Lucia's Blog: January 2014
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Friday, January 24, 2014

GIANTS OF THE FAITH: JOSEPH - PART ONE



Joseph was Jacob's eleventh son and also Rachael's firstborn, the wife that Jacob loved best.  Rachael had to be patient, waiting many years to conceive Joseph.  Unfortunately, she died giving birth to her second son, Benjamin, Joseph's younger brother.  Joseph was Jacob's favorite son.

The Bible covers the story of Joseph from chapters 37-50 of Genesis; being one of the longest stories found in the Bible, far longer than the creation and flood story.

Notice that the LORD does not speak directly nor does He reveal himself to Joseph in the same way that He did to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  There is no account of direct revelations or miracles.  While Joseph did not have these same direct encounters with God, His guiding hand is obviously seen throughout his life. Joseph had a remarkable ability to interpret dreams and visions that made him closer to God.  Joseph acknowledges God's part in what happens to him.  Ancients viewed dreams as messages from their gods. Ancient dreamers rarely interpreted their own dreams.  Only their priests and wise men, who had access to the gods, were considered qualified to interpret dreams.

The account of Joseph is rich, filled with twists and turns that almost make you cry, cringe and rejoice.  It is beautifully written, designed to impress the hearers.  It begins in the land of Canaan ending in the land of Egypt.  It begins with Jacob's family in Hebron.  The central character throughout the story is Joseph, except for chapter 38, which covers Judah and Tamar.

  
In Genesis chapter 37, we notice there is trouble with Joseph’s brothers.  The rivalry among the brothers is similar to the rivalry we saw in the stories of Abraham over Ishmael and Isaac, and continued with Isaac's favoritism toward Esau and Rebekah's favoritism toward Jacob. This is exactly the problem in Jacob's family. Back in chapter 6 of Genesis, we see the rivalry between their mothers, Leah and Rachel. Unfortunately, the rivalry did not end when the boys were born, but was passed down to the sons.   Jacob's other sons noticed that he favored Joseph, even though he was the eleventh in line.   Jealousy and bitterness grew stronger against Joseph. 

 In Genesis 37:1-11, we read of the sad events that brought this hatred to a climax. "Now Jacob lived in the land where his father had sojourned, in the land of Canaan.... Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic.  His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.  Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more.  He said to them, Please listen to this dream which I have had; for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.  Then his brothers said to him, “Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?  So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.  Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.  He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have had?  Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?   His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind." Sibling rivalry can divide many families.  Should we blame Joseph for the way that his brothers treated him?  Not at all!

In Genesis 37:5-11, Joseph tells of two dreams. In his first dream, his sheaf of grain stands straight, while his brother's sheaves of grain bow down to it.  In his second dream, the sun and the moon, representing his parents and eleven stars, his 11 brothers, bow down to him.  These dreams cause Joseph's brothers to hate him even more.   But, when he tells his father his second dream, Jacob rebukes him.  Jacob and his other sons could not foresee bowing down to Joseph as a ruler.   In fact, we will see later that his dreams in fact came true. They were to be subject to Joseph in Egypt, and Joseph was to receive the birthright as the firstborn.  In fact, many years later, Moses speaks of Joseph as the "prince among his brothers" and like a "firstborn bull" in Deuteronomy 33:13-17.   Joseph, like a firstborn, receives a double portion of the Promised Land through his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.

In Genesis 37:12-36, Jacob sends Joseph to check on his brothers who were attending to their flocks. When Joseph arrives in Shechem, they had already moved to Dothan, but he catches up with them there. When his brothers see him approaching from a distance, wearing the robe his dad had made for him, they were filled with rage and plotted to kill him; they began to mock him, calling him dreamer.   The plan was to kill him and throw him into a water storage pit. But Reuben, the oldest brother, intervenes and rescues him out of their hands saying, "let us not take his life." Gen. 37:21.  Reuben also, said to them, "shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but do not lay hands on him"--that he might rescue him out of their hands, to restore him to this father, Gen. 37:22 NASB. Remember, that the firstborn in this case Reuben, was responsible for the welfare of his younger brothers and doesn't want to be guilty of his younger brother's innocent blood. Unfortunately, he does not speak in Joseph's defense. He allows his brothers to strip Joseph of his robe and throw him into a pit, a dry water cistern. Reuben's hatred of Joseph was as great as that of his other brothers. 

Later, they sit down to eat and in the distance see a caravan of Midianites or Ishmaelites, approaching on their way to Egypt.   Judah convinces his brothers to sell Joseph to the Midianites instead of killing him since he was their brother, Gen. 37:25-27. So, they pulled Joseph out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver.  Joseph then goes with them to Egypt, Gen. 37:28.  Reuben returns to the pit finding it empty and his brothers gone.  In desperation, he tears his clothes in grief, not caring so much about Joseph but about what was going to happen to him when his father should find out.  So the brothers formulate a plan.  They stain Joseph's robe with the blood of a goat, take it home and show it to their father Jacob, who believes that his son has been killed by a wild animal.   Jacob tore his clothes, and put sack-cloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days, Gen. 37:31-35.

Genesis 39 begins and ends with emphatic statements about God's presence in Joseph's life. Joseph is in Egypt being sold to Potiphar, an officer of the Pharaoh.  Now Joseph is far from his home without a single friend or family member.  Even though Joseph is living in exile,"God is with him," making him into a successful man.  His master saw that God was with Joseph and how God had caused all that Joseph did to prosper in his hands.  Everything he touched God blessed.  So Joseph found favor in Potiphar's eyes and he placed Joseph in charge over his entire household, Gen. 39:2-4

Unfortunately, a problem arose with Potiphar's wife. She wanted to seduce him, wanting to be romantically involved with him, but Joseph refused her and said "Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house and he has put all that he owns in my charge.... How then could I do this great evil, and sin against God?", Gen. 39:8-9. What great loyalty to God and his master! After many attempts of seduction which Joseph rejected, she caught him by his garment and tried again to seduce him. Joseph fled leaving his garment behind. She used the garment against him saying to her husband, that Joseph had tried to take advantage of her. Potiphar, believed his wife's side of the story and had Joseph thrown into jail. But again, "God was with Joseph," extending kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer, Gen. 39:21.  And all that Joseph touched was blessed, so the chief of the prison put Joseph in charge of the entire prison.  What a remarkable thing!

While Joseph is in prison, a cupbearer and a baker from Pharaoh's court get themselves into trouble and wind up in prison with Joseph.  After some time, both men are troubled by disturbing dreams.  When Joseph saw the two men, he asked why their faces looked sad.  Then they told Joseph of their dreams.  Joseph then tells them that God is the only One who can interpret their dreams.  Thus Joseph declares to them his faith in the One God.   So Joseph asks them to tell their dreams to him.  In one of the dreams, the chief cupbearer sees a grapevine with three branches filled with grapes.  He, the cupbearer, takes the grapes squeezing them into Pharaoh’s cup putting the cup into his hand, Gen. 40:9-11.  In his dream, the baker, sees himself carrying 3 baskets of bread on his head for the Pharaoh, but the birds were eating the bread out of the basket, Gen. 40:16-17.

