Thursday, January 31, 2019

You Go, We Go ...

"Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword." - Exodus 17:8-13
In 1991, Ron Howard Directed and Kurt Russell starred in the film "Backdraft". The script depicted the deep commitment of firefighters to one another in the most dangerous set of circumstances. When real firefighters are asked about their brotherhood, the occasional reference is made to a key phrase in the above film... "You Go, We Go". 
Joshua was the General. He led his troops into the very first military encounter on the journey. The orders were clear and the enemy was formidable. The fight was on. Did Moses just give the order and return to his office for a fresh cup of java? No! Moses held up his hands in prayer while Hur and Aaron helped him. The battle was won by both Joshua AND Moses; because by persistent prayer ... "You Go, We Go."
The spiritual battle is very real and quite dangerous. The need for prayer support is constant as Paul put it in 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 ... "Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith."  Pray for your pastors, missionaries and church family fervently my friend, because by persistent prayer... "You Go, We Go".

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Longer is Better...

"When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” - Exodus 13:17
Most GPS systems have numerous travel options. You can choose the most direct, least traffic stops or most available restaurants. But, if there is construction or an accident ahead, you are directed to a safer route. Sometimes, longer is better. 
Israel had the very best GPS. Not only did the Lord's presence go before them, but He led them with their very best in mind. While there was a more direct route, they weren't ready or equipped for the challenge. Sometimes,  longer is better.
Have you ever wondered why the Lord led you down a certain path? Were you ever impatient with the circumstances He led you through?  Are you even now, questioning  the Lord? Do you have a "better idea"? Remember, He always has your best in mind and... Sometimes, longer is better.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Picture ...

"The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. 'This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.'" - Exodus 12:13-14 
 "Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning." - Exodus 12:21-22 
This last Sunday morning our Pastor began his message with a very creative object lesson. He enabled us to visualize the unique, necessary, and complementary function of church members. As a result of the well planned illustrative picture, no one could miss the point and personal application of the Biblical message. A picture is worth a thousand words.
The historic events that are listed in the above passages are also a creative object lesson. The Lord didn't want the people of God to forget the significance of the shed blood in their deliverance. He wanted them to remember the individual application and life security found in the blood of the passover lamb. He provided a well planned illustrative picture, preparing them for ... "The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) A picture is worth a thousand words.
The blood was taken from the basin, applied to the lintel and the two doorposts. Safety was found only in the blood covered house. As the picture illustrates ... "And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." - Matthew 26:27-28 and "...knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot." - 1 Peter 1:18-19 Have you been saved by the blood of the Lamb my friend? A picture is worth a thousand words. 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Warnings ...

"Then whoever feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses, but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the LORD left his slaves and his livestock in the field." - Exodus 9:20-21 
A majority of Joplin, Mo., residents either ignored or reacted slowly to warning signs of the EF-5 tornado that devastated the city on May 22, 2011, according to a federal assessment report. The nation's deadliest single twister in six decades — swirled through the city of about 50,000 people with winds over 200 mph, causing widespread damage and killing 159 people and injuring over 1,000. They just didn't believe.
Six plagues had come and gone with devastating results. The evidence was clear that God meant business. Now, a seventh plague was announced with a warning provided. What should the Egyptians do? The credibility of God's word of warning was growing stronger with some locals who responded. But others didn't pay attention and suffered loss. They just didn't believe. 
This situation of ages past repeats itself every day. The Word of God warns us of a coming plague...death. The words of Romans 6:23 are clear, "For the wages of sin is death". Yet, the rest of that verse reads, "but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Some will respond to the warning and enjoy eternal life. But sadly, others will ignore the warning and suffer eternal death. Why? because they just don't believe... Which one are you?

Sunday, January 27, 2019

ONE Constant ...

