Friday, May 31, 2013

Walking In The Light

This is one of my original poems taken from 1 John 1.

When walking with Him I walk in the light.
In God there is no darkness.
For Jesus’ blood does purify me from sin,
with Him I have forgiveness.
He’s with me each and every day
and His commands I try hard to keep.
He is always faithful and just.
He makes my joy complete.
The message I’ve heard from the beginning
to love one another.
I have passed from death to life,
because I love my brother.
What I will be in heaven
has not yet been made known,
but I know someday I’ll be with Him
as He sits on His heavenly throne.
God has given me eternal life
and this life is in His Son,
For my faith in Jesus Christ will carry me through
and the battle together He and I have won.
                                                                 --- by Linda Vittitow

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What Does It Mean To Believe?

The definition of believe from the dictionary is:  to be persuaded of the truth or existence of; to have faith in the reliability, honesty, benevolence, etc., of; to accept the truth of something.

Even the demons believe.

To believe means to have faith.  The Bible tells us in James 2:19, “You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that – and shudder.”  Demons believe in the existence of God and that He has prepared a place called hell for Satan and his angels.  They shutter because they know they are going there.  They were the first to recognize that Jesus was the Son of God, but they did not submit to Him.  They believe as much or more that you do about Christ.  Their faith is purely intellectual.  It does not change their lives.  We humans can believe in the existence of God, too.  We can believe in the Bible, but still we could go to hell for eternity just like the demons.

The Bible tells us in John 4:16-53 about a nobleman who had faith.  He had historical faith, intellectual faith and trusting faith.  When he had trusting faith, he was saved.  Heb. 11:6 tells us “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” 

What is the gospel?

We need to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.  What is the gospel?  It’s the story of Jesus:  That He is the Son of God; He came to earth in human form; He lived a sinless life; He was crucified on the cross as a substitution for you and I; He was buried; God raised to life three days later, which is called the resurrection; He ascended into heaven and is preparing a place for us forever.

Before He ascended into heaven He appeared to Peter, John, the 12 disciples, to Thomas and then even to as many as 500 people at once.  His brother James did not believe He was who He said he was, but after His resurrection James was convinced.  He wrote the book of James.  Later, Jesus even made a special appearance to Paul on the road to Damascus.  These are just some of the appearances the Bible tells us about.  There may have been many others. 

We believe a lot of things.  We believe in magic, even we know it is not true.  We believe the car will start when we turn the key.  We believe the electricity will come on when we flip the switch.  We don’t know how, but we believe it.  So if we believe without seeing, we are more blessed.  We trust everything based on creditable witnesses.  We have never seen Abe Lincoln, but we know he existed.  The resurrection proves that everything Jesus said is true.  It’s the proof that everything about Jesus is true.  See John 20 and 21 for the full account of the resurrection of Jesus.

Without the gospel there is no hope.  You will not be saved if you do not believe.

Are you one of thousands of people who believe in Jesus, but don’t trust Him as Lord?  Believing in Jesus means you acknowledge God as Creator, admit you are a sinner, confess your sins and repent (turn away from) of them.  It means trusting Him as Lord.  It means accepting His teachings.  It means obeying His laws.  It means believing His Word.  It means being baptized.  Baptism does not save you, but it is an outward symbol of a person’s new life based on turning from breaking God’s laws to obeying God’s laws.  

If you are a child of God then there are things to practice for spiritual growth:  unite with a Bible-believing church, pray daily in all circumstances, read your Bible daily, and witness for Him. 

Remember you are not perfect.  Only God is perfect.  You will mess up from time to time.  But God is always with you and He always forgives.
God is waiting for you to come to Him.  He doesn’t want you to go to hell.  That’s why He’s waiting and waiting before He returns again.  He wants to give everyone a chance to believe and trust in Him.
“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

“To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12

“He asked, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.’” Acts 16:30-31

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Genesis 49:29-33; 50:1-26

Have you been encouraged by these ordinary men in the book of Genesis?  They walked with God, but did not always do it right and neither do we. 

Genesis 49:29-33; 50:1-14 – The Death of Jacob

Jacob was dying and after he gave blessings to each of his sons, he gave them final instructions stating again to bury him when his people were buried in the land of Canaan.  It was the land God gave him and his descendants.  He was not afraid to die because he had faith.  He put his life in God’s hands.  Matt. 22:31-32 tells us God was his God just like God was the God of Abraham and Isaac and that God is the God of the living not the dead.