Joseph interprets the cupbearer's dream to mean that in three days, on Pharaoh's birthday, he would be restored to his position as chief cupbearer.   Joseph also interprets the baker's dream to mean that in three days, he will be executed.  Both of these things happened as Joseph predicted.   Joseph asks the cupbearer to tell the Pharaoh about him after he is restored to the court, but the cupbearer forgot.  Thus sadly, Joseph remains in prison, Gen. 40:18-23.

Two more years pass and Pharaoh has a dream while Joseph is still in prison.   Neither his magicians nor the wise men in Egypt could interpret his dreams. In the first dream, seven cows come out of the Nile River and graze on the banks.  The seven sleek and fat cows come out and stand beside seven other cows that are ugly and gaunt.   The ugly and gaunt cows then eat the sleek and fat cows. In his second dream, he dreams of seven healthy heads of grain growing on a single stalk.  Beside them, seven other heads of grain are being scorched by the wind making them thin and barren.  Then the thin heads of grain swallow the healthy heads, Gen. 41:1-7.  Pharaoh was disturbed so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt along with the wise men, but no one was able to interpret the Pharaoh's dreams. The cupbearer remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh about a Hebrew youth who perfectly interpreted his own dreams.   Pharaoh immediately sends for Joseph, Gen. 41:14. Before Joseph gives Pharaoh the interpretation of his dream, he says, "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer." Gen. 41:16.   Joseph gives credit to God.

Then he tells Pharaoh this:  The seven healthy cows and the seven healthy heads of grain stand for seven good years.  The seven lean and ugly cows along with the seven thin heads of grain stand for seven years of famine.  God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do.  God is going to bring seven years of abundance to Egypt, but they will be followed by seven years of famine and Egypt must prepare itself during the good years for the bad years to follow. Joseph, tells Pharaoh to look for a man discerning and wise and set him over the land of Egypt.  The proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants.   Pharaoh realizing that the Spirit of God is with Joseph makes Joseph second in command, Gen. 41:37-41.  Notice, this is the third time that Joseph has been placed over everything: first in Potiphar's house, then in prison and finally in Pharaoh's kingdom. Pharaoh gives Joseph three items to wear: a signet ring, representing legal authority over everything; a fine linen garment that represented his new social status (that would later be used in the Tabernacle representing spiritual authority); and a gold chain as an Egyptian symbol well known as one of the highest distinctions a Pharaoh could bestow representing royalty.  Joseph also received a chariot, riding before the people who would bow down to him out of respect for his new commanding authority. Finally, he receives a wife.

Joseph has proven himself faithful as a slave and as a prisoner and now he has been promoted to ruler of all Egypt under Pharaoh.  In the second part of this story, Joseph now must prove himself faithful as a brother who has been wronged.

Luci

GIANTS OF THE FAITH: JOSEPH - PART TWO



Joseph is now 30 yrs. old and has been in Egypt for 13 years, Gen. 41:42-46. Joseph begins to travel throughout Egypt, gathering and storing enormous amounts of grain from each city.  During this time before the famine, Joseph has two sons: Manasseh (meaning God has made me forget) and Ephraim (meaning God has made me fertile). Gen. 41:46-57.

Joseph's two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, provide yet another example of a younger son winning out over an older, Gen. 48. Later in the story, when Jacob arrives in Egypt, he adopts Joseph's two sons into his own family, giving them a share of the inheritance as if they were Jacob's own sons. As Jacob (now Israel) prepares to bless the two boys, he places his right hand on Ephraim, the younger son, and his left hand on Manasseh, the older son. This is backwards, the right hand signifies the firstborn. We see that Jacob has to cross his arms to do this. Joseph then tells his father that his hands are backwards, and that Manasseh is the oldest. This is what Joseph tells his father, "Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn.  Place your right hand on his head." Jacob refuses and responds, "I know, my son, I know; he also shall become a people and he also shall be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations. And he blessed them that day, saying, by you Israel shall pronounce blessing, saying, may God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!  Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh." Genesis 48:18-20. As a fulfillment of Jacob's blessing, Ephraim became the most dominant of the tribes in the kingdom of Israel.  The name Ephraim became metaphorical for the entire kingdom.

When the famine arrives in Egypt as Joseph had predicted, Egypt is prepared. Joseph begins to ration the grain, first to Egyptians and then to foreigners who begin to travel to Egypt to buy grain.

Back in Canaan, Jacob's family is feeling the famine's effects.  Jacob sends Joseph's brothers to buy some grain when he hears that Egypt has it for sale. Next, are two parallels in some ways of the brothers’ two journeys to Egypt:

FIRST JOURNEY
SECOND JOURNEY
  • The 11 brothers travel to Egypt to buy grain. Benjamin, the youngest brother, stays home with Jacob.
  • The 11 brothers travel to Egypt to buy grain. This time they bring Benjamin along as well as a double payment since their first payment was returned to them.
  • The 11 brothers bowed before Joseph when they approached him, being Pharaoh's second in command.
  • The 11 brothers arrive in Egypt, tell Joseph their story to Joseph's steward and then bow before Joseph when they meet him.
  • Joseph recognizes his brothers, but they did not.
  • Joseph recognizes Benjamin, but brothers still cannot recognize him.
  • Joseph accuses them of being spies throwing them in prison.


  • Joseph weeps.
  • Joseph weeps.
  • Joseph keep Simeon sending the rest away and demanding that they come back with Benjamin.


  • Joseph orders their sacks be filled and their silver returned
  • Joseph order their sacks be filled and their silver returned. He adds his personal silver cup to Benjamin's sack.
  • The 10 brothers leave Egypt, but realize that their silver has been returned to their sacks
  • The 11 brothers leave Egypt, but realize that their silver has been returned. Benjamin has Joseph's cup.
  • Jacob grieves the loss of Joseph, Simeon and now Benjamin.




  • When the 11 brothers fear over the cup thinking they're in trouble they return to Egypt. Joseph demands Benjamin as his slave in payment for the supposed theft. Judah begs for mercy and offers himself in place of Benjamin.


  • Joseph weeps intensely.


  • Joseph reveals himself to his brothers

For 20 years Joseph has been estranged from his family.  Jacob has thought him dead and his brothers have sold him into slavery.   When Joseph sees his brothers he does not reveal his identity to them.   He wants and needs to know for sure what kind of men his brothers have become. When Joseph accuses them of being spies three times, he puts them in prison for three days so that he can watch them.  The brothers think this is God's punishment for the horrible treatment toward Joseph.  Joseph weeps after hearing of their remorse. Wanting to make sure that the other brothers are coming back, Joseph holds Simeon. Back in Canaan, they beg Jacob to allow Benjamin return with them so that they can rescue Simeon.  Isn't it something that Reuben even offers his two sons as a sacrifice to his father so that Benjamin could come with them? Gen. 42:37.  But Jacob was not going to bargain for Benjamin, his only survivor of his favorite wife Rachael.   It is only when the family begins to starve that Jacob agrees. 

