Day 14: Unplanned Speech

Genesis 30:1-31:16

Matthew 10:1-23

Psalm 12:1-8

Proverbs 3:13-15

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/KTWh48

 

Pastor Commentary:

Matt 10:19: “But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”

 

God will speak through you if you give Him the chance. As Christians, we are not meant to be afraid of difficult situations. We are not expected to premeditate all our speech. We are expected to surround ourselves with people who need our help, and offer up a generous portion of the Gospel message. Jesus has already equipped us to cast out unclean spirits, and to heal all kinds of sickness and disease (Matt 10:1). Be bold, knowing that God has already prepared you for everything He has called you to do. If you don’t feel ready: good! That only means you will have to rely on God that much more.

 

Prayer:

“Father, give me the confidence required to know that you will speak through me in every situation! You will give me words to pray and to speak. You will give me wisdom to know what to do. Help me to always rely on the Holy Spirit, and to never rely only own strength!”

Day 13: Don’t Get Duped!

Genesis 28:1-29:35

Matthew 9:18-38

Psalm 11:1-7

Proverbs 3:11-12

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1ekqsf8

 

Pastor Commentary:

“Fool me once…shame on you. Fool me twice…shame on me.” So the old idiom goes. Laban is one tricky character. Recall in Gen 24:55 that he just tried to convince Abraham’s servant to let Rebekah stay with them ‘a few more days…’ Now he is about to convince Jacob to serve him for 20 years! Recall Jacob was only supposed to be with Laban ‘a couple days’ (Gen 27:44), yet Jacob served him 7 years for Leah, 7 years for Rachel, and another 6 for his flocks. The lesson is this: there are people in life who will try to detain you from God’s purpose, and it is in our best interest to turn them down quickly. The Holy Spirit should not be quenched (1 Thess 5:19), and God’s messengers should not be detained. Lovingly recognize all those who would try to do either.

 

Prayer:

“Father, help me to recognize those people who would detain me from Your purpose for me. Help me to just say no. You have higher callings for me to accomplish!”

Forest and the Trees

Forest and the Trees

We are now about halfway through Genesis as we read through the Bible together. This is a good time to step back from the individual stories in order to gain a better picture of the larger story.

1) The Bible contains a unified message. Each night at bedtime I read my children The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones.  What I like about this children’s Bible is how Sally Lloyd Jones demonstrates how each Bible story unfolds from the very beginning until Jesus returns to make everything new. The author, and many others including me, grew up viewing the Bible more as a collection of stories rather than as a grander narrative. In an interview with Mrs. Lloyd Jones, she explained how although she grew up going to church and reading the Bible, she never connected the Old and New Testaments. The Jesus Storybook Bible is her attempt at making sure children understand how the Bible is connected by a central theme.

The Book of Genesis, which means “beginnings,” opens our story about how God created everything perfectly. By the third chapter, man and woman rebel against God’s only rule and shatter the paradise they live in. From the very beginning, God promises to make things right. The remainder of Genesis and the Old Testament is the continuation of how He accomplishes this end.

2) Genesis introduces monotheism – When we look at books of the Bible it is helpful to understand the answers to certain questions. Who was the author? Why is he writing? Who is his audience? What is he trying to convey? What genre of literature are we reading? These questions help us better understand the passages we read.

Genesis, as far as we know, was written by Moses. The contents of Genesis, as well as the other four books that make up the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) were written for the Hebrews who were slaves in Egypt. The Hebrews at this time had lived in Egypt for 400 years. Many did not know the history of their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob. They were raised in a polytheistic culture that taught that everything came from Egyptian gods and that the gods were not much better than humans.

The writer of Genesis sought to change their thinking by first showing that Yahweh is the one true God who created everything.  The sun and the moon were not gods but rather creations of God. In Genesis 4 some of the genealogies include tidbits such as “And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such that handle the harp and pipe. And Zillah, she also bare Tubal-Cain, the forger of every cutting instrument of brass and iron” (Genesis 4:21-22).  This told the Hebrews that it was not the gods that had provided and taught men these things but other men who themselves were created by the one true God.

3) A major theme of Genesis is separation. In the beginning God separates day from night, water from dry land, living from the non-living, man from the earth, and woman from man. After the fall God separates man and woman from the garden. God separates the godly line of Seth from the rebellious line of Cain. Eventually Seth’s line mixes with Cain line and the earth is over run by wicked and violent people so God separates Noah to preserve the human race. At the tower of Babel God comes down and separates the languages so mankind cannot unify against him again. God separates Abraham from his family and later Abraham from his nephew Lot. God separates the godly family line and chooses Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau.

