Monthly Archives: January 2011

Today’s Defeat Is Tomorrow’s Victory


Daily Bible Reading – Exodus 28,29; Acts 7

“Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built the house for him. “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?’ “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.” When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:44-60)

The members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen had accused Stephen of blasphemy (the same charge against Jesus) and brought him before the Sanhedrin for trial.  When the high priest asked Stephen if the charges against him were true, Stephen could have used his time to mount his own defense.  Instead, Stephen used his time to recap Israel’s relationship with God.  He spoke about the many times in Israel’s history in which God was faithful to his promises yet the people rejected God and His prophets, including the Messiah Jesus Christ.  Even when faced with untrue charges against him, Stephen stood firm in his beliefs and spoke of his Lord to the very end when the religious leaders got so caught up in their anger that they stoned Stephen to death without even giving him a proper trial.

At first glance, Stephen’s stoning and death following his preaching about Jesus may appear to be a defeat.  While it is true that no one in the council repented that day and came to Christ because of Stephen’s speech, there is fortunately more to this story.  One of the people standing in the crowd that day listening to Stephen’s last words was a man named Saul.  Saul, later called Paul, would eventually convert to Christianity after a miraculous encounter with the resurrected Jesus, and would go on to become the greatest missionary in history.  While Paul’s conversion was not the direct result of Stephen’s speech, there is little doubt that Stephen’s sermon as well as his death must have had a profound effect on Paul.

When we share our faith with others, we may not always see immediate results.  We all know that not everyone we talk to will come to Christ.  Some people will hear our words and will immediately want to run to Him, while others will reject the message and harden their hearts toward God.  There is a third group, though, who will hear our words and something will begin stirring in their hearts.  It may take days, weeks, or even years and it may take other events to finally get them to the right place, but eventually these people will give their lives to Christ.  These are the people we may never know about.  These victories of tomorrow may appear as defeats in the present.  All God needs to work with is faith the size of a mustard seed in a person, and our call is the help plant that seed.  When faced with what appears to be defeat while sharing your faith with others, do not be discouraged.  You never know who you are talking with in the present.  That person who seems to dismiss you and reject Jesus today might just end up running to Him and turning others to Christ in the end.

 

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Delegation of Duties


Daily Bible Reading – Exodus 25-27; Acts 6

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:1-7)

As great as the early church was, it was not perfect.  Like churches today, the early Christian church had its share of problems, both internally and externally.  In the passage above, we read about one of these issues that arose between the Hebrew-speaking Christians and the Greek-speaking Christians over the distribution of food.  When the Twelve apostles heard about this problem, they could have taken it upon themselves to try to work out the food distribution on a daily basis, but they knew that their skills were needed elsewhere.  As the leaders of the church, their focus needed to be on preaching the Gospel and bringing new believers to Christ.  Instead of trying to split their focus, they decided to look for other people who could be trusted to take on this important duty.  They searched for seven men who were full of the Holy Spirit and Wisdom.  These seven deacons would take over the food distribution to ensure that this administrative task was taken care of without taking the Twelve’s focus off of the ministry.

In our churches today, we may face similar issues.  There is so much to be done in a vibrant, growing church, so it is important that duties be delegated properly.  Are you a leader in your church?  If so, you well know that the demands on your time can be daunting.  Even people with excellent time management skills can quickly become bogged down in administrative details if they try to take on too many tasks.  As leaders of the church today, our focus should be exactly the same as the focus of the Twelve.  We should spend the majority of our time bringing new people to Christ.  When other duties come up and it becomes necessary to find others to delegate these tasks to, we would do well to follow the model set forth by the Twelve in the passage above.  We should look for others who are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom to help take on some of our responsibilities.  If you are not a leader in your church today, are you making your skills and talents available to the leadership?  Are you open to having duties delegated to you and helping in the mission to spread the Word of God throughout the world one step at a time?  Remember that we all have a role to play in building the church.  We could all easily just sit back and become a “consumer” at church, but when we truly have a heart for service and we understand that it takes everyone pitching in to reach as many people for Christ as possible, we will realize that being a consumer is not enough.  When we all do our part, the church becomes so much more than just four walls – the church fulfills its destiny of being the bride of Christ, and we can all be a part of that.

