Category Archives: Old Testament Survey

Learning to Love the O.T. IIb — The Tempter and the Temptation

Last week I had what I’ll call an emotional uprising.  I was talking with a couple of friends and we were all sharing about our lives, when something in the conversation began to make me uncomfortable.  Big emotions started rearing up inside of me, things like insecurity and shame.  I tried to ignore them. I tried to talk myself out of them.  I tried to manipulate the conversation away from what was making me uncomfortable.  But the emotions just grew, like rebellious beasts.

The interaction ended and I went home feeling shell shocked, incapable of doing anything. I couldn’t talk about it.  I just cloistered myself in the house until I felt better.

The good news is that I am learning how to deal with my emotional triggers, reading a really super book called “Spiritual Discovery” by Virginia Lefler (and two other authors).  But my experience reminds me of how Adam and Eve hid in the Garden. Did they feel any of the things I was feeling?

Today my blog is about the nature of temptation, and the nature of Satan.  Looking at these themes in Genesis 2 and 3, and elsewhere, gives us much insight into the way Satan works, and how we can fight him.

The nature of temptation. Let’s uncover one of Satan’s biggest pages in his evil playbook.  He tries to get us to doubt the goodness of God, that God is sufficient.

grass-is-greener

The grass is always greener on the other side.

The serpent conned Eve into believing that that God was holding out on her.  She had all this delectable fruit right at her fingertips. She could walk with God.  She could eat from the tree of life. But she became insecure and decided she needed something else.

So many other stories of the Bible have the same theme. The Israelites whine in the desert because they don’t believe God will provide.  They don’t conquer the Promise Land because they don’t think God’s assistance will be enough. David goes after Bathsheba, even though he could basically have any unmarried woman he wants.  He counts his men, in spite of knowing that it has been God who has always been his winning edge.

And then look at how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness.  Satan tries to get him to think he needs more — he needs the stones to become bread.  I love how Jesus replies that the Word of God is what is really fulfilling!  I am so convinced that the way Jesus remained free of sin throughout his life was by believing strongly in the goodness of God.  Remembering this helps me to be the same way.

The nature of Satan.  He is “crafty.”

sneaky

That nasty tempter is soooo clever!  So sneaky and diabolical! As a serpent, he came up with this fine sensible sounding argument to convince Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.  He didn’t make sin look obvious.  He made it look like a reasonable choice.

Thus, we are warned in the New Testament to guard ourselves against Satan’s treacherous plots. Jesus tells us to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Paul says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11.  See also II Cor 2:11 and I Peter 5:8)

 He is a liar.  Satan lied to Eve in the Garden, and lies have been his modus operandi ever since. One of the most blatant examples of this is in I Kings 22 where God confers with the heavenly host on how to bring about the downfall of Ahab.  One of the host (almost certainly the Devil) steps forward and says, “I will go out and be a spirit that tells lies through the mouths of all of Ahab’s prophets.”  God approves of this plan and authorizes its execution.

Jesus said in John 8:44, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out his desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, refusing to uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, because he is a liar and the father of lies.”  

He is an accuser.  Why were Adam and Eve so afraid that they hid from God? Why did they think they couldn’t come before God in their weakness?  I might be stretching it a bit, but I think they heard that whisper of censure, the voice of Satan, that says, “You scum!  God is so going to blast you.  He’s going to hate you now.”

Satan thinks the worst of us.  He told God about Job, “Now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”  Job 1:11.  He was even critical of Jesus, “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.” Zech 3:10

The good news of the New Testament is that Satan can no longer accuse those who are saved!  “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. . .” ( Col 1:22)

And the end of the story is that accuser is going down!  “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, he who accuses them day and night before our God.’”  (Rev 12:1)

Let’s pray —

Father, help me to see the schemes and the lies of Satan.  Help me not to let Satan accuse me. I am especially struggling with this temptation/situation: ___________________.   Help me not to hide, but to bring it into the light before you so you can give me wisdom and power.  Help me not to feel ashamed, but to talk to a friend about it, so they can pray for me and help me unravel the tangles of deception. 

Father, I am rejoicing, I am dancing in my heart, that I can be holy, without blemish and free from accusation.  I am utterly grateful before you.  Help me to carry this with me throughout my day.

