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Sunday, May 26, 2019

Egypt and the Promised Land, Adam and Jesus

 Egypt and the Promised Land, Adam and Jesus
The Bible (Old Testament) gives a historical account of how God, with mighty power and many miracles, freed the Jewish people from their old life of slavery in Egypt.  And how He led them across the wilderness and on into their new life of freedom in the “Promised Land”.  (Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua)
 All along the way God protected and provided for the children of Israel as they followed His lead. Since they couldn’t grow crops in the desert, God fed them fresh manna (bread) every day for the forty years of their journey, except on the Sabbath days.  But He gave them a double portion of fresh bread the day before each Sabbath!  God also led them to hidden springs of water in the desert so His people and their flocks could drink and wash. (Exodus and Deuteronomy)
 Many Bible scholars compare this Bible story with how God leads His children today. Perhaps there is a comparison.  Egypt, their birthplace, represented slavery to the ancient Jews. And we humans were born with a sinful nature (Romans 6 and 7) and cannot free ourselves from the slavery of sin.  It’s in our nature. Life without Christ is a life of self-effort.  We are on our own. We try harder to be good enough and hope God will accept us.
  We will never have enough power on our own to conquer our own sin. We wonder if our difficulties, hardships and suffering could be a punishment from God.  We wonder if God’s acceptance is conditional on us. (Romans 7) Perhaps Egypt for us today represents the slavery of living life without having a solid faith in Christ.  The slavery of not knowing.  Of not having a solid faith in Christ.
Awhile back, my husband and I were members of a friendly church whose pastor and leaders believed that the Bible was a good book, but that it was full of myths and errors. This church taught that human reasoning and knowledge and traditions were as important in deciding the issues of life as was God’s Word, the Bible. I had a ministry in this church of visiting the sick and dying.  Often these very sick ones who had been members of the church all of their lives, would tell me that they were not sure they would be going to heaven since they thought that the idea of heaven might just be a myth.
  Many in that church did not have a solid faith or hope to cling to!  Many didn’t believe in “sin”, so they didn’t believe in a Jesus who would take away their sin!  They didn’t believe in His comfort in times of dire need!  Or the joy and victory in the Christ that saves from sin!  We left that lukewarm but friendly church and the dear people we loved there, because we couldn’t stay where the good news of Christ was so compromised!  Perhaps living with this unbelief in a saving Christ today can be compared to the poverty and slavery of the Jewish people in Egypt so long ago. But the story doesn’t end there.  There was a God who set out to free these ones and take them to their Promised Land.         
When we trust Christ as Savior and Lord, Scripture says that God, miraculously and with a mighty hand, forgives our sins through Christ, and we are given a new life in Christ. (Romans 8) We are “born-again”. (1 Peter 1:23, John 3:3, John 3:6-7) Miraculously we are freed from “Egypt” and from our slavery to sin not by our own power but by the power of the Holy Spirit!  Not by obeying the law but by accepting God’s grace! We are now free in Christ and living in the “Promised Land” (Romans 5), And we are a new person in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6) empowered by the Spirit. (Romans 8) and destined for eternal life. (Romans 5,6, and 8)
God has led us on a miraculous journey and taken care of us on the way as we are crossing our own personal wilderness. It seems we all cross some kind of wilderness somewhere in our lives.   And He has brought us into this “Promised Land” – a place and a position in Christ that we didn’t deserve.  We have been given a standing of full acceptance we couldn’t have earned. God has joined us into a relationship with Himself that we couldn’t have started.  Romans 8:1 says: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We are fully accepted in Christ.  Sounds like when we believe in Christ as Savior that we are living in the “Promised Land”. 
Scripture teaches that the whole human race has inherited sin from our first father, Adam. The Church calls this the “doctrine of original sin”.  We are born with a nature to sin. And Scripture also says: “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)   Since the whole human race has inherited the nature to sin from our first father – Adam – every human in the human race dies. 
 But then Scripture also teaches that we receive forgiveness of sin and eternal life through Jesus Christ.  Jesus is called “the Second Adam”. (1 Corinthians 15:45)   Jesus came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) .  Scripture teaches that in Adam we are born with a sinful nature. But, In Christ, if we believe in Him, we are “born again” and made a saint – a son or daughter of God.  In Adam we are condemned, but in Christ, through faith we are justified, forgiven, covered in His righteousness and given eternal life. 
