No Other God Before Me–Exodus 20 Part 1

One of the truly great things God gave us was the Law. By any name, the 10 commandments put a framework around the two great commands—Love God and love one another.  In God’s direct discussion with his people, he set the tone of the discussion by stating the obvious—I AM the Lord your God—who brought you out of Egypt and bondage.  Clearly, he had the right to set some parameters to keep them free.

He spoke directly in the 1st 5 commandments about the love of God.  The 2nd 5 speak directly to love of each other. Each of the commands approach that love from a different perspective.  The critical point that God was trying to teach a free nation was– they could only remain free if they were willing to become selfless and humble.  So to put a fine point on the principle—God said—YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GOD BEFORE ME. As they faced the mountain, the Israelites could easily see God was large and in charge. In the days ahead they would have to decide if each of their actions would put anything ahead of the God that freed them.

Today, we should ask the same question—what am I doing that God would perceive as putting another God ahead of him. We all face that question—Is God first. God knows that if we submit to him—he will make our lives full and free.  But the blocks we stack between us and him serve as walls to our own spiritual prison.  Each day we must be willing to look honestly at our lives and clear the blocks away—and embrace the idea that we shall have NO other God before the Lord our God!!!

God Bless You

And God spoke all these words, saying:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

Matthew 14 Final–Which Miracle Convinced Them

Which miracle was the most amazing? I imagine his disciples really struggled with the concept.  What single act could Jesus perform that would finally convince his followers that he was God and they should follow. He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the masses, walked on water and controlled the weather—Seems adequate!  The reality has been, is and will always be that man’s selfish nature will never be content apart from surrendering his Life to God.  The lame that were healed—walked away. The hungry that were fed soon became hungry again.  Whatever the problem—when fixed made Jesus obsolete.  EXCEPT FOR ONE

Jesus became a man and paid a price to bring us back into fellowship with God.  He lived perfectly, gave continuously and died humbly to do the greatest miracle—Set the captives free.  Even today, we see the amazing hand of God.  And while history is replete with his amazing acts—we still awaken with the question…”What have you done for me lately?” When we understand we need to submit to the Lord because of who he is and not because of what he has done; then we can enjoy the freedom of following him as Lord—not messianic miracle worker.  Philippians 4 says it best—“Ï have learned to be content whatever my circumstances—well fed or hungry living in plenty or in want I can do all things through Christ—who strengthens me.”

If we are looking for the one miracle that will convince us—we will never follow. They didn’t then and we won’t now.  If we look for the leadership of a God that always keeps his word, we will find him AND see some pretty amazing stuff to boot.

God Bless You

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”  28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

 

Life Ain’t Fair Esther 3 part 3

There are times when we see life unfold and are positive that “life ain’t fair.”  Haman got his feelings hurt and he in turn sentenced the captives from Israel to death.  When we see things like that occur, it causes us to question God and his love for us.  Truth is, we see only a few pixels of a grand marquee.  We will never understand God’s plan for our lives and the lives of those we interact with, and yet his plan always moves forward.

In our lives, we have to cling to the idea that God really does have a plan and we are an integral part of it. We do not have to understand the plan we simply have to trust that God will bring it to pass.  He promises to protect and provide for his kids—We simply have to walk and trust that even when life ain’t fair, that he will.  Help me, Lord to trust your plan and humbly follow you.

God Bless You

Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. 9 If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents[b] of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury.”

10 So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11 “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, “and do with the people as you please.”

12 Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people all Haman’s orders to the king’s satraps, the governors of the various provinces and the nobles of the various peoples. These were written in the name of King Xerxes himself and sealed with his own ring. 13 Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. 14 A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day.

