Wednesday, May 31, 2017

5 keys for those in Crisis

Read Exodus 14.

God led His people eastward to the shore of the Red Sea.  There were mountains to the north of them and mountains to the south.  Suddenly, Pharaoh and his advisers see these slaves as wandering aimlessly and boxed in.  Then, the Israelites saw the Egyptian army coming after them with full military force.

There are four perspectives in this account.
1. Pharaoh and the Egyptians had lost their slave labor and were embarrassed.  They wanted to seize what they perceived as an opportunity for some revenge and exercise of their control over Israel.
2. The Israelites feared for their lives.  They had little to no defense against the Egyptian army.  When people are in duress physically, emotionally, even financially, they will blame God and their leaders.  The statements of the people showed no insight into God's leadership.  They blamed Moses for not leaving them alone and not letting them die as slaves in Egypt.  They had no sense that they were in the center of God's will for their lives, or what God was about to do.
3. But these were God's people.  God led them to this place.  This was God's plan all along.  Three times He stated that He will get glory from Pharaoh and the Egyptian army.
4. Moses, as the leader, suffered the brunt of the verbal attacks by the people.  This won't be the last time that the people turn on him when they feel threatened.  He knew he was where God wanted him to be, doing what God wanted done. 

So, in preparation for a miracle Moses delivered a terse and powerful message to people in verses 13-14.
1. "Fear not."  Fear is the opposite of faith.  In crisis, acknowledge your fear.  Fight your fear with faith in the One who brought you this far and has shown Himself faithful to you in the past.
2. "Stand firm."  Recognize the crisis as a test of your character and of your faith.  A crisis is never a test of God and His ability.  So, stand on what you know is right from what God has said in His Word.
3. "See the salvation of the LORD."  There is hope in the LORD.  It will require patience while we wait on Him to act on our behalf.  Faith lives in a continual mode of expectancy.  "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."  (Hebrews 11:1)  "By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned." (Hebrews 11:29)
4. "The LORD will fight for you."  Joe Sangl is known for saying, "If it is God's will, then it is God's bill."  In other words, if we are His people, in His will, doing what He wants done, we can count fully on Him to meet our needs.  God is trustworthy.  He is working His plan for our lives, even when we cannot see any movement.

5. "Be silent."  In crisis, we may feel the need to initially vent because we are upset or scared.  But we must quickly reach a point where we stop talking about it.  We cannot hear God's voice if we keep interrupting Him.  Some of our prayer time should be meditating on the Word of God and listening to His insights for us.

Monday, May 29, 2017

4 questions for the journey of Life

Read Exodus 13.

As the Israelites began their journey out of Egypt, God delivered a strong message and Moses established memorial celebration that would later be incorporated in the Levitical Law.

1. "Consecrate to me all the firstborn.  Whatever is the mine." (v.1)  God wants our first and our best, not the leftovers, if any.

As the owner of all things, this is the first message to the nation as they set out on their exodus journey from Egypt.  The firstborn in the family was to be especially dedicated to Him.  That was true also of their livestock.  When they arrived on the land and grew crops, it was the first fruits of their harvest that was given to the LORD.  Proverbs 3:9-10, "Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting forth with wine."  The bodily resurrection of Jesus was called the first fruits of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15).  The implication is that expressing such gratitude to God at first is to look forward to His blessings on the rest. 
Question: Are you honoring the LORD with the first of all your increase?

2. "You shall tell your son on that day, 'It is because of what the LORD did for me..." (v.8)
Tell your story to the next generation so they know they know firsthand of the power of God in your life.  Begin with how you came to place your personal faith in Christ.  Then, recount those times when God answered your prayers, protected you and provided for you in unusual ways.
Question: Does the next generation in your family know the story how God has displayed His power in your life?

3.  "And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth." (v.9)
Your God-story should be evident in three personal and obvious ways: a) hand-what you do; b) eyes-what you see and how you interpret life; mouth-what you say.  
Question: Is it obvious to others in your daily contacts that God has made a difference in your life?

4.  "And the LORD went before them..." (v.21) 
The pillar of cloud gave them direction as well as shade from the desert heat.  The pillar of fire provided light and warmth in the desert night.  No matter where the journey takes you, God is there, in the lead, shielding and providing.  
Question: Have you noticed how the LORD protected and provided for you today?  Have you thanked Him? 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Making Passover Personal

Read Exodus 12.