 Scripture says: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and this is how death came to all men because all have sinned…But, the gift is not like the sin.  For if the many died by the sin of the one man (Adam) how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin.  The judgment followed on sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many sins and brought justification.  For, if by the sin of the one man, (Adam) death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:12,15-17)) 
 Another Scripture says it this way: “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22) Jesus came to un-do the curse of sin we inherited from Adam.  Since we couldn’t do that for ourselves, He did it for us.  He did it all.  But salvation is a gift from God! (Romans 5:15) A priceless gift!  But we have to accept our gift.  Scripture says: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”  (Hebrews 2:3)   


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Crossing the River

Crossing the River
God made a promise to Abraham that He would be with him and bless him.  And also that He would be with Abraham and Sarah’s children down through the ages and bless them.  And give them their own land – the “Promised Land”.  (Genesis 12) God promised to do all of this if Abraham’s children would follow Him.  The year that God made these promises to Abraham was approximately 2091 B.C.
In approximately 1406 B.C. Joshua led Abraham’s and Sarah’s children- the Jewish people- into their “Promised Land”, fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham!  One of the promises made so many years before.  
 The first five chapters in the book of Joshua in our Bible tell the story of how God held back the Jordan River and led the whole nation of Israel safely across it on dry land and over to their “Promised Land”.  Many of the lessons the Jewish people learned during those days as they followed God into their inheritance – their “promised land” - are lessons that we too can learn as we Christians follow God into our inheritance or our “Promised Land” – our new life in Christ.
As the nation of Israel was camped across the Jordan River from their promised land, God spoke to Joshua and promised him that He would be with him as He was with Moses.  God continued promising Joshua that He would cause the Jewish soldiers to win every battle that they would fight in taking their land from the wicked Canaanites. God called Joshua to be strong and of good courage and to be careful to obey all of the law and not turn from it to the right or to the left.  (Joshua 1:1-9)
Joshua called the officers of the Israelites and commanded them to tell the people to get packed and ready because in three days they would be crossing the Jordan River and entering the land God was giving them.  The Israelites were divided into twelve tribes because their new promised land had been divided up between the twelve tribes.
 But since two and a half tribes had been given land on the east side of the Jordan River, they could start getting settled onto their land immediately.  But Joshua commanded the fighting men in those two and a half tribes to go across the river along with the other tribes to be there and help their brothers fight and conquer the rest of the land. (Joshua 1:12-15) And the tribes that didn’t need to fight for their land gladly agreed to fight with their brothers. (Joshua 1:16-18)
The priests were ordered to carry the Ark of the Covenant ahead of all the people across the river.  And the people were commanded to keep a distance between themselves and the Ark of the Covenant since the presence of God was there. All of the Israelites and their leaders obeyed Joshua and promised to do whatever he commanded them to do since they knew that God was commanding him.  Their obedience was a sign of their faith in God.  And God was pleased with their faith as they stepped out on His Word counting on Him to lead them. (Joshua 3:17) .  
Scripture says that the nation of Israel crossed over the Jordan River during Passover. Passover occurred back in Egypt when Pharaoh refused to let all the Jewish slaves go. God finally sent the plague of death over each home in Egypt, which caused Pharaoh to change his mind and free the Jewish people from slavery. The Jews were instructed by God to sacrifice lambs and to sprinkle the blood on their doorposts on the night the plague would come.
On that dreadful night when the angel of death flew by, he “passed over” each home where he saw the blood of the lamb sprinkled on the door. Each year after that, down through thousands of years, the nation of Israel has celebrated what God has done for them in freeing them from slavery in Egypt.  And today Passover is still celebrated each year by Jewish people.  
Christ, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed – or crucified - during the yearly Jewish celebration of Passover.  He was crucified at the same time that the lambs were being sacrificed during Passover.  Scripture declares Jesus to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”.  (John 1:29) The Bible tells us that Christ, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed for us and that because His blood was shed for us, death – eternal death – will “pass over” us. Of course, we must believe in Christ as our Savior and accept His sacrifice for ourselves.
I do not know the significance of why Scripture says that the nation of Israel crossed the Jordan River at the exact time of Passover that year. I don’t think the timing happened accidentally.  There is a lesson there somewhere.  God had to intervene and protect the Jewish people from drowning as they crossed the river.  In crossing the river, the children of Israel were leaving their wandering in the wilderness and crossing over into their new life in their new land. This is another picture of God stepping in to save His people.  To give His people a new life.   
Scripture says that the Jordan River was at flood stage when it was time for Israel to cross it. The many thousands of Israelites, along with their wagons and little children and infirmed folk and animals would not be able to cross.  But the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant with all the nation of Israel headed out toward the river, anyway, knowing that their God was leading them. Their faith in God kept them going. The priests got to the Jordan River first and kept walking out into the water, getting their feet wet. Sometimes God asks us to get our feet wet before He rescues us. 
