Thursday, January 23, 2014

From the Wilderness to Jordan

From the Wilderness to Jordan
by Gary D. Erickson

   Life is like an arduous journey through a wilderness. We are forced to cut our way through thick vegetation, cross rivers, climb mountains, and fight threatening predators. Life is filled with opportunities as well as pitfalls. Sometimes we detour around things and sometimes we persevere through them. Sometimes we triumph over our obstacles and sometimes we suffer defeat. Nevertheless, we forge on. We cannot opt out even if we want to. Time moves on and we move with it.
     God has provided all we need to make our journey a success. The Bible is our map and the Holy Spirit is our inspiration and empowerment. Sometimes there are well-worn paths that make our progress smooth, and at other times we have to cut our way through uncharted jungle and up the sides of steep cliffs. The perils are many and the obstacles are real, but life is an exhilarating challenge!

     God made us for the challenge. Some people climb Mt. Everest, others swim the English Channel, and others sail around the world in a yacht. We may not be so adventurous, but everyone needs a challenge. It is what makes life meaningful. The challenge gives us opportunity to engage our talents and abilities. It gives us the opportunity to triumph over opposition. God built us for the rigors of the challenge.
     Living the Christian life is one of the most challenging undertakings. It will not be easy, but the rewards are amazing. Jesus said, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Because He overcame, we can overcome as well.

The Faithless Report
     In accordance with God's command, Moses chose an influential man from each of the twelve tribes to scout out the land. God hoped their discoveries of the beauty and plenty of the land would inspire faith in His promises. He said, "Be ye of good courage" (Numbers 13:30).
     The Hebrew words translated "courage" or "courageous" could have many connotations: steadfastly minded, fortified, established, or obstinate. But most important was to go in "the strength of Jah" or Yahweh (The Complete Word Study Old Testament). God desired Israel's confidence in His power to conquer, whether the opponent be Egypt, Canaan, or any other foe. However, only two of the spies approached the mission with courageous determination. Although the other ten approached the good land, their courage shriveled when they saw the massive walled cities inhabited by the children of Anak (giants), Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites and Canaanites.
     Preferring the known to the unknown, the people decided to return to Egypt. They did not consider that if they turned back, God in His displeasure might not continue to protect and lead them with the pillar of cloud and fire. If they went forward into Canaan they could die. If they went backward to Egypt without water, food, and protection, they surely would die. Their weeping, complaining and rebellion pushed God to the brink of destroying them.

God's Guidance
   Because of failure to accept and believe the promises of God, Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years, one year for each day the spies had explored the Land of Promise. In spite of Israel's faithlessness, God continued to guide and protect them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When the cloud moved, they pulled up stakes and followed it to the next encampment. Through these gifts of grace, God was attempting to teach the people that if they could trust Him to take care of them in the wilderness, they could trust He would fulfill His promise to give them a land flowing with milk and honey.
     One would think enough rebellions and swift punishments had occurred to preclude any further attempts to take over Moses and Aaron's authority. But a Levite named Korah (Numbers 16:1), who did not think his position was lofty enough, rose up against Moses' civil authority and Aaron's priestly authority. Dathan, Abiram, and On, descendants of Reuben, took part in his rebellion.
     After several confrontations, the entire congregation gathered to see whom the Lord would vindicate---Moses and Aaron, or Korah and his followers. Moses told the people to stand back, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the leaders of rebellion, and fire from the Lord devoured the 250 men who had offered incense. Thus, to oppose and despise Moses and Aaron was to oppose and despise God, who had placed the prophet and the priest in authority.
The Bible is our map and the Holy Spirit is our inspiration and empowerment.
We can learn valuable lessons from contrasting these two generations of Israelites. The first generation grew up with resentment for Egyptian authority and seemed to transfer the same resentment to Moses' authority.
as the second generation grew up, the teaching of Moses and Aaron had taken root in their hearts. They believed the messages they heard about the promise of God. Their strong desire to obtain the promises propelled them into the Promised Land where they conquered the giants and their walled cities and obtained an inheritance.