The LORD gave Moses the message of how He would deliver the people of Israel.  They were to be dressed, packed up, and eat a good meal standing with their walking staff in hand, ready to leave Egypt.  Imagine the faith it took on the part of these slaves to believe that after more than 400 years they would actually be leaving.  Yet, they worshiped God when they heard His word and prepared accordingly.

God is a God of justice and, therefore, He judges sin.  God is a God of mercy and, therefore, provides a way of escape from that judgment.  The details included:
1. Instruction: sacrifice a lamb and apply the blood to the top and sides of the door frame
2. Condition: without blemish
3. Perfection: no broken bones, watched for four days to be sure of the condition
4. Reason: "I will execute judgment and kill all firstborn"
5. Personal application: "every man a lamb", "your lamb", personal identification with the sacrifice
6. Results: God promised when He saw the blood applied He would "passover" those who responded
(Source: Walk Thru the Bible)

This is not the first time we have seen God provide the death of an animal, especially a lamb, on behalf of person's sin.
Genesis 3:21-in the Garden of Eden, after the sin of Adam and Eve, God took the skin of an animal and clothed the guilty couple.
Genesis 4:4-Abel brought the firstborn of his flock and offered it to the LORD as a sacrifice.
Genesis 22:1-13-God called Abraham to offer his firstborn son as a sacrifice.  On the way, Isaac asked where the lamb was for the burnt offering.  This clearly indicates the normal expectation in the worship of God at that time.  Abraham answered, "God will provide for himself the lamb for the burnt offering."
Keep in mind that those statements in Genesis are centuries prior to the law.  The law only incorporated what God had already expected as a covering for sin.

From Genesis to Revelation the concept of the sacrificial lamb, shedding blood in atonement for personal sin, is consistently taught.  Hebrews 9:22, "...without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins."

Isaiah 53:7-12 describes the Messiah as a lamb and as One who will die as an offering for sin. 
When John, the Baptist, saw Jesus, he said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).  Jesus said of Himself that He came "to give His life as a ransom" (Matthew 20:28).  In Hebrews 9:26, referring to Jesus, "...he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."

And, in the final judgments God has announced for this earth, in preparation for the glorious return of the Messiah to rule and reign, Revelation 5:11-12 describe the opening scenes with these words-"Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!'"

Jesus, the perfect and only sacrificial payment for our sin, mercifully offers the way of escape to all from eternal judgment.  Is Jesus your personal passover lamb?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

4 lessons for tough Times

Read Exodus 11.

The LORD told Moses to announce the tenth plague.  This time the LORD Himself will pass through the land of Egypt at midnight and kill the firstborn of every family and of all cattle will die.  Pharaoh's heir to the throne was considered a god as well.  The suffering throughout the nation would be unimaginable.  

The plagues were designed to demonstrate to an unbelieving king and nation the power and authority of the Living God and to call them to repentance toward Him.  The result would be Pharaoh's unconditional release of his Hebrew slaves.

But there would be no such suffering among the Israelites.  "Not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel." (v.7)  
The Jews had lived in Egypt for 400 years.  As slaves, they had very little in the way of possessions.  Journeying from Egypt to the land of Canaan would require resources to sustain them.  How would this practical need be met?  While Pharaoh hardened his heart against God and the Israelites, the LORD gave Moses and His people favor among the Egyptians.  The Egyptians willingly shared their silver and gold with the slaves in anticipation of their departure.

There are four lessons here that will sustain us in the toughest of times.
1. God wants everyone to know, love and worship Him alone.
2. God is all-powerful and the ultimate source of all authority.
3. God protects His people.
4. God provides for the needs of His people.

"And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

3 common and deadly spiritual Mistakes

Read Exodus 10.

After seven devastating demonstrations of God's absolute power, Pharaoh still refused to yield himself to the LORD.  The cost grew higher each time for him and his nation.  Systematically, the false gods of Egypt were being shown for what they were--nothing!

Locusts: The Egyptians even had a god to protect them from the swarms of locusts called Serapia.

Darkness: Amon-Re, Aten, Atum, Horus, Harakhte were worshipped as sun gods; Thoth, the moon god. 

