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January 2011 Archives

January 12, 2011

The "In"-side

Psalm 15
1 LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
2 He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
3 He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;
4 In whose eyes a vile person is despised,
But he honors those who fear the LORD;
He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 He who does not put out his money at usury,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things shall never be moved.

The Psalmist makes a list of the kind of person who lives in God's presence. It's an interesting list, especially because it's so everyday life; Telling the truth. Don't talk behind someone's back. Staying out of someone else's business. Takes on for the team. Doesn't hold people in debt. Doesn't take advantage of circumstances and situations

I think more than God being present, the person who lives this way is aware of God's presence. God is Omni-present, so He isn't more present than He already is. I do know that how I live can affect my awareness of His nearness. That awareness helps me to override my natural inclination for self-preservation, self-promotion - all the things that put "me" first. My integrity is measured by the way I respond to others. So my integrity is dependent upon how closely I'm integrated with Him.

Lord, I always want to live with an awareness of Your presence.

January 20, 2011

Moving Trucks

Genesis 45:18-21, 46:5
18 Bring your father and your households and come to me; I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you will eat the fat of the land. 19 Now you are commanded—do this: Take carts out of the land of Egypt for your little ones and your wives; bring your father and come. 20 Also do not be concerned about your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’”
21 Then the sons of Israel did so; and Joseph gave them carts, according to the command of Pharaoh, and he gave them provisions for the journey.

5 Then Jacob arose from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob, their little ones, and their wives, in the carts which Pharaoh had sent to carry him.

Pharaoh had been so blessed by Joseph, that upon hearing about his family (and Joseph’s request that his family come to Egypt) that he gave not only food provisions, but “moving trucks” (carts) to carry their people and possessions. The journey would have been between 200-300 mi. This task was also like moving a small city because of all the extended family members and employees.

Also, their departure point, Beersheba, was the location of Israel’s (Jacob) reconciliation with his brother Esau.

I don't know why I find it so interesting that Pharaoh sent carts to Jacob/Israel to bring them to Egypt. But here's my thoughts....

"Israel" comes into Egypt as a family, but leaves 400 years later as a nation. I'm not sure that's what Jacob (or his fathers) imagined when God spoke to them about what He was going to do in making them great. No one would think that it would take that long or under those circumstances. But upon their departure, they asked the Egyptians for gold and clothing. In fact the scripture records that the Israelites "plundered" the Egyptians (Exodus 12:35-36). Although the Bible doesn't mention it, I can't imagine transporting all those people and goods without...carts.

Lord, help me to always see the "carts" you provide in each situation; the simple things that make the circumstance easier and helps keep it moving. Though I'm always thankful for your provision of supply, I want to be thanks for all the assistance you give to help me move forward.

January 21, 2011

Mind Your Own Business

Matthew 16:3b
You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.
Matthew 16:9
Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up?
Matthew 16:23
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Jesus has just miraculously fed the multitude (Ch15). The Pharisees/Sadducee present came asking for another sign. Jesus told them how their life's experience has allowed them to learn how to predict the weather, but they had little discernment for things in the spiritual world.

In the next encounter Jesus is trying to teach the disciples a principle from His encounter with the Pharisees, but they weren't hearing Him correctly. They were so focused on the immediate (what they we're going to eat) that they missed what He was trying to teach them (although v13 shows they eventually got it).

Lastly is the discussion about "who Jesus is" with the disciples (which could be an exercise in helping the disciples develop some spiritual discernment). Peter correctly provides the answer and Jesus helps him understand how he got there. But in the follow-up conversation, Jesus tells Peter that he is "not mindful of the things of God."

Taken together, these three scenes bring to my attention the importance of developing a new (or additional) filter thought which to understand the circumstances of my life. Like the Pharisees, there are certain aspects to my life for which I've accumulated some practical knowledge. But if I only rely on my knowledge, then I'm going to miss the the other layer that is just as real - the spiritual layers. If God is working in everything, that I need to develop the ability to perceive what He's doing in the midst of everything else going on.

Other times I'm so focused on the immediate, that I can miss the moments when God is trying use the circumstances to teach me a spiritual principle. Why? Because like Peter, can often be mindful of earthly thing, and not the things of God.

I'm called to live in these dual (but integrated) world; the material and eternal, physical and spiritual. But as a "new man" I need to be able to live with a new discernment so that I don't miss what God is doing or teaching.

Lord, help me to be mindful of all of the layers if life. Help me to see You in all things. Help me to listen and learn.

