Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Taking the Good with the Bad

Scripture:  "His wife said to him, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!" He replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.  Job 2:9-10

Observation:  Being a child of God does not immune you from trouble and to have such an expectation is not only foolish, but unrealistic.  While your relationship with God may not give you  immunity to the downturns in life, it does provide you the faith and strength needed to sustain you. You will never know the deep of your faith in God until you have endured a season of trials.

Application:  When difficult times come, draw closer to God. Rely on him to sustain you and carry you through the hard circumstances of life. There is no reason to turn your back on God when the going gets tough because He will never turn His back on you.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for always being there for me in the good times and in the bad times. Thank you for Your faithfulness! Forgive me of the times I tried to escape hardships and wanted to take the easy way. I know You use the difficult times to mold me, and I pray that I will have a cooperative spirit so You can do Your work in and through me regardless of the circumstances of my life. Thank you for the faith You have given me and the strength I have from the Holy Spirit residing within me. When trials come, help me to rely on You to carry me through it. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Rocks and Rills

In observance of Independence Day, our church worship service had a strong patriotic theme. During the service we sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee", a song I'm sure I have sung countless times. However, this time I paid more attention to the second verse:

"My native country, thee, land of the noble free, Thy name I love: I love thy rocks and rills, Thy woods and templed hill; My heart with rapture thrills like that above."

One short verse caused my mind to reel with questions: What is a rill? Is this a typo? Do I really love the rills? How can I possible know if I love rills unless I first know what they are? With so many questions, I went in search for answers.

The Van Buran Community Center defines rills as a result of erosion down a slope, and if this erosion is not corrected, gullies can form. Gullies become streams, and streams become rivers. With my first question answered, I still didn't know if I loved rills. Knowing what something is and loving it is two separate things. And who loves erosion anyway?

Here's what rills look like:


(Van Buran Community Center)





Even though erosion can be destructive, I can see the beauty in the rills. Can you?

So, yes...I do love the rills; they have a purpose in nature. I'm thankful for the song, "My Country 'Tis of Thee", which made me stop and take a better look at the beautiful country in which I live.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

What Money Cannot Buy

"Money will buy a bed but not sleep; books but not brains; food but not appetite; finery but not beauty; a house but not a home; medicine but not health; luxuries but not culture; amusements but not happiness; religion but not salvation – a passport to everywhere but not heaven."  Author Unknown

The Challenge

"The challenge before us then is not merely to do what God says because He is God, but to desire what God says because He is good. The challenge is not merely to pursue righteousness, but to prefer righteousness. The challenge is to get up in the morning and prayerfully meditate on the Scriptures until we experience joy and peace in believing “the precious and very great promises” of God (Rom. 15:13; 2 Peter 1:4). With this joy set before us the commandments of God will not be burdensome (1 John 5:3) and the compensation of sin will appear too brief and too shallow to lure us." (emphasis added)

John Piper from the sermon entitled "How Dead People Do Battle With Sin" from January 1, 1995

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Godly Advice for Graduates

1.   Know whose your Master (James 1:1). Serve Jesus alone. To determine who your Master is, who or  what occupies your thoughts when you wake up and when you go to bed (your first and last thoughts of each day)? Why do you do what you do each day (what's your motivation)? Jesus should be in your thoughts every day from start to finish, and your motivation should be to bring him glory.

2.  What is your source of joy? (James 1:2-4) It should be Jesus. Life will not be easy and times it will be unfair, but we can still have joy because God is in control.

3. What is your source of wisdom? (James 1:5-8) Ask God for wisdom when you don't know what to do.

4. Know your identity. (James 1:9-11) You are a child of God. Riches, power and position should be your pursuit instead focus on the eternal things.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Obedience versus Disobedience

Before the author of Leviticus 26 details the benefits of obeying God, two important commandments are reiterated: do not make idols and bow down to them and observe the Sabbath (verses 1 and 2). The repetition is critical because no one can truly be obedient to God unless God is first in their life. If a person obeys God, he can expect rewards, including but not limited to have basis needs for food, clothing and shelter met (verses 4, 5 and 10), peace in the land he lives (verse 6), victory over enemies despite overwhelming odds (verses 7 and 8), blessed with children (verse 9), to have God dwell with him (verses 11 and 12).

However, those who disobey God will face a different set of consequences, including fear, diseases, death, famine, droughts, conflict, unrest and defeat by enemies. In verses 14 through 46, it states that if a person or nation refuses to respond to the consequences of his disobedience, the consequences will escalate sevenfold. For the believer who continues to rebel, God will increase the consequences of his sin until the person is spiritually broken. The only reason God disciplines his child in such a manner is because of his love and he wants us to make him aware of the vileness of his sins. To stop the downward spiral that comes for continual rebellion against God, all that is needed is confession and repentance with a humble heart. Only then can the person’s relationship with God be restored.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fear of Sudden Disasters & Ruin - Part 2

Have no fear of sudden disaster or of ruin that overtakes the wicked for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared. Proverbs 3:25-26

Observation

Fear is a very common emotion in our world, and there are many sources which have the potential of creating fear within us. At the extreme, fear can grip a person so fiercely that he will restrict his activities in an attempt avoid any misfortune. Nevertheless, any fear other than the fear of God is a signal that the person is not trusting God.