In another test, Joseph returns the brothers' silver to see what they will do with it.  Remember, that years ago, they had sold him for 20 pieces of silver.  Joseph wants to test them to see how they handle the situation having their treasures returned. Joseph is testing them to see whether they keep quiet or return the silver. With this test he will find out if they still love money more than their brothers. When they returned with Benjamin, Jacob welcomes them and sets Simeon free.  Still he does not reveal himself to them.  He eats with them and asks them questions about his father. 

In preparation for the final test, he plants his personal silver cup in Benjamin's sack for the return journey. Joseph send his steward after their brothers while they are going on their journey.  He finds the cup in Benjamin's sack. The brothers returned and Joseph sets them a final test.  He told his brothers that since Benjamin stole the silver cup, he was going to become his slave and the rest were to go free. In a humble speech Judah offers himself in place of Benjamin. What a different Judah this is!   Judah tells Joseph of the special love that Jacob has for Benjamin and of his lost son Joseph as sons of his favorite wife, Rachel.  The remarkable thing is that Judah is no longer bitter over this.  His love for his father and his desire to do what is right this time overrides his hatred and bitterness.   He begs for his father to be able to keep his son whom he loves more than any of the rest.  This is so touching!  When finally Joseph believes in his brothers’ repentance and sees that his brothers have passed the test, he breaks down and weeps without consolation. Then finally he reveals himself to them.   He forgives them and offers them forgiveness for their sin.  This is what he tells them, "Then Joseph said to his brothers, I am Joseph! … I am your brother whom you sold into Egypt. And do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life....Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt." Genesis 45:3-8. Joseph sends them back to Canaan with wagons so they can bring Jacob and the rest of the family back to Egypt to escape from the famine.

FASCINATING FACT: Judah was the 4th son of Leah, but at the end of Joseph's story, he had the leadership of the whole family.  Reuben lost his place as firstborn when he slept with his father's slave, Bilhah, Genesis 35.  Simeon and Levi lost favor for their revenge against the Shechemites in Genesis 34.  Jacob passes over the first three sons in his blessings of his sons, Gen. 49:3-12 and gives Judah the firstborn, blessing, saying, "your father's sons will bow down to you." Judah's tribe became the strongest and eventually became the southern kingdom when Solomon died, the Kingdom of Judah, in fulfillment of this blessing.  Our Lord Jesus was born of Judah's line.  Jesus' genealogy to this point: Abraham - Isaac - Jacob - Judah and Tamar.

All through Joseph's long story, God speaks directly only once, and it is not to Joseph. God speaks to Jacob when Joseph's brothers return a second time from Egypt, reassuring him that his promises to him will remain with him in Egypt, Gen. 46:2-4. The promise of a great nation to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will still be fulfilled. God also promises that Jacob will not be left in Egypt, but that his body will be brought back to the promised land: "And God spoke to Israel in vision of the night and said, "Jacob, Jacob." And he said, "Here I am." And He said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will close your eyes." Genesis 46:2-4.  When Jacob arrives in Egypt, he and his family, receive the best land. Jacob's family prospers and grows in their new land, thanks to Joseph even when the other Egyptians are forced to sell their land to Pharaoh in exchange for food.

Jacob's wish was to be buried in the Promised Land, and not in Egypt.  Remember, God has promised him he would bring him back to Canaan.  After he had blessed his sons, he instructed them about what to do with his remains, Gen. 49:29-31. When he died, Joseph took Jacob's body back to Canaan burying him there in a cave along with Abraham and Isaac, just as Jacob asked.   After his death Joseph reassures his forgiveness to his brothers saying. "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive.  So therefore, do not be afraid, I will provide for you and your little ones.  So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them." Genesis 50:19-21.  This is such remarkable forgiveness!  Joseph stayed in Egypt, he and his household, and lived 110 years.  Before Joseph was about to die, he  makes them swear to return his body back to the Promised Land. Unfortunately, this promise is not fulfilled until Moses' time, around 300 years later. This is fulfilled when Moses took the children of Israel out of Egypt, "Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph's sons." Joshua 24:32.

Joseph appears in Hebrews 11, the "faith hall of fame" as a giant of the faith because he trusted God ordering the return of his bones from Egypt to the Promised Land. "By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones." Hebrews 11:22

The stories of Joseph foresee the grace, mercy, faith and hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We see self-sacrifice, forgiveness, and the regeneration of bitterly sinful men. We see an example of a youth tempted in a strange place far away from home, with nothing to lose and no one to disappoint except God, and yet he stands true to his God. We see a father grieving over the death of his son for twenty years because he believed a lie. When he is presented with the truth, he at first refuses to believe it!  Finally there is the joyful reunion. God in His providence will not disappoint us.  If only we would believe that He knows what He is doing!

May we learn from this beautiful story of forgiveness and learn to have the heart of Joseph who died to himself  in order that he might bless those who had wronged him.  In doing this, Joseph fulfilled God's will and provided a privileged refuge from the famine.  May we always remember that, GOD MEANS IT FOR OUR GOOD even when others have wronged us. May we free ourselves of all bitterness as Joseph did.

Luci


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

SHOWY AND FRILLY CHRISTIANITY


Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.  For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"  Matthew 16:24-26 NASB


It seems to me there is a plague among us.  This plague is long lasting as well as very contagious.  Everyone wants to have it all and it seems normal.  The recovery seems slow and very few recover at all.  What is this plague?   It is extravagant, cute, popular and frilly Christianity!

We must never forget that Jesus lived a very plain, simple and humble life without frills and luxury by the standards of men.  His goal and purpose was not to gain earthly possessions, but rather spiritual ones.  He taught us to pursue righteousness instead of material gain.  He lived with purposeful intent every day in order to accomplish God's plan for Him.  He was not popular.  In fact, He challenged the traditions of men that were contrary to God's will. Unfortunately, He lived in a culture where men loved the traditions of men more than they loved and obeyed God.  Our culture is very similar today.  "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil."  John 3:19 NASB.

"And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."  Matthew 19:23-24 NASB.

The Lord Jesus is our best example of humility.   He was a humble carpenter who worked hard with His hands, yet He possessed the greatest riches the world has ever known.  He was the Son of God, the Savior of this world, the greatest King of all kings and Lord of all lords.

"But from now on THE SON OF MAN WILL BE SEATED AT THE RIGHT HAND of the power OF GOD." Luke 23:69 NASB.

When He died, He took no earthly possessions with Him.

Often we go to church, we worship, we partake of the Lord's Supper, we sing songs of praise, we pray.... We wear our best attire, our nicest, and most fashionable...  We sit in comfortable pews or chairs.  We have the nicest buildings to worship in; the nicest and latest technology available in our churches; outstanding preachers and streaming video.... We feel good about ourselves as Christians.  Perhaps after church we go eat out at the best restaurants.  Likewise, there are those members who are humble, who cannot afford nice attire, dine at nice restaurants or don't have the nicest and latest cars and fancy homes or perhaps some kind of educational achievement...  These may be the cast offs of society.  My question is, do we even make the slightest effort to get to know them better?  or do we scoff at them for being insignificant?  Do we only make an effort to like those who have the best, who are the best, the ones we feel the safest around us and ultimately the ones we think are not "overly religious."  Whom are we fearing, man or God?   Do we only go to church to hang out with the "crowd," those whom we think are the coolest?  Those who possess it all?

