Wednesday, January 26, 2011

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Like Father, Like Son

Over the past few days, the daily reading plan takes us to the story of Joseph. Joseph was the favored son of Jacob, now called Israel. Many of us are familiar with the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50).

Eventually Jacob and his sons made their way to Egypt and were reunited with Joseph. Jacob lived in Egypt, during the famine. Something that struck me in this next portion of scripture was that after Jacob died, he was embalmed. Joseph told the physicians to embalm his father (Genesis 50:2 & 3).

History tells us the Egyptians are well known for this practice which developed into mummification. They believed that preservation of the mummy empowered the soul after death, which would return to the preserved corpse.* In the Jewish culture, embalming is avoided. At this time Jewish people had not yet become a nation, but Jacob, now called Israel, was embalmed. Joseph, like Jacob was also embalmed when he died (Genesis 50:26). This to me is a foreshadow of God preserving his people throughout history. Joseph tells his brothers in Genesis 45:7, "
But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.a]">"

In the bigger picture, God preserved the nation of Israel because through them His very own Son would be birthed. Jesus, being God, came for a great deliverance. Jesus is not only like God, he is God (John 10:30). Jesus delivered us from death into everlasting life (John 3:16). Because Jesus came, we now have the Holy Spirit. When we receive Jesus into our life, the Holy Spirit then gives our spirit life and "preserves" us from death.

Joseph, like Jacob was not buried in Egypt. When Moses and the children of Israel left Egypt, they took the bones of Joseph with them, as Joseph had requested (Exodus 13:19). If you think about that, that was 400 years later. If they had not embalmed him, there may not have been bones to take. God let Israel know ahead of time that He would deliver them from their slavery through Joseph's request. He said to his brothers, "'I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised an oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.' 25 And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, 'God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.'" (Genesis 50:24 & 25) It was another foreshadow of God's preservation for his people.

Our Heavenly Father is eternal. He has given each of us a promise of eternal life. He has given us the Holy Spirit to preserve us until Jesus returns. Just as Jacob and Joseph were buried with their forefathers in death, we will be joined with our Father for life.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Tasty Food

Ten days ago, we began a twenty-one day fast with our church family. We are well into the book of Genesis in our daily reading plan as well. Last week we read again, another story of food being used as a prop in an act of deception.

In chapter 27 we read the story of Rebekah and Jacob deceiving Isaac so that Jacob could receive the blessing of the birthright he had taken from his brother. The story begins with Isaac as an old man and nearly blind. He was moving closer to his death and told Esau to go out and hunt some wild game (Genesis 27:1-3). "Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die." (Genesis 27:4)

Rebekah had overheard the conversation and because Jacob was her favorite son, quickly came up with a scheme for him to receive the blessing. She said beginning in verse 8, "Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: 9Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. 10Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies."(Genesis 27:8-10)

Jacob questioned his mother by replying that his brother was a hairy man and that he had smooth skin. How could he convince his dad that he was Esau if he touched him? He feared that a curse would fall upon him rather than a blessing if his father caught on. That was when Rebekah told him to put on the best of Esau's clothes and then put goat skins on top of his hands and the back of his neck. She prepared the tasty food, along with some bread and had Jacob take it into his father. (Genesis 27:11-17).

In verse 18, Jacob went to his father and claimed he was Esau. Isaac questions Jacob because his voice is that of Jacob. After touching his hands, Isaac believed he was Esau and gave him his blessing. After Esau returned from hunting, he prepared his father tasty food and went to him to receive his blessing. It was then the secret was out and Isaac realized he had been deceived. Both Isaac and Esau were upset by this, so much so that in verse 35 Isaac says to Esau, "Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing." (Genesis 27:18-40)

Esau began to plot to kill his brother after his father passed. Rebekah got wind of his plan and told Jacob to flee to her brother Laban in Haran because the Hittite women disgusted her and she did not want him to marry one of them. (Genesis 27:41-46). I did discovered that Rebekah wasn't such a nice woman, she was much like her brother Laban, deceiving.

What I find truly interesting in this whole story is Jacob didn't know God yet. Back in verse 20, when Jacob went into Isaac he says to him after Isaac asks him how did he find the game so quickly, Jacob replies, "The Lord your God gave me success."(Genesis 27:20) This suggests to me that Jacob didn't know God. It actually didn't happen until he finds himself in the desert on his way to Haran that he has his own encounter with God and makes a vow to God. (Genesis 28:21-22)

I share this story because, it is helping me to understand the importance of why we are to fast. Food, although necessary, can be used as a stumbling block in our lives. Because we need food to live, the enemy likes to use it to lure us by telling us, "you've gotta eat anyway." What I mean by that is we give ourselves permission to eat what we want. We subtly then give ourselves permission to "do" what we want. We each face our own "temptation in the garden" when we have the option to choose food or God. Jesus said when he fasted for 40 days "Worship the Lord your God and serve him only." (Matthew 4:10)

There was a reason Daniel chose not to eat from the king's table. There he could have eaten royal food and wine, but he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Instead, for ten days he ate only fruits and vegetables. It says that he and the other boys looked healthier than those who had eaten from the king's table and it says God gave them knowledge and understanding. (Daniel 1:1-17)

I heard a pastor say that food is our connection to the world. When we fast and pray, we change that by connecting with God through prayer and disconnect with the world through fasting.* That makes so much sense to me.