Pharaoh hardened his heart against the LORD.  John Calvin labeled this "outrageous obstinacy".  God will get glory from Pharaoh either way (9:16).  At that point, the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart for three reason: so that the Egyptians would witness "these signs among them and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what sins I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD." (v.2)

Pharaoh made three serious and deadly mistakes.
1. Pharaoh mistook God's word for the word of a human. (v.7)
Despite all that had taken place, the king still wanted to be in charge.  God kept pursuing Pharaoh and patiently increasing the pressure.  Yet, Pharaoh saw this as a match of wills; his against Moses.  A person who ignores God's word does so at their own peril.  "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thought and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) 

2. Pharaoh mistook temporary feelings for eternal actions. (vv.16-17)
This was the second time he did this.  Under the pressure of moment, he wanted relief.  But his words of "I have sinned" and "forgive my sin" proved empty.  They were, perhaps, emotionally sincere but were spiritually false.  He had no intentions of surrendering his life to the LORD.  Remorse is not repentance.  The Apostle Paul preached, "...that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance." (Acts 26:20)

3. Pharaoh mistook partial obedience for doing God's will. (vv.24-27)
Partial obedience is disobedience.  He thought he could negotiate what God had commanded.  The truth, promised by the LORD in Genesis 15:13-14, was that the Jews were leaving Egypt to return to their real home.  It was to be a total exodus.  Partial obedience is evidence that a person is holding back from God for self-serving reasons.  Such actions cost Saul his kingship and ultimately his life (1 Samuel 15:10-23).

"For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him." (2 Chronicles 16:9) 

Monday, May 22, 2017

The sin of a false Confession

Read Exodus 9.

The LORD continued to respond to Pharaoh's question: "Who is the LORD that I should obey him?" (5:2)

The Egyptians were deeply religious, worshiping a multitude of so-called gods.  But they refused to acknowledge the one and only true God.  The ten plagues became the answer to that spiritual challenge.

Death of domestic animals: Ptah, Hathor, Mnevis, Amon were gods associated with bulls and cows.

Boils: The Egyptians considered Sekhmet to be a goddess of epidemics.  Serapis and Imhotep were the so-called gods of healing.

Hail and Fire: Nut was a sky goddess; Seth and Isis agricultural deities; Shu, the god of the atmosphere.

What will it take to bring the king of Egypt to acknowledge the truth?  Moses said, "You are still exalting yourself..." (v.17)  The solution would not be found in religious debate or apologetics.  The root of this problem was the man's pride and smug rebellion against the LORD.  Pharaoh defied God and thought he not only knew better but that he could somehow get away with rejecting God.

After the plague of hail, Pharaoh declared: "This time I have sinned; the LORD is right, and I and my people are in the wrong."  (v.27).  However, acknowledging sin is not the same as repentance.  Once the pressure was off, Pharaoh refused to obey God.  Repentance of sin involves a turning from the wrong to doing what is right.  His failure to obey the LORD proved the insincerity of his words.

His hard heart brought only more misery and pain on himself and all those around him.  God's purpose was to demonstrate "that there is none like me in all the earth." (v.14)  He alone is worthy of our worship and our obedience to His word.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A case of self-imposed Suffering

Read Exodus 8.

The plagues came one by one, mocking and demonstrating the powerlessness of the religious belief system of the Egyptians.  Beside the false god of the Nile, they had an intricate multitude of gods. Frogs: They worshipped two frog goddesses Hapi and Heqt.

Gnats: This was directed against the false worship of Seb, the so-called earth god.

Flies: Uatchit, the fly god.

While Satan could counter with a facsimile of the first and second plagues, his power is limited.  The magicians of Egypt could not stop the plagues and, then, could no longer reproduce the ensuing ones.  At that point, the magicians came to realize "this is the finger of God" (8:19).

The LORD's intent was to answer Pharaoh's question from 5:2, "Who is the LORD that I should obey Him?" and to prove to the Egyptians "there is no one like the LORD our God" (8:10).

Pharaoh must have felt smug after his own spiritual leaders copied the initial plagues.  But he finally had to ask Moses for relief from them.  Once the pressure was off, Pharaoh showed no signs of learning his lesson.  He even promised in 8:28 to let the Israel go, but he lied.  After all of these displays of God's power, Pharaoh hardened his heart against the LORD.  His rebellion against God and his ingratitude for God's mercy would prove costly to everyone around him.  Eventually, the exodus of Israel will take place but Egypt will be devastated in the process. 

