My last devotion was Playing Favorites. I dealt with the tension that favoritism has on a family, as seen with Isaac towards Esau and Rebecca towards Jacob. I am now going to deal with being favored through the character of Joseph. Jacob did not learn from his father's mistakes, and he continued the curse of playing favorites towards his children with his son Joseph.
Joseph was the child of Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel. The first story in Genesis thirty-seven is Joseph "tattle-telling" his dad about his brothers misbehaving. It then says that Jacob loved Joseph more than all his children, and the brothers hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms. Joseph now had a dream, and he told it to his brothers, which described them bowing down to him, and they hated him more. The brother's response did not stop Joseph from telling them the second dream that his dad and brothers would also bow down before him.
Joseph was rubbing his favoritism in his brother's face. He must have recognized that his brothers did not like him and would cause them to be envious. Joseph's excitement caused him not to use wisdom in his youthful zeal. We who walk in God's favor must be careful what we share with who. If we lack discernment, we will motivate others towards harming us. It is wise to only share our dreams with those who are walking in God's favor, for they can relate and support us, but to the disobedient, we should keep our words with them to a mere few.
In the following story, Joseph is sent by his dad to check on his brothers, who was a long-distance pasturing their father's flock. As they saw the 'dreamer' coming, they transpired a plot to kill him. Rueben, the eldest brother, intervenes and convinces them to throw him in a pit. As they are sitting and eating, they see a caravan of Ismaelites, and Judah speaks up, and they listen and agree to sell Joseph as a captive into Egypt.
In Genesis thirty-nine and forty, we learn the story of Joseph in Egypt, sold as a slave to Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, and then Joseph in Prison for a crime he didn't commit. In both situations, "the Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful and prosperous man." Despite being in the position of slave and prisoner, Joseph became chief overseer, and the Lord's blessing was on everything under his responsibility.
No matter our misfortunes, if we walk with the Lord, He will make the best of a difficult situation. The reason some believers are blessed more than others is not that God plays favorites; it is all about our walk of obedience. The degree we walk in obedience determines the amount of blessing and favor we experience. No more pointing fingers at blame and coming up with excuses; we are favored if we walk with God.
Joseph had been in charge of Potiphar's home; then as a prisoner in charge of the prison and next in his journey, he is made 2nd in command of Egypt. The king's cupbearer and baker offended the Pharaoh and got thrown into jail. They both had dreams, and Joseph interpreted the dreams. In three days, the cupbearer would be restored the baker would be hanged. It happened as spoken, the cupbearer promised to tell Pharaoh about Joseph's gift, but he did not. Two years later, Pharaoh had a disturbing dream that nobody could interpret; then, the cupbearer remembered Joseph. Joseph interpreted the dream, which was a warning of a soon-coming famine and a strategy for getting through it. Pharaoh said, "can we find anyone like this, a man who has God's spirit in him? He then said, there is no one as intelligent and wise as you, you will be over my house, and all my people will obey your commands."
When we walk with God, our gifts are tools for promotion. Every situation we are in is preparation for the next level of responsibility. When Joseph was asked if he could interpret dreams, he said he could not, that God alone could reveal it. Those who walk with God recognize their gift comes from Him; their reliance is still on God and not their abilities. Each born-again believer has the spirit of God at work in them; therefore, like Joseph, they have intelligence and wisdom. Joseph being a Jew, was given a position set aside just for Egyptians. There are no limits or boundaries for those that walk with God.
Joseph's dream as a child was fulfilled; Joseph's brothers came and bowed down in need of assistance due to the famine. Joseph, in disguise, drills them with questions and tests them. He now reveals his identity, weeps loudly, he tells them this was all God's plan, and they are to go and return with Jacob, and the best of the land will be given to them.
Dreams are only fulfilled if we continue walking with God. The understanding of dreams comes in time. Those who walk with God hold nothing against anyone; they see God's hand in every difficulty and misfortune.
The charge: Deepen your relationship with God so that you are not just a dreamer or gifted, but you see your dreams fulfilled and your gifts used for your promotion.
Art needs an artist, a building, a builder, an invention, an inventor, and, of course, creation, a creator. Genesis 1 is the history of God at work in the formation of the world. This new series is to help us grasp the revelation of God at work in our work. The goal is to learn how to partner with God so that everything we do turns out good. If we don't know where we came from, we will never discover where we are going. Life will not have its correct meaning; we will be as the earth was, formless and empty. The best place to start, therefore, in this series is "In The Beginning."