"God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you. God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations." - Exodus 3:14-15
In the film "Field of Dreams" James Earl Jones spoke of the unchanging presence of Baseball..."The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time." The film and the speech appeals to our nostalgic yearning for stability, or ... "one constant through all the years".
This week we have followed the path of Joseph, the latter days of Jacob, and the early days of Moses. The people of Israel were going through change after change. Some years were good ones and many years were quite difficult. In the very midst of it all this, God made Himself known as "I AM WHO I AM" ... "throughout all generations"  The one great yearning for stability was proclaimed ... JEHOVAH is the "ONE constant through all the years." 
You begin a new year with hopes and expectations that this year will be better than last year. You know that changes will come and you're not sure that you will be prepared. In the midst of the wind and waves of life you will search for stability. Will you find it? Stop for a moment and look carefully into the burning bush of Exodus and take those timeless words personally ... "I AM WHO I AM", and be at rest with the "ONE constant through all the years."

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Morning will come ....

"Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”  - Exodus 5:22-23 
I worked my way through college with a security company. For a long period of time I worked from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.  By working these hours I would experience the sunset, sunrise and all the hours in between. As I drove all night, from one side of the city to other, I discovered the truth of a well worn phrase ... "It's always darkest before the dawn".
Moses originally brought a message of hope and freedom. His words were received with belief and worship. (4:31) Little did the Israelites know that the journey from bondage to freedom wasn't quite completed. The coming days would bring heavier burdens and harsher demands. The heart of the Pharaoh would grow extremely hard and unyielding. Moses himself found it very difficult to see a future deliverance. He discovered the truth of a well worn phrase ... "It's always darkest before the dawn."
How difficult have the days been this week my friend? Were they harder than usual? Are you left wondering if there is any future deliverance?  Remember, "It's always darkest before the dawn", but then comes the morning ...  "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." - Lamentations 3:22-23 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Make a difference...

"Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’” The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” - Exodus 4:1-2
I have known three men with differing skill sets that wanted to serve the Lord. One who was very mechanically minded, gave his life to serve as a career missionary pilot. The next was a gifted engineering technician who has spent his life reaching the world over the airways with Trans World Radio. The last one was educated in agriculture and served by teaching farming techniques in a third world country while planting the seeds of the gospel. They all made a difference for God with that which was in their hand.
Moses had a mixed bag of education, training and experience. He knew the Egyptian people and culture. He was thoroughly exposed to national leadership. Over the years he also learned the skills of shepherding. Nonetheless, he felt completely inadequate to serve God. In answer to his doubts, God called him to make a difference with that which was in his hand.
It's simple my friend. God can and wants to use you for his glory. "But, I can't preach, teach, sing, or counsel" you say. "How can I be used in the work of God?"  Again, the answer is simple. What is that in your hand? First and foremost, you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, with all His power. Secondly, you have all the education, training and experience that the Lord has given you to serve. You are his unique creation and specially fitted for his calling. It's time for you to say, "I'm ready to make a difference for God with that which is in my hand." 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Forgiveness ...

"So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them." - Genesis 50:21
I recently read the following in a Mayo clinic article ... "Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for improved health and peace of mind. Forgiveness can lead to: healthier relationships, improved mental health, less anxiety, stress and hostility, lower blood pressure, fewer symptoms of depression, a stronger immune system, improved heart health, and improved self-esteem." It seems like we really need forgiveness.
After so many years, Joseph's brothers still lived with guilt and fear of retribution. Even after being welcomed and cared for by their long lost brother, they were still filled with anxiety. Apparently, something was missing in their relationship with Joseph. It seemed like they really needed forgiveness.
Paul counseled the Colossians with the following words: "bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." (Col. 3:13) Forgiveness is the key to our walk with God and one another. It seems like we really need forgiveness.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

My Shepherd...

"And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” - Genesis 48:15-16
As a pastor I have performed funerals beyond number. Whether the loved one was a devout believer or had rarely attended church, Psalm 23 was the reading of choice. In the hours of death, hearts turn to the Divine Shepherd for needed comfort. But, the ultimate question concerning the departed is; was the LORD their Shepherd in life?
In his final days Jacob gave testimony of his faith relationship with God as his Shepherd. He had seen the Shepherd's care and blessing in the lives of his father and grandfather.  Now, after all was said and done, Jacob acknowledged that it was his Shepherd who led and protected him through the years of hope and heartache. Everyone wants a Shepherd in death, but was he their Shepherd in life?
Has your life journey been misdirected and a wandering in the dark? Or is the Divine Shepherd guiding your every step along the way? What will be your testimony in the last hours of your life? The Lord will be your Shepherd in death, only if He "has been" your Shepherd in life.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Grand Design ...

