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He was bone-tired when he finally stopped to rest. He was in a desert place, in rocky, rough terrain.  He laid down among the rocks and fell asleep with only a rock for a pillow. He was running for his life. He was accustomed to the comforts of home, after all he was a homebody. But his deception had caught up with him. Esau, his twin brother had vowed to kill him. His very name, “Jacob”, meant deceiver. He’d conned his ruthless brother and deceived his aged, blind father. He’d cleverly traded a meal for Esau’s birthright, Esau’s rightful inheritance.  Jacob prized the birthright and Esau, a man whose god was his appetites, traded his birthright for a simple meal. Genesis says, “Esau despised his birthright.” The birthright meant that Jacob would receive a double portion of the land, possessions, wealth – Esau’s inheritance. What would that matter now? He was leaving it all behind to escape Esau’s murderous wrath. He’s deceived Isaac, his father, and took the only thing that Esau wanted- the prophetic blessing. Isaac planned to give the blessing to Esau but Jacob and his mother set up an elaborate ruse to steal it away. 

What was the blessing? It contained words of encouragement, details of his inheritance, that he would rule over his brother and family. It was seen as a last will and testament. The blessing Isaac gave Jacob foresaw Jacob ruling over other nations and having God’s protection and favor. (Genesis 27:28-29). So why run from all that the blessing promised him? Jacob was a cheater, a scoundrel, plain and simple, and his conniving ways had caught up with him and could cost him his very life. 

Jacob fell into a deep sleep with his head on a rock. He was, literally, between a rock and a hard place. And that’s usually where we all find ourselves when we’ve been caught up in our own bad decisions and sin. It’s as though we’re hemmed in, our back against the wall of our circumstances. The beautiful Psalm 139 describes it all so well. God searches the heart and mind of every person. Nothing’s hidden from Him. I’m sure that the journey gave Jacob a lot of time to think about what he’d done. Jacob could run but he couldn’t hide from God or God’s plans for him.  

Jacob dreamed of a stairway with angels ascending and descending on it and the Lord God stood at the top. God said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.[b] 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” God had plans for this deceiver and He has plans for you and me.  What wonderful promises Jacob received from God! As a believer in Jesus Christ, we too, have many precious promises from God. 

When Jacob awoke, he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I was not aware of it.” The next morning, he took the rock and set it up, poured oil on it and worshipped the God he’d only heard of before. I’ve never had a dream like Jacob’s but I’ve had many conversations with the Lord, especially when I was in bad circumstances. And His word that I can open anytime of the day assures me, I’m not alone, He is with me, always. He will never leave or forsake me. I have a hope and future. He wants to spend time with me and know me personally. His thoughts about me are more than the sand on the seashores. And above all He loves me!

If you ever find yourself, like Jacob, running from your bad decisions and actions, turn around and talk to Him. You might be surprised to find, like Jacob, that God’s right there between your rock and a hard place. 

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The task at hand was daunting and I confess I was not grateful. I saw potential in the dilapidated house but it was going to take lots of elbow grease. I really wondered if my dad, with his quick wit, might be enjoying a few laughs at how I was handling my “inheritance.” A family friend made me check my attitude. “These are your treasures,” he said, with a twinkle in his eyes. 

The bible talks a lot about how we place value on things, the treasures we are given. Some treasures, like a valuable coin, covered with grime and worn with age, need work and require vision and insight to assess the value. If you’ve watched “Antiques Roadshow” or shows like “Storage Wars” people find treasure from the most unlikely places. 

What are your treasures? What are you thankful and grateful for? The things I treasure most aren’t things at all, they are the relationships in my life. The gifts God’s entrusted to you and me with were given with forethought and for our good. We are managers, stewards for our Heavenly Father who rules and owns it all. What we do with our possessions, our treasures and the value we place on them makes all the difference. My attitude changed about my inheritance when I considered the original intent of the giver, my Dad. It was his gift to bless me and he trusted me to use it wisely.

Jesus tells us what is truly of valuable and what is not. Matt 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

Placing value on the right things requires wisdom. God tells us how to choose what we treasure. Proverbs 10:10-11, “Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold,11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” The book of James tells us to ask God for wisdom and I need wisdom every day to make right choices.

