Thursday, May 30, 2013

Exodus 4 - Signs from God

Imagine yourself for a moment in Moses' shoes... Called by God to deliver a message to the people. Suppose God asked you today to go out church by church and proclaim that his coming is near and people need to be ready. You would think that this is the event everyone has been waiting for and praying for, but would the people really believe you?  Would they think you a lunatic? 

Moses resisted God's call not out of unbelief but out of fear of rejection by his people and an understanding that this was really big. The slavery the people endured would take more power to overcome than they had - it would take the power of God. There would certainly be doubters in the crowd. After all the people had waited so long. 

God provided several signs in this chapter for Moses to demonstrate. It is important to note that signs in scripture are primarily given to resolve unbelief. Unbelievers want to see a supernatural act of God before they will believe. God was sending a sign for the unbelievers. 

Any student of history at the time would have known that God had promised to deliver his people out of captivity. In Genesis 15:13-14, God told Abraham that his descendants would live in a foreign land and would be mistreated for 400 years. They even had a timeline; they should believe, but the people had grown weary in waiting. 

How much like the Israelites we seem to be in our own time. By the way, God's deliverance is sooner today than ever before, but many have grown weary in the waiting. People look for signs of God's blessing on them demonstrating their lack of faith. The signs we look for today are wealth, security, power and position, but please understand this is not how God usually does his business. Power and authority are given to the wicked as well. In fact, Satan can mirror the supernatural acts of God and masquerades as an angel of light offering a counterfeit. 

God does place people in positions of power  and wealth, but with them often gives greater responsibility to use these blessings not for our own benefit but for God's glory that he could use us a tools to demonstrate his power. 

In the United States we have been born into more wealth and greater freedom than most of the world has ever known. People still flock to our country for greater opportunity and the hope to enjoy  the luxury we have. We have greater responsibility to care for those who are struggling. We should defend the defenseless not in our power but in demonstration of God's power. 

Moses went out with a message if hope and deliverance. If you belong to The Lord, you have a message if hope and deliverance as well. In fact we have the historical record of Jesus' coming and the foretelling of his return. There are many that need to hear that God loves them and will believe if you will have the courage to share. 

If you have been given a supernatural sign from God it is to reassure the unbelievers in your area of influence - be sure to use them to bring glory to God.  The measure of  our lives is not in how much we collect but in how much we spend for God's glory. Our lives are to be lived in only one country. Will you be at home in Egypt or will you look to the promised land?  

May God richly  bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him!  

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Exodus 3 - Out of Our Comfort

So many of us have learned to adapt to the comforts this world offers and while we know it is a land of exile, we resist the calling to set ourselves apart and to expose ourselves as Christians. Moses faced the same temptation to live his days out in Midian and not return for his people and act as their deliverer. 

Both God and Moses had seen the misery of the Israelites in Egypt. God had sent Moses away to prepare his character to lead he people, but Moses had learned humility in Midian to the point of self doubt. He asked absurd questions of God for proofs that he was being sent by the Almighty when God had provided the promise of deliverance to Abraham and had demonstrated supernatural power before him in the burning bush. 

God gave Moses a plan and a vision of the deliverance He would provide. God was calling Moses to be the leader and to create a new and better reality for Gods people, but Moses doubted that he was the one. 

What Moses didn't understand was that it was not his power that would provide the deliverance for the people, but God's power. God could have used any willing servant and equipped them for his service, but God had selected Moses for this task and had been preparing him all along for it. 

God promised he would be with Moses (Ex 3:12). He promised that the elders would listen to him and believe him ( Ex 3:18). He made known that Pharaoh would not comply (Ex. 3:19 ). God assures Moses that He will do mighty signs and wonders (Ex. 3:20). God will change the Egyptians hearts and provide wealth of the Egyptians to the Israelites (Ex 3:21-22). Moses knew the process and the end of his assignment and it wasn't Moses but God who gets the glory for a mighty deliverance. 

Far too many Christians live in the dark shadows of this is world seeing the misery and the suffering but are not willing to implement God's calling in our lives. God has given us all the call to live separate and to share the good news if the gospel, but we feel shaky in our faith and so we keep quiet. Maybe we don't really believe deep in our hearts that message we have received in our heads. We are looking for someone else to do what God has asked us to do. 

