Fire is God’s Cleansing Agent

wildfire-exodus 5 to7aExodus 5 -7 “It’s All Your Fault!” God!  How often do we echo those words of Moses to God when, after being obedient, there is still no change in the circumstances? How often do we also echo what Moses says: “if the Israelites did not listen to me, then how will Pharaoh listen to me since I am of uncircumcised lips.”  Isaiah said much the same: “My lips are contaminated by sin.” Without God’s intervention, we are in this condition and why we need the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit which comes to us with a burning coal or the burning bush or the flaming tongues of fire as in Acts.

God uses fire as a remedy for the purification of our sin just like controlled burns cleanse the land of that which is combustible. Without each, our sins remain and the combustible trash of the forest is fodder for a raging fire.

Moses had to return figuratively to the burning bush for cleansing when impetuously he whined: “It is all your fault, God! Why did you send me? You have not rescued them!” Thankfully God did not strike him dead on the spot like He did Ananias and Sapphira!  Instead, God was gracious and patient and He is the same to you and me! Moses needed more instruction so God graciously said: “now you will see…”

We may not understand but one lesson we can apply is from Habakkuk: I will stand still and see what the Lord will do.

 

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Jacob’s Love Gift

cup of love2aGenesis 47-50  One thing children need is a loving hug, a touch, and words of affirmation. Joseph had all of that until his unfortunate incident with his brothers and then it was off to Egypt and prison. But, that early childhood upbringing, although seen as favoritism by his brothers, was one of the reasons Joseph was able to face the trauma in Egypt.

As we study the lives of children who have been mistreated, over and over we see that the early formative years either protect them in hard circumstances or they falter and even sometimes break. Joseph weathered the storm with grace. He could have flaunted his high position and brought severe consequences upon his brothers for what they had done to him, but he didn’t. Could it have been that he not only understood the principle of Romans 8:28 which says “all things work together for good to them that love the Lord” but also Joseph was able to draw from his cup of love Jacob had filled.

Children are not only our heritage but a precious gift from God and Jacob knew that and why he spent over and abundantly upon this child of promise. Jacob only knew this: he loved Joseph. As a parent, we only know that giving of the cup of love to a child from the very first endears them to our heart. But it also becomes a reservoir to help them in times of need.

Think about that as you are raising your children. Be sure they know that they are loved, cherished, and cared for from the first to the last. Each child needs that precious gift only a parent can give.

Have you offered the cup of love to a child today?

 

The Callous Heart is Softened

genesis 43 to 36 god at work2aGenesis 43-46 What does it take to soften a heart but the separation from loved ones for several years? In those years God has been at work in the heart of Judah and the heart of Joseph. Judah brought great grief to his father Jacob and no amount of consoling brought him relief; Joseph was gone and he could not be consoled. He gave up all hope so when Judah wanted to take Benjamin to get more grain in Egypt it was the last straw. While that scenario was happening back in Canaan Joseph had sat in the dark of the dungeon until one day God intervened and now he sat second in command.

In each case, we can see by reading these stories that God is the one who orchestrates our days and our times that He will get the glory. He will move heaven and earth to get Judah to repent and to use the dreams He gave Joseph to show Himself true. As bystanders in all of this we listen with the brothers as Judah, having convinced Jacob to take Benjamin with him, now stands before Joseph unaware that he is fulfilling Joseph’s dreams. His repentance is forthcoming and our hearts break with him as he pours forth the story so that the missing years of Joseph’s life are filled in. We weep with Joseph as our hearts are broken for our brother Judah. But we also see how Joseph’s faith has not only strengthened him but gave him hope all these years.

Four times Joseph honors God: God sent me ahead to preserve you. Imagine Judah listening to all of this! You may see yourself wondering how your present trial will turn out.  Hangest thou in there; Romans 8:28 is true! “all things work together for good”  God will be honored in His time and place.

“A Bad “Hair” Day in the Palace”

calendar pages gen 40Genesis 40-42  Wonder what life in Pharaoh’s Palace was like? We need to look no further than these chapters before us. There is intrigue, questions about loyalty and the power of the scepter! Sounds much like the story of Esther where a despot ruled and people fell or rose according to his whim. This is not nirvana but real life. There is suffering, desire and the tempers that must be soothed. While the cupbearer and the baker walked the palace halls, Joseph walked the prison floors. All three will become entwined just because Pharaoh had a “bad hair day” so it was off to the dungeon where they met Joseph their newly appointed attendant. Even palace prisoners have a hierarchy it seems.

