Saturday, September 3, 2016

Following Appetites Causes Loss of Vision

The story of Esau and Jacob is found in Genesis 25 – 36. These twines wrestled with each other before they were even born. They were the sons of Isaac and Rebekah, the only children they had. God chose Jacob, the younger, to be the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. Esau would become the father of the nations that would surround and oppose Israel, and still do today. He became the leader of those who follow their appetites instead of God’s word.
         Esau is a picture of what deceives and drives so many today; physical appetites. Like fear, physical appetites lead by driving and pushing. Once the decision is made to follow physical appetite, the future becomes blurred and the god of instant gratification takes control to focus only on the here and now with immediate satisfaction. Learn from Esau of the danger of following your appetites rather than the word of God.
         In Genesis 25:29 – 34 you find one of the clearest examples of the near-sightedness of following appetites in the story of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. Esau loved the land like his father Isaac and had been out in the field all day and came in exhausted.
The word “exhausted” is the Hebrew word aw-yaph, which means weariness from great hunger and/or thirst. It is used throughout the Old Testament to describe weariness from hunger but is also used to describe spiritual hunger and thirst such as in Jeremiah 31:25 where God says, “For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” In that verse, aw-yaph is translated “weary soul.”
Jacob was what you might call a “mama’s boy” because he loved to stay close to home and learned to cook. If given the choice of staying home with Rebekah or going out into the field with Isaac, he would stay at home with Rebekah. On this particular day (Genesis 25:29 – 34), the skill cooking he learned from his mother served him well.
Jacob had prepared a pot of stew and fresh bread. When Esau came in from the field, exhausted and starving, he demanded some of the stew. Jacob told him he would exchange the food for his birthright. Since Esau was the first-born, the blessing of the Isaac’s full inheritance belonged to him; the birthright. It was his future as well as the future of all of the promises of God spoken to Abraham and his son Isaac and their descendants. Esau’s stomach took the lead in his moment of hunger and became greater than the promises of God and future blessings, something we can all identify with. Since Jacob had prepared the food, it would not have been too long before everyone would eat, but Esau could not wait. His appetites demanded immediate satisfaction, which is what they all say and demand. Afterward, he despised the birthright.
The problem of giving in to and following physical appetites rather than subduing them with good leadership according to God’s word is that it causes near-sightedness; the preferred future of God’s promise becomes blurred, lost, and even despised. This begs the question: How can I give myself good leadership rather than being pushed around by my belly and its temper-tantrums of crying out for more and immediate satisfaction?
Begin with the willful choice of learning what God’s word says about diet, the purpose of food, and the spiritual benefits of a healthy body. God’s word has much to say about diet. The kosher diet of the Old Testament is a healthy diet. It has been fulfilled in Christ in terms of eating God’s word and staying clear of temptation, but practically it is still a good guide to healthy eating habits. Along with God’s original diet for man, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” Genesis 1:29, the kosher portions of lean meats, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and breads are a good choice. Most of the diet books written today can be boiled down into one sentence; when you eat, eat mostly plants and fruits, and not too much.
Food is for regaining strength from daily work, not for relieving stress. It is for replenishing nutrients, not for satisfying a “sweet-tooth.” Food is for good physical health so that the body can serve and love the Lord with all your strength for as many years as possible, not for instant gratification and immediate fullness. Give your growling stomach good leadership by telling it to be quiet and wait. While you wait, chew on God’s word. Meditate on what Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread along, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

         

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Joseph; How To Lead Yourself Through Pain

The story of Joseph is found in Genesis 37 – 50. More chapters in Genesis are devoted to Joseph than any of the other patriarchs. The story of Joseph is one of personal leadership. He ended up leading and influencing the world leader at the time; the Pharaoh.
         The first domain of leadership is personal leadership. You must learn to lead yourself first before you attempt to lead others. God created you to lead. Jesus said in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world…” The story of Joseph teaches the importance of personal leadership that leads and influences others.
         As a boy, Joseph was favored by his father, Jacob. God gave Joseph visions of what was coming and the ability to understand his dreams. This did not go over very well with his older brothers. They threw Joseph in a pit, then plotted to kill him, then decided to sell him as a slave to an Ishmaelite caravan headed to Egypt. But the Bible says that “The LORD was with Joseph…” Genesis 39:2. It also says that the Lord blessed Joseph and all that he did so that he became a blessing to others around him. Joseph did not follow the pain of being betrayed, sold, and taken to a foreign country. He followed the Lord and the gifts that God had given him.
Joseph was a servant and was blessed with the gift of wisdom, of management, of making wise choices and following them. The man who bought Joseph in Egypt was an officer in Pharaoh’s army, Potiphar. He recognized Joseph’s gifts and before long put his whole house under Joseph’s management. The hand of the Lord was upon Joseph.
Potiphar’s wife also noticed Joseph but in the wrong way. She made several passes at Joseph, but Joseph refused her advances. Here is a picture of strong personal leadership. Joseph said that he could not go in to Potiphar’s wife because God was with him and he would never do such a thing in God’s sight. He would not betray his master Potiphar, nor his Master, God. He had been betrayed, but refused to follow betrayal. Joseph had strong personal leadership traits because he followed and believed God’s word.
Next thing Joseph knew he had been falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and ended up in prison. He refused to stop following the Lord and the giftedness God gave him. Before long, he was managing the prison, because God was with him and he knew it. Everyone around Joseph benefited from his giftedness, and yet he was overlooked and forgotten by one he had helped. Two years later he found himself standing before the Pharaoh who was being plagued by strange dreams.
The scene in Genesis 41:14 – 16 is classic. The Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it. Joseph answered Pharaoh, ‘It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.’ ” Here is one of the secrets to Joseph’s personal leadership; he gave the glory to God, not himself. He saw himself as a servant of God and his gift as a stewardship from God to serve God with, for God’s glory. AMEN. He did not call attention to himself. He did not need to. His confidence was in the Lord and he knew whose gift it was that he was in possession of; it was God’s gift.
The story goes on to describe how Joseph ends up managing all of Egypt during seven years of abundant harvest followed by seven years of devastating famine. He led himself through abundance when he was at home with his father, and he led himself through many years of famine in the pit and the prison. He qualified himself through the pain of rejection, betrayal, false accusations, and being overlooked by staying focused on God, who was with him and who he followed, and by keeping and staying true to his personal identity, God’s servant. This is what personal leadership is made of.
The Lord is also with you and has gifted you with gifts to serve him and others. Staying focused on following the Lord through pain is the key to being healed of the pain. Operating under God’s control and in his gifts puts pain in the rearview mirror. Others will be blessed by God as you lead by following him.
Today, memorize and chew on Psalm 119:125, “I am your servant; give me understanding that I may know your testimonies.”


