Monday, January 31, 2011

Pass Over

Exodus 12:14 - 13:16

There are really TWO "passovers" in this passage.  The Lord passes over and the death angel passes over.  The imagery of this Old Testament Feast is rich.  It points toward Jesus and the Cross.  But it also points toward the APPLICATION of what Jesus did on the Cross.  It is not just the message of what Jesus DID for us, but also how we are to APPLY His Cross to our lives.  We could spend much time here, but today I'll just point out a couple of things.

The blood of the sacrifice was applied BY HOUSEHOLDS.  Whether you are single or married, have no children at home or have multiple generations in your house, there is an important truth in Scripture about your house.  You can pray over your home and declare the power of God's presence over your home.  Each one of us needs to do this regularly.  Walk through your home and declare that "this place belongs to Jesus!"

Secondly, there were in this Scripture really two "pass overs."  Exodus 12:23 speaks of the Lord and "the destoyer."  The destroyer is obviously the death angel, or the devil.  Both will pass over your home.  Another translation of the word "passover" has been "flutter over."  In other words, if the blood of the sacrifice is on the doorposts, the Lord will "flutter over" your house and cause the destroyer to "pass over" -- not enter.  If, however, the blood of the sacrifice is NOT on the door post, the Lord will "pass over" and the destroyer will "flutter over" your house -- enter and destroy. 

I am blessed to know that today the Lord is "fluttering" over my home.  Because of what Jesus has done, I can stand believing the the words of Psalm 91: "Because you have made the Lord your refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling."  (Ps. 91:9-10).

This takes place because we call on the name of the Lord.  Today, by your confession, APPLY the blood of Jesus to your "door posts."  There is protection and power in the Name of Jesus!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Making God's Name Famous

Exodus 10:1-12:13

Yesterday, we asked the question, "Why did God orchestrate these incredible plagues on Egypt?"  Why didn't He just zap Pharoah, bring him to his knees more quickly, and pull His people out without also devastating the land and creating such uproar?

Exodus 10:1-2 gives the answer.  He hardened Pharoah's heart and did all these wonders to display before an unbelieving world His awesome majesty.  He did these things "that you may know that I am the Lord" (Ex. 10:2).

The sum of all things is the glory of God.  Romans 11:36 says "For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever."  Roman 8:28 states that all of creation works toward the glory of God.  Even the difficult and hard things of this world are but backdrop for the revelation of the goodness and greatness of God. 

This passage in Exodus ends with the focal point in so far as human life is concerned.  All of history points toward the sacrifice of the Son of God.  All of the plagues of Egypt led up to the instituting of the Passover which foreshadows the Cross.  We once again return to the singular scarlet thread that runs through human history.  It may be summed up in four words:  GOD -- MAN -- JESUS -- YOU.

GOD love us completely, but MAN has sinned against Him, therefore He sent JESUS for our redemption.  Now it is up to YOU to receive Him by faith.  All of the work of Moses in Egypt points back to this basic reality.  All of our lives point there too.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Test of Wills

Exodus Chapters 8 and 9

The story of the plagues of Egypt is one of the most dramatic and impressive in the entire Bible.  Nine times God brought plagues on the land of Egypt in order to liberate His people from bondage under Pharoah.  It is an amazing story of frogs, lice, flies, water turning to blood, and much more.  Each plague was worse than the one before it.

The problem standing in the way of God's purposes was an extremely prideful and hard-headed Pharoah.  Have you ever wondered WHY God did what He did in this story?  He could have zapped Pharoah on the first day if He wanted, and raised up a new Pharoah that would have been agreeable. 

There are two underlying themes in the story of the plague:

1.  God seeks our agreement.  There was a test of wills between God/Moses and Pharoah.  Ultimately God won.  But, rather than bull-doze Pharoah, God sought to persuade him.  God does the same with us.  He will set up all kinds of circumstances to influence us, but in the final analysis, He wants us to DECIDE.  That's His way.

2.  The signs and wonders were for Israel.  God wasn't trying to show the Egyptians how powerful He was.  He wanted to show Israel the lengths to which He would go to deliver them.  The demonstration of His power should lead to worship, and that was aimed at Israel.  As they left Egypt, they should have been deeply aware of how much God loved them and wanted them as His people.

How much are you toay agreeing with God or resisting God?

How much are you aware of how much He loves you and how He moves heaven and earth in your behalf?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Knowing God Better

Exodus 5:22-7:25

The first nine verses of Exodus 6 are quite amazing.  Moses is in a tight spot.  He has obeyed God and gone back down to Egypt to bring the children of Israel out of bondage.  He went to Pharoah and demanded that the people be set free.  Pharaoh says simply, "I think I will not!"  In addtion, the demands of Moses stir Pharoah's anger to the point that he makes life tougher for the children of Israel by adding to their work load.  It seems that things aren't going well for the plan of God, and Moses cries out.