 

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The Problem-Free Christian Life


Daily Bible Reading – Exodus 23,24; Psalm 14; Acts 5

The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed. Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would come of this. Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them. (Acts 5:12-26)

Peter and John had become a thorn in the side of the Sanhedrin.  After being told not to preach anymore in Jesus name, they of course continued preaching, so they were arrested and put in jail.  But an angel came to them and opened the jail and let them out.  The angel had specific instructions for Peter and John.  They were told to go to the temple courts and preach the Gospel boldly.  This action would cause them to be arrested again.  After much debate about what to do about Peter and John, we find out later in the chapter that the Sanhedrin “called the apostles in and had them flogged”.  (Acts 5:40)

For some people, it may seem strange that the angel of God would give Peter and John directions that would ultimately lead to them being arrested and beaten.  Sometimes people tend to think that if they obey God they will not have to face troubling times (such as imprisonment and flogging).  Some people believe that following God will lead to a problem-free Christian life.  Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the case.  Sometimes following God’s instructions can cause us great pain.  The pain we must bear might be physical, or it might be emotional, but it is pain nonetheless.  While obeying God’s commands will ultimately lead to blessings for us, we must realize and accept that those blessings do not always come in this life.  Sometimes listening to God and going where He tells us to go will cause this life to be filled with pain and suffering instead.  I know what you might be thinking…that does not sound like a very attractive sales pitch for Christianity.  It would be much easier to convince others to follow Jesus by telling them that conversion will make all of their problems go away and will provide them with that problem-free life that seems so elusive, but it would also be a lie.  Fortunately, we can rest assured that God’s blessings will come, and the blessings will be more than we can ever imagine.

 

 

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What We Have Seen and Heard


Daily Bible Reading – Exodus 21,22; Psalm 12; Acts 4

The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:5-20)

The rulers, elders, and teachers of the law in Jerusalem found themselves in a difficult position.  When Jesus was crucified, they likely hoped that would be the end and they would not have to deal with Him anymore.  Now they were faced with His followers who were preaching and teaching and healing in His name.  What to do?  They tried to quiet the storm but putting Peter and John in prison, and they tried to quiet it even more by telling them not to teach in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John refused to be quieted.  Notice what Peter and John said when they were told not to preach in Jesus’ name – they said, “we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard”.

I have heard it argued many times over the years by nonbelievers that the resurrection of Christ was a myth.  People claim that Jesus was a good man but was not the Son of God and was not resurrected on the third day.  The argument is that the early Christians (people like Peter and John) simply made up the story of the resurrection to give weight to the religion.  When I was first starting to investigate Christianity, I admit that I considered this possibility, but I quickly dismissed it as ridiculous.  The fact is that most of these early Christians were persecuted, tortured, imprisoned, and sometimes even killed for preaching in Jesus’ name and for sharing the Gospel.  When faced with immediate death, most people would be willing to say their true stories were a lie if it meant saving themselves, so it is simply not feasible that anyone would willingly allow themselves to be tortured or executed to protect a lie.  If the early Christians did not know for a fact that Christ’s resurrection was true, the “myth” would have died off as soon as the torture, imprisonment, and executions began.  The fact is, these early Christians spoke about the resurrection and preached the Gospel because THEY HAD TO.  They had no choice but to talk about what Christ had done for them because of everything they had SEEN and HEARD.  They witnessed the events first hand, and there was no way they were not going to talk about them.