We learn more about death from these verses:

Heb. 9:27 – We all are destined to die once and then face judgment.
Rom. 3:23 – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Rom. 6:23 – The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ.
John 5:24 – Whoever hears the Word and believes in Jesus will have eternal life.
John 8:24 – You must believe in Jesus or you will die in your sins.
John 11:26 – Whoever lives and believes in Jesus will never die.

How prepared are you to die?

When Jacob died, Joseph threw himself on him and wept.  The Egyptians mourned him for 70 days.  Joseph promised Jacob that he would be buried in Canaan.  Joseph was faithful to the last and asked Pharaoh’s permission to take Jacob there and then he would return to Egypt.

Tears are not a lack of faith.  Loss is worth grieving.  It can be an experience of pain that words cannot describe.  All mourned Jacob’s death, because they deeply respected Joseph.  Pharaoh showed deep respect and support of Joseph and allowed him to leave and take his father to Canaan.  Pharaoh sent officials from the court and from Egypt to accompany Joseph probably for protection along the way.  Then all Joseph’s family along with Pharaoh’s chariots and horsemen went with Joseph to bury Jacob.  They stopped at Atad near the Jordon and they mourned for another 7 days.  Joseph buried his father with great pomp and ceremony in the patriarchal tomb in the land of promise.

Principle:  God’s promises bring hope and direction in the midst of grief and loss.

How does your faith impact your experience of a loss?
How do you have hope in spite of your loss, because of what you know about God?
How will you trust God to live an abundant life while in grief?

Genesis 50:15-21 – Joseph Reassures His Brothers

Now that Jacob was dead Joseph’s brothers were afraid they had received mercy and forgiveness from their brother only for the sake of their aged father.  They fully expected punishment from Joseph.  They concocted a story that their father had requested mercy for them.  When Joseph heard this, he wept.  How could they not believe he would honor his forgiveness and not harm them?  He was deeply hurt that they thought so little of him and doubted his character.  Then they backed up their plea with a genuine display of humility offering themselves as slaves.  Joseph reassured them and spoke kindly to them.  Again Joseph told them, “Don’t be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  So then, don’t be afraid.  I will provide for you and your children.”Gen. 50:19-21. 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Rom. 8:28.  Ultimately our lives are not in the hands of men, but in the hands of God.  He overrules all things for His glory.

The way Joseph treated his brothers is a picture of how God treats us in Christ.  They didn’t deserve Joseph’s grace and forgiveness; we don’t deserve God’s grace and forgiveness.  Joseph loved and provided for them and God loves and provides for us.  He sent us Jesus to die for us.

How do you treat your family? 
Are you kind, loving, forgiving? 
Do you provide for them and give them guidance?
How do you respond to God’s treatment of you in Christ?

God’s purpose for Joseph was the saving of many lives as well as saving the lives of his people, which later would be the nation of Israel.

God does not want you to live with false security.  Don’t live a life of “what if”.
God does not want you to life afraid.  God’s commitment to us is based on who He is and not what we do.

Principle:  Believing in the sovereign and grace of God transforms our fear and pain into peace and praise.

Joseph’s belief in God transformed his pain into praise.  What pain can you surrender to God and turn into praise?
What do your actions reveal about God?
Do you have a “what if”?  What if I mess up, what if He really will not forgive me?
Do you have doubt that His love is unconditional because of your past?

Genesis 50:22-26 – The Death of Joseph

After a full and prosperous life, Joseph’s departing words related to the fulfillment of God’s promises.  When Joseph was about to die, he wanted his brothers to know that God would keep His promises.  “I am about to die.  But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Gen. 50:24.  Twice in his dying words he said “God will surely come to your aid” and predicted that God would deliver the future Israelite nation from Egypt and bring them into the land promised.  Joseph made only 1 request of them, that the sons of Israel take his bones out of Egypt and back to the land of Canaan, the Promised Land – “you must carry my bones up from this place”Gen. 50:25.  He wanted to assure and encourage them in their faith to trust God and His plan.  Canaan is like heaven for believers today.  

Joseph was never buried.  His coffin lay above ground for 400 years until it was taken back to Canaan by Moses in Ex. 13:19“Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath.  ‘God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.’”

What will your departing words be?
Are you ready to meet God?
Are you afraid to die?
Has your life demonstrated your faith in God?
Do you trust God’s timing?

Joseph’s lived for a purpose beyond himself.  He was thinking about his brothers.  Like Jesus, his final words show what was on his heart.  In John 17:20-26 after Jesus prayed for his disciples, He prayed for future believers. – “My prayer is not for them (his disciples) alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one…..”  Jesus knew he would experience a hard death.  He was thinking about you before He died.  Because of Jesus Christ we can have hope and assurance.