God's reply is, of course, classic.  He says, in essence, "You need to know Me better."  To paraphrase, God says to Moses, "In the past you knew me as the Powerful One.  Now you need to know me as the All-Sufficient One." 

In the passage (Exodus 5:1-8), the unfolding revelation of God in Scripture takes a quantum leap.  Five times in seven verses He repeats His name "I AM" (see Ex. 3:14).  Then, on the basis of WHO HE IS, in the space of three verses, SEVEN times He says, "I will...."

On the mountain of God in Sinai, Moses had found out that God's name is I AM.  In Exodus 6, Moses began to find out what that means.  This is wonderul.  Knowing God is not just an exercise in philosophical ramblings.  It is a relationship with the God Who Is -- the God Who Acts.  Out of His being, He makes covenant promises.  And He never fails in that which He promises.  THIS IS HOLY GROUND. 

And the best part, we are invited to walk on this ground today.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

God Calling

Exodus 4:1-5:21

What do you do when God makes a house call on your life?  When He MAKES a call, He also GIVES a call -- that is, a calling.  People often think that only special people have some sort of calling.  But, the truth is that God pays a visit to every man or woman and when He comes calling, He also has something to say to you.  It is about your destiny -- His purpose for your life.  There are no insignificant people in the Kingdom of God.

Moses is one of the central figures in the story of God's redemptive plan.  He along with Abraham, David, and a handful of others dominate the landscape of the Old Testament.  Therefore, we can draw lessons from his life concerning how God deals with a man.

This passage tells how God confirmed and initiated Moses' calling.  God gave Moses three signs to confirm his calling:

1. A rod that turned into a snake
2. His hand that turned leperous then turned healthy again
3. Water that turned to blood when poured on dry ground

ROD  -- HAND  --  WATER.

The rod is your authority.  The hand is your ability.  The water is your vitality.  Every person needs these three to do what God calls them to do. 

You must operate in divine authority.  That is, you must know who God is and who you are in Him. 

You must have gifting and ability -- skills.  This is somewhat obvious.  It is somewhat like a carpenter having the right tools for the job.  Very important!

Lastly, you must have spiritual energy.  You can only get this from God Himself.  You get it by staying close to Him in all areas of life.

One last note, in each of these three there is a down side, so be careful!  The rod CAN BECOME A SNAKE.  Don't let your authority be used the wrong way.  The hand CAN BECOME UNHEALTHY.  Don't use your abilities to produce hurt.  It happens far more often than we think.  The water must be poured out.  If it stays in the river, it is nothing but water.  But if it is poured on DRY GROUND, it becomes blood.  It becomes redemptive. 

These lessons would guide Moses' life in the years to come.  They also should guides our lives today.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Burning Bush

Exodus 3:1-22

One of the most vivid images in the entire Bible is the dramatic picture of a man standing in front of a bush that burns yet is not consumed.  Fallen man is encountering Eternal God! 

When Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, an angel was stationed at the entrance of that garden holding a flaming sword to guard and prevent wrong re-entry to that place of communion with God (Gen 3:24).  As Moses stands before this fire, we find that the path is beginning to be re-opened for fallen man.  Salvation and communion do not begin with man seeking God, but with God seeking man.  He is by nature a redeemer.

Three things leap out to me from this passage:

1.  God came to Moses.  He called him.  He signaled to him that He wanted a relationship with him.  How is God signaling to you today that He wants a closer relationship with you?

2.  God told Moses His name.  This is more that a simple handle by which to call God something.  His name entails His attributes.  God told Moses about Himself.  Any encounter with God should not just make us happier or meet our needs.  It should lead us to KNOWING GOD BETTER.  What is He like?  What are His characteristics?  How much are you today getting to know God better?

3.  God had something for Moses to do.  He was sending him back to Egypt to lead Israel out of bondage.  Knowing God is never just a philosophical or intellectual pastime.  It is never simply an internal experience.  It always leads to some action -- to some purpose.  As you fellowship with God, what is He telling you to do?  How is He unfolding His purposes for your life?

Exodus 3 is one of the most fascinating and exciting chapters in the Bible.  God reveals Himself as "I AM!"  That means that He is the meaning and substance behind everything.  HE IS!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Three Dimensions of Discernment

Matthew 16

Discernment is the ability to "see through."  It is the ability to see beyond the obvious, and involves insight into what is "really real."  It is a spiritual gift.  It is a spiritual enablement from God.  It is not the gift of suspicion or scepticism.  It is the ability to see clearly as God sees things.