When we share the Gospel with others, we should do it with this same mindset.  For most of us, we can often find excuses for why we don’t share the Gospel with more people.  We might think that the “timing wasn’t right” or that the “opportunity just never came up”.  In reality, these are just our own rationalizations that make us feel better for not sharing the love of Christ with others.  When we focus on the things He has done in our lives – the things He has done for us, the ways He has changed us, and the prayers He has answered – we will find that we too cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.

 

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Telling the Story of Jesus


Daily Bible Reading – Exodus 17-20; Acts 3

While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. “Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.’ “Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” (Acts 3:11-26)

My initial inclination today was to write a blog about the ten commandments.  After all, today was the day we read about them in Exodus 20, and even before I read them today I was already thinking about what I could write and how I would lay out the post.  But sometimes when we come up with a plan, God decides to provide you with an alternate plan instead.  I logged onto the website to write the blog, and took a quick look at the visit statistics as I often do, and I found something that caused me to change direction today at the last minute.  Each day, the website I use for this blog provides me with a recap of how many people have visited the site, and how they got to the site.  Some people find this page from posts in Facebook (either my own or when some of you graciously decide to click the SHARE button).  Other people find the site by doing a search on popular search engines like Google or Yahoo.  When that happens, the statistics on the site tell me what search term the person used to find this blog.  Most of the time, the search terms are things you would typically expect such as “daily bible reading” or “bible plan”, but today one of these search terms stood out to me.  One of the search terms used today to find my website was “who was the carpenter in the Bible?”

In this day and age, I think a lot of us take for granted that everyone has heard the Good News about Jesus.  More often than not, we probably think that people have at least heard the story of Jesus once or twice.  Some people have chosen to believe and put their trust in Him, and others have not, but everyone has at least heard the story, right?  This search term reminded me today that sometimes people, maybe even people in our own neighborhoods, have never come to Christ simply because they have not heard about Him.  Maybe they have never been given the opportunity to meet Him and learn about Him.  Maybe they have never read anything in the Bible or been to a single church service.  In the passage above, Peter tells the story of Jesus to the onlookers at the temple, some Jews and some Gentiles.  He tells the story of Jesus as if the people were hearing it for the first time, because for many of the onlookers it may have actually been the first time.  When we tell the story, we should do the same thing.  We should tell the story of Jesus with the same level of passion and emotion as Peter did.  We should never take for granted that people have heard it before.  Even if people have heard parts of the story, maybe they have never heard the whole thing.  Maybe they have never heard the one part that would have made all the difference in the world for them and would have softened their heart toward Christ.  Maybe God has placed you in the position you are in at just the right time to be able to tell His story to that person.

I do not know what happened with that person with the search term.  I pray that he or she found something on this website that moved his or her heart.  I pray that he or she will continue to search for Jesus.  I pray that he or she will make the most important decision of his or her life and trust in Him today.  Please join me today in praying this same prayer.

 

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Grumbling and Complaining


Daily Bible Reading – Exodus 14-16; Acts 2

The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” Moses also said, “You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.” Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.’” While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud. The LORD said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’” That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. (Exodus 16:1-15)

Before we get into today’s verse, I would like to take a second for a brief recap of what we have read about in the last couple of days.  The Israelites spent 430 in Egypt praying for God to take them out of Egypt and back to the land of milk and honey.  God rained down ten different plagues on the Egyptians to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, and while the plagues effected the Egyptians in numerous ways the Israelites were completely unharmed.  When the last of the ten plagues killed the firstborn of all the Egyptian people, Pharaoh finally agreed to let the Israelites leave Egypt.  God sent a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, and the cloud was with them during their entire journey thus far.  After they had left, Pharaoh changed his mind and sent his army to attack the Israelites to bring them back to Egypt, but God placed the pillar of cloud between the Egyptians and the Israelites so that the Israelites would not be attacked.  Then God parted the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to cross on dry land, but then made the sea come back together to destroy the Egyptian army.  After all of this, the Israelites sang a quick song of praise to God, and then immediately started complaining because they were hungry.  Is it just me, or does that just seem crazy?