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the water's depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said ......." (Gen 1:1-3a)
We learn in these verses that God can create out of that which is formless and void. God's hands go to work through His Spirit as He speaks. God is the author of our existence, and we can only find our purpose through Him. Our lives are without form and void until we know our maker. Our work will lack significance because we don't understand its eternal value. Whatever we do, whatever we own, will never satisfy without
God created light, sky, stars, creatures in the sea, land, and air, and then in verse 26, it says, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to our likeness, they will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth."
We see the words "Us" and "Our," signifying God's triune nature as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We were created for fellowship to work together with others. We can never reach our full potential alone. Who we choose to partner in life is vital both in marriage and in business. Humanity is to rule, and leadership is in us all! We are to steward what God has created. How pleased our father depends on how well we manage what He has given us in faith.
We see in verse 28 males and females are given their earthly responsibility: "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it."
We are in the position of Vice-President of Earth; as long as we walk with God, we have the designated authority to rule this planet. Do we grasp the power that we have in Christ Jesus? Don't listen to any lie that undervalues who you are in Christ. As long as the Spirit leads us, whatever we speak and do in the name of Jesus has the seal of authority to accomplish it.
Creation took place in six days; on the seventh day after God completed His work, He rested and declared the day Holy. We are not too overwork but to enjoy the product of our labor. Rest is a must! Maintaining proper balance in life is necessary, or our bodies will wear out, our emotions will become overwhelmed, and our spirit man will grow dim. Now Hebrews 4 helps us understand the deeper meaning of rest; it is more than just a day; it results from trusting our lives, including our work in God's hands. Living in disobedience is when life becomes complicated. In Christ, the yoke is easy; the burden is light. Rest is a lifestyle of leaning on the Lord for guidance and strength.
In Genesis chapter 2, we learn about the man and woman in the garden of Eden. God gave Adam the responsibility of naming all that He created. Names have meaning; they identify what something is. We should never take a word for granted, whether it is a person, business, or any object. Our names help us discover our specific purpose in life. We see on different occasions that God changes a name when He changes a life, such as with Jacob to Israel. That is one reason I sensed God led me to change my name to Joshua from Justin.
God already had the creation of females in His plans, but He wanted the male to recognize their need for help. The responsibility God gave Adam was not entirely satisfying without a partner. So the Lord caused Adam to have a deep sleep and then came forth from his side, the first woman named Eve. Man will never be complete without a woman; work is not enough to satisfy. If one works so hard that they have no time to maintain intimate relationships, they are miserable. Man and woman are to be side by side in partnership, complementing each other, in Holy union. They together represent the fullness of God. God has given some a grace to be single such as Eunuchs and individuals like the Apostle Paul.
In Genesis 3, we read about the Temptation and the Fall. Lucifer, the fallen angel, was either a snake or used to describe his cunning nature. Lucifer deceives Eve to believe that God did not mean they would die if they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil but rather that they will become like God.
We see that Adam and Eve were not together when Lucifer spoke, and Adam did not tell her what God said when discovering what happened. We learn that open communication is vital for a partnership to work, or lies will creep in. God wants us to experience only good, but anything we separate from Him will turn into darkness and deception. Adam did not own up to his wrong but instead blamed Eve. We can only resolve conflict when we first own up to where we went wrong, and we cannot make another person get it right unless they recognize it themselves.
The result of Adam and Eve's sin was they suddenly realized they were naked. Shame and guilt are the bi-product of evil; to live under its weight is a curse, with the result being hostility between male and female, intense labor pains, and work no longer being pleasurable as we see described in Genesis 3:15-19. God, though, had a plan of redemption that by the shed blood of His only begotten Son, by confession our sins they are forgiven, our conscience made clean, and our relationship to God restored.
The Old Testament stories have individuals God used as types and shadows to point them towards the need of a Savior. We were created not to be God but to be like God and walk in fellowship with Him. Hebrews chapter 11 is the hall of faith, great men and women God has used to work through. Join me on this journey as we learn from these heroes how God wants to work in our work to restore the earth to the glory of Eden.
A company of believers is weak due to poor leadership. Paul writes here in 2 Timothy 2 addressing this issue with the hope to inspire his spiritual son. Timothy battled with timidity; that is why Paul said more than once for him to be strong through the grace given him. Joshua also battled timidity, as seen in Joshua chapter 1, where the Lord told Joshua three times to be strong and courageous. I, for one, struggled with this, but with growing in my relationship with the Lord over time and seeing His hand at work in my life, I am now quite bold and confident. We cannot receive this strength by lifting weights; it's by grace that increases the closer we get to God.
