fact, if you murmur and complain, people are probably tired of hearing it. And if we’re honest about it, we’re like this because we want others to feel sorry for us, which doesn’t do any good.

I know this from personal experience. I used to be very negative and feel sorry for myself a lot. I would complain to my wife, May, but she would say, “Aaron, you just want me to feel sorry for you, and I’m not going to do it because it won’t do you any good.” At the time, it made me so mad, but I’m glad she responded to me this way because he was right.

Eventually I learned the truth that no matter what is going on in my life, I can choose to have a good attitude. And if you have a good attitude, God will give you favor with people and in circumstances of life. While we can’t always choose our circumstances, we can choose how we react to them.

3. How to Live the Dream

So often our dreams are about us—what we want for our life or what’s good for us. But Jesus, our example of how to live, gave His life not for His benefit but for ours. Shortly before He was crucified, He was in a garden praying and He said, Not My will but Yours be done (see Luke 22). He came from the glory of heaven to earth to give us life. Everything He did was for us.

To really live the dream God has for us, we need to let go of selfishness, or “die to self.” What are some things we must die to? Things like our plan, our timing, our way, our reputation, getting credit for what we do, the need to be in control and the need to be right.

If you will give your life to God like Christ laid down His life for you, God will do amazing things in you and through you. It’s not easy but the reward on the other side is so worth it—the fulfillment of your God-given dream!

 

 

~Ministry Starts With Relationship To God’s Visions and Dreams Infused In “You”~

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A challenge: Dream a dream so big only God can fulfill it.


Dreams are not merely the nightly thoughts you experience as the brain sorts out the day’s events. They are the goals and visions that fire your heart and saturate your soul with joy at the very thought of them. They are those continuing visions of what you want your life to be at its highest level of fulfillment–what you want to do, how you want to do it, what kind of person you want to become in the process.

Your destiny and reason for living are wrapped up tightly in your dreams and desires, like the genetic information inside a seed. That dream in your heart contains your spiritual “DNA,” the very blueprint for who you are. Your dream is that idea, that vision for your life that burns inside of you–something you can’t ignore for long. It keeps coming back to your mind because it is part of who you are; it will never leave you alone.

A dream doesn’t drive you; it draws you. It is like a big magnet that pulls you toward itself. I don’t believe that there is a man or woman without a dream, because God designed every member of the human race to have dreams. Without a dream, a person will be frustrated in the present and will miss his or her future.

Your dream did not even originate with you. It resides within you, but God put it there. He is the source of your dream. When people dream without God, they find it hollow and unsatisfying. Every person must come to Jesus for his or her dream to make sense. In fact, without Jesus, you might follow a dream for your life that God never put in your heart.

Not every dream is from God. There is such a thing as godless dreams. But when your dream is God’s dream, it’s unstoppable.

Jesus said that apart from Him we can’t do anything and that all our dreams will be frustrated. The power, energy and creativity needed to fulfill our dreams must flow from Jesus.

The most common and most crucial question is, “How do I know which dreams in my heart are from God?” Here is the answer. You will know it’s God’s dream if:

1. It is bigger than you.
2. You can’t let it go.
3. You would be willing to give everything for it.
4. It will last forever.
5. It meets a need nobody else has met.
6. It brings glory to God.

Let’s unpack each of these. First, any dream God put in your heart will be much bigger than you. Most children start out with big dreams of being a major league baseball player or the first woman president of the United States. But people and circumstances whittle those dreams down to size. We reach adulthood, and we voluntarily trim our dreams to manageable proportions so we won’t be disappointed.

That’s the opposite of what we should do. We should set higher goals, not lower ones. God is the author of bigness, not smallness. We may not reach the highest dream, but we will go a lot farther by aiming high than aiming low.

The first test you can apply to your dream is: “Is it too big for me to fulfill without God’s help?” If you can do it without His help, you are not dreaming big enough. If it’s much bigger than you, you are on the right track. The Bible promises that all things are possible with God. Is your dream impossible enough? Does it go beyond you enough to qualify for God’s help? Your dream should be so big that it takes your breath away, makes you temporarily weak in the knees, and makes you cry out to God for help and guidance.