"And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors." - Genesis 45:5-7
I received the call one evening while I was in my freshman year of college. My parents were selling the family homestead. The house in which I had grown up, where I had enjoyed great friendships and experiences was gone. The family was moving to eastern Long Island, to a very quiet and dreary retirement community, and all I could see was loss with no gain. Little did I know that God had a grand design. 
One afternoon Joseph found himself in a pit, soon to sold into slavery and moved to a far off land. The family and home that he had known and loved was gone. For a number of years, all that Joseph could see was loss with no gain. But, over time he was fully prepared and specifically chosen to preserve a nation and his own family from disaster. God had a grand design.  
Today, I look back at that college phone call and realize that God was directing my parents for more reasons than their retirement. It was from that move that I found my sweet wife...what a grand design! Do you languish over the changes in life that seem to be all loss with no gain? Do you wonder where the uncharted path will lead you? Be encouraged my friend... God has a grand design for you too! 

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Weight...

"Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” - Genesis 42:21-22
It has been said that time heals all wounds. Well, C. S. Lewis, author of over 30 books, many of which addressed Christian apologetics, proposed a very different belief ..."We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin. But mere time does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of a sin." Unresolved sin weighs upon the heart like the rock of Gibraltar.
Over twenty years had passed since Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery. Now, trouble was brewing and the first thought that came to mind was the haunting guilt of betrayal and deception. These men had lived with the incredible wrong done to their brother and the daily deception toward their father. Unresolved sin weighed upon their heart like the rock of Gibraltar.
The lesson is troubling, isn't it? Is there sin, betrayal, or deception in your past? Does it visit you in the night, or when hardships come into your life? Have you been pushing it away, thinking that "time will heal"? The truth is simple: "Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, 'I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.' And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone" - Psalm 32:5 (NLT) Unresolved sin weighs upon the heart, but confessed sin sets us free!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Future ...

"Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth." - Genesis 41:57 
Who would have thought? An early bout with scarlet fever and numerous ear infections left him with hearing loss in both ears as a child and nearly deaf as an adult. He attended public school for a total of twelve weeks. He had trouble paying attention and his teachers told him that he was “too stupid to learn anything”.  He was fired from his first two jobs for being too “unproductive”. Yet, despite all the obstacles and pitfalls, he kept pressing on. Eventually, Thomas Edison became one of the most successful and influential people in the world, having invented the light bulb, phonograph, moving camera along with many other things. We never really know what the future holds.
Who would of thought? Our reading this week has taken us from Jacob’s search for a wife in a distant land, to his lost son becoming second in command of all Egypt... a cast-away, slave boy, and convict, who became the virtual savior of a famished world. The life of Joseph tells a far greater story of inspiration than that of Thomas Edison. While we never really know what the future holds, we know Who holds the future!
Keep pressing on my friend. God is working on a far greater picture than you can see today. Choose to be a Joseph, by walking with God and being a blessing to others. Remember these words? ...The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed. (Genesis 39:23) Live your best for today and leave the rest in the capable hands of the One who holds the future.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Waiting Game ...

"After two whole years...Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “I remember my offenses today." - Genesis 41:1, 9 
Sometimes it seems that I have "waited" over half my life. I've waited to see my doctors, waited for visitors to arrive, waited for contractors to finish the job, and waited for checks to be delivered. We even waited twelve hours for my first son to be delivered (my poor wife!).  Waiting can be quite frustrating, if you don't trust the One who is in control.
The early years of Joseph were all about waiting. The Lord had given him dreams of future days, but the days dragged on into years. He looked to men who would take his plight to higher powers, but they quickly forgot him. Finally, after a long time in God's waiting room, Joseph's name was called. The waiting was quite frustrating, but... God was in control.
What are you waiting for today my friend? Do you feel that your plight has been forgotten? Do you feel that life has been unfair to you?  Consider of the words of Paul in Galatians 4:4, "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son..." You may feel frustrated right now, but keep your eyes on the One who is in control, because He's NEVER late! 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Two Paths ...

"Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again ...  How then can  I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her." - Genesis 38:26; 39:9-10 

There are two brothers in our extended family. One grew up to serve God in a very prestigious seminary. The other grew up to become an alcoholic. They were both raised by Godly parents with the same teachings and privileges. They both claimed to be genuine believers in Jesus Christ. How does one son follow a path of godliness and the other fall by the wayside? In the end, it's a matter of choice.
There were two brothers. One was older, the other much younger. Judah sat under his father's teaching far longer and had much more experience with lessons on integrity. Joseph was whisked away from home at an early age and found himself struggling to keep up in a foreign land. Judah fell into immorality without any sense of remorse and Joseph fought hard for righteousness and won. In the end, it was a matter of choice.
Do you find yourself blaming your past for your present sins and failures my friend? Do you believe if circumstances were different, you would be more devoted to God? Today, and every day, you face two paths. Consider the words of Robert Frost: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." In the end, it's always a matter of choice.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

"Keeping Up" or content?

"Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him." - Genesis 37:3-4 
The phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” originated with a 1913 comic strip that ran until 1940. The strip depicted the McGinis family, jealous of all their neighbor’s prosperity, struggling to "keep up". Jealousy is the passion that spawns hatred towards those who have more than we do and drives us to depths of untold evil pursuits. We’re just not content.
Jacob's sons had a wealth of possessions from their father's successful endeavours. They had the promise a profitable inheritance. But, they were filled with jealousy over a simple coat and additional favors shown to a younger brother. Joseph had a piece of Jacob's heart that the brothers did not have. What they did have didn't matter, they were just not content.
We'll never be content if our eyes remain focused on the "Joneses" or a Joseph. Untold evil will always get the best of us. The best counsel is found in Hebrews 13:5, "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” When the Lord is our treasure, we'll always be content.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Good Shepherds ...

"But Jacob replied, “You can see, my lord, that some of the children are very young, and the flocks and herds have their young, too. If they are driven too hard, even for one day, all the animals could die. Please, my lord, go ahead of your servant. We will follow slowly, at a pace that is comfortable for the livestock and the children. I will meet you at Seir.”  - Genesis 33:13-14
As a parent and pastor I have learned that everyone is different. Their strengths, weakness' and needs differ in many ways. Some people go through life at warp speed and others seem to wander.  The best guidance is given through loving and leading, not by demanding and driving.  A good shepherd has to know his sheep and know their limitations.
Jacob was a good shepherd, not a driven rancher. Throughout the years he grew to understand his family and flocks. He also became very patient through the various experiences of his life. Understanding and patience enabled him to care for others in a selfless, compassionate and caring way. Jacob knew his sheep and knew their limitations.
You may be a parent, leader or teacher. You may be part of a group with numerous goals. Whatever your role may be, you must choose to be a shepherd or a rancher with others. People are not cattle, they are sheep, and their strengths, weakness' and needs greatly differ. Learn to be understanding and patient and give them room and time to grow. Know your sheep and know their limitations.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Bulldog or Coonhound?

"Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” - Genesis 32:26-28
There's a story told about an old Bulldog and two Coonhounds. The Bulldog began visiting the Coonhounds' back yard everyday. A brutal fight would ensue and the Bulldog would eventually leave. This exchange went on everyday for two weeks. Finally, one afternoon when the old Bulldog came into the yard, those two Coonhounds ran yelping into their house to hide. What happened you might ask? The Bulldog prevailed.
Jacob had come to the end of his proverbial rope. The day he had most feared had arrived. It was time to face his greatest nemesis; his brother Esau. He needed the blessing of God like never before. So, Jacob spent the whole night wrestling with the Lord in prayer. Hour by hour the night slowly passed, until daylight finally broke. But, he would not let the Lord go until he received a blessing. The beautiful results of this account is found in Jacob's response to Esau when they met in chapter 33:10... "For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me." Jacob prevailed.
When was the last time you came before the Lord's throne of grace, seeking that one significant blessing, over and over and over again? Jesus told his disciples "a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart." (Luke 18:1) He also taught us to Keep on asking, Keep on seeking, and Keep on knocking and it will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7 NLT) Don't be a Coonhound my friend. Be a Bulldog and prevail. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Power of Love...