Each individual in the body of Christ has been given a portion of faith; combined with other believers, it grows. So we can only go so far on our own; we need each other. This is why Paul told Timothy in verse two to find other trustworthy people that can take what he has taught and teach others. We are only as strong as our team, so only little will be accomplished if my team is me, myself, and I. Leaders lead leaders who lead leaders! Kingdom advancement is based on bearing fruit and multiplying.
Spiritual strength is characterized by endurance, as seen in verses 3-4, with the examples of good soldiers and athletes. To be good means to be dedicated where you know the rules, practice regularly, and are not easily distracted by trivial pursuits. If you put in the time, you will see the results, just as the example of farmers in verse six reaps a harvest because of their hard work. Another characterization of strength, as seen in verses 9-13, is long-suffering. The definition being having patience despite having troubles. Jesus promised that those that follow Him would suffer, for the lovers of darkness hate those in the light. The gospel brings light, so whosoever preaches it will be persecuted by those who love the dark. Strong leaders face suffering from joy knowing they are participating in carrying the cross of Christ.
Spiritually strong leaders work hard! They have a vision, and so, therefore, every step they make is driven with purpose. They avoid fruitless activities and conversations. Time is of the utmost importance, so anyone or anything that would rob them of this is avoided. They study the gospel daily, so they need not be ashamed when they preach, for they have rightly divided the Word of Truth.
Spiritually strong leaders stay away from evil things; they run from anything that would compromise their faith. As it says in verses 19-22, they desire to be special utensils of gold and silver, not wood and clay, so they keep themselves pure so they can be honorable vessels that the Master can use for special occasions. (2 Timothy 2:19-22)
Spiritually strong believers are servant leaders who do not quarrel but are kind to everyone, teach well and are patient with difficult people. They have the grace to help other believers avoid the devil's traps or come out of them.
The charge is for us to repent for any area we fall short as leaders and draw ever closer to the Lord to gain more strength to serve others in a more godly manner.
Paul referred often to running in his writings for his audience was predominantly gentiles from a Greek/Roman culture in which Olympic Games was extremely popular. Fast forward a couple of thousand years and the Olympics are still an exciting experience every four years and beginning later this month. I personally love the games, for one I love sports, and secondly, I love to see the world come together.
In Philippians chapters, 2-3 Paul refers to running in both chapters and so these next two weeks our focus will be running the race. Unlike Olympic runners are prize is not medals of earthly gain but rather eternal reward, not based on individual achievement but Kingdom advancement, becoming like Christ and pointing others to Christ. The older you get the more you realize how fast life passes by. If a runner continues to lose one race after another they will feel all their hard work was in vain. In the Kingdom nobody loses, we all win, in fact, we already won. Our race is to inspire others to get off the sideline and join in the race and encourage those who are stumbling or have fallen to get back up again.
ALL ABOUT ATTITUDE
Your attitude will affect your altitude! One of the biggest obstacles to hurdle in the race of life is bad attitudes. We live in a negative world and if we are not careful negativity will infect us. Here in Philippians 2:1, Paul asks some thought-provoking questions to help the Philippians examine their attitude. Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? The conclusion is if we are not in communion with the Lord we will be like the world and in need of an attitude adjustment. Only in the Spirit can we get along and be able to work together with one mind and purpose in the Lord.
Paul now describes bad attitudes as selfish and only concerned with impressing others. He then speaks to them to be humble and put the interest of others ahead of themselves. He now describes Jesus in verses 5-8 who as God humbled Himself taking the position of a slave, to the point of obedience to God, dying a criminal's death on a cross. It says in verse nine it was through this act of humility that Jesus was elevated to the place of highest honor, His name above all names. The way upward is downward! Humility is the attribute necessary to run in the victory of the Lord, to hurdle the obstacle of pride. The bible says God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Humility is not a weakness it is a strength. The humble climb higher, run faster, go farther. Jesus won the race of all races, and in Him, through His name, we are positioned as victors.
NOTHING COMES EASY
Those that have won gold in the Olympics can testify that it did not come easy. It takes great sacrifice, hard work, and a never-give-up attitude. Yet, for some reason, it seems Christians don’t always understand this concept and think that changing one’s life doesn’t take any work. WRONG! We are not saved by works but faith is a verb that means action. So if one has faith in God then it will be seen by the fruit of what they do. Just like if one believes they can be a great runner they don’t just enter races if they have not yet first trained for it. The Lord tests us, He allows us to go through trials, like a good coach so that we can gain endurance and become stronger.
