But I don’t want to be a cattle rustler

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Genealogy is a big deal these days. But then again, it’s always been so. In the very early years of the nation of Israel, land rights, property, and position were determined by genealogical records. Many of the ancestral lines held certain positions for generations.  Like the lines of Issachar and Zebulun who, during the forty years of wilderness wandering were commanded by God to guard the tribe of Judah, the royal line from which the kings of Israel (and the King of Kings) would come. These two tribes took their charge very seriously. The Bible notes that almost a millennium later, the sons of the sons of the sons of Issachar and Zebulun were still at their post, protecting the king in his palace.

I love that. I love a strong, godly heritage that continues through the generations. I think of the family of Billy Graham and his many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who serve in ministry. I know of many families who have multi-generational pastors, missionaries, and ministry leaders. I love to see several generations crowded together on the church pew every Sunday. A godly heritage is a precious thing.

But maybe that is not your heritage. Maybe your family tree, like mine produced a lot of bad fruit and more than a few nuts. My maternal great-great-grandfather was a cattle rustler and my great uncle spent more of his life in jail than out of it. There is a long sinful thread running through my paternal family. Does that mean that I am destined to follow their paths? Not if God has anything to say about it.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  When He saved me, God gave me a new name, a new lineage, and a new future. I am now a child of God and my family lineage is that of Jesus Christ and all the saints who have gone before me.  My family heritage is godliness, obedience, endurance, faithfulness, righteousness, holiness, and blessedness. When the enemy tells me who I was I tell him who I am: God’s daughter. Beloved, don’t accept the lie that you can’t rise above the past. Take God at His Word and grab hold of the new life and the new destiny that awaits you in Jesus Christ.

Hebrews: A Sabbath Rest

Why It's Important to Allow Yourself to Rest | INTEGRIS Health

Several years ago, for seven seasons, my son and I served as collection center coordinators for Operation Christmas Child in Tallahassee, Florida. We received thousands of shoebox gifts and prepared them for transport and processing. It was wonderfully fulfilling and we enjoyed it tremendously. But the end of collection week I was completely drained. Yet I got up the next day and went to my office. It was an exhausting week, but I didn’t take a day off to rest because there was still work to do.

In Hebrews 4 (read vs. 1-11) the author spoke of the Sabbath rest the Lord offers His people. Drawing from the creation account he said, “On the seventh day God rested from all His work” (Heb. 4:4; Genesis 2:1). Did He rest because He was tired after six days of creation? No. The author said, “His work has been finished since the creation of the world” (Hebrews 4:3). God’s rest was not inactivity, it was completion. God rested because His work was done.

How does this connect to the Israelites and to us? Return to the desert where the Lord told Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites” (Numbers 13:1). Did you see it? God had already promised them the land – it was a done deal. All they had to do was go in and take it. But they saw the enemy rather than the completed promise. They “hardened their hearts” (Heb. 4:7). God responded by saying “They shall never enter my rest” (3:11; 4: 3,5).  Likewise, salvation is also a completed work. Remember Jesus’ final words from the cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus’ death completed the work of salvation. There is nothing left for us to do to be saved. We receive what has already been accomplished.

There’s an even greater rest yet to come. Our writer said, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience” (4:9-11). Look at Jesus’ words at the new heaven and the new earth: “It is done” (Rev. 21:6). What is done? Creation is done. Salvation is done.  God’s plan of the ages is done. Beloved, don’t miss out. It’s all been done for you. Believe it. Receive it. And rest.

Of Septic Tanks and God

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My son says that I can take anything and find a spiritual application to it. I suppose that’s so but it’s because I see God in everything. He is the Creator and Sustainer of everything. Nothing exists that He did not create with His powerful word or fashion with His divine hand. If he could somehow cease to exist, which He will not, everything in heaven and earth would also cease to exist. So yeah, I see spiritual things in everything and every situation.  

There is this spot in my yard that is especially lush and green. You city people won’t understand, but the country folk know that this is where the septic tank sits.  The “contents” of the tank become fertilizer for the soil so that the grass and bushes in the immediate vicinity are “nurtured.” How can I find a spiritual application in a septic tank?  In God’s hands, the crappiest parts of our life often become the most fruitful for the Kingdom. Ask Joseph whose horrible brothers sold him into slavery. He was taken to Egypt where he was falsely accused of sexual assault and thrown in prison. There, he interpreted a dream for a fellow prisoner who promised to remember him to the Pharoah but promptly forgot. Until two years later when Pharoah had a dream and the ex-prisoner remembered Joseph and recommended him. Joseph not only told the Pharoah the meaning of his anxious dream but how to resolve the problem that the dream was prophecying. Impressed, Pharoah appointed him to the second-highest position in his kingdom and Joseph saved the lives of the Egyptians and became very wealthy in the process. He also saved the lives of his family – including the brothers who had betrayed him. And in doing so, he saved the lineage through which the Savior of all mankind would come.  Had Joseph not made it to Egypt to stand before the Pharoah – however harsh the circumstances – there would be no nation of Israel, no Jewish people, no Jesus, and no salvation for you and me.  Joseph told his brothers, “ You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20).

