Tuesday, January 31, 2012
"A staff," he replied. 3 The Lord said, "Throw it on the ground." Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it.4 Then the Lord said to him, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail." So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand.5 "This," said the Lord, "is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you."
My Journal for Today: Sometimes God just flat shows off! Have you ever had that happen, … God giving us what I call “a glimpse of His glory?” Well, as I read through Exodus in my chronological reading plan this morning, right at the outset of the three chapters I was led to read today (Exodus, Chapters 4-6), I was taken to Moses’ burning bush encounter with God, where the Lord just flat showed off for poor Moses, who was feeling pretty small in God’s presence.
I can recall one of my own “burning bush” experiences with God when I, like Moses, came to the end of myself and the realization that God cared enough for me to reveal His glory and grace … just for little-ole me. It was a wild set of circumstances for me on April 13th, 1983. And, by using the testimony of a young quadriplegic on an audio-cassette, recorded some years earlier, as well as a wild – truly unbelievable re occurrence of the number 13 in the context of that moment, I realized that all that was transpiring that morning could not have occurred by chance. On that morning in my office, it may not have been a burning bush, but God called me out very much like He did Moses. And also like Moses in the presence of God at the bush that day, I felt totally inadequate to the glimpse of God’s glory which was being revealed to me. But also like Moses, that’s what it took to get my attention and for me to come to the realization that God was calling one Bill Berry to something far greater than I could imagine in that moment.
I really hope you can look back on your life at times when God showed you a bit of His greatness and glory so that you can carry around an awestruck feeling of our God with you. And I pray that we never lose our realization of just how great God is. Moses, as we know, got over his burning bush calling; and he marched forward to follow and serve his Lord with humility and meekness; but it took God flat showing off to get his attention and to call him out for service.
I pray – for you – that if God hasn’t done so … that He will be a show-off for you soon and give you an indication of the truth of what Paul wrote about to believers in 2nd Cor. 12: 9, where Christ was quoted by Paul, … “My grace is sufficient for you; … for my strength is made perfect in [your] weakness.” Paul was another one whom God had to do a big show-n-tell to get his attention; and the NT Apostle came to realize that God’s greatness is sometimes revealed in our humility. So, when we’re being humbled by life’s circumstances and God’s bigness, my friend, let us take a look around us. God’s probably just showing off His glory in the grace He’s providing us through our humble circumstances.
My Prayer Today: … My Lord, thank You so, so much for showing off in my presence. May I never lose the awe You’ve given me in those glimpses of glory. Amen
Monday, January 30, 2012
Exodus 3: 1: … [Moses Transformed for God’s Purposes] … 1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
Exodus 3: 10-12: … [God Speaks – Moses Balks] “ … [God speaking] … 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
My Journal for Today: From these readings in my chronological reading plan in the initial chapters of Exodus, I respond with empathy to how God chose to use a very out-of-place descendent of the family of promise, Moses, to be His emissary of deliverance for God’s people. And to accomplish all of this, God had to strip him of his misplaced royal pride and pseudo-heritage and put Moses through a rigorous training program in the desert country of Midian so that Moses could ultimately be a leader of peoples he knew with whom he identified. He would have been a lousy deliverer if God’s chosen peoples, who were desert shepherds and nomads, had they perceived Moses to be an Egyptian prince as he had been raised to be in the palace of Pharaoh.
So, using a series of events to break Moses down, … his killing of an Egyptian slave driver, alienating him from Pharaoh and causing Moses to flee to Midian. From these experiences God began reshaping Moses for the task for which God had birthed him. Moses’ years in Midian, and transformation into the role of shepherd, merely prepared him for becoming the deliverer which God would call out Moses from the burning bush.
And wow, I really identify with all of this, because years before I was called into the ministry, God had to break me down and do a total make-over of my attitudes and people-skills so that I could be called out, anointed, and ordained to carry out the task for which God had brought me into this world to perform. It’s a long testimonial, which will go without detailed description here; but there was a time, being a “professional” in healthcare when I would have been totally unsuited for what God has led me to do as the mission for which I now see He was preparing me for years ago.
Like Moses, I had to be broken down and then rebuilt, through a long process of discipleship, … reshaped into the person He could use for the task He had purposed me. And like Moses, when I first began to learn of the path where God was leading me, I balked – big time, … feeling totally inadequate to the calling for which I recognized God calling me. But like Moses, God connected me with the right people to be my support team; and He showed me that I didn’t have to do His calling all on my own.
And though I didn’t have burning bushes, Aaron casting staffs before Pharaoh, or a series of plagues to use as communication tools, God showed me the truth – from His empowered word – of His calling being His enablement (see Isaiah 55: 11 and 1st Cor. 10: 13). So, overtime, I learned and grew in faith that God will give anyone He calls all the resources and power to carry out His anointed will.
So, I pray that wherever you are in the process of being prepared for God’s calling, … that you are growing in faith so that you can be used to fulfill God’s purpose for your life. And my friend, God most certainly does have a purpose for you; … and whatever it is, He will prepare you for it … IF … you just surrender and let Him.
My Prayer Today: … Lord, thank you for remaking me and for continuously reforming me for the task You’ve called me to perform for Your glory. Amen
Sunday, January 29, 2012
18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. "We are your slaves," they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.21 So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
My Journal for Today: Perhaps you may have been in a relationship in your life when someone surprised you with their expression of love or concern by forgiving you. Perhaps you had wronged someone; and the one you wronged showed you a display of forgiveness which you may not have deserved and certainly didn’t expect. As we read through the life of Joseph, we remember how God brought his brothers back into his life and how he forgave them. He even had the opportunity to gain a measure of revenge over the brothers who had sold him into slavery, some of whom had even plotted to kill him; but he shocked the brothers with his expressions of love for them. And at the time it happened, it did seem real; but then there was their father, Jacob (aka, “Israel”) who was still alive. So, maybe Joseph’s forgiveness, as the brothers had experienced it, was just Joseph being that way as an expression of love for Jacob.
Therefore, years later, when Jacob died, the brothers were confronted with the grief of their brother, Joseph, for Jacob; and they became fearful that perhaps Joseph would exact a delayed reaction of revenge for what the brothers had done years earlier to their young brother, Joseph. But the story reveals that Joseph’s forgiveness was the real deal along with his genuine love for his family.
I hope we all have released any/all feelings of anger or bitterness for any past injustices or ill-begotten actions perpetrated on us by anyone in our past. Joseph’s real forgiveness for his brothers was a picture of the love shown by Jesus, Whom we know held nothing but forgiveness in His heart for those who had nailed Him to the cross; and my friends, do you remember that our sins, mine and yours, were the actions that nailed Jesus to that tree at Golgotha? And as He was dying for mankind, He said to His heavenly father on that cross, ”Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Really, all we need to remember – or learn – from this passage today is to make our forgiveness REAL DEAL forgiveness, holding on to no animosity or residual bitterness. And if any of you, who might be reading along with me, have someone in your life whom you need to let go of any past bitterness and forgive them – for real, I pray that we’ll do just that.
My Prayer Today: … Lord, thank You for purging any/all of those past feelings of revenge or anger towards anyone. And thank YOU, my Jesus, for Your forgiveness of my past, present, and future sins. Amen
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Genesis 47: 1-6: … [God Honors Faithfulness] ... 1 Joseph went and told Pharaoh, “My father and brothers, with their flocks and herds and everything they own, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in Goshen.” 2 He chose five of his brothers and presented them before Pharaoh. 3 Pharaoh asked the brothers, “What is your occupation?” “Your servants are shepherds,” they replied to Pharaoh, “just as our fathers were.” 4 They also said to him, “We have come to live here for a while, because the famine is severe in Canaan and your servants’ flocks have no pasture. So now, please let your servants settle in Goshen.” 5 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you, 6 and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. And if you know of any among them with special ability, put them in charge of my own livestock.”