I think we deceive ourselves when we think we have done our duty before God just by going to church and worshiping Him. But have we? Are we truly worshiping God in our heart and mind? Do we have "idols" that are above Him in our life? Do we do His will here on earth? Do we only go to worship Him the first day of the week just because is comfortable and easy? Do we forget that God must be worshiped every day of our life in order to have fellowship with Him? What good does it do to have a home full of wall decals or plaques that say God is love, God is peace, God is whatever, if our faith is empty and vain? We are so mistaken if we think that Christianity is to be served to us on a silver platter. It is not supposed to be frilly, silly and cute. Let's not get too comfortable! Let’s step outside the box. The foolish says in his heart "I don't need to change my life on account of Christianity." "I don't want to appear too religious to others." "Oh sure, I obeyed the gospel when I was baptized and that's it, God's grace will take care of my salvation." "I don’t want to look different" "I'll make mainstream choices" "Everyone is doing it!"

I see a big problem among Christians.  They want to be popular and have the approval of man more than that of God. We are getting it wrong if we think this way!   We are not going to win our crown when we try to please others by conforming to this world’s fascinations. We must think beyond popularity contests.  This is not Christianity!  We must see ourselves as nothing but unprofitable servants.

Often in history and in many places in the world, it has been a crime to be a Christian. Consider that Paul was probably beheaded. Peter according to tradition was crucified.  James was put to death by the sword. Tradition also holds that James, the brother of Jesus, was beaten to death by a crowd of enemies.   All of these had to suffer severe persecution and ultimately death. They never thought for a minute that following Jesus was going to give them luxury or a comfortable lifestyle. They were not popular or admired. They ONLY followed Jesus. They followed God.  They did what was asked of them: they proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They furthered God's kingdom, the church.

They have laid up and gathered riches that are beyond what any of us can fathom. Their real treasures have not rotted or rusted. They have received the crown of righteousness and are now with our Lord Jesus. They are indeed living now in the most luxurious palaces this world can never even imagine: the Kingdom of heaven where Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God with all the celestial hosts.  This is where our treasures should be, in heaven.  Their eyes were fixed on heaven and not on earth.  They sought and set their minds on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. They knew they were aliens and strangers here on earth who needed to behave in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. They knew their citizenship was in heaven.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Matthew 6:19-21 NASB.

Where our treasure is....there will our heart be also.  When we become conscious of where our treasure must be, we know the truth of where our heart is.  So my question is, “Is your heart set on frilly luxury, and vain, empty Christianity?  Is it set on a “perfect” and comfortable life?  Are these your treasures: popularity, a comfortable and fancy home, a nice bank account, a nice retirement plan, nice places to go on vacation, or a “World Cruise”?

With all this empty and vain way of thinking about Christianity, let us never forget that our heart, mind and soul must be with God and GOD ALONE.   We must purpose in our hearts to have a pure heart free of all these layers of empty and vain thinking about Christianity, God's kingdom.   This will be the only way we can truly see God.  Our Lord Jesus saw God this way.  He knew very few earthly comforts because He was not concerned about earthly treasures, yet He knew the comfort of God, His Father.  He obviously knew where His treasure was and whom He was following.
Are we ready to start laying treasure up in heaven and not on earth.   What do you think?

May our Lord help us to be content with the simplicity of our life and His service.

Luci

Friday, January 17, 2014

OVERCOMING SIN THROUGH GOD'S GRACE



"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.... that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." Romans 3:23-26 NASB


How you ever thought about SIN and the seriousness of it?   In the beginning of God's creation, the LORD commanded Adam and Eve to eat freely from any tree of the garden EXCEPT from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that they not die. Eve deceived by the serpent believed and ate the fruit when she saw it was desirable to the eyes and that it would make her as wise as God.  Not only did she eat of it, but she gave it to Adam to eat.  When they ate their eyes were opened to SIN.  They received the payment for their SIN and were sent out of the Garden of Eden.  So we can clearly see that SIN entered into the world through one man and death through SIN, and so death spread to all men, because ALL SINNED, Rom. 5:12. Thanks be to our God for His abundant GRACE and the gift of righteousness through the One, Jesus Christ.  It is through faith in HIM that we are made RIGHTEOUS to eternal life.

SIN is real, Romans 3:23, however GRACE is real too.  Sin causes us to die spiritually. When we indulge in the desires of the flesh and of the mind, we provoke the wrath of God. We all have to struggle with SIN, but sin separates us from God.  The question is then, do we want to do what is right or do we want to keep on sinning? NO!  We must become slaves of righteousness, although at one time we were slaves of SIN and DEATH, Rom. 6:15-18. But remember, we can never overcome SIN on our own. We need God's help through His son, His GRACE.   Unfortunately some think that God's GRACE is the PERMISSION to keep on sinning, but we know that those who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death, that is we crucify the old self of SIN and no longer walk in SIN being slaves to SIN.  We must die to SIN but live to God in Christ Jesus.  The one who has tasted God's Grace must not allow SIN TO REIGN in the lust of the flesh, but must live to God as instruments of righteousness, Romans 6:1-14.

We must learn from Jesus' example.  He surrendered to His Father even dying that cruel death on the cross. He didn't want to drink that cup, Matt. 26:39. Yet even though He was God, He did not use His power to avoid the cross. He surrendered.  The only way we are going to have victory in the battle over SIN is by crucifying ourselves, that is our flesh, allowing Christ to live in us, Galatians 2:20-21;surrendering to His GRACE through the teachings of the Holy Spirit, Titus 2:10-11, and the Father; putting on the Lord Jesus and not making any provision for the flesh, Romans 13:14.  I cannot fathom any other way of escape from SIN.  We must fear and stand by our faith with God's help, His grace, lest we fall.  He is faithful and will not allow us to fall only IF we surrender to Him, I Cor. 10:12-13.

It is disturbing to me to see God's grace be abused in Eph. 2:1-10 by some brethren. They think that GRACE by its definition is UNCONDITONAL which for all practical purposes implies that we don't have to be concerned about whatever TERMS the Lord might have COMMANDED.   If SALVATION by GRACE means we CAN IGNORE or be IGNORANT of the LORDSHIP of Jesus, then the Lord Jesus is NO LORD. That DOCTRINE is by its nature LICENTIOUS.  Let's not take GRACE FOR GRANTED! We must keep on teaching and relying on it in order to stop those who abuse it.  We cannot afford to be intimidated by false teachers. Are we going to give those who abuse GRACE and its teaching the pleasure of abandoning God's GRACE?   NOT FOR A MOMENT!   We cannot depend on God's Grace to help us overcome SIN  if we do not depend on OUR OWN OBEDIENCE to the teachings of GRACE, Titus 2:11-12

The Christian must learn to grow in GRACE in order to have power over SIN.  So the question is, how does one grow in GRACE?  Let's consider what the apostle Paul says, "But grow in the GRACE and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ...." II Peter 3:18. Yes, we must learn to love God's Word and desire His Word in order to gain knowledge. The only way to do it is through His GRACE that instructs us to live godly, sensibly and righteously before Him. This is the GRACE of God that has appeared to all men bringing salvation. When we allow ourselves as children of God to grow in GRACE with all diligence, the end results are beautiful qualities such as faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and ultimately love. We are COMMANDED to grow in these qualities in order to make certain our calling and never stumble. This is the only way we are going to have an entrance into the gates of heaven, where our Lord Jesus is, II Peter 1:5-11. This is such a great promise and confidence!  We must keep working out our salvation with fear and trembling, since it is God who is working in us, in order to please HIM and do His will.  This gives us such confidence even when we mess up!  Philippians 2:12.