Have you ever considered what God treasures? He treasures you and spending time with you. Malachi 3:17 says, “You will be my treasured possessions.” 

What is your greatest treasure? How we spend the majority of our time and energy reveals our heart attitude, priorities and values. Jesus said, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet lose their soul?” We can find lasting treasure by seeking first God’s kingdom and His goodness. We are told where we can find true treasures, “In Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:3

We can’t take any of our earthly possessions into Heaven with us but we can use them for good. We need to tell others about how valuable they are to our Heavenly Father, so much so, that He gave His most valuable treasure, Jesus, His only Son so that we can inherit eternal life. So, what are your treasures?

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She felt abandoned, unloved, and alone. She was pregnant and rejected.  She ran away to the desert. There was no other possible escape from the cruelty she’d endured. He found her there in the desert. He comforted her and reassured her that He is the “God who sees.” This is the story of Hagar. But, we also see the Lord revealing Himself in similar ways in the stories of Ruth, David, Mary Magdalene and others. In fact, He wants you to experience this in your life. He is the God who sees you and He loves you. He knows you, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. He knows your story. He is the God who sees you.

To be encouraged further, take just a litle time to read Hagar’s story in Genesis 16:1-14 & Genesis 21:1-20 and watch the video below.

Click here to see the God who sees.

 

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Their angry red faces matched the luxurious red fabric of his multicolored coat. They despised him. “Listen,” he said, as he stood before them, “I had this dream, and your sheaves of wheat bowed down to mine.” His brothers, sick of his bragging, his lofty dreams of grandeur asked, “Will you actually rule over us?”  Joseph continued, “Listen, I had another dream and this time the sun, the moon and the stars bowed down to me.” That was it! They had to get rid of this boastful, spoiled, tattletale. Joseph was their father’s favorite and that alone feed their jealous hatred.  They plotted to kill him. Instead of murdering Joseph, they threw him in a dry well, sold him to traders and made it look like he’d been killed by wild animals. 

Do you have dreams? Do you see the Lord working through your difficult circumstances? Are you waiting to see your dreams, your ideas become reality? Have you been betrayed? If you answered, “Yes” to any of those questions then you have something in common with, Joseph, the dreamer.

This is the story of Joseph, one of the best loved characters in the Bible in Genesis. At 17, he was sold by the traders to a powerful Egyptian official, Potiphar, the captain of the guard. He was far from his home and everyone and everything he’d ever known. Even as a slave, Joseph so impressed his master that eventually he was put in charge of everything Potiphar owned. However, Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph and when he refused, she falsely accused him of attempted rape. He was dragged off to prison. The Bible repeats this phrase, “The Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” In prison, God’s favor, Joseph’s exceptional character and integrity were obvious to the prison warden. He put Joseph in charge of the other prisoners. 

This story in Genesis doesn’t record Joseph being disappointed, his loss of hope or his grief as his dreams seemed to vanish.  Where had his dreams gotten him? Joseph faithfully continued to serve God in his dire circumstances, even in prison. Joseph remained in prison until Pharaoh’s cupbearer remembered that Joseph could interpret dreams.  Joseph, after years in prison,, interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and was given a position of 2nd in command to Pharaoh over all of Egypt.  God’s hand in Joseph’s life is evident throughout the story. 

Joseph’s dreams were prophetic. His brothers, indeed bowed before Joseph. They were unaware that Joseph, now 2nd in command in Egypt was the very official they bowed before and asked to buy food during a great famine.  Joseph had the power to seek revenge, to imprison them. After testing them twice, Joseph could no longer hide his identity or his deep emotions. Weeping loudly, he reveals his true identity. Joseph was used by God to save his family and all of Egypt from starvation.  Later in the story, the brothers come to him fearful, seeking mercy and forgiveness. Joseph tells them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” God used Joseph, even his suffering, to save his family, a nation, and ultimately, all who come to God through believing in Jesus. Joseph had no idea that God was orchestrating the salvation of many through Jesus, the Messiah who came through Judah, his brother’s lineage.

