Monday, January 22, 2018

JANUARY 22 "EASIER WAY THAN A MIRACLE?"

We think, "what could be easier than a miracle?" Truth be known, God's people often think an "easier way" is just to send the problem away! An easier way would be to think logically, foresee the problem and then counter it with a solution. In our eyes, anything is easier than to have to wait on Jesus and hope he does " a miracle". The disciples foresee the problem that is coming and the miracle they are going to need to feed all these people. A miracle however, requires faith, a miracle brings with it anxiety and stress, a miracle, that's hard on us, why not just send them away before we get stuck having to BELIEVE God for A Miracle. The disciples approach Jesus and suggest sending the people away....and what does Jesus say,   "you feed them!" The very thing they were trying to avoid, Jesus makes them face. We are trying to avoid having to believe Jesus for a miracle, Jesus is trying to place us in situations where "we have to believe in Him for a miracle". We are not interested in seeing our Faith grow, we just want peace and the problem to be gone. Jesus is wanting our Faith to grow. You can see how often we are at opposite spectrum's with our Savior. God's call to us is always, "why don't you believe in me to meet the need, why don't you believe in me for a miracle" and our thoughts are normally....."there has got to be an easier way than having to wait and believe on JESUS, for a miracle!"

Sunday, January 21, 2018

JANUARY 21 "ENOUGH RELIGION TO DRIVE YOU CRAZY"

     Sometimes I wonder who is more miserable, the atheist or the rebellious, religious person. I will choose the rebellious religious person over the atheist any day!  In our reading today we read about the brothers of Joseph still tormented in their minds for the sin they committed against their brother.  Everything negative that happens in their lives is attributed to "God getting them back". This is how the religious person lives, they know enough religion to drive them crazy. They know enough to realize that they are not living right and because of that, everything negative that happens is of course God getting them back. At least the Atheist convinces himself (or tries) that there is no God and therefore bad events in life are either bad luck, bad karma or just life. If Joseph was 13 when he was sold into slavery by his brothers and now Joseph is 30 yrs old ruling in Egypt, that is 17 yrs (is my math right???) since their great sin. Imagine 17 yrs of every time something has gone wrong, feeling like it is God getting even. Some people know enough about God to drive them crazy. Even in the reading for the New Testament (Mtw 13:47 - 14:12) we read about Herod who is haunted by what he did to John the Baptist, so much so that he says Jesus is John the Baptist risen from the dead. This is an absurd thought, unless you're a religious man with a tormented conscience, then it makes perfect sense! I remember many times as a sinner blaming bad predicaments on God. I always felt like God's hand was against me, and rightly so, I had enough religion, even as a Catholic, to drive me crazy. How great was the peace that came when I simply got right with God and confessed my sins and began to live right! Now when something goes wrong in my life or I am faced with a bad predicament no longer do I look to Heaven and shake my fist, but I look to Heaven for help and guidance. That makes all the difference in the world! If you're not right with God today, perhaps this is your lot right now, you have to wonder every time things go wrong.."is this God getting even with me?" what a miserable way to live, get right with God today; otherwise, you have just enough religion, to drive you crazy for the rest of your life.
    

Saturday, January 20, 2018

JANUARY 20 "FRUITFUL IN THE LAND OF AFFLICTION"

There's a two step process here with Joseph. Joseph names his first son Manasseh "God has made me forget all my toil and all my Father's house".  Joseph was devout to God, but that can lead us to believe that Joseph was above bad situations affecting him. And now we see that is not true, Joseph was hurt and affected by what went on back home.  Second, he names his second son Ephraim, "God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction".  The land of my affliction, once again Joseph admits that it has been a rough and miserable time in Egypt, but yet we would never gather that by his attitude and faithfulness to God. Joseph brings up another key point that we should not miss and that is; that in the midst of our place, land, city or circumstance of affliction, if we keep our hearts right in our land of affliction we can say and testify as Joseph, "God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction".  Something beautiful can be born (figuratively or literally) in the midst of ugly times. In our worse times, if we keep our hearts right before God, you will see that an Ephraim will be born to you and you will always remember, "those were rough times" but you will also always remember this is where this happened, this is where this blessing came from, that was when I met so and so, that's where my Ephraim was born!

Friday, January 19, 2018

JANUARY 19 "WHERE WAS GOD?"