But then as the priest’s walked into the turbulent waters, the Bible tells us: “the water from up stream stopped flowing.  It piled up in a heap a great distance away...while the water flowing down to the Sea of Arabah (the Dead Sea) was completely cut off.  So, the people crossed over on dry ground opposite Jericho.  The priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the River Jordan while all Israel passed by, until the whole nation had completed crossing on dry ground.” (Joshua 4:15b-17)
God commanded Joshua to get twelve strong men to pick up twelve large stones from the middle of the Jordan River where the priests had been standing on dry ground and place the heavy stones on the other side at a place called “Gilgal” as a memorial to their miraculous river crossing.  Also, they were to place twelve large stones in the middle of the Jordan River where the priests stood on dry ground with the Ark of the Covenant. (Joshua 4) These stones were to be a memorial for the people of Israel, forever reminding them that God had stopped the river waters so that they could cross over into their inheritance. 
God’s people back then and every Christian today cannot possess our inheritance until we “cross the river”.  Bible scholars find metaphors and hidden truths for us today in this Bible story of how God, so long ago, held back the waters of the Jordan River so that all of Israel wouldn’t drown but could cross over.    Some say that crossing the river is a metaphor for walking in the energy of the Holy Spirit. Others think it is a metaphor for death.  It is a picture of leaving your wandering in the wilderness of self-effort behind in order to walk with “Joshua” whose name means “salvation” or “Jesus” across the river.  
Some Bible scholars believe that crossing the Jordan River is an illustration of the two truths taught by Paul in Romans 5-8.  And illustrated by the two memorials of the twelve large stones, - one placed in the middle of the river and the other placed on the shores of the promised land.  The one memorial was “buried” under the water.  And the other one was “raised to newness of life” on the other side – but taken from the river’s middle.  Deep river, my home is over Jordan.   
These “pictures” are believed to be the New Testament believer’s baptism: unity with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. (Romans 6) An illustration of a believer’s death/new life. God holding back the waters of eternal death so we can reach the other shore.  Every Christian must leave the old nature behind and get his or her arms around their new identity in Christ.  Every Christian must learn to walk in accordance with their new position in Christ.  And every Christian must try to die to self and live the new life in Christ.  We must walk with faith in God as “men and women made new” in Christ and no longer wandering in the wilderness of sin and self..
Galatians 2:20 says It like this: “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.  And the life that I now live in the body, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  Every Christian must “cross the river” where God causes us to  walk on dry ground right through the middle of the waters of death.         

Saturday, May 11, 2019


Bible scholars believe that the book of Hebrews in our Bible was probably written around AD 60-65.  It was written to Christians, most likely Jewish Christians, who were being persecuted by their Jewish friends for following Christ.  Some were leaving Christianity and going back into Judaism to avoid more persecution.  And others were beginning to doubt their newfound faith in Christ.  The book of Hebrews most likely was written to encourage these Jewish Christians – and all Christians - not to give up on Christ or drift away from God’s Word.
These Jewish Christians had grown up under the Old Testament laws God had given Israel, with laws for their priests to sacrifice animals to cover sins. But now Jesus had come and died on the cross making the ultimate sacrifice for sin and fulfilling the law. The Old Testament prophets had prophesied to the Jewish people that God would send them a Messiah or a Savior.  And the Jewish people expected that their promised Messiah would come someday.  But, when Jesus finally did come, many Jewish religious leaders did not recognize Him as their Messiah. 
The book of Hebrews assures these Jewish Christians that Christ is a better Priest than their priests of old who came from Aaron. (Hebrews 5:1-6:20) They were reminded that Christ has a superior priesthood. (Hebrews 7-10) That Jesus is not only our King-Priest, but He is also our Sacrifice for sins as well. They no longer needed animal sacrifices.   Jesus had been sacrificed once and for all for sin.  He is the “Lamb of God who takes away our sin.”  (John 1:29) And, Jesus has become our merciful High Priest as well. (Hebrews 2:16-18)  
The Jewish people knew that they were God’s chosen people.  That God had given them the Law through Moses.  But now the writer of Hebrews is reminding the Jewish Christians that Christ is a fulfillment of Moses’ Law.  (Hebrews 3:1-4:16) That the Son is superior to His servant, Moses. (Hebrews 3:1-7)   Jesus, while He was on earth, said that He had not come to abolish the Law that Moses gave, but He had come to fulfill the Law.  (Matthew 5:17-18) And Scripture says: “Christ is the culmination of the Law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4) 
Thousands of years ago God made a Covenant or a promise to Abraham and His children - the Jewish people.  He promised them that He would take care of them and give them their Promised Land – the land of Israel for their own. And God promised that He would protect them and bless them.  And their part of the Covenant was to obey God’s laws and trust God.  The Jewish people found that many times they couldn’t keep their promise to God to obey His laws.  They continually failed and rebelled and sometimes worshipped other gods.  They needed help – they needed their Messiah and Savior – Jesus- in order to be right before God. Their part was to believe in Christ and He would give them His righteousness. 