My Journal for Today: There are times in the lives of faithful Christians when we’re not given clear-cut and visibly obvious rewards from God for our faithfulness.. However, after so many years when it must’ve seemed to Joseph like God was silent or absent, in today’s focus passage we read of Joseph seeing clearly God’s reward for his humble faithfulness.
And as I have read through Joseph’s story of his family reunion and his family being allowed to settle in Egypt, which was a total breech of culture (i.e., shepherds living in the land of Pharaoh), Joseph and Jacob had to have seen that God was rewarding Joseph for his past life of faithfulness; and I thought of this being illustrative of the truth in the New Testament chapter on the “hall of faith,” … Hebrews, chapter 11. In verses 1 and 6 of that chapter, it says, … 1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. … 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him.
And that pretty well describes the life of Joseph, doesn’t it? All those years he languished in slavery and in prison; but finally, we read today of his humble faithfulness being rewarded by God; and Jacob and his family got a glimpse of glory in their lives, … the glory which awaits the faithful believer who diligently seeks a relationship with His God.
That was most certainly Joseph; but are we being humble and faithful followers of God? Joseph was a clear Bible picture of Christlike faithfulness? And meditating on Joseph’s life today … in this quiet moment with my Lord and Savior … I’m praying that I can live a life as a faithful follower of the One Who died so that I could follow Him into eternity as an heir of salvation. And I’m so thankful that God has given me such a picture of Joseph … a life of faithfulness which He, God, so clearly rewarded.
My Prayer Today: … Lord, help me to faithfully follow You, knowing that my reward is eternity and a reunion with the family of God. Amen
Friday, January 27, 2012
Genesis 45: 4-7: … [God’s Providence In Our Relationships] ... 3 Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph! Is my father still living?" But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come close to me." When they had done so, he said, "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping.7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
My Journal for Today: Don’t you just love the way the Bible paints God’s providence and His planning … by telling REAL stories about REAL people in REAL life. And that’s what we glean from the story of Joseph, where God’s book takes more space in telling his story than most of the other characters in the Old Testament. Only Moses in the OT gets as much written space as does Joseph. But, of course, and it’s Moses who’s telling this story about the history of God’s people, like Joseph, in God’s Book of the Law – the Torah.
But I digress. My main point here today is to note how the story of Joseph, revealing himself to his brothers, as in today’s segment of his story, is a picture of Christlikeness in the OT. In fact there are many parallels in Scripture which show us that Joseph’s life in the OT is a character type and a pre-incarnate picture of Jesus in the New Testament. And in today’s focus passage, copied above, we read of how Joseph so compassionately told his brothers of God’s plan in allowing them to do what they did to him, their brother, and how all of it was God’s plan for all of His children, including Jacob and his family.
If we look back at our own lives, we may very likely be able to see events and circumstances which have taken place where we certainly would not have planned our lives the way things unfolded; but we now recognize that God’s plan – i.e., His providence – was for our good and for His purposes in the shaping of our lives. I certainly can see that … from the many years I walked in bondage to habitual sinful living and how God used those weaknesses to show me how much I needed a Redeemer and how that Redeemer could only be Himself … as my LORD and Savior.
And I’m not going to belabor this point here today. If you’ve been reading along with me about the life of Joseph, all of what has been written about him in Genesis paints for us a picture of the character and future life of Jesus, The Christ; and we can certainly see this in how Joseph shows compassion to his brothers, who had such evil in mind for him, selling him into slavery in Egypt. But, … God knew Joseph was the one – and only one – who could go ahead of his own family to Egypt to save so many people – including Joseph’s own family – from famine, … as well as to show them God’s character in the life and forgiveness of Joseph for his own brothers. And Moses writing about Joseph in The Torah (i.e., Genesis) tells all of mankind about the character of our loving, forgiving, and redeeming God. And that’s a story … HIStory … we need to read.
Don’t you just see the character of Jesus shining through in Joseph? Don’t you just hear Jesus, through the life of Joseph, saying, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
And though I would have never put me through my history … the way it unfolded, I now recognize that it was God’s plan, in His timing, and in His way for my good and His glory. So … once again I say, from my heart, Hallelujah; and thank you, Lord, for where I’ve been and what I’ve done.!
My Prayer Today: … Praise You, Lord, for every bit of my life. Amen
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Genesis 41: 14-16: … [God’s Providence and Design] ... 14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh. 15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
My Journal for Today: Have you ever had a set of circumstances in your life which you can look back on and see clearly that God was in total control in your life and all the happenings were being outlandishly engineered by God for you to live out HIS purposes for YOUR life? Well, I have; and the circumstances of Joseph’s life, as illustrated by the reading today in Chapters 41-42 of Genesis, is illustrative of the principle that GOD IS ALWAYS IN CONTROL of what is going on in our lives. And isn’t it wonderful and mysterious that the LORD uses our free will and human choices to weave His tapestry of eternal design!
Today, I was led to read of Joseph, after being two years in prison unjustly, … then being brought – by a wild set of human interactions – before Pharaoh because of a perplexing dream with the king had, a dream which none of his court magicians could adequately interpret. Gee, I wonder Who planted that dream in the Pharaoh’s mind? And gee, I wonder how the court cup-bearer just happened to remember an event when his was unjustly in prison earlier where this young Hebrew had interpreted a dream of the prison guard which just happened to unfold exactly as this boy (who was Joseph, of course) had interpreted? … … DUH! … Enter Joseph into the life of Pharaoh – just by coincidence of course [… NOT!!!]. And if you’ve read ahead in Genesis we see how these circumstances, which so “mysteriously” transpired, allowed Joseph to become Pharaoh’s governor and second in command; and they also – so wonderfully - allowed Joseph to be in control in Egypt when his long-lost father, Jacob (“Israel”), sent Joseph’s ten brothers to Egypt to obtain grain during a providential famine in the land at that time. And just who – coincidently - did the ten brothers, who just happened to have sold their brother, Joseph, into slavery in Egypt years before, encounter? Well, as Paul Harvey used to say, “You know the rest of the story!”
I think back on the wild, wacky, and wonderful set of circumstances, which, on April 13th, 1983, led me to recognize my spiritual brokenness and allowed me to be able to see that only by surrendering to Christ’s control in my life would I be able to find the spiritual strength which I had so unsuccessfully been trying to find in those days in other religions such as Buddhism, Taoism, or New-Ageism. I’ll not go into all those details of my testimony; but save it to say, on that fateful date in my life, I saw that only an omnipotent God could have engineered the circumstance in which I found myself and only God could be THE One to set me on a course which could reset my course in life in a direction of spiritual strength and not the weakness which I was experiencing. ONLY GOD!!!
But in today’s focus passage, when Joseph was brought by the Pharaoh to the court to interpret the king’s dream, Joseph knew exactly WHO was in control. And in Verse 16 of Genesis 41 above we read of Joseph witnessing to Pharaoh that ONLY GOD could interpret the dreams for the king. And this showed, later when the dreams were correctly interpreted, that Joseph, by surrendering to the one, true God, had power that could only come from a powerful God, … Whom we know of as THE ONE AND ONLY GOD!!! And our God, of course, is THE GOD … Who is control of all things and all circumstances in the lives of believers on His Name; and as it says in Romans 8: 28, all of those circumstances in life – as they did for Joseph – work together for the good of ALL those who believe in the Lord and are THE CALLED according to His purposes.
That was true for Joseph. It is true for Bill Berry; and if you believe in the same God Joseph and I follow, it is true for you too! Oh, how I hope we all believe and recognize that God’s control in our lives … as did the young boy, Joseph.