Committed to this prison for a crime he did not commit, Joseph weathered this trial with dignity, honor, and integrity no matter what the circumstances were. Now with the opportunity to testify to the power of Elohim as opposed to the idol gods of Egypt, Joseph asked the cupbearer to remember him when he stood before Pharaoh but as we shall see, once again dreams were dashed. As each day passed and the calendar pages turned, Joseph could not see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Sometimes life is like that with us. We weather a storm only to have it come around again and again. Joseph teaches us that we take it one day at a time and that is what we have to do. We must trust that God is in this storm even if we can’t see or understand until eternity.

Are you prepared to remain faithful as he did?

 

 

Horse Blinders & God’s Provision of Joy

eye-2a genesisGenesis 37 to 39 James says to count it all joy when we fall into various trials. Joy is a product of our walk and should be a 24/7 expectation of good even when it comes at us quickly or without warning. Let’s see how this is revealed in the life of Joseph.

He was sent to check on his brothers and had no inkling of their mindset. How could he have missed that when he shared his dreams and heard their mocking? It must have not given him any cause for worry because when Jacob sent him to do this task he said, I am ready! How like us!

Close-up of eye of a horse

It seems that sometimes we say or do things and walk about as if we have horse blinders on! We fail to perceive the reactions of others and Joseph did as well.

So imagine his shock when they took him and put him into a cistern thinking “out of sight, out of mind.” Later the brothers would recall: “we saw how distressed he was when he cried to us for mercy.” And yet his cries fell on deaf ears. Unbeknownst to them, God’s plan was just beginning as Joseph would recount later to them.

Sold as a slave into Egypt we find Joseph facing the temptation of the wicked wife of Potiphar and being moved from Potiphar’s house to prison with shackles. Yet, by doing so, God removed the temptation and her ongoing pressure. Instead of asking why is this happening to me, Joseph began to see how God was protecting him. Instead of grumbling and complaining, he counted it all joy.

When we don’t understand do we do ask God to give us wisdom? 

Do we ask God to show us what He is doing so we can count it all joy?

The Fear Factor

nicole-honeywill-gen 32Genesis 32-33 The writer of Proverbs wrote: the fear of man is a snare.  [Prov 29:25]It is the tool of our archenemy. He uses it as bait to catch us from trusting God. Jacob was caught in that snare because of his past history with Esau. Having left home and burned his bridges behind him after deceiving his father Isaac into getting the family blessing, he now obediently steps out to return to Canaan. He is facing his past with fear and trepidation. How will Esau respond to his overture? Perhaps you are in a similar situation. You left home under less than admirable circumstances or something similar. Your fear factor has risen to exorbitant heights and you feel helpless and as Jacob said, unworthy to even rekindle a relationship. Take a cue from Jacob.

Jacob’s fear was so great that he divided his family and spent a night alone in prayer. He reminded God of his promises, his obedience to return, and his fear. That’s what we have to do; be honest with God and spend time in prayer. You may feel helpless against the odds before you but if you turn to God for His help and His leading He is willing to hear, to see and He cares. Jacob laid his cards on the table before God. When we are overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, perplexed be assured that He is listening. “Pray to me when you are in trouble! I will deliver you, and you will honor me!” [Ps 50:15]

 

A Pot boils over….

boiling-pot gen 31Genesis 31 Today’s world mirrors what we see in the lives of Jacob and Laban. Neither were men of integrity, the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. One will come to be after some testing while the other will remain steadfastly ignorant of the ways of God and His refining work.

Because Jacob lacked this quality, God placed Jacob in the school of the boiling pot with Uncle Laban being the cook. God allowed Jacob to simmer in Laban’s pot for 26+ yrs. for two wives and 2 concubines so he would learn what God desired. Like a pot that finally comes to boil, Jacob’s emotions boiled over. Jacob and his wives came to understand that Laban would never change. A deceiver will be a deceiver unless God changes their heart. And so Jacob chose to leave surreptitiously while Laban was away. Laban’s true character is revealed when he became furious, not that Jacob and his children were gone, but his idols were missing! Even so, God, in his mercy reached out to Laban speaking to him how to face Jacob.

There are some lessons in this story. The first one is that without God’s intervention, we all are similar to both men. Secondly, God blesses men of integrity but those who are not will face God’s refining fire with the purpose of a heart change.  Thirdly, God can and will protect those He has called from those who are not.