At the other extreme is a man who lives life in a reckless, carefree manner with no regard to himself or others. While this person may appear to have no fears, his self-destructive behavior is probably deeply rooted in fear. However, the only fear that he needs to have is missing – the fear of God – because the one who fears the Lord will have respect for others and himself and will live a lifestyle that exhibits self-control, all of which is pleasing to God.

Application

So how do you avoid these two extremes? Trust God always! Know that God is bigger than any fear that you will ever have, and with Him you never need to fear man, diseases or natural disasters. He is willing and capable of delivering you from your ungodly fears and preserving you from any troubles that may enter your life.

Prayer

Dear Lord, Help me to avoid all extremes – from allowing fear to dominate me so that I live a life that is less than what you have planned for me and from living so irresponsibly that I needlessly put myself and others in harm’s way. Deliver me from all of my unfounded fears and guide me in your truth. You are my confidence, Lord, and I trust you to protect me in every way. I love You! In Christ’s name. Amen.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fear of Sudden Disasters & Ruin - Part 1

Have no fear of sudden disaster or of ruin that overtakes the wicked for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared. Proverbs 3:25-26

Observation

Life is full of bad times, and they strike both the redeemed and the unredeemed. This irrefutable fact can be the source of much anxiety for people. Some troubles can be avoided by making wise decisions and walking in God’s way, such refusing to drive carelessly or abusing drugs. The person who makes unwise decisions will suffer the consequences of those choices. Other adversities are unavoidable and can happen to anyone, such as cancer or tornados. However, the believer has no reason to despair because they can trust the Lord to sustain, protect and guide them through all of life’s turmoil.

Application

What are you afraid of? Is it a consequence of your poor decision making? If you are fearing the consequences of a foolish choice, confess and repent the sin to the Lord. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom to make the best decision in every circumstances and the strength to overcome your bad habits. It’s difficult to make new habits; it’s the reason why so many resolutions get broken every year. However, as a child of God, you have access to the mighty power of the Lord to help you overcome any stumbling blocks in your life.

Do you fear something beyond your control? Do what you can to reduce your risk of the tragedy, such as replacing the batteries in the smoke detectors every six months, if you fear a house fire and eating a well-balanced diet and exercise, if you fear a diagnosis of cancer, diabetes or other life changing disease. Most important, trust God knowing that He is faithful. Even if the Lord allows the worst case scenario to touch your life, He is in control of the situation and will bring something good out of it. God will not let the disaster to destroy you. Why? Because He loves you – you belong to Him and He always protects His own.

Prayer

Dear God,  Thank you for your faithfulness and love. I love that I can fully trust in your promises. You are my confidence, and I trust you, Lord, to protect me from the evils that exist in this world and to sustain me regardless of what happens. Forgive me of the foolish decisions I have made in my life. Please give me the strength and wisdom to turn away from harmful habits, help me to make wise decisions and to live a life that will glorify You. Only with your strength will I be able to overcome any stumbling block in my life.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Stay Away from Sin

Points that stood out to me from this week's Bible study from Levitcus 17:1-22:33:

• Keeping God’s commands is the only way to be holy in an unholy world. (Levitcus 17:3-4)

• Improper sexual relations, such as adultery, homosexuality, incest and prostitution, will destroy people, relationships, families and communities. (Levitcus 17:6-18)

• Loving a person does not mean you accept their sinful practices. It is best not to associate with the one who insists on maintaining a sinful lifestyle so that you will not become corrupt by their actions. (Levitcus 18:29)

• Because God has shown us mercy, we should be merciful and generous to the poor and the oppressed. (Levitcus 19:9-10, 15 and 33)

• Occult practices, such as tarot cards, horoscopes and fortune telling, reveal a lack of trust in God. (Levitcus 19:26)

• Adults have a responsibility to protect children and shield them from evil, as much as possible. (Levitcus 20:1-5)

• There are always consequences for sin. (Levitcus 20:1-27)

• Leaders/teachers are held to a higher standard because they have a more public role in modeling holiness to God. (Levitcus 21:22)

• God wants our best time, talent and resources. (Levitcus 22:19-25)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Do Right When You Do Wrong

This week's Bible study lesson comes from Leviticus 1:1 - 16:34, and the following are points that made an impression on me:

• Sacrificing animals as an offering to God was to sensitize the Israelites to the seriousness of sin. In today’s world we have become desensitized to sin and the sacrifice Jesus made to save us from eternal damnation. We need to take sin seriously. (Leviticus 1:1-9)

• A person’s attitude determines, if God finds his sacrifice/offering/repentance acceptable. (Leviticus 1:9b, 13b and 17b)

• You should seek forgiveness for unintentional sins, when you become aware of them (Leviticus 4:35-5:6)

• Only through confession and repentance can we have a right relationship with God. (Leviticus 5:5)

• When our sin causes another person to experience some type of loss, restitution must be made in addition to confession and repentance. (Leviticus 6:5)

• Religious rituals should draw us closer to God. We should not forget the meaning or the purpose of the rituals lest we become indifferent and just go through the motions of worship.