Beloved, if life feels like a septic tank right now be encouraged. God has a way of taking the crappiest things and bringing unexpected good out of them.

Why the World Doesn’t Believe

577a5-157991596“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
Why do people reject the love and grace of God? Why do they refuse to receive the beautiful message of the Gospel? I’ve often wondered why people don’t want Jesus. I mean, who doesn’t want joy, peace, hope, and eternal life.
Then I read in Exodus, about the Israelites who were enslaved in Egypt. When Moses and Aaron delivered the Lord’s message: “Let my people go” (Ex 5:1), Pharaoh instead made their work even harder. Moses tried to encourage the Israelites, telling them that God would set them free from their bondage, give them their own land, and most importantly, He would be their God. The Scripture says, “They did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage” (Ex 6:9).


Why does the world reject the love and grace of God? Because they are under bondage to Satan. They have no hope because they are over-burdened by a cruel taskmaster. They don’t understand the beauty of God’s offer because their minds are numbed by discouragement from the devil. Our key verse notes that Jesus saw the hopeless people and He felt deep compassion. Not hate, not disgust, not judgement. He felt the weight of their bondage and it broke His heart.


Maybe – just a thought here – but maybe Jesus is showing us the better way to reach the lost world. Maybe compassion rather than pointing fingers is the way to lead people to Christ. I’m not talking about the world’s humanitarian efforts to ease suffering. I talking about the love of God that cares about the body and the eternal soul. The lost world is under bondage. Christian compassion can loosen their chains so God’s mercy can set them free. Will you be the conduit of His love to someone today?

Holy Father, the world is in bondage to Your enemy and they cannot even envision freedom.  Satan continually tells them how helpless they are and how hopeless their situation is.  Let me be Your hand and voice of compassion.  Use me to open hearts to the possibility of a life without chains.  It was Your compassion that saved me, let me share that compassion so others might be saved too.  Amen.

God Knows

“For the Lord your God knows your trudging through this great wilderness.  These forty years the Lord your God has been with you” (Deuteronomy 2:7).

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen,

Nobody knows my sorrow

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

Nobody knows but Jesus.

The beautiful old African-American spiritual was a testament to the struggles and the faith of the slaves of the 1800’s.  Louie Armstrong recorded the song in 1962 and many more have followed.  This song could have also been sung by the early church martyrs and even the Israelites who fled Egypt and set out toward the Promised Land.  It reminds us that life is hard, sometimes very hard, but God is aware and He is with us.

As the second generation of Israelites prepared to cross over the Jordan River, Moses reminded them of their own history and warned them not to turn again to the rebellious ways of their fathers.  Earlier, when they had neared Canaan, Moses sent twelve scouts to look over the land and bring a full report.  They confirmed that the land was rich and desirable, but they balked at taking on the current occupants, fearing they would be destroyed.  Their disobedience resulted in forty years of wandering to allow the unfaithful generation to die so that the next generation – hopefully wiser and more faithful than their parents – could go in.  It was forty years of hardship and drudgery – “trudging through the great wilderness.”  For the faithless Israelites it was long, hard journey to nowhere.

I think “trudging” is a great word to describe life sometimes.  It brings up the image of weary feet-dragging and endless, pointless plodding in a dry and unfriendly terrain.  Life feels like that sometimes, doesn’t it?  Day after day after day of struggle and difficulty.  You try to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, but even that feels like more than you can do at times.  You wonder if anyone sees you.  If anyone cares.

My friend, I promise you, on the Word of God and my own life experience, Someone does.  Someone sees every step you take.  Someone hears every sigh and catches every tear.  You know who that Someone is – it is God, the Creator, the Almighty, the Sovereign One.  He is watching over you, just as He watched over the Israelites in their forty-year trek across the wilderness.  Not only was He watching over them, He was with them.  Close enough to see the weariness on their faces.  And day by day by day He cared for them.  He led them.  He fed them. He provided for them.