God may be calling you for a specific task and has been building your character for this very moment. We live in a time that has turned away from God and has gone the way of man. You may be called for just such a time as this. Consider, why were you born at this time and not some other?  What is the great need of the people? To have a hope of eternal security and encouragement to live for The Lord while we are here.  We can relieve suffering or even comfort those in times of trial if we will only do as we are asked. 

Too many of us have our feet in two camps contentedly living in the world while claiming the name of Christ. We were born to live for Christ alone and to trust in God for our security and not in the world. 

What are you equipped and called to do for God's glory?  I would love to hear your testimony. As you are looking for his clear direction know that even though you may be called out of your comfort zone you are never out of His care. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Exodus 2 - Weavings of God

As we enter Exodus 2, we see conditions for the Israelites are oppressive - virtually intolerable. Pharaoh is executing the Hebrew babies at the time of Moses birth, but God plans to raise up a deliverer to demonstrate God's power to the unbelievers and his love for his people. 

Our Heavenly Father doesn't weave his story the way we would. He allows the injustice to continue even though He is fully able to wipe out the oppressors and to relieve the suffering. He doesn't operate that way. 

He allows Moses to go undiscovered for a time and allows Pharaoh's daughter to find him and raise him. He allows his own mother to nurse him and see him grow. He allows Moses to grow up in the palace and learn the ways of the Egyptians in spite of Pharaoh's hatred for the people. 

God allowed Moses to be discovered as the murderer of an Egyptian and prepared a place for Moses to learn the ways of a shepherd in Midian. God brought him to the home of his wife and gave him a son. All the time God allowed his people to continue in slavery. 

To the human eye these individual events would seem chaotic without a master plan, but God was weaving a story together using each and every event to lead up to a master plan to deliver his people. 

At first blush, this would seem to be a story of Moses or the story of oppression in Egypt, but at the end of the chapter, God reveals the real intended focus. It is Gods  story of deliverance unfolding. In verse 25 we see "So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. For 400 years they were exiled to this foreign land but God never forgot them. 

My dear friend if you have chaos going on in your life. If the strife, oppression and pain is too much to bear, consider this:  God is concerned for his people. He sees the injustices and he sees your need and is weaving even the hardships and trials into a grand story of God's glory and his lovingkindness toward his own. We may not see what is next around the corner or how God may be at work, but the Master does. We can trust the hand of our Father in Heaven to weave together his story using the circumstances we face. 

Are you in need today?  Do as the Israelites did in their captivity in Egypt - cry out to God (Ex 2:23) and ask Him to help you.  He is the same God who overcame the oppressors in Egypt and He still cares for his own.   Whether you are in financial need, health need or in need of wisdom he is Master of it all and he cares for you.  

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him!  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Exodus 1 - Oppression and God's Hand

As we get updated on the story of Joseph and his family we see that the Israelites are becoming the great nation that God foretold, however a king has come to power who did not know about how Joseph saved the Egyptians from extinction. In his ignorance he treats the Israelites as threats to his rule and sets about enslaving them before they overcome him. 

God was even in the midst of oppression blessing his people with fruitfulness.  Look at verse 12.  Even though labor was hard, they still were multiplying- the one thing that the king feared the most. At that point the oppression became ruthless. 

There is no evidence that the Jews were in any way hostile toward the people, but remember from our study in Joseph's time there was innate animosity toward the Hebrew people. I am sure this reality fed the kings next move... Kill the baby boys. 

The midwives tasked with this duty were god fearing women and did not comply with the law of the land. They lied to the king and escaped punishment because God was with them and blessed them. Additionally God gave them children of their own.  Pharaoh had to take the command to the people to kill every baby boy. There was no escaping the terror and oppression these people faced. 

We live in a time in history where terrorist threats are present where because of our God there are elements that would see us perish. Even in times such as these God sees the oppression of his people and is not distant. 

In the financial realm there are circumstances that may come to us that are not a result of anything we have done. We may have an employer who is threatened or bitter and causes misery in the workplace. We may have our lives turned upside down due to some change that has come about unexpectedly. 