One of the last things you will notice in the Book of Genesis is Jacob’s prophecy over his sons in which he names Judah as the line from which God will raise a king and “the scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the rulers staff from between his feet” (Genesis 49:10). The remainder of the Old Testament gives the history of this family line.

To be holy means to be separate. God is showing how He separated the Hebrew people as His people to accomplish a purpose on the earth. His purpose was to separate a family line to bring the promised Messiah. Separation is a theme you should look for throughout the scriptures as you continue to read.

For Genesis, and the rest of the Bible, remember to look for some of these larger themes. These will help you understand and appreciate the message of the Bible.

-by Pastor Shawn Martin

Day 12: Want Proof?

Genesis 26:17-27:46

Matthew 9:1-17

Psalm 10:16-18

Proverbs 3:9-10

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1cUy977

 

Pastor Commentary:

Jesus does the visible so that we know He is capable of the invisible. God moves in the natural realm so that we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that He moves supernaturally. In Matt 9:4, Jesus highlights something important for us. As Christians, it is much easier on the surface for us to pray for something that doesn’t require physical manifestation (example: salvation). It can be much more intimidating, however, to pray for something that requires immediate, tangible results (example: physical healing). Even though the invisible (salvation) is much more important, we get trapped thinking we need to be scared of praying for the visible (healing)! This is why we have Healing Rooms at CityLight Church. We believe that God is Jehovah Rapha, the God Who Heals, and we are willing to stand on His Word and pray for the sick. Jesus endows us with power from on high to perform miracles, signs and wonders; when we do, there will be no questioning whether or not salvation is real.

 

Prayer:

“Father, I pray that you would equip me to walk in the supernatural. Highlight to me the spiritual gifts which you want me to cultivate and develop. Help me to pray for things that require tangible proof! Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out demons through me! I am your humble servant; USE ME!”

Day 11: These Things Take Time

Genesis 24:52-26:16

Matthew 8:18-34

Psalm 10:1-15

Proverbs 3:7-8

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1dCfm1s

 

Pastor Commentary:

The Lord does not always operate on your schedule. In fact, that very statement should expose the silliness of expecting the God of the Universe to ever conform to your timing. Gen 25:21 says that “Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived.” That gives the impression that Isaac immediately saw an answer to his prayer. However, we are told that Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah (Gen 25:20), and SIXTY years old when Rebekah first gave birth (Gen 25:26). Sometimes when we ask God for help, He answers right away (see Gen 26:12); other times we are to wait with patience, knowing He hears our petitions. God loves you and He takes pleasure in your happiness and prosperity! Give Him a chance to move in your life.

 

Prayer:

“Father, help me never to be discouraged as I’m waiting for an answer to prayer. You will always answer, but I recognize that it’s going to be according to Your schedule; not mine. Give me patience and a heart willing to listen in Jesus’ Mighty Name!”

Character Development

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Character Development’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 1/5/2014, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/JGh36j

 

Character. This is a word of immense meaning. We are defined by our character. Good character can be an attribute that leads others to respect and revere us, and bad character can be a trait which condemns us. Google dictionary defines ‘character’ as ‘the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.’ The world – society at large – loves men and women of good character. The Bible describes how God loves men and women of good character. So how do we develop our character? How do we become the people God wants us to be?

 

The vast majority of Bible characters have some enormous fault – a gap of sin in an otherwise seamless patchwork of admirable traits. Noah was fond of stiff drinks (Gen 9:21), Abraham lied and said his wife was his sister (Gen 12, 20); and David was an adulterer and a murderer. Yet there are examples of men of incorruptible character in the Old Testament. Joseph was one of these men.

 

The Story of Joseph

 

Joseph was the son of Jacob, and one of only two sons born to Jacob by Rachel. Joseph was clearly Jacob’s favorite son, as evidenced by the fact that when Jacob returned after years of exile to finally meet his brother Esau face to face, he put Joseph and Rachel last (Gen 33:2) to try and guarantee their safety.  Jacob even gave Joseph a tunic of many colors (Gen 37:3); that, coupled by Joseph’s innocent tendency to tell the people around him about dreams that he probably should have kept to himself, made his 11 bothers despise him. His brothers retaliated by throwing him into a pit and selling him to a band of Ishmaelite slaves.