God, I know you are GOOD!!!   You are the light, in you is no darkness at all. Help me to believe in your goodness especially in this area where I am so tempted to doubt: __________________.  Help me to know that you are ENOUGH!  I so often don’t feel like I am enough.  I want to come to you and KNOW that you are the source of all sufficiency.  

Father, thank you that you believe the best in us.  Help me believe in the best in you.

In the name of Jesus, amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Battle Against Evil, Old Testament Survey, Uncategorized

Setting our Orbit

‘You have seen for yourselves what I did to Egypt and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to my mountain. If you carefully obey me and are faithful to the terms of my promise, then out of all the nations you will be my own special possession, even though the whole world is mine. You will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.'”  Ex 19:4-6

This passage says that God will cherish Israel when the people are faithful and obey the laws. It was very interesting to have a class about the laws of the Old Testament this week.  We learned the purpose of the laws was to help the Israelites know how to live.  The purpose was also to shape them into a people who would be God’s very own.

Orbit

The universe is designed to work with God at its center.  When people follow God, their life is in harmony with His will and it goes well for them.  God doesn’t have people follow Him because He is a megalomaniac.  He wants to help them to go in the way that is best for them.

The same is true for our hearts.  Our heart, our soul, is designed to work with God at its center.  This is when we will be filled with joy and peace.

Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.  Heb. 3:10

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…  Matt 6:19

The thing is, our hearts stray towards other things.   We love God, but it is very hard for us to believe that enjoying the things of the world can be harmful.

I was reading the Ten Commandments this week, and I was puzzled by the last one:  “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

I thought, “Why is it such a sin to want what your neighbor has?  How is this so harmful that it would be listed in main list of ten rules to follow?”

As I have studied it out, I am realizing what a deceptive gravitational pull the things of the world can have on our heart.

Gravitational Pull

Here are some verses I found:

  • “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”  Luke 12:15
  • Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  Heb 13:5
  • Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.  Ecc 4:6
  • How hard it is for a rich man to get into heaven.  Matt 19:23
  • ….For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt 6:21
  • …the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.  Mark 4:19
  • But among you there must not be even a hint… of greed … For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a person is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Eph 5:3-4

Why is coveting so harmful?  Part of the answer is in Romans 13:9 — The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

COVETING IS DESTRUCTIVE TO OUR RELATIONSHIPS.  It is not loving your neighbor as yourself.  It is not wanting good things for others, it is wanting them for yourself.   And when you want put yourself ahead of your neighbor, it will affect your relationship with them.

COVETING IS DESTRUCTIVE TO OUR INNER SELF.  We begin to believe that happiness and self worth come from possessions.  Our security is tied to having the right clothes, the right appearance, the right job, the right house, the right achievements.  God wants so much to gather us in his arms and fill us with good things, meet our needs, sooth our fears.

This can be true for me.  I just bought a new dress for the office party because I was insecure with ones I have.  I still struggle with looking at other houses and wishing for them.  I see the accomplishments of others and I feel my heart twist.

Here is what our attitude should be: money is just a means to an end. “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”  (Luke 16:9)  We use it to practice hospitality.  We use it to have a well groomed appearance so the gospel we speak is well received.   We use it to provide for those in need.  We use it to celebrate the life God has given us.  We use it, in a reasonable way, to rest and recharge for more works of service.

Orbital

I read that on the moon, if you shoot a bullet just right, the gravity of the moon and the lack of air resistance will cause it to continue all around the moon in an orbit.  In the same way, when we get rid of the resistance of the world and have God at our center, we can continually act in a Godly manner.

Our life needs to revolve around God.  Poor in spirit, our hearts must be pulled to him in desperate recognition that only He can provide what we need.   May Ps 73 be our mantra:

…But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. . . 
When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Leave a comment

Filed under Old Testament Survey, Relationship with God, Synchonicity

Don’t Forget Those Glasses!

glasses craft

This is what the Sovereign Lord says. . . “When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused . . . I will execute judgment on him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him.  And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”  Selections from Ez 38

Who is Gog?  No one knows for sure.  But this verse illustrates for us one thing we can know.  God is with his people and fiercely protects them.