Matthew 16 describes three dimensions of discernment. 

1. Matt. 16:1-4.  DISCERNING THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES.  This is the ability to see what is going on in the world around us.  We very much need to have this ability because there are incredibly deceptive winds blowing in our day.  Also, we need discernment in order to know what actions to take.  Remember the sons of Issachar in the Old Testament who "had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do" (I Chron. 12:32)

2.  Matt. 16:13-20.  DISCERNING THE LORD.  Peter had his eyes opened to see Jesus.  We need that, too.  We often can look at circumstances around us and not see the hand of the Lord at work.  We need discernment to see the working of God in our lives.  John 3:8 says that "the wind (Holy Spirit) blows where it wishes, and you hear the soundof it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes."  That's often the way God works today.  We need eyes to see His workings.

3.  Matt. 16:21-23.  DISCERNING THE VOICE OF SATAN.  Peter was a good man, but for a moment, he listened to the wrong voice.  One minute he was hearing from God.  The next, he was being rebuked by Jesus for heeding satanic wisdom.  This is a daily battle for anyone who wants to follow Jesus.  Satan comes with appealing lies to seek to turn you on your heels. 

May God give each of us discernment today!

Sojourners and Pilgrims

Genesis 50:1 - Exodus 2:10

There is an interesting transition as we move from Genesis to Exodus.  In Genesis, Egypt is a place of BLESSING.  God led all Isreal down to Egypt "to preserve life" (Gen. 45:5).  Egypt is the place of provision and protection. 

As we move into the book of Exodus, a dramatic transition has taken place.  The place of BLESSING becomes the place of BONDAGE.  The place of PROVISION and PROTECTION becomes the place of PERSECUTION.

I am reminded of the continual way God's people are identified throughout Scripture.  In I Peter 1:1 we are called "pilgrims" or "sojourners."  Hebrews 11:13 says that we are "strangers and pilgrims."  Hebrews 13:14 says that "here we have no continuing city."  Again in Hebrews 11:9, it is said that we now live in a "foreign country, dwelling in tents." 

In the natural, I have lived in the same physical city, Monroe, Louisiana, for the bulk of my adult life.  These verses do not, I believe, speak to the natural settings of life.  It is possible to serve God well in the same place for a long time.  However, there is another meaning.  It is spiritual.  We are to KEEP MOVING.

May we never CAMP OUT in the Kingdom of God.  When we do, the place of temporary blessing can become the place of long-term bondage.  So it happened to Israel.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Power of Blessing

Genesis 48-49

Our words are powerful.  They have the ability to build up or to tear down.  They have the ability to encourage or to defeat.  One of the consistent themes throughout the Bible is the power of spoken words.  With the mouth, we have the ability to both bless and curse.  Many a child has suffered under the cruel words of an angry father spoken over him or her.  "You will never succeed."  "You are ............"  (You fill in the blank).  Many a man or woman has spent a lifetime trying to undo the bad words spoken over them by a misquided parent.

There is, however, also the power to bless.  Jacob does so in these verses.  The Hebrews actually believed that these blessings had "sticking power."  And they did!

What words are you speaking today? family members? friends?  Remember, in your mouth is the ability to build up......or tear down.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Genesis 44:1-45:28

Jacob thought he had lost everything!  But all along, God was making plans and provision for his care.  It seemed to Jacob like everything was against him.

Have you ever felt like life has robbed you?  Have you ever felt like the devil has stolen from you things that God wants for you?  Jacob was convinced that many things dear to his heart were long gone. 

Imagine the shock when he found that not only was his son still alive, but that Joseph was now the ruler of Egypt!  It was good news beyond his wildest dreams.  Scripture says in I Corinthians 2:9-10 that "eye has not seen, nor ear heard...the things God has prepared for those who love Him."  Our destiny is wonderful.  It is full of His provision.  Even now, He is working in our behalf.

We are on an eternal journey toward full restoration.  God has promised that resurrection power works in us to bring us back to His creation purposes and glory.  It is fantastic. 

One interesting statement is made by Joseph to his brothers as they prepare to return to Canaan to tell their father, Jacob, about this restoration.  Joseph tells his eleven brothers, "See that you do not become troubled along the way" (Gen. 45:24).  This is a word for us.  We have found out about all the good things God has prepared.  Now we are walking it out.  We have to walk through this world that is full of twists and turns in the road.  It is easy when you're traveling to forget the original instructions and become distracted from your destination.  We can become troubled along the way.  Instead, we must stay on course.  We are heirs of the Kingdom of God, on a mission of restoration.  This is our true identity and our true destiny.