• Leaders have special responsibilities for those in their congregation. The consequences of their sins may be severe, but if left unpunished, the congregation could be led astray. (Leviticus 10:1-2)

• Disregarding God’s commands and being indifferent to God puts us in danger.(Leviticus 10:1-2)

• Holiness is very important to God. We are to be holy and clean. The opposite of holy is common, and the opposite of clean is impure. (Leviticus 10:1-2)

• God’s commands are not to restrict our life and enjoyment, but to keep us from dangerous temptation and damaging sin and to make us holy.

• Atonement for sin is required for all sin, and the ultimate atonement was made when Jesus died on the cross. (Leviticus 16:34)

How Do You Contribute?

• God is adamant that we keep the Sabbath holy and refrain from all work on this day. There are consequences to breaking this commandment, as with any commandment. (Exodus 35:1-3)

• God expect us to give to Him and others from what we have been blessed with, whether it be our time, talents, money and possessions. (Exodus 35:5)

• God wants us to willingly and cheerfully give instead of giving out of obligation or guilt. He desires for us to have a generous heart. (Exodus 35:5)

• God intends for us to use our talents for His kingdom and for His glory. (Exodus 35:10)

• God is a planner, and He is interested in all of the details. Like He planned the tabernacle, He plans every detail of our lives. (Exodus 35:3-19; 36:8-38; 37:1-29; 38:1-20; 39:1-30 and 40:1-33)

• Giving involves sacrifice – giving up something valuable and meaningful to you so that another may benefit from it. (Exodus 35:22-28)

• God thinks about the long term and plans for it. God had a purpose for the spoils the Israelites took with them when they left Egypt. It was not only to enrich His people, but to provide the needed materials for the construction of the tabernacle.

• Giving is a form of worship. Whether or not the Israelites would surrender the valuables was a test of their devotion to God and a measure of the generosity. . The question is not do we have anything to give, but will we give. Everyone has something to give. “Faithful people are always generous.” (Life Application Notes)

• We, like the Israelites, own nothing, but are stewards of what God has entrusted us.

• Our work is a product of our devotion to God. “Good workers take pride in the quality and beauty of their work. God is concerned with the quality and beauty of their work.” (Life Application Notes)(Exodus 35:26)

• Our skills, abilities and knowledge come from God. (Exodus 35:31,34,35)

• God does not force us to give or to work for His kingdom. (Exodus 36:2b)

Saturday, May 01, 2010

What If You Falter?

Exodus 32:1 to 34:35 is the background passage for my study group's weekly lesson which is about the golden calf that the Israelites demanded to have as a god and the consequences of this egregious sin.
So how does this lesson apply to today's believer?
  • When God tells you to wait, then do what He says.  Don't rush ahead of Him; don't take matters into your own hands; don't give up on the Lord.  Remember there is always a good reason for why God makes us wait. (Exodus 32:1)
  • Don't pressure your spiritual leaders into doing something that goes against God's law and His will. (Exodus 32:1)
  • As a spiritual leader, don't be pressured by those you lead to do something that is sinful or would cause another person to stumble spiritually. (Exodus 32:2)
  • Always seek God's guidance before striking out in a new direction. (Exodus 32:2) 
  • Don't allow anything made of man's hand become an idol in your life.  It will always be inferior to the one true God. (Exodus 32:4)
  • When distressed, don't slip into your old sinful habits.  This can occur when we allow fear, insecurity and a feeling of having been abandoned by God can overwhelm us, and our faith falters. (Exodus 32:1)
  • In times of stress, count your blessings and remember how God has graciously provided for you. (Exodus 32:1)
  • It is our duty to intercede for others asking that God be merciful to those who have sinned and praying that they confess and repent of their sins. (Exodus 32:11-13)
  • Idolatry, like all sin, angers God. (Exodus 32:8-10)
  • God is merciful, that is He doesn't give us what we deserve for our sin. (Exodus 32:14)
  • God always keeps His promises. (Exodus 32:13)
  • Anger at sin is righteous and is a sign of spiritual vitality. (Exodus 32:19-20)
  • When confronted with your sin, don't deflect responsiblity or gloss over the truth in order to make yourself look better.  Lying to cover up a sin is useless; commiting one sin does not erase another sin nor does it negate the consequences. The only acceptable response is to confess your sin to God and turn from that sin. (Exodus 32:22-24)
  • A congregation is only as strong spiritually as their leader is.  A spiritually weak leader will weaken a church. (Exodus 32:25)
  • Each person is accountable for their actions (Exodus 32:34)
  • God answers our requests (Exodus 33:18-23)
  • Spending time with God changes us; it changes our countenance and our character. (Exodus 34:28-30)
  • There are always consequences for sin, and your sin will affect not only yourself, but your descendants. (Exodus 34:7)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Lessons to Learn from the Israelites

The Israelites were God's chosen people.  He viewed them not only as a holy nation, but also as a treasured possession.  However, this distinction by God did not immune the Israelites from making mistakes. 