Many argue that no one is PERFECT.  Let's consider what the apostle Paul says, "Not that I have already become PERFECT, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ....I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14 NASB. Since the apostle Paul realized that he was not PERFECT, did he consider himself off of the hook? (not accountable). Absolutely NOT !  He knew very well he was not going to lay hold of the prize, the crown of life, if he didn't PRESS ON which means live by GOD'S DIVINE STANDARDS. We must allow GRACE to grow and work daily in us in order to have victory over SIN.

With all these teachings about how to overcome SIN through GRACE, let us always remember God's purpose in saving us and not abuse Ephesians 2:1-10.  And let us be zealous for good deeds and walk in them since we are His workmanship, created in Christ for this purpose.  Remember we were once dead and lost because of our transgressions, but our Father out of His compassion gave us life again. We were lost and then we were found when we decided to return to Him as the prodigal son, Luke 15:11-32.  Let's freely extend GRACE to others as did the father in this parable. God's purpose was not simply to save us through GRACE, but to make us compassionate, forgiving and a blessing to others who are lost in SIN and are not found yet. This is God's promise of GRACE.

May our Lord bless us as we grow in His GRACE and have victory over SIN . May He help us to extend GRACE freely to others who are lost in SIN.   May we glorify God because of such indescribable GRACE to us.

Luci

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

THE ASSYRIANS & GILGAMESH




ASSYRIA

When Hammurabi began to take control of Mesopotamia, he had two large kingdoms to overcome.  To the South was King Rim-Sin, who ruled the area around the cities of Ur and Uruk. To the North was Shamsi-Adad, who ruled the area from Mari and Assur down to Sippar.  Hammurabi formed an alliance with Shamshi-Adad and moved south against Rim-Sim when he realized that the northern king was stronger.   Shamsi-Adad reigned from about 1813-1780 BC and gained his power the hard way.  He established his kingdom in the town of Ekallatum and took total control of Assur or Ashur, a city of importance commercially.  Assur was also an important religious center in that region.  Shamshi-Adad controlled the trade routes into Anatolia, modern day Turkey.  He also took Mari, gaining control over the trade routes into Syria.  He built one of the most powerful nations of his time.  He controlled a triangular region around Nineveh,  Assur and Mari at the height of his power.  He called his nation "Assyria,"  Shamsi-Adad was a proud man claiming the title "King of All" and built temples for his gods, whom he believed had blessed him.  He terrorized nearby kingdoms by brutally killing the leaders of conquered cities and displaying their heads on stakes.  When he died, Hammurabi first took over Mari, then proceeded to take control of Assur.  Hammurabi became the "King of All."  When finally he and his sons died, Assyria disappeared from the map for over 100 years.


GILGAMESH

He was the fifth king of Uruk,  ruling around 2700 BC.  There are numerous tales about him that survive in the so-called Epic of Gilgamesh.  Gilgamesh is the best-known of all ancient heroes.  These tales most likely began as Sumerian oral legends and poems, which were inscribed later on 12 tablets by an Assyrian king named Ashurbanipal who reigned from 668-627 BC.  These tables were later rediscovered in a library in Nineveh.


THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH

  • Tablet I:  Gilgamesh, builder of the city of Uruk with its magnificent ziggurats, orchards and fields, begins as a cruel king.  He is part god, part human and possessed super human strength.  According legend, the god Anu creates Enkidu, a wild man, to stop Gilgamesh.  Enkidu is trapped and learns the ways of humans.
  • Tablet II:  Enkindu finally meets Gilgamesh; they fight and Gilgamesh wins.  They become friends and agree to go on a quest to cut cedar trees in Southern Iran.
  • Tablets III-V:  Gilgamesh and Enkidu pursue their quest to cut the cedars, but run into trouble with a demon named Humbaba.  They defeat and kill him, but not before the demon puts a curse on them.
  • Tablet VI:  Ishtar, the goddess of love, wants to be Gilgamesh's lover, but Gilgamesh rejects and insults her.  This forces her to send the Bull of Heaven against him, but together Gilgamesh and Enkindu kill it.
  • Tablet VII:  Enkindu dreams he must die since he killed the Bull of Heaven.  He grows ill and suffers for 12 days and then dies reciting a poem about a House of Death(Hell).
  • Tablet VIII:  Gilgamesh grieves his friend's death.
  • Tablet IX-X:  In his grief for Enkidu, Gilgamesh stops bathing and shaving.  He realizes that he is also mortal and must one day die.  Unable to accept this he goes on a quest to find survivors of the Great Flood, hoping to find out how they acquired eternal life.  After a long and complex journey he reaches Utnapishtim, who supposedly is a Flood survivor.
  • Tablet XI:  Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh the Babylonian version of the Flood telling him that if he remains awake for six days and seven nights, the length of the Flood according to him, then Gilgamesh will become immortal.  Gilgamesh tries but ends up sleeping for 6 solid days.  Next, he tells him about a plant found at the bottom of the ocean that will give him eternal life once he found it and ate it.  He succeeds in finding the plant but is afraid to eat it, but brings it back to Utnapishtim.  On his way back a snake eats it and becomes immortal.  Gilgamesh loses his chance at eternal life.
  • Tablet XII:  This tells of items given to Gilgamesh by Ishtar in Tablet VI.  Also, the spirit of Enkidu returns with a dire report of life in hell.


It is interesting that there was a knowledge of an ancient Biblical Flood and Noah  as late as 2,000 years later among the ancient Assyrians and that their hero Gilgamesh regarded these survivors of the flood as immortals.  

Luci

Monday, January 13, 2014

GIANTS OF THE FAITH: JACOB



The following is a summary from my Homeschool Ancient History.

There is very little that the Bible tells us about Isaac in the stories of Abraham and Jacob. Isaac acts as a transition figure between these two patriarchs. The following are some interesting facts about Isaac that set him apart from his father Abraham and his son Jacob:
  1. Both he and his brother Ishmael received their names from God.  Unlike Abram and Jacob, Isaac kept his name.
  2. Isaac never left the promised land. He always lived in the land of Canaan. In contrast, both Abraham and Jacob lived in Haran for a period of time.
  3. Isaac had only one wife, despite 20 years of his wife's childlessness.
  4. Isaac was a tiller of the soil. He quite literally put down roots.
  5. Isaac lived longer than either Abraham or Jacob, to the ripe age of 180.