As I was running this morning I thought of how I have lost sight of this.  When I pray, I haven’t been having the faith that God is going to work the situation out.  It may be because sometimes I have felt bad physically, been tired, and haven’t been able to think clearly.   When I have needed God to give me a clear head, it hasn’t always happened.  God doesn’t always change our physiological circumstances.

But God’s grace has been sufficient.  I have gotten through one day at a time.  I am feeling somewhat better in health. I am excited that we have candidates to be permanent leaders in our church.  Several of the women we have been studying with want to get baptized.

God HAS been with me, even in my weakness!!!  Let me not be like the Israelites:

And he (Moses) called the place Massah and Meribahbecause the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”  Ex 17:7

Here is the source of my faith:  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5  Nothing in my life is going to go right unless I am close to Jesus.  When I embrace him throughout the day, things will work out.

Jake preached a great sermon on Sunday about seeing with eyes of faith.  He used this passage from II Kings 6:  And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  Jake asked us, “What would you do differently if you really believed God is with you?”  I have been asking myself that this week.  I am not sure.  But I know I don’t have the confidence I need to have.

I will give you every place where you set your foot . . . No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Be strong and courageous…  Joshua 1:3-6

Be strong.  Be courageous.  I second guess myself too much.  I am too quick to feel defeated.  Let me go out instead with boldness.  I am God’s daughter, I am chosen by him, I am a part of his priesthood, his anointed.  Of course He is with me!  Of course He is fighting for me!

God takes it personally when His people are in distress.  In Exodus, after the Amalekites attacked the Israelites and were defeated, the account tells us, “Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner.  He said, “Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”  Ex 17:15-16  

David said of Goliath, “Who is this uncircumcised philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”  I Sam 17:26

When people contend with us, they contend with God!

This Sunday, we are teaching the story of the 12 spies who went to investigate the Promise Land.  For the craft, each child will make and decorate a pair of glasses that will be their “eyes of faith” to help them see like Joshua and Caleb, that God is bigger than whatever they fear.

PaperGlassFrame5

Let us all put on our eyes of faith.  We need to persevere and believe that God is with us, even when it seems He is not.  I was talking to someone yesterday who has for years been one of just a handful of disciples where he lives.  He was excited to share that finally there are plans to plant a church in his city.

I will post a picture soon of my tomato plant.  I planted it in the summer from seeds.  It grew and grew, but never had any tomatoes.  Then, a few weeks ago, it actually started to produce fruit!  Now, in cold November, I have a tomato that is red and ripe, and several more that are growing.  I think and hope that this tomato plant is a symbol for my life, that sometimes it seems like nothing is working, but in time, if I keep on, the harvest will come.  Amen.  We will stand in awe.  To God be the glory.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ezekiel, Faith, Old Testament Survey, Uncategorized

Friend #12 — Keep on Going

GRAVITY

I am still making friends.

I’ve met some interesting people.  Carol and I met a motorcycle grandma who showed us the tattoo she got back before tattoos were cool.  I met a sweet blond haired store clerk at Good Will whose job used to be to teach motorcycle safety to soldiers.  I talked with the guy at the license tag counter about musicals of all things — which ones he and I and seen recently, and which ones we wanted to see.  I got to know the nail technician from Vietnam as she gave me a pedicure and talked to me in broken English.  So many of the manicurists stay to themselves.  This one cared about me, asked me about my life, and told me about hers.  She has been in Auburn 5 months and is lonely for her mother, father and grandmother back home.

I have been working on relationships.  Our married group had a game night last night and I invited all sorts of people.  None of them came, but I had a great conversation with a friend I met when I worked for the school of pharmacy.  I exchanged funny texts with my next door neighbor that I don’t know very well about our husbands who don’t really like to play cards.  I got back in touch with the used car salesman I met, and he thanked me for the invitation, even though he and his wife already had plans.

None of these interactions bore visible fruit.  But I am going to keep on going.  We are going to keep on going.  Alicia couldn’t find the game night last night.  But instead of getting discouraged, she went to the library.  She texted me, “I made a friend there, like you make friends. :)”

Ken and I went to see “Gravity” this evening.  What impressed me about the movie is how Sandra Bullock’s character, Dr. Ryan Stone, kept on going.  At one point she did get discouraged and even gave up, but without giving away the movie, she found the inspiration and strength to make a bold attempt to save her life.  And this led to her continuing to make heroic efforts to keep on going until the end.