My Prayer Today: … My LORD, God, … I truly know and believe that You have worked it all out in my life … by Your design … and for Your purposes. And to that all I can in praise is HALLELUJAH!!! Amen
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Genesis 39: 6-12: … [Integrity in the Face of Temptation] ... 6 So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.
Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” … 8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”
10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. 11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.
My Journal for Today: If you’ve read through Chapters 38-40 of Genesis, which was my chronological reading assignment today, you read first, in Chapter 38, of the broken leadership and character of Judah, the oldest son and designated heir of Jacob (aka, “Israel”). Then, for a character contrast lesson, in these next two chapters, we read of the plight and walk of faith of Joseph, the young brother Judah and his brothers had sold into slavery in Egypt. And in the focus passage today from Genesis 39: 6-12, which I’ve copied for you this morning, we come to a passage which means a lot to me, … personally.
It’s the very revealing confrontation between the wife of Potiphar, the rich man who had become Joseph’s slave master, and Joseph, whom Potiphar had appointed as steward of his home. “Potipharina,” as my Pastor likes to call this sex-driven temptress, came after Joseph repeatedly, doing all she could to lure the young man into a sexual encounter. But we see Joseph being a model for us of Godly character, doing all he can to avoid Potiphar’s wife and finally just simply fleeing this sex-starved woman, … who then, unjustly, had Joseph thrown into prison because of the rejection.
I say here that this story is very close to me personally because for many years I was not able to do what Joseph did, … to flee from the temptation of sexual sin; and my unGodly behavior almost cost me my marriage, my family, and my career. It was only much later in my life, after I came to know Christ as LORD, that our merciful God, whom Joseph stood for (see Verse 9 of Gen. 39 above), was able to disciple me into learning the strategy of righteousness, taught by Paul in 2nd Timothy 2: 22, which Joseph exhibited as a personal model, … and that is to do all one can to resist sexual temptations; … and then – if all else fails – to simply FLEE – no matter what the human cost.
I now lead a Christian discipleship ministry, called Battle Plan Ministry (“BPM” – website linked here), formed to help men of God to become more Godly and battle-strong warriors in our hypersexual culture. We call Joseph’s battle strategy the “2.2:22” battle plan, which is labeled after Paul’s exhortation in 2 Tim. 2: 22 [which I hope you know by heart – if not, please look it up!]. This strategy of spiritual warfare was exemplified in the encounter Joseph had with Potiphar’s wife. In BPM, we teach our men to do all they can to anticipate and avoid sexual temptations in their lives (which are extremely pervasive these days); but when all proactive strategies of avoidance are exhausted, the “2.2:22” strategy MUST be implemented … and we simply do what Paul exhorted, … to … Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Today, we live in a world where sexual triggers and temptations abound. Men, and women, but especially men, are surrounded by a culture which tries to lure them into dishonoring God by giving in to the ever-present sexual temptations we face EVERYDAY. Quite often, all one can do is to go to the “2.2:22” battle strategy and FLEE … FLEE … FLEE, remembering that – as with Joseph – bad things may happen. However, … in the end we know that God always – as HE did with Joseph, honors the warrior who’s willing to stand in the gap for righteousness and do the right thing.
My Prayer Today: … Lord, help me flee any ploy of the enemy which is stronger than my own will to resist. Amen
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Genesis 35: 1-7: … [Getting Rid of All the Little “gods”] … 1 Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”
2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. 3 Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” 4 So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. 5 Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them. 6 Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. 7 There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother.
Genesis 35: 11-14: … [Remembering God’s Promises] [And after Jacob [Israel] and God’s people arrived in Bethel] 11 And God said to him [Israel], “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.
14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15 Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.
My Journal for Today: Well, in being shepherded through Genesis, Chapters 35-37, today in my chronological read through the Bible, there is much about which I could reflect and journal. Certainly the chronicles of how the teenage Joseph, which we read about in Chapter 37, and how he was sold into slavery in Egypt by all his jealous brothers, would be solid meat for discussion today; but right at the outset of Chapter 35, the discussion of old Jacob, after he had been renamed “Israel” by God was emboldened to my attention for my comments this morning.
And if you’re reading with me here, you’ll note above in the text how Jacob (Israel) honored his LORD by establishing some boundaries and protocols on how God would be remembered and worshipped by his family and by God’s chosen peoples under his leadership. He set up a special altar in Bethel and made sure that the people were discarding any superficial or superstitious religious idols, jewelry, and/or trinkets, which was a common practice of the day, coming from a lot of the pagan superstitions and idol worshipping of the Bedouin cultures.
Today, a lot of young people wonder why it’s important for the worship of God to have church buildings and culturally-based religious ceremonies, contending that it’s not necessary to worship Christ (i.e., God) by coming to a designated “house of worship” and participating in corporate worship. BUT … today’s focus passage speaks to us and helps us answer that cultural trend today.
First … and foremost … our God is WORTHY of our WORSHIP! Jacob certainly recognized that; and God had reminded Jacob, being one of the sons of God’s covenant, that Jacob should lead His people by ridding them of all frivolous, small-g “gods,” which took the forms of superstitious jewelry and worthless personal idols. And so, Jacob (Israel) did exactly as God instructed him to do. He had the people shed all superfluous idols; and he set up a special altar – at God’s instruction – so that the people could remember Whom they were to worship and to be able to do so in a corporate – as well as an individual – manner.
Kids today do see through the superficiality of modern “religious practices.” And those criticisms and cultural revulsions about Christianity (or other religions) would be valid in my estimation. But when God’s people, … His New Covenant Church, … come together to remember what God has done for them in fulfilling the Old Covenant in the life, death, and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus, they are coming together to signal their worship of THE GOD of the promises of the Old Testament [or Covenant] as well as to worship together THE GOD of the hope in Jesus Christ of the New Testament [or Covenant]. And such “religious” practices are much like those which were being established – under God’s command – by Jacob.
Certainly we need to rid ourselves of any use of idols in our lives and especially such religious practices as symbols or jewelry which we have in our lives to merely identify us as “christian” (with a small “c”). But if we wear a cross or put a “fish symbol” on our car to give witness to the God Who saves us; or we dress up and come to church on Sunday to remember and to genuinely desire to witness our faith practices in corporate worship of the living God, these practices are not only GOOD THINGs, they are a “Godly things!”
Yes, we do need to guard against religious practices which become legalistic and ritualistic, without having an “altar of purpose” which honors God and helps us to remember Who He truly is in our lives. Young people today would be right in criticizing and rejecting such practices. BUT IT IS NOT WRONG – in fact IT IS VERY RIGHT – for believers in the same God Jacob worshipped for us to have altars of worship in our lives which help us to worship the God of Jacob and the LORD of all with our lives. And we need to have these altars of worship in our lives 24/7 … as being the “living sacrifices” which Paul wrote about in Romans 12: 1.
So, I for one, being reminded and instructed by God’s word in today’s study, will continue to get dressed up on Sunday, to honor my LORD, and to come together with other like-minded CHRISTIAN worshippers on a traditional Sunday morning to sing praises to our Savior and to rekindle our remembrance of what He did for us in fulfilling the promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob back in the days we’re reading about in God’s word today. And I pray that I’ll be able to eradicate any idols from my life which would detract from my lifestyle of living worship to my God.
My Prayer Today: … Lord, strip me of worthless idols and make me over into a living sacrifice of worship – everyday and in every way – for You. Amen
Monday, January 23, 2012
Genesis 32: 22-28: … [Jacob Becomes Israel] … 22 That night [as Jacob was waiting in fear for the arrival of his brother Esau, whom he assumed hated him] Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and A MAN wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When THE MAN saw that He could not overpower him, He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with THE MAN. 26 Then THE MAN said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 THE MAN asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then THE MAN said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then He blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
My Journal for Today: There is much which could be discussed in the chapters which I was led to read today in Chapters 32-34 of Genesis in my chronological reading plan. However, the section in Chapter 32, which I’ve copied above (i.e., Verses 22-30), has always spoken to me personally.