What can we do when life is disappointing and our dreams and hopes seem lost? Like Joseph, we can expectantly wait and trust God. If He gave you the dream, he’ll bring it about at the right time. It’s good to remember our timetable and God’s timetable are seldom the same. Faithfully continue to follow God even when it seems all is lost. We follow God, we don’t just follow our dreams. Trust him with the fulfillment of the dream. Trust that God is sufficient for all your needs and He’ll equip you for what He calls you to do.

Just as Joseph said to his brothers, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good”, we are assured that God is working for our good and for others’ good and for His glory. Joseph’s life is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ life. Woven throughout the O.T. and N.T. is a story of God’s redemption and restoration. I hope you’ll read this fascinating story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50.

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At my son’s recent graduation, I listened intently to a renowned professor giving a commencement speech.  I was awed by the professor’s knowledge and discovery of a remarkable affordable way to manufacture a lifesaving drug. He had many, many other accolades and no doubt is a brilliant man.  After only a short time it was obvious that science, and a particular, outdated (as my son let me know) view of science, was his life. He remarked that “2000-year-old myths needed to be discarded.” Although he didn’t call it faith, his faith is firmly rooted in his confidence that science and human knowledge remove the need for God’s special revelation to humanity. His faith in science and human knowledge, which, again, my son told me is about a half-century outdated, holds that science is in a quest always to try and prove itself wrong, forever evolving through discovery, advancing and building on its own milestones. As I continued to listen, it was obvious that he disdained the “2000-year-old myths,” as he termed it – by which he meant the Bible. Yet, only a short distance away at this same University, there is on display some of the oldest known papyri from this so-called book of myths, a book whose words have existed and revealed truth long before this professor took his first breath. 

I was intrigued by these ancient papyri leaves on exhibit at the University of Michigan.  The exhibition displays only two leaves of the Letters of Paul of the 30 pages they have at U of M.  They are dated from about 150 to 200 A.D. The display explains that “the discovery of this codex in 1931 provided a text at least a century older than the Vatican and Sinaitic codices, which are the oldest authorities on which the text had previously rested.” These were found in Egypt, where the dry desert sand preserved them through the ages. They contain the last eight chapters of Romans, all of Hebrews,  all of1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, and two chapters of 1 Thessalonians.”

As I looked on these centuries old pages, I wondered whose hands had touched them, whose eyes had read them and how they found their way to Egypt hidden away for someone to discover ages later. These were letters to churches from the Apostle Paul that had been copied and distributed to the churches of the 1st and 2nd century. I asked my son to read some of the text on the papyrus leaf, and familiar words came alive. They read the same as the Greek New Testament in use today. The beauty of it is that this ancient text was preserved and still hold the truths we as believers hold dear today. 

2 Cor. 10: 3-5: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

I encourage you to look at facts–there are more ancient and medieval manuscripts of the N.T. biblical texts in existence than for any other ancient text, and they are verifiable. The manuscripts discovered in 1931 that you see in the picture are some of the oldest we have and they show that the N.T. Bible we have today comes from the Gospel and teaching passed down through Jesus’ first followers, the Apostles Peter, James, John, Paul, etc.. 

There is one marked difference in the professor’s faith and mine. He continually places his faith in science and knowledge in an ever-changing hypothesis and in the confidence that the human mind is able to discover all the secrets of the universe given time and enough energy. With the exception of a few theories that have held consistent—so far—he believes that his method is the best way to discover the truths of the universe. My faith, in contrast, is in an unchanging God whose word is unchanging and promises are true in a constantly changing world. God made the human mind and gave us the ability to know the world. He has spoken to humanity and entered the world to teach us and die for us, and we have a good record of His words and actions on our behalf. Does that seem too bold to you? I believe we as followers of Christ must be bold in our faith but respectful as we present these truths, this Gospel that changes not just minds but human hearts.  

The two pages you see are 2 Corinthians 10:1-11 (left) and 2 Corinthians 10:11-11:10.

 To see more of the Biblical papyri, click the link:

http://www.bible-researcher.com/links19.html

1See F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? for a comparison of the sources of the New Testament against all other ancient texts we consider stable and reliable from the ancient world.

