THE VALLEY OF DECISION

man wearing red hoodie standing near body of water with view of mountains
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Decisions, decisions. In the words of Joel the prophet, “Multitudes, Multitudes in the valley of decision.” Most decisions are small and are made every day almost without thought. Then there are those that we find ourselves running from or wrestling with that keep us up at night. These are the “valley decisions.” A valley is either the place where you are caught between a rock and a hard place with mountains on every side or a lost place. A place of confusion and disorientation.

The first time I read this passage in Joel 3 my heart sank at the thought of multitudes in a valley of decision. What will they do with Jesus? It both horrifies and compels me. The truth of that still sits with me but today to Lord showed me this passage from a different perspective. This does not nullify its meaning but opens another revelation.

Those who have already made the decision to follow Christ will still find themselves in valleys of decision. These decisions must be made but we see mountains on every side. Fear of the unknown hangs over us like a looming shadow. I have been in this valley several times and as I look back, I see two things it took to move out of the valley which are noted in Joel 3:10. He says, “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; Let the weak say, “I am strong.’”

This picture expresses going from the daily routine to a posture of war. First, change your usual tools from routine to a weapon of purpose. You cannot continue as if nothing is different. There is a season for plowing and pruning back. Then there is a season of advancing and taking new ground where you aren’t just plowing the same old ground over and over. Second, while in the valley you may feel small, weak and ill-equipped but you are not to make decisions based on how you feel. You must say “I am strong.” We must not let fear lead. Faith must lead the charge. Gideon, in Judges 6 is a great example. He was threshing wheat in fear, but the angel called him a mighty man of valor signifying he was a warrior not a thresher. He needed different tools and faith instead of fear.

Once we have warred for direction we must charge forward in faith. The just shall live by faith. We cannot remain in a valley of decision. Our indecision is a decision and double mindedness will only take you in circles. This was the case for the children of Israel in the wilderness. They said they wanted to go to the promised land but feared and had no faith seeing themselves as grasshoppers against giants. This led to a 40-year journey of going in circles until Joshua led the faith charge forward.

The good news for those who belong to Jesus is that every valley has a river running through it. He is our source of strength and refreshing. If we will get in the river his current will carry us to the right destination.

Scripture references:

Joel 1-3

Judges 6

Psalm 23 explains this. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Jaime Luce

Lessons from Joseph… Part 4 The key to your dream

Joseph didn’t go to prison because someone lied about him. Joseph went to prison to interpret a dream for Pharaoh. He had to be there for that exact day. It was the day his own dream had waited on. Can you see it? Joseph had to help someone else with their dream so God could give Joseph his. Joseph now had to serve again but this time his service put him second in command only to Pharaoh. Our dreams are not “get out of jail free cards.” They don’t mean it can finally be all about us, at least not when they are from the Lord. The key to your dream may simply be to serve others. God fulfilled Joseph’s dream by Joseph living to serve another man’s dream.

If your dream doesn’t serve anyone but you it isn’t a dream from God. When Joseph had his dreams as a young man he saw people serving him. This began the test of his character. Could Joseph steward his authority in the way God intended it? Can you? Has God given you a dream? If he has, the dream will test you. Jesus commanded that we love one another and prayed that we would be one as he and the father were. Our assignments, dreams and purpose will always include others. Joseph was lifted to the highest pinnacle, yet his job was to solve Pharaohs problem. He was to make sure everyone else could eat and at the same time build a kingdom not his own. Self-service was nowhere to be found. Joseph knew how to live favored and be held in high regard. His dream didn’t have to teach him that. But being a slave taught him how to serve. Being a prisoner taught him the value of bread and water to those with no means. Being lied on taught him how to handle power with character for he would be in a position that would allow him to take vengeance. Being sold taught him what it was to be a stranger and an outcast. Joseph may have known how to prosper but his dream tested his ability to steward how his dream affected others. Do not be discouraged if you are in your testing time. Keep serving. It will keep you positioned for promise.

Jaime Luce

Lessons from Joseph… Part 3 Timing is everything!

Joseph’s life reveals the power behind timing. When left in a trial that is thrust upon us and not of our own doing, we can become desperate. We begin grasping at things and people we think can change our circumstance. I don’t think Joseph was wrong or let his character lapse, when he asked the butler to remember him. I think he was pushing on every door looking for the one that would open. Wanting out of trouble is never a bad thing. When you are overwhelmed and drowning you will grab hold of anything that floats. But Joseph didn’t get out even one day early for good behavior even though he was running the prison. What’s surprising is that Joseph waited an extra two long years to get out because of incredible favor. Before you quit reading let me explain. Timing is everything. It isn’t just a cliché. I can go to the airport and hold a ticket but if I arrive to early I will sit a wait until the scheduled time. If I arrive to late I have missed my opportunity and have to wait again for the next. I have to arrive prepared and wait for the announcement to board. Even while on the plane, it will not take off until the pilot hears, “You have been cleared for take-off.” Joseph wasn’t late. He was at the airport waiting for a flight out. To him it seemed the flight had been delayed but the truth was that it was right on time. If Joseph would have gotten out of prison even one day earlier, he would have simply remained a slave in a foreign country. He may have been out but his life largely unchanged. His dreams would never have come to pass. Instead of boarding another Boeing, Joseph was about to board Air Force One.