Friday, January 21, 2011

"Everything is Against Me"

Genesis 42:18-43:34

Two verses in the Bible appear to be virtual opposites.  One is from our passage today and the other is from the book of Romans in the New Testament.

In Genesis 42:36, Jacob cries out in distress concerning his family, "You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!" 

Romans 8:28 states, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."

Jacob was in a bad place.  It looked to him like everything -- EVERYTHING -- was working against him.  He thought Joseph, his favorite, was dead.  He gave up on Simeon because of the imprisonment in Egypt.  He despaired because of the demand for Benjamin that, in his mind, would probably result in the loss of that son too.  It seemed to be more than he could take.

The fact is that at that very moment, God was orchestrating the entire set of circumstances FOR JACOB'S BENEFIT!  Joseph wasn't dead, but instead was a magnificently successful ruler in Egypt, who had been sent there for the preservation of Jacob's family!  Jacob said that Simeon "was no more" as if Simeon too were dead.  He wasn't.  Sure he was in "prison" in Egypt, but it is highly likely it was no more than "house arrest" and Simeon wasn't being flogged every day.  Concerning Benjamin, Jacob was far from losing his youngest son.  Everything was NOT against Jacob.  But it sure seemed so to him.

In fact, Romans 8:28 was at work.  God was working IN JACOB'S BEHALF.  God was arranging all pieces of the puzzle for good not bad.  Romans 8:28 teaches us that God is secretly working ALL THINGS for good to those He was chosen -- to those called according to His purposes. 

And so it is with you.  In our darkest hours, it may seem that the entire world is organized to defeat us.  The opposite is actually true.  God is bending history to produce a beautiful bride.  If you know Jesus, you are a part of that bride.  All the events of history bow to the overarching purpose of God.  And that goes right down to your particular, personal life.  He loves us and works in our behalf -- even when we don't know it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Turning of the Tide

Genesis 41:17-42:17

The first half of the story of Joseph in the Bible is a story of treachery, betrayal, and pain.  Yet throughout those difficult years, God was still working in Joseph's life.  For all of us, there are seasons of difficulty, but God promises that in due time you will reap a reward (Gal. 6:9).  It is comforting to know that God never forgets those hidden moments of obedience.  He never forgets those times of mistreatment that were undeserved.  He never forgets the steps of faith we have taken that, in our minds, may not have turned out so good.  He never forgets.  And in due time, he will turn the tide.

Joseph had undergone a severe test.  But the day came that Pharoah began to reward him.  It is the same for us.  Do not grow weary will well-doing.  Your labor is not in vain.  God is preparing you for rulership!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Day When Nothing Goes Right

Genesis 39:1-41:16

We have all had those days when it seemed everything we touch just turns bad.  Sometimes it can be more than a day; it can be a season.  I remember a time in my life about 10 years ago now, when it seemed EVERYTHING hit a snag.  A problem sprung up in my extended family; I had challenges in relationships that were very close to me; I had a significant health issue; the list could go on.  It was a dark year for me.  You've probably been through times like that too.

The story of Joseph is like that.  He was double-crossed again and again.  Yet we never find him getting bitter.  He sought to keep his heart in a good place.  Several times in this passage it states, "The Lord was with him" (39:2, 3, 5, 21, and 23).  One might ask, "If God was with Joseph, why did He let him go through so much trouble?"  The answer to that question is very significant to each of us.

God never promises that we will not experience trial.  He never quarantees unflagging success or gratification.  He does however promise to never leave us or forsake us -- even in the darkest hour.  In fact, it is in the backdrop of severe testing that our light shines brightest.  The betrayal by Joseph's brothers, the treachery of Potiphar's wife, and the forgetfulness of the butler all serve to highlight the excellence of Joseph's character.  These set-backs were not road-blocks.  They were stepping stones.  They were the challenges that led to Joseph's greatest successes -- to the fulfillment of his destiny.

Our challenges are not designed to defeat us.  They are designed to promote us.  Paul echoes this in Rom. 8:18 when he states, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."  For any person who belongs to Jesus, this is your destiny.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Anointed by Foolish

Genesis 37

One of the most amazing stories in the entire Bible is the story of Joseph.  He emerges as one of the great leaders of the Old Testament.  But his leadership is not without great cost and severe testing. 

Joseph is one of the few Bible characters about which there is no recorded sin.  The worst we can say about him is that in his youth he did not use wisdom in sharing his dreams. 