 In the book of Hebrews, a New Covenant is revealed – a better covenant through Christ has been given to all of us (not just Israel) by God.  (Hebrews 8) The New Covenant has many wonderful spiritual promises. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, now we have passed from the Age of Law to the Age of Grace.  And the New Covenant in Christ’s blood is for Jews and Gentiles – for anyone who believes.
We are not under all of the Old Testament Jewish laws.   Christ promises us His Holy Spirit to live inside us and change us from within.  To make us new. Christ removes our sins and covers us with His righteousness.  We Christians also inherit a “Promised Land” which is not of this world but is the kingdom of God
The book of Hebrews is all about how our New Covenant in Christ is better.  And the book of Hebrews is all about who Christ is!  Christ has brought a superior revelation. (Hebrews 1:1-2)  Christ is the Creator, Controller and Sustainer and is God’s Heir to all things.  He is the eternal Sovereign Lord.  (Hebrews 1:7-12) Christ has defeated the devil. (Hebrews 2:14-15) Christ leads us into God’s promised rest. (Hebrews 4:1-16) He is worshipped by angels. (Hebrews 1:6) And Christ is God’s King-Priest. (Hebrews 1:13) We can boldly enter heaven because of Christ’s blood. (Hebrews 10:19)
The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is magnificent!  It is known as the famous “faith chapter”. Hebrews 11 is a roll call of men and women down through history who had faith in God and believed His promises. It is a chapter about faith in action.  This eleventh chapter starts out with the definition of faith.  “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is the belief that God is absolutely trustworthy and that His promises are completely true. We can ask Him for anything that is in His will and He will give it to us, if we believe His promise. (Matthew 7:7)   We don’t have faith in “faith” but faith in God.
Chapter eleven of Hebrews takes us on a thrilling journey back through history to let us see illustrations of how faith has been put into action by men and women like ourselves. Abel and Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah are mentioned.  Abel trusted God and was obedient to offer the sacrifice that God asked for.  Noah believed God and built an arc.  Abraham obeyed God when he was called to go to a land where he didn’t know the way. (verse 6) Sarah gave birth to Isaac in extreme old age because she reckoned that God was “faithful who had promised” (verse 11) Each of these people had an active faith in God.
Hebrews 1:6 goes on to say: “Whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”  Hebrews 11 goes on to say “all of these, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah, “died in faith without having received the complete realization of the promise of God.  With eyes of faith, they saw from afar the distant promise of God’s redemption and greeted it.  Remaining essentially strangers and exiles on the earth.” (verse 13)
More men and women’ names who believed God and His promises are mentioned in this eleventh chapter about faith.  It continues: “Women received their dead by resurrection.  Some were tortured” (verse 35) “Still others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword: they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted …wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (verses 36-38) “Of these it is clear that the world was not worthy.” (verse 38)
This great faith chapter ends with these words: “And all of these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised yet, since God had planned something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (verses 39-40) God did great things for and through all the people who had faith in Him so long ago, even though they got their real reward after death.  And God has done and will do great things for and through us today if we believe that “God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”  (Hebrews 1:6)      

Friday, May 3, 2019


The book of Deuteronomy was written by Moses around 1410 B.C. and was inspired by God. We have much to learn from this powerful book.  Deuteronomy expresses God’s deepest desire that His people be turned from wanderers into overcomers.  Deuteronomy was written during the time the Israelites were finally reaching their “Promised Land” after wandering in the wilderness for many long years.
The book of Deuteronomy was not only written long ago for the wandering Jewish people; it is also written for God’s people today. Too many of us are wandering, lost in our own wilderness of life. Deuteronomy is a practical and powerful book, pointing the way out of the wilderness and into the “Promised Land” not only for the wanderers back then but also for us modern wanderers.   God our heavenly Father, wants His people today, as well as His people back then, to commit their lives to Him and be overcomers.  
Deuteronomy begins with Moses reminding the Israelites of how God had taken them out the land of Egypt where they had been slaves.  How He had led them and taken care of them.  How He was their Creator, Redeemer, Protector, Provider and Warrior. And how He had been merciful, gracious and forgiving toward them.    And in return God asks His people to trust Him and obey His commandments.