A brief review of the book of Exodus revealed the following lessons Christians today can learn from the Israelites:
  • Do not forget to fear the Lord;
  • Do not forget to trust God;
  • Remember that God hears you when you cry out to Him and when you seek His help;
  • God will always provide for your necessities, both in quantity (there is always enough) and quality (God's provision often surpasses our expectations) (Exodus 15:25-27,16:4-5,18, 21-22);
  • Our concerns and problems should always turn us to God in prayer instead of grumbling and complaining (Exodus 15:24);
  • Respect the leader that God has placed in authority over you and pray for them instead of complaining against them (Exodus 16:2, 17:2);
  • Do not wish for times that have past because to do so is not to live life to its fullest and to focus on the task that God have give you to do now (Exodus 16:3);
  • The Sabbath is very important to God, and we should go to great lengths to keep it holy (Exodus 16:23, 29-30);
  • Do not doubt God's promises to provide for you (Exodus 16:19-20);
  • Bring your problems to God in prayer (Exodus 15:25, 17:4);
  • Remember what God has done for you in answering your prayers and providing for your needs (Exodus 17:15-16);
  • Tell others what God has done for you because it will bring them delight (Exodus 18:8-9);
  • Be willing to listen to the wise counsel of your elders (Exodus 18:17-26);
  • Do not worship the idols of this world, but remove them from your homes and your communities (Exodus 23:24);
  • Remember that the people you associate with will affect you spiritually, either positively or negatively, and you should be on guard to keep sin out of your life (Exodus 23:32-33).
Exodus as well as the rest of the Bible provides us with ample lessons to learn from other's mistakes.  Therefore, it is our duty to read the Bible faithfully and apply these lessons to our lives. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Worst Famine







"The days are coming," declares the Sovereign Lord, "when I will send famine through the land -- not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.  Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it." ~Amos 8:11-12

I am fortunate to live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world.  I have never gone to bed hungry nor have I ever lacked clean water.  I have always had my basic needs met along with most of wants. I enjoy religious freedom that some people in the world can only dream of.  I can pray wherever and whenever I want, and I can own as many Bibles as I wish.  Sounds great, huh?  But there's a problem.  I am guilty of taking these blessings for granted.  I also, at times, take God and my relationship with Him for granted.


Amos 8:11-12 reminds me that hearing from the Lord is a gift to be treasured.  It is not an entitlement, and God can choose to stop His word from entering a person's life at any time.  These verses renew my fear of the Lord because never do I want to be cut off from Him in any manner.  For without His voice, there is no salvation, no teaching, no guidance, no edification, and no spiritual growth.  As much as I need air to breathe, I need the word of God to survive. (Matthew 4:4)


I need to do whatever is necessary to protect my quiet time with God.  I need to slow down, be still and listen to Him.  To neglect this special time with my Lord is to deny myself an opportunity to hear from Him.  The truth is I am always listening to someone -- either to God and His truth or Satan and his lies.  I pray that my hunger to hear from God will increase, and that I will eagerly met with Him daily to feast upon His word.

Miriam is our hostess this week at http://mipasmonologue.blogspot.com/

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ten Commandment: Analysis

“The commandments were designed to lead Israel to a life of practical holiness. In them, people could see the nature of God and his plan for how they should live.(Life Application Bible Notes) However, the Ten Commandments should not be seen as an end into itself, but the means to fulfill God’s ultimate law of love. For without love, “outward obedience is mere hypocrisy”. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)


God prefaces the Ten Commandments with a statement explaining who He is: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery”. (Exodus 20:2) In this verse God establishes His authority to give the law to the Israelites, and reminds them of the fulfillment of the covenant He made with Abraham to bring Israelites out of Egypt.

The first commandment is “Do not have other gods besides Me” (Exodus 20:3). Like the Israelites who were surrounded by nations who worshiped many gods, we too live in a society where many idols are prevalent. While in Biblical times the idols may have been animals or statutes, today’s idols can be money, fame, work, pleasure, personal identity and security to name just a few. “Whatever is loved, feared, delighted in, or depended on, more than God, that we make a god of.” (John Wesley Explanatory Notes) “No one sets out with the intention of worshiping these things. But by the amount of time we devote to them, they can grow into gods that ultimately control our thoughts and energies. Letting God hold the central place in our lives keeps these things from turning into gods.”(Life Application Bible Notes) God should be the only One we worship. He should be first in our lives, and nothing or no one should compete for our affections, time, money and energy. The purpose of the first commandment is “to prevent man's misery and promote his happiness, by taking him off from all false dependence, and leading him to God himself, the fountain of all good.” (Adam Clarke's Commentary)

The second commandment is “Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in heaven above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth” (Exodus 20:4). “When people make an idol, they are seeking to control the infinite God by molding Him into a shape they can see, touch, and manipulate. However, no shape in the heavens or on the earth or under the waters can adequately represent God.” (Explore the Bible Adult Learner Guide, Spring 2010) All idols made by man are inferior to the one and only true God, who made everything in the heavens, on the earth and under the waters.