First of all, we remember that God’s providence had allowed for Jacob’s name to be “Jacob,” which means schemer or conniver; and here, at this moment in Jacob’s life (in Chapter 32 of Genesis) we read of Jacob fearing for his and his family’s life as Esau approached them with 400 men. And here was Jacob, again coming up with a bribing/conniving scheme to appease the anger he assumed Esau would have for having stolen Esau’s birthright. And in the midst of all this intrigue, comes “A Man” Who wrestles with Jacob; and Jacob stays in this battle, somehow knowing that he is wrestling with God Himself.
Most Bible scholars interpret that this very special “Wrestler” was a Theophany, .. a human, pre-incarnate appearance of The Messiah, to man – in this case, Jacob, whom God knew was more than the scheming conniver who had “wrestled” the birthright away from Esau by conning his father, Isaac. And so, after their wrestling match, The Lord, helped Jacob to be transformed … from one who would selfishly think of himself to one who would struggle with God for God’s purpose and direction in life. And to characterize this transformation, seeing that Jacob was serious about wanting God’s blessing, God changed Jacob’s name to “Israel,” which, in Hebrew, means, “one who struggles with God.” And what more perfect name could have been given to the man whose bones would later be carried out of Egypt to the promised land by God’s chosen people, as the nation “Israel,” was freed from captivity. And we know how much “Israel” then struggled with God and still does even these millennia later; and so, the name God gave ISRAEL was perfect to describe His child Jacob and His later children, the Hebrew nation, Israel.
But my personal application comes from this focus passage today because I was also one who wrestled with God for many years of my life, denying who I really was and rejecting God’s desire to transform me into a man who could follow Him and glorify Him as my Lord. And all those years my name was “William,” which has a Germanic background meaning, “helmeted warrior.” And in my youth I had become a warrior for selfishness. But in my middle years, as was Jacob when he wrestled with God, I had a breakdown wrestling match with God, Who used a rather bizarre set of circumstances, as He did with Jacob and much later, the Apostle Paul, to knock me off my high horse and to give me sight from my spiritual blindness, allowing me to see God for Whom He is, … my LORD and Savior.
No, I didn’t wrestle with the Angel of the Lord; but I had a personal, spiritual battle which allowed me to take off the helmet of selfishness in my life and put on a new helmet of salvation so that my name WILLIAM could take on a new character name which honored God rather than dishonored Him. I was transformed (and am still being transformed) from a warrior for Satan into a warrior for The Savior.
So, I identify strongly with what Jacob and what he went through to become “Israel;” and if you are one who struggles to follow God, sometimes having to struggle with self and a Savior Who wants to transform you into His image, stick in there. Keeping fighting the good fight, knowing that the struggle against selfishness and the battle for God’s blessing of righteousness is worth it. God wants us to struggle against self and to surrender to His transforming grace, even if we become wounded, as did Jacob. Any struggle which moves us into a surrendered discipleship role to our Lord and Savior, Jesus, is well worth the wrestling match.
So, as I often symbolize this struggle, let me put this here - <’KOKO>< - which means, “Keep On Keeping On in Christ.” Keep wrestling for God’s blessing, my friend!
My Prayer Today: … Lord, I know I often struggle to gain Your grace; and forgive me if my struggle against my selfishness dishonors You; but I will keep fighting self to be like You; and I pray your blessings upon my struggles. Amen
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Genesis 30: 1-5: … [Horizontal Impatience Ignoring Vertical Guidance] … 1 When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” 2 Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” 3 Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.” 4 So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, 5 and she became pregnant and bore him a son.
Genesis 30: 22-24: … [Waiting on God Pays Godly Dividends] … 22 Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. 23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” 24 She named him Joseph, and said, “May the LORD add to me another son.”
My Journal for Today: Are we getting the message yet? For a number of these devotionals in Genesis dealing with the lives of the great Patriarchs of the faith, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we see a message weaving itself repeatedly through the lives and stories of these men, their wives, and their children. And if you’ve been reading along with me, what do you think that message is?
Yes, it reads through loud and clear, doesn’t it >>> WAIT ON GOD!!”
And I’m not going to go into great depth here in this journal entry by reviewing all that the story of Abraham and his family has taught us about this issue in these past readings this month in Genesis. But quickly, some of the prime lessons – at least for this humble seeker - are …
>>> First, we need to wait on God by seeking His will and then move by following it. … How often did we see Abraham’s family try to circumvent God’s promises and His will with their own planning, only to find their run-on-ahead schemes causing great problems into the future of the family and for mankind.
>>> Secondly, our horizontal planning can never be as good as God’s will and purpose for our lives. An old friend, who’s now with Jesus, used to tell me, “First obedience, then the blessing!” And that is so right on target. When we seek out God’s will, primarily from His word, even if we have to wait and wait, knowing that our heavenly Father always knows best, we’ll come out a winner for the wait.
>>> Thirdly, as Christians, it often boils down to how much we believe the truth of Romans 8: 28; and I hope that we all have memorized and internalized that one and are faithfully comforted and directed by its truth in our lives.
>>> And finally, we need always to remember, as New Covenant Christians, having so much more of an advantage over Abraham and his roller-coaster examples of faith and faithlessness, we have the record of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection; and we have, as committed members of His Church, i.e., the Bride of Christ, the sealing ministry of God’s Spirit, indwelling us to give us the grace of sanctification as well as the grace of salvation. In this, all we need to do is live as a disciple of Jesus, the Christ and our Messiah, Who told all of His disciples, … to deny ourselves and follow Him … to love others as we love the Lord, … and to go and make disciples, with the power of Christ always with us to carry out His commission.
So, I hope you join me … to follow Him … and to go as we’re called to, being patient to follow His way and to lead others to Him by living as we are directed by His truth from His word.
My Prayer Today: … Lord, may we wait by seeking, and then follow to go, leading others to You and Your way through Your word. Amen
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Genesis 27: 21-25: … [“Oh The Web We Weave When We Practice to Deceive”] ...
21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.” 22 Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he proceeded to bless him. 24 “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked. >>>> “I am,” he [Jacob] replied. 25 Then he [Isaac] said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.”
My Journal for Today: Wow! The read through Chapters 27-29 of Genesis in my chronological read through the Bible – today, Day 21 – was rich with information of interest and personal application; but I’ve chosen to focus this day on the story in Genesis 27 of Jacob’s plot, along with his mother, Rebekah, to masquerade himself as his hairy brother, Esau, and to con their father into giving him the family inheritance blessing. Once received, this blessing, in the culture of the day, was irrevocable; and so Rebekah, wanting her second son to receive the blessing, hatched the plot, which was agreed to by Jacob, to deceive the old, blind father Isaac. You can certainly have read or can read the story in depth by going through Chapter 27 in Genesis.
But once again just as Jacob’s grandmother, Sarah, had done years before, Rebekah, knowing directly of God’s promise to allow Jacob receive the blessing (see Genesis 25: 24), just like Sarai did by giving Hagar to Abram, forged ahead of God’s timing and decided that she would expedite God’s plan with her own scheme. And to the old saying, which I’m sure you readers have heard, may I add just a couple of words. It goes … (with my additions). “Oh the [messed-up] web we weave, when we practice to deceive [God].”
And that’s what happened when Rebekah didn’t [or couldn’t] wait on God to lead her in HIS plan to give the covenant promise to Jacob (later to become “Israel”). When she came up with her own plan, forging ahead of God’s timing, the web of deceit which she and her son, Jacob, who was in compliance with the plan, led to a whole series of messy, messy events, … all of which could have been avoided by waiting on God.