God is Peace and Grants Us Peace

In the midst of war and chaos—War among political parties, among shoppers in malls, among union workers and those who have now gained the right to work apart from unions.  Nations and terrorists, rulers and their own people.  Parents and Children, employers and their staff.  Churches and governments. Courts and the electorate.    There is absolute chaos throughout the World. But, our God delivers peace in the chaos. In the center of a Hurricane is the Eye.  Those that have experienced the true force of a Hurricane say that the eye is like a paradise after the force of the storm.dove-of-peace

God is that peace in the middle of the storm.  He does not promise a storm free life.  He actually warns that the journey will be filled with turbulence and trouble.  But he promises that if we fully rely upon him- he will be that eye in the storm.  He will be the haven where rest can finally happen. Please be aware that the eye is usually followed by more storm.  But the rest can mean survival for those who are facing the storm.

We need to brace for difficult circumstance.  But we must also dive into the loving arms off a God of peace.  We need to cling to him, cry on him, nuzzle into him and allow his unfathomable peace to pour over us. He told us—Fear not!!! I will be with you!

God Bless You

Philippians 4:7
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:9
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
1 Thessalonians 5:23
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 13:20
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,
2 Chronicles 20:30
And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.
Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 52:7
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Matthew 5:9
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Acts 10:36
You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
Romans 14:17
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:33
The God of peace be with you all. Amen.
1 Corinthians 14:33
For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.
2 Corinthians 13:11
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
Galatians 6:16
Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.

God is Light–How Beautifully Revealing

Let’s face it wintertime in Wisconsin means it gets dark early.  I mean at 4:30! What a challenge to endure dark evenings for months on end.  We do not enjoy dark.  We find ways to occupy us during the dark time, but few truly enjoy darkness as a retreat. We were made in God’s image. God is light and gives light.  When we are in a lighted place we are less tense, less afraid and less alone. As we look to understand who God is, we need to understand he is light.  His presence warms and enlightens.  He brings clarity and vision.  He uncovers the lost and hidden.  He grants joy in times where darkness would otherwise deflate and depress.sunsky

 

We need to come into his light.  We also need to relax in the clarity it brings. His light often exposes imperfections in us.  That is OK.  That is the only way we can correct them. But his light also exposes the beauty and wonder that is life and is YOU.  He brightens and turns the journey into an amazing journey. When we finally grasp and embrace the beauty of God and his light, then we can move forward in confidence and peace–even on treacherous grounds.  Help me, Lord to recognize, embrace and walk in the light that is you, and that you have provided.

 God Bless You

Genesis 1:3&14-15

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light

14. And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so.

Psalm 118:27
The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.

1 Corinthians 4:5
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

2 Corinthians 4:4
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

1 John 1:5

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all

John 8:12

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Not My Plan…Genesis 40 part 2

We all want to know what is ahead, but, we all expect it to be great.  Never when we plan our future do we plan for it to stink.  Joseph never dreamed he would be serving as a trustee in the Pharaoh’s prison.  The Baker and cupbearer never dreamed they would be placing their hope in a Hebrew slave to tell them what was ahead for them.  We ALL want to know the future for our lives, but we also want to manipulate it to our benefit.  Joseph told the cupbearer and baker what lie ahead—great news for the cupbearer, not so much for the baker.  Not so much for Joseph, either.

God is going to do what his plan calls for.  We will be affected.  It rarely goes as we plan for it to, but he always provides and always uses it in our lives.  If we submit, follow and trust him, we will find peace and spend eternity with him.  Those are great things, beyond that, there simply are no guarantees.  We must, like Paul learn to be content in all circumstance and know we can do all things thru Christ who strengthens us.  Help me Lord to be content with your plan.

God Bless You

 

Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

9 So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, “In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, 10 and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. 11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in his hand.”

12 “This is what it means,” Joseph said to him. “The three branches are three days. 13 Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. 14 But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. 15 I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.”

16 When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, “I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread. 17 In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.”

18 “This is what it means,” Joseph said. “The three baskets are three days. 19 Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and impale your body on a pole. And the birds will eat away your flesh.”

20 Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: 21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand— 22 but he impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation.