In verses 5 and 6 of Exodus 20, God forbids worship of idols because He is “a jealous God, punishing the children for the father’s sins to the third and fourth [generations]”, but He promised to show love to those who love Him “to a thousand [generations]”. The reason idolatry is so forbidden by God is because He expects us our exclusive fidelity. Human jealousy is based on insecurities and selfish desires, but God’s jealous is based on His infinite love for us and His desire to protect us from destructive sinful practices. He becomes jealous of anything that erodes our relationship with Him and that detracts our attention from our worship of Him. Also, verses 5 and 6 shows that God’s mercy is greater than His punishment. (Nelson’s Student Bible Commentary) “Justice works to the third or fourth, mercy to thousands of generations!” (Adam Clarke's Commentary) This should be a reminder to all that not only do we reap what we sow so do our descendants for generations to come.

The third commandment is “Do no misuse the name of the Lord your God, because the Lord will punish anyone who misuses His name”. Using God’s name in vain includes trivializing His name, trying to use it to advance evil purposes, using it in worship thoughtlessly, false oaths, swearing where the name of God is use or where he is appealed to as a witness of the truth and irreverent mention of God’s name or any of His attributes. Unfortunately, today God’s name is misused all too often. However, “The way we use God's name conveys how we really feel about him.” (Life Application Bible Notes) God assures us in this verse that all who are guilt of misusing His name will be punished. “On the other hand, we show respect for God when we use His name appropriately in praying, praising and witnessing.” (Explore the Bible Adult Learner Guide)

The fourth commandment is “Remember to dedicate the Sabbath day”(Exodus 20:8). In Genesis 2:2, after God created the world and everything in it in six days, He rested on the seventh. He rested not because He needed to, but to give us an example to follow because He knew man could not work without regularly periods of rest. Thus, we should set aside the Sabbath day for rest and worship. “Christ allowed works of necessity, charity and piety..., but all works of luxury, vanity or self-indulgence in any form are forbidden. Trading, paying wages, settling accounts, writing letters of business, worldly studies, trifling visits, journeys, or light conversation, are not keeping this day holy to the Lord.” (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary) “He who idles away time on any of the six days, is as guilty before God as he who works on the Sabbath.” (Adam Clarke's Commentary) Keeping the Sabbath is not only beneficial for our physical and emotional well being, but also for our souls. The Sabbath is God’s provision to us, and we should not neglect it. By keeping this commandment we affirm that every day belongs to God and is a gift from Him.

The fifth commandment is “Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you”. (Exodus 20:12) “This precept therefore prohibits, not only all injurious acts, irreverent and unkind speeches to parents, but enjoins all necessary acts of kindness, filial respect, and obedience.” (Adam Clarke's Commentary) Even those who find it difficult to get along with their parents are still commanded to honor them (Life Application Bible Notes), that is treat them with significance. (Nelson’s Student Bible Commentary) This is the first commandment to have a promise affixed to it, that is the promise of “long life in the land”, which “shows just how important a stable family life (and thus society) is to God. (Explore the Bible Adult Learner Guide)

The sixth commandment is “Do not murder”(Exodus 20:13) which does not forbid us from defending ourselves, if the situation should warrant it. Instead, it “requires that we regard the life and the safety of others as we do our own”. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary) It also requires us to harbor no hate or malice in our heart against another person. This commandment requires a spirit of kindness, longsuffering, and forgiveness. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary) This commandment also forbids the destruction of our own lives.

The seventh commandment is “Do not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14) which includes lust, “fornication and all kinds of mental and sensual uncleanness” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary) Any literature, song, art, television program, movie, Internet site or conversation which produce impure thoughts should be avoid at all costs. “We should be as much afraid of that which defiles the body, as of that which destroys it.”(Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary) Just as murder begins with feelings of hatred, adultery begins with impure thoughts. It is critical that we protect our minds from sinful thoughts because our thoughts will become our actions, if we allow ourselves to dwell on them.

The eighth commandment is “Do not steal” (Exodus 20:15) which includes taking advantage of another’s ignorance, kidnapping, not restoring what is borrowed or found, accepting charity when you are not in need, making a debt without any prospect of paying it, and withholding or evading payment of debts, rents or wages. As the sixth commandment (Do not murder) focuses on honoring the value of our neighbor’s life, the eighth commandment focuses on honoring the value of our neighbor’s property and treating our neighbors fairly and honestly in business. As Christians we should be thankful for what God has given us, be content with our provision and to use our resources to bring God glory.