Don't miss the LORD's loving care of His own people in 8:23: "I will put a division between my people and your people."  While the Egyptians suffered these plagues, the people of Israel did not.  

God certainly can and does discipline His children, but His wrath is reserved for those who reject Him.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

The war for human Hearts

Read Exodus 7.

The purpose of the ten plagues was not only to deliver the people of Israel from slavery but that "The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD..." (v.5 and v.17).  These were demonstrations of how powerful and worthy He is of their worship.  Each of the plagues was directed specifically against the system of false worship the Egyptians had made up.  Later in 12:12 God said, "...on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD."  

The Nile River provided water to the nation for crops and the resulting agricultural prosperity.  Instead of thanking the LORD of heaven for such grace, they invented a god Osiris and envisioned the river as being his bloodstream.  So, the LORD demonstrated their foolishness to them.  It is as if God responded with "You think this is a bloodstream?  Let me show what that would really be like."  The disaster lasted seven days.

Empowered by the devil, the magicians of Egypt were able to duplicate the change of water into blood.  When Pharaoh saw the counterfeit, he discounted the power of God to some trick.  Instead of humbling himself before the LORD, he hardened his heart even more.  This is raw and open spiritual warfare. 

Satan is a counterfeiter.  Jesus called him the father of lies (John 8:44).  Satan endeavors to come up with cheap substitutes for the will and work of God to distract the hearts and minds of humans from the truth.  He is the source of all false religions in order to thwart people from knowing and living for Jesus.  He is the liar behind all temptation to do anything but what God wants a person to be doing.  He is the accuser against God behind the thoughts that question what is clearly stated in the Bible.  His singular goal is to keep as many humans as possible from giving themselves to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life.  Satan is a defeated foe, faces eternal damnation, and wants to take as many down with him as possible.

A hard heart loses all sensitivity to the difference between good and evil.  The Holy Spirit of God helps us to spiritually appraise the people and happenings around us so we are not fooled by Satan's schemes.  (1 Corinthians 2:9-16).

Thursday, May 18, 2017

What happens when things get Worse?

Read Exodus 6.

"But the LORD..."  To God, it does not matter what the circumstances seem to be.  Life is all about fulfilling God's plan and purpose for our lives.  It is truly is all about Him.  Our trust is in the One who controls the circumstances.

"Now," He said.  This is God's timing.  It is His plan.  These are His people.  It is His name and authority that have been challenged by Pharaoh.  In the first eight verses, notice how many personal references the LORD makes.  The word "I" appears 18 times in the ESV; that does not include the words "my" and "myself".

Armed with this powerful reassurance, Moses obeyed God and spoke to the people.  But the people did not listen.  They could not hear it, or process it in faith, due to "their broken spirit (internal pain) and harsh slavery (external pain)." (v.9)

The test of their faith was great and in their discouragement they were not seeing their prayers being answered.  After crying out to God for help, their circumstances had grown worse.  They were losing hope.  God had not changed.  His promises had not diminished.  His deliverance was at work.  Hope was right in front of them.

When the people did not listen, the leader became disheartened.  Moses blamed himself for not being able to communicate in an effective manner.  This resulted in his reluctance to obey God's directive.  The LORD foretold Moses of this adversity with Pharaoh at the burning bush.  And, God also foretold of the demonstration of His "wonders" in order to facilitate Israel's exodus from Egypt (3:19-22).  But in the pressure of the moment, God's promises lost their impact.

We must be on our guard not to interpret our circumstances by our feelings.  Our feelings are fickle.  When there is a delay in answers to our prayers, we must recognize it as a test of our faith.  Will stand on the word of God in difficult times, knowing He is in control?  

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A lesson for those who defy God

Read Exodus 5.

If Moses and the Israelites thought they were ready to leave, they were mistaken.  God had them in the right place, but more preparation was needed.  God prepared them physically with increased labor and hardship.  The events that were ahead would make them stronger spiritually as God systematically revealed the greatness of His power.  At the same time God was working in Pharaoh and the Egyptians to bring them a point of total humiliation.