Isaac was 40 years old when he and Rebekah got married, Gen. 25:19-21. At the age of 60, he prayed to the LORD for his barren wife. The LORD heard his prayer and Rebekah became pregnant with twins. Notice, this is the second generation of patriarchs in which childlessness became a problem. In Gen. 25:22, the twins wrestled inside Rebekah's womb. When she prayed to the LORD, this is what He said to her, "Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples shall be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger." Genesis 25:23. In Gen. 25:24 Rebekah gives birth to twins. The first one was full of life, with a full head of red hair and ruddy complexion. They named him Esau, meaning "hairy," Gen. 25:25; later he was called Edom, meaning "red." The second was born holding his brother's heel. They named this one Jacob, meaning "he grasps the heel, "deceiver" in a figurative way, Gen. 25:26. Unfortunately, as the twins grew up, the parents showed favoritism. Isaac favored Esau, the wild, the one who hunted and roamed outdoors. Rebekah, favored Jacob, the quiet one, the thoughtful. It is such a terrible and damaging thing for parents to show favoritism among their children. There are so many pitfalls!

Traditionally, the first born son had two advantages over the younger son; he would receive two portions of the inheritance instead of one. While each younger son would receive one. The first born was to be head of the house. He, as the first born and head of the house, would be responsible for his unmarried sisters; this is why Rebekah's brother, Laban was part of the negotiations with Abraham's servant. He, the first born, was also responsible for watching over and taking care of his younger brothers; for the care of any widows or orphans; and for the affairs of the entire household. With the double portion of the inheritance came double land. For both Jacob and Esau this meant that the one who had the birthright would be getting twice as much land and wealth as the other. I want to point out that Jacob's blessing had a unique and sacred quality; once given, it could not be repealed, even though Jacob and Rebekah had deceived Isaac in order to get the blessing.

The following is a 7 part drama about the Blessing:

  • Act One: Isaac and Esau - Isaac calls his favored son Esau into his room asking him to bring some of his favorite food for a blessing feast. Esau agrees, gathering his weapons and setting off for the wilderness. Here is where Rebekah enters the scene and overhears her husband's request.
  • Act Two: Rebekah and Jacob - Rebekah calls her favored son Jacob and suggests that he prepare his father's favorite food in place of Esau. He agrees with his mother's scheme to pass himself as Esau. He starts working on the food.
  • Act Three: Rebekah and Jacob - Jacob prepares and brings the food to Rebekah. She dresses him in Esau's clothing covering him with goatskin in order to make his skin feel hairy.
  • Act Four: Isaac and Jacob - Jacob brings his father's favorite food. Remember, his father is almost blind.  Although he is suspicious, he eats it. Isaac touches and smells Jacob and is convinced that he is Esau. He gives him his blessing: "Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of earth, and an abundance of grain and new wine; many peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you; be  master of your brothers, and may your mother's son bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you." Genesis 27:28-29 NASB. Jacob then leaves triumphantly.
  • Act Five: Isaac and Esau - Later, Esau brings food to his father who in dismay realizes he has been deceived. He had given Jacob the firstborn's blessing by placing him above his brother Esau. Esau then begs his father to bless him, but his father has only this to say: "Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling, and away from the dew of heaven from above. By your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless, that you will break his yoke from your neck." Genesis 27:39-40 NASB. Esau is enraged at his brother, threatening to kill him. Rebekah is now terrified. Remember, she is the one who commanded her son Jacob to deceive his father Isaac. Now she wants Jacob to escape by going to her brother Laban back in Haran until Esau's fury should subside. She tells Isaac that she is afraid that Jacob might take a daughter from among the Canaanite women.
  • Act Six: Isaac and Jacob - Isaac calls Jacob and blesses him and asks him to go back to Northern Mesopotamia, Padddan-aram, and take to himself a wife from the daughters of Laban. Jacob leaves with his father's blessing.
  • Act Seven: Esau - After hearing that Jacob is leaving to marry within the daughters of Laban and that his father has blessed him again, Esau knew that the daughters of Canaan displeased his father; so he went to Ishmael his uncle and asked for the hand of Mahalath his daughter (thus his first cousin), hoping this would improve his father's opinion of him.

On the way to Haran, Jacob decides to lie down to sleep using a stone as a pillow. He dreams of a ladder that was set on the earth reaching toward heaven with angels ascending and descending on it and with God above it. In the dream the LORD makes the same promises to Jacob that He made to Abraham and Isaac before Him: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will be also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." Genesis 28:13-15 NASB. Jacob is changed by his dream. He awakens acknowledging God for the first time in his life. He bows to the LORD promising Him he will follow Him if He will care for him. He calls this place Bethel meaning "house of God". Later, he arrives near Haran where he goes to the well asking one of the shepherds where to find Laban. They pointed out one of Laban's daughters, Rachael. He greets her with a kiss being a member of the family.

The following are similarities between Jacob and Abraham's servant:

Servant arrives in Haran with riches Jacob arrives in Haran with nothing
Servant goes straight to the well Jacob goes straight to the well
Servant is at the well in the evening Jacob is at the well at noon
Servant finds Rebekah at the well Jacob finds Rachael at the well
Servant finds out Rebekah is family Jacob finds out Rachael is family
Rebekah waters the servant's camels Jacob waters Rachael's sheep
Servant rejoices and gives bracelets Jacob rejoices and gives a kiss
Rebekah runs home to tell her mother and Laban Rachael goes home to tell Laban
Servant is invited home and negotiates for Rebekah Jacob is invited home and negotiates for Rachael
Servant pays the bride price and Laban is satisfied Jacob has no bride-price except his labor
Servant refuses to stay when invited
Jacob stays for 14 years, gaining two wives, Rachael & Leah

There was a big rivalry between Leah and Rachael within the first year of their marriage. Leah begins to bear sons, but Rachel is barren. The battle of the sons begins.... Jacob had 12 children and the last two, Joseph and Benjamin. These last two were Jacob's favorites because they were of his favorite wife Rachel. Although Rachel was his favorite wife, Jesus descended from Judah who was Leah's son. Leah bore Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Isaachar and Zebulon. Leah's servant bore Gad and Asher. Rachael bore Joseph and Benjamin.  She died in childbirth with her last son Benjamin. Rachel's servant bore Dan and Naphtali. After Jacob had served Laban for 14 years, Jacob had paid with his labor for his wives, Rachael and Leah and want to go home. Laban begs him to stay by increasing his wages. Jacob feels cheated and that Laban had been taking advantage of his labor building up Laban's flocks. Jacob wants to build a flock of his own. Laban agrees at Jacob's suggestion to give Jacob any sheep and goats which are spotted or speckled. Since most of the sheep are white and the goats are dark brown or white, Jacob asks apparently for a small number. Remember, that Jacob has become an expert breeder and has God's helping hand. Jacob makes sure that all the best sheep and goats are born spotted or speckled. Again, Laban wants to cheat and deceive him by removing all of the spotted sheep in order for Jacob to get nothing. What a covetous man this Laban is! But, Jacob outsmarts him by proving to be the better of the two schemers. His flock of spotted sheep grows larger and stronger, Genesis 30:25-43.

Finally, wanting to return to Canaan, Jacob takes his two wives, his children and all of his livestock and leaves Laban in secret. Without Jacob’s knowledge, Rachel steals her father's idols, which forces Laban to pursue them. God tells Laban in a dream not to harm Jacob. Laban catches up and begins to search for his idols and cannot find them since Rachel is sitting on them. Finally, Jacob and Laban agree to part ways in peace, Genesis 31.