We are going to keep on going to the end, by God’s grace. We will keep caring about people.  We will live out I Peter 1:22, “Love each other with a warm love that comes from the heart. After all, you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth. As a result you have a sincere love for each other.” I Peter 1:22 (God’s Word Translation)

Today I had a great quiet time that started with Exodus 19:5-6: “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

God wants to bring people close to him to be the apple of his eye, the joy of his heart, his treasured possession.
This is as true for me, and for people today, as it was in the day of Moses. 

  • But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” I Peter 2:9

This is a powerful motivation.  Let me keep on going in spite of the challenges I’ve been experiencing.  Let me focus on all the things God is doing — the baptism last weekend, the Bible studies I’ve been a part of, answered prayer — and stand in awe.

(SPOILER ALERT**)  At the end of “Gravity,” Ryan Stone, who had never prayed in her life because no one had ever taught her, clasps the earth once more in her hands and says, “Thank you.”

Thank you, God.  Thank you for getting us this far.  Thank you for saving our lives.

Thank you that we can express our gratitude and enrich our lives by making friends.  May they come to know, as we do, the immeasurable wonders and riches of God.

Leave a comment

Filed under A Friend A Day, Grace, Old Testament Survey, One Another Relationships

The Place of In-Between

It is hard to be in the place of in-between.

Yesterday I was reading a chapter in “How to Study the Bible for All It’s Worth.”  It talked about how focused the Jewish people were during the time of Jesus on the coming of the kingdom of God.  They thought it was something that was going to happen all at once, like a magic day when everything would be changed.  The book discussed how the early Christians had to deal with a changed paradigm — that the kingdom was not something that came all at once, but something that had begun and was developing.  They had some of the blessings of the kingdom, but the ultimate fulfillment was still to come.  They were living in an in-between time.

It struck me how much all of us are living in an in-between time.  Here in Auburn we are waiting for the church to become a large stable church.  In my own life I have people I am praying for to become Christians.  I have ways I need to grow, and I see ways others need to grow.  We are all stuck in the middle of our journey.

God often placed people in the place of in-between.  Abraham wandered in the desert and it took years for God to fulfill his promise of a child to him.  Joseph spent years in prison.  The Israelites wandered in the desert.  Later, the Jewish nation was taken into captivity.   Then there were 400 years of silence from God, without prophets, before Jesus came.

The thing that is frustrating about being in-between is that you see so much that needs to happen to get to place you want to go.  For me, there are people to reach out to, people to study with, people to build relationships with, people to shepherd.  I can get overwhelmed.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed–or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:41-42

I can be like Martha, even in serving God.  I get more focused on thing things I need to do, than on the heart that needs to go behind the things to do.

One thing done well, out of love and faith, is good.  One prayer for someone that is conducted out of genuine concern and acknowledgement that I stand in awe of how God will work.  One phone call to express how much I care.  One act of love towards God.

In Ezekiel 36, God had a magnificent promise for the Israelites who were in the place of in-between.  “Therefore, O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Sovereign Lord. He speaks to the hills and mountains, ravines and valleys, and to ruined wastes and long-deserted cities that have been destroyed and mocked by the surrounding nations… the mountains of Israel will produce heavy crops of fruit for my people—for they will be coming home again soon! I will greatly increase the population of Israel, and the ruined cities will be rebuilt and filled with people. ….I will make you even more prosperous than you were before. Then you will know that I am the Lord.

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.  And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”

God gives us what we need to get through the dry barren places on our spiritual journey. Here are some things we can know while we are in the place of in-between.

To know that Your hand is upon us…

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.  Ps 139:9-10

To know that Your focus is upon us…

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.  Isa 49:16

To know that Your help is always there for us…

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,  Ps 46:1-2

To know that Your good purpose will always prevail…

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”  Ps 46:10

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Phil 1

 

2 Comments

Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Old Testament Survey, Patience, Relationship with God

Stand in Awe

Stand in awe.