It is easy for us to look back, of course, at the Israelites and see how foolish they were to complain about being hungry after God had done so much for them.  Sadly, though, most of us have done the same thing.  Each of us has been blessed by God in innumerable ways, yet how quick are we to complain when things don’t go our way or when trouble finds us?  When was the last time you complained about something?  Maybe it was when you got home after picking up dinner and found that they got your order wrong.  Maybe it was when you didn’t get the job you wanted or didn’t make the sale you wanted.  For you, it was probably something completely different.  The point, though, is that we can spend a lot of time and energy complaining about the things that go wrong, and what does it get us?  Usually our complaints make us feel miserable for a time until we eventually get over it and move on.  What if instead of going through this cycle, each time something goes wrong and we feel like complaining we  stopped and thanked God for all the things He HAS done for us.  When the Israelites complained, Moses and Aaron explained that they were not grumbling against them, they were grumbling against God.  When we complain, we are doing the same thing.  Try to keep this in mind the next time the urge to complain comes up, and remember to praise God for His blessings instead.

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God Leads the Way


Daily Bible Reading – Exodus 12,13; Psalm 21; Acts 1

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.” After leaving Succoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13:17-22)

After spending 430 years in Egypt, the Israelites were finally going to the promised land.  They had spent years praying for this day and waiting for the time when God would lead them to the land He had promised them.  During their stay in Egypt, they had been treated harshly, but the Lord never left them.  We can learn a lot about God from today’s reading and from the passage above.  First of all, we learn about God’s timing.  While 430 years seems like a long time to have to wait for God in human terms, in God’s terms these 430 years are like the blink of an eye.  God’s timing, not ours, determines when He will act.  He always chooses the exact perfect time to put His plans into motion.  While we might sometimes be tempted to “jump the gun” and act impulsively, we must learn to wait for God’s perfect timing before we move forward.

The second thing we learn from the passage above is that God did not lead the people using the shortest possible route.  He could have taken them on the road through the Philistine country, which was a shorter route to go, but He chose not to because God knew that if they faced opposition on that road they might return back to Egypt.  Instead, He led them down the desert road toward the Red Sea.  When God leads us, He may not always choose the path we would have normally taken ourselves.  God knows the outcome of all future events, so His sense of direction may not always be the same as ours.  When it seems like God is leading us down a much longer path than is available, we need to realize that God has chosen that path for a reason.  We do not have the ability to know what obstacles God is helping us avoid by using His path, and we also do not know what we might find along His path that will be very useful to us.  The Israelites did not know it yet, but going the route toward the Red Sea was going to be crucial to their journey out of Egypt.  If they hadn’t taken that route, God would not have been able to use the Red Sea as He ultimately intended.

Finally, we learn that God was actively leading the Israelites, just as He can actively lead us.  With the Israelites, God used pillars of cloud during the day and pillars of fire at night to show them which way to go.  With us God uses His Scriptures and His Holy Spirit to guide us and direct us in life.  The Israelites could have chosen not to follow God by ignoring the pillars of cloud and fire and simply going their own way, but they would have been foolish to do so.  Likewise, we can each choose not to follow God by ignoring the Bible and the Holy Spirit, but we would also be foolish to do so.  God uses His tools to lead us, and those tools will always be there for us and will never lead us.  We simply have to remember to follow.

As a side note, I want to share with all of you a message I read the other day from a daily devotional called Our Daily Bread produced by RBC Ministries.  Each day I receive an email from them with a new daily devotional, and I have come to really enjoy their writings.  (You can sign up online for the daily email for free at http://odb.org/.)  In their devotional for January 17 entitled Driving in the Dark, the author makes a great point that struck me when I read it and really seems to apply to today’s reading:

God usually doesn’t show us where He is taking us. He just asks us to trust Him. It’s like driving a car at night. Our headlights never shine all the way to our destination; they illuminate only about 160 feet ahead. But that doesn’t deter us from moving forward. We trust our headlights. All we really need is enough light to keep moving forward. God’s Word is like headlights in dark times. It is full of promises we need to keep us from driving our lives into the ditch of bitterness and despair.