 

Yet Joseph remained steadfast in his commitment to God throughout his imprisonment. He was sold to Potiphar, an officer and captain of the guard to the Egyptian Pharaoh. Potiphar recognized the favor and blessing that rested on Joseph because of his character and made him ‘overseer of his house and all that he had’ (Gen 39:5-9). Even after Potiphar’s wife threw herself at Joseph ‘day by day’ (Gen 39:10), Joseph refused to sin. Eventually, after a stint in prison and a series of dream interpretations, Pharaoh noticed how blessed Joseph was and made him master of his own house: “Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.’ Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck” (Gen 41:41-42).

 

Joseph could have responded to his divine empowerment by becoming corrupt and immoral; and we, the readers, could not have faulted him for it because it would have demonstrated nothing more than the fact that he was human. Yet God kept Joseph untainted, and Joseph co-labored with God to maintain his character. He honored his brothers and his father and all their families, and never did wrong to a single man. He remains one of the few characters in the Bible who never slipped up.

 

So what can we learn about character development from Joseph? The Bible doesn’t go into detail to explain how Joseph was raised, and what disciplines he practiced to become such a solid man of God. We can see, however, that the obvious constant in his life is adversity. Joseph had to experience trial and tribulation – resistance – in order to grow. Whenever we find ourselves in less-than-desirable circumstances, we would do well to remember that those situations, while often unintentional and sometimes painful, are the ones which shape us the most. This is not to say, however, that we should seek out trying circumstances; but rather that we should prepare to learn and grow from them as they arise.

 

Character Development

 

How can we, as Christians, intentionally work to develop our own character? We can start by practicing certain essential disciplines. Reading and prayer should always top this list. Many Christians read works by prominent Christian authors, making the unstated supposition that such reading is just as productive as Bible reading; this, however, is not the case. There is nothing that can substitute for meditating on  God’s Word, both written and spoken, day and night (Ps 1:2, Josh 1:8). When it comes to reading and praying, we often overlook the simple reality that in order to listen we have to keep quiet and sit still.

 

We can also celebrate success and learn to rest. We spend our entire lives struggling and striving to achieve: if we are Christian, our achievements are for God; if we are not, our achievements are for ourselves. When we accomplish something important, we must remember to take time and celebrate it, because it is that action that will motivate us to achieve again. What’s more, we must learn to rest, even as we are in the middle of a process and have yet to achieve success. Biblical rest is not defined by immobility; it is defined by our ability to trust God in every situation, regardless of the apparent outcome.

 

Community is of the utmost importance, and certainly should not be overlooked when we speak of developing character. Prov 11:14 reminds us that ‘In the multitude of counselors there is safety.’ We are not meant to live life alone; it was for this reason that God originally insisted on the creation of a suitable helper for Adam in the Garden of Eden (Gen 1:18). Prov 27:17 encourages us that ‘as iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.’ God puts people in our lives so that He can get counsel to us; and sometimes even so that he can get financial and material blessing to us. The end result He intends is that our countenance would be ‘sharpened’ (in other words, put a smile on your face).

 

There is a recent phenomenon that appears to be getting stronger which I have unlovingly termed ‘Church ADHD.’ Now I understand that New York City is a transient place, and I probably shouldn’t be surprised as a pastor that we see so many people come and go in our church community. There is, however, tremendous value in sitting still. Many Christians suffer from the ‘attention deficit’ component of Church ADHD: they come and sit and feign listening week after week, while not really learning because they fail to internalize the Word and let it flow out into their lives during the rest of the week. Many others suffer from the ‘hyperactivity disorder’ component of Church ADHD: they anxiously hop from church to church until they have tried available options, inevitably settling on the flawed conclusion that they ‘can’t find a good church.’ You can always find plenty of good churches; the real question is, can you become a good churchgoer? When it comes to relationships, fear of commitment is something most of us outgrow. Yet when it comes to church membership, that fear is unfortunately alive and well.

 

Finally, where is your focus? Cal Pierce, the Director of the International Association of Healing Rooms uses a phrase of which I have become particularly fond: ‘What you face is what you embrace.’ Although simple on the surface (and a little corny), there is incredible truth to it. Do you get pleasure from spending time with God? Does prayer make you joyful? Do you look forward to the daily activities that allow you to communicate with your Creator, or have they become empty disciplines? David models what it looks like to delight in the law of the Lord (Ps 1:2). Do you follow his example? Our relationship with God is designed to be an all-consuming fire; we should do everything we can to feed that fire and avoid extinguishing it.

 

Who Is Responsible for Character Development?

