Monday, January 22, 2018

"The Cross and the Passover" January 22 Readings: Exodus 9-12


Today's Reading - Exodus 9-12


Background

The plagues escalate throughout these readings until the climactic moment when the tenth and greatest one approaches, as the Death Angel passes through Egypt. The Passover is heavy in the symbolism of the death of Christ.

If you ever watch TV shows about the Exodus, they try to give natural explanations for the plagues. A volcano dropped ash in the Nile that turned it red, driving the frogs out. They died, drawing flies and causing disease, etc. Those of us who believe in a sovereign God need no such crutches. We believe in a God who can turn the Nile to blood and bring supernatural plagues to display his power.

Devotional - The Cross and the Passover 


There are few places where foreshadowings of the work of Christ are clearly seen than in the Passover in Exodus 11 and 12. There is so much in the story of the death angel passing over that directly prophecies Jesus' Passion - his death, burial and resurrection and their effect on us. Today, I am simply going to list some of those truths. 


  1. 11:1 The last and the greatest of the plagues was death. The greatest enemy we face is death, both physical death, and spiritual/eternal death. Not only does physical death destroy life, separate families and end hope, but it is symbolic of spiritual death with ends life and hope for all eternity. Death is the greatest plague on all humanity. 
  2. 11:4-5 Death affects all people, high to low, rich and poor, regardless of wealth, talent or other human issues. It is appointed to each of us to die once. All of us are under the same sentence of death. No one can escape it. 
  3. 11-12 God has made a way of salvation for us. The distinction between those who live and those who die is whether they follow the way of salvation God gives. 
  4. 11:9 God displayed his wonders in Egypt through the salvation of Israel while he poured out judgment on Egypt. Nowhere are God's glory and power more fully displayed than in the salvation of the lost by his love and power. 
  5. 12:1 Israel's calendar was to begin at the Passover. Life only really begins when Jesus Christ redeems us from our sins. Death is the last plague. The Passover is the beginning of life. 
  6. 12:1-7 A blood sacrifice was required to shield the Israelites from death. Jesus died as our Passover Lamb, bearing our sins and dying in our place. There is no salvation, no forgiveness outside of the blood of Christ, our eternal sacrifice. 
  7. 12:5 The sacrifice must be unblemished. Only the sinless Son of God was able to atone for our sins since he had none of his own to die for. 
  8. 12:7 The blood must be applied to the house to be effective. It was not enough that the sacrifice was made, the blood must be applied. Yes, Christ died for our sins, but that blood must be applied when, by repentance and faith, we come to Christ for salvation. It is not enough that Christ died for all. It is not even enough to believe that Christ died for you. I must repent and believe in Jesus that the blood might be applied to my "house." 
  9. 12:10 The Israelites were to consume all of the sacrifice; no leftovers. We receive Christ as Lord of all. Jesus is not to be a part of our lives, but to be life itself! We cannot take a little of Christ or a part of him. We receive all of him!
  10. 12:13 The distinguishing mark between those who would die and those who would live is the blood on the doorposts. We are not better than others - self-righteousness has no place among the saved. We are different only because of the Blood applied to our lives!
  11. 12:14-16 The Passover was to be continually and faithfully memorialized among God's people. We ought to continually celebrate what Jesus has done for us by his death, burial, and resurrection. Glory to God for his Son our Savior!
  12. The blood WORKED. There is no record of a single death among Israel. Those who are covered by the blood live. We can rejoice that Jesus saves, he transforms and he never casts us away. Those of us covered by the Blood of Christ live!
There are so many points that could be made. These are just some highlights.
We praise you, our Father, that you were willing to give your Son as the sacrifice for our sins; that you were willing to apply his blood to us so that the death angel might pass over us and we might live; that you have given us a path of salvation to free us from what our sins deserve. You are worthy to receive all praise!

Think and Pray

Take time today to consider the Passover and how it symbolizes the death of Christ for your sins.
Can you see other comparisons?
Remember and praise God for your redemption in Christ!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

"When It All Goes South" January 21 Readings: Exodus 5-8


Today's Reading - Exodus 5-8


Background


When  you do the right thing and serve God, everything will work out fine, right?

If you believe that you haven't read today's reading. Moses finally gave in and went to Egypt in obedience to God, confronting Pharoah - that's when Murphy's Law took over. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong. Pharaoh did not accept Moses' terms and heaped a greater burden on Israel. Now they had to make their full quota of bricks, but gather their own straw. They turned on Moses pretty fast.