Think about that today and decide to follow where He is leading.  Even though you may not know the path He is going to take, and you may not know the ultimate destination, because we can trust God to only lead us in the best direction we can follow Him with complete confidence.

 

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Ignoring God’s Message


Daily Bible Reading – Exodus 9-11; Luke 24

Now the LORD had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” (The LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.) So Moses said, “This is what the LORD says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh. The LORD had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country. (Exodus 11:1-10)

Several times in Exodus Moses went to Pharaoh and each time he shared the same message from God – “Let my people go, so that they may worship me”.  Each time, Pharaoh chose to ignore God’s message.  Up to this point, he had already seen nine different plagues come upon his land and his people because of his  stubbornness.  Pharaoh had endured the plagues of blood, frogs, gnats, flies, livestock, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness.  Each time, Pharaoh was told in advance by Moses exactly what was about to happen with the plagues, and each time Pharaoh saw that the plague happened exactly as God said it would but still failed to believe.  It seems almost incomprehensible how Pharaoh could have witnessed all of God’s great power and yet still refused to listen to Moses, but the fact is that Pharaoh had decided even before the plagues started that he was not going to listen to God.  Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, meaning he refused to change or repent regardless of the situation.  He was unable or unwilling to accept that anyone or anything was more powerful than himself, and his stubbornness would eventually cost him dearly.

We are all faced with the opportunities to ignore God’s messages on a daily basis.  When people are presented with all of the evidence in the Bible but still refuse to accept the Good News about Jesus Christ, they are ignoring God’s message.  When others hear the Gospel and want to accept it but are unable to put their full faith and trust in Jesus, they are ignoring God’s message.  When we are convicted of sin and know that we should stop but we continue on, we are ignoring God’s message.  Sometimes people allow their hearts to become so hardened that they are unwilling or unable to change.  This is not something that happens all at once – it is a progression that evolves over time until eventually people are unable to hear God’s voice at all.  Like Pharaoh, people can reach a point where they have turned so far away from God that no amount of evidence can bring them back.  This is one of the reasons that sin is so bad for us.  Even when we consider a sin to be “small” or “inconsequential”, we must realize that these sins can build up and harden our hearts.  We have the benefit of hindsight when looking at Pharaoh’s story.  We know how it ends and we are able to see the consequences of repeatedly ignoring God’s message.  Protect your heart today.  Do not allow it to become hardened by ignoring any of God’s messages to you.  He will continue to speak to us, but it is up to us to stop and listen.

 

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Crumbling Under Pressure


Daily Bible Reading – Exodus 6-8; Luke 23

Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.” With one voice they cried out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.) Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.” But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will. (Luke 23:13-25)

Pilate was a politician, and like most politicians he wanted to stay in office.  Historical documents suggest that Pilate had already been warned by the Roman authorities about disturbances in his region.  Now he found himself in a difficult place.  On one hand, he found no fault in Jesus.  He questioned him over and over, and he seemed to believe that Jesus was not guilty of anything.  Apparently Pilate understood that the Jewish leaders simply wanted Jesus killed out of jealousy, and not because he was an actual criminal.  On the other hand, though, he was worried about what might happen if he refused to kill Jesus.  We read in John 19:12 that the Jewish leaders threatened to go to Caesar and file a complaint against Pilate, which could have resulted in him losing his position.  Pilate had to make a decision, but which road should he take?  He could stand up for what he knew was right and risk losing everything, or he could go along with the crowd even though he knew it was wrong and keep his position.  Obviously, we know which direction he took.  After much internal debate the struggle, Pilate crumbled under pressure and allowed Jesus to be executed.  How differently might things have been if Pilate had only stood up for what he believed?  No doubt Jesus still would have died (after all, that was God’s plan all along and nothing was going to stop that), but if Pilate had stood firm in his beliefs he would have been remembered much differently then he is today.