I think of my own sister who was involved in an auto accident and had her back broken. Her life was changed in an instant and the rest of her life has been dominated by this event that now renders her in frequent pain and has impacted her ability to be gainfully employed. She may not have been able to foresee her condition but God in his wisdom can use every situation to bring himself glory. 

I also think of a friend of mine who is confined to his bed unable to even sit on his own. Though weak and frail he looks to God for his relief. His dear wife labors night and day providing for his care isolated from her daily routines. In this, God strengthens her daily and encourages her heart to hang in there just one more day. In this God gets the glory. 

Our times of oppression though perhaps not a result of our poor planning (sometimes they are) are opportunities for us to look godward and increase our faith and dependence on our maker. There are some situations that all our might cannot change,but it is precisely those situations where God shines most brightly. Our responsibility is to faithfully obey God and not let this time be our excuse for unbelief or for sinning against God. 

It may be the enemy at work in the oppression but if you are a child of God there is one thing you can take to the bank is that God will get the glory for the deliverance. If you are in a place of oppression today, don't give into depression but look to our deliverer to move on our behalf to rescue us. 

This time of oppression may be the greatest opportunity of your lifetime to demonstrate the difference your faith makes to unbelievers. Put on the full armor of God, strengthen your faith- not in yourself but in the one who created this entire world. No issue is too large for the Master. Place yourself in His hands and see Him at work in your life!  

Take courage dear Christian your deliverance is nearer today than ever before. May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Genesis 50 - Estate Planning

In this chapter we see many acts of love and kindness at the passing of Jacob and later of Joseph. 

1.  Note the great love Joseph had for his father; verse 1 says he threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him. He and his father had a very special bond and while Joseph knew he would join him in eternity, he still mourned for his passing from his earthly existence. 

Joseph spared no expense to ensure that his father's body was cared for and Jacob's burial wish was honored. 

It is right to give honor to our parents in life and in death. Jacob was a grand patriarch of his time and greatly beloved. 

2.  The Egyptians mourned for 40 days. Both Jacob and Joseph were highly revered. The physicians took great care to embalm Jacob, the mourning period was observed in Egypt for the passing of a foreigner, a Hebrew normally despised in the eyes of the Egyptians. The influence of Joseph and Jacob was so great as to overcome their predisposition to despise and caused them to honor them instead. 

As Christians we are foreigners in a land not our own. We belong to Heaven but live on Earth. Will our lives be so excellent that God is honored at our passing and even unbelievers will give God glory when we pass, seeing our life lived out for His glory here?  

3.  Pharaoh honored Jacob. Joseph asked to be able to honor his father's dying wishes and Pharaoh not only let him go with his family to bury his father in the place where his ancestors were buried, but verse 7 indicates that ALL Pharaoh's officials and dignitaries accompanied him. With chariots and horsemen this was a notable burial procession. 

The mourning was so notable to the residents of the land that they even named the place for the mourning of the Egyptians (verse 11). 

4.  Joseph mourned for 7 days. Jacob's passing left a great hole in the lives of those he touched. They would see him again in eternity, but they missed his presence with them. There would be no one who could replace the position of Jacob in their lives. 

5.  Joseph bore no animosity toward his brothers and continued to provide for them in Egypt. They knew Joseph could have executed punishment for their transgressions but he saw God at work in the midst of even the mistreatment he endured. He chose not to bear a grudge against those who harmed him for God was working out His plan. 

6.  God's blessing of Joseph. God blessed Joseph with great power and influence in Egypt. God also blessed Joseph with a long life allowing him to see the birth if his great-great grandchildren. His life was full and well pleasing to God. 

Joseph knowing he was about to die gave instructions to his sons for his death. He looked forward to a day of deliverance from Egypt and wanted to also be buried with his father even though the Egyptian leadership no longer looked on Joseph and his family with favor. 

We have an opportunity while living to express our wishes for not only our burial but also the dispossession of our material goods. God gives them to us as stewards to manage and that responsibility extends to the care they are given after your passing as well. We should take time to document our directions for the generations after us on a will or letter so that they may continue the legacy you established and continued in your life. 