Moses showed the secret to success - he just kept going. He went back to Pharaoh again and again. The plagues began and Pharoah yielded then changed his mind again and again. Moses was dogged in his obedience until God finally fulfilled his promise.

Devotional - When It All Goes South


What we do when things don't work out makes all the difference in the world.

In Exodus 7, Moses demonstrated the secret to significance in the Kingdom of God. He had been sent down to Egypt to confront Pharaoh and demand the release of the Hebrew people. And that is exactly what he did. He marched into Pharaoh's presence and delivered the message of God.

But things did not work out as Moses had expected. Pharaoh did not yield to God's authority and issue an immediate release to the Israelites. No, he was infuriated by Moses' hubris and issued a decree to make the Hebrews work harder than it had been.

Moses was quickly the most hated man in Goshen.

But what he did next made all the difference. He persevered. He continued to obey God even when it was hard. God had called him to free Israel and he would not give up on God's purposes. He was discouraged, frustrated and angry - mostly at God. But he turned to God and received encouragement.

Perseverance is the key to Kingdom success. We seem to believe that the Christian life ought to be easy and simple, that no opposition or difficulty should arise. Nothing could be further from the biblical truth. God's work is always hard. It is always opposed. It is always perilous. But the man or woman of God who wishes to do great things in God's kingdom must continue in spite of the hardships.

Moses went to Pharaoh with this promise from God.
Now you are going to see what I will do to Pharaoh: he will let them go because of My strong hand; he will drive them out of his land because of My strong hand. Exodus 6:1
Today, the work of God goes forward. It is going to be hard and you can count on the opposition of Satan and the sinful world. They will not give up ground easily. But God is still  on the throne and has promised to those endeavoring to obey the great task he has given us, "I will be with you always." The only hope of success in a task as big as ours is that we would persevere through every hardship and struggle until God's displays his power.
Lord, may we persevere through every hardship and trial, as Moses did, until you accomplish your work in us and display your power to us. 

Think and Pray


Do you have the false idea that serving God should be a guarantee that everything will go well in your life?
Do you get discouraged and give up when hard times come?
Remember that a) resistance and hard times are part of serving God and that b) persistence and perseverance and the keys to success in serving God.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

"Get Someone Else" January 20 Readings: Exodus 1-4


Today's Reading - Exodus 1-4


Background

We enter the book of Exodus, perhaps the most dramatic book of the Bible. As the Cross is the focus of our salvation experience, the Red Sea was Israel's. Over and over again, God would remind Israel of his love and faithfulness demonstrated to Moses and the people as he led them out of Egypt, through the Sea on dry ground and eventually to the Promised Land.

In these first four chapters, we meet Moses, born under oppression as a Jewish slave. He is hidden by his mother and adopted in a miraculous way by the daughter of Pharaoh. Lucky, right? God worked it so that a Hebrew slave grew up as a grandson of Pharaoh! But he tried to take matters into his own hand and killed a soldier, forcing him to flee to Midian, where he spent 40 years tending sheep and learning humility.

That is when he encountered God in a burning bush.

Devotional - Get Someone Else


Moses saw something that no one in the history of humanity has seen - a bush that was engulfed in fire but was not being consumed. It was the presence of God and Moses knew it, taking off his shoes as God demanded and hiding his face in a fearful awe. Then, God spoke to him out of the fire.
Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors. I know about their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the territory of the Canaanites, Hethites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 9 So because the Israelites’ cry for help has come to me, and I have also seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them." (Exodus 3:7-9) 
He could not have been happier as he heard the Lord himself reveal his purposes. He had heard the cries of the suffering of his people Israel and was moved by them. The rescue of the people of God was imminent - they would be freed from slavery in Israel and taken the Promised Land that was God's gift to them.

What great new! Moses cared about his people, even if he had messed things up completely 40 years earlier as he had tried to do something about it. It is likely that during the forty years of shepherding in Midian he carried a great burden of failure and guilt over his botched attempt at being a deliverer. Now, God was telling him that the time had come and Israel would be delivered.

Moses was thrilled with God's purpose, but he was not so happy about God's personal call on his life. God's speech continued in verse 10.
Therefore, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead My people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.
Suddenly, everything got real.

It was great that God was going to deliver Israel from its slavery, but the part God wanted him to play in the deliverance was most definitely not good. Moses spent the rest of chapter 3 and all of chapter 4 giving God one excuse after the other why he was not the right man for the job, why God should choose someone else. But God was undeterred and finally, Moses acquiesced and agreed to do the job that God had set before him.

The problem was simple. Moses was thrilled with what God was doing but was not thrilled that God wanted him to be an integral part of that plan.