January 24, 2011

I Am Pharaoh

Exodus 8:8-11 (NIV)
8 Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the LORD to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD.”
9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.”
10 “Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said.
Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the LORD our God. 11 The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile.”
Exodus 8:24-28 (NIV)
24 And the LORD did this. Dense swarms of flies poured into Pharaoh’s palace and into the houses of his officials; throughout Egypt the land was ruined by the flies.
25 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God here in the land.
26 But Moses said, “That would not be right. The sacrifices we offer the LORD our God would be detestable to the Egyptians. And if we offer sacrifices that are detestable in their eyes, will they not stone us? 27 We must take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God, as he commands us.”
28 Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the LORD your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far. Now pray for me.”

These plagues could not be replicated by Pharaoh's magicians. Even they acknowledged that this was from God. So, since Pharaoh couldn't control it, he started negotiating with Moses. And each time after reaching an "agreement," Pharaoh reneged.

Too many times I've negotiated with God about my situation. If I cant put it off, that I'll agree to perform, but under my terms. Just as Pharaoh was considered to be "god-like," I must think of myself the same way if I think I can cut a deal with God. It's in those areas of my life that my own heart becomes hardened (or my "conscious seared" as the NT describes the condition).

In the areas where I'm just looking for an escape or relief, God is looking for change, submission, obedience.

Father, there is none as powerful or gracious as You. Forgive me for the areas in my life where I've become my own Pharaoh. Soften my heart.

January 26, 2011

"Fair" Wages

Matthew 20:1 (NKJV)
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard..."

This is the uncomfortable, "unfair" passage where the landowner hire people to work throughout the day. Then at the end of the day, he pays them all the same wage whether they worked all day or only an hour.

The most important thing to keep in mind when reading this through is the fact that Jesus is describing what the Kingdom of God is like. This parable is painful at so many levels. It goes against my sense of fairness. But in the story, Jesus reminds me that its about the agreement - "‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?" (v13-15). God's goodness is not demonstrated in His parity. It is demonstrated in the way He keeps His word.

What this really confronts is my need to find my worth in comparison with others. I know I would have preferred to be the last person hired and received the full wage instead of having to labor all day. Is my effort, commitment, skill, time not as valuable as "Johnny Come-Lately"? I know this is especially true when I look at certain areas in my life: my housing situation, the size of my church, the amount of money I make...all of these things are frustrating because I compare my situation with other people who have something different; what is in my opinion, a "better deal."

What this exposes in my life is my desire to do as little as possible while expecting maximum return. It reminds me that I still base my personal value or significance in a comparison with others. I need to simply keep focused on giving my best effort for my work in God's field. I desire to find satisfaction in the quality of the work I do, instead of looking over my shoulder at what other are or aren't doing. And at the end of the day, God will keep His end of the agreement He's made with me...because He is good.

God, thank you that your goodness is demonstrated by the way you keep your agreements. Thank you for the privilege of working the Kingdom's field.

January 28, 2011

Make or Break

Psalm 27:13-14 (NKJV)
13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
14 Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!

I don't know the specific context for this Psalm other that is was written by David. Verse 4 is the verse I'm most familiar with from this passage.

It's interesting that David attributes "believing" to sustaining him during what must be a time of trouble. He isn't just waiting for God to do something good in the "eternal", but for something in the temporal - "In the land of the living."

When times get tough and you don't see any relief or breakthrough, its important to believe. And in the time of waiting, what is being forged is your conviction about who God is and what He does. God is good. But when you're waiting (I'm waiting), the accuser attacks our resolve with the insinuations that although God is good, He's just not good to you. The other accusation is that you must not be good enough for God to work on your behalf.

Waiting is going to make or break you. You can lose heart and give up, give in. But if you wait...trust, rest. It's in the waiting that you reflect on what God has done, and allow your own testimony of God's goodness to strengthen you, or you question God's nature or your standing with Him. J. H. Jowett comments, "To wait for the Lord is to make the Lord the clinging place of the soul, and therefore the resting place, and therefore the growing place." The growing is in the waiting. And the battle is in the waiting. Courage is required, faith is exercised in the intermission between the promise and it's fulfillment. When you doubt, fear begins to sap our strength, our joy (Nehemiah 8:10). But when we wait...when we wait (I feel a TD Jakes moment coming on), our faith is built, our resolve fortified, our joy renewed, and our heart strengthened! Waiting will make or break you. But those who wait on the Lord, as Isaiah says, shall renew their strength. so as the psalmist says at he end of this passage, "Wait, I say, on the LORD!" for in the waiting, is the making.

Lord, you know I'm not good at waiting. Help me to develop a greater resolve, a greater patience. I know that you are good - my life is a testimony of Your goodness. So in this time of waiting (for a home personally, for our church's future), I believe...I believe. Strengthen my heart, for I too believe I'll see these things come to pass in the land of the living.

About January 2011

This page contains all entries posted to JustJeff | Life Journal in January 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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