Both Jacob and Joseph influenced their generation for good and for God's glory. They lived well and died in God's good time leaving a legacy that extends to our generation. 

Dear Christian, run your race here well that God may be glorified and your legacy may continue after you. The kindness and wisdom you extend today will be remembered for a long time.  Take time to consider your legacy and how your influence might continue to bring God  glory even after you get promoted to Heaven!  

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him!  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Genesis 49 - Measure of a Life

If you interviewed random people on the street and asked them what should be the measure of a man's life, they might say things like a long life, wealth, power, leisure and the like. If you stood outside a church they might say good works, or integrity or noble character. 

The Westminster catechism says that the chief end of man is to glorify God. Jacob here in his last days calls his sons together to give them his blessing. Because he has received word from God about the future of each tribe of Israel, he passes this down to his sons. 

Some sons like Reuben, Simeon and Levi receive harsh words forecasting a future of hardship and cursing. But in this passage we see Judah prophetically named as the tribe through whom the Messiah would come. Each child receives something from his father. Jacob's legacy would pass from generation to generation expanding Jacob's  influence even to today. 

The measure of our life here on earth is not the stuff we accumulate but the blessing we leave in the lives of the people we touch. Are there people with whom you have shared the gospel? Are there people who needed a word of comfort and encouragement that you have blessed?  Our days here are short, but our influence can go with us into eternity if we will bless others. 

Blessing others will not pave your way to Heaven - that is a free gift of God to those who will agree with Him and admit they are a sinner and have no hope of salvation apart from his provision and accept Jesus as that provision for their souls.  But in blessing others we open a door for witness and draw others to the same hope that we have found in Jesus inviting them to join us in this eternal joy. 

How are you spending your life?  Is it to gain wealth, stuff, power or leisure?  These won't last my friend. If you are the Lord's you have a vast treasure the world needs and is ours to share. If you don't know Jesus as your Lord, you are utterly bankrupt and dead in your sin. Life awaits you if you will call on him to save you. 

Spend your life wisely today as you serve The Lord God who made you and who saved you from the penalty of sin. We are alive today because of Him!  

May God richly bless you as you bless others!  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Genesis 48 - Blessings not Received

In this chapter we find Jacob near death. When Joseph learns of his father's condition, he comes to him with his two sons. Jacob received a blessing from God himself saying that he would have many descendants and inherit the land given to Abraham. All his life he never actually possessed the land and now dying in Egypt he would like never see the promised land again. 

Joseph introduces his sons and Jacob names them as his own and doubles the inheritance Joseph's family would enjoy. Jacob gives each of the boys his blessing but gives the greater blessing to the younger though tradition would have it fall to the oldest.  Joseph himself inherits a portion of land in Canaan that he will later be buried on. 

Jacob, Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh would all live the rest of their days in Egypt as would several generations after them. In fact all the tribe leaders of Israel likely died in Egypt never seeing the inheritance promised. Even so, they clung to the promise and looked forward to the time of fulfillment. 

We can take a few lessons from this as we live out our faith. 

1.  We as Christians have a blessing to give. So often we keep our joy and our fullness all to ourselves. We have a hope that the world cannot offer and we have been tasked with sharing the good news that Christ has made it possible for anyone to have this same hope. We should be about blessing people and offering them a hope of Heaven. If we take no one with us into eternity what benefit will that be?  

2.  Our destiny is not determined by our birth. Certainly we in the United States have so much more opportunity than perhaps someone born in other nations, but even in that, there is no assurance of forgiveness and the hope of Heaven. We used to be known as a Christian nation and many believed that by virtue of their birth in this land, their eternity was assured, but that is not the truth. God alone is Master of our destiny and we are his to direct. If we do not yield ourselves to his direction He has every power to remove us from his blessing. 

3.  The blessing we have here is just a taste of our eternal blessing.  When we know the joy of fellowship with God. because of our standing before God (sinners saved by grace) we have just a taste if Heaven. In the same way Jacob's blessing gave his family a vision for their future inheritance; one they would not know personally this side of eternity.  We will not know the fullness of our inheritance here on earth. This is just a vision of our future. We take our blessing in faith, just as Jacob's sons did. 