Galatians 6:9 tells us not to become weary of doing good because we will reap if we don’t faint. If you are still in the prison, then work to run it like Joseph did. Don’t waste your testing time. Use it. Show yourself faithful. I know God will. You’re not late and there is a reason. His timing is perfect so don’t grow weary in your well doing. He is faithful who promised.

Jaime Luce

Lessons from Joseph… Part 1 The coat does not make the man.

The biblical account of Joseph is filled with life lessons for those who want to succeed in life. Ironically his life is filled with pain and disappointment before he ever see’s the power of his choices. We romanticize his life because scripture continually tells us that God prospered all that Joseph touched. That may be the truth but not the whole story. Joseph had favor and power but that was all the while he was a slave and a prisoner. This in itself is a powerful lesson. You can be at the top while at the bottom. Behind this truth is the bigger truth that we shouldn’t despise small beginnings. The irony is that it wasn’t Joseph’s beginning. He began at the top. He was the favored son of his father Jacob. He was given gifts the others were not given. What beginning success he seemingly had was stripped from him. This is what separates those who only envy success from those who actually work for it. Joseph’s life shows us why he was favored. He was not favored because of who his mother was but by his character. He pleased his father. Instead of his brothers learning by emulating they envied and wanted to take away from him what they weren’t willing to strive for. This is so prevalent in our world today. With social media dominating our senses we spend countless amounts of time trying to be what we see others being and do what others seem to be doing. We glamorize their lives as they hide behind filters and countless shots before the perfect angle is attained. None of it is real. Those who have legitimate success have it because they worked really hard to get it. Are you satisfied with only pretending to be what you see others being? Taking someone else’s success will not create your own. Stripping Joseph of his coat did not strip him of his father’s favor. Even without his coat Joseph remained favored. His work ethic catapulted him among the ranks even if he was a slave. His character enabled him to run the prison he was a prisoner of. The coat is not what will open doors for you, your character will. The coat was not the favor. It was simply the evidence of the favor. It’s not what you wear but how you wear it.

Jaime Luce

Wrestling for the Blessing

So many times we hear the word blessing used and for all kinds of things.  I personally like to use it in my signature block.  You may ask someone “How are you?” and they may respond “Blessed”.  Both are fine but extremely lacking.  To be blessed biblically means to not only be blessed but to also be a blessing.  It is to have great favor and to actually receive the blessing that was promised.  Have you ever been promised a blessing? Promises are good but it’s even better to receive the blessing!

 

In Genesis 25 we are introduced to Jacob and Esau .  Right away we see a struggle for preeminence between brothers.  Somewhere inside of Jacob even before birth was a hunger to be blessed.  I’m sure Jacob felt very conflicted inside because on the one hand he wanted the blessing and any rights that brought with it.  On the other hand though to be truly blessed also meant to be a blessing to all those he would deal with.  So how does being a blessing line up with cheating your brother to get it?  Have you ever felt like two people?  My brother-in-law, who is now passed, struggled with drug addiction and all that entails.  He said once “It feels like I have two people fighting a war inside me.  One wants whats right and other does not.” This was a torment to him and evidenced by his tattoos.  On his right side were angels and all things good and on the left were all things bad.

(I won’t take the time to discuss Esau here but I’d like to concentrate on Jacob. He wanted it so badly that he manipulated and cheated to get it. He didn’t operate alone but I will also leave out for the sake of space his mom and dad who played a role in this manifested behavior.  If you read the text ,and I encourage you to do that, but you can see the problem which is a good lesson for parents).

I have often wondered why God let Jacob “get away” with his deception. Reading it now I see that He didn’t. I don’t mean to imply that God would get him instead that He would correct him.  The final outcome would be as we already knew since it was prophesied at birth but getting there is where the story is.

For Jacob the road to understanding and receiving blessing came filled with Gods faithful tutelage. You see, this is where God didn’t let him get away with his deceptive manipulations.  Rather he would be taught to have a right understanding of the blessing and its true purpose, its value and how to rightfully obtain it.