There was something very significant about Jesus fasting for 40 days before he began his ministry. Jesus was telling us and the devil that he is not of this world and did not have to live by the world's ways. His fast was proof that he was not connected to this world. Instead that he overcame the world (John 16:33). He came to tell us that "Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)

Jacob's blessing didn't come immediately. As the saying says, "what goes around, comes around." For twenty-some years Jacob had been deceived by his Uncle Laban, but in God's goodness Jacob's life turned around and he even made peace with his brother Esau.

As we move into the end of our fast, I pray that we will begin to see things turn around. I pray specifically for health issues that have been caused by tasty food. That we will see and hear of healing miracles because we have been willing to disconnect from the world and connect with God. Through prayer that we would see a new and better connection to the Lord than ever before. That His power and presence would be sensed in every area of our lives. So I encourage you to press through on this fast. As Jacob said, "Let OUR God give us success."

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Fast Food

We have heard for years that fast food is unhealthy. Even though we know this, many of us, due to schedule, still eat it. Some claim to be healthier than others because they use vegetable oil rather than lard. Whatever the case, if we are in a hurry or have skipped meals and end up feeling starved, we'll drive through our favorite fast food restaurant for the quick convenience of it.

Genesis 25 begins the story of Esau and Jacob. The twin brothers were complete opposites. Esau was a "man's man" and loved to hunt. Jacob, on the other hand, preferred to help out around the house and cook. Even though they were twins, Esau was in line for the "birthright" because he had been born first. Jacob, who's name means supplanter which means to take the place of through force or scheming, wanted that birthright. Genesis 25:29-34 reads, "Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.
30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.) 31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” 33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright." This "fast food" moment definitely was an unwise choice of Esau. Maybe this "fast food" didn't kill him literally, but it killed the blessing on his household and future generations to come.

I started thinking about these verses in a spiritual context. I find it interesting that I'm reading this as I began a twenty-one day fast. Often times when we are spiritually starving, like Esau who said if he didn't get anything to eat was about to die, are willing to eat anything to fill us up. We'll be so spiritually famished, but rather than get into the Word of God or listen to some teaching podcast or even go to church, we'll fill up on "junk" food. Junk food is referring to anything that does not have any Godly edification. We'll watch the television and possibly pass by a preacher who is speaking, but won't stop to listen often because we don't care for his style. I admit I am guilty of this, but somehow, if I stick around there for a few minutes, more than likely the Holy Spirit uses that moment to speak to me. Instead, we'll turn on some mindless program that does nothing for us except pollute us with information that isn't even important. Those empty calories.

Esau in this passage, allowed his flesh to overrun his moment of need and in one bite of food, sold his blessing for eternity. What I am saying here is that we have to be more cautious of becoming spiritually famished. Many times we are "spiritually starving to death" for the thing that only Jesus can give us, the bread of life. Often times we'll choose the "fast food" to fill us. Fast food only ends up leaving us more hungry and sometimes can lead us to sickness or death. For example, watching some of the "positive thinking" lectures on television is like eating french fries. We convince ourselves that it's okay because french fries are made from potatoes and it is a vegetable. We know it's fried in oil that is full of additives, but give ourselves permission to because it's satisfying for the moment. Those "positive thinking" lectures are similar in the fact there is some truth, but it's coated in man's wisdom. Fast food can lead to the clogging of your arteries or adding unwanted pounds, so is it when we take in spiritual fast food.

When we chose Jesus as our Savior, we immediately received the birthright. That birthright can never be taken from us as long as we choose Him. When we took that birthright, our spirit became alive and has to be fed properly. We can never live a healthy spiritual life if we aren't feeding our spirit regularly the Truth. There have been some who claimed Jesus as their Lord, but didn't feed their spirit properly and became spiritually famished. When that happened they no longer had a taste for Truth but for junk and therefore turned away from Jesus. Just like when we turn to the potato chips when we're physically famished instead of carrot sticks. Eventually we lose a taste for healthy food.