Most of us face similar situations in our own lives.  Peer pressure is not just something that happens to teenagers in high school.  It may start as a childhood issue, but peer pressure continues for most people all their lives.  We may face pressures from friends or coworkers who are not believers who want us to go along with what they are doing.  We may face pressures from family members who want us to go back to the way we were before we were saved.  Time and time again, we may be faced with people who want us to do things that go against our better judgment and our beliefs.  How will we react in those times?  How will we react when there might be real consequences to standing up for what we know is right?  When the consequences are real and pressure is on, if we try to go it alone and rely on our own strength to get us through the chances are we will crumble the way Pilate did.  But if we rely on the power of Jesus Christ, living inside of us, we can withstand the pressure.  We can stand up for what we know is right.  We can stand firm in our beliefs regardless of the pressures or the consequences.  Pilate had no idea that this decision he was making about Jesus would turn out to be the defining moment of his life, and we will not know either which of our decisions might be our own defining moment.  Instead of crumbling under pressure, when we stand firm with the courage of God on our side we can only become stronger.

 

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Feelings of Inadequacy


Daily Bible Reading – Exodus 3-5; Luke 22

Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. The LORD said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. Then the LORD said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. “This,” said the LORD, “is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.” Then the LORD said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was leprous, like snow. “Now put it back into your cloak,” he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh. Then the LORD said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.” Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.” (Exodus 4:1-17)

Even people who do not know much about God or the Bible have likely heard of Moses.  Most people, if questioned, could probably tell you a little bit about him, as he is one of the great heroes of the Bible.  What a lot of people might not know, however, is how much Moses struggled with feelings of inadequacy.  When God first told him His plans for Moses, his reaction was one of shock as he asked God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11) In the passage above we see these feelings of inadequacy as Moses struggles with the tasks God has asked him to do.  He is worried that people will not believe that he talked to God.  He is worried that he will not be able to speak well to others.  Basically, Moses does not feel that he is the right man for the job.  As he worries about what the future might hold, he focuses on all of the worst case scenarios that might happen, and struggles to understand how he will possibly be able to do what God is asking him to do.

Most people, at one time or another, will feel inadequate.  There are times when many of us will struggle with what God is calling us to do, and we might feel like we are not worthy or capable to really do much to help God build His Kingdom.  I know when I felt called to start this blog, I struggled with these feelings of inadequacy just like Moses did.  I worried that I didn’t know enough.  I worried that I would not be able to find something to write about or even find the time to write every day.  I even worried that I might accidentally write something that was not “Scripturally sound” and might lead others in the wrong direction.  After all, who am I to write about God and the Bible every day???

What I have learned, though, is that God does not call us to do something without giving us the tools to actually do it.  God gave Moses the ability to perform miraculous signs to ensure others would believe him.  He gave Moses the words to speak, and even allowed Aaron to help him.  Moses had no reason to fear the future or worry about his own inadequacies because God was with him and was willing and able to help.  Just as He did with Moses, God has provided me with the tools I need to do His work through this blog.  Every day, He has given me topics to write about and the words to use, and every day He has reminded me that I should not have been so concerned about my own feelings of inadequacy.  The fact is that all of us are absolutely inadequate when compared to God.  Fortunately, God works through each of us and gives us the ability to do the work He asks us to do.  He provides us with all the right tools at exactly the right time to make sure we can accomplish His goals.  The next time you are feeling inadequate or wondering “who am I to do this” remember that God will help you every step of the way.  He will guide you and lead you down the right paths if you are willing to follow Him.  God can cure your inadequacies and heal your weaknesses.  All He asks is that we are willing to do what He says and trust in Him to help.  Never let the fear of your shortcomings keep you from doing great things for God.

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