The ninth commandment is “Do not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16), which includes all false oath, slander, backbititng, not telling the truth when it is known and exaggerating the mistake of another to make it seem worse than it really is. This commandment forbids injury to our neighbor’s character and the promotion of our own reputation at the expense of our neighbor’s. God expects His children to be speak and uphold the truth.

The ten commandment is “Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17). “Coveting includes envy — resenting the fact that others have what you don't.” (Life Application Bible Notes) This commandment is broken any time a person takes action to deprive another of his house, his spouse and any of his belongings. The fifth through the ninth commandment “forbid all desire of doing what will be an injury to our neighbor; this forbids all wrong desire of having what will gratify ourselves.” (Matthew Henry Concise Commentary)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In the Beginning

The Bible begins with Genesis 1:1:  "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." 

With this one verse, two truths are established at the start of God's Word:
  1. God exists, and He has always existed.  Even before mankind and the universe were created, there was God.  He is eternal.  Based on this short verse, the proponents of atheism and agnotism do not have a leg to stand on.  The person who denies the existence of God is a fool. (Ps. 14:1)
  2. God created everything which ends any debate over how the world and the universe were created.  It does not matter how everything was created; it only matters who created it -- God.  We did not evolve from some lesser being; we are created being by the Almighty God.  He spoke us and everything in the universe into existence.  God is the source of all life.(Isaiah 44:24)  The person who denies God's existence will not be able to see God's handiwork in the heavens and on earth, and will try to rationalize and explain how everything came into being without God's power.
What Genesis 1:1 does not address is how God created the heavens and the earth, but we must realize that God told us exactly what we need to know about creation.  It is okay to be inquistive and ask questions; God made us intelligent human beings who can rationalize and problem solve.  However, to live by faith as we are called to do as children of God means being content to live with the unknown because you trust in the One who does know.

We may not know the "how" God created the heavens and the earth, but we do know the "why" which is much more important.  Everything God has ever created has been motivated by His unfailing and abounding love.  God created us because He loves us.  When you focus on that wonderful fact, all the questions on how the universe was created are pointless because God's love for us is the only thing that matters.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The First Passover

Exodus 12:1-14 details God's instructions to the Israelites regarding the first Passover, which event would mark the beginning of their deliverance from Egyptian oppression.  The Passover would not only commemorate the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery, but also foreshadowed Jesus's death on the cross for sinners.  The Passover was to be such a significant event in the Israelites' lives that God commanded that the Israelites change the beginning of the calendar year to coincide with the Passover. (v. 2) 

On the tenth day of the month God instructed the Israelites to select an animal to be sacrificed at Passover.  It was important that the animal be the right size so each member of the household had an adequate portion.  If a family was small, they could join with another family to share an animal. (v. 3-4)  While God wanted everyone to participate in the Passover feast, He did not want the Israelites to be wasteful and sacrifice an animal that could not be consumed by a family.  The animal could have been either a goat or a sheep, and it must be an unblemished animal, that is without defect.  The animal also had to be a year old. (v. 5)  God gave us His best, His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, who was spotless, that is without same.  Accordingly, God expects our best when we worship Him and to give him our second best is in insult to Him. 

Once the animal was selected, it was to be separated from the flock and tended to by the Israelites for four days until the fourteenth day of the same month, which would be the day that the animal would be killed at twilight. (v. 6)  Blood from the animal was to be placed on both doorposts and above the door of the house where the animal was to eaten. (v. 7)

Then the animal was to be roasted so the family could eat it that night along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. (v. 8-9)  Roasting provided a quick means to cook the animal and would make it possible to cook the whole animal all at one time.  To use leavening in the bread to make it rise would take time, but also, symbolically the leavening agent represents sin.  The way of cooking the animal and preparing the bread that God gave the Israelites were quick methods and was to create a sense of urgency.  The Israelites did not have time for a long, elaborate meal because God would soon deliver them for Egypt, and they had to be ready to leave.  Also, the bitter herbs could be found quickly and symbolically they were to represent the bitter times experienced by the Israelited in captivity. 

Any leftovers from the meal were to be burned. (v. 10)  God did not tell the Israelites to pack the food for the journey, but they were instead to trust God to provide nourishment for them after they left Egypt.  Another demonstration of their faith was that the Israelites were to eat the meal dressed ready for travel and to eat the meal in a hurry. (v. 11)

On the night that the first Passover was observed, God told the Israelites that He would pass through the land of Egypt, and every firstborn male, both man and animal, would die. (v. 12)  God would be executing His judgment against all of the Egyptian gods while exhibiting grace toward the Israelites and sparing them from the same fate.  It would also show God's sovereignty and the impotency of the Egyptians' gods.  The blood that the Israelites would place on the door frame would be a sign distinguishing them from the Egyptians and God said that "when I see the blood, I will pass over you".  God did not need the blood on the door frame of the Israelites' homes to identify them; He knew who His people were and where they were.  Rather the blood was a sign of the Israelites' faith and obedience to God.