Sound familiar? Are you happy that God saves sinners from their wickedness? Of course, you are. But are you thrilled that God has called you to be the one who shares that message with your family, friends, neighbors, and others? Are you happy that there is a great openness to the gospel around the world? I bet you are. But are you willing to give sacrificially to aid that process? No, more than that, are you ready to go if God calls?

We are thrilled with the purposes of God, but often we want God to work those purposes through someone else as we remain at ease and in comfort.
 "Do your work, God, just do it through someone else.
But God's great plan of redemption in this world involves a call to each and every one of us to die to self daily, to take up our cross and to follow Christ. We are not just saved to enjoy Christ, but to make him known in this world.
Father, I thank you for what you are doing in this world. Forgive me for those moments in which I have mimicked Moses, making excuses for my non-participation in your work. Use me, Lord, in your work, according to your purpose and plan. Wherever you want me to go. Whenever you need me. Whatever you call me to do. 

Think and Pray


Are you willing to be used by God, even at great cost?
Or do you ask God to do great things...as long as he uses someone else!

Friday, January 19, 2018

"Put the Past in the Past" January 19 Readings: Genesis 46-50


Today's Reading - Genesis 46-50


Background - Put the Past in the Past 


This reading wraps up Genesis as Jacob is moved to Egypt to be reunited with his son Joseph and there is great rejoicing. He blesses his sons, though some of those blessings are questionable as blessings - they read more like curses! Finally, Jacob dies and is taken back to his homeland for burial. 

That's when the sneaky brothers show themselves again, telling Joseph a story about how their father had left instructions to forgive them. He once again expresses his faith in God's good hand behind even their treachery. 

Devotional


It was a time of grief as they buried their father, but for Joseph's brothers it was also a time of stress and fear. They carried with them the memory of a terrible wrong they had committed against their brother, imprisoning him and selling him into slavery in Egypt. And now their brother was the second most powerful man in the world. 

And dad was not around to protect them anymore!

They were afraid that now that Jacob was gone Joseph might use his power to exact vengeance against them for what they had done to him. Who could blame him, after all? To save themselves, they concocted a lie that Jacob had asked Joseph to show mercy to his brothers. Such a scheme was unnecessary, for Joseph had learned one of life's most important lessons. He told his brothers not to fear him and assured them that he had no intent to rob God's right of revenge. Then, he made an amazing statement of faith in God (in Genesis 50:20). 
You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people.
He believed in the goodness of the God who rules the world, and even though he knew that his brothers had willfully sought to harm him, the power of God changed man's evil into good. He was not holding a grudge or dwelling on the evil that had been done to him. He was dwelling on the goodness of God and the good that he had done in spite of it all. 

There is much in Joseph's response that is worthy of imitation. He dwelt on God's goodness instead of the real (or imagined) hurts from people. He trusted God's sovereign power to bring good out of evil. He refused to usurp God's right to respond to evil. 

But there is one more thing he did that I would like to point out. It is something that many of us do not do - to our own great spiritual harm. 
Joseph put the past in the past!
Too many Christians are living in the past. Some are stuck on mistakes they made in the past and cannot seem to receive the forgiveness God gives. Some are fixated on injuries and hurts, holding onto the bitterness and anger that saps spiritual joy and leaves people in bondage. Some may think that their spiritual successes in the past were enough to carry them through today. 

The past shapes us and gives us memories of both joy and pain. But the past must never control us. Jesus Christ died to free us from the sins of the past - both those we committed and those that were committed against us. Once we come to Christ, we are given the Spirit to renew us day by day, to give us joy, peace, power, victory, and grace every day. We must live in God's grace today and not be enslaved by the past. 

Lord, I thank you for every blessing and every challenge of the past, but I thank you that I do not have to be a slave to it. You have broken the chains of sin, you have freed me! May I walk in your grace daily.  

Think and Pray



Thursday, January 18, 2018

"Trusting God's Plan" January 18 Readings: Genesis 42-45


Today's Reading - Genesis 42-45


Background


We encounter one of the truly entertaining stories in the Bible today - Joseph's interaction with the brothers who betrayed him. They'd assumed he was long dead and gone and had no idea that the powerful ruler they were encountering was the little brother they'd hated and sold into slavery. Joseph knew, though, and he tricked them.

Was he justified in the tricks he played on them? He could have just revealed himself at the start and been reunited, but he chose to hide his identity, entrap them, hold little brother Benjamin hostage and put his brothers through an emotional wringer. By New Testament ethics it would hardly be considered Christlike behavior, but Joseph did not have the Beatitudes and the teachings of Christ to consider.

