Psalm 15–God’s Kind of Folks

 

So many times, we focus on what we should not do as God’s chosen people. We should not adopt the culture’s mentality. We should not chase the things of this world…In Psalm 15, David takes a moment to look at what the people God thinks are important, do each day. God is transforming us into his image. While we will never be perfect, until He returns and takes us home, he does highlight traits that set us apart.

God loves folks who are innocent and living a life that honors him. Those folks naturally speak the truth–about themselves, about others and are the helpful, selfless ones. They neither attack, nor defame those they call friends. While they do not have anything to do with the rough crowd, they keep good friends, and do what they say they will–no matter the cost. finally, they help, without keeping tabs and they are honest to a fault. In short, God loves people that seek him and desire to honor and become like him–no matter what it costs or what it takes. Help me, Lord to be one of those people!

God Bless You

Lord
    Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,
    who does what is righteous,
    who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
    who does no wrong to a neighbor,
    and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
    but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
    and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
    who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
    will never be shaken.

Charity Starts at Home–I Timothy 5 Part 2

As a Church, we are called to a higher standard.  It is our ministry to assist those in need.  But, it is also our birthright to care for our own.  Often times in an entitlement society, we forget that first and foremost, we dive in and care for our own.  As a home, we care for our own families as best we can.  As we give, the Lord provides.  As a community, the church dives in and helps those in need without judging or expectation. Finally, we as a body continue to encourage people to embrace life and never give up.  
 
When people lose what is important to them, spouse, career, health or home–it is easy for them to give up and just withdraw from life.  The  family of God is charged, not only with meeting the person’s physical needs, but, also with coming along side and helping them to start again.  Without the spiritual component, we would simply warehouse those whose circumstances have devastated them. 
 
But, we know that he who has begun a good work in us; will carry it to completion until Christ returns. Phil 1:6.  As a body, the church remains available and accountable to restore and release people to complete their Christ centered mission–sometimes that means support, sometimes that means encouragement–but, at all times it means we never abandon our own.  Charity starts at home, and we are the home of the family of Christ.
 
God Bless You
 
Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

God’s Leadership Criteria–1 Timothy 3 Part 1

It is difficult to live a life of faith.  As one draws closer to God–the enemy attempts to derail and nullify them in their faith.  So, when Paul coached Timothy on picking his leadership team, he laid out some petty difficult restrictions.  Paul was no snob.  He did not set out requirements simply to exclude folks he would not like.  He set out criteria that set men apart from the crowd.  He encouraged Timothy to surround himself with  men of faith that demonstrated in their daily lives a humble submission to God’s leadership.  As they walk in faith, Paul lists qualities that would become apparent.

In our walks, God does not call each of us to be leaders in our church.  many would argue, however, that he calls each of us to be qualified to be leaders.  As we look at Paul’s list, he enumerates qualities that come from humbly following God–great reputation, great family and a focused spirit that honors God–in good times and difficult ones.  We understand that our control is limited, but, that if we do follow him, we are more likely to see these qualities than if we do not.  In first Peter 5, Peter warns us, “Be on guard and alert–our enemy roams around like a roaring lion–seeking whom he may devour!” When we are preparing to lead, we can be assured that that warning is in large print and embossed upon each day.  It is an honor to lead–but it is a responsibility and task whose accolades are in no way equal to the responsibilities and the costs.

God Bless You

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
8 In the same way, deacons[b] are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

Setting Leadership Priorities–1 Timothy 2 Part 1

As Paul instructed Timothy in how to lead a church, it is highly important to understand that as Paul set priorities, the first item on the list was prayer.  We can never grasp the rare gift and honor we have of being able to approach the throne of God and simply speak our hearts, minds, hurts and dreams openly without fear of judgement or rejection.  

Prayer is talking to God as we talk to each other.  Sometimes, our prayers need to recognize the character of God and simply adore Him for who he is. Sometimes, our prayer needs to be transparent and confess the things that are standing between us and God–our thoughts, lack of faith or actions; that dishonor him and us. In all our prayer, we need to thank God for all He has done and provided in our lives–recognizing, that without him, we would be nothing, we could do nothing and we would have nothing.   

Finally, we need to trust that He cares about our needs and the needs of others; and, He never minds for us to intercede on others behalf, or even, for us to openly ask for what we need.  We need embrace this personal relationship with God–and treat it as personally as any other relationship we hold dear.  We can never be afraid, we can never doubt–that God loves us and wants for us to have a rich and meaningful life.

God Bless You

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.

Stay Put and Teach the Truth–1 Timothy 1 Part 1

Each of us, as God’s chosen, are given a mission and journey to follow the Lord with humility and a grateful heart. Paul was coming to the end of his days, and his most dear disciple,Timothy, was now leading the church at Ephesus.  Paul had built that church and stayed their for nearly 2 years.  Then, as he returned to Jerusalem, he was arrested and ultimately found himself in Rome.  The letters to Timothy were written as encouragement and coaching on how to lead his church, and how to trust God.

