August 16: Joseph and His Brothers

Read Genesis 37:5-8, 18-20

“When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not bring themselves to speak peaceably to him” (v.4).

It’s a dark story of unthinkable hatred. Jealousy turned to hatred turned to virtual murder which led to lies. Today’s reading could fit under at least three of the ten timeless commandments to which we’ve dedicated our summer’s study.

Joseph’s brothers’ jealousy laid the foundation for more sin. It’s not just true for them. It’s what happens today too. When we let envy into our lives, we eventually find ourselves trapped, just like Joseph’s brothers were. But what if those brothers hadn’t taken the bait? If only Joseph’s brothers had seen what they had rather than pined for what they didn’t have.

To be sure, the 17-year-old Joseph wasn’t entirely pure in his ways. We could even say he milked his father’s favoritism for all it was worth. He certainly had no problem letting his brothers know how special and powerful he knew he was when God gave him that dream about ruling over them. While it was true in the end, Joseph’s inability to humbly accept what God had called him to didn’t help his brother’s jealousy problem.

Still, his brothers committed a heinous crime against him and they would be held accountable for their actions, not Joseph. As annoying and bratty as their little brother might have been, only they could have stopped the crime before it started. They could have stopped it by refusing to covet what Joseph had — the coat, their father’s favoritism, a great promise through a dream.

I wonder if you’ve ever found yourself in a similar situation. Maybe your neighbor has it all — the perfect job with an amazing paycheck, a beautiful home and all the time in the world to keep it in tip-top shape, and a picture-perfect family with kids just as nice as can be. Don’t let yourself get trapped like Joseph’s brothers did. Stop the envy before it begins. Find freedom in God’s way and choose to delight in what He’s given you rather than dismay over what He hasn’t.

brw

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August 15: Seek Him, Not Stuff

Read 1 Samuel 6-9, 28-29

Coveting may be the most commonly transgressed commandment by Americans each day. Our lives are built around coveting. Our commercials are designed to strike up emotion of desire within us. We see a car and want it, we see new clothes and “have to have them”, we see a nicely built home and wonder what the owner “does for a living?” A step further has been taken in recent years with widespread social media. At any moment in our day we can catch a snapshot into the lives of our best friends or the rich and famous that we don’t even know. Social media is an exciting invention of the tech age but it only drives us further into coveting. We see what our friends are doing for vacation and “how awesome their lives are.” However, we only get a sneak peak of what they want us to see.

The people of Israel in 1 Samuel were driven by similar thoughts. The people had the same mindset as modern day people. 2018 brings a desire for “stuff” and a passion to obtain things that will make us happy; however, this is never a solution to the desire. Rather, the drive for things spirals and spins out of control with no satisfying ending. The same was true for Israel in the Old Testament. 1 Samuel 8:11-18 gives God’s response to the people of Israel when they demand for a king so they could be “like all the nations.” After listing the hardships that a king would bring upon the Israelites, God told Israel in verse 18 “Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.” God warns Israel of their desires and how no lasting solution will come of it. Instead, challenges, frustration and hardship would come upon the nation of Israel. Coveting is the same now as it was since the foundation of the world. It is rooted in a desire for our own way. God knows what is best for us but we must seek Him rather than our selfish desires.

Jeff Walter

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August 14: Thankful for Blessings

Read Colossians 3:15-17; Philippians 4:12-13; Ephesians 1:3-14

Today is Thanksgiving! You don’t have to cook a turkey or clean the house. We are just going to pause and be thankful!

As we reflect on the 10th commandment, I am reminded of my childhood days. I would see what my friend had and then ask for the same. The usual answer was “you can’t have everything you want.” This solved the problem for my parents. They didn’t have to buy anything for me, but it didn’t correct my attitude afterwards. I didn’t see anything wrong with my wish and I wasn’t very happy with my parents for the answer I received. Maybe you have received something you didn’t want. I remember that banana-flavored antibiotic I had to take for “my good.”

I have “grown up,” but I can still have a hard time with my attitude when I experience something I didn’t want or when I don’t get what I ask for.