Next, are you able to let this dream go, or does it keep bugging you? A God-given dream is a bothersome thing: it won’t leave you alone! It keeps bobbing to the surface of your heart, clamoring for your mind’s attention. If that’s how your dream behaves, then it is probably from God. You also know it’s a God-given dream if you are willing to devote every ounce of energy and every minute of your days to it. A dream inspires devotion like the devotion a parent has for a child: you would give your very life just to see it grow and find fulfillment.

Will your dream last forever? Many people pursue dreams built on things that will fade away. They dream of fame, but fame never lasts. Others build dreams on wealth, health or power, but none of these last more than a few decades at most. A dream cannot be built on ego. It cannot be built on tradition–because the company expects it or your family expects it. None of these foundations will support your dream.

You must build your dreams on something that will last. Only two things in the entire world will last forever: truth and people. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s Word will never pass away. You have to build your dream on that never-changing foundation.

The second thing that lasts forever is people. God made human beings to last forever. Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost, to die for people. That’s how we should spend our lives, too. If God Himself thought people were worth dying for, shouldn’t we follow His example? In fact, the only way to minister to God is to minister to people, as He said, “When you’ve done it to the least of them, you’ve done it to Me” (see Matt. 25:40).

Your dream must be built on human need. Will it help people? Improve lives? Alleviate human suffering? Does it fill a need nobody else is filling? If so, you can be sure that dream is from God. The secret to happiness in life is pouring into other people, giving without expecting anything in return.

Finally, your dream should bring glory to God. The most horrible thing in life is to realize you have wasted months, years or decades following the wrong dream. Life is too precious to fritter away by building on a crumbling foundation. Many people lose their lives, not by dying, but by squandering their time.

So, you’ve identified your dream. If fills all the criteria of a dream from God Himself. How do you bring that dream to fruition? It’s not about brute force, mindless energy or human calculation. Here are some steps that I have noticed people take on the road to reaching their dreams:

1. Get alone with God.
One reason people never discover their dream and purpose in life is that they never stop long enough to listen. They are like the World War II pilot who became lost over the ocean and radioed back, “I have no idea where I am or where I’m heading, but I’m making record time.” Someone else said, “It’s an ironic habit of the human race that we double our speed when we’ve lost our way.”

We have to get alone with God and listen. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” To get a vision from God, turn off the television. Get quiet. Let God talk to you. An Indian tribe in Oregon used to send young men out, when they came of age, with the instruction, “Don’t come back until you have a vision.” Those who got discouraged came back early. Those who stayed until they had a vision became the leaders of the tribe.

Paul spent three years in the desert listening to God before he began his ministry. That was his seminary education. He said: “God, what is the overarching, all-consuming passion of my life? What will I do until I die?” Once he discovered his dream, he lived an extraordinary life.

2. Review your gifts and talents.
Romans 12:6 says we each have gifts. God gave you the gifts you have; you didn’t choose them. Fulfillment comes when you use those gifts for Him in service of your dream. Your gifts are the key to discovering God’s will in your life.

Desire points us to our dreams. God uses desire to accomplish what He wants on this earth. How did He make sure the world was populated? He gave men and women a desire for each other to produce children. How did He make sure we cared for our bodies? He made us thirsty and made two-thirds of the planet water. He made us hungry and caused food to grow all around us.

God speaks to us through desires. Many Christians have come to think that their motives and desires are corrupt and untrustworthy, but the Bible says that if any man is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature. Old things pass away, and all things become new (see 2 Cor. 5:17). That includes our desires! The Bible says you can have the mind of Christ within you. So what does it say about your desires? It says your desires, when you become a new creature, are changed. That’s why God can say, “I want to give you the desires of your heart.”

3. Review your experience.
We pay attention not only to our desires and talents, but also to our past history. This is a powerful thing. Romans 8:28 says, ” … All things work together for good. … ” God uses all things.

God can use your desires and talents to serve your larger goals. Even if it’s a skill you don’t particularly enjoy, you may find it opens doors for you at key times. Not everything in our past is bound to be good. Some people reading this may have lingering pain in their lives. Some went through a divorce, grew up with angry parents or struggled with alcohol. Some had abortions, filed for bankruptcy or endured hurts that cannot be easily explained.