The work is not our works but His work in us, as we give God space to move in our lives, we change. We change because He changes our desires to what pleases Him. This is how we grow from having a negative to a positive outlook, from complaining and arguing to praising and giving thanks. Jesus is the light so the more space we give Him, the less darkness remains as our lives become an outpouring of light to God. It is like a runner giving their coach time each day to train them. If they follow the coach's guidance they will run their race not in vain, the hard work won’t be useless, it will pay off when they compete in a race.
BE THE EXAMPLE
What inspires athletes is often other athletes who have accomplished what they desire to achieve. Paul commends two individuals who he was sending to the Philippians as examples of what he was teaching them, Timothy and Epaphroditus. Few people have it in them to push through challenges without being inspired by others. We need motivation from others and we need to be those who motivate others. Paul was sending them Timothy who was the chief example of someone who has proven that he genuinely cares about others more than himself. Sadly, this example is not something often displayed by many Christians, so we need to pray, Lord makes us like you! Now, Epaphroditus had helped Paul greatly in time of need even when he himself was sick to the point of death. We are called to lay down our lives just as Jesus laid down His life for us and both these individuals were examples of God’s love on display.
If you are on the sideline watching life pass you get in the race, advancing the kingdom of God. Let the Lord adjust your attitude by humbling yourself before Him, repenting, and He will transform the way you think and behave. Make a pledge to put the effort like an athlete to give God your coach the time daily to work in and through you, knowing that it will pay off, you will grow. Finally, be the example like Timothy and Epaphroditus of those who genuinely care for the needs of others more than themselves.
Saved from what? Until one comes to the realization that they need salvation they won't be able to answer this. God brought salvation through the Jews. He did it through a process where they should have concluded their deep need for a Savior. The Ten Commandments were given for this reason to reveal sin, man's moral failure, and the need for salvation. We need to be saved from ourselves!
Paul here in Romans 10 shares about the longing of his heart that Israel would be saved. It was not that they were unaware of God, they actually were zealous for Him, the issue was they were misdirected. They thought they would be saved through their own righteousness through knowledge and obedience to the law. It should have been clear to them as described in Romans 7, that the things they want to do, they don't do, and the things they don't want to do, they do. The nature of sin cannot be overcome by just knowledge of it. One can only change if their heart changes, and that is only made possible through Jesus Christ who took our sins on the cross and by His resurrection gave the gift of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that empowered him in his flesh to live sinless, to those who believe.
You may know people who think they are saved because they go to church, say the rosary, help those in need, but works do not save us, let us not be misdirected like the Jews, Paul was addressing. The only way we are made right with God is through faith in Jesus Christ. We must repent of all our wrongs and also of trying to be right on our own. Then as it says in verse nine "we must believe in our heart that Jesus was raised from the dead" for the forgiveness of our sins in order to be saved.
We don't need to try to convince someone they need salvation we just need to tell them and if their hearts are open they will respond. As verses 7 and 8 reveal the message is not something we need to go to heaven or to the place of the dead to confirm, no, for it is written in our hearts. God desires not just Israel but the whole world to be saved as it says in John 3:16-7. The problem some have in receiving this good news is deception. All we can do is keep presenting Truth in word and deed and believe that it will expose the lies in due time.
There is no other way to the Father but by the Son, yes, for both Jew and Gentile. Verse 15 reveals what is needed for the world to be saved? The messengers need to be sent with the message of the gospel. We are God's sent ones, His apostolic people. Our family gatherings, work environments, community events, market places, etc. are the places we are to go with the seed of the gospel, to plant, and water, trusting God to bring the harvest. Knowing not everyone will welcome the good news but for those who do, faith comes by hearing and hearing God's Word.
Israel has no excuse the messenger came with the message and they as a whole rejected their Savior. Israel represents all of mankind, no matter what people group God had chosen to bring the Savior, it would have come with the same result. The promise in Romans 11:11 is that Jews will be provoked by Gentiles by their relationship with the Lord and they will return to God and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Are you saved? If you believe in your heart Jesus was raised from the dead, then yes, you are!
The issue Paul is addressing in Romans 6 is our continual urge to sin. As long as we live in this age we will battle with the desires of our old nature. The big difference for those who are in Christ is grace. This grace is not as we see here in Romans 6 a license to sin and get away with it; a get out of jail free card, rather it is the power of God over sin. Grace is the only force that can render sin powerless. Without grace, man cannot overcome the urge to sin, they will give in to it, over and over again, no matter the consequence.