I know sometimes it feels like you are all alone in your struggles but be assured God is with you.  He is near and He cares about you.  He will lead you.  He will provide for you.  He will comfort you and encourage you – it’s what He loves to do.  If He cared enough to send His one and only Son to die for you, do you think He will forget you in your daily struggles?  Oh Beloved, I understand – I’ve been through some very hard times. I’m in a difficult season right now.  At times I thought I was all alone – especially when my troubles were self-made.  But God has always been good, He has never abandoned me, and He will never abandon you.

The Israelites found God faithful.  The early church and the martyrs of the first century and beyond found Him to be the same.  And so have I.  He has never let His people down.  He has never left them alone in their struggles.  He has not changed.  He is as good and faithful today as He was hundreds, even thousands of years ago.

When you think, “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen,” remember “the Lord your God knows.” He is near and ready to help.

Holy Father, some days feel like I’m trudging through an endless wilderness.  I need Your help and the comfort of Your presence.  Help me to trust that You are watching over me and that you are with me every step of the way.  Amen.

 

Advent Devotional Day 14 – Mighty God!

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still” (Exodus 14:14)

The Israelite people were fleeing Egypt, with Pharaoh and the Egyptian army close on their heals.  Imagine being part of the crowd of two-million plus slaves being pursued by elite military horsemen and six hundred chariots armed with deadly spears and arrows.  You stand at the edge of a vast, impassable sea knowing that Pharaoh’s army will come sweeping in on you any minute.  You look to your leader Moses for a battle plan and all he tells you is “be still.” How’s your confidence now?

The prophet declared that this Child who was born to save the world would be called “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6).  He would be a Warrior who would fight for His people.  Only the enemy is not a human army; the enemy is death – that is, eternal separation from God.  And He would not do battle with arrows or spears or any man-made weapon.  He would use a wooden cross to gain for us eternal life.  Paul well proclaimed “Death has been swallowed up in victory!” (1 Corinthians 15:54).

We like to keep the Christmas story all light and sweet – a baby in a manger, angels singing, shepherds kneeling, star shining – but the truth is, this Baby came to fight a fearsome foe.  He came with a battle plan in hand – a plan that would mean His death.

Why? Because you and I are unable to save ourselves.  When it comes to this enemy, we are as helpless as the Israelites standing at the edge of the sea.  We cannot defeat death.  This morning our church and community is mourning for a beautiful teenage girl who fought hard against this enemy but lost the battle.  Too soon sometimes, death comes for everyone.  But the blessing in this young lady’s passing is that she belonged to Jesus Christ.  While we have lost her lovely smile and her sweet spirit here, she is not lost forever.  Jesus won the victory for her and she has eternal life with Him in heaven.

Can you confidently say “I am not afraid of death!”?  Are you assured of the same victory as this precious girl?  He came to fight for you, to give you victory over your fiercest enemy.  He came to win eternal life for you.  More than a mere Baby in the manger, Jesus is indeed our Mighty God – our Warrior and our Victor.

“Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory though our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Read I Corinthians 15:50-58

This devotional is dedicated to the memory of Anna K.

Your Promised Land

cover0123-gate“See the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord the God of your fathers told you, do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,” (Deuteronomy 1:21).

 When the Israelites first stood at the threshold of the Promised Land, they went out to explore the territory and were astonished at the good land that awaited them.  It was everything God has told them – rich and fertile, good for supporting livestock, with settled towns and homes waiting for the wandering people of Yahweh.  But – and sn’t there always a “but” – there were also giants inhabiting the towns.  Despite the assurances of Moses, Joshua and Caleb that the Lord would fight on their behalf, the Israelites balked at pressing on.  They let fear take away the blessings God had promised and caused the whole community to wander in the wilderness for forty years.

What I see so profoundly in this verse is that, even before they set foot in the land, it was already theirs.  God had already declared it for them, all they had to do was move ahead into what was theirs by divine decree.  Yes there were giants in their way, but if God had already declared it to be so, would He not also move every obstacle in their path?  Of course He would.  But they would not trust Him and so they let the Promised Land slip through their unbelieving fingers.

Some fifteen years ago, God promised to use me as His spokesman, to share His Word and His Truth.  There were some mighty big challenges before me, and I took more steps back than forward, but He has been faithful to bring me to what He declared over me.  This post and my blog (https://dbethandrews.wordpress.com) are part of that, and I hope there is even more ahead. I don’t know what God has set before you as your “Promised Land.”  I don’t know what giants are in your path.  But I know that if the Sovereign King of the universe has spoken a promise over you, you need to step into that promise and watch Him move the giants and make it happen.  What God declares is as good as done.  Beloved, it’s time to march on.