Joseph lived 93 years where he did not choose.  If God has you somewhere you do not want to be, God is there and will bless you as he did Joseph.  “God will surely come to your aid” – that is Joseph’s story, totally confident and with no worries.  He did not want his family to live in fear, but know God would be with them.

Principle:  Because of Jesus Christ, believers can live each day including our last, with assurance of a true and faithful God.

What is your attitude toward life and death and how does it tell others about God?

Egypt was not Joseph’s home and earth is not our home.  His legacy is one that can be trusted.  What is your legacy? 
What is your life message? 
Every life has a message and meaning.  Who is yours about? 

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know, He holds the future.
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

Joseph had a “because of”.  Do You?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Genesis 49

Genesis 49:1-28 – Jacob Blesses His Sons

Jacob’s life is coming to an end.  He calls his 12 sons around him and makes predictions about their future and the future of their descendants.  These predictions are called blessings.  Some could be called curses.  Jacob submitted to the Holy Spirit so these blessings were impowered by God.  These would become the 12 tribes of Israel.  Some would be strong and some would be weak.  Some would be large and some would be small.  They all would make up 1 nation called Israel and they would enter the Promised Land of Caanan. 

Some Christians today are strong and some are weak, but we all are 1 in Christ Jesus.  We all have a Promised Land, heaven as our eternal home.  We all have been blessed with different gifts and we all have the same heavenly Father.  Like the 12 sons we all have faults and shortcomings, but God made them 1 nation and us 1 body in Christ and uses us for His glory.

Reuben is described as “my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power.  Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it.”Gen. 49:3-4.  If you remember Reuben slept with his father’s concubine in Gen. 35:22.  Jacob is telling Reuben that he is just like water, unstable.  He had no self-control.  Matt. 6:22 say if your eyes are bad then your whole body is full of darkness.  1 bad deed corrupts the whole body.  James 1:6-8 says, “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”  Jacob considered Rueben as unstable and double-minded.  It takes only 1 sin to mess up your life.  Example: driving drunk and hitting someone and killing them. 

Jacob described Simeon and Levi as having swords of violence.  In Gen. 34 they took revenge on the men of Shechem when his sister Dinah was raped by killing all the men.  Jacob said this was cruel and that they would be scattered throughout Israel.  They would get no inheritance.

Despite their sins, God is full of grace. God sets apart Levi and his descendants to carry the Ark of the Covenant.  They would have no inheritance because they had the Lord as their inheritance.  They would be a tribe of priests between God and Israel.

How do you suffer from a former sin?
Do you receive comfort from what God did for Levi?
Do you let your anger lead you to sin?

Judah received the key promises.  He received praised, power and prosperity.  Jacob described Judah as powerful and predicted a royal line coming from him.  “Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you.  You are a lion’s cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son.  Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness -- who dares to rouse him?  The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs” Gen. 49:8-10.  This is the prophecy about the Messiah.  Rev. 5:5“See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.”  God chose Judah showing that we do not deserve grace.  God put us where He wants us to fulfill His plan.

The praising and courageous Christian will always possess the scepter of power - God’s power.  The scepter of spiritual power has left some Christians today, because of their cowardliness and unfaithfulness to God.

Christ will triumph over all.  This encourages us to trust Him in our circumstances today.  He is in control over all.  Nothing can separate us from Him.  Praise God!

Jacob prophesied about Zebulun.  He would live by the sea.  Matt. 4:13-16 shows this prophecy was fulfilled. 

Issacar would be a farmer and settle in the valley of Esdraelon which was subject to raids.  He would become lazy and satisfied not defending his land and would become a servant to his enemies.  He is like a lot of Christians today.  They have all the strength of Christ, but remain timid and weak.  They become lazy and want to be comfortable in their Christianity.

Dan’s descendants would provide justice for the people.  These are seen in the book of Judges.  One of the great judges was Samson.  Today a spiritual Dan can discern and judge people.  They know how to apply the truth.

Jacob described and blesses Joseph in Gen 49:22-26 -”Joseph is a fruitful vine” (He prospered in Potiphar’s house and when he was in jail.  He was second in command in Egypt).  “With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility.”  (His brothers sold him into slavery and Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him.)  “But his bow remained steady his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob”.  (He remained faithful to God.  God was always with him and helped him through all his hardships.)  Joseph is the example of an ideal Christian today. Through all his hardships he remained strong.

Joseph’s blessings were transferred to his 2 sons, Ephraim and Manasseh as seen in Deu. 33:13-17.  Their land was blessed, they had the best gifts of earth and they had God’s favor.