But each of these problems falls into the category of “all things.” God wants to integrate your hurts and difficulties into your life message. He never wastes circumstances, even bad ones. Before you became a believer, God was working to redeem the problems you faced. Not all things are good, but all things will work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (see Rom. 8:28).

Second Corinthians 1:4 says God helps us in our troubles so we can help others who have troubles, using the same help we ourselves have received from God. When you grasp that, it will change the way you view your life circumstances, and it will help you discover your dream.

5. Begin to explore different avenues.

6. Journal your dream.
Once you are able to define your dream, write it down. Habakkuk 2:2 says, “Then the Lord answered me and said: ‘Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.'” If you want to move ahead in your dream, you must write it down–inscribe it indelibly.

That shows resolve, definition and form. It is not enough to have an idea of what you want to do; you must have a plan for implementing it. Dreams do not come true by fantasizing–you have to write them down and let them become a guiding force in your life.

It has been said, “No individual has the right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving behind him distinct and legitimate reasons for having passed through it.” But most people have lost their dream.

It seems impractical in this world to believe you were born for something great. Somehow it becomes more important to have a steady job, pay the mortgage, keep things moving forward with the least amount of disruption and the highest possibility for what our society calls “success.” But the fulfillment of your dream has little to do with what our society considers success–it’s much bigger than that. Are you dreaming big enough?

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~Don’t Let Anyone Suppress Your Dreams~

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If women would realize what an influence they have, they would be filled with pride. If men recognized how influential women are, they would be scared to death.”

It is said that we all influence at least 250 people in our lifetime. We each have the responsibility of leadership.

Every woman can be a leader. Yet results of surveys show that most women greatly underestimate their influence.

At home it can be organizing our children to clean the house or, more important, instilling values and morals into their lives. At the workplace, it can be motivating people for sales. We influence others by what we say and do–and by how we do our work.

We recognize that Mother Teresa was one of the great religious and humanitarian leaders of the world. When we aspire to be leaders, we must learn to discern between fame and greatness. Fame is Madonna; greatness is Mother Teresa. There is a tremendous shortage of and need for truly great leaders–leaders who are trustworthy, ethical, good, honest and who have high personal standards. The world is looking for honest and upright leaders.

Thankfully there are more women in leadership now than when I first began taking on leadership responsibilities. Being in leadership roles for more than thirty years–with greater and lesser responsibilities–I have learned a great deal about good leadership. What is a leader? “A leader is a person who influences people to accomplish a purpose.” How do you become a leader? “A leader correctly assesses a situation and knows how to take the next step.”

Whether you know it or not, whether you believe it or not, you’re a leader–an influencer. Your opinions are listened to and acted upon. The following nine principles will help you make the most of your influence:

1. Have a dream that will leave this world a better place

“Is there anything worse then being blind? Yes! The most pathetic person in the whole world is someone who has sight but has no vision.” So said Helen Keller.

Leadership is simply the ability to turn a dream or a vision of a desired future state into a reality with and through the cooperation of other people. To throw your life into something worthwhile, your dream must be worth dying for. What do you get excited about?

Have a big vision; something beyond your capabilities to keep you challenged. If we have aimed our efforts for this moment only–for ourselves, for the accumulation of material things, for pleasure–we will soon become dissatisfied and disillusioned with life. Former British Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher said, “There is little hope for democracy if the hearts of men and women cannot be touched by a call to something greater than themselves.”

Have a dream and vision that is greater then yourself–one that will leave this world a better place.

2. Know what your strengths are

To be leaders, we need each other to reach our goals. Each of us has only some of the skills needed to do a great job. We need to surround ourselves with people to fill in our gaps. Seventy-nine year-old Muriel Tower, an experienced entrepreneur, said, “You get things done through other people. Number one in business is get the best person for the job. Number two, delegate. Number three, supervise–go back and see that they did it.”

In order to be effective, you need a team to work with. We lead on the basis of our strengths; we gather our team on the basis of their strengths.

What is your leadership style? Are you a visionary? A person who can see the big picture and take risks? Or are you a detail person–an administrative type? You see the need for systems and order. You do things right and at the right time. You are efficient. Perhaps you are more of a sales person–a people gatherer. You love people and can sell anything to anyone, but don’t care about details. Or maybe you just love working by yourself. A hard worker–a producer. Let someone give you a track to run on and you’ll do it.