“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Ex 14:13-14

Sometimes I go from fear to fear.  I am anxious about something.  When it is resolved I feel so much better.  But then I move on to the next thing I fear, waiting for it to be resolved.

Instead, I should stand in awe always, reverent before the Almighty, merciful, faithful God, waiting to be amazed by Him.

I am in awe at how we have a baptism today, how God has brought this girl so far.  I am in awe that there were 15 people at the young professionals event last night, that God is working so mightily in that area.  I am in awe with how God helped a long time situation to get resolved and now the person involved is being so effective.  I see so many areas where God is working.

Today, instead of praying in fear, let me be on my knees in my heart, in quietness, in anticipation, in respect for Him.

Look how God has worked in the past:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that My wonders will be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”…  Ex 11:9

“At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt.” Ex 12:41

One of my favorite Exodus verses I came across this week is this one:

“That night the LORD kept watch to take them out of Egypt. (All Israelites in future generations must keep watch on this night, since it is dedicated to the LORD.)”  Ex 12:42

The Lord keeps watch over our darkest nights.

I remember one night when I was around 20, and I had a really bad stomach ache.  I woke up my dad and stepmom to see if they had something that could help me.  My dad stayed up with me for awhile to make sure I was feeling better. He held vigil with me.

There is something very comforting about someone holding vigil with you. When we took my mom off life support, my brother and I stayed at the hospital.  All night we would go into her room and talk to her, tell her it was okay.  I believe it was helpful to my mother.  I know it was helpful for me to have my brother with me there, and to not do it alone.

Jesus wanted his closest friends to hold vigil with him on his darkest night.

“Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matt 26:38

Although the friends could not give Jesus the support he needed, God provided it.  Jesus was strengthened to the point that he was able to go to the cross.  Satan did not win.  Although Jesus was crucified, the things that could be feared did not win out.  Instead, people stood in awe at the amazing way God worked through the resurrection.  People are still in awe of this to this day.

God keeps watch over our darkest night.

“He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. … The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; 8the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”  Ps 121

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  Ps 23

God holds vigil with us, and we need to do the same for Him.  How do we keep vigil with God today?  We remain alert always, always giving our best to Him instead of slacking off.

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. . . “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”  Matt 25:1-4, 13

Satan wants me to slack off.  He wants me to compromise. I call it spiritual entropy — we tend to wear down and head towards mediocrity over time.  One of the ways he does this is by distracting me with my fears.

And there are many things to fear.  There are wicked people. They do wreak havoc.

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  Matt 24:13

Stand firm to the end. Stand still. Stand in awe.  Stand like Paul did when he was taken in prison.  He sang instead of dwelling on his fears.  Stand like Jesus did when a storm came up and he was on the boat with his disciples.  He slept.  He was at peace.

God, you are awesome.  May I focus on that today.  May I wait for your glory to be revealed as is shall be, over and over again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Old Testament Survey, Uncategorized

Friend #9 — The Promised Land is There!

glucose drink

Tuesday I spent almost 5 hours at the doctor’s office getting a glucose tolerance test.  It wasn’t hard to get the sweet stuff down, but afterwards my digestive system wasn’t happy.  I spent the first hour or so in a haze, studying my Bible with my one-armed reading glasses or just playing scrabble when I felt too rotten to focus on anything else.  Then I started feeling better and I was able to be productive with my time — catching up with people by text or phone, looking for cars on my phone internet.  In the last hour I crashed.  They asked me how I felt, and I said I was getting a little lightheaded.  When I stood up, I was REALLY lightheaded.  The bland looking male nurse with his little goatee took a blood sugar reading and stated nonchalantly, “She’s done.”  It was 53 — way low! I was vaguely aware that he put a juice box in my hand and I sucked that thing down, and almost immediately started to feel better.

The good part about all of this is that I got to know the new lab technician.  I made a friend!  Her husband is in the military, and they moved here from Texas a few months ago.  She was genuinely caring, an honest person with no artifice about her.  Somehow as my head was spinning from the low sugar, I shared with her about our church and my life.  I learned about her story.  She lives in Columbus and I invited her to the Bible talk there.  We exchanged phone numbers.  The time ended on an encouraging note.  To God be the glory!