Monday, August 29, 2016

Impeachment Proceedings for Pain

There are many people today who need to begin impeachment proceedings for their pain so that it no longer rules their lives. The problem with unhealed pain is that it quickly takes the lead in life and influences every waking decision. Left attended it leads to anger and even worse.
         The first indication of pain is a blessing because it points to something that needs to be healed. But so many try “home remedies” rather than going straight to the Great Physician, Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can heal a broken heart, a wounded soul, an offended spirit. Early on in the Bible story you find what can happen with unhealed pain and the direction it leads; the story of Cain and Abel.
The third chapter of Genesis closes with God performing the first sacrifice for the sin of Adam and Eve; he clothed them with animal skins, which meant God killed at least one, probably two animals. In doing this, God showed them the only way they could approach him because of their sins; by sacrifice. The fourth chapter opens with Cain and Abel bringing their sacrifices before God. Adam and Eve had taught their sons what God taught them.
         Cain, the first born, was “…a worker of the ground…” and Abel was “…a keeper of the sheep…” Genesis 4:2. The word “worker” is the Hebrew word abad, which is used in Genesis 2:15 describing what God told Adam to do in the garden. He was to work it, or tend it. Cain was a farmer. Abel was a shepherd. The word for “keeper” is the Hebrew word raw-aw, and is used throughout the Old Testament to describe what shepherds do; they lead, feed, guard, and protect sheep.
This word is used in 1 Samuel 16:11 describing young David before he fought and killed Goliath; he was keeping the sheep. God referred to the kings of Judah and Israel as shepherds of his people, his flock. This is seen clearly in Ezekiel 34 where God rebukes the “shepherds” of Israel for not leading, feeding, finding, healing, and protecting his people. In this chapter God also said that he himself would shepherd his people; a prophecy of the coming of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ (see John 10).
Cain brought his grain offering to God for the sacrifice and Abel brought his offering from the herd for the sacrifice, and their fat portions (the best part, as we are all too familiar with). The fourth and fifth verses of this chapter are definitive; “And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.” The word “regard” is the Hebrew word shaw-aw, which means to gaze intently at something. And the word “no regard” is lo shaw-aw, which means to turn away. It is even used to describe blindness.
What did God see in Abel and his offering that pleased him, and what was missing in Cain’s that caused God to reject Cain and his offering? The book of Hebrews answers that question; “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts…for without faith it is impossible to please God, for those who would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Hebrews 11:4, 6.
Cain knew that Abel pleased God and that he did not. Abel had the peace and joy that comes from knowing you are accepted by God and Cain did not, and he knew it. The Bible says that he countenance fell and that he was very angry. Cain was offended and hurt, which left unattended leads to anger and violence. God spoke to Cain about his anger and warned him of the outcome if left unhealed. Cain had no regard for God’s word and we all know the outcome.
Everyone gets hurt in life. Some must deal with deep disappointment and pain. Others must deal with terrible abuse. Regardless of the depth of pain, only God can heal it. Ask God to show you where it hurts. Your pain hurts him more than it does you. Ask him to heal the pain because you do not want to be led by it any longer. Tell God you are ready for the impeachment proceedings to begin. Dethrone pain before it leads you where you do not want to go.

Memorize and meditate today on Psalm 119:71, “It is good for me that I was afflicted that I might learn your statues.”