God instructed the Israelites to celebrate Passover each year as a way to remember what God had done for them and to show their love, thankfulness and obedience to God. (v. 14)  The annual observance of Passover would also be a way to teach future generations of God's deliverance of the Israelites. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Divine Purpose

In verse 1 of Chapter 5 of Exodus, Moses and Aaron approached Pharaoh to deliver a message from the Lord, "Let My people go, so that they may hold a festival for Me in the wilderness." (HCSB).  God claimed the Israelites as His own special possession, but in Pharoah's mind, the Israelites were his, economic assets of his kingdom.  Like the Israelites, all Christians, whether Jew or Gentile, belong to God and are very special to Him.

God's purpose of requesting that the Israelites be allowed to go to the wilderness, which seems to be the last place that a person would voluntarily go without a special reason, was so they could worship God Almighty far away from Egypt and their numerous gods.  God wants us to worship Him regardless of where we are and what we are experiencing.  As Christians, worshipping God is our ultimate purpose on earth and in heaven; it is why God created us.  We are to respond to the worthiness of God always. Sometimes God will lead us to the most unlikely places at the most unexpected times to give us opportunities to worship Him in a different manner and in a deeper way so that our relationship with Him will be enriched.

In verse 2 Pharoah responded quite honestly:  "Who is the Lord that I should obey Him by letting Israel go?  I do not know the Lord, and what's more, I will not let Israel go."  Pharoah underestimated the power of God.  Pharoah probably surmised that the Israelites' Lord was weak because of the abject state of the people who worshipped Him.  His logic was if God was powerful, then His people would not be oppressed and despised.  Pharoah also rejected the authority of God.  At this time in Egypt Pharoah had divine status - a son of the gods.  We should take heed and never underestimate the power of God nor reject His authority.

Also, Pharoah did not know God, that is have an intimate relationship with Him so he did not care for God nor did he fear Him.  Pharoah's pride and covetousness prevented him from knowing God.  Pride and covetousness still prevent people from coming to God, and with Christians these traits can erect a barrier between us and our Lord.  As children of God, we must be root out all signs of pride and covetousness so nothing comes between us and God.

In verse 3 Moses and Aaron respond stating:  "The God the Hebrews has met with us.  Please let us go on a three-day trip into the wilderness so that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, or else He may strike us with plague or sword."  Even though present day Christians do not sacrifice animals as the Israelites were commanded to do, our worship still requires sacrifice -- our agendas, our time and our pride.  Worship requires putting God first.  Like the Israelites, worship is our indispensable duty, and while we may not be besieged with pestilence and plagues by neglecting this duty, rest assured that judgment will come to those who fail to worship the Almighty God.  God takes worship very serious and so should we.  Worship should not be done lightheartedly or half-heartedly; God wants our whole heart and that is how we should worship Him.

Subsequently, Pharoah increased the workload of the Israelites and set unrealistic expectations because he thought if the Israelites had enough time to contemplate a trip to the wilderness to worship their God, they must have too much time of their hands and he needed to increase the workload so they would stay busy.  Also, Pharoah did not want to see the Israelites leave for even a three day trip because of the economic impact that it have on his kingdom to lose that many workers for three days. (Exodus 5:6-19) In response to the demanding workload the Israelites were under, "the Hebrew work foreman confronted Moses and Aaon about this and accused them of endangering rather than helping the people". (Exodus 5:20)

Hurt by the foreman's words, Moses poured out his feeling to God who was deeply aware of the Israelites' plight, and in verses 6, 7 and 8 of the sixth chapter of Exodus, God tells Moses to deliver a message to the Israelites for Him - that he would deliver them from the forced labor of the Egyptians and redeem them, that he would claim them as his own, that they would know that He is God and that He was their deliverer from slavery in Egypt, that he would take them to the land in accordance with His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and that this land would become their very own possession.  God's promises to deliver the Israelites and give them the promised land were based solely on his unfailing grace just like God's promise to deliver a sinner from eternal damnation and claim him as his own is based on grace alone.  The fulfillment of God's promises were possible because of God's faithfulness.  Salvation is not based on our faithfulness, but His.

Moses delivered God's message to the Israelites, but they were not encouraged by it because they were broken by the harsh treatment they were receiving from the Egyptians.  Also, while in captivity had not had the opportunity to worship God like they should and like God would have desired for them to because of the restrictions placed upon them by the Egyptians.  Thus, their faith in God was tenuous at best; they had not learned that God always keeps His promises and is trustworthy in every circumstance.  True worship deepens our relationship with God, teaches us about His character and prepares us to face difficulties.

In response to the Israelites' reaction to God's message, Moses turned to God and poured out his heart which is a great example for us to follow when things do not go as we think they should.  It is so much better to talk your problems over with God than to complain, grumble and become discouraged and resentful.