Today in reading my Parsons Commentary, it reviewed the series of consequences of the sin of Rebekah’s and Jacob’s impatience. And here they are, quoted from the commentary: “(1) He [Jacob] never saw his mother again; (2) his brother [Esau] wanted to kill him; (3) he was deceived by his uncle, Laban; (4) his family became torn by strife; (5) Esau became the founder of an enemy nation; (6) he was exiled from his family for years.” And as the commentary also pointed out: “Imagine how different his [Jacob’s] life would have been had he and his mother waited for God to work his way, in his time!” … Who knows, … perhaps Jacob would never have had to wrestle with God later for God’s blessing [see Genesis 32] if he and his mom had not been disobediently impatient and conned old, blind Isaac into giving the family blessing to his younger son … to whom God had promised would receive the blessing anyway.
I’ve covered this earlier this year; but it bears repeating, by asking: “How often do we in our pride or arrogance either don’t seek out God’s will or HIS way by digging into His word; … or by just forging ahead in pridefulness and moving ahead – on our own strength and perceive direction – without ever consulting God in prayer and Bible confirmation, how may problems do we create? I’m afraid I must say that it has happened all too often in my past, especially when I was anxious or fearful, given circumstance which required me to make a critical directional decision in my life.
How about you?
Well, I wont’ go into my solution (or should I say “God’s solution”] in depth here; but I do now have a protocol which I believe God’s Spirit gave me to go through, seeking God’s peace when I have a “scheme” to solve important problems or dilemmas. My paradigm involves the truth and promise in Philippians 4: 6-7; and if you want to know how my planning tool from this truth always works, just email me (at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org ]; and I’ll be glad to send you a planning protocol which will always keep you from getting ahead of God’s way and fasten you into His will by using His word. And with that I’ll shut down this time with you today.
My Prayer Today: … Lord, help me to stay in Your timing, ALWAYS following Your way in Your timing and after seeking consultation with You from Your word. Amen
Friday, January 20, 2012
Genesis 25: 27-34: … [Selling Out Our Future] ... 27 The boys [the twin sons of Isaac] grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents.28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.30 He said to Jacob, "Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!" (That is why he was also called Edom.)
31 Jacob replied, "First sell me your birthright."
32 "Look, I am about to die," Esau said. "What good is the birthright to me?" 33 But Jacob said, "Swear to me first." So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.
Genesis 26: 1-7: … [Shaping Our Family’s Future] ... 1 Now there was a famine in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. 2 The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. 3 Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. 4 I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” 6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar.
7 When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”
My Journal for Today: Today, in my chronological read through the Bible, I was led through two passages which speak to how we shape the future of our world by how we live and who we are.
The first of the two focus passages above is Genesis 25: 27-34, which is the story of Isaac’s sons, Esau and Jacob, the twin boys whose interaction and character shaped their future and our current world. And it is a study of the character of these two twins, which reveals so very much about who we’ve become in our world and lives today.
You’ve probably read this story before, … how Esau, the first-born, sold away his birthright to his conniving, con-man brother, Jacob; and we know that the enmity of the Arab nations, who were descendants of Esau, resent and hold hatred for the descendants of Jacob, who was renamed “Israel” by their God. And this enmity of the Arabs and the Jews was born in the interaction of these two blood brothers; and is felt to this day in our world, isn’t it? Can we see the lesson here as to how we live and who we become having influence on the future of our progeny?
How I live and my character, especially as a parent or as a leader in my sphere of influence, will become a driving impact on my children or upon those whom God has led me to lead in my work life. That fact is certainly seen in the outcomes of the interaction of Esau and Jacob, whose character and personal interaction shaped their family interaction and has shaped our world even today. Think about it. What we do and how we live, as parents and stewards of leadership, can – and usually does – have a powerful effect upon how others live into our – and their - future.
If I’m a parent and give my kids a certain example of my character, don’t you think that example is going to have an impact on the character of my kids and how they live into our future? Of course it will; and this was clearly exemplified in Genesis 26: 1-7 as part of the reading in my trek through the Bible this morning.
In this passage we read of Isaac developing a scheme involving his fear of how he might be treated by one of his enemies, the Philistines, whom he feared might kill him and his wife, Rebekah. So, what plot did Isaac use? Déjà vu all over again – it was the same plot which his daddy, Abraham, had used twice in the past to avoid being killed by his enemies. Family heritage impacts a family’s future.
So, I think both of these passages above powerfully illustrate that how we live and who we become has a powerful and lasting impact on our families and those whom God has led us to lead in our lives. And that is why it’s so important that we become – in character – whom God has purposed us to become. And as Christians, we are purposed to become as much like our Lord and Savior as we can [see Phil. 2: 5] so that we can shine or reflect His light (or likeness) into our families and be a witness for Him in our culture/world (see Matt. 5: 16 and Acts 1: 8). I will leave it to you to you to study and meditate upon the truth of those verses; because who we are and what we become will influence those around us, especially those in our family lines.
I pray that I can be who my kids and grandkids need to see so that they can see Christ in me and carry His image forward into our future.
My Prayer Today: … Lord, help me to become like You so that those who come after me will see and seek You. Amen
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Genesis 22: 1-3: … [Abraham: Pure Faith] ... 1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” … “Here I am,” he replied. 2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love — Isaac — and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” 3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.
My Journal for Today: Today I was led by my chronological reading plan to read/study/meditate through Chapters 22-24 of Genesis; and from that reading the incredible account of God testing Abraham simply has to be my chosen focus passage for my devotional journal this morning.
I charge anyone who’s reading along with me today to go back and please re-read [I’m sure you’ve read it before] Chapter 22 of Genesis, focusing on this outlandishly and seemingly viscous test through which God takes Abraham and his “son of promise,” Isaac. And every time I’m led to read or study or teach on this passage, I just can’t get my mind completely around WHY God would put this chosen “father of the faith,” … God’s man Abraham, … through such a horrible crucible to test his faith. Sure I can see that putting any believer though the fires of life purifies his faith. But this test???
The whole thing is just WAY OVER THE TOP with regard to what was asked of poor old Abe. Even the distance from where Abraham was abiding, in the Negev desert, in Beersheba, traveling way up to the mountain country in Moriah (probably to Mount Moriah itself) was a very arduous task. That’s about a 60 mile journey – a three-day journey minimum in those days. And can you just imagine what was going through the mind of God’s faithful servant, Abraham, and his son as they trekked to the mountain.
But the message is quite simple from this passage, isn’t it? God called Abraham; and Abraham went? And even though God was asking Abraham and the boy to the most extreme of tests, the father of this one son – Abe’s only son, … the son whom God had promised would become the father of many nations and all of God’s chosen peoples, was to be placed on an altar to God and burned as a sacrifice.
And in this test of faith – what I’m calling “THE test,” we see what had become Abraham’s maturity of trust in his God. Abraham and Sarai, who BTW dies and is buried in the chapters of our reading today, had seen the wondrous, incredible-to-unbelievable miracle of Isaac’s birth. They had seen God carry out His promise, mercifully, in spite of the failings of faith exhibited by both Sarah and Abraham before Isaac was born. And so, when God now said what he did to Abraham in our focus passage today, old Abe trusted God completely. And this may be the most powerful biblical example of the truth of what we’re taught by God’s word in Proverbs 3: 5-6 and in the NT from 1st Corinthians 10: 13 and by Jesus in Luke 9: 23; and I do hope you, fellow Christian, know these three passages by heart.
They tell us that when God calls, we are to follow. Oh, we may have questions; and God will even listen to our questions; but faith – especially mature faith – is following God obediently … even when it doesn’t make any human sense. It’s carrying our cross daily through trials of fire in our life. It’s following God’s direction and His narrow path even when the world is telling us to take the wide path which makes so much more worldly sense. And that’s exactly what Abraham did; and that’s exactly what we should do.