"So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her." - Genesis 29:20 
When you love your spouse, you will turn the world upside down for them. When you love your children, you will give up everything for them. There's absolutely no end to what you will do for those you love. Those who have your heart, have your very life.
When Jacob saw Rachel, time stood still. He was so enraptured with her beauty he was willing to do anything to win her hand in marriage. So, time suddenly moved like a rocket and seven years passed by as if they were just a few days. Since Rachel had Jacobs heart, she had his life.
The lesson? The power of true love. But, let's consider a far more significant recipient of our love. Do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and might? When God calls you to serve, are you quick to respond? Does the time joyfully fly by because of the love you have for Him? If He has your heart ... does He have your life? 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Greater Purpose ...

"The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?  For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”  - Genesis 18:17-19
The baseball season is over and the football season is also coming to an end. Fans of both sports are now looking forward to next year with hopes and dreams. With such forward thinking comes the possibility of new players brought on board for a winning season. Each new player will be chosen for a greater purpose.
We spent this week reading about Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Esau and their wives. The unfolding drama was exciting and sometimes quite exasperating. Included in this list are individuals that were specifically brought on board to build a "great and mighty nation." When God sets a person apart from the crowd, they are chosen for a greater purpose.
Why were you brought on board my friend? Is it all about you and your hopes and dreams? Or are we part of a team? Each one of us specifically equipped and placed where we live, work, study and worship to build the kingdom of God. Look to the Lord every morning for His direction, because you were chosen for a greater purpose.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

A full tenth ...

"Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” - Genesis 28:20-22 
In 1974 I was a Junior in college, working a full time job to pay the freight. The cost of tuition, room and board was steep, and I was just making ends meet. Yet, I had a good job with plenty of overtime and good health. One Sunday morning I was brought under great conviction that it was time to step out in faith and obedience. It was time to start tithing and trust God with all the rest. 
The interesting part of our reading today is it's placement in the Bible timeline. This occasion occurred long before Moses entered the scene. There was no written law commanding a tenth to be given back to the Lord. But, Jacob was moved with faith and gratitude to honor his God with a percentage of daily provision and trust God with all the rest.
The end of my story is no different from so many of God's people. One month I was struggling financially, and the next all my needs were fully met. The difference was found in giving God first place by tithing my income and trusting Him with all the rest. So, how about you my friend? If you haven't taken the step of obedience and faith, why not today? The Lord gives His very best to those who honor Him and trust Him with all the rest. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Finishing Strong ...

"These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, 175 years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people." - Genesis 25:7-8
At my age, a full day of physical labor can be quite exhausting. My body clearly reminds me that I'm no longer 20 years old. Sometimes I will feel tired for a few days or more. But, at the end of the day, when the labor has been in the Lord's house, with the family of God, it's always a "good tired". That's the feeling that comes from finishing strong.
How sweet are the words before us today. Abraham "died in a good old age, an old man and full of years". His being "old" wasn't a negative term; when linked with "full" it became all "good". I imagine, that at the age of 175, Abraham was very tired. But, at the end of his life of labor for God, it was a "good tired". That's the feeling that comes from finishing strong.
When your day arrives my friend, how will you feel? Will you simply be old and tired? Or will you be full and tired? Will you look back over the years and be grateful for the labor accomplished for the kingdom of God? Will your weariness be a "good tired" that comes from finishing strong? 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Contagious Faith ...

"The man bowed his head and worshiped the LORD and said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the LORD has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.”  - Genesis 24:26-27
You can "catch" a cold, "catch" the flu, or worse yet, you can "catch" the norovirus. We never plan to get sick, but when some illness has a hold on others, it can surely get a hold on you. There's a lot in life that can be unintentionally "caught" by simple exposure. It's hard to avoid the stuff that's contagious.
Abraham was old, but thankfully nobody could "catch" that. Abraham was incredibly wealthy, but nobody could "catch" that either. But, there was one quality in Abraham's life that could be "caught". The day that Abraham's faith led to a wife for Isaac was the day that this servant's life was changed. That day he testified of  a new "caught" faith, as he "bowed his head and worshiped the Lord" and said, "the Lord has led me". It's hard to avoid a faith that's contagious.
Faith is personal folks. You can't live or be saved by another's faith. But, when you have and live a life of personal faith in your God, you will ultimately influence others. You never know who might "catch" a personal faith in God when such a faith has a hold on you. It's hard to avoid a faith that's contagious.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Total Commitment...