Before you are thirty years old, you can probably do all of those jobs without too much difficulty. But once you are over thirty, you realize you don’t want to do the things you aren’t good at. It uses up too much energy. When you know what you are good at, surround yourself with a team who are good at the other three.

When you have that team, meet with them regularly and have a purpose statement that you work toward. Review it often with your staff so you don’t lose your focus. Set short and long term goals, and evaluate two or three times a year to see how you are doing. Your team will be motivated toward reaching your goals together. Give credit where credit is due. Say “thank you” to the people you are working with. Encourage them often!

Understanding your strengths and the strengths of others is a key to effective leadership.

3. Strive for excellence

The people you want to influence will not rise to a higher standard of excellence than what they observe in you. The authors of Megatrends for Women write, “Male or female, the effective leader wins commitment by setting an example of excellence.”

We were hosting a dinner for influential women in three cities with a well-known, successful speaker. Of course we were eager to make a good impression, so we spent hours wording the invitations. However, when they were printed and we looked them over, we discovered–to our dismay–that the logo for our organization was printed upside down. It was a costly oversight.

After much discussion, we decided to reprint them even though we knew that the majority of the women would not even notice the mistake.

We wanted to influence leaders and we had to do things right, not only do the right things. Leaders must strive for excellence.

Strive for excellence and you will motivate others to do the same.

4. Be persistent

Mother Teresa was a determined woman. Margaret Thatcher was a determined woman. The key to being a good leader is endurance–being a non-quitter. You will be tempted to quit and be encouraged to quit by those who are friends and enemies. Be unwilling to throw in the towel. Be determined.

One journalist wrote of Mother Teresa: “When I met Mother Teresa, I discovered she was very tiny–less than five feet tall–and kept her head cocked to one side. She had gnarled hands and thick peasant feet that protruded from under her coarse white sari. Although there was no mistaking the aura of warmth and kindness that surrounded her, I felt I was in the presence of the most powerful, focussed and determined person I had ever met.”

According to a survey done by Deloitte and Touche, senior women executives rated Determination and Perseverance as the number one essential qualities for Women’s success in business. In order to leave this world a different place, you have to be persistent. Leaders don’t grow in a comfort zone. Leaders are not people with exceptional talent; they are people who have learned from their mistakes and get up and try again.

Persistence is a key to effective leadership.

5. Be willing to stand alone

If you have a passion, a dream or a mission, set measurable goals and work toward accomplishing them. You will find that many times you may have to work alone. You will probably be lonely.

People are looking for leaders who are willing to give it all they have, and they will follow–for a while. However, when the going gets tough, when pleasure and comfort compete with responsibility and long hours, followers will drop away. That is when you have to be sure that what you are doing is right, so that you will keep going.

James Cook said, “A person who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.”

6. Be ready for resistance

One of the facts of life is that when you are in leadership, you have to solve problems.

Pastor Lloyd Ogilvie, for many years the senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, California and now Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, once observed that “Everyone has problems; if you don’t have any now, you will have problems; wherever you work or live, you’ll have problems; or you just might be someone else’s problem.”

Sometimes we have the faulty notion that we should be able to go through life problem free–that if we have problems, something is wrong with our life. As leaders, we have to be responsible, no matter how painful it is. Running away is not an option.

We can easily fall into waiting for someone else to solve our problems. In her book, The Cinderella Complex, Colette Dowling writes about waiting for Prince Charming: “Like Cinderella, women today are still waiting for something external to transform their lives. We may venture out a little, but underneath lurks a wish to be saved, a deep yearning for dependence.”

You don’t need to wait for someone else’s help. You will have problems. Be ready. Expect it. If you know you are doing what is right, you won’t cave in when the going gets tough.

Facing problems and dealing with them by making good decisions is the difference between a leader and a follower.

7. Set an example for your staff

“Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and never succeed.”

I am amazed at how often people want a position, but not the responsibility. It is natural to want to escape responsibility; we all do it. However, being a leader means working long hours. It means being available to solve problems or give direction whenever necessary. Being a leader means being a servant, whether you are in your home or at work. You are always on call.

A leader works hard.