      We've heard it before I'm sure, but it is worth repeating...."if God was with Joseph why is he in jail, if God was with Joseph why was he falsely accused in the 1st place".   I remember visiting a church from another fellowship one time when I was on deployment in the Marine Corps. After service we had a fellowship and it was brought to my attention that the man that had preached that night was not their Pastor, apparently their Pastor was in Jail!  He was in jail for some trumped up charges for sexual abuse. The church members were confident that their Pastor would be vindicated and all charges dropped. I kept my mouth shut, but I thought, "helloooooo....dummies, if he was innocent why would God have even allowed it to go that far, they are in for a rude awakening when they find out he's guilty".  In my mind, God would never allow something like that to prevail against one of his sons or daughters, but was I wrong? Joseph is in jail, falsely accused of rape, yet God says "He's with him". Where was God when Jesus was getting his beard ripped out of his face?  Where was God when Paul was nearly stoned to death and whipped?  Where was God when the martyrs who believed that if they stood for Jesus, they would live, where was God as the lions devoured them alive?  I like the mindset of Shadrack and his buddies,"God is able to deliver us from the furnace, but even if he does not..."  These Spiritual Giants allowed for the possibility that God might choose not to intervene and look the other way, for one reason or another, but yet they never questioned God's existence or goodness.  If God is with me why am I in jail, that's the question?  Jail/prison is a place you are locked up and can't get out by your own means, your jail can be ...a sickness, bad marriage, addiction, financial collapse or just simply going through a miserable, hellish season in life and no matter how hard you try and/or pray, you can't get out!  The cup bearer that was with Joseph gets out of jail and it is not until 2 years later that he remembers Joseph, can you imagine? When all God had to do is prompt that cup-bearer's memory to remember poor 'ol Joseph, but he doesn't, at least not until 2 yrs later. The point I guess would be that we can still be fruitful and blessed in our jails and as we keep our hearts right with God (this is the hard part), we must have the confidence, that God is not going to leave us there forever, but he doesn't promise to get us out tomorrow either, all He promises is that He is with us, in our jails!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

JANUARY 18 "CHARACTER IS A WORK IN PROGRESS"

It's hard to find much fault in Joseph. He is one of the stellar examples of Godliness, in the Bible.  But here, in Joseph's youth, we see some flaws or perhaps naivety. It makes you wonder what would have prompted Joseph to share these dreams with his bothers; dreams that depicted his brothers would one day be serving him. Joseph already knew that his brothers were not all that favorable towards him, how could he think for one moment, that sharing these dreams would help matters? And we know, as he should have known, but apparently didn't or didn't care; that it would only make matters worse between them. And not only does Joseph do this once, but twice! Perhaps Joseph felt some animosity of his own, towards his brothers. What other reason would Joseph tell his brothers that he had a dream and they were bowing down to him? Our text tells us that "even his father scolded him, "what kind of dream is this, will we be bowing down to you?", his father asks, indignantly. Now you can say, "but they did eventually bow down to him!". That's not the point. The point is what was Joseph's motive was in telling his brothers? It proves that we can have great potential and calling, but yet still be character deficient in some areas of our lives, yet God still works with us. I don't think God approved of Joseph going and telling his brothers about his dreams. Joseph got himself into the trouble he found himself in by going to his brothers about his seemingly braggadocios dreams that were only intended to be between him and God. We read of Mary of all the things she heard and knew about Jesus, the bible tells us, "she treasured them in her heart". There are dreams and visions that God shares with us in privacy and in confidence that are meant to be kept there! They are not for public consumption but between you and God. We see here that Joseph lacks the wisdom and maturity that Mary had, when also being shown great and wonderful things that God would use her for. Mary didn't share or brag about it to others, but simply treasured them in her heart and let them play out in life, as they did. Joseph on the other hand lacks the maturity and also uses these dreams that God has shown him, to get back at his brothers and it only exacerbates the problem and almost gets him killed. We've all met this early version of Joseph, haven't we? A young man or woman who senses God's grace & calling upon their lives, perhaps certain gifting and qualities that everybody sees and nobody can deny; and they think that because of this Grace and Gifting upon their lives, that they can do and say no wrong. And often all we can do is look at them and think, "yes, God's Grace may be greatly on your life, you may have talent, gifting and calling, but God has a long way to bring you before he can use you, because right now, you are full of yourself". And often that's what God does, he brings that young man or woman through a refining process and years later you run into that same man or woman, with that same Grace, gifting and calling, but yet you notice now there is a maturity, a modesty, a humility that has now been worked in that person, to make them fit for the master's use. Beware of thinking, when you sense of see God's Grace upon your life that you are above reproach. Beware of thinking that somehow you are better and above those around you, because God will quickly bring you through a process that can and will, knock all that out of you. We don't know why God chooses one man or one woman over another to pour out his gifting and Grace Our problem is we automatically assume he chose us because we were special. Sometimes people in the church with the most talent and ability are the individuals God ends up using the least because they are so filled with pride and arrogance because of their gifting and talents. The wisdom that can be gleamed from our scripture today is that sometimes God gives us dreams and visions for our sake and our sake only, and they are not to be shared or even considered to be understood by others and any sharing would seem braggadocios at best and/ or prideful. They are to be treasured in our hearts and to be pursued between us and God.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

JANUARY 17 "GO BACK TO THE ALTAR YOU BUILT!"