Moses obeyed God and delivered the message to Pharaoh.  Verse two contains, perhaps, the most dangerous words a human could utter.  "Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice...?  If there is a question God delights in answering, it is that one!  Then, he added, "I will not..."  This is open rebellion and defiance against the Creator of the Universe.  Defiance goes beyond doubt or disbelief.  The audacity, the pride, the insane arrogance behind that question is hard to fathom.  A mere human being became so satanically deceived as to actually believe he could successfully ignore and openly rebel against the Living God!  After all, the Pharaohs were considered deity.  Everyone was to worship them, not the God of Israel.  Ah, but He is much more than the God of Israel, He is the King of Kings, LORD of Lords, and the only true God.  He is the Owner of life itself.  He is the giver of life and He can take it at His will.

The next several chapters are nothing more than an answer to Pharaoh's question.  The result will be the total destruction of this once mighty nation.

When a person is confronted with the LORD's claim on their lives and becomes defiant, thinking that God may be ignored, watch how God responds.  
1. Sometimes, He allows them to go their own way and get their fill of the empty dreams they are chasing.  A Christ-less future of eternal punishment is all that awaits them.  
2. Sometimes, He responds quickly to the rebellion and removes them from this life.  
Either way, they made their decision not to respond to God's loving offer of forgiveness and eternal life.  
3.Sometimes, after the harsh results of their bad decisions brings them to a point of humility, they become willing to listen to God's wooing and respond with "Yes, LORD" to His grace.

There is nothing in this life more joyous than to see a person come to a place of humble repentance toward God and faith in the LORD Jesus Christ.  The results are real life now and life everlasting.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Overcoming our feelings of Inadequacy

Read Exodus 4.

Moses moved from questioning what God commanded him to do to outright rejection of what God said.  All of his excuses centered on his feelings of inadequacy.  Meanwhile, God continued to demonstrate that the job depended upon His adequacy, not Moses.  

With each of his five excuses, God countered with a promise.
1. Moses: "Who am I that I should go...?" (3:11)
God: A promise of His presence.  "I will be with you."

2. Moses: "What is his name?" or "By what authority would I approach this task?" (3:13)
God: A promise of His Person.  "I AM.

3. Moses: "They will not believe me." (4:1)
God: A promise of His miraculous power.

4. Moses: "I am not eloquent." (4:10)
God: A promise of presentation.  "I will teach you."

5. Moses: "Send someone else." (4:13)
God: A promise of a partner.

God wanted to use Moses to help millions of enslaved people; a priceless opportunity!  But Moses tried to give it away.  God wanted to give Moses national and international influence as a leader.  But Moses wanted to protect himself and stay where he was.  God wanted to demonstrate His omnipotence.  Moses only focused on his own limitations.

While God prepared Moses, at the same time, the last verse indicates that He also prepared the people. 
1. The people did believe the message. 
2. The people realized that God had heard and was answering their prayers. 
3. They people worship the LORD.
The LORD delights in using people who know that the adequacy for the assignment in not within them.  The Apostle Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 4:7-"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."  Humble service with dependence on God allows all the glory to go to Him alone.

Monday, May 15, 2017

When God calls your Name

Read Exodus 3.

Another 40 years went by.  Moses was now 80.  He spent the middle part of his life humbly tending the sheep of his father-in-law.  God used this time to change Moses' character and to teach him how to lead a flock in the desert.  These are the very qualities that the LORD would use for Moses' life mission.

God revealed Himself in a creative way, using a curiosity approach, to gain Moses' attention.  It was not until Moses "turned aside to see" that God spoke to him.  Hearing what God has to say begins with a willingness to turn to Him.  Once a person becomes willing then they are ready to listen to what God has to say to them.

Now, that God has Moses' attention and willingness, He unfolded the deliverance plan for the people of Israel.  When God wants something done, He will give the vision for the task to a leader of His choosing.  Moses was to be that leader.

Notice that Moses had lost both his swagger and his confidence.  Then, he began questioning and pushing back on God's call for his life.  When a person has been hurt, rejected and disillusioned, their focus is on self and self-protection.  Each time God gave him all that would be needed for success.

Moses: "Who am I?"
God: "I will be with you."  Then, God added a specific promise of deliverance.
The issue was no longer the call, but Moses' faith in the living God.

Moses: "What is his name?" 
God: "I AM who I AM."
Because of the past, Moses envisioned that he would be rejected by the people as having no authority to deliver God's message to them and lead.  Again, his focus was on self, rather than the person and power of God.  The "I AM" refers to God's eternal nature.  He is always in the present tense as the self-existent One.  The indication is that God would prepare the people to recognize that name as authoritative and follow Moses.  Again, God added the promise of deliverance.