An acronym for GRACE is God's Riches At Christ Expense. We have the Holy Spirit the same source Christ had to live sin-free, in us, so, therefore, we can live sin-free. We have been crucified with Christ as it says in Galatians 2:20 and here in Romans 6:6, which means our sins are nailed to the cross, and just as Christ was raised from the dead, we have been raised to new life (Romans 6:7-9). No more excuses! We do not have to give in to sinful urges. It does not mean we won't be tempted, for Jesus Himself was tempted in all ways but did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). So the temptation is not what is wrong it is the act. So what do we do when we are tempted? 1 Corinthians 10:13 says God always gives us a way to escape. As long as we acknowledge God in every situation we will receive direction to do things His way (Pro. 3:5), and not fall into the trap of sin.
Romans 6:13 says do not let your bodies become instruments of sin but rather let them be instruments for His glory. Our lives are a song, they are either demonically influenced or heavenly inspired. When we surrender our lives into the hands of God we become His instrument to produce the songs of heaven that draw others towards Him. Nobody serves themselves, everyone serves somebody, so even when one thinks he is in control of his life, they are deceived for they are completely under the control of their sinful nature. We are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. Someone is playing us, we are just mere instruments, a product of whoever is pulling the strings. I would rather have the person playing me be the one who makes the best music, where my life is an inspirational song rather than just the chaotic, disjointed noise of this world.
My prayer for each of you today is that you step into the grace of God and live under His power. All it takes is acknowledging Him and allowing Him to direct your life, then you become His instrument to play the music of heaven.
Nobody wants to be alone, we all want friends, people that will accept us for who we are. Most of us can remember as insecure teenagers trying so hard to fit in with our peers. Often this need for acceptance transfers right into adulthood. Even as Christians we can be so different in thinking than other Christians that we feel on an island all alone. It would be easier to just agree with a mixed, diluted form of Christianity in order to remain in fellowship.
What often gets people to like us is how well we are at something. When I was great in High School football people liked me despite how different I was from them. Now as a preacher if I just speak what people want to hear I will be liked. The world is so much about performance that it is easy to develop a works mentality even regarding our relationship with God.
Here in Romans 4, we have an example of Abraham who was accepted by God simply because he believed in Him. It reminds me of the moment I saw Loraine and just knew she was the one for me and when I told her even though to many it would have been crazy, she accepted it. I had not yet proven to her my love, I had nothing to offer her, but yet she believed.
The Issue Paul is addressing throughout Romans is Works, the Jewish Leaders thought they were justified by God because of the Law. The truth is by grace we are saved through faith, it is a gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:8-9). Abraham is the ultimate example of this and Paul knew that the religious leaders he was addressing would have a hard time arguing against the father of their faith.
It says in verse 3 that “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness.” So what had Abraham done? Nothing, the law had not yet even been established. He just believed! The question is, do we believe?
Nelson's Bible Dictionary defines faith as a belief in or confident attitude toward God, involving a commitment to his will for one's life. Nelson also says belief is to place one's trust in God's truth. A person who believes is one who takes God at his word and trusts in him for salvation.
To say I believe in God is easy to say but much more difficult to walk out. We must make sure that our belief in God is not just as far as it fits our will, but rather it is accepting His will no matter how we feel or think about it, we just believe.
One usually gets credit and therefore paid if they do their job right. Abraham was credited as righteous for doing nothing but believing. When one believes in God their sins are forgiven for they are believing that Jesus covered their sin by His sacrifice on the cross. Abraham was not even circumcised, as it says in verses 9-12, yet he was credited as righteous.
The Religious leaders looked down at the world as unholy, uncircumcised, sinners. Yet Paul was making it clear that being religious meant nothing if one has not been circumcised in heart by the Holy Spirit. It is only through Holy Spirit that one can be Holy. When we believe in God, Holy Spirit goes to work. It is not our works but God’s works through His Spirit that clothe us in His Righteousness.
Paul encourages his listeners not to follow in the footsteps of leaders who are works-oriented but to follow the example of Abraham who is the father of our faith. Works produce wrath because they can never live up, we always fall short and therefore feel condemned and reap what we sow, unrighteousness.
Our American culture is obsessed with stardom! We try so hard to find a talent that will cause others to idolize us. The sad thing is most stars eventually fall, it is so hard to maintain public approval, one wrong word or act the world so easily turns.
Abraham was told that his inheritance was like the stars in the sky, we who have faith in God are stars! Stars light up only because they are a reflection of the sun. We can not get credit for the light we are just a reflection of the Son, and if we forget, we quickly will fall.
As Proverbs 16:18 says “Pride goeth before destruction, haughtiness before the fall,” and as it says in Luke 14:11 “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The key to reflecting the Son is humility, as long as we remain humble we will continue to light up a dark world as God’s stars.