We know that the 1st altar is built on man's own initiation. It's interesting to see God now using a good thing. He tells Jacob go back to Bethel and build an Altar there. God understands "altars" are a good thing! A modern day name for an altar, a secular name for an altar is...."memorial". A memorial is a secular altar. It is a lesson, a remembrance in life that we never want to forget. However life's lessons should have God involved...I digress, so God encourages Jacob to go back, back to the place God met him. This proves that there are times in a believers life that their faith is dimming, struggling  and puttering away and God says, these altars, they are a good thing, go back to them. Build them and remember where I have met you and what I have done for you in the past and let that memorial, spiritual reference point, ALTAR, encourage you into the future. Notice verse 16 "Then they moved on from Bethel".   God brought Jacob back here for the sole purpose of a reference point for him and then says, "now let's move on". We cannot stay and worship at our altars forever, because if we do, the inverse will happen, it will not encourage but depress us (those were the days....). We must reference, remember and then move on to the future believing to build new altars and have new conquests for God.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

JANUARY 16 "NOT THE RESULTS YOU ANTICIPATED?"

Not the results you anticipated or wanted? Oh well, to bad!  If you and I were God we would manipulate results to be what we wanted them to be. We would never look bad and everything we did would succeed. Every outreach would yield incredible results and everyone would always respond to our preaching. Nobody would tell us "no" and certainly nobody would "reject" us. But here is God in the flesh and he allows himself to be rejected. Jesus gives his very best outreach and the response is slim to nothing! Clearly not the intended results Jesus had wanted, but yet, He lets them be what they are.  I wouldn't do that, I wouldn't accept minimal results, at the cost of all my efforts, plus it makes me look bad, so add that in the mix. It is clear that Jesus is not at all thrilled about the results of his evangelistic efforts in Capernaum and Bethsaida. Jesus even performed miracles, yet they do not respond.  My ego would not have been able to handle this.  I am the supposed leader of this great movement, claiming to be the Messiah and I am going to be rejected and shut down like this? JESUS, apparently has no ego, no pride, otherwise this would never have taken place. I have had outreaches where nobody responded, I have had Revivals where nobody responded and let me tell you, my ego was bruised and my pride inflamed! If we could manipulate circumstances, why wouldn't we? Is it because of our great care for the loss....or would the real reason be, so we can look good instead of bad. So that we always come out on top, so we always come out looking like the winner. If you take ego and pride out of the equation, there really is no reason to manipulate these scenarios, when you think about it. Other, than the fact that you might look better, why would we manipulate people into responding that don't want to? Does God really want a bunch of people in Heaven that were manipulated by a higher power to be there, but had they had it their way, they would have rejected the gospel message. Jesus preached and did miracles and allowed the people to freely choose to accept or reject Him and His message. Jesus, in addition, to his example, has also quite plainly told us, "it's not you they are rejecting, it is me".  How many people have we coerced and/or manipulating into accepting Christ??? And why, was it because we cared so much about the soul or are ego's and pride were at stake. We must be a whole lot more like our leader, JESUS! He preached the Gospel and even though, He was God and He was the one they were rejecting. He let the results stand as they were because Jesus had no ego at stake. If we could get our ego's and pride out of the way, we would actually be more effective and we would have a much more pleasant disposition. Then we would not have to look for people to blame and/or yell at and make feel guilty, because we did not get the results we expected or anticipated. Sometimes your best efforts and faith, will yield very little results and in those situations we must know it was never on us to control the response, only to deliver the message. In some cases God is using us to bring a message for salvation, ie; Nineveh and in other cases God is using us to bring a message that, in turn, will be used for judgment against a person and/or a city, ie: Capernaum and Bethsaida. In either case, our job was to deliver the message, get our ego's out of the way and leave the response to the Free-Will Agents that God has made human beings to be! And their lack of interest, their apathy or rejection of your message should never be used as a measuring stick against you, for your validity as a man or woman of God.  God does not measure you by the results; He measures you by your willingness to obey, go and do what He commands and that is what He will use as a measuring rod against you. If it were not so, then some of God's greatest Prophets would be deemed as the greatest failures, ie: Jeremiah.