Why did he deceive them? The best explanation is that he was testing their hearts. They had sold him out to advance their own positions. Would they do the same with his little brother Benjamin? Or had they truly changed? He found out through his machinations that the brothers had grown into men of character who sacrificed themselves for their father and for Benjamin.

Whether his deceit was justified is for God to judge, but we can see that it served a purpose at least.

May I make one more observation here? We have seen it in Abraham's dealings with Ismael and Isaac. It was especially apparent as Isaac and Rebekah raised Esau and Jacob. Here, we see Jacob/Israel saying things about Benjamin that show that he is clearly the favorite son. Favoritism in parenting caused untold damage among the Patriarchs. So, also, did polygamy, but that is another discussion for another time. If you have children, see that you love them all and that you do not play favorites.

Devotional - Trusting God's Plan

If ever a brother had a reason for revenge, it was Joseph. And not only did he have just cause, but he now had the perfect opportunity. When his brothers had the power, they had thrown him into the pit, faked his death, and sold him into slavery. He'd spent 13 years of hard times - as a slave in Potiphar's house and as a prisoner in Pharoah's dungeon. He'd be sold, he'd been lied about, and he'd been forgotten by those he'd helped.

And all of this was his brothers' fault.

Now, there they stood bowing and scraping before the man they knew as Pharaoh's right-hand man, the man about whose real identity they had no clue. He could have snapped his fingers and they'd have been marched off to the dungeon or put to the sword. No one would have asked questions. They were at his mercy.

But Joseph had a different view. He realized that the actions of his brothers, though sinful, were part of God's plan to accomplish the great calling of God on his life. He was to rise up and be a ruler. The "sun, moon, and stars" would bow down to him. All of that came to pass at the end of the 13 years of suffering. God used the evil of his brothers' actions to accomplish the greatness of his purpose.

When he revealed himself to them, they were terrified, but Joseph said this to them.

And now don’t be grieved or angry with yourselves for selling me here, because God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there will be five more years without plowing or harvesting. 7 God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. 8 Therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Genesis 45:5-8

Joseph trusted God. He wasn't bitter or angry because he knew that the terrible things that happened to him were part of God's plan to grow him and use him. He didn't seek vengeance because he realized that God was in control. "God sent me here," he reasoned. That did not abrogate the guilt of the brothers, but Joseph saw the hand of God even in the hard things that happened.

We hold grudges. We get angry and hurt and we pout and seek revenge. That is because we do not understand what Joseph understood. The circumstances of our lives, even the hard ones, are part of God's plan to grow us and shape us so that he can use us. Joseph was only ready to be the man God wanted him to be because he endured the things God set in his path.

Father, help me not to whine and become bitter, but to accept the hard times and the hurts as part of your plan to grow and to become all you've meant for me to be. Thank you for your sovereignn power. Help me to trust you. 

Think and Pray


Do you trust God when things don't go your way?
Think back 13 years ago? What if nothing had gone right in your life for 13 years? Would you still trust God?
Remember that God elevated Joseph greatly, but only after he persevered in faith.

God builds the character we need, during those hard times, so that we can handle the work he is calling us to do.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"in One Day" January 17 Readings: Genesis 37-41


Today's Reading - Genesis 37-41


Background


The story of Joseph which begins in these chapters and carries on through the end of the book of Genesis, is fascinating and powerful. He is given great promises by God, then is sold by his brothers, imprisoned because of lies, forgotten by one he helped. Then when God was ready for him, he was elevated to the position God had promised to give him.

There are several lessons we learn from Joseph's life:


  • God's promises are trustworthy even if they are delayed or if circumstances seem to show they are impossible. 
  • Serving God is no guarantee of ease and comfort. 
  • God's concern is for our character development more than our comfort, ease, and prosperity. Job suffered much for many years to develop the character he'd need to do the job God assigned him. 
  • Our duty is to serve God whatever the circumstances. 
  • Circumstances never tell the truth about your life. God's word does. 


There is much more to say - this story is filled with truth!

Devotional - In One Day


Joseph’s story is both tragic and glorious.  He was Jacob’s favorite son, and that bred jealousy among his brothers.  They sold him into slavery in Egypt – a teenage boy betrayed by his family.  He became a slave to Potiphar, who grew to love him.  Unfortunately, Potiphar’s wife also had feelings for him – the wrong kind.  Joseph resisted her advances, but that did not stop Mrs. Potiphar of accusing him of assault.  Joseph ended up spending many years in an Egyptian dungeon.  When he interpreted the dream of Pharaoh’s cupbearer, he had a moment of hope, but that was snuffed as the cupbearer forgot about him for two whole years.