A dear lady I know gave me a magnet with this saying on it: “Contentment is a state of heart that says you would be at peace if God gave you nothing more than He already has.” Paul writes in Philippians (he was in prison) “I have learned to be content” and “I can do all this through Christ who strengthens me.”

What we receive as we learn and practice contentment is so much more than coveting and/or getting our way. I don’t need one more earthly possession, but I do need what Colossians 3 offers:

  • The peace of Christ
  • Great community with the body of Christ
  • To learn real thankfulness in whatever we do or say in the name of our Lord Jesus

Because I am a Christ follower, I have received peace with God and forgiveness of my guilt and shame! That is what I needed, and it was provided for me before I knew I needed it. When I accepted this gift through Jesus, I became His child and heir to all the blessings and riches that are given me (Eph. 1:3-14). I didn’t have to beg or plead with Him! This is why every day is Thanksgiving! Thank you Jesus!

Make a list for what you are thankful for in Christ! He is worthy of your praise!

CAK

 

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August 13: Lusting

Read Matthew 5:28 

 A man attended a conference about LUST AND SEXUAL TEMPTATION because his wife demanded it. After the conference he confessed his affair. He was truly repentant and said he would do anything to make it up to her. So she asked him to sign over all the property and assets to her – because the name on them would not matter if he was truly finished with his

lust and adultery. She asked him to shave his chest, and she asked him to get braces on his teeth. He did all three because he realized his actions had humiliated her and he was willing to do anything to humble himself and win her back.

This man was fortunate that his wife even gave him another chance after violating his marriage vows.

It is significant that temptation is not a sin as even the King of Kings was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 11:1-11). We are to be constantly aware of temptation. Remember God’s promise: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear (1 Cor. 10:13).

We are all tempted by sin. So what do we do with it?

Lust is a craving, and it can take any form such as the lust for sexuality, money, power and others. And it can be a slow fade from purity. Mark Hall (Casting Crowns) sings about the SLOW FADE: “It’s the second glance that ties your hands, As darkness pulls the strings.”

 In the book “EVERY MAN’S BATTLE” by Arterburn and Stoeker, a focus is that men can win the war on sexual temptation one victory at a time. “You are sexually pure when no sexual gratification comes from anyone or anything but your wife.“

To attain sexual purity we must starve our eyes of any sexual gratification that is from outside of marriage. When you starve your eyes and eliminate “junk sex” from your life, you will deeply crave “real food” – your wife. And no wonder. She’s the only thing in the cupboard and you are hungry.

The book “EVERY MAN’S MARRIAGE” also by Arterburn and Stoeker, is a detailed guide that can teach a man how to cherish his wife. “What is every woman’s desire? Answer: a husband who will love and cherish her.”

Tom Weckesser

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August 12: Don’t Covet

Read 1 Timothy 6:6-10
This week we are exploring the commandment, “Do not covet.” A wise friend of mine often says, “Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.” Why? Because the more we desire something, the more we build up and embellish it in our minds. Wouldn’t it be great to have all the money so-and-so has? I’d love to have a house/car/boat/you-name-it like them. If only I was in their shoes, just think of the prestige and fame that would be mine! I am also reminded of another wise saying: “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

The point here is two-fold. First, if we were to get what we think we want, we would most likely be very disappointed in how the reality falls far short of our puffed-up expectations. It doesn’t measure up. It gets old and out-dated. It breaks. Second, once attained, the objects of our desire often come with some very unexpected consequences. A big house/car/boat requires much cleaning, maintenance and expense. A long-awaited promotion includes loads of headaches and endless hours. What we have possess us instead of the other way around.

When we ignore the things God has already given us in striving for what we do not have, our level of contentment plummets. I find it very interesting that today’s passage mentions food and clothing but does not include the last of the big three we feel are absolutes – shelter. Would I be content with just food and clothing? Not even a little. The point here isn’t that I should aspire to live life like a homeless guy, but rather that my bar for contentment should be set very low.