So, I’m not going to complicate this very simple lesson (I didn’t say EASY, I said, “simple”) with a lot of speculative analysis. It may be a trial of fire to test the purity of our faith; but when God is calling us to “GO,” we should be saying, “Where, Lord?” And when He shows us the way, we should, as did Abraham, … go!
My Prayer Today: … Lord, shine a light on my path, and I will follow. Amen
Blogger’s Note: As often is the case when I’m meditating on God’s word, the thought of a song comes to mind; and that’s what happened this morning. So, may I lead you to meditate on what I’ve written today by adding this link to a wonderful song, performed by Daniel O’Donnell, Here I Am, Lord. To hear it, you can go to this link.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Focus Passage - Genesis 20: 1-3: … [Recurring Pattern of Sin] 1 Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, 2 and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, "She is my sister." Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her. 3 But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, "You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman."
Recalled Reference Passage - Genesis 12: 11-13: … [The Genesis of Abram’s Sin Stronghold] … 11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
My Journal for Today: Wow … déjà vu all over again! Out of my chronological reading of the Bible (today from Genesis, Chapter 19-21), one scenario involving Abram, now called “Abraham,” jumped out at me; and that is the focus passage above (from Gen. 20: 1-3). It hit me because here we see Abraham involved in a set of life circumstances which was very much like that when he had moved down to Egypt earlier and became fearful as to what the Pharaoh might do to himself (then called “Abram”) and Sarai, his wife. So, now – in today’s focus passage – Abraham and Sarah (both with changed names) are in Gerar, an area in the Negev desert ruled over by King Abimelek. And here is Abraham, fearful again; and we recall what he did back in Genesis 12: 11-12 [copied above], reacting out of fear, rather than responding out of faith, by telling the ruler that Sarai was Abram’s sister. And so what does Abram (now Abraham) do when he’s fearful of what Abimilech might do as they enter this ruler’s domain? You guessed it! He reverts back to his old sinful scheme and tells the king Sarah is his sister. Reminds me of the old saying: “Oh the web we weave when we practice to deceive.”
One commentary on this Genesis 20 passage (copied above) reported the following (from Parsons QuickVerse Life Application Study Bible): Abraham had used this same trick before to protect himself (Gen. 12:11-13). Although Abraham is one of our heroes of faith, he did not learn his lesson well enough the first time. In fact, by giving in to the temptation again, he risked turning a sinful act into a sinful pattern of lying whenever he suspected his life was in danger. … No matter how much we love God, certain temptations are especially difficult to resist. These are the vulnerable spots in our spiritual armor. As we struggle with these weaknesses, we can be encouraged to know that God is watching out for us just as he did for Abraham.
This commentary really struck home with me because for many years of my life I was in bondage to a pattern of recurring sinful living which had me habitually reverting to sinful patterns of cover-up (i.e., lies and deceit) to live a “Dr. Jeckyl – Mr. Hyde” lifestyle. To the world I presented myself as “Mr. Goodguy.” But in reality, I was “Mr. Badguy,” deeply into hidden patterns of sexual sin. And it was not until I surrendered my life to Jesus (as my Lord and Savior) that I was able to bring my life into a surrendered pattern of self-control and Godly behavior.
But as with Abram, who became Abraham, God was merciful and forgiving with me. My Lord, and Abraham’s God, knew that we (Abe and me) could, and would, have a life which conformed to His purpose and for His glory; and so, God let us – and led us – through these recurring patterns of sin to show us that we must surrender to His will and live His way, according to His word, in order to be – and to become – the men God had purposed us to be.
My friend, we all have strongholds or personally vulnerable areas in our lives which are comfort zones of sin, into which it is so easy for us to slide, … sinful patterns which seem to give us emotional protection. For Abram/Abraham it was this pattern of lies involving Sarai/Sarah. For me it used to be the recurring pursuit of sexual pleasure. For others it might be addictive patterns, like the use of tobacco, alcohol, or drugs. For others it might be reacting in raging anger, or the opposite, … surrender into submissive passivity. For others it might be the adrenalized pursuit of excitement in dangerous sports or compulsive gambling. But Satan picks up on our weak and vulnerable - and sinful - patterns of living; and he will pour gas on these embers of sin, trying to make them roaring fires of worship for his way rather than of God’s way.
I would hope that we all can come to recognize or weaknesses, confess them, and surrender them to God, allowing Him to turn our pursuit of the flesh into a Godly pattern of pursuit of fruitfulness as we surrender to the Lord’s way rather than revert to our strongholds of weakness. That is my prayer today.My Prayer Today: … Lord, give me Your insight to see my weaknesses of the flesh; and to turn them into strengths of fruitfulness for Your glory. Amen
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Genesis 16: 1-5: … [Abram (Abraham) ] … 1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.”
My Journal for Today: Today in reading through Chapters 16-18 of Genesis [linked above for your study if you’re reading with me through the Bible this year], there are many lessons which I could reflect upon in this journal entry; but one bubbled to the top in my consciousness; and I believe it’s the one the Holy Spirit is trying to emphasize for me. Perhaps it is one from which any reader along with me here can benefit [especially you married men].
Right at the outset of Chapter 16, in Verses 1-5, we read of Sarai making a decision, independently, to give Hagar, her maid-servant, over to her husband for conjugal intercourse in an attempt to conceive a child for Abram and Sarai, … a child that would be theirs by the law of the day. Now, this was not an unusual practice in that day when a couple could not conceive and bear a child. However, we know from previous reading of God’s covenant promise to Abram, that the God Whom Abram and Sarai worshiped was going to insure that they would have a child naturally. But Sarai was impatient and felt that God could and would answer the promise if she intervened and involved Hagar in the scenario.
How often do we find ourselves “jumping the gun” when it comes to God’s promises or in trying to be obedient to the Lord’s will? But this human impatience is nothing new, especially in a marriage, is it? The tendency goes all the way back to the first married couple, when Eve listened to the Serpent in the garden; and she decided it would be okay to eat of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge. And Adam, who had been set aside by God as the keeper of the garden and Eve’s covenant leader in their marriage, stood by and let Eve eat of the fruit of the tree; and the result we all know was expulsion from the garden.
And here with Sarai and Abram, once again in human history, we see a wife not able to wait in faith on God; and we see a husband, sitting idly by and buying into the disobedience by consenting to the sinful act. To me this illustrates a couple important lessons – for me, personally.
The first is … each of us, as surrendered believers and worshipers of the living God, need to be able to seek out and hear God’s will; … and then to wait on God for His promise; … and then to also wait for God to provide the way He has promised. It is the premise of my wife’s life verse in Scripture, Proverbs 3: 5-6, which you probable have memorized: 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. [OR – “will direct your paths”]
BUT … how often, when we know God’s will or His promise, as did Sarai and Abram, are we tempted to move out and try to “jump start” God’s plan with our own. And that’s what Sarai did by coming up with the plan to involve Hagar as the vehicle to fulfill God’s will and to provide the couple with the promised child.
Now, … the second lesson – for me – is that, like Adam in the garden, Abram, also knowing God’s will and promise, passively listened to his wife and did not assert himself as the Spirit-led leader in their covenant of marriage. God has establish the male partner in His institution of marriage to be the primary spiritual leader in that marital covenant. Now I know that is not a politically correct position to take; and the concept of female spiritual “submission” in a marriage is widely (and often wildly) unpopular, especially with women who believe that they should be totally equal with their husbands in a marriage.