I read through several chapters of Exodus while I was in the waiting room.  What really struck me is how God always knew what the end of the story was going to be.  He told Abraham how the Israelites would be captive in Egypt, and then would be delivered.  He knew that the Israelites would one day possess the Promised Land.

But God didn’t just hand them the Promised Land on a platter.  He didn’t make it easy for them.  Right after they crossed the Red Sea he led them through the desert and they did not have water for three days.  When they finally found water, it was bitter.  Of course they began to doubt and complain.

I can relate so well to the whiny Israelites.  In the past few weeks I have found myself thinking worst case scenarios — maybe God wants me to go through some terrible health challenges, maybe I’ll get sued somehow for the car accident.  Sometimes I haven’t at all remembered that God is the deliverer, and He will see me through to the other side of this challenge.

BUT GOD IS THE DELIVERER.  HE WILL SEE US THROUGH EVERY CHALLENGE, AND TAKE US TO THE OTHER SIDE.  “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. . . You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance– the place, LORD, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established. Ex 15;13, 17

Here is the thing — the Promised Land is already there.  It’s waiting for us.  God knows it is there.  He just wants us to walk with Him and trust him through the times of hardship that will come, that it is on the other side.

And our destiny to become a super hero is already written.  I listened to a message recently on this.  We are God’s adopted children, the royal priesthood.  We have powerful ingredients, everything we need to become great for God.  Through life, if we follow Him, He will shape us into what He always intended for us to be.

God WILL be glorified. We can walk with Him, hand in hand, trusting in Him that GLORY is before us.  Or we can take the path of doubt and darkness, stress and bleakness.  “And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”  Ex 14:17-18

But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. II Tim 4:17-18

Leave a comment

Filed under A Friend A Day, Old Testament Survey, Uncategorized

Friend #8 — A Better Tomato

Today, my life seems intertwined with inspirations I have from my recent reading of the first chapters of Exodus — part of my ongoing OT survey.

GOD IS IN THE GROWING BUSINESS. But the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.”  (Ex 1:6-7)  “But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied”  1:12)  So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous.”  (1:20)

Here is a picture of my tomato plants.  IMG_4048 I started them from seeds.  They almost didn’t make it, but then they began to grow.  I put them on a little stake.  They grew more.  I put in a larger stake.  They kept growing.  And finally I bought this frame for them to grow on.  My tomato plants love to grow.  But they haven’t produced any tomatoes!  Yes, they’ve  bloomed.  Yes, I’ve fertilized them– with Miracle Gro, no less!  But they still don’t have any “fruit.”

God grew the Israelite community better than I’ve grown my tomato plants.  It’s amazing.  He took a handful of desert men, put them in Egypt, and made them into thousands upon thousands of Israelites.

How does He do it?  Ken and I watched the 30th anniversary video from the New York Church of Christ.  They started with just a few people, and not only became a large church, they helped start numerous churches all over the world!  I want to see that happen here.

The thing is, God knows how to put people in the places where they will grow.  Who would have thought that Egypt would be the place God would put his people in order to have them multiply?    And I need to TRUST that God has put me in the best place for me to grow!  As I said in my last blog, I’ve been going back over Ps. 23.  All of the aspects of the Psalm tell me that God sets me up to win.  “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,…He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”

So I continue to “plant” and “water” in the place God has put me.  Today the afternoon was getting late, and I hadn’t made any new friends, so I decided to start the process of looking for a car.  I went to the Hyundai dealership and met a salesman named Stephen.  Stephen is a great guy.  He’s only lived in Auburn for a month.  He and his young wife moved here to start working on his doctorate in educational psychology.  He was very appreciative when I invited him to church, he said it’s the first time he’s been invited anywhere since he moved here.  I think he and his wife would really enjoy hanging out with the other young couples at church.

I am not sure if I will buy a car from Stephen.  He actually did show me a good deal or two.  I am not sure if he will come to church.  But I do believe that God is working.  “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. (Mark 4:27)

Here are a couple of other reflections I had after reading Exodus.