One by one, the LORD supplied a solid answer to each of Moses' questions.  It is good for humans to ask questions concerning their faith and God's Word.  But after one knows what God has said, then it falls on human responsibility to immediately obey.  

Saturday, May 13, 2017

4 attributes of God that affect us Everyday

Read Exodus 2.

Is the God of heaven truly interested in the details of our lives?
If so, does He have a plan for each individual?
Does He intervene to fulfill that plan?
The Bible answers all those questions and more in this chapter.

While male Hebrew babies were being killed at Pharaoh's command, God protected Moses.  The LORD not only spared his life but provided for his mother, his education, and leadership experience.  When Moses grew up, it seems as though he knew God had put him in such a powerful position to help his people.  But the abuse of power and privilege is never the will of God.  Like Joseph, God did not change His mind, or His plans, concerning Moses' future.  But He was going to change Moses' character.

At age forty, Moses was a murderer, rejected by the people he wanted to lead, and hunted by those who raised him.  Instead of living in luxury, he sat alone in the desert by a well.  He must have thought that life was over.  His impetuous, pride-filled decision cost him everything.  The suffering was self-inflicted.  But God....

God sent Jethro's daughter to begin the unfolding of the next phase of his life.

As God prepared Moses in the desert, He has not forgotten about the needs of those enslaved in Egypt.  The people cried out to God for help.  Verse 24 provides a four-part reassurance of God's personal attention and involvement in human lives:
1. God heard.  God wants to hear from us.  Jeremiah 33:3 "Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known."

2. God remembered His word. God did not forget.  The basis for His answer to their prayer was the promise that God made.  The Word of God is the basis of answered prayer.  Jesus stated in John 15:7 "If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." 

3. God saw.  God is looking for righteous people to help.  2 Chronicles 16:9 "For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him."

4. God knew.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:31-32 "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat? ' or 'What shall we wear?'  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you."  

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Bible's first case of civil Disobedience

Read Exodus 1.

At the end of Genesis, Jacob's total family numbered only 70.  They lived on the finest land in Egypt, overseeing of all the nation's livestock and food supplies.  At the opening of Exodus, several hundreds of years have gone by.  The family of Israel became a nation of several million people living in this foreign country.  The new Pharaoh felt threatened by them, but he did not want to lose their manpower.  His solution was slavery.  However, God blessed Israel with even more rapid population growth.  Pharaoh's solution was to kill all newborn males.

The Hebrew midwives were charged with the murderous task of killing the newborns.  "But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live."  Pharaoh's order was self-serving and evil.  This is the first case in the scripture of civil disobedience.

Bernard Ramm wrote that the midwives had to choose among their fears: a)to fear the invisible God or b)to fear the visible king.  "Faith sees the real power; sight sees the immediate power."

Once a person no longer cares what God thinks, there will be no respect for His presence, no regard for His expectations, little regard for human life, and no fear of His judgment.  Such a person's heart becomes wide-open to any, every, and all sinful behavior.

These women did not protest or raise a ruckus.  They quietly and humbly did what was right.  When asked about it, they may not have been lying, but they just did not say more than they had to.  By faith, they trusted God.  God took care of the two women involved and, to this day, we even have their names: Shiphrah and Puah.
1. God protected them from punishment.
2. God blessed them, v. 20-"God dealt well with them".
3. God gave them their own families. v.21

A principle is seen throughout the Bible in such cases when authority conflicts with the known will of God.  It is this: God is able to take care of the consequences of our obedience.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Forgiving because we have been Forgiven

Read Genesis 50.

What a funeral procession that must have been!  Imagine the site of the high servants and leaders of Egypt, accompanying Jacob's family, traveling approximately 200 miles to the old family burial site.

Funerals are one of the occasions that should bring family and friends together.  People mourn differently.  Some immediately feel the impact of the loss and show great emotion.  Others take their time processing how they feel.  Many leaders in the family, who end up making all the arrangements, do not have time for a good cry until after everyone leaves.  Memories flood the mind of the laughter, fun and good experiences of the past.  But quite often there are divisions and regrets too.

Though Joseph forgave and treated his brothers with great generosity for years, his brothers still carried the regret for what they did to him.  They feared that Joseph had only been good to them for their father's sake and now he would seek his revenge.  They did not just ask for forgiveness, they pleaded with Joseph.  His response is one of the most remarkable signs of spiritual maturity and understanding. 

"Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today."  Then he comforted them.

Such a statement demonstrated:
1. He gave God the credit for all true forgiveness.  Colossians 1:14-"He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
2. He did not brush away the sin against him, but called it the evil that what it was.
3. He understood how God used that evil to help him deal with his own sin and to mature in his trust of God.  Romans 8:28-And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
4. He realized that God had used and was using those very circumstances to now meet the desperate needs of others.
5. He was able to be kind and minister to others because he had experienced the freedom of God's forgiveness.  2 Corinthians 1:3,4-"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

We can forgive because we have experienced God's love and forgiveness.  We can comfort and encourage others because the Holy Spirit has ministered to us.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Passing on our blessed Hope

Read Genesis 49.

These are the last recorded words of Jacob.  It was customary for the patriarch of the family to make such formal pronouncements, usually in the form of a blessing.  The statements are based upon the personal character and proven traits of each of the twelve sons.  However, in addition, God gave Jacob prophetic insight into their futures.

For Reuben, Simeon and Levi, their previous actions cost them.

Joseph received the most attention.  He was the firstborn of the beloved Rachel and his father's favorite son.  In verse 26, Jacob delivered a special blessing upon him.

Of the twelve, it is the prophecy to Judah that affects the rest of the Bible.  

Matthew 1 confirms that Messiah's lineage came through Judah.  Humanly, Jacob could not have known that at time, but now with the rest of scripture complete, his words to Judah are fascinating.
1. The family will praise him, even bow down before him. v.8a, 8c
2. He will be victorious over his enemies. v.8b
3. He is referred to as a lion. v.9
4. He will rule as a king. v. 10
5. He will bring in a time of prosperity, even opulence. vv.11-13

Compare that list to some of the passages about Jesus, the Messiah.
1. " the name of Jesus every knee should bow..." (Philippians 2:9-11)
2. "...I make your enemies a footstool for your feet..." (Hebrews 1:13)
3. "...the Lion of the tribe of Judah..." (Revelation 5:5)
4. "But of the Son he says, 'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom." (Hebrews 1:8)
5. Isaiah 65:17-25 describes the Millennial Kingdom of peace and prosperity when Messiah reigns on earth. 

While we enjoy the blessings of a personal relationship with Jesus today, untold future blessings await for those who know Him.  Pass on this blessed hope to others.

Friday, May 5, 2017

4 characteristics of the God of Israel

Read Genesis 48.

Seventeen more years went by and Jacob, at 147 years of age, lay dying.  Key to his account here is the covenant God made with Abraham and was passed on to Isaac and then to Jacob (v.4).  In blessing Joseph's two sons, Jacob fully included these boys in that unconditional covenant from God though they are half-Egyptian by their mother.  In the future, there is no tribe of Joseph mentioned; only the descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh.

On his deathbed Jacob gave a testimony of his journey with God in verses 15-16.  
1.  The LORD is "my shepherd."
This is the first mention in the Bible of God being a shepherd.  Like a good shepherd, the LORD cares for, leads and feds those in His flock.  The LORD was not on the God of his fathers but Jacob had a personal relationship with Him.

2. The LORD is "the angel."
Surely, this is a reference to God Himself as He appeared to Abraham.  In these preincarnate visits of Christ, the LORD made known His plans for this family's future.  Jacob wrestled with Him in Chapter 32.

3. The LORD "has redeemed me from all evil."
This is the first use of this word in the Bible.  It means "to buy back".  As one may be destitute, a near relative would come to that person's rescue and assume full responsibility for them.  Jacob praised God for being such a Rescuer in protecting him and his family.

Even an older reference maybe the one found in the book of Job as he declared, "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth." (Job 19:25)

4. The LORD hears and answers prayer.
Jacob looked to God to "bless" his family, to protect the legacy, and fulfill His promises.

Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd." (John 10:11a)
Jesus said, "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11b)
Jesus said, "I know my own and my own know me." (John 10:14b) 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The making of a Legacy

Read Genesis 47.

Joseph walked into the presence of the most powerful man in the world and presented his family.  Pharaoh's appreciation and trust of Joseph is seen vividly when he extended to them the best of the land.  It was the land of Goshen, or as it is called in 47:11, the land of Rameses.  The lush, river basin section of Egypt was ideal for Israel's herds.  