Paul was called by God to be the apostle to the Gentiles (non-Jewish people).  As the Jew of Jews, it was an amazing transformation–that lead him all over Asia and Europe preaching the news of Christ’s life and salvation.  As he began caching Timothy, two principles emerged–stay where you are and teach the truth.

Many in the area were trying to subvert the Gospel and make salvation about what you know or where you are from.  Paul, and now Timothy, were teaching the truth–Salvation was, is and always will be about Christ and what he has done.  Amidst all the opposition, Timothy was doubting how useful his ministry was.  Paul was reminding him–stick with it, God has got this!

In our lives, we see the open and apparent evil in our culture.  We see the church literally being forced to remove the welcome sign in our town.  The Gospel is under fire from all sides–schools, entertainment, the courts, government.  Still, in the midst of the battle, God says to us–“Stay where you are and teach the truth.  I have got this!!!” We can never consider the notion that no one is listening.  The truth is that the enemy is listening, and it is driving him nuts. It reminds him that we win in the end.  Stand firm and speak the truth!

God Bless You

 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,

To Timothy my true son in the faith:

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.  As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

Israel’s Final Blessing–Genesis 49

The blessing of Jacob to his sons is an amazing prophecy of what was to become of the nation of Israel.  As one takes the time to read the text and then look at the nation’s development, the words of Israel are spot on.  His words also speak to the idea that the choices and behaviors of a person can become the culture of a family.  

As one looks at each of the brothers, you cannot help but notice their personalities affected and shaped their clan.  It was their temperaments and behaviors that either blessed or cursed their nations in years to come.  It had to be alarming to Rueben, Simeon, Levi and Benjamin to hear the prophecy of their future–and yet, their lives and temperaments had already set a culture that would follow for hundreds of years.

So what about us?  Should we fall prey to the natural tendencies within our  family history? If we are like Joseph, Judah or Dan–probably so.   But, the awesome news is, that in Christ, we are new creations.  We can change our culture and become exactly what Christ has called us to be–His ambassadors.  People with an eternal mindset and a heart to serve others.  If we will, then our family histories will resemble a life like Christ and He will be glorified in our journey and in our families–no greater gift exists. 

God Bless You


Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob;
    listen to your father Israel.

“Reuben, you are 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.

“Simeon and Levi are brothers—
    their swords[a] are weapons of violence.

I will scatter them in Jacob
    and disperse them in Israel.

“Judah,[b] your brothers will praise you;…
10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,[c]
until he to whom it belongs[d] shall come
    and the obedience of the nations shall be his.

13 “Zebulun will live by the seashore
    and become a haven for ships;
    his border will extend toward Sidon.

14 “Issachar is a rawboned[f] donkey
    lying down among the sheep pens.[g]
15 When he sees how good is his resting place
    and how pleasant is his land,
he will bend his shoulder to the burden
    and submit to forced labor.

16 “Dan[h] will provide justice for his people
    as one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan will be a snake by the roadside,
    a viper along the path,
that bites the horse’s heels
    so that its rider tumbles backward.

18 “I look for your deliverance, Lord.

19 “Gad[i] will be attacked by a band of raiders,
    but he will attack them at their heels.

20 “Asher’s food will be rich;
    he will provide delicacies fit for a king.

21 “Naphtali is a doe set free
    that bears beautiful fawns.[j]

22 “Joseph is a fruitful vine,
    a fruitful vine near a spring,
    whose branches climb over a wall.[k]
23 With bitterness archers attacked him;
    they shot at him with hostility.
24 But his bow remained steady,
    his strong arms stayed[l] limber,
because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
    because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25 because of your father’s God, who helps you,
    because of the Almighty,[m] who blesses you
with blessings of the skies above,
    blessings of the deep springs below,
    blessings of the breast and womb.
26 Your father’s blessings are greater
    than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
    than[n] the bounty of the age-old hills.
Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
    on the brow of the prince among[o] his brothers.

27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
    in the morning he devours the prey,
    in the evening he divides the plunder.”

28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

Isreal Reunites With God and Joseph–Genesis 46 Part 1

It was finally happening.  Israel and all his family were going to Egypt.  Israel would see Joseph for the 1st time in 20 years.  As the pain was fading, Israel’s recognition and dependence upon God returned and at Beersheba–he did something he had not done in a long time–he offered sacrifices to God.  It was no small thing, and God met him there.  God personally took Israel aside to reassure him that this plan was moving forward as he intended.  

In those moments, Israel had to feel completely content.  He knew that God had done all that he promised to do; and was preserving his family for generations to come.  Then, the moment when father and son reunited–the greatest moment in this man’s life.  The two men hugged and wept for what must have seemed hours.  Together again after all that they had endured.

It is in those moments, we have to continue to stake our faith in God–the author and creator of our story.  We  realize that life is tough, but, we carry on–knowing that God does work his plan to the end.  When we grasp that concept, we can then trust His leadership and continue to focus upon His grace and plan.  Then, at moments when we least expect, God reveals himself.  He shows us that He will care for us and will never forsake us.  That is why we must trust him–now and forever!