8. Be ethical

As I travel a lot, I gather stats from many different papers and magazines. USA Today stated that two in three adults believe ethics “vary by situation” or that there is no “unchanging ethical standard of right and wrong.” Only 18% of the people ages 20 – 30 said that there was one standard of right and wrong.

The Vancouver Province printed another study, which reflected that we tell 200 lies a day. Everything from giving excuses for our behaviour, to saying things like, “I hate to bother you . . . ” Don’t expect your staff or the next generation to do what is right if they see you doing what is wrong. It is incredibly important that we have a strong code of ethics to base our decisions and lifestyle on.

What set of values dictate your ethics–your behaviour? Or do you have a code of ethics? Do you have convictions that cause you to say, “I will never do that” or “For me, that is not an option?” If you don’t, sit down, think through and write down your non-negotiable code of ethics. Sometimes it can be the little things that erode your standards and–by the way–your self esteem. When temptation comes, you may very well do something that you will later be sorry for. Sometimes you have harmful situations to live with the rest of your life.

Margaret Thatcher once said, “I am not a consensus politician, I am a conviction politician.” What kind of leader are you? Do you have convictions of your own or do you live by the consensus of other opinions?

It is of utmost importance to have high ethical standards to be an effective leader.

9. Let God be your guide

Elizabeth Dole, President of the American Red Cross, stated in an interview: “To me it’s very important to know I have a source of strength beyond my own. When I’m undertaking a difficult assignment or making a tough decision, I’m glad I don’t have to rely on my own energy, wisdom, and judgement.”

Twenty-four years ago, I realized I needed a source of strength beyond myself. The goals I had set for myself were not satisfying and even relationships did not fill my deepest need. At the ageof thirty-two, I gave the control of my life to God. He is that source of strength I needed. I simply prayed, “I want You to be my Guide from now until I die.” He heard me.

Initially, I was filled with tremendous joy, peace and satisfaction. I felt like someone really cared for me–accepted me unconditionally. It was like finding a missing piece to a puzzle after looking for a long time.

My goals, priorities and dreams started changing. My dreams became much bigger–beyond what I could personally do. My scope of interest grew from the home base to the community, from the community to the province, from the province to our nation, from our nation to the world.

I noticed many women in my world were not maximizing their abilities; I worked hard to encourage and train them to be the best women they could be.

Yet what is more important, I realized that if Jesus Christ could satisfy me and change my life so dramatically, He could do that for anyone. So I started telling people how they could have a personal relationship with God.

Find the power to change your life and your world–let God be your guide.

Oliver W. Holmes was quoted as saying, “I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as is what direction we are heading.” What direction do you think you will be heading 5 years from now? 10 years from now? 25 years from now?

As a leader, what direction are you heading? What direction are you taking the 250 people you are influencing?

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Living with hope

If you are looking for peace, there is a way to balance your life. No one can be perfect, or have a perfect life. But every one of us has the opportunity to experience perfect grace through a personal relationship with God through his Son, Jesus Christ.

You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as he is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.

Empower A Felon

Yes! I prayed this prayer.

I belief In Change-How About You?

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Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.

Gail Devers

Many times we’re faced with situations that can cause us to consider compromising our values.  Maybe you have been offered a job with a company you don’t respect…but you really need the job.  Maybe your beliefs are in the minority…but you don’t want to become an outcast as a result.  Or, maybe you disagree with your boss’s business practices…but are too shy or too afraid to rock the boat to stand-up for what you really think or believe. When confronted with these situations, it is sometimes difficult to stick to your guns or stand your ground.

Unfortunately, the more we compromise our values, the more of a negative impact it has on our mental wellbeing. And, the more we compromise our values, the more we continue to do so. You could say it becomes an insidious cycle. On the other hand, when we stand up for what we believe in, the benefits can have a tremendously positive impact:

  1. It Builds Self-Confidence: When others dictate what we should think, feel and do, it eats away at our self-confidence. We begin to distrust our own instincts and lose the ability to decipher what we really believe versus what everyone wants us to believe. Although it may be difficult at first, the more we stand-up for ourselves, the more we build our self-confidence. It takes guts to express an unpopular viewpoint…it takes guts to say no when it is so much easier to say yes…and it takes guts to risk losing a job, friends or opportunities because someone won’t like our opinion. However, the more you tap into your “guts,” the easier it gets, and the more confident you’ll become.
  2. It Helps you Develop a Strong Sense of Self: If we bow to others and their opinions, and do things their way, whether right or not, we start to lose our own identity and start to forget for what we truly stand. Further, the less you allow yourself to think freely and develop your own belief system, the more you become a follower without your own direction. On the other hand, the more authentic you are to your needs and viewpoints, the more you will understand your sense of self.
  3. It Develops Self-Respect: Would you respect someone who went against their own values because it was convenient or because it was more popular? Probably not. And, with good reason.  Wishy washiness is far from admirable, or for that matter, respectable.  Yet, if you encounter someone with a less popular opinion who stands their ground (assuming the opinion or belief is founded in ethical principles), you would most likely have great respect for them.  Same goes for the way you perceive yourself. The more you stand up for your beliefs, the more self-respect you will develop. If you continually give in to what others want and compromise your own values in the process, you are going to lose respect for yourself.
  4. It Builds Integrity: In a time when so many individuals are dishonest, do things to better themselves at the expense of others, expose their personal lives for a chance to be famous and do what feels good in the moment without thinking about the consequences, integrity is a characteristic that is especially unique.  Doing the right thing or standing up for your beliefs may not be easy, but when you do, you know that you’ll be able to look yourself in the mirror and feel good about yourself. You’ll know that you did the right thingand that you had integrity.
  5. It Helps You be Independent: As much as we like to believe that a hero or heroine will swoop-in to defend our honor, it is extremely rare. There are two things to consider here: First, if YOU don’t stand up for yourself or your beliefs, then how can you expect others to? And second, the person who you should ALWAYS be able to count on to stand up for you – no matter what – is you. What this means is that the more you stand-up for your beliefs, the less you will rely on others to validate them. You’ll reinforce your independence and ability to stand on your own two feet without anyone else to support you.

We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t make mistakes or give into what was easier once in awhile, but learning from those mistakes and standing for what we believe in the vast majority of time is what is most important.

Do you believe in yourself?  How has it helped you to reach your goals and be successful?

If you believe in change and a second chance for ex-offenders click the insignia and see if it is something you feel would change lives.

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God Works In Mysterious Ways

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A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.

Charles Dickens


God reveals Himself to people in many ways! God reveals Himself through His own words in the Bible. God reveals Himself through the Holy Spirit. God reveals Himself through Creation. God reveals Himself through the work of angels. And God also reveals Himself through people!

In the days of the Old Testament, God chose a group of people to reveal Himself; God chose Abraham and his descendants; God chose the Israelites to reveal Himself in the past! And if you study eschatology, you will note in the future that again through Israel, God will powerfully reveal Himself once and for all to the world! Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

God works in “mysterious ways”, but His message is clear; God is Creator who desires everyone to be holy and be with Him forever and ever!

Before we talk about how this should impact our lives today, let us learn more from the story of Joseph in Egypt.
Open your Bibles to Genesis Chapter 41. I want you to read our text this morning………

Does God work in mysterious ways? Mysterious means beyond ordinary understanding. What happened in this story with Pharaoh and Joseph that were beyond ordinary understanding?

First of all, the Pharaoh not only had one but 2 interesting dreams which bothered him. The dreams bothered him so much that he called all the wisemen to interpret the dreams; but no one could interpret the dreams!
Was God involved in bringing those dreams to Pharaoh?
Absolutely! Pharaoh’s dreams provided a way for Joseph (God’s man) to get out of prison and become Pharaoh’s right hand man. All of this had to happen because God had plans for the Israelites. God desired to reveal Himself to the world and to bring holiness to the Chosen People. God works in mysterious ways; He gave dreams for the purpose of His Chosen People!

And for more than 2 years, how can the cupbearer completely forget about Joseph, the man who gave him the great news of getting out of prison?

I noted last week that God likely kept the cupbearer silent about Joseph to teach Joseph a lesson about totally depending on God not man. Look again at v9…………
The cupbearer’s conscience all of sudden woke up after 2 years! Do you think God had anything to do with that? God used the cupbearer to bring Joseph, God’s man, to Pharaoh. God works in mysterious ways! God even used a bartender! Now, this doesn’t mean, I encourage you to hang out at bars!