 

Have you ever read a book that was made into a movie? Sometimes – despite the visual stimulation and relative lack of effort that come with films – the book can be so much better. Why is that? It’s not the setting, and it’s not the action. It’s the character development. Watching heroes and heroines grow and developed as they rub up against the outside world keeps us engaged and excited. We saw this earlier as Joseph developed from an innocent teenager into the de-facto ruler of Egypt. When the main character of a story makes choices we don’t want him to make, we cringe; when she becomes a model citizen, we delight.

 

But when we read a book, who is it who shapes the personality of the characters in any story? The author, of course. It would be utterly ridiculous for any of us to read a book and expect a character to take full responsibility for his or her development, knowing full well that the author is the brains of the operation, and the only person truly able to change any character in the narrative. Why is it then, that so many of us take character development into our own hands on a daily basis? God is the Creator of the universe. Jesus Christ is the “author and finisher of our faith” (Heb 12:1-2). So why do we try and change ourselves?

 

Let God Change You

 

So often, we try and take the reins into our own hands and change ourselves. We make resolutions, insist that we’ve learned from our mistakes, and try to be better; and we inevitably come up short, and end up back where we started (or even worse off)! When we try and change ourselves, we are players in a losing game. When we try and change ourselves, we are attempting to do something that cannot be done. We must let God change us through the indwelling presence and power of His Holy Spirit.

 

Jesus Christ did not come to abolish the Law; He came to fulfill it (Matt 5:17). But even Jesus Christ was empowered by the Holy Spirit for His earthly ministry. Who do we, as finicky human beings, think we are to try and change without His help? We need the Holy Spirit to change. The Law – the picture of the change we wanted to achieve but could not – only existed to prove that we need a Savior. Now Jesus Christ has become the picture of the change we must desire; and the Bible promises us that the Holy Spirit will make us more like Him as we behold Him (2 Cor 3:18)!

 

In Mark 10, Jesus asks a simple question on two separate occasions: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36, 51). We serve a God who loves us. We serve a God who takes pleasure in the prosperity of His servant (Ps 35:27)! We serve a God who wants to give us everything we ask – provided that everything we ask is everything He Is (1 John 5:14-15). So, what do you need? In His earthly ministry, Jesus satisfied requests that spanned from simple to complex. People asked for faith (Luke 17:5), healing (Matt 8:3), and even help with doubt and unbelief (Mark 9:24). Have you asked for what you need? Have you asked for His help in making you the person God wants you to be?

 

Implicit in allowing God to change us is the commitment to resist change forced on us by people around us. There are many people you will encounter in life who are not concerned with you or your destiny, but only their own. If you pay attention, you will notice that almost everyone who gives you advice models their advice after their own life choices. Who are you trusting in for advice? Are they hearing from God and discerning His Will for your life? Or are they just encouraging you to make the same choices they made in a similar situation so your choice can be a confirmation that they made the right choice years ago? Do not let other people confirm their own life choices through your decisions.

 

God Knows How the Story Ends

 

At this point, a very logical question should enter your mind: ‘Why doesn’t God just change me into the person He wants me to be right now? Why wait? Wouldn’t that save us both a lot of trouble?’ God will never ‘just change’ you if you are not willing to be changed. He can’t. It would violate our free will. So why did God give us free will if He knew a consequence of that choice would be disobedience? In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis responds:

 

“Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata–of creatures that worked like machines–would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.”

 

Our choice to pursue God – to have our character developed – has to be voluntary, or else it cannot be love. What child, having been imprisoned for his entire life by his parent, could honestly claim to have been loved? What onlooker, having heard his story, would ever agree? Free will is necessary if we are to choose to love God.

 

The Bible tells us to enjoy the journey we call life, and that enjoyment can only start with the realization that life is a journey! Any trip worth taking takes time. Put your trust in Jesus Christ, and let God develop you into the man or woman He wants you to be.

 

 

The above is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Character Development’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 1/5/2014, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/JGh36j


 

Day 10: Silence is Life-Giving

Genesis 23:1-24:51

Matthew 8:1-17

Psalm 9:13-20

Proverbs 3:1-6

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1hB714Z

 

Pastor Commentary:

“And the man, wondering at her, remained silent so as to know whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not” (Gen 24:21).