But in this marriage illustration today, as well as the first couple in the garden, we see that the male spouse really should not (actually, CANNOT) ignore his God-instituted role as spiritual leader in the marriage. Both Adam and Abram clearly knew God’s will when their female spouses decided to short-circuit God’s plan; and when their wives involved them in the plan, they had the opportunity to stand up – in obedience – and exercise their God-led authority to say “NO” to the impatience, asserting that it was the couple’s responsibility to be obedient to God and wait on HIS will and HIS way, following HIS word.
However, in both of these instances, the wife asserted her plan, not being willing/able to wait on God; and the husband buckled and went along with the will of the wife rather than the will of God, their mutual Father, … their leader in the covenant of marriage. And my reminder lesson today is that, as the husband in our Christian covenant marriage, I’m responsible to lead us, as a couple and as a family, in seeking out and following God’s will for our lives now that we’ve been joined spiritually in marriage. I must not become passive when I know God’s will and I perceive either of us, me or my wife, moving too quickly ahead on our own and not waiting on God’s promises or His plan.
Certainly we know the result of Adam’s and Eve’s inability to wait on God and to be obedient to His will; and we are reminded of that same marital lesson here today in this passage about God’s promise for Abram and Sarai. May all of us learn to wait on God; and may we husbands, in God’s institution of marriage, BE or BECOME the leaders we were designed to be in a marriage.
My Prayer Today: … Lord, thank you for this reminder of who I am – or need to be – in my marriage. Help me to be Your man of obedience and purpose with my wife so that we may – together – glorify Your Name. Amen
Monday, January 16, 2012
Passage of the Day: Chapter/Verse Reference: Genesis, Chapters 12-15 … To study these chapters, go to this link -
Genesis 12: 1-4: … [Abram Goes Out in Faith] … 1 The Lord had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. 2 "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.
Genesis 12: 10-13: … [Abram Travels In Fear] … 10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, "I know what a beautiful woman you are.12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they will kill me but will let you live.13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you."
My Journal for Today: Moving back from the Book of Job, in my chronological read through the Bible this year, the reading plan has me (and any reading with me) to go back into Genesis; … this time doing a read into God’s calling of Abram (later, of course, to be renamed “Abraham” by God). And here, mostly focusing on Chapter 12 in my journaling today, we see how great and how small a believer’s faith can be as they travel through life; and Abram is a prime example of a follower of God having a rather schizoid faith.
At the outset of Chapter 12 in Genesis, our highlighted hero, Abram, is living in the land of Ur, which, you can see on the attached map above [click on image to enlarge for viewing], is now located in modern Iraq, very close to where the supposed garden of Eden might have been, near where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers join. Abram was a very wealthy Bedouin sheepherder, traveling the deserts of the Chaldean region of that area. And for whatever reason, God chose Abram to be the father of two so-called great nations … that of the Jewish line and that of the Arab line of peoples, both who claim “Abraham” as their “father.”
And what the Holy Spirit has impressed on my reading today is the vacillation in faith exhibited by the one Chaldean tribesman with whom God chose to bring His everlasting covenant of salvation [which you will read about in Genesis, Chapter 15 of today’s reading plan]. Note, however, in reading above in the early verses of Chapter 12, God calls Abram, likely through a dream or vision, to pick up his family and all he has and head northward. And without much contemplation, Abram, in full surrender to God’s call, pulled up stakes, followed God, and moved to Haran (also spelled “Harran”), which on the map provided above is about 600 miles northwest … from what is now southern Iraq, moving to southern Turkey … a significant trek with all of Abram’s family and belongings. Yes, Bedouins in that time were used to picking up and moving to find water or food; but this was a major move; and God had not told Abram where to go. God just said GO “… to the land I will show you;” … and Abram, in faith, went.
Now, that is a model of surrendered faith to God’s will or His call on our life. And one might assume that Abram will continue – in our study of his life in Scripture – to be a compliant model of faith. However, just a few verses later in Chapter 12, we read of Abram balking in fear as He was called by God to move down to Egypt from living near Jerusalem to avoid a famine; and again Abram followed God’s leading. However, when he approached Egypt we see this Spirit-led “man of faith” become a very human “man of fear” as he hatches a scheme with his wife, Sarai, to play the role of his full-blood sister (actually she was his half-sister, though being his wife) to avoid Pharaoh taking her into his harem and claiming all of Abram’s wealth. Well, we know the outcome from Genesis. The scheme worked and Pharaoh expelled her and sent Abram on his way; but we know that these schemes only worked because of God’s mercy and His covenant with Abram to take Abram’s descendents into a promise land, which, again was based on Abram’s faith.
All of this speaks volumes to my heart; and being a man of faith who can, in times of challenge, become a man of fear, I’m lifted up by the fact that God has given me the hope of His eternal NEW COVENANT, which is far superior to the OLD COVENANT which inspired Abram, later to become “Abraham,” to follow God in faith. I know, because of God’s covenant of salvation (see Romans 10: 9 -13) which was perfected and completed in the shedding of the blood of the Lamb of God, my Savior and Lord, Jesus, I can and will find the promised land of glory with God, the Father, because I’ve placed my faith in Jesus, as Lord and Savior, Who died to save even sinners of wavering faith like Abram and Bill Berry.
Praise God that He sees in Bill Berry, just as he did in Abram, enough faith and something of purpose to call me to be with my LORD forever. In doing so, I will one day be in Heaven, with Abraham, worshipping Our Savior and Messiah, Jesus. And now that our God has called me, and I have come as did Abram, in faith, … He will do what He promised, through Paul in Phil. 1: 6 … to complete me and reshape me into the image of the One Who died to give me His forever covenant of everlasting life.
My Prayer Today: … To God be the glory! And HALLELUJAH! … Amen
Map of Abram's Journey ...
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Job 40: … [Job Surrenders to Hear God]
1 The LORD said to Job: 2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” 3 Then Job answered the LORD: 4 “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. 5 I spoke once, but I have no answer — twice, but I will say no more.”
Job 41: … [God Seals The Deal]
9 Any hope of subduing it [the crocodile] is false; the mere sight of it is overpowering.
10 No one is fierce enough to rouse it. Who then is able to stand against me?
11 Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.
Job 42: … [Job Gets It! And God Gives His grace]
1 Then Job replied to the Lord: 2 "I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4 "You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.' 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."
10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
My Journal for Today: If you’ve been reading through the Book of Job with me into this New Year, we now come to the climax, which is produced when a surrendered servant of God humbly repents and really trusts in his (or her) LORD for whatever God has for the future of the true believer.
And Job finally got it! He got it through and through; and after God took him behind the woodshed and allowed Satan to give him a “whoopin” (as I used to call it when I was a boy), Job could finally see that all that he went through, no matter how unfair it seemed, was for his good and God’s glory.
Job didn’t have the advantages we Christians have today with all of God’s word and His truth to rely on when we’re in doubt. And I hope you – like I do – lean heavily on God’s absolute and infinitely inspired word when you get into Jobian conditions in life which are so confusing and perplexing.
My friend I have several memorized and internalized passages which I cling to when I get to feeling down as Job must’ve felt; and PTL, they bubble up into my consciousness when I get into pity parties like some of the great men of faith experienced – as do we all. Men like Jonah and Elijah and Moses and John the Baptist and almost all of the Apostles got into periods of blue funk where many of them actually prayed for God to take them home to heaven; but they all finally came to the conclusion, as the Apostle Paul wrote, that … all things work together for the good of those who love the LORD and who are the called according to His purpose. [Romans 8: 28]
Job had to learn that lesson the hard way; but, as we read in Chapter 42 of his book, our hero learned this lesson; and he repented of his doubts and surrender to His LORD. And when he did, God did what God does, … He restored … He replaced … and He renewed Job so that God’s man of faith could live out his life under the blessings of God and then Job would find all those loved ones who had been taken from him again in glory.