Let’s stick to the Bible!
How well did Joseph know his God?
Look again at v15-16……….
Joseph knew that it is God who deserves all the power and glory! Joseph knew that God can work in mysterious ways!

And look again at v32…………..
God was certainly at work and He gave Pharaoh 2 dreams to make sure He got the king’s attention! God works in mysterious ways and God may repeat Himself to emphasize His point; God may repeat Himself to emphasize His point; God may repeat Himself to emphasize His point! Does Scriptures seem to repeat itself for you? God maybe trying to get our attention!
Are we listening?

Now look again at v33-36…………..
Joseph without any hesitation spoke wisely! Joseph spoke without thinking about himself. Joseph spoke without hesitation about a third person. How can Joseph speak without any hesitations or reservations? The wisdom spoken by Joseph was directly from God!

And so, even to the king of Egypt, it was clear that God was mysteriously but powerfully at work! Look at what Pharaoh said in v38, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” And because of God’s presence in Joseph, what did Pharaoh do according to verses 39-41? Because God was at work, Joseph, who was a slave, was put in complete charge of the most powerful nation in the world at the time, second only to Pharaoh!

Two more points about God being at work mysteriously but powerfully: God allowed and blessed Joseph to marry not only a non-Israelite, but a daughter of a priest!
Why do we freak out about “mixed marriages” when it may be God ordained?
And we note of course at the end of Genesis 41, God accomplished everything that was predicted!
Does God still work in mysterious and powerful ways today? Let me ask this question: How did you learn about Jesus Christ??

Do you know that many Muslims are recently becoming Christians because of dreams and visions? According to Wendell Evans of the Billy Graham Center’s Institute for Muslim Studies, “more and more stories are coming out of closed countries, of God supernaturally evangelizing Muslims through dreams and visions. Of the estimated thousands of new believers in Iran in the last few years, over half of them became believers after Jesus personally came to them in a dream or vision.” Here’s one example.

Madame Bilquis Sheikh was a high-born Muslim, former wife of a Minister of the Interior, in Pakistan. God gave her dreams and visions about John the Baptist, about himself as God the Father, Jesus the son and the Holy Spirit. He led her to read the Bible. Her family came to know of her new beliefs and confronted her. She was so convinced of her new found truth, however, that they plotted to kill her. They even tried to burn her house. Her family boycotted her, and the servants, who were Muslims, left her, calling her a traitor and an infidel. She received many threats from her family and outsiders. An Army General of Pakistan visited, asking her ‘Why did you do it?’ She replied she has been called to witness Jesus Christ and she will obey Him, no matter what comes her way. She finally escaped to the United States and wrote a book about her experiences.

God works in mysterious and powerful ways!
Let me remind you of what God did through Joseph.
God gave dreams to Pharaoh. God kept the cupbearer silent for 2 years, then God convicted his conscience.
God empowered Joseph with dream interpretation and wisdom. God brought Joseph to reign instead of being a slave. God controlled everything to accomplish what was predicted! God did all of this for Israel!

Yes, God works in mysterious and powerful ways, but God always has a purpose! God works in mysterious ways but He is not random! If you’re going to pick a god, pick a good one!! The God of the Bible is perfect and always has a purpose! God desired Israel to be blessed, to be holy, and to be with Him! This was God’s plan for His mysterious ways with Pharaoh and Joseph!

And God still works in mysterious and powerful ways in people’s lives today for the same reasons!
What does this all mean to us?

1. Let us expect God to work powerfully in our lives everyday! Do not be surprised with what God can do in your lives! Do we actually acknowledge God’s work in our daily lives or do we chuck it as coincidences, luck, or with our own efforts?

A missionary friend taught May and I this and I encourage all of us to do at the beginning of each day; Rub your hands briskly (do it right now); feel the warmth of God, and ask God, “Lord, what do you have in store for me today?”

2. God has a purpose for His works in our lives! We are to agree and commit to God’s purposes. God desires His people to be blessed, to be holy, and to be with Him always! How committed are we to these?

Be blessed and bless others!
Pursue holiness!
Walk with God daily!