Sometimes, times of challenge are needed to help us to grow.  God allows us to go through periods of “bondage” so that we will see how much we need Him.  “During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”  (Ex 2:23-25)

If the Israelites had not gone through bondage, they would not have realized that they need a deliverer.  Their relationship with God would have been profoundly different.  It is the same for me.  I have been going through some challenges.  I realize more and more that it is only by the grace of God that I am where I am, and I am so grateful for the many times He has delivered me, for the smallest of blessings along the way.

WHOLEHEARTED WORSHIP IS ALWAYS THE OBJECTIVE. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”  (Ex 3:12) “Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’ ”  (Ex 5:1)

Why was God so insistent that the Israelites travel to the wilderness to worship Him?  Why could they not worship Him where they were, like we go to church to worship God?    I have been distracted lately, and I think that helps me understand why God wanted the Israelites to go to the wilderness to worship Him.    I have been amazed at how consuming the things I have been going through are.  It’s a battle to remember what I feel is really important, and to devote time to these things.

So I expect, as slaves, it would have been very difficult for the Israelites to really focus on God.  They were in survival mode.  They had to please their masters.  No wonder God wanted them out of that situation, into a place where they could give Him their devoted attention.

God is always going to work in our lives to bring us to a place where we can be more devoted to him.   I told Ken right after the car accident, “I think God is starting a period of transition for me.”  I don’t know what this transition is.  But I know His goal is to refine me, bring me closer to Him, and enrich me immeasurably.

I hate spinning my wheels, putting in much work and getting nowhere.  I am thankful that although I grow my garden imperfectly, God is the master gardener.  He is growing me, and growing His work here, in just the right way.

1 Comment

Filed under A Friend A Day, Old Testament Survey

The Immutable Plan of God

“He (Jacob) blessed Joseph, and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, The angel who has delivered me from all harm, Bless the lads; And may my name live on in them, And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”…Gen 48:16

There is such a heavy sense of importance in this blessing.  Jacob has a profound conviction that it is God who has been the center of his life.  His heritage from his father and grandfather is God.  His guiding force in life is God.  He credits where he is to God — that he hasn’t been harmed or killed.

Jacob sees clearly that his responsibility is to continue God’s plan through his lineage.  He takes the business of blessing very seriously.  What is God’s plan?  That the descendents would be multiply prolifically, and that rulers would come from their midst.  Thus, Jacob blesses Joseph’s children that they would become a multitude, and that they would perpetuate the purpose of the patriarchs,  the purpose of God.  Jacob’s blessing to Joseph reflects how clearly he sees that God has had his hand on Joseph, and it commends Joseph for maintaining his integrity through all of his trials.

Joseph is a fruitful vine,…With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you…with blessings of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and womb.  Gen 49:22-25

There is a theme here — those who have lived their lives with integrity are blessed with the privilege of having God’s plan work through them and their descendents.  Those who made bad choices are left out of this.  Reuben slept with his father’s concubine and so did not get the rights of the first born.  Simeon and Levi avenged their sister’s rape with much bloodshed, and jeopardized the relations of Jacob’s tribe with the surrounding tribes.  Their blessing is more of a curse.

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.” Gen 49:10

Judah, the fourth son, gets the most important heritage.  From his offspring will come a ruler.  It is interesting to note that God made sure that Judah had a worthy son to carry this out.  Er, Judah’s first born, was wicked and the Lord put him to death.  The second son, Onan, wouldn’t produce an heir with Er’s wife, so he was put to death also.  Finally Er’s wife, Tamar, tricked Judah into getting her pregnant, and it is one of the two twins born, Perez, who becomes the ancestor of King David.  (Genesis 38)

All of this gives me peace and confidence in God.  He has always had a plan.  His plan has always prevailed.  He has zealously and faithfully guarded and watched over His plan’s implementation.

And today I believe we are still carrying out this plan.  Our purpose is also to multiply — to go and make disciples of all nations.  Our purpose also involves establishing a ruler — Christ.  We need to lead every knee to bow to him.