So where are you in this story? Perhaps this prayer of David’s is fitting: “Examine me, O Lord, and test me! Evaluate my inner thoughts and motives.” [Ps 26:2]

 

 

“God sees, God hears, God cares”

aaron-burdenbook genesis 29a

Genesis 29:31 -35  What do Hagar and Leah have in common? Both, like some women today, were taken advantage of by those who used them as means to an end. Both felt abandoned, alone, and in need of affirmation. Both faced circumstances that took away their dignity. You might feel the same and are in need of God’s love and affirmation and you wonder how God could allow this. The prophet Habakkuk saw his beloved Jerusalem being overtaken by wicked men and he, like these women, wondered how God could stand by and let this happen. Where are you God? Do you see my circumstances?  Habakkuk said I won’t quit, I remain firm, I will keep watching so I can “see” what the Lord will do.

Hagar sat in the wilderness and God came and answered her “why” with words of affirmation. I will make this son a great nation. God saw Leah’s circumstances and heard her words “the Lord has taken pity on my oppressed condition” and then again “Because the Lord heard that I was unloved,” and then again “now this time my husband will show me affection.” But, it was not until the fourth child, Levi, was born that she came to realize the truth of Jeremiah’s words spoken by God:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love. That is why I have continued to be faithful to you.”

Wherever you are, Beloved, know this truth: you are loved! God will always remain faithful to you even if others are not. Beloved, be a Habakkuk so you can see what the Lord will do.

 

A Bride for Isaac and a Bride for Jesus

weddingds gen 24aGenesis 24  Who doesn’t love a wedding? They are beautiful but weddings are the end of courtship and planning. The bride is one who is sought but the groom is the one who shoulders the family after consummation.  Reading carefully through this chapter we encounter a servant sent to acquire a bride, a bride and then the groom. All of it is beautifully choreographed by the hand of God and we are the spectators to it all. The star in all of this is without a doubt the senior servant of Abraham sent to acquire a bride for his son. It is his life of devotion, prayer, and obedience that mirrors our Savior. He is doing much like what Jesus did. He made an oath to obey the Father to seek a bride. He swore to not take a wife of the Hittites because they were unbelievers.  His life was a life of prayer in his ongoing and when he reached the land of Abraham’s family.

Jesus is like the servant in this story seeking a bride to bring home. He does nothing without spending time in prayer. He worshipped and praised God just as this servant when the bride was found.  The servant brings the bride home and Jesus will bring us home to the Father and one day he will say:

Rejoice with me because I have found my bride!

Who are you in the story? Are you the bride waiting for your groom? Are you the servant doing the master’s bidding? Are you praying about it?

 

“Presumptuous Sins”

fear god not mana

This is one of those chapters that you need to read before you assume you understand and know what really happened.

So stop here and read: Genesis 20 

Abraham, what were you thinking when you told Abimelech that Sarah was your sister? Did you not learn from your foray into Egypt? If you have forgotten what Abraham did there you can find that story in the last half of Genesis 12.   How often do we find ourselves doing another lap around the wilderness like the Israelites because we fail to learn from the first mistake and just keep repeating it? It is no wonder unbelievers call us hypocrites! Our walk and talk do not match. Maybe that is why God had the Israelites come to the Tabernacle at least 3 times a year to offer sacrifices. Those were visual reminders of men’s failure to walk circumspectly. We too need constant reminding to keep short accounts with God.

Abraham presumed that of which he only surmised when he said: “surely I thought no one fears God in this place.” Without firsthand knowledge he presumed. Because David saw that as his weakness he wrote: [Ps 19:13] “keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me;” There is a warning here that Abraham should have known but his fear for self-preservation was greater than his fear of God! Lesson learned: do not assume without facts. Fear God more than what man can do to you. Jesus reminded the disciples of this: “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more they can do.[Luk 12:4]  Abraham said he believed God but his life revealed that he feared men more than God. Beware of this sin! The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted. [Prov 29:25]

God was gracious to both Abraham and Abimelech but think of what could have been avoided had Abraham just trusted God! Fear God and trust Him only.   God’s grace is getting good things we don’t deserve and that is what happened to Abraham. He deserved a scathing rebuke and more from Abimelech but instead, Abimelech merely scolded Abraham. How gracious was Abimelech to him! How gracious is our God to us!

Think about it~