After listening to Moses, God told him to go back to Pharaoh, but Moses questioned if Pharaoh would listen to him and even reminded God of his poor speaking skills, which was unnecessary since God was fully aware of Moses' skills.  In verse 1 of Chapter 7, God addresses Moses' concerns about his inferiority by stating that Moses would be appearing before Pharaoh as His representative, that is to act and speak on behalf of God.  Aaron, Moses' brother, would be Moses' spokeperson, when he appeared before Pharaoh to request that the Israelites be released.

God was gracious to Moses by warning him that Pharaoh would be stubborn and not listen to Moses, even when Moses forewarns of the plagues (Exodus 7:3-4).  This is because Pharaoh's hardened heart that resisted anything to do with the one true God.  "God's sovereignly pressed Pharaoh into times of decision, and He knew beforehand which way the king would decide.  Nevertheless, Pharaoh's hardheartedness resulted from his sinful nature and continual rejection of God's commands." (Explore the Bible - Adult Learner Guide, Spring 2010, page 26)  God also told Moses that the Egyptians would recognize God for who He is when they had felt God's hand upon them in form of the plagues and when God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 7:5).  God's mighty actions serve as testimony as to who God is, all mighty and all sufficent.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Life of Obedience

These are my notes from Dr. Charles Stanley's sermon, "A Life of Obedience" which was broadcasted on January 11 and 12, 2010.

So how do you make decisions?  A believer should make his decisions based upon what the will of God is.  Convictions should be based on the truth of God, including that He is sovereign over all.  If you believe in God's sovereignty, then you have to trust Him, love Him, obey Him and listen to Him.

There are always consequences for the decisions you make, and it is unwise to ignore the consequences.  The "It's not going to happen to me" mentality is a deception of the devil.  You should be interested in the consequences of your decisions because they will have an impact -- positive or negative.  Some consequences are short-term while others last a lifetime. 

Live life in full surrender. The area of your life that is not surrendered to God is the area which you have chosen to be disobedient.  Disobeying God will cause you to miss out on opportunities to serve Him and others and will stunt your spiritual growth. Disobedience will also diminish your joy. You are responsible for the consequences of your disobedience.

God is responsible for the consequences of your obedience.  With obedience comes success, but the success God grants will unlikely be like the success defined by the world.  Also, when you obey God you will be filled with a sense of serenity, peace and joy. 

It takes courage to be obedient to God because with obedience comes conflict and suffering.  This is because we live in a world that is against God and the things of God.  However, continued obedience through conflict and difficult circumstances will result in spiritual growth.  One person's act of obedience can motivate others to obey God, but chances are you will never know the impact of your obedience. 

You should obey God and leave all of the consequences to Him.  If you obey God, He will bless you in ways beyond your imagination.  You cannot go wrong by obeying God because the consequences are always good. 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Wonderful Name of Jesus

The following are my notes from listening to Greg Laurie's December 25, 2009, sermon entitled "The Wonderful Name of Jesus".

Names tell us who we are, and they identify us. People will have a certain perception of us based on our name. In Biblical times names meant something, and they revealed something about the person, such as their personality traits.  Today names are given based on trends, whims and what sounds good.

Jesus is a name above all names.  In Isaiah 9:6 several of Jesus' names are identified, and each title gives insight about Jesus, His character and what He can do in a person's life.
  • "Wonderful" - Jesus takes care of the boredom and emptyness of life.  The more you know of the Lord, the more in awe that you will become of Him.  God causes us to be amazed, in awe, surprised, astonished and bewildered by His character, nature and actions.
  • "Counselor" - Jesus cares about the details of your life.  He wants to give you personal counsel and direction which He will accomplish primarily through the Bible.  The problem that occurs often is that people will look for answers to their problems in all the wrong places (i.e. anywhere and anyone other than Christ).
  • "Mighty God" - Jesus can take care of the demands of your life.  Jesus has all the power you need to be the person He wants you to be because His power is without limit.  We lack self-control, the power to control ourselves, but Jesus can give us the power to live a Christian life.
  • "Everlasting Father" - Jesus will take care of your future.  What you do with Jesus will determine where you will spend eternity.
  • "Prince of Peace" - Jesus will take care of the disturbances of life.  There is peace on earth among men who are pleasing God.  Lack of peace occurs when we disregard God's Word and His Will.
  • "Government of His Shoulders" - Jesus will come back to earth to establish His kingdom.  Before Jesus could bear the government on His shoulders, He had to bear the cross for our sins.
Also, Isaiah 9:6 reveals man's persceptive and God's perspective of Christmas.  "For to us a child is born" is man's perspective - Jesus' arrival on earth by being born as a child.  "To us a son is given" is God's perspective - Christmas marks the departure of God's only Son from Heaven to come to earth to provide the ultimate gift for all humanity.  It is important to remember that Christmas is more about God's gift to us than our gifts to others.

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