"But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son." - Genesis 22:11-13 
Athletes give up a lot to help their team. Soldiers give up a lot to serve their country. Parents give up a lot to raise their children. To produce a championship, protect a nation or prepare a generation involves a life of total commitment. The price is high, but nothing less will do.
God called Abraham in Genesis 12:1 to "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house..."  The call involved leaving every hope and dream to trust God with all the rest. Total commitment. Now, God called Abraham to offer up Isaac, the son of promise. Once again he was called to leave every hope and dream to trust God with all the rest. Total commitment. The price was high, but nothing less would do.
The cost of discipleship has never changed... whether an Abraham of Genesis, the fishermen of Galilee or you and me in 2019. Jesus said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26) Total commitment. The price is high, but nothing less will do.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Unfounded Fears ...

 "Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her... Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife." - Genesis 20:6, 11 
A number of years ago, while I was living in central Pennsylvania, I decided to hike the local mountain trails. I went to a local sporting supply store and purchased trail maps and a good compass. I carefully planned, due to great fear that I might get lost. Shortly after beginning my trec I made a startling discovery. On an earlier occasion, the trails had been so methodically marked that only a blind man could get lost. My fears were unfounded.
Because Abraham "thought 'there was no fear of God in this place'", he had great fears and made careful plans. He focused in on the potential pitfalls and dangers that lurked. No matter how often God intervened, as He had done in Egypt (Genesis 12), old Abe still looked to his own devices for protection. Imagine his shock when he learned that God had methodically marked the trail with His protective hand. His fears were unfounded.
How about it my friend? As you look down the road of the coming months, what do you fear? Have you put together a "go bag" filled with maps, compasses and personal tools of deliverance? Are all your efforts due to great fear that "there is no fear of God in this place"?  Once you realize that your God has marked your way by His protective hand... your fears will be unfounded. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Our Unlimited God ....

"The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”" - Genesis 18:13-14
The well known aphorism..."The difficult is that which can be done immediately; the impossible takes a little longer"  is quoted or claimed by more sources than can be counted. The phrase carries both humor and optimism, but when we face the limits of creation, the impossible is impossible.
Sarah was both barren and well beyond child bearing years. The years had passed her by without the blessing of children. All hope was long gone to enjoy the pleasure of raising her own son. But wait... when we face the unlimited Creator, the impossible is always possible! 
We are beginning a new year with new challenges ahead. Obstacles may come that seem insurmountable and impossible to overcome. Will you be overwhelmed by the hurdles or will you be an overcomer? The answer lies in ignoring the limits of the situation and trust your unlimited God. He alone makes the impossible possible. 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

El ROI ...

REFLECTIONS on Genesis 1-16

"So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”  - Genesis 16:13
 The first couple fell into sin ... God saw them. Cain murdered his brother... God saw him. Mankind drifted into continuous evil ... God saw that. Noah rode the waves of a worldwide flood ... God saw him. Men built a tower to their own glory ... God saw it. Abram moved from place to place ... God saw him. A simple servant girl  was abused and on the run ... God saw her.
A new reference for our God ... "Beer-lahai-roi", which means, the well of the One who sees me. As we enter a new year, we won't ever be alone. We will be seen in every encounter, every battle, every mountaintop and every valley. Consider the words of David in Psalm 139:7-10...
"Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me."
Be encouraged my friend that He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)  Yet, be most careful and ever prayerful in all your life because ... God sees you.

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Saturday, January 5, 2019

Be Persuaded...