In Genesis 37, we find the beginning of difficulties in his life.  He is the second youngest of his eleven brothers.  Only Benjamin is younger than he.  The father of these twelve boys chose Joseph to be his favorite.  At first, this seemed like good news for Joseph, but, in relation to his ten older brothers, it was very bad news.  They grew to hate this little brother. 

Joseph did not help the situation.  He tattled on his brothers when they were loafing on the job.  Perhaps, the biggest stumbling block was that he had a couple of dreams and then told his brothers about them.  The obvious meaning of the dreams was that Joseph would some day rule over his entire family.

When family members begin to war against each other, it can have very vicious consequences.  And so it is here.  When Joseph came to visit his brothers who were far afield with their flocks, they used the opportunity to once and for all rid themselves of this "pain-in-the-neck" little brother.  Out of pure hatred, they sold him into slavery.

Joseph is typical of you and me at times.  If we feel we have gotten a promise from God, we need to know how to handle that promise.  There is nothing better than hearing from God.  But you gotta know how much to tell your friends.  It can sound like bragging.  "Hey, let me tell what God told me yesterday!"  Or it can sound like you're making it up just to get an advantage over someone else.  "God told me you are going to buy me lunch."  We may laugh at these things, but this is pretty close to the way Joseph's brothers perceived Joseph.  And sometimes this is the way people perceive us.  We need to be careful how we talk about how "God told me this" or "God told me that."  If God truly spoke to you, he can bring it off without your help.  So do like Mary.  When God spoke so clearly to her, she hide it in your heart (Luke 2:19).  At the right time and in the right way, you will be able to share what God has truly revealed to you.  And that will be a great time.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Coming Home

Genesis 35

There is an old hymn of the church entitled "Softly and Tenderly."  It speaks of how Jesus watches and waits for us -- He calls us to come home to His mercies and grace.  The chorus goes like this:

Come home, come home;
Ye who are weary come home;
Earneslty, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

Genesis 35 is the story of a weary man who returns home.  He returns to Bethel, the place where he first met God -- the place that he dreamed a dream of a staircase reaching up into heaven and of angels ascending and descending. 

The man is Jacob, who now will be known as Israel.  The traveler has returned to his roots and he is a changed man.  In the past, he had been consumed by selfishness and ambition.  Now, it seems that he is consumed by a passion for purity and a desire to leave a legacy of devotion to the God whom he says "has been with me in the way which I have gone" (vs. 3).

In looking back over the life of Jacob, it is clear now.  He was a marked man.  He was shaped by the moments of encounter with God.  Though he path strayed at times, yet the word of God did not falter.  God brought him home to Himself -- back to Bethel.

It is the same with you and me.  There are home places for each of you that are the places God has worked in us to show us more of His grace and power.  Anyone who finds God like that will be marked.  These are the building blocks of our lives in the Kingdom of God.  They are Bethel. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Lasting Change

Genesis 32 and 33

In the Bible, there is always the "story within the story."  The Bible is a record of actual historic events and facts.  But, each of these stories are also filled with lessons for us today.  Such is the story of Jacob.

His is the story of a very flawed man.  But he was a man for whom God had great plans.  He was a mixture.  On the one hand, he desired greatly to live life to the fullest.  He wanted the blessing of his father Isaac.  But he used devious means to make advances in life.

Genesis Chapter 32 tells an amazing story of how God finally cornered this schemer.  In verse 24, we find five very significant words: "Then Jacob was left alone..."  All of the things he had fought for and desired were now distant.  His family was across the river.  It was there that God met him. 

In the form of an angel, God came down and actually wrestled with a man.  Why did God do this?  The angel could have pinned and finished off Jacob at any time.  But, instead, he wrestled with him all night. 

Self-made, self-sufficient, self-determining man meets all-powerful God.  In the final analysis, Jacob does not lay down and whimper.  Instead he says to the angel, "I won't let you go until you bless me."  This is a picture of prevailing prayer and of prevailing relationship to God.  Rather than retreating to a weak and whipped fatalism or conversely a bitter surrender, Jacob determines to find out why God has chosen to battle him in the first place.

As a result, Jacob become a victor.  In his surrender, he wins.  In being overpowered by God, he rises to a new place of leadership and destiny.  His name is changed from "schemer" to "prince."  Such is God's desire with each of us. 

This is more than a temporary season of reform.  It is more than remorse for getting caught and cornered.  It is a profound conversion that lasted the rest of Jacob's days.  This is a story of victory -- a story of transformation.  It is also our story.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

God's Pursuit of Man


We often speak of man's pursuit of God.  It is a desire to know God better, to be in His will, to find His blessings.  It is a hunger for God.  A.W. Tozer wrote a classic book about this entitled The Pursuit of God.  Have we considered, however, the other side of this story -- God's pursuit of man. 