Meanwhile, the drought and famine continued.  Year by year the resulting economic depression worsened.  The Egyptians traded all they had for food.  Thanks to the God-inspired preparation, Joseph led in controlling the food supply, the people, and all the land.  The result was that Pharaoh owed everything in Egypt.  This established a future taxation system of a 20% on all produce.  The people responded by saying, "You have saved our lives." (v.25)

Joseph could never have imagined how God would use him like this during the days of his imprisonment.  When one is in the midst of suffering, it is difficult to trust that God has a plan for our good and the impact it will have on others.  But in the Lord's timing and our faithfulness, the plan will come to light.

What if Joseph had rebelled during his slavery?  What if he had given in to temptation?  What if he had been sloppy in his work?  What if his heart had not been right with God when Pharaoh asked for help with his dream?  What if Joseph harbored bitterness and an unforgiving spirit toward his family?  Gratefully, we will never know.  This man stayed true to his faith through it all.  The Lord not only blessed Joseph but his family and the entire nation.

A British preacher by the name of Henry Varley famously said,  "The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him."  When D. L. Moody hear that statement in 1873 he replied, "By God's help, I aim to be that man."  Moody's legacy continues to this day.  Our legacy is at work right now.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Going in the will of God

Read Genesis 46.

The brothers returned and told their father, Jacob, the good news.  Joseph was alive.  The family was reconciled.  They had all been invited to move to Egypt and live in prosperity in the midst of a world-wide famine.

But what about their land that God had given to Abraham and his descendants?  This question had to be on Jacob's mind with no little angst.    Was this what God wanted them to do?  Was this the right decision?  If for no other reason the family needed to move for sheer survival.  It seemed they had no choice but to go.

Jacob packed up everything they owned and all 70 of them headed for Egypt.  But before he set foot outside the land God gave them, Jacob stopped for a time of worship.  He offered sacrifices to the LORD.  Then, God gave the confirmation of His will.

Someone once remarked that you cannot steer an object that is not moving.  Once Jacob became willing to move out in faith, God made His word clear to him.  This time, as before in Jacob's life, God revealed His word through a vision in the night.  With the dream came sure and certain promises.
1. "I not be afraid.."  God is the great I AM.  He is always in the present tense, eternally existent.  His presence with us is not limited by time or place.  This assurance of God's personal and powerful presence is enough.
2. "...there I will make you into a great nation."  They left Canaan as a family but they became a nation in Egypt.  God had a plan for developing this nation and the move to Egypt was a strategic part of it.    
3. "I will bring you up again..."  God foretold Abraham about this sojourn back in 15:13-16, even mentioning that they would be there for 400 years.  God also included the same promise of their return.  The covenant made with Abraham and his descendants would not change.  The land was theirs by promise.  The family was growing and would become a great nation.  God would bless them and they would be a blessing.

Life is a journey.  As followers of Christ, we want to be certain that we are where God wants us to be, doing what God wants done.  

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

4 Steps to Reconciliation

Read Genesis 45.

Slowly, the story unfolded. The process was used by God to confront their unresolved sin.  Though more than 20 years had passed, the guilt surfaced openly.  Numbers 32:23-" sure your sin will find you out."  God uses guilt as a good thing.  It motivates us to finally deal with what is wrong and seek to make it right. 

Joseph pushed his brothers to the limit and he could bear it no longer.

As the leader and the person wronged, Joseph took the initiative.  He did four steps beginning in verse 4.
1. He offered reconciliation ("Come").
2. He expressed forgiveness ("Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves").
3. He revealed his understanding of God's plan in the circumstances ("God sent me").
4. He blessed them (45:11-"I will provide for you").

There is a wonderful picture of how God treats us.  We sinned against Him.  Yet, He initiates reconciliation by sending Jesus.  He paid the debt for our forgiveness on the cross, once for all.  He loved us first.  He reveals His design and plan for our lives.  He blesses us with eternal life and provides for us daily.

We demonstrate our relationship with God when we treat others the way He treats us.
1. We forgive others, not because they deserve it, nor ask for it.
2. We initiate reconciliation with others, even when they do not desire it...yet.
3. We reveal to others what we have learned and understand of God's plan for our lives.
4. We seek to serve others and be a blessing to them.

Ephesians 4:32-"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."