Remember, Jacob is aware of how he left matters with Esau and wants to appease him. He sends a message to him telling him that he is returning to Canaan. The messengers returns, telling Jacob that Esau is approaching with 400 men. In fear Jacob divides his group into two so that Esau might not destroy all of them at once. He prepares large gifts of sheep, goats, cattle and camels for his brother, sending them ahead. Jacob lags behind the rest of his group, waiting to see the results of all his gifts to Esau. At night, Jacob has an encounter with a strange man and wrestles with him until morning. As dawn breaks and the stranger realizes he is not going to overpower him.  The stranger turns out to be an angel who then dislocates the socket of Jacob's thigh with a touch while wrestling with him. Jacob still refuses to let him go unless he blesses him. The angel asks Jacob's name, then tells him that he will no longer be called Jacob but rather Israel which means "He struggles with God." Then Jacob asks him to tell him his name, but the angel replies, "Why is it that you ask my name?" Jacob realizes that he had wrestled with God. Jacob named that place Peniel, for he said "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved." Genesis 32:22-32.  Jacob meets Esau and he is no longer bitter toward Jacob. Twenty years have passed!

One of the things that has impressed me about this history, is that when God broke Jacob, He fashioned him back into a GREAT man. Sometimes that is what God has to do to us!

Luci


Friday, January 10, 2014

THE FOOLISH WOMAN


"The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands."
 Proverbs 14:1


It seems to me we have a lot of foolish women in our culture and in our churches whose tendency is to tear down their homes with their own hands, rather than to build them up.

Consider the ways a foolish woman can tear down her own home:
  1. By being critical of her husband and children, nagging them all the time like a constant drip, "A constant   dripping on a day of steady rain, and a contentious woman are alike"  Proverbs 27:15 NASB
  2. By ignoring her housework and meeting the needs of her family using a million excuses not to do it.
  3. By sharing her husbands failures and shortcomings with relatives such as in-laws, especially her mother.
  4. By being unfaithful and untrustworthy, "The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good and not evil all the days of her life."  Proverbs 31:11-12
  5. By being careless and sloppy about her appearance.
  6. By being lazy and careless about the finances of her home.
  7. By gossiping and being a busybody especially about her loved ones, wasting time.
  8. By using her tongue as a weapon of jealousy, envy and rivalry; being this her sharpest asset!
  9. By refusing to SUBMIT to her husband.
  10. By being materialistic and covetous about what others have.  Never content with what God provides for her.
  11. By disrespecting and dishonoring her husband in front of her children and those around her.  Raising her voice at her husband.
  12. By watching too much TV, soap operas, playing games, spending too much time networking, by fantasizing about how much kinder, romantic.... other husbands are such as in the movies and books.
  13. By forcing her husband to "earn" his times of intimacy with her with his "good behavior,"  I Cor. 7:4
  14. By always pushing the buttons that she knows will certainly irritate her husband.

"And everyone who hears these words of  Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand.  And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was it fall."  Matthew 7:26-27

With all the above warnings of tearing down our homes, let us start behaving like wise women by building our homes on Christ's foundation, walking upright and fearing the Lord.  Let's start professing godliness in our homes by making them flourish rather than destroying them and those within.  Let the world of darkness see Christ in our homes by showing ourselves to be godly and wise women.

May the Lord help us be wise women who build their homes with their own hands on His foundation with godly reverence.  May the Lord help us to not tear down our homes like the foolish women do.


Luci

Thursday, January 9, 2014

THOUGH HE SLAY ME - GOD'S PURPOSE IN OUR SUFFERINGS

"Though He slay me, I will hope in Him."
Job 13:15


What powerful words Job speaks!  Who would hope so much and still proclaim such TRUST after thinking that God had stabbed him?  This is absolutely what Job models for us.  This is what God has instructed us through His Word TO DO, to TRUST Him even when we think He has stabbed us in the back, receiving it in FAITH, with TRUST.  There are so many BLESSINGS in our sufferings.  Suffering perfects our FAITH, "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,  so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls."  
I Peter 1:6-9.

So often, we question ourselves in our own hearts, but then others also doubt us when they see us suffering as in the case of Job.  They wonder why this is happening to us?  We are overwhelmed with many questions! Why won't God let me get pregnant?  Why won't God heal my child?  Why did my loved one die?  Why did my spouse leave me for someone else?  Why did my friend marry so much better than I did?  Why am I lingering in so much loneliness and pain?  What is wrong with me?  Is it disobedience in me or some hidden sin which I need to repent of?  Is there a lesson I need to learn?   The questions are numerous.  Job's example reveals to us that these kinds of questions miss the point of  what truly is going on.  Of course, when we find ourselves in the midst of our long term suffering, we tend to react this way missing out on the importance of our suffering.  Job did not need to learn any lesson when he was chosen to suffer, though he surely learned some valuable lessons along the way.  God was not trying to correct any flaw or sin leading Job to repent.  It was God's testimony about His heavenly rule.  It was about silencing Satan.

Job's suffering seems a bit unfair, maybe even wrong.  For God to let Satan stretch out his hand against all that belonged to Job does not seem right.  But, we must remember that God restrains Satan in what he might do in our lives.  We must see Satan's limitations.  Although it may seem that God was unfair to Job, there are many things that we do not understand.  Nevertheless, we must cling to the God of all Scripture.  He is good, righteous, loving, longsuffering, steadfast....I must always remember God's ways are not my ways.  If God allows Satan to tempt us, all Satan does will be calculated for our own good, Rom. 8:28.  It will work out for our good.  We must learn like Job to know our own insignificance compared to God, the Great I AM.  Remember God never answers Job's questions.  Instead He questions Job.  But Job does not complain.  He repents.  Job admits his failure in speaking of things he could not know.  In the same way WE MUST ADMIT that God is God and I am not.  We must learn with God's help that we cannot fathom all of His ways, but we CAN TRUST HIM.