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This last week I was encouraged when I met three young men who spend most of their time and energy developing relationships with students and professors on a very large university campus. They are Christians and their main goal is to disciple others and lead them to faith in Christ. The university is one of the most secular in the nation and Christians are definitely in the minority there. The young men are part of a larger group who support each other and work together. As I spoke with them, I realized they are single-minded in their purpose- to make Christ known. I admired their devotion and commitment. It got me to thinking about confidence, boldness and devotion as a believer in Christ and where I might be falling short. It challenged my commitment to reach out to others around me. Am I too concerned that others will think I’m weird, too pushy or will reject me flat?  I feel challenged in this area and you may, too.   

I also witnessed two other encouraging situations in my travels this week at the airport terminal. I was not eavesdropping, mind you, but the young man in a ball cap and beard was having an interesting phone conversation and I was within earshot. I listened while I tried to not be too obvious, so I guess you could say I was eavesdropping. I gathered he was talking to another young man from things he said. Then I heard him say, “the Word says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” That made me listen more intently. In effect, he was discipling and giving biblical advice to the other young man about his relationship with his parents. He talked about how they would see the changes in the young man’s life if he persisted in allowing the Lord to work in his life.  A little later I witnessed two other young men talking with a couple who had an adorable toddler. I couldn’t hear all the conversation and moving closer would have been too obvious! But I gathered that the two young men were speaking about the Lord with boldness and confidence that I’ve not witnessed in an airport before. Their conversation covered world concerns and they spoke with confident assurance. They were taking every opportunity to make Christ known and the couple seemed genuinely interested. I can’t help but admire the courage, confidence and manner in which each of these young men represent the Lord well.   Colossians 4:4-6 says, “Pray that I may proclaim it (the gospel) clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

The Lord is working through His Holy Spirit in each believer when we yield ourselves to Him. Being a disciple is a choice. Sharing our faith and discipling others is a choice. We all need these kinds of relationships to strengthen our faith and our walk.  So, I challenge you and myself, as well, to spend some time with the Lord and talk to Him about being a confident, bold witness. You don’t have to have all the answers- there are lots of references and books for that.  You just have to care enough to tell them about what He’s doing in your life.  1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

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I stood at a grave alone. This death made absolutely no sense. I had more questions than answers. How could a life end like this? Jesus, why? 

2,000 + years ago a woman stood at an open grave, a tomb carved into solid rock.  The huge stone that covered the opening was moved away. It made no sense.  She ran back to the disciples and told them that someone had removed His body.  Peter and John ran to see and found the linen grave clothes laying there. They did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead. The disciples left but Mary couldn’t leave. This was the last place she’d seen his lifeless body. She was overcome with uncontrollable grief. She saw two angels and they asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” She told them,” They’ve taken my Lord away,” and I don’t know where they have put him.”

How could this be? Just days before the crowds welcomed Him as a King with loud praises. But the fickle crowd spurred on by the religious leaders had turned on Him and with blood thirsty hatred, shouting, “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” Didn’t they know who He was? Didn’t they recognize who He was and that He was the Son of God? Why, did it all end this way? 

Blinded by her tears, Mary turned and she saw a man. “Was this the gardener?” He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” She asked, “Where have you taken Him?” Then He spoke her name, “Mary.”  Her eyes were opened and she saw Him for who He was! It was Jesus – Alive, in front of her. She talked with Him and ran to the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Jesus had told his disciples that He would rise again but they hadn’t understood. What must it have been like to see Jesus alive after His terrible death on the cross? What joy she must have felt! He is alive just as He promised and the scriptures are true! He overcame death, Hell and the grave! 

Like Mary, I stood at a grave weeping. Then I did something that I believe Mary Magdalene did, as well.  Although I couldn’t see Him I knew He was with me, I know He is alive! I praised Him that He is Lord over the grave and Lord over death. I thanked God for the life that was now gone. I worshipped Him for who He is! He is the Risen Lord! I worshiped Him because He is the Resurrection and the Life. I worshiped Him even though the death of my loved one made no sense. 

Mary Magdalene saw Jesus in His resurrected body, I have not. But I felt His presence and His comfort. He is our hope and our assurance of eternal life if we believe that He is the Lord and ask for His forgiveness. Jesus told us in John 11: 25 of our sure hope, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” And the scriptures tell us why He came – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

I look forward to that day when I see my loved ones again. On this Easter, this Resurrection Sunday I hope that you will place your full faith in the Resurrected One, Jesus! He is our only hope!

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