23 The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.

 

Michael A Smith

Kill or Sell Genesis 37 part 2

Joseph’s Brothers were done with him.  He was a reminder of what they wanted and what they were not.  His father favored him, he was blessed and he was a dreamer.  So, they wanted him out.  First, they were going to kill him, but then, they decided simply to sell him into slavery.  After all, then he would be ok and they would be done. They had no regard for his life or even the life of their father, they simply cared about removing him from their lives.

The world feels the same about us.  The world wants no reminder that God is still in charge.  They have spent the entirety of history trying to kill or remove all signs of God and his impact on them. Persecution, history rewrite and epic court battles are just some of the signs of the desire to get us out of the world.  But, God is still God and we are not.  He will always remain and leave his mark to show he is Lord.  We are called to follow and trust him, despite the world’s effort to destroy us.  If we do, God will show himself and us worthy as his children. Things will not be easy, but they will be blessed.

God Bless You 

19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”  21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.  25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.   26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed. 28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?”

God’s Compassion vs. Our Realization Genesis 29 Final

This Bible account is an amazing picture of God’s Love for us and our discovery of that.  Leah simply wanted to be loved.  She was a faithful and fruitful wife.  As God saw her pain, he allowed her to produce sons.  Each son was clearly a gift.  The response by Leah, however is the most gripping part.  For her first three sons her response was “Now my husband has got to love me.”  But, as if by prophecy—the birth of Judah elicited a different response.  She said at his birth, This time I will praise the Lord—How appropriate, the lineage of our savior—was when Leah submitted to God and realized his Love was sufficient.

 We pray for so many things, and as God supplies those needs, we thank him, but look for the earthly returns his provision brings.  Then at some point, we finally surrender and accept that God Loves us and that is enough.  Then as he provides, we are grateful and still focused on his love and not on the provision.  Finally, we can walk by faith with the ultimate goal of being like him.  He will provide, he will attend—but we choose each day whether we seek him or his provision.  Help me, Lord to seek you and not your provision.

 God Bless You

The LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”  33 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon. 34 Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi. 35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.

Right Back at You, Lord–Genesis 28 Final

Giving back—It is a great challenge as we encounter trials and push through the journey to remember to give back.  When we are blessed, we often times forget that as we are blessed, we have to bless others.  Each gift looks a little different.  The over involved person, may need to give time, the wealthy person, money, the listener, prayer  and the talented people their talents.  What we really need to give back is our submission.  Until we can agree to give up our lives to God—our time, talent and money are secondary.  The question is—what is controlling us, whatever it is, we need to give it back to the Lord.  As for tithing, God will absolutely bless those that tithe.  He longs to bless us.  So give him a chance.  Malachi 3:12—Trust me , Try me, Prove me says the Lord of Hosts and see if a blessing, unmeasured blessing will not fall back on you!

 God Bless You

20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth. ”

 

It Is not just What You Do–Genesis 28 part 1

Esau just did not get it.  When Isaac and Rebekah sent Jacob on his way, they blessed him and gave him direction how to stay separate from the culture.  Jacob left with the blessing and direction in mind.  Esau was angry, but did not understand so in response he married a woman from Ishmael’s clan as steeped in local culture as the other Canaanites he married.  Esau thought this was a problem of marrying outside the family line—when it was really an issue of keeping separate from the culture. 

We do the same.  In our culture, we surround ourselves with trappings and meetings thinking that is what God wants. We go to the right church, say the right things and distance ourselves from the right issues.  But, what God wants is complete surrender.  He wants us to separate from the world’s culture. He wants us to think and be different than the rest of the world.  It is not what we do, it is simply who we are.  If we live a life like Christ, our actions will stand out without even a conscious effort.  We will also experience peace that we never thought possible.  Help me Lord, to walk and live separate from the world culture.

God Bless You

 

So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him: “Do not marry a Canaanite woman. 2 Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. 3 May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. 4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.” 5 Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, who was the mother of Jacob and Esau.

6 Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, “Do not marry a Canaanite woman,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram. 8 Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; 9 so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.