Before Moses dies, he preaches to the Israelites begging them to stay true to their God.  God shows Moses what the Israelites will do in the far-off future – how many hundreds of years later Israel will disobey God over and over again until finally they lose their Promised Land and are scattered around the world.  But also, Moses foresees in the distant future how God will be faithful to His Covenant with them and regather Israel – all of the twelve tribes - in the last day.  (Deuteronomy 30:1-10)
Moses was 120 years old and dies after God had mightily used him to lead the Israelites for over forty years.  Moses represents the Law and he was not allowed by God to lead the Israelites into their Promised Land.  (The Law does not lead us into the Promised Land.)  But Joshua led the Israelites into their Promised Land. Joshua was a man of great faith in God.  I think his name means salvation.  
In Deuteronomy Moses gives Israel the Ten Commandments again and reminds them of the Great Commandment – to love God with all their hearts, minds and souls and love their neighbor as they loved themselves. He gives God’s many rules and regulations to the Israelites.  Rules concerning how they were to treat one another with forgiveness and kindness. .
And rules concerning how they were to punish criminals and evil doers and not tolerate sin. How they were to defend the cause of the poor, the fatherless, the widows and the alien.  How they were to conduct their businesses ethically and deal with their workers generously.  How they were to forgive debts every seven years.  And how they were to care for their animals and birds. (They were never to kill a mother bird caring for her young.) 
God made a Covenant – or a promise - with His people – the Israelites.  He promised them that He would give them many blessings if they would trust Him and obey His laws.  God’s promises to the Israelites were many.  He promised that He would defeat all of their enemies that would try to attack them.  That He would he would bless all of their work.  Whatever they put their hand to do would prosper.   He would give them plenty to eat. Their crops would grow and mature and their livestock would thrive.  They would have many children and would be rich enough to give and bless other nations and people.  And their part of the Covenant was to try to trust and obey Him.  Moses told the children of Israel that God wanted their love and wanted to bless them, and He was calling them to commit themselves to Him so that He could bless them.
And then God also promised that if the children of Israel would not be there for Him then He would not be there for them.  If they refused to trust Him or obey His laws that He would not come through for them either.  That they would have problems and sicknesses and troubles.  That all of the blessings that He would want to shower over them would not be there for them if they did not try to obey and follow His laws.   
God’s Covenant – or promise – to His people Israel, depended on their part – to trust and obey their God or to rebel and forget their God.  One reaction would bring God’s blessings.  The other would bring God’s curses. And that was 3,400 years ago during Old Testament times when Israel was under the Law and Jesus had not yet come to earth to die for our sins.      
But today Christ has come and paid the price for our sins and we are no longer living in the Age of Law.  Now we are living in the Age of Grace. God’s covenant or promise to His people today is like that Old Testament Covenant God made to His people Israel, but much better. Christ has fulfilled the Law and we are not under it the way the Israelites were in Old Testament times.  
God’s covenant to us is through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Scripture says: “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32) Our heavenly Father goes over board and offers us every blessing in this New Covenant. We have the completed Word of God – the Bible.  When Moses gave God’s laws to the Israelites in Deuteronomy, they only had the first five books of the Bible.  We have God’s full pardon and acceptance in Christ.
  And we have the Holy Spirit living in us if we believe in Christ as Savior.  We are given spiritual blessings as well as physical ones. The Holy Spirit brings us Christ’s peace, love, joy, faith, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness – all these character traits grow in us through the indwelling Spirit if we want and pray for them. (Galatians 5:22) Along with these blessings, we as Christians are promised a spiritual gift or perhaps several gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-11) – These gifts are a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in your life and given for the common good.  Some of the gifts are the gift of prophecy, teaching, helps, faith, healings, wisdom, knowledge, tongues, the interpretation of tongues and more. 
On top of that, the believer in Christ is told to ask anything in His Name and it will be given him or her. Anything!   If we pray for anything, if it is God’s will, and we believe, our prayers will be answered. (Matthew 7:7, Matthew 21:22) God has given us His whole Word, His Son, His Holy Spirit and every spiritual blessing.  These are yours already. Every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus is ours. (Ephesians 1:3) His blessings are over the top. We have not because we ask not.  Ask in faith and believe that God is answering your prayer according to His will. And wait patiently and believe.                        
We, like the ancient Israelites, must do our part in this Covenant with God. We are to trust in Christ as Savior and try to follow Him. Let go and let God.  Believe and take God at His Word and press in.  Moses called the Israelites to commit their lives to God and let Him lead them and take care of them. This was the main message of the book of Deuteronomy.  And this is God’s main message and call to Christians, His people today.  He wants all of us, He wants our hearts and our lives.  He wants to be in Covenant with us. Are we willing to answer His call?