Jacob left his family in obedience to his father’s instructions to take a wife and to remain away for a time so his brother wouldn’t kill him.  He immediately found the wife he wanted but her dad was a cheater too.  We always reap what we sow.  This isn’t to hurt us but to help us understand a loving and just God.  He got his wife but not after working seven years and being tricked into marrying the wrong one.  He then had to work another 7 years for the right one.  Ironically, Laban his wife’s father, continued to try to reap the blessing of having Jacob work for him knowing he was blessed because of Jacob. It seems Laban suffered from the same problem.  Jacob felt trapped by Laban.  He was unable to receive his personal blessing while living out the consequences that were produced from his own trickery.  I don’t think there was a better way that God could have chosen to teach Jacob.  He put him with someone who was just like he was in order to show him himself.

God used this and spoke to Jacob again about his blessing.  He told Jacob to go back home and He would be with him.  He would receive his blessing and also be a blessing. But to Jacob there remained a problem.  He has to leave Laban who won’t be happy to let him go. So he flees without telling him and Laban comes after him.  In Genesis 31:25-42 the exchange between the two is awesome because Jacob lays out his complaint to Laban. This complaint was the very story of the lesson God taught Jacob.

He had worked very hard for Laban who unjustly would change Jacob’s pay.  He always tried to obtain his blessing at Jacobs expense.  This was precisely what Jacob had done to Esau.  Our blessings aren’t predicated on someone else not getting theirs.  That’s covetousness. Our God is big enough to bless each of us without someone else having to go without.  Further, when we are blessed it should never cause pain to others. Instead we are blessed to be a blessing.  Now that he had learned this he was ready to receive his rightful blessing.

As Laban lets Jacob go with blessing to his brother Esau, Jacob is left alone with God. Jacob must now wrestle it out.  He must wrestle out all that he has learned and be humbled so that he can contain what he is about to receive.  I love that we can learn from others who have walked with God.  How did they do it?  How did God respond?  I’ve heard many who think that you shouldn’t wrestle with God as if that’s offensive.  I guess I don’t see it like that at all.  We really aren’t wrestling with God but we are wrestling to receive.  We aren’t trying to force God but rather we are fighting to know how to receive. The word is full of promises that most Christians don’t walk in.  We believe them with our heads but somehow we still have unbelief in our hearts.  Like Jacob, we desperately want the blessing but we know we don’t deserve it in our hearts so we don’t really believe we can receive it.  We look at our unrighteousness instead of His promise.  Thank God for his diligent teaching and molding of our lives.  Just as he worked on Jacob He also works on us.  The key is to stay in obedience.  He will do the rest.

Now that God protected Jacob from Laban as He said He would he had to now face the bigger threat of facing his brother.  He needed to know that God would be with him, that He would go all the way with him. He was determined he’d not go on until he had heard from God.  He said in Genesis 32:26 “I will not let you go unless You bless me”. Would to God that we all have this kind of faith.

So in the wrestling God touched his hip and changed his name.  This was part of the blessing because Jacob would always have the constant reminder of his encounter with God.  This encounter so greatly impacted and changed his life that when he saw his brother Esau he said it was as if he’d seen the face of God. Wow! The one who once was as close an enemy as you can have has become the face of God’s mercy, grace and blessing. Not only did he now see differently but since he learned humility from his encounter with God he now continually humbled himself to his brother by calling himself his servant even though the blessing was that Esau would serve Jacob.  There was no longer a fight for position. God would raise him up or put him down.  Our God not only handles the big stuff but all the details in between.  He loves us enough to not leave us as we are but He changes us and if need be He changes our name, making us into His image.  No longer was he Jacob the supplanter but he was now Israel.  Forever we would know him and say his name.  His name went from a negative reflection to a name that represents God and his people forever.

If you don’t know who you are in God you must look to the scriptures for your identity in Christ.  You are now the beloved, the redeemed, the holy and the righteousness of Christ. He even calls you a saint.  I know this can be hard to swallow but it is how He sees us. And it doesn’t stop there.  You are free though bought with a price.  You’re the body of Christ and the heirs of salvation.  The list goes on and on.  

I pray that today, no matter what you were once known for, who you once were or what you are facing, that even if it’s the struggle of your life, you do not turn loose until you receive your blessing.  Don’t give up.  Your story isn’t over and no mountain or fear of one is to big for our God. He has a plan for you  that’s full of blessing.  Jeremiah 29:11-13 says ” For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”.  

He has had this plan for you from before you were born.  He is faithful and cannot lie. You can trust Him.  He cannot fail! Just be obedient to His direction as Jacob was and watch as God unfolds His promises for you.

By Jaime Luce 

For your own Bible study on this read from Genesis 25-33.

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