This passage in Genesis opens for us an intensifying glimpse of how God pursued one particular man -- Jacob.  By "pursuit" I do not mean that God had lost Jacob and now seeks to find him.  Rather, God is very much aware of Jacob's location but is in pursuit of his life, his devotion, and his character -- his heart. 

Jacob had always been a schemer.  He was shrewd but unethical.  He sought his own personal advantage at the expense of others.  This kept him in continual trouble.  So he would have to flee.  He ran from his brother Esau.  Then he ran from his father-in-law Laban.  But the noose keeps getting tighter.

In this passage, he gathers his entire family and flees from Laban under the cover of night.  But, Laban pursues and catches his son-in-law.  As you can imagine, it is a tense moment.  It could have gone really bad.  But, they reach something of a stand-off and part ways saying, in essence, "don't pass this boundary again.  I don't want to see you again."

As Jacob now leads his family back toward the old home place, he gets word that Esau, the brother he swindled, is coming to meet him with 400 men.  Once again, it doesn't look good for Jacob. 

Have you ever felt that God was putting pressure on you in certain areas?  Have you ever felt that God was somehow orchestrating circumstances around you to teach you a lesson?  or perhaps to speak to you in some way and give you direction?

The beginning of the great transformation for Jacob comes in the prayer he prays in Gen. 32:9-12.  It is the prayer of a man who has run out of options and now must throw himself on God.  This is a really good place to be, even though it might be scary.  God is very close to those who cry out from a sincere heart (see Ps. 51:16-17).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

Genesis 30:1-31:16

This passage could also be called "All in the Family."  It is a very complex story of what we would today call a dysfunctional family.  The major complicating factor is MULTIPLE WIVES along with their MAIDS.  It is another study of how the Bible shows a progression away from the polygamy that is prevalent in the Old Testament to the monogamy that characterizes the New Testament.  But that study must await another day.

Chapter 30 tells of the births of eleven sons to Jacob by his two wives and their maids.  It is a story of competition, scheming, jealousy, and mistreatment.  In the midst of this mess, God was working to produce a nation!  Amazing.  I would have probably washed my hands of it and walked away.  But God was steadily, faithfully working even through the serious flaws of Jacob and his wives. 

In Chapter 31, Jacob's nature begins to assert itself again.  Remember, he is a liar, a cheat, and a usurper.  He stole his brother's birthright and blessing.  Jacob is a standard business man we would find in our economic culture today.  He strikes a deal with Laban, his father-in-law, then manipulates the results to produce an advantage for himself.  Jacob is smart.  He knows something about how goats breed and how they inherit certain traits.  He uses this knowledge to swindle his father-in-law and thus to gain great wealth for himself.  Jacob is up to his old tricks again.  He is a cunning and shrewd businessman, but doesn't have a high ethical profile.  Laban can't figure it out, but just knows something is out of whack in the goat business.  Laban's countenance changes toward his son-in-law.  The pot is beginning to boil.

As a result, Jacob must once again flee.  First, he had to run from his brother Esau.  Now he must run from his father-in-law Laban. 

This is more than just a story of how people treat or mistreat each other.  It is a story of how God changed a man.  We are moving toward a climax in which God, in the form of an angel, comes down and has a one-on-one with his problem child, Jacob. 

Final thought:  have you had a one-on-one with the creator of the universe lately?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The One God Loves

Proverbs 3:11-12 and Genesis 28-29.

Have you every wondered if God truly loved you?  Ever wondered how you KNOW that God loves you?  These passages reflect some interesting insights.  The Genesis passage tells how Jacob began his long journey of transformation.  Because of his trickery and deceit, he had to run for his life from his own brother, Esau.  In other words, some of his sins were catching up with him.  (Incidentally, they would chase him for several more years.)  The story of Jacob is fascinating.  It tells how God took a liar and a cheat and turned him into a prince (see Gen. 32:28).  Why did God do this?  Why did He lead this man across the desert and through danger?  Why didn't God just let the poor man pay for his sins and be done with it?  Why did God keep working with Jacob?  BECAUSE HE LOVED HIM!  God had chosen Jacob for grander purposes -- therefore He worked powerfully in him.  God would not let Jacob go.  Someone once said that whoever God will use mightily, He must also wound deeply.  We'll see later that after this process is over, Jacob carried a limp for the rest of his life. 

We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Rom. 8:37).  That does not, however, mean that we avoid any discipline from God.  It means that, in all the rough places of life, in all the huge challenges, in all the times God digs into our souls, in all these places, we are more than conquerors!!!