The blessings of Benjamin are not seen in Gen. 49, but are seen in Deu. 33:12.  “About Benjamin he said:  Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.”

What type of Christian are you?
Are you praising and courageous or unstable?
Are you comforting and consoling or self-willed?
Are you joyful and fruitful?

Genesis 49:29-33 – Jacob Dies

Jacob gave final instructions to his sons which showed his faith in God’s promise He made in Gen. 28:4.  God said He would bring them back to the land God gave to him and his descendants.  So Jacob wanted to be buried there with the rest of his family.

These scriptures prophecy the blessings for Christians and say what a person must do to receive the blessing:
Acts 20:35 – We are to work hard and help the weak and we will be blessed.
Romans 4:7-8 – If we believe in Jesus, our sins are covered and not counted against us.
Ephesians 1:3 – If we believe in Jesus, we will be blessed with every spiritual blessing.
Titus 2:13 – Jesus is our blessing and we must wait for Him to return.
James 1:12 – The crown of life is our blessing.  We must persevere and stand the test.
1 Peter 3:9 – We will inherit a blessing, if we bless others.
Revelation 1:3 – We are blessed if we read the Word of prophecy and take it to heart.

Eph. 2:4-8 – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”   Jacob’s sons were not the cream of the crop and neither were the 12 disciples.  It was God’s grace.  Grace means unmerited favor like that in Rom. 4:1-8.   Jacob’s sons illustrate that truth.  We can learn from their mistakes.  When we are weak, He is strong.
What weakness in you do you thank God for?
Will you learn from Reuben’s mistakes, before it’s too late?  Are you double-minded?
Are you like Judah so that your life can give praise to God?
Are you like Issahar so happy and comfortable that you are not prepared when faced with danger from the enemy?
Are you like Joseph with roots in God’s Word that you live by?
Do you still make excused why you cannot turn from your sin and receive God's gift of grace?  Ask God right now for His grace and repent and believe in Him.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Genesis 46 - 48

Genesis 46 – Trusting God to Go

Jacob left Canaan and go to Egypt.  He stopped along the way at Beersheba to worship God.  He wasn’t really sure what God wanted him to do, but was confident he would hear from God.  He faced a major decision to move his family out of Canaan the land promised by God.  He wanted to see his son, Joseph, but wasn’t sure it was wise to leave.  In Genesis 26 God told his father Isaac not to go to Egypt so Jacob needed to know what to do.  What would you do?  Jacob prayed.  He sought God’s guidance.  God told him not to be afraid, but to go and He would be with him, but that God would bring him back to the Promised Land.

What do you do when faced with a decision?
Do you ask others what they would do?
Do you read books to find the answer?
Or do you seek God first for His guidance?
How do you know God’s will?  It begins with worship.  When you are worshipping, you are focused on God and are open to Him and his guidance.

We learn about God’s guidance from theses scriptures:
Genesis 26:2 – God tells us what we should do.
Genesis 46:3 – God is our God and we should not be afraid for He is always with us.
Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in God and not to your own understanding.  Acknowledge Him and He will direct you.
James 1:5-7 – Ask God for wisdom and do not doubt Him.

God gave 4 prophecies to Jacob in Genesis 46:1-4:
I will make you a great nation.  I will be with you and bring you back again.  Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.  All these promises were fulfilled.  See Exodus 1-12.

Jacob and his family needed to go to Egypt so his people would be preserved and not starve to death because of the famine.  Jacob took his entire family – 66 in all. Counting Joseph and his sons there were 70 in Jacob’s family.  The number 70 is like the number 7, symbolizing perfection.   All the names of Jacob’s family are listed in this chapter.  Why do you think it was necessary to list these names?  This is a list of every tribe which would later become the nation of Israel.  They are also probably listed, because God wants us to know that each one of us is important and special. 

God records the names of people today.  All of the names of the church are written in heaven in the book of life. (Luke 10:20, Rev. 20:12-15).  It includes anyone who has accepted Jesus as Savior.  Are you sure your name is listed?  There is no reason not to be sure.

Principle:  God works through our individual obedience to grow and strengthen the body of Christ. 

Now after 22 years Joseph and Jacob meet.  When Joseph sees his father he threw his arms around him and wept for a long time.  Imagine the emotions of their hearts.   

Joseph had them settle in Goshen.  Since they were shepherds, Goshen had the most fertile land for their sheep to graze.  It was also on the border of Egypt separating the Egyptians from the Hebrews.  The Hebrews would be isolated and insulated from the culture and religion of Egypt. 