Are you walking in the faith of your future blessing?  Is your satisfaction in Christ or are you still depending on temporal satisfactions? Jacob knew the bounty of the best the world had to offer in Egypt was not to be compared with what God had planned for him. Do you have Jacob's hope within you?

May God richly bless you as you seek him and as you serve him. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Genesis 47 - Planning and Stewardship

If ever there was a chapter to highlight the blessings that come to those who plan ahead and manage well it would be this one. Rather than reviewing the story, I would like to go directly to the applications for you and me.

1. The steward honors his benefactor. In verse 1 we see Joseph presenting his family before Pharaoh to receive his formal endorsement to settle hi la family in the best of the land. It must not be said that Joseph took anything at Pharaoh's expense, but hat it was freely given. The bounty that Pharaoh enjoyed was a direct result of God moving through the life of Joseph so Joseph could have taken a stance of entitlement, but he always gave honor to the position of authority. He gave credit to God and respect to Pharaoh.

2. The steward provides for his family. Joseph recognized that the reason for this blessing of position and wealth he gained for Egypt was for the purpose of saving the nation of Israel (now 70+ strong). The remnant to be provided for not by their own doing but through the providence of God.

3. The steward plans for the future. Nearly 10 years earlier, Joseph proclaimed to Egypt that a famine was coming and imposed a tax in the people to store up grain for the years of lean in the land. The people knowing that the famine was coming apparently did not store for themselves and found themselves purchasing their own food back from the government increasing the wealth of the central government.

Let me take a rabbit trail for just a moment. 1. I see the same thing transpiring in our own country. We have many of our elderly who are living in great poverty because they did not have adequate savings for their futures. Oddly, even seeing that, Americans largely do not save sufficiently for their retirement. (I hope to speak about retirement in depth in future chapters because their are biblical principles to apply to retirement). 2. I happen to live in an area where there are many military and government employees. Knowing that the government is not sustainable and that cuts naturally will come - I see many ill-prepared for cuts and will likely be in great need when they are confronted by losses. So it was with the people if Egypt. Because the didn't plan, they found themselves utterly dependent on the government.

4. A steward manages the wealth for the owner wisely. In the case of Joseph, he didn't amass wealth for himself, but all the money, all the livestock and even the land and the people were sold to Pharaoh. Because of the lack of planning on the part of the people they found themselves in bondage.

5. God directs the wealth of the nation. Even the wealthy didn't last long in times of famine. God can remove or amass at His discretion. Because Joseph wisely looked to God for wisdom he was blessed in the time of famine. Joseph grew in wealth. His family multiplied greatly. The rest if the nation was at his mercy. Joseph also amassed a fortune for his master Pharaoh.

6. A steward is merciful. Joseph provided well for the people so they would have plenty. He imposed a 20% tax on the crops that the people planted and allowed them to remain in their land to work it. 80% remained theirs to feed themselves and to reseed the land. The people recognized that Joseph had saved their lives and they willingly submitted to service for the country in repayment.

7. Wisdom is opposed to foolishness. Even at this time you can see how a root of dissension was growing between the Hebrews and the people of Egypt. Jacobs family enjoyed bounty while the people if the land were now captives in their own land. No matter whether being blessed or in want foolish set themselves apart from the wise. As children of the living God it should be no surprise that the world is hostile to us and to God himself. They must justify their stand because they have no other power to depend on.

8. This is all temporary. Jacob wisely told Pharaoh "the years of my pilgrimage" he saw that his true home was not in Egypt. it wasn't even in Canaan. It was in Heaven for he was Gods chosen and selected for eternal blessing. His years here were hard but that is nothing compared with the blessing he looked forward to in the presence of God. If we focus in planning for every eventuality and forget that we have an eternal destiny in heaven, we have lost it all before we begin. Every one will live eternally - the question is where.

I have a card in my purse that says, "if I die tonight, my soul will be in H______ tomorrow. We only have this short pilgrimage to determine our ultimate destination. Please send me a note and let me know where you will be.

May God richly bless you as you seek him and as you serve him.