God Bless You

 

So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”

Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel’s sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. So Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt, taking with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan. Jacob brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters—all his offspring…All those who went to Egypt with Jacob—those who were his direct descendants, not counting his sons’ wives—numbered sixty-six persons. 27 With the two sons[f] who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob’s family, which went to Egypt, were seventy[g] in all.

28 Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, 29 Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father[h] and wept for a long time.

30 Israel said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.”

The Coat of Many Colors–Genesis 37 Part 2

Probably, the actual name should have been the “Target” of many colors.  Joseph was Rachel’s oldest–she died when Benjamin was born.  Israel loved Joseph.  He was obedient, loved God, loved his family and generally pleased his dad.  Not so much with the rest of the clan.  They were older and had their own families.  They had shown on at least one other occasion that they would do what they deemed right–no matter the advice of their father.

So in light of the jealousy, the coat and Joseph’s dreams; poor Joseph was not on the list for “brother of the year”.  It would have been a great deal more safe for him to keep a low profile; and, simply keep what God was showing him to himself. In the grand scheme of life, however, well, it simply would not have mattered.  Joseph’s coat was not the target–it was his relationship with his father and Heavenly Father–that was the true target.

In our lives, when we chose to follow God closely and humbly–it was as if, we too, put on a coat of many colors,  The enemy sees we choose to allow God to prepare, protect and provide for our life and needs.  Our desire to please God impacts the world in the same way the coat impacted Joseph’s brothers. 

It is why Paul urges us to put on the full armor of God (I Corinthians 6)–to protect us from our enemy.  He prowls like a roaring lion (I Peter 5) seeking whom he WILL devour.  Unless we are battle-ready and battle-tested, the enemy will take us down.  Still, no matter what our preparation and intent–be ready for God’s plan to pull us in directions we would never have imagined.  He is God–We Are NOT!!! Trust and follow him, and enjoy the coat, no matter what the color!

God Bless You

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate[a] robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Our Circumstances-in the Hands of God–Genesis 29–Final

Clearly, as cheated as Jacob must have felt when he was given Leah for a wife, instead of Rachel; Leah was probably feeling so much more cheated.  She had not signed on for this duty, but as the days wore on, Jacob clearly forsook any feelings for her and instead loved only Rachel.  Still, in the midst of the pain, God blessed the marriage with 4 sons.  Rachel had not been able to bear kids, and so, Jacob continued to have his lineage started through Leah. 
 
While not the fairy tale story one would like to hear, God was building a nation through this family.  Each son would ultimately represent a people group that were as diverse as the named patriarch they represented.  Interestingly, it was the diversity of the peoples, that allowed them to become a great nation.  But, at the beginning, Leah simply felt sad, lonely, but vindicated by God.
 
So much happens in our lives that we do not understand.  Twists and turns that seem at best unusual and at worst completely unfair. As we press forward to somehow make sense of our lives, we have to learn from history and realize three important things:
 
1) It is not about us, as much as we are the hero in our own stories, much of the circumstance in our lives; are the results of many lives and events of which we are only a tangential part. 
 
2) If we will focus on our walk with God and allow him to lead, he will use us in a major way.  Leah–while sad,continued to point back to God as the vindicator of her life.  She would have loved to have Jacob worship her, but, despite his lack of love, she continued to trust her God!
 
3) What we are building in our lives–will impact generations of our families for years to come. If we focus on him and his lead, families will have a better chance of continuing that lineage over time. If we abandon the truth, we can almost guarantee a spiral away from the principles of grace and love, that only God can give us. 
 
It always comes back to trusting God daily and following him humbly. As we do, though life may not make sense–it will have meaning and purpose.  In addition, who knows–you may a part of the family that somehow leads the world back to God, just like Leah’s.
 
God Bless You
When 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,[b] 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.[c]

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.[d]

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.[e] Then she stopped having children.

 

Jacob’s Covenant–Genesis 28 Part 3

We talk a great deal about God’s love and covenant with us–rightly so, his covenant with us is what saves us and restores the broken relationship between us and God.  But, after God showed Jacob his activities with men and made his promise to follow and make him the patriarch of his nation of priests, Jacob realized how special the relationship with God was.  In that moment and in that place, Jacob also made a covenant–he promised with a memorial pillar to honor God’s covenant by following him and giving a tenth of what he had to God.  What a promise from the man that wheeled and dealed to get a birthright and a blessing.
 
Jacob’s journey had his attention.  Jacob knew that it would be dangerous, and would yield no good thing–apart from God protecting and blessing him.  Jacob was wise enough to acknowledge that and give God the glory, as well as his promise to yield to God’s leadership and blessing.
 
That is all that God requires of us. We simply covenant to follow and trust God to forgive our sin and transform us into his image. Then, he will protect, provide and prepare us for the journey and for eternity with him.  For our part, he realizes we are a work in progress–as was Jacob.  He will lead us to be and do the things that mature us and prepare us for now and eternity.  He loves us and only wants is best in our lives–Let’s commit to following him on the journey.
 
God Bless You 
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel,[e] though the city used to be called Luz.

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[f] will be my God 22 and[g] 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