Saturday, August 27, 2016

An Example of Poor Leadership

After Adam and Eve sinned, they tried to cover their shame with fig leaves. The serpent promised that their eyes would be opened but they did not like what they saw. History very seldom takes sharp left turns, but in this case it took a sharp U-turn. Instead of having dominion, they were dominated by shame and guilt, hiding and afraid.
         They heard the voice of the LORD walking in the garden in the cool of the day. The Hebrew word for “cool” is roo-ahk and is also translated breath or gentle breeze. The gentle voice of God was calling to them, walking through the garden. But Adam and Eve were afraid because they followed the lie of not having wisdom, afraid that God was withholding something from them. Their fears led them to hide from the presence of the Lord.
         God called out, “Adam, where are you?” Genesis 3:9. This question would continue to ring throughout the generations to come as God continued to reach out to sinful, lost, and hiding man. A similar question was asked in Luke 2:41 – 50 when Joseph and Mary finally found Jesus at the age of twelve in the Temple discussing God’s word with the teachers of Israel. They asked him, “Where have you been?” Jesus answered with a question, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” What a contrast between Adam hiding from the presence of God and Jesus remaining in the presence of the Father completely unaware of his absence from his parents.
         When Adam was confronted with his sin, he immediately blamed God, “…the woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Genesis 3:12. Blaming others for what you are responsible for is an example of a total lack of personal leadership. It reveals fear, insecurity, shame, and an unwillingness to own it, learn from it, and correct it. Eve followed Adam’s poor leadership example by doing the same thing. She blamed the serpent.
         The conversation that God had with the serpent at this point it the first declaration of the gospel in the Bible; “I will put enmity between your seed and her Seed; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” The word “seed” is the Hebrew word zehrah. Of the 229 times it is used in the Old Testament, 221 times it is translated “seed.” The word “seed” is the best translation of this word. Man has seed, but woman does not have seed, until the virgin Mary conceived and gave birth to our Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN.
         Adam and Eve overheard the good news that God would one day crush the head of the serpent, by a Child to be born to the woman. They believed and began having children. The fifth chapter of Genesis records the faith and hope in the line of Seth to this word from God. Compare the achievements of Cain and his offspring in Genesis chapter four to the activities of Seth and his offspring in chapter five. Here is a hint: according to Genesis 5:4 – 32 all they did was …lived, had a son, named him…had other sons and daughters, then died…” They were waiting and looking for the promised Seed of the woman who would conquer and prevail over Satan.
         From this lesson, take note of your urge to blame others for the things you are responsible for and know that this must be corrected. According to God’s word, confess your sins by apologizing to God, thanking him for the forgiveness purchased by the blood of Jesus, and asking the Holy Spirit to teach you to overcome that temptation and learn to follow God’s word in his way, his truth, and his life.

         Memorize and chew on this word today, “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” Psalm 86:11

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The First Sin; A Failure of Leadership

The second chapter of Genesis closes with the beautiful scene of Adam and Eve in the garden in perfect fellowship with each other and with God. The third chapter of Genesis reveals the anatomy of sin; a failure of leadership.
         The serpent is the first false prophet in the Bible with words similar to God’s but without faith. He addresses Eve with Adam standing beside her, silent. Adam had named the serpent and it was to follow him, not the other way around. Adam should have been asking the serpent questions, not the serpent asking Eve questions. And the nature of the questions attacked the very word of God.
The blatant lie in Genesis 3:4, “You will not surely die…” was an attack on the authority of God’s word. Satan put forth a new word for Adam and Eve to follow rather than God’s word. And it was a lie that led to death. They followed and introduced this deadly leadership to the rest of mankind. We have suffered ever since. Satan has not changed his attack strategy, but certainly has intensified it in these last days.
Once the lie was swallowed, hook, line, and sinker, several new and powerful leaders appeared. Eve’s appetite was suddenly focused on the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She began following her appetite for food, and Adam followed her. She suddenly was pleasured by the beauty of the tree and she began following the pleasing appearance of it, and Adam silently followed right behind her. All of a sudden, a new source for wisdom came into focus with a stronger desire for it than for the fear of the Lord. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…” Proverbs 1:7, but Eve had already stopped chewing on God’s word and had swallowed the lie, as Adam followed along.
When the truth of God’s word is exchanged for a lie, creation is seen without a Creator and leads man by his appetites, his eyes, his fears, and his desire to lead but without any accountability. As Adam followed along silently, he too was being led astray from the leadership he had learned from God. Rather than follow God’s word, he followed his wife in total agreement with her in their new-found friend, the serpent and his appealing offer. According to Romans 5:12, “…sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” It was Adam that introduced sin into the world by failing to lead according to God’s word.
The same false leaders with their powerful influences are in the world today. People are still following their appetites, pleasures, entertainments, the crowds, fears, and the desire for power without accountability, rather than the word of God. These false leaders are still attacking the truth of God’s word to lead people away from God and to death. The deception of the lie keeps men in the dark loving their evil deeds, which enslave them, rather than hearing God’s word and walking by faith.

Today, take an inventory of the powerful influences in your life in the light of God’s word. Choose to spend time with God in his word. Memorize and meditate upon as much of Psalm 23 as you can. Notice all that God provides for the one who follows him in his word. The Lord provides because he is the provider of everything that is good and right and holy. Follow him in his word today.