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Joshua 6:2-5

Our teen-age children came back from a week-long ministry experience in Cincinnati this summer with stories of how their groups prayed for ministry opportunities and were given visions of very unlikely scenarios. On one occasion they had a picture of a man in a red shirt, a gas station, and a van. It seemed odd, but they trusted in God and went to the nearest gas station with money in hand willing to help someone in need.

Sure enough, a man in a red shirt came in needing gas which the teens paid for. He was so impressed he passed the blessings on to others as an act of gratitude, helping another person – in a van – whose need was greater.

Allowing God to give us a vision for ministry is not always as simple as what our children went through, but the attitude and process are the same. Pray. Ask. Trust. Do.

Joshua has led the Israelites into the Promised Land only to be blocked by the fortified city of Jericho. But God gave a picture of what Joshua was to do. What promise does God give? What are the instructions? What is the result?

The story of Joshua fighting the battle of Jericho, bringing down the walls with the sound of trumpets and shouts, is one most are familiar with. We can imagine the thoughts that might have gone through Joshua’s mind. The picture God created for him may have seemed rather ridiculous, but Joshua trusted and obeyed.

The result was a victory without the loss of a single man. God’s plan worked and the picture became a reality.

God may give us a picture of what needs to be done. We may have an image or idea for a ministry and that image may seem impossible or ridiculous. But, if we feel certain that God has given us the picture and if the intent is to serve God, then God’s picture can become reality. The ministry can be done. We need to trust in what God has given to us and obey His desires.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Where can you trust God’s vision?

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1 Samuel 16:11-12

“Ah-ha!” “Eureka!” “That’s it!” These are all familiar expressions people use when the light comes on in the mind and suddenly everything is made clear. Sometimes we can think and worry and wonder for days and days feeling hopeless about what we are supposed to do, when suddenly we have God’s inspiration enter in and we realize God has given us His vision.

Samuel is looking for the next king of Israel, and he knows the new king is to be from Jesse’s family, but he worries he has exhausted his possibilities. What does he ask? Who is left? What happens when the young man enters?

All of the fine, strapping young sons of Jesse have been rejected. Samuel was certain one of these stronger, older brothers would be chosen and I am certain he was baffled when none from the first seven were chosen.

But there is one more opportunity in the youngest son, David, a shepherd boy. It seems unlikely, but Samuel gives it a shot. And that is when God speaks to Samuel. This is the one!

We are frequently challenged with new ministry ideas. What can we do? Who will we help? And so often we can create a list of ideas only to dismiss every one for this reason or that.

But there is great excitement and peace in my heart when at last we come across a ministry opportunity that jumps out at us. There have been many times in the past several years where a ministry idea may at first seem unlikely, but then there is that spark from God that lets us know – this is it.

As we examine our ministry opportunities we need to be open to that leading from God. Let God create the vision. Let God take the lead. Through devout and earnest prayer you can trust that God will turn on that light of inspiration so that the right ministry is ready for you to live out.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you open yourself up to God’s leading?

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1 Samuel 16:6-7

Whenever a person starts a new job there is usually a certain excitement and anticipation about what will be encountered. The mind can start imagining how work will be done, who you will meet, and how things are going to be.

The same is true of ministry. We can imagine the wonderful things we want to do for God, the great places we will go, the kind deeds, and so on. But so often the ministry God wants for us is not exactly what we originally pictured.

Samuel experienced a change in what he expected when God sent him to Bethlehem to anoint a new king. Why do you think Samuel expected Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, to be the chosen one? What was God’s message? What is God’s approach?

Samuel had anointed Saul as king of Israel, but in time Saul did not live out what God expected him to do. So God rejected Saul and needed a new ruler for His people.

God sent Samuel to the city of Bethlehem to find a man named Jesse. It would be from Jesse’s family that the next king would be selected. And, of course, the first person Samuel meets is the strong and handsome Eliab, the oldest of eight sons. But God tells Samuel that He examines the heart – the soul and spirit of a person – to determine who will serve Him.

It was a lesson in trusting God. It was a lesson in seeing that there is more involved with God than outward appearance, and also that what we might choose is not always what God wants.

When Peggy and I entered the ministry we had visions of what we would do and how we would go about serving God. But most of what we initially imagined wasn’t what God wanted. He had His vision for what we were to do and we needed to learn to follow God’s vision for our ministry.

As we examine where we might serve God, we must learn to set our own pre-conceived ideas and plans aside and allow God to put His vision of His ministry in our hearts.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to put God’s vision ahead of your own?

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Revelation 22:1-2

Whether you are a fan of the movies and books or not, most people would agree that the character of James Bond, 007, is the epitome of cool and sophisticated. I have often wanted to be just like this man; suave, unflappable, and highly cultured. When attending work parties with higher-ups I do attempt the behavior of the smooth and worldly spy, but I doubt that I pull it off completely. I may never be an international spy, but I can imitate the attitude of confidence.

In the final book of the Bible God has given a vision, a picture, to John. What is shown in verse 1? How is it described? What else was there? What was the purpose of the trees?

One notable aspect of the Book of Revelation is the ability of John to create a mental image for the reader. Throughout the book we can clearly envision the pictures that God has revealed to him.

Not all visions from God, or pictures from God, are about specific tasks or specific places. Some visions are there to create an attitude. Some are there to offer hope.

Such is the case with this vision of heaven. God shows John that ultimately there will be peace and comfort for the followers of God. God will heal all wounds and surround us with love and mercy.

As we work toward living out the goal of the church – that is, bringing God’s kingdom to fruition here on earth – the Lord may give you a vision of what will come. And that vision may not be of an exact ministry, a definite task, or of a specific place. Instead God may simply offer a picture of hope and success.

When God gives you that picture of hope and accomplishment you should allow it to become part of who you are and what attitude you have. If God has given you a vision of hope then make that hope a part of how you behave and how you speak.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you share hope?

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Ezekiel 12:3-4

Married to a very creative and artistic person, I have come to trust in whatever Peggy plans to make for VBS decorations, Sunday school decorations, Christmas play sets, and so on. Frequently her descriptions of what she plans leave me shaking my head. I usually don’t see the picture completely until we are well on our way to making the vision a reality.

If we will see the church grow there may come a time when we must share God’s vision, no matter how difficult it may be to understand. One person who saw God’s picture was Ezekiel.

Ezekiel has been called to be a prophet of God and part of his duty is to show the people of Israel what will happen and what they can expect. What strange things is Ezekiel told to do? What caution is offered in verse 3?

The people of Israel were facing exile and Ezekiel had to show them there was no easy solution to the problem. So God was warning them of what would happen, and it fell to Ezekiel to show these people what that was going to be. God put a picture, an image, in his mind and it was Ezekiel’s duty to make that picture something others could see.

Not everyone is able to comprehend another person’s ideas, and not everyone is receptive to new ideas. If you will be a visionary for God, imagining new directions for the church, you will need to go through a few steps.

First, you must be certain the idea or vision you have is truly God’s vision and not simply your own. Second, you must share the vision with others so that they might understand it. Finally, the picture you receive from God should be one that others can support and be part of.

If we will do the work of God we must allow God to create a picture for us. Then, even if the picture may be a little intimidating, we need to work toward this image God has given.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you allow God to give you an image of what He wants?