Then, it all changed in one day.  Joseph awoke one morning as a slave and went to bed that night as the second most powerful man in the world.  Pharaoh had a restless night, dreaming about cows and ears of grain.  The dreams troubled him.  As he discussed them, the cupbearer suddenly remembered Joseph, who interpreted his dream.  Joseph was summoned, interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, and advised Pharaoh about how to handle the lean years that were to come.  Pharaoh decided that because of Joseph’s wisdom, he would be the perfect man to be Egypt’s second-in-charge.  What a day for Joseph.

But to get to that wonderful day, Joseph had to go through thirteen years of struggle and hardship. it might have seemed to him that God was deaf to his prayers and had forgotten him, but he had not. Joseph continued to serve God faithfully until the answer came. 

I am often frustrated by how long struggles continue, how slow the victories are to come or my prayers are to be answered. It is easy to  despair, to give up hope, to lose enthusiasm for the battle.  But we must not do that. We cannot. God is in charge, and where he is at work there is never any justification to abandon hope. God may be slow but his timing is perfect. 

Remember this: every circumstance in Joseph's life screamed that God's promise was not going to come true; that the visions of his youth would fail. But God was at work even when Joseph couldn't see it or feel it. God was preparing Joseph for the work he had before him. When the time was right, God's plan was revealed.  

God is at work all around us. Often we fail and are uncooperative with that work, but God's work continues. Circumstances may tell you to despair of God's promises, but a man or woman of God learns to live by Gd's word and to serve him faithfully, regardless of what is happening in the world.

God, I trust you.  Sometimes I cannot see what you are doing and I struggle to understand. But like Joseph I want to keep serving you and wait for your timing to reveal your power. Help me to trust you and walk in confidence in what you can do in me!

Think and Pray


Do you trust God enough to serve him even when his promises have not yet been fulfilled?
Do you realize that God's chief concern is not your comfort or prosperity, but your Christlike character?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

'Changed" January 16 Readings: Genesis 31-36


Today's Reading - Genesis 31-36


Background

Jacob finally decided to return home and face the music. Decades had passed and he wanted to see his family again. He separated from Laban (and some of his scheming past came out) and headed back. Surprisingly, Esau welcomed him back and all was forgiven.

The most significant aspect of these readings are two encounters Jacob has with God at Bethel (House of God), one in chapter 32 and the second in chapter 35. In the first, Jacob wrestles with God and finally, he encounters God in power, the covenant with Abraham is renewed with him and his name is change to Israel (He struggles with God).

Jacob became Israel, a changed man.

Devotional - Changed


One of the fundamental assertions of modern pop-psychology is that people don't really change. You are what you are and that is what you always will be. An alcoholic may be able to stop drinking, but he remains an alcoholic to the end of his days. It is assumed that people's sexual desires are hard-wired into them and to ask people to change is unfair, even cruel.  

There is a very different message in the pages of Scripture. When people come into contact with the living God, their lives are radically changed. Ever noticed how often someone who came to know God was renamed by the Father?  Abram became Abraham.  Saul became Paul.  And in Genesis 35:10, God gives a new name to Jacob.  It is a significant change.

Jacob was a troubled man with a troubled name.  His name meant "deceiver" and that is exactly what Jacob was.  He was a schemer, tricking his father and his brother. This was not a good man. 

But God does not look simply at what a man is; he looks at what he intends to make him. God got a hold on Jacob and he became a new man. Since a new man needs a new name, God gave him one. The new name was Israel. God was working out his new purpose in this man's life and the new name referred to the triumph of God's will that now prevailed in his life. Jacob was a new man and needed a new name. 
  
In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we are told that in Christ we are “new creations” and that the old is gone, replaced by the new work that God in doing in our hearts.  In Christ, I do not have to be today what I was yesterday and I do not have to be tomorrow what I am today.  I can change in Christ.

God is in the business of giving new names to his children.  The drunk gets called by a new name – sober.  The pervert can become pure.  Those who live to indulge their sinful natures can walk in self-control. It can happen - not because of me but because of the God I serve, the One who makes all things new. 

Lord, I thank you for your life-changing and renewing power.  Because of you, I do not have to be tomorrow what I was yesterday. You are the name-changer, the life-transformer. I rely on your power and strength to become tomorrow what I am not today. 

Think and Pray


When we come to Christ we become new creations.
In what ways have you been changed by Jesus?
What changes is he making in you today?