Proverbs states it succintly:  the one God loves, He disciplines.  He wants us to partake of His very own nature and to that end all things work. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Blessed Life

Proverbs 3:5-10

Throughout the Bible there are many passages that describe a life blessed by God.  Proverbs 3:5-10 is one of those passages.  It is classic and is worthy of commiting to memory.  Here we find God's promise to guide us.  He tells us that He will provide health and strength for your bodies.  He lays out His plan for filling our lives to overflow.  There are three words that we are to do:
1.  TRUST (vs. 5)
2.  FEAR (vs. 7)
3.  HONOR (vs. 9)
God's instructions are rarely complicated and complex.  They involve attitudes of reliance that lead to actions of integrity and fidelity.  This is the formula for a blessed life.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Tale of Two Sons

Genesis 25-27 tells an interesting story of twins who were obviously not identical.  Born on the same day, yet they were very different.  Same parents, same gene pool, same birth setting.  Esau was somewhat of a man's man -- rough, red, and an outdoorsman.  Jacob was his mother's boy -- hung around the house with her.  Also, Jacob had developed a cunning edge to himself whereas Esau was pretty much straightforward.  It would seem that God's favor would rest on Esau.  After all, he was the firstborn.  One singular thing seems to set Jacob apart from Esau and therefore ahead of him.  HE VALUED THE BIRTHRIGHT.  HE VALUED THE BLESSING OF HIS FATHER.  Despite serious character flaws, Jacob sought to inherit from his father and to fulfill his destiny.  Esau seems to have merely lived for the moment.  It seems that Esau, despite basic likeability, was the kind of guy who would ask "What's for dinner?" rather than "What's important?"  Because of this, Jacob became one of the patriarchs of the Old Testament, whereas Esau recedes into the role of minor player.  Here are the lessons:

1. Do you value and strive for advancement in Christ's Kingdom, or are you coasting?
2. Are you willing to compromise like Esau did merely for a bowl of temporary sustenance?
3. Does your heart thrill as you consider the blessing of God on your life?

One last note, Jacob had serious flaws, but the path ahead would straighten him out.  When God lays hold of us, He promises not only to pour out blessing, but also to remake us in Christ's image.  That is an adventure!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Guidance "in the Way"

Genesis 23:1-24:51 and Prov. 3:1-6

The Genesis passage is the story of how Isaac got a bride.  Her name was Rebekah and the entire story is a lesson in guidance.  Abraham commissions an unnamed servant (some think this was Eliezer, his favorite servant mentioned in Gen. 15:2) to go find a wife for his son Isaac.  The servant is to travel to the old home land of Mesopotamia and seek out the perfect wife.  Quite a task, especially considering the qualifications and restrictions Abraham puts on the process.  She has to be from original family stock and must be willing to immediately uproot and go to this husband (Isaac) she has never met.  Long story short, just as Abraham prophecies, God goes before the servant and miraculously he finds Rebekah.  It is an incredible story of guidance.  In Gen. 24:27, the servant summarizes how it happened, "As for me, being on the way, the Lord led me..."  Later in 24:48, he states further, "God...led me in the way of truth."  Quick observations:

1. God guides those who are willing to BEGIN MOVING.  He will lead us "in the way."  God rarely gives a detailed road map PRIOR to the trip.  He says, "Get moving. Trust me. I will meet you as you walk." 

2. This is a TRUTH WALK.  The servant said that God led him "in the way of truth."  I think this means a couple of things.  First, everything rises and flows out of Scripture.  It is biblical.  Any guidance that contradicts clear Bible commands is not from God.  Second, honesty and integrity are hallmarks of God's path.  Nothing takes the place of simply sincerity and clarity of heart in desiring God's best. 

3.  Guidance that leads to WORSHIP.  As this story unfolds, there is a step-by-step dawning of a wonderful truth -- God is watching over the process.  From time to time, He allows glimpses of His hand.  In the final analysis we see Romans 8:28 -- all things truly are working out for good to those who love and God and are called according to His purposes.  This is adventure.  This is worship.  This is life in the will of God.

Finally, one of my favorite passages accompanies this Genesis story in my readings for today.  Proverbs 3:1-6 says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and HE WILL DIRECT YOUR PATHS.  We don't have to walk alone.  Link up with God and He will direct your steps.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Challenge to Beleive

One Year Bible for Today: Genesis 16:1-18:15; Matthew 6:1-24; Psalm 7:1-17; Proverbs 2:1-5

Faith is the monetary unit of the Kingdom of God.  All God asks of us is to believe.  He certainly wants us to obey and serve, but the FIRST STEP is always pure faith in Him.  Without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God no matter what you do (Heb. 11:6).  With faith, you are always pleasing to Him.  He is not ashamed to be called your God (Heb. 11:16). 

