Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Exodus 8 - Heaping up Trouble

Imagine living in Egypt under Pharaoh's rule. Your ruler keeps hardening himself against God Almighty and Moses (God's ambassador) and the result is nothing but trouble and hardship. As we enter Exodus 8, God has brought 3 plagues on the people. You would think that when Pharaoh called in his magicians he would have them remove the plague - not reproduce it. What was he thinking?  He was heaping up trouble from the start. 

In chapter 8, we see that Pharaoh does the same with the plague of frogs. God sends frogs everywhere and Pharaoh's magicians reproduce the plague - adding to the misery, but they are unable to make the frogs go away once they set in. The people of Egypt suffer at the poor decision of their leader. 

The truth is that any ruler no matter how well intentioned cannot provide for the needs of the people better than God and doesn't have wisdom to govern that is greater than God's. Our leaders would do well to yield to God's authority and to recognize their complete dependence on Him. Whether in government or in business or ruling the home, leadership without God brings more trouble than relief. 

Pharaoh does something almost amusing if it weren't for the suffering that was taking place throughout the land. Pharaoh recognizes that only God himself can remove the frogs and asks Moses to pray. So that there would be no question about God's power, Moses has Pharaoh set the time the frogs are to leave. Pharaoh says, "tomorrow". He could have had immediate relief but chose to suffer one more night. 

Now you would think that Pharaoh would see a pattern of trouble escalating because of his stubborn heart toward God, but every time he had relief he resumed his former stance against God. Even the magicians recognized the hand of God. Certainly the people of the land were convinced that God was behind these plagues against them, particularly as the plague of flies never touched the land of Goshen where the Israelites lived because God made a hedge of protection for His people Ex 8:22-23. If we belong to The Lord, he will always keep us in his care. 

Before we beat up on Pharaoh too much, let's examine our own hearts and our choices as a nation. When trouble comes to us we are usually quick to look to God - perhaps for blame, but definitely for relief. When relief comes and the intense suffering is past the intensity of our prayers the centering of our daily routines returns to "normal". 

On September 11th, I remember churches being packed for prayer, crying out to God and wanting something to make sense of this horrible tragedy. Life was intense at that moment and our utter dependence on God was very real. In the year that have passed, the church attendance again has dwindled and we as a nation don't look for God quite so intently. I personally have had trials that have driven me to my knees and then have returned to my more friendly and casual conversation with God after finding relief. 

Pharaoh however increased his hard heart toward God after seeing relief and God increase the plagues to bring even greater suffering. Pharaoh did it to his nation and he did it to himself because he refused to submit to a higher authority than himself. We can attest that trouble usually comes with companions rarely is it one isolated incident. 

Is it possible that in our times of want and need that God is trying to increase our faith and turn us from self-sufficiency and have us realize that our sufficiency is in God alone?  As a nation and as individuals we are utterly dependent on God for our provision. We have our hope in Him. 

When considering our trials, let's take time to soften our hearts toward God and learn our lesson the first time. 

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

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Exodus 7 - Signs from God

Moses while speaking to God at the burning bush was given two signs he could use before Pharaoh to prove he was speaking from God. He was to throw down his staff and it would become a snake. He was to hold his staff over the Nile river and it would turn to blood. If anyone did that in front of me, it would make me sit up and take notice. 

But notice in this chapter, Pharaoh's magicians were able to do the same thing with their magic, so Pharaoh's heart became hard toward the word of God. Now not only were the Israelites suffering at Pharaoh's hand, so were the Egyptians. 

There is a fellow who attends church and each Sunday when you ask him how he is he will say, "I'm counting my blessings".  He means that too. He is walking in fellowship with God and looking for Him to move in his life. I know the greatest blessing he counts is his salvation from sin and the hope of Heaven so in good times and bad he can count his blessings. 

Many Christians look for "blessings" from God in the form of abundance, health, freedom from conflict as evidences of God's approval of their lives. I have seen people attend healing services looking for a blessing from God. Poverty, poor health, disability, relational conflicts are seen as curses or coming from the hand of the enemy. 

In truth, the enemy is very powerful. Look back to Exodus 7 and notice how the enemy was able to replicate the miracles God provided. These replications caused Pharaoh to increase his hardness toward God. I think this happens so much today.  When we are living pain and stress free with all the abundance we need, we may thank God, but we don't live in the momentary dependence on Him as we do when hardship comes our way. 

Since the enemy can reproduce the miracles from God it would seem abundance is just the state that would allow God's people to become complacent in their faith. I believe it is why in the United States, we have such wealth, such abundance and such bland churches going through the rituals of worship but never entering into full faith and trust in God. It is why many in our nation have turned their backs completely on God and are walking in the ways that seem right to them. 

Some people chase miracles as if they are little pieces of manna from Heaven. They stand amazed at every healing, every unexpected windfall as evidence from God that He has his hand on their lives. There is grave danger in chasing miracles like thIs. I do believe God does miracles and He answers our prayers. But when we make this the center of our faith, we are on very thin ice. Our faith rests on God proving himself over and over again to us - which is no faith at all. 