Why would I be happier living this way? It isn’t too hard to grasp the idea that we can’t take anything with us when we leave this life. If God wants the absolute best for my time here on earth, verses 9 and 10 give me a glimpse into navigating that time successfully. Seeking the riches I think I want is a temptation and a trap of foolishness. Not only is it harmful, it will result in exactly what I don’t want: ruin and destruction. In wandering from contentment found in the family of faith, I only end up pierced with grief from chasing that which I can’t ultimately keep.

What are you chasing in your life?

Wade Karhan

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August 11: Jesus Changes Everything

Read 1 John 1: 5-9

Over the past seven days we have taken a look at the Exodus 20 command of “You shall not give false testimony.” As we have learned, lying can come in many different forms, yet the underlying principle is the same- deception for personal gain. The idea that I am going to tell someone something, hide something from someone, or exaggerate an idea to make myself look better. I can’t think of any other reason why we would lie, can you?

This series, especially this specific command, can sound too legalistic if we aren’t careful. Every week we have essentially been looking at the do’s and don’ts of the Christian faith. Yet, there is an underlying idea to the whole series that John teaches us in todays passage. God gives us directions like the Ten Commandments to help give us context to how He has designed our lives to be lived. However, as the result of our sin nature, He knew we would never be able to meet His expectations, so He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to rescue us.

All too often I think we look at our faith like we do the menu at McDonalds. “I need to order a grilled chicken wrap, a small fry, and a small Diet Coke, but not a regular Coke because of the calories, and I can order ice cream only if it’s a Sunday because I can have sugar then.” Sounds very similar to “well I prayed today, I spent some time in the word, and I didn’t lie- so it was a good day!” But that’s not the type of faith God calls us to. Yes, reading your Bible, spending time in prayer, and not lying certainly make Him pleased, but it is a changed heart He seeks. A heart that is so in love with Jesus that you are running in relentless pursuit after Him, allowing His grace to slowly transform you to look more like Him.

You can’t fight this fight on your own. You will never win. If you’re going through this Ten Commandment series by trying to lie less, have fewer idols, and just check off boxes, you are going to end up sorely disappointed. The fact of the matter is that we need to heed John’s words today. Confess your sins to the Lord, and allow Him to cleanse you and change your heart, one piece at a time.

TAB

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August 10: How Pride Leads to Deception

Read Luke 20:19-26

Shame and guilt color my memories of our conversation. He’d asked a question and I answered with untruth. I’d been trying to protect my reputation, and just like that, my integrity was gone.

I know both sides of deception. I’ve been the deceived. And, like the chief priests and teachers of the law, I’ve been the deceiver, working to convince others that I’m something I’m not.

Today’s reading finds Israel’s religious leaders fighting to preserve their own opinions at any cost. They’d become so comfortable with their own ways to uphold God’s Law that they forgot God. Rather than humbly serving Him, these men had given themselves to self-preservation for the sake of their pride. And deception always starts with pride. Pride had blinded these men from the Truth who was standing right in front of them. (See John 14:6.)

It isn’t just about paying taxes, although Jesus’ words here are on point. Deeper still is the principle that pride and deception go hand-in-hand. In fact, commandment number one, “Do not have other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3) lays the foundation for this one, “Do not give false testimony . . .” (Ex. 20: 15). In other words, don’t serve anything or anyone except the One True God — not even yourself. But this is exactly what the scribes and chief priests had done.

Maybe you can relate. You’re faced with an embarrassing situation at work, so you cover your tracks to protect your image. Suddenly you find yourself serving the god called self. Or your employer tries to pay you under the table “for the financial good of both parties” — no payroll taxes for him, no income taxes for you. It just takes a little deception to protect the financial security of your home, your family, your status. But that’s not serving God. It’s serving self. Or maybe yours isn’t so blatant. Maybe you’ve toyed with presenting less than the truth to your husband about the cost of that Coach purse you got last week. Who do you serve?

Have you let the Lord Almighty be the true Lord of your life? Do you trust Him to protect your image even when you have to admit embarrassing things or give up some money or risk your husband’s anger? Or are you serving yourself at the expense of your integrity?

 

-BW

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