The promise God has for you is as true as the love He has for you. Don't get lost in the "wilderness" looking for it yourself. Instead be lead by Him to the very promise He has in store for you!

Published by: Sis. Joy Jones
Last Days Ministries Apostolic Church
Reference: Lessons From History for Christian Living (Spring 2013)


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Joseph - A Child of Vision

Joseph viewed the circumstances of life in the proper perspective, realizing that what God had promised him in his visions would come to pass. 

Living Your Dreams

Dreams are mysterious mental commotions that flutter through our brains and sometimes disturb our sleep. Occasionally, their residue lingers into our waking hours. Dreams can be quite dramatic and bring deep emotional feelings. We are helpless as our dreams take us to strange and unseemly places. They are without normal boundaries and can either take us to hights of grandeur or to the depths of despair. 

Some believe dreams are expressions of the dreamer's deepest fears and desires. It is from this idea that some individuals use the dream metaphor to refer to personal vision of achievement. The ability to envision our future is an ability that separates humans from animals. Although life is unpredictable, we are able to plan and plot our future. God dreams and envisions the future as well. The prophets of the Bible manifest God's vision of the future. His dreams are not "pipe dreams," but they become reality.

God has given us the ability to plan and envision. So let's dream about lofty attainments and then endeavor to achieve them. The dream comes first and then reality. Just don't sleep too long.

By: Gary Erickson

Words such as dream and visions resonate with Spirit-filled believers. After all, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter took his text from Joel 2:28. "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 2:17).

Surely Joel's message does not mean visions and prophecy come only to the young and dreaming is relegated to the old. Instead, it means that the lives of those upon whom the spirit is poured are characterized by the miraculous. They prophecy, uttering words given to them by the Holy Spirit. They see divinely inspired visions. They dream dreams that come from God. (See Acts 16:19-10, 18:9 in which the word translated "vision" can refer to something seen in one's sleep.)

"And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying" (Genesis 37:5-11).

What God has promised will come to pass, no matter how impossible it may seem.

Joseph knew his God-given dreams would be fulfilled only if he remained FAITHFUL.

His father had mixed feelings about Joseph's dreams, but his half-brothers viewed him as a downright arrogant upstart. However, had Joseph's dreams been simply expressions of personal ambition, the end of the story would have revealed an overdeveloped ego. But to the contrary, the outcome revealed Josephs' humility.
Josephs dream did not include: the pit, going into prison or Potiphar's wife's lewd infatuation for her husband's handsome overseer.

How easy it would have been for Joesph to set aside his dreams for a moment of pleasure! But he knew his God-given dreams would be fulfilled only if he remained faithful.

Rather than succumb to bitterness and homelessness, Joseph showed himself such a model and trustworthy prisoner that the keeper released him from the chains and gave him the oversight of the prison. (See Genesis 39).

What an opportunity Joesph had to say, "I told you so!" How easy it would have been for him to treat his brothers the way they had treated him. But he had a dream, and in that dream was his destiny. Rather than squandering his dream by seeking vengeance, Joesph viewed even his brothers abuse as a vehicle for God to bring His purposes to pass. 

If a dream is from God, it will come to pass. Dreams never die unless we abandon them.

When we view life from God's perspective, even suffering takes on divine significance. Joesph had a glorious dream, but on the way to fulfillment, it took him through rejection, betrayal, false accusation, and imprisonment. If we were able to view Joseph's circumstances at any point along with painful path, we would be tempted to think Joesph's dream was merely a figment of his own imagination or perhaps a results of his own arrogant ambition.

But the validity of one's dreams cannot be determined by the attempts of other people to prevent them from being fulfilled. If a dream is from God, it will come to pass. Dreams never die unless we abandon them.

By: Jocelyn Jones
Reference: Celebration Series, Summer 2012