Genesis 47:1-27 – Trusting God to Provide

Joseph told Pharaoh his family was in Goshen.  Pharaoh was a wise, courteous and gracious ruler.  He respected and trusted Joseph.  He recognized his gifts and honored him for them.  He allowed Joseph’s family to settle there.  Joseph continued providing food for all of his family.

Joseph presents his father to Pharaoh.  Jacob gave Pharaoh a blessing and thanked him for his kindness.  Both were blessed.  Jacob explained his hard life, but he was blessed because the Lord was in his life.

A Summary of Jacob’s Life:
He struggled with his brother in the womb - Gen 25:1-6.
He was raised by dysfunctional parents – Gen. 25:28.
He stole his brother, Esau’s blessing - Gen. 27:1-46
He spent years serving his uncle, Laban who cheated him - Gen. 29:13-30.
He planned to marry 1 wife, but ended up with 4 – Gen. 29:18
He fled from his uncle and later made an agreement with him to stop the conflict – Gen.31:1-55.
His daughter, Dinah was violated – Gen. 34:1-4.
He lived in fear after his sons killed the men of Shechem – Gen. 34:30.
He lost his true love, wife Rachel – Gen. 35:16-19.
His son Rueben lay with one of his concubines – Gen. 35:22.
He lost his favorite son, Joseph – Gen. 37:33-34.
He went through a severe famine – Gen. 42-43.
He was reconciled with his son Joseph to live out his days – Gen. 46:29

Principle:  Surrendering our lives to God matures our faith and secures our future.

Sometimes God sends us to unexpected places.  How are you using an unexpected place to bless someone else?
How do you respond to the challenge to be totally dependant on God?
How grateful are you to be able to serve God?
Do you recognize it is a privilege to serve Him?

There was still no food in the whole region, because the famine was so sever.  The people ran out of money to buy food.  Joseph was wise and fed the people so that they did not die.  He devised a plan in 3 stages for relief of the famine:  first, they paid for food with money; second, when they ran out of money they paid for food with their livestock; third, when they ran out of livestock they paid with their land and with themselves making them slaves to Pharaoh.  The people could still grow their crops, but they were to give Pharaoh a fifth of the produce.  Joseph gained nothing from this himself.  These strict measures where for the good of the people.  It taught them to work hard and appreciate and value what they had.  It taught them to appreciate God and how He had provided for them. 

Do you plan wisely for the good of others?
Do you ask God for help?

Genesis 47:28-48:22 – Trusting God as Shepherd

Jacob lived for 17 years in Egypt.  He was 147 when died.  Before he died, he asked Joseph, before God, to not bury him in Egypt, but to bury him in Canaan with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah and Leah.  This was the country that God had promised to him and his descendants.  “’Swear to me,’ he said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top op of his staff.” Gen. 46:31.  This is a visual of standing on the promises of God.

Jacob was a liar, self-reliant, careless, and worried about his own reputation most of his life, but he did not end his life that way.  When Jacob was very ill and ready to die, he spoke words of encouragement from his deathbed.  “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and will increase your numbers.  I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’”Gen. 48:3-4.  He took time to remind Joseph about God and His promises, the same promises given to Abraham and Isaac. 

Joseph brought his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim to Jacob for his blessings before Jacob died.  Jacob declared Joseph’s sons to be his own.  He gave them a special blessing.  He gave the youngest, Ephraim the greatest blessing instead of giving it to the older Manasseh.  He gave Ephraim the blessing of the firstborn.  This was God’s choice and Joseph accepted it because it was God’s will.  God is sovereign and He can do what He wishes.  Jacob then repeated God’s promise that God would take them back to the Promised Land. – Gen. 48:21.  Then Joseph received the birthright blessing, because of Reuben’s sin (Gen. 35:22 and 1 Chron. 5:1-2). 

When you die, will you be known as a person who relied on God?
What would others say about your character?
Do you bless your children?
Do you share with them the promises of God?
It is important for parents, especially fathers and grandfathers to bless their children.  Many children never hear encouraging words from them.  Every boy needs to be touched and verbally affirmed by his father and grandfather.  Instead, some are criticized, rejected and reminded of their weaknesses and failings.  We must bless our children.  Jacob hugged and kissed is grandsons.  That’s what fathers and grandfathers today should do.

How is God asking you to surrender to His plan that you do not understand?  Peace and blessing come through surrender.
How can you share what God means to you?

Principle: With God as our Shepherd we will have peace and blessing beyond our understanding.

At the end of Jacob’s life he shows us that we must pray for guidance before making decisions; God guidance is different for each person; God always fulfills His Word.