Since the enemy can reproduce miracles,  it would seem likely that he would rather see us chase after blessings and live in abundance than to afflict us. Pain would then become evidence of God's absence and isn't that just what the enemy wants from us - to doubt God like Pharaoh?

Signs are evidences for and unbeliever to come to faith in God and to know He is real - for those who need evidence beyond creation itself. (See 1 Corinthians 14:22). We who are of the faith do not need special manifestations of God to know that He is. Yet our faith is increased when we see God sustain us on hardship and to bring us through times of trials. Our faith is increased not because we avoided hardship but because we were sustained and strengthened through it. 

In our stewardship, we must also live in dependence on God. He does bless some with great wealth that they may be beacons to the wealthy and minister Christ's love to them. But more often he gives us what we need day by day. This not only keeps us looking upward for our provision but also allows us to minister to the suffering with a special compassion. 

The next time you see a special miracle, look for the source and keep your walk close with The Lord. What might be considered a curse in our estimation may be the very thing God uses to draw us into a deeper faith and dependence on Him. 

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Exodus 6 - Because of God's Hand

Trouble on every side.  Pharaoh had increased the suffering of the people when Moses delivered the message of God to him. Now even the people have lost faith in Moses and become discouraged waiting for God to act. 

God had a plan to deliver his people from their yoke of slavery. He said to Moses, "because of my mighty hand, Pharaoh will drive the people out of his country."

God can act in ways that bring oppressors to do the very things contrary to their own plans. No man's plans can stand against Gods. That is why as stewards of God's abundance here (both in wealth and in the message of hope for a dying world) we need to align ourselves with God's plan. 

Though our circumstances may lend themselves to discouragement, we can know that the same God who delivered the Israelites from Egypt is the same God who delivers us from sin. We may face incredible foes working against us but if we belong to The Lord, he can make a way for us out of the darkest gloom. 

As a reality check for us; God did not lift Israel from their suffering immediately. In fact, several generations died in the suffering in Egypt. Even for those about to see a God-Sized delivery they suffered even greater oppression as Pharaoh did battle with God by punishing God's people. Pharaoh rightly saw the battle for dominion as a spiritual one and he was going to use the God's beloved as pawns in his battle for control. This may also be something we face. Take hope dear child of God - as God saw the suffering of his loved ones and added that to the judgement Pharaoh was to endure. 

No mistreatment or hardship escapes God's notice and even the hard times come through God's Devine filter and serve to bring greater glory when He affects a mighty deliverance. 

No matter what you may face, you can be assured that because of God's mighty hand, your life will be preserved for His glory. The greatest enemy we have is our sin nature which doomed us to eternal suffering in hell. Yet, because of God's Almighty Hand we have deliverance from sin and the promise of becoming the bride of Christ and reigning with him in Heaven. No one can separate us from that kind of love. 

The Israelites had no idea the things God was about to do to deliver his people. They had no idea they would be witnesses to the Almighty Hand of God; but in just a short time they would go from servitude to salvation.  Place your circumstances in God's hand and you will see God has a plan more glorious than you ever dreamed. 

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

Monday, June 10, 2013

Exodus 5 - Delivering God's Message to the President

It's easy to read biblical passages without feeling the raw emotion of the moment. We read passages about a prophet Moses in a distant time past and don't feel drawn into his drama. Moses was exercising faith in a tremendous way.

To put it into today's context, imagine you have been asked to give God's message to our President and you  were known as a dissident. You have opposed the President and stirred people against him. Now you want an audience with the man to ask him to take an action for you. Not likely you will get the time of day. 

Moses however does get an audience with the Pharaoh and rather than appealing to his station and ego, he boldly says: "this is what The Lord, the God of Israel says; "LET MY PEOPLE GO"". What boldness!  Pharaoh was considered God and worshipped. No demands are placed on God. To take this confrontational stance was a death sentence. 

Pharaoh didn't dismiss this message as without merit, he feared God enough to see the challenge to his authority and increased the oppression of the people. There was a showdown about to take place and Moses was God's gunslinger. 

Pharaoh rightly saw that this was a battle bigger than just changing living conditions for the people. If the God of Israel was going to place demands on him, he was going to meet this challenge head on. To give in would be to give up his position. He would die rather than be threatened that way. 

Moses and the people however saw the increase in abuse and saw disaster. God had allowed things to get worse - not better. The people were angry with Moses for this hair-brained trick, but Moses goes to God. 

Our message of hope to those bound in sin is not always met with open arms. That does not however diminish our responsibility to deliver it. In fact the greater the resistance, the greater potential for God to get the glory!  

We live in a world hostile and even downright evil sometimes. As people of God we must be prepared to do battle to stand against the enemy and we must be calling on the one who is able to save. 

If you are facing forces beyond yourself there is no better one to call on than The Lord. He has all power and all knowledge within himself and cares for you. He formed you when you were still unborn and gave you the personality and talents you possess to be employed for His kingdom. The opposition you face is nothing with God at your side. Without God at our side we are doomed already. 

Consider the message of hope you have been given to share and make it your commitment to share it at least with one person today.  Offer them the hope of heaven and a fullness in life that only those who have been redeemed by Jesus enjoy. 

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