Good ending for Job; and good ending for all who believe in and surrender to God’s purpose and design for our lives.
My Prayer Today: … Lord, I am Your surrendered servant! Amen
Blogger’s PS: Last night on a “date night” my wife and I took in a delightful new release movie, Joyful Noise. And during the movie, which was loaded with a lot of great Christian music, Queen Latifah, playing one of the lead roles, sang a haunting refrain which really captures the attitude of Job; and so I’d like to link you here to that beautiful song, especially if you feel like you need your God to do some extreme making over in your life now. Here’s that link to this song, entitled Fix Me, Jesus … which is the title I chose for today’s devotional journal entry. wrb
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Job 38: … [When God Speaks]
1 Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
2 “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?
3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
34 “Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
Job 39: … [God Speaks … Time To Listen]
1 “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
2 Do you count the months till they bear? Do you know the time they give birth?
26 “Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom and spread its wings toward the south?
27 Does the eagle soar at your command and build its nest on high?
28 It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night; a rocky crag is its stronghold.
29 From there it looks for food; its eyes detect it from afar.
30 Its young ones feast on blood, and where the slain are, there it is.”
My Journal for Today: Okay, now, as Job continues to contemplate his horrible set of circumstances; and his so-called “friends” have given Job their two-cents worth (and that’s about how much their advice was worth), now it’s God’s turn to speak. And when one gets to these two chapters in Job’s book, I can’t help but think of the old E.F. Hutton commercials on TV.
Do you recall these commercials back in the late 70s? If you’re too young or don’t remember them, here’s a link to one of them on You Tube - where, “… when EF Hutton talks, people listen.” And that’s where Job was when God decided to straighten our hero out. And my friend, WHEN GOD TALKS, IT’S TIME TO LISTEN!!!
And in our reading today, when God did intervene with Job, I couldn’t help but note a couple of important elements of God’s intervention. And the first of these was God’s decision to speak to Job out of a storm (see Job 38: 1). I can just imagine Job, sitting on a hill of garbage, picking away at the sores on his body, thinking of all of his personal loss and contemplating all the jerk-water complaints from his friends; and all of a sudden it begins to rain on him … in torrents.
Have you ever been in a bad set of circumstances; and all of a sudden “a storm” of more bad stuff befalls you? Well that’s where Job was when God decides to give him some insights into how things really work. And that’s why, when we’re in the midst of a storm, we need to be looking for the messages God has for us out of the storm.
Do you remember the New Testament account of how the disciples were in the midst of a terrible storm (see Matt. 14, Mark 6, or John 6); and Jesus came to them, walking on the water; and they had trouble hearing what Jesus was calling to them. In fact they didn’t recognize that it was Jesus because of their fears of the storm. Well, this story, as well as the one about Job, illustrate that God wants to communicate to us through the storms of life and teach us that He’s in control … that He’s always there for us, … and that we can trust Him in the midst of even the worst storms of life. And so it was for Job.
But Job was having trouble understanding all of those things, given the storms God had allowed Satan to visit upon him. So, in Chapters 38-39 of Job, we get God’s in depth lesson in cosmic astronomy and biological creation. God levels question after question, which Job hadn’t a clue as to the answers, illustrating to Job – as to us – that there is so much of life that we cannot or will not be able to explain. It often gets down to the first sentence in our Bible: “In the beginning, God!” And as I’ve referred to already in my journaling this month, we need to remember the lesson God taught to the Prophet Isaiah [see below] …
Isaiah 55: 8 – 9: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
And that’s the lesson which God so often wants to impart through the storms of life. And I need to remember, to seek out my God when I find my mind/heart overwhelmed by life’s circumstances. I need to be in a listening mode when life’s storms come, doing all I can to hear God speaking.
My Prayer Today: … I hear You, LORD! … Amen
Friday, January 13, 2012
Job 35: … [Elihu continues his argument before Job and “friends”]
1 Then Elihu said: 2 "Do you think this is just? You say, 'I am in the right, not God.'
3 Yet you ask him, 'What profit is it to me, and what do I gain by not sinning?' >>>
9 “People cry out under a load of oppression; they plead for relief from the arm of the powerful. >>>
12 He [God] does not answer when people cry out because of the arrogance of the wicked. >>>
16 So Job opens his mouth with empty talk; without knowledge he multiplies words.”
Job 36: … [Elihu continues]
1 Elihu continued: 2 [To Job] “Bear with me a little longer and I will show you that there is more to be said in God’s behalf. 3 I get my knowledge from afar; I will ascribe justice to my Maker.
4 Be assured that my words are not false; One who has perfect knowledge is with you. >>>
26 How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out.
Job 37: … [Elihu’s conclusions]
19 “Tell us what we should say to Him [God];
we cannot draw up our case because of our darkness. >>>
23 The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power; in his justice and great righteousness, he does not oppress.
24 Therefore, people revere him, for does he not have regard for all the wise in heart?[k]”
My Journal for Today: Well, if you were with me yesterday as I’m here trudging through Job in my chronological read through the Bible, … day 12 saw the introduction of a new, younger critic of Job, who has been crying out to God in his [Job’s] tribulations. And this younger “friend” demonstrates what happens when people see life unfolding and think they (in this case young ELIHU) have a corner on knowing what is going on.
I think it is quite interesting that the younger critic, Elihu, actually criticizes Job for the arrogance to cry out to God, not trusting that God is in control and knows all about Job’s condition. Yet, Elihu openly, and very arrogantly, declares that he, himself, has the inside track of knowledge on the nature of God (see Job 36: 1-4 copied above). And isn’t that the way we are many times, thinking – and even speaking – like we’ve got the answers to the problems of others.
Now it turns out that Elihu does, in fact, speak much truth to Job about the nature of God; and this young man does show a lot of faith in God’s sovereignty and the Lord’s promises to be there – ALWAYS – when we get into circumstances we cannot explain, as did Job find himself. But we must take care in counseling others that we don’t think that we completely understand or speak for God.
As I sit here, writing this journal entry – as I do on so many days – I feel that God does give me insight into life from His word; but I have to take care, as I would hope you do in seeking after God’s truth, that I don’t arrogantly think I’ve got the answers or that I can, with great confidence, interpret God’s word in my trek to understand His will for my life. That’s why, as I study God’s word, I very often use God’s word itself to try to interpret or understand His written truth (i.e., The Bible). In studying the Book of Job, for instance, I’m led by good study Bibles to many other books of the Bible and other passages of Scripture to understand what is going on in the life of Job as he seeks for understanding into his very painful human dilemma.
And above all, I have to avoid letting my VERY HUMAN feelings get in the way of my search for and my understanding of God’s truth. As I read through the Bible this year, I will be on my guard to do exactly what Elihu, Job’s young critic, is saying today. I will be going to God (in my case through His written word) to understand my LORD rather than relying on my own internal compass of understanding. But I know from God’s own word and promises (see Isaiah 55: 11, Lamentations 23: 19, or 2nd Timothy 3: 16-17) that I can trust, with the help of Spirit-led enlightenment, what God gives me in and through His word (i.e., the Bible), using it as my guide to understanding life. And thankfully, I have so much more of His truth in His word than did Job.
However, I cannot or will not be able to tap into this vast and perfectly accurate source of truth unless, as Job wrote about in Chapter 28 of the Book of Job, I did deeply into the minefield of God’s mind by going deep into His word, which is my minefield full of nuggets of pure truth. And so, I will continue to mine for God’s truth daily in this place. And if you come here to dig with me, you’re going to have to pick up your pick and shovel of motivation and dig out the gems of truth from our trek chronologically through the Bible this year; … and so, we move on!
My Prayer Today: … Lord, thank You for offering up Your gems of truth as I dig into Your minefield of infinite knowledge. Amen