Consider God's purposes in our sufferings:  
  • Suffering increases our consciousness of the power, sovereignty and sustenance of our ALMIGHTY GOD, Psalm 68:10.  
  • Suffering is used by God for our refining, perfection, strength and to keep us from falling, Psa. 66:8-9; Heb. 2:10.  
  • Suffering allows Jesus be manifested in our mortal flesh, 2 Cor. 4:7-11
  • Suffering weakens us making us depend upon God, 2 Cor. 12:9.  
  • Suffering teaches us humility, 2 Cor. 12:7.  
  • Suffering makes known to us the mind of Christ, Philippians 2:1-11.
  • Suffering teaches us character and Christlikeness, Rom. 5:3-4; Heb. 12:10-11; 2 Cor. 4:8-10; Rom. 8:28-29.  
  • Suffering teaches God's discipline for us, for our good, so that we may share in His holiness, Hebrews 12:1-11.  
  • Suffering can help us learn obedience and self-control, Heb. 5:8; Ps. 119-67; Rom. 5:1-5; James 1:2-8; Phil. 3:10.  
  • Suffering for others can demonstrate the abundance of joy and love, 2 Cor. 8:1-2,9.  
  • Suffering is part of the struggle against evil men, Psalm 27:12; 37:14-15.  
  • Suffering is part of being worthy of the kingdom of God, 2 Thes. 1:4-5.  
  • Suffering is the struggle against injustice, I Peter 2:19.  
  • Suffering is sharing in the sufferings of Christ, 2 Cor. 15; I Peter 4:12-13.  
  • Suffering teaches us endurance so that we may win our crown, eternal life, 2 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 2:12.
  • Suffering  binds Christians in sharing with the needs of the saints with a common purpose, Philippians 4:12-15.  
  • Suffering teaches us God's statutes and brings us back to the way of God when we go astray, Psalm 119:66-67,71.  
  • Though we suffer for our sins, our broken and contrite spirit pleases God, Psalm 51:16-17.  
  • Suffering helps us to focus on our hope, the salvation of our souls, the grace that will be brought to us when Jesus is revealed, I Peter 1:6, 13.  
  • Suffering produces humility in us, I Peter 5:6-7.  
  • Suffering helps us to number our days,  Psalm 90:7-12.  
  • Suffering is necessary to win the lost, 2 Tim. 2:8-10; 4:5-6.
  • Suffering strengthens us by allowing us to comfort others, 2 Cor. 1:3-11
  • Suffering is nothing compared to the value of knowing Christ, Phil. 3:8.  
  • Through suffering we can know God's Truth, Psalm 51:6; 119:17. 
  • Suffering is part of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus, 2 Tim. 1:7-8, 4:16-18.
  • Suffering teaches us thanksgiving and joy, I Thes. 5:18; 2 Cor. 1:11.
  • Suffering gives us hope, Jeremiah. 29:11; Job 13:14-15. 
  • Suffering reveals God's care for us, Psalm  56:8.

With all these lessons learned from suffering, let us never forget that Jesus, the Man of sorrows was very acquainted with GRIEF AND SUFFERING.  Our Lord Jesus modeled for us endurance in suffering.  Most importantly, His perfect suffering made it possible for us to have redemption through Him.  He endured the cross and the curse for us.  For the joy that was set before him, Jesus despised the shame, but He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:2.  We are to share in His sufferings, Matt. 26:36-46. Jesus trusted His Father in the garden of Gethsemane.  He had to finish and had to face His worst fears becoming the Man of sorrows for the salvation of our souls.  Let us purpose in our heart, soul and mind with all of our strength to walk like Jesus and Job who TRUSTED completely in God in times of deep suffering.  

It is remarkable to me that although Job was stripped of everything in this life, that he could have trusted still in God.  Job held unto his FAITH.  God gives and God takes away.  Blessed be the name of God!  Anyone who has had to endure deep suffering can recognize these moments in their journey. Tough He slay me, yet will I TRUST HIM.

May our Lord help us to meditate with wisdom on God's purpose in our sufferings and various trials. May we consider them all joy knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance in order for us to be complete lacking in nothing.  May our Lord help us to persevere under sufferings and trials and be approved of God in order to receive our reward in heaven, our crown of life, which our Lord has promised to those who love, believe and obey Him.  To Him be the glory.  AMEN


Luci

Monday, January 6, 2014

WITH ONE ACCORD


"Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ"   Romans 15:5-6



It is amazing to me how many times in the beginning of the Lord's church, the phrase "with one accord" calls attention to itself. This is found so often in the Book of Acts because a significant attribute of the early church was its TOGETHERNESS and UNITY. We find it at least 12 times in the Book of Acts. I believe it was very essential for the church to be of "one accord" in order to have unity and love. In Acts 1:14 we see that the 12 apostles, the women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers continued with "one accord" in prayer and supplication. In Acts 4:32, we see again that those who believed were of the same heart, mind and soul. They were in so much "accord" that they wanted unconditionally to share all they possessed.   

Again, in Acts 2:44, they were together with "one accord" and had all things in common. In Acts 2:46, this new church continued daily with "one accord," breaking bread from house to house, they ate with gladness and simplicity of heart. This "one accord" is able to praise God and have favor with all men. The apostles and elders, with the whole church were assembled with "one accord," to send chosen men to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, Acts 15:25.

In order for the church, the body of Christ, to be of "one accord," we must learn and labor hard in fellowship, unity, love, affection and mercy, "Being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of  ONE MIND," Philippians 2:2; being of the same mind toward one another, Romans 12:16; Our main goal must be to edify one another, Romans 14:19; They were like-minded in glorifying our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 15:5. The only way to accomplish this and have victory is to have the mind of Christ and be willing to do His will, "Who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God... He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, death on a cross, Phil. 2:5-8.  In order to be of "one accord" we must learn and exercise the love of God who sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross, that WHOEVER believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  To say that we LOVE and BELIEVE God means to OBEY His Son in order to have eternal life and not the wrath of God, John 3:36. This takes practice, hard labor and a desire TO DO HIS WILL, but the end result is UNITY in the body of Christ, having the mind of Christ that is able to show affection, mercy, love, fellowship, patience and hope. 

We have been taught by our God to love one another, I Thes. 4:9. The Thessalonian brethren were a great example of this love. Even though, they were once very unrighteous Gentiles, they learned and exercised this love. We need to cleanse ourselves from the old leavened bread of wickedness and replace it with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, I Corinthians 5:7-8. We need  to learn to live a crucified life, Galatians 2:20 and let the Spirit of Christ live in us.  The only way we are going to be able, as the body of Christ, the church, to be of "one accord," is by crucifying the old man that is full of hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfishness, dissension, envy, murder.... We need to first go back to our first love, Christ, and walk in the Spirit with gentleness, love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against these there is no law, Gal. 5:16-26.  Finally, we must pray fervently for UNITY in order to be of "one accord."

I am always amazed at how many times the apostle Paul prayed for the early church to be of "one accord"; meaning having abounding love, enlarging their hearts, forgiving one another, having a sincere heart, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are the glory and praise of God.  This can only be accomplished with a lot of DISCERNMENT and KNOWLEDGE of the will of God from Scripture. I believe that the reason why so many times brethren, those in the body of Christ, are not of "one accord" in unity and love is because of this lack of KNOWLEDGE and DISCERNMENT of the will of God. This is VITAL for spiritual growth and edification of the body of Christ. We must put on the breastplate of faith and love in order to be of "one accord."; we must learn to edify and comfort one another, I Thes. 5:8-11 in order to be of "one accord"; we must learn to consider one another in order to stir up love and good works Heb. 10:24 in order to be of "one accord"; we must learn to love one another  in order to be of "one accord," for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know the Father, for God is love... If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another, I John 4:7-11.  

Let us remember and purpose in our heart, soul and mind to keep the UNITY of the Spirit in the bond of peace, Eph. 4;1. Let's follow the example of the apostle Paul who prayed constantly for the UNITY of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God... to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, Eph. 4:13. Let us never forget our Lord's prayer, "I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be ONE as We are ONE, John 17:9-11.

May the Lord help us to be of ONE MIND walking in the Spirit of Christ for our spiritual growth and edification of His body.  May we edify, love, comfort, consider.... one another by crucifying our flesh and going back to our first love, Christ, in order to have the mind of Christ in us and be of "one accord" in UNITY and LOVE.


Luci