Abraham had a promise from God.  But it didn't seem to be working out.  He was tempted to provide his own solution. "I'll just do it myself."  This proved to be a serious error.  Throughout the Bible, whether Noah, or David, or our friend Abraham, there is only one way to "do business" with God, and that is pure, raw, unalloyed faith in Him. 

May God today help us to walk as sons of Abraham who believed God.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

One Mind

We at New Life are in the midst of 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting.  This is a "Daniel Fast" (ref. Daniel 10) in which we fast from a few pre-selected food items during this time.  This is coupled with Prayer and is a powerful force for the advance of the Kingdom of God.  Our two prayer aims are OUTREACH and ONE MIND.

Today's reading from the One Year Bible speaks directly to this second prayer request -- ONE MIND.  Genesis 11 is the story of the Tower of Babel.  It is also the story of a time when the entire human race was united.  Unfortunately this unity was aimed at pagan, ungodly endeavors.  In Genesis 11:6, God said of them, "the people are one and they have one language. . .now nothing they propose to do will be withheld form them."  The Amplified Bible translates this verse: ". . .now nothing they have imagined they can do will be impossible for them."  There is a principle here.  Unity and one mind brings incredible power.  In Genesis 11, this power was turned in wrong directions.  Another way of writing this principle would be to say that there is no limit to what a people who are truly in unity can accomplish. 

May we find and walk in the MIND OF CHRIST.  Unity of heart, mind, and purpose when it is set toward the Kingdom of God will terrify the demons of hell.  It is the strongest force on earth!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Safety in the Storm

One Year Bible for Today:  Genesis 5:1-7:24; Matthew 3:7-4:11; Psalm 3:1-8; and Proverbs 1:10-19.

The Genesis passage is the story of Noah and the Great Flood.  I am reminded of Jesus words when He said the days just preceding His return would be like the days of Noah.  That is a sobering considertion.  It speaks volumes to us.  Here's the picture:

1.  Rampant, uncontrolled violence, evil, and perversion.  The real first flood of Noah's day was not water, but wickedness.  When I look around today, it seems that unthinkable wickedness is being created around us. 

2.  A righteous man and his family were still intact right in the midst of this confusion.  It is possible to walk with God and find His grace even in a debauched environment.

3.  God provided protection.  This brings me great confidence, faith, and hope.  No matter how difficult our world becomes, God will provide an "Ark" for His people.  I want to be in the right place as the events of coming years unfold!

Final thoughts:

Our God is speaking very strongly in our day.  We really need to hear and heed.  It isn't hard.  Just a matter of listening and then obeying.  If we do that, He will help us ride out whatever is coming and ultimately to prevail.  Great days lie ahead!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Battle of Words

Part of the One Year Bible reading for today is Genesis 3.  A snake is found in God's perfect garden.  It seems like, in this world, even the best situations have a little something flawed.  There's always a snake somewhere.  The battle depicted in Genesis 3 is a battle over words.  Satan, in the form of the snake, challenged God's instruction to Adam and Eve.  Satan sought to replace God's Word with a substitute.  The same battle goes on today.  So, whose word will you believe?  There is always a battle over God's Word.  If we want God's best, we've got to believe what He says.  We find what He says in the Bible.  It is to this end that we commit to read the entire Bible this year.  This is our Manufacturer's Handbook.  All other words will lead astray.  You can depend on what God says!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Day

Didn't write yesterday because of a severe case of water heater.  It went out and I had the joy of replacing it.  Enough said.

I had planned to look back a bit yesterday, it being the last day of 2010.  In short, it was an important year for New Life and for me personally.  We came into 2011, fresh off settling into our new location and new identity.  This year has been a time of consolidation and "catching our breath."  I am confident that 2011 will now be a great year of progress.  On Thursday, I outlined some of the ways we will begin this New Year.  In my heart, OUTREACH and ONE MIND are foremost.  It is as if the Lord says to us, "Whatever you together set your mind toward, you can accomplish."  That is both an exciting and a frightening proposition.  It demands that we have the MIND OF CHRIST! 

For me, 2010 was a very different year.  I set myself to finish a task.  By the grace of God, I did it.  I accomplished a life-goal of getting my doctorate.  In retrospect, I must say that it skewed my entire year.  I was forced to place the proverbial nose to the grindstone.  But, thankfully, it is done!  Praise God!!  I am now looking into publication of my dissertation.  That would be a great next step. 

Tomorrow, Sunday, Jan. 2, will gather for the first time in 2011.  I am looking forward to the adventure of seeing what God will do this year.