 

You’ve probably heard the old maxim, “Silence is deadly.” That may have some truth to it, but today we’d like to propose the opposite when it comes to our prayer lives. Abraham’s servant (the Bible does not give us his name) finds a woman who appears to be the perfect candidate to fulfill his mission. He did it! Abraham sent him on a seemingly impossible errand, and the servant found a wife for Isaac. Yet before taking action, the servant does something profoundly simple: he waits and listens for God’s voice. His flesh was screaming victory, but he needed to hear the God’s voice as confirmation. We live in a busy city where it’s hard to make time for quiet prayer; but that type of prayer is of the utmost importance. In our personal experience, the voice God chooses to employ most often is the ‘still, small voice’ (1 Kings 19:12). We cannot go about our hectic daily lives and expect God to scream at us over the din and commotion of New York City; the Holy Spirit’s voice is rarely overbearing. Let’s make time, as a church, to listen for God’s still, small voice: before we act, and not after.

 

Prayer:

“Father, help me to trust you with everything I have, and with all that I am. Help me to make time in this busy city to listen to your voice. I know that when I wait, You will speak to me in Jesus’ Name.”

Day 9: Divine Exchange

Genesis 20:1-22:24

Matthew 7:15-29

Psalm 9:1-12

Proverbs 2:16-22

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1aarDt8

 

Pastor Commentary:

In Gen 22, God asks Abraham to do something inconceivable: sacrifice his son. God had just blessed Abraham and Sarah with Isaac, and then He tells Abraham to take that same son to the land of Moriah and kill him. Why would God do that? Every Old Testament story points to Jesus. Abraham’s willingness to give up Isaac foreshadowed God’s willingness to give up His Only Son. In this story, God provides a substitute: a ram caught in a thicket by its horns (Gen 22:13). In our lives, God has already provided a Substitute: His Son Jesus Christ. God so loved us that He sacrificed His Only Son. Abraham forever knew that he could trust God to provide a substitute; we should forever trust in the finished substitutionary work of the Cross. There is nothing left that we have to do to prove we deserve His righteousness, and there is nothing we could ever do to earn His favor even if we tried. God’s grace is a gift; our love is the only thing He requires in return.

 

Prayer:

“God, thank you for providing a Sacrifice! No matter how hard I try, there is nothing I can do to earn your love. You love me despite my flaws, my faults and my failures. You proved it on the Cross, when you exchanged Your Son for me!”

Day 8: Seriously, Stop Worrying…

Genesis 18:16-19:38

Matthew 6:25-7:14

Psalm 8:1-9

Proverbs 2:6-15

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1ifjNDU

 

Pastor Commentary:

“Do not worry about your life…” (Matt 6:25). Easier said than done, right? The more we focus on NOT doing something, the more we think about it. So how do we avoid worry? By thinking about something else, of course. More specifically, Jesus tells us that when we seek His Kingdom first, He will take care of all our material needs (Matt 6:33). As New Testament Christians, with the right to boldly come to the throne of grace (Heb 4:16), we should be pursuing God all the time. We should be including Him in all our major decisions. When it comes to our lives, we have the right to ask God what’s coming. God is not trying to hide His Will for your life. He wants you to seek Him so that you will find it. Abraham made time to fellowship with God, and God did not hide what He was about to do (Gen 18:17). Amos 3:7 says that God does nothing without first revealing His plans to His prophets. So, how do you avoid worry? Ask God what He has in store for you. Pursue Him in prayer. You will be amazed at His answer.

 

Prayer:

“Father, I ask that you speak to me about my life. What do you want me to do? Where do you want me to go? How can I honor You in everything I do? Help me to have full confidence in the revelation that when I seek You, I will find You. Help me to find peace and avoid worry by giving You all my attention.”

Day 7: Heart of Gold

Genesis 16:1-18:15

Matthew 6:1-24

Psalm 7:1-17

Proverbs 2:1-5

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1ic293C

 

Pastor Commentary:

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:21) There is no mincing words or beating around the bush when it comes to this point: where you put your money demonstrates where you’ve put your heart. Are you sowing into your local church? Are you sowing into the people around you by generously blessing them? Proverbs 19:17 says that when we have pity on the poor, we are actually lending not to another human being, but to the Lord Himself. When God knows He can get money through us, He will get it to us. The Bible never says that money itself is evil, but rather that the love of money is evil (1 Tim 6:10). In fact, God wants us to spend so much time focusing on the things of Heaven that we don’t even have time to lust after money! We must be willing to give freely of everything we have to our God – because He has already freely given His Most Valuable Possession to us. Are you investing in the Kingdom of God? Would your bank account statement prove it?

 

Prayer:

“Father, help me to honor You with my finances, and help me to trust fully in Your provision. You are Jehovah Jireh, the Lord Who Provides! There is no need too great for You! Sow into me so that I can sow into Your church in Jesus’ Mighty Name!”

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