As God was with the patriarchs, God will surely also be with us, to establish his plan and expand it ever more.  May we make right choices and be worthy, and may His grace be sufficient.  May the confidence of Joseph speak to us through our trials —

  • “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”  Gen 50:20
  • “I am about to die.  But surely God will come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”  50:24

“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit”  Zech 4:6

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Old Testament Survey

Themes from Joseph

Joseph’s story wasn’t just this random tale set amongst the other stories of the Bible.  It was a very pivotal set of occurrences that needed to happen to bring about God’s plan, which stretched far into the future.  It is amazing to think that as far back as Abram, even before he was Abraham, God articulated the plan He would bring into effect in the vast reaches of the future —

“As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him.  Then the Lord said to him, ‘Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.’”  (Genesis 15:12-15)

Everything that happened to Joseph led to the implementation of God’s plan.  He had dreams, which made him even more unpopular with his brothers.  His brothers sold him into slavery, which led to him being in Egypt, the stage on which God would make the number of Abraham’s descendents multiply to thousands upon thousands.

And all along it was up to Joseph to keep his integrity.  As long as he did, God was with him, and prospered him.  This is one of my biggest themes for life — that if you persevere in doing the right thing, giving it your best, it will work out.  If you give up or give in, things aren’t as good.  When I first worked after my college graduation, I worked at a daycare.  It started out being a really rough job.  But I tried to do an excellent job, and I was able to move up through the ranks to have a better position there and be able to enjoy by job more.  When things fell apart in our church in 2003, it was hard.  But we held onto what we knew was best, and kept trying to do the right thing.  Now we feel like we have been blessed beyond measure.

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered.”  Gen 39:2

“When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.”  Gen 39:4

(Joseph said to Potiphar’s wife when she tempted him) “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”  Gen 39:9

Being righteous did not keep Joseph from trials.  In fact, God used these trials to prove Joseph’s character, and to bring about His plan.  And STILL, Joseph maintained his integrity, and God blessed him.

 “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.”  Gen 39:20-22

Joseph remained humble and gave glory to God.

(Regarding giving an interpretation for Pharoh’s dream) “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires . . . The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.” Gen 41:16, 32

And because of this, people saw God, that He was real. 

 “Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”

I pray that God will work through me, as I give glory to Him, and that people can see that He is real.

It is so encouraging to see how God poured out blessings on Joseph, and healed his heart of the pain caused by the trying times.

“Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”  Gen 41:51-52

This is awesome!  It is powerful.  Joseph never forgot God.  He was the only one in the land of Egypt who worshiped God.  It had been so hard for him to be hated by his brothers, treated badly by them, separated from all he loved.  Yet he held to God, and after long years of trials, God blessed him in a way that began to heal him.  He gave Joseph a family of his own, people to finally love him.  It does my heart so much good to see this.

Finally, Joseph is reunited with his brothers, and after testing them to see if their hearts are still hard towards him, he weeps to have his family with him once more.  The brothers have changed, they have learned their lesson.  Joseph is able to see the big picture, that he went through difficult times, but it has all worked out for the good.  I couldn’t help but shed some tears too, as I read the culmination of the story of Joseph.  It is a happy ending.  The brothers are able to get past their guilt.  Jacob is able to see the son he had grieved over for years.  Joseph can not only have his beloved family with him, but provide for them and their future.  Most importantly, he can see that he is honored by God by being a part of God’s great plan.

“And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”  Gen 45:5-7

CAN I HAVE THIS KIND OF FAITH, that no matter what happens to me — illness, lack of success, the loss of loved ones —  I believe God is still prospering His will through my life?  I have seen God heap his blessings on me after times of heartbreak, after years of grief.  As I think of the story of Joseph, may it remind me of the character of God, and how He has worked in my life in similar ways.

The themes of the story of Joseph are the same as through all of Genesis — that God works his plan through righteous men who maintain their integrity through trials, and that God wants to bless immeasurably those who follow him.  I have loved this study of Genesis, where I see the connections in the Bible more than I ever had.  It used to be that the stories were flat to me, only mildly interesting.  It didn’t make a lot of sense why they were a part of the Biblical narrative, and why they occurred as they did.  I am finally seeing them as bright stars that are a part of the constellation of meaning in the Bible.  I see God revealed through them, and his awesomeness reinforced through them.  I am excited to continue this Old Testament survey!

Leave a comment

Filed under Old Testament Survey