It is said that people who eat small portions more often throughout the day stay full. I can say that is true when I have tried this way of eating. But when we skip breakfast, we end up eating more in the afternoon and it is usually unhealthy food. That quick bite to tide us over can eventually be harmful. I too can say this from experience. This can be true in our spiritual life. It is better to start the day off with, a Proverb or Psalm and listen to some teaching podcast, a little worship, and conclude the day with a good meal of the Word. You will be amazed at how you good feel. Yes, there will be days that it's like eating salad. It's was good for you, but not so comforting. Then there will be days that it's like eating Filet Mignon and will be so filling and comforting. My point is, don't turn to the "spiritual fast food" it's about being filled not famished. Otherwise you might end up like Esau, full but nothing of value in your life.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Temptation

Every year when January rolls around, people begin making resolutions. The number one resolution for the average person is to lose weight. Advertisers bombard us with weight loss programs, pills and fitness clubs cut prices in half to acquire new members. What is it about food that we allow ourselves to indulge? There is even a new word out there for people who love food. They are called "foody's". Eventually our lack of restraint causes extra pounds that bring on all kinds of health issues. Our eating habits can cause heart disease and diabetes which both are at an all time high. We all know the fall of man had to do with a desire for food. A piece of fruit for that matter.

This week as we begin reading through the Bible, we begin with creation. I noticed three things in the fall of man that to this day we deal with. The first being Satan always questioning God's authority and who He is. He said to the woman in verse one, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1) What's he trying to say here, that God is a liar?

The second is questioning power. Most of the world's problems throughout history and today are from those who want to rule the world. Genesis 3:4-5 says, "You will not surely die, " the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." God had already given them complete authority over every living thing on the earth.
The very first thing God said to man was he was to increase in number and to rule over every fish, bird and creature on the earth (Genesis 1:28). Satan made an accusation causing them to question the authority God had given them and that He was holding out on them something more and better. Maybe if they knew what good and evil was then they would have God's power and authority. Think about it, they had not yet been exposed to evil.The third is food. After God created man, the first command God gave man was to eat, but not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:16-17). In chapter 3 of Genesis, food was the prop used by Satan to tempt Adam and Eve. In verse 6 it says, "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it" (Genesis 3:6). It is no wonder why we struggle today with food, whether it is with obesity or even anorexia. It was obviously one of the pleasures from the garden of Eden that God allowed us to keep. As a result of sin, Satan used it to sabotage what God intended it for pleasure and use it to our demise.

We also read this week the beginning of Jesus' life. In Matthew 4, Jesus has not yet begun his ministry. Jesus goes to the desert. There he fasted 40 days (Matthew 4:1&2). Jesus being man, felt the hunger pangs. The scripture is clear to let us know that. Satan attempts to catch Jesus in a time of weakness and tries to do to him what he did to Adam, using the same technique. He even used the same three topics, tempting him with food, life/death, and power. This time the scenery is different than Adam's. Jesus is no where near fruit trees or lush gardens. Instead he's in the dry, hot and dusty desert.

Satan is referred to as the tempter in this passage. Matthew 4:3 says, "The tempter came to him and said, 'If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.'" The tempter in his suggestion to Jesus uses the word if as to question who Jesus is. Of course it was no surprise to Jesus that he would play on his moment of weakness by suggesting food that would have probably been satisfying in that moment. But Jesus rebuked him by speaking the Word of God back to him that man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3).

Again, the tempter challenged Jesus of who he was with the power of life and death. In verse 6, the tempter even tried to use the Word of God as his reason for questioning. It says, "'If you are the Son of God,' he said, 'throw yourself down. For it is written: "He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone'" (Matthew 4:6; Psalm 91:11 & 12). Again, Jesus rebuked his suggestion with using the Word by telling him not to put God to the test (Matthew 4:7; Deuteronomy 6:16).

Lastly, like Adam, dangled the carrot of power in front of Jesus by taking him to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor (Matthew 4:8). In verse 9 he says, "'All this I will give you,' he said, 'if you will bow down and worship me."' But Jesus knew who he was and knew the authority he was given and again, rebuked the words of Satan by the Word of God that says "Away from me Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord you God, and serve him only.'" (Matthew 4:10;Deuteronomy 6:13)

The lesson we learn from Jesus is how to handle temptations. This is why it is so important to know the Word of God. Beginning a new year off with committing to read through the Bible will help when faced with temptations.

I believe this is why even fasting is so important and specifically at the first of the year. God meant for us to be spiritual beings and the kind of food the spirit needs is different from the flesh. God intended for Adam to be eternal, but because he was flesh ended up making choices that brought death to man. Jesus is called the "last Adam". God sent him to give life to our spirit so we could dwell with him eternally. (1 Corinthians 15:45). Eternally is the way he originally intended for us to live. Jesus showed us that we can resist temptation if we have a clear connection in the spirit with God and know the Word. Fasting is a way of saying "no" to our flesh, and "yes" to our spirit.

As you begin this new year with resolutions that will likely be broken, I want to encourage you to read through the Bible this year and try a fast of some kind over the next month. Give God a tithe of your life this year by saying "no" to your flesh and "yes" to Him. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
" (NLT) He will not lead you into temptation, but deliver you from evil one (Matthew 16:13).