"And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness." - Genesis 15:6
 Millions of dollars are spent every year with one purpose in mind: persuasion. Efforts are made to persuade us to trust insurance companies, investment firms, law firms, security providers and health providers. Trust them and they will see you through any and every dilemma that may come your way. But, do they have the power to do what they promise?
Promises of an incredible nature were made to Abram. To the human mind they were impossible, but Abram believed God, and "it was credited to him as righteousness." Just as Abram did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, we too should be persuaded. Why? God has the power to do what he promises!
My friend, the Lord has promised the gift of new life to all who will believe. It seems impossible that anyone can begin again and have a totally changed life and heaven to boot, but it's true. This is God's promise to keep and ours to believe. We never need to fear or doubt; no matter how dark the days may become. God paid the highest price in history to persuade us of his power. Jesus "was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification". Be persuaded my friend... Be persuaded and live!!

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"No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”   - Romans 4:20-22

Friday, January 4, 2019

Where's your altar?

"From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD." - Genesis 12:8 
We live in a world that's always on the move. We have our mobile phones, tablets and mini laptops. We graduate from college and begin our careers in New York, moving on to North Carolina, ending up in California with our options always open. We move from the apartment to a condo to a family size house. We have everything covered... but where is our altar?
Abraham lived centuries ago, but he too was a man on the move. Promises were made and provisions were given for life changes. The Lord could have been left in the dust of fond memories, but Abraham was determined to worship his God wherever he traveled. He always had an altar...(13:1)
When you plan your life moves my friend, do you also take time to plan for worship? When you vacation, do you have a chosen church in which to worship on the Lord's day? As you enjoy the promises and provisions of God, be sure to embrace the person and presence of God in a regular place of worship... where's your altar?

Thursday, January 3, 2019

He Remembers ...

"But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided." - Genesis 8:1
Have you ever been forgotten? Was it a family member or friend that promised to pick you up from work? Or were you left waiting at the restaurant for that special someone? While being forgotten is quite discouraging, it is so encouraging when someone remembers to lift us up in the midst of our darkest hour.
Noah had been through a fury of persecution from a world of critics. He had suffered waves of grief from the loss of many neighbors and friends. He had experienced his entire world, as he knew it, completely wash away. And then ... in his darkest hour of hopelessness "God remembered Noah".
2019 might open new opportunities and a grand scheme of hopes and dreams for you. Then again, it might lead you into moments that will find you sitting in the dark, feeling forgotten. Be assured my friend, you have a Friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24) who always remembers you. So, in the midst of whatever flood may come your way ...  cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Precious Stones ...

"The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually... But Noah  found favor in the eyes of the LORD." - Genesis 6:5, 8 
My lady and I went into the jewelry store one day, to choose her engagement ring. The jeweler placed the chosen gem on a very dark velvet pad. Suddenly, the diamond took on an incredible radiance against that dark background. At every twist and turn we saw brilliant colors and an inner fire. No matter how dark the surroundings, precious stones always reflect the greater light.
The world in which Noah lived was a very dark place. In many ways it was different than our world, but not any less dark with sin. In addition to today's passage we read further down, "Noah walked with God" (vs. 9) and "the earth was corrupt in God's sight" (vs. 11). There we have very dark surroundings, but a precious stone that reflected the greater light.
How do you plan to journey through the New Year in a very dark world? Will you be so influenced by that darkness that your thoughts border on being "evil continually"? Or will you walk with God and become a precious stone that reflects the greater light? "As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:4-5)

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Main Thing...

"And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?” - Genesis 3:8-9

Where did 2018 go? How will we make the best of 2019? As a New Year begins, we all have the same gift: 365 days, or 8,760 hours, or 525,600 minutes. Time is a gift and it passes ever so quickly. If we're not careful, our projects, people, passions, or problems will rob us of embracing and enjoying the main thing.
Adam was assigned a daily project to work God's garden. He worked quite diligently, along with handling the lifestock, birds and beasts. He was given a wife along with family responsibilities. In time he pursued tempting passions that led him into a devastating problem. So, at the end of the day, he and his wife were robbed of embracing and enjoying the main thing.
What is the main thing you might ask? Walking minute by minute seeking the Lord's will and way. Waiting at special times of every day to hear His voice calling our name. What is the main thing? Time with God. Do you want to make the best of 2019? Be careful to plan and protect the use of your time, so you won't be robbed of embracing and enjoying the main thing ... time with your heavenly Father.
"But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” - Luke 10:41-42
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