Sunday, January 21, 2018

Day 21 - From Accuser to Intercessor

Reading Gen. 43-44 and Psalm 10

In Genesis 37:26 it is Judah's suggestion that they sell Joseph as a slave... now it's interesting to see in Genesis 44:22 that it is Judah that is pleading with Joseph (he doesn't yet know it is Joseph) for the life and freedom of his brother Benjamin. He's willing EVEN to take Benjamin's place and be a slave forever, just so that Benjamin can return home to his father. What a contrast and what a change in heart has occurred over the years since he was willing to sell Joseph as a slave.

Ellen White writes: "Joseph was satisfied. He had seen in his brothers the fruits of true repentance." And at this he asked all the Egyptians to leave that he might disclose himself to his brothers.

This begs me to ask the question, "What are the true fruits of repentance? If you are truly sorry you've wronged someone, might you go from being an accuser to an intercessor on their behalf?"

Deep thoughts to ponder!

Tomorrow's reading: Gen. 45-46 and Matthew 16

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Day 20 - Are We Preparing for the Famine?

Today's Reading: Gen. 41-42 and Matt. 15

I was inspired to read again the story of Joseph being taken from prison and promoted to governor of the land. He was called to store up bread to save the people of Egypt. However, he would have never been called to this position if he hadn't already been storing up the Living Bread in his heart daily. It was Joseph's faithfulness and trust in the Living Bread that allowed him to be used to give bread to the people in the time of crisis.

What a lesson this brings for our lives today! Right now, at least for those of us in the Western World, we live in a land of plenty--plenty of spiritual resources, freedom, and abundance. Are we storing up bread for the coming famine? Or are we being wasteful, neglectful, and taking for granted what God is giving us?

Amos 8:11 says, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD."

Will we like Joseph, be prepared for this famine? Will we be prepared to feed the hungry people?

Tomorrow's Reading: Gen. 43-44 and Psalm 10

Friday, January 19, 2018

Day 19 - Faithful behind Bars!

 Today's Reading: Gen. 39-40 and Matthew 14

Reading today, I was inspired once again by Joseph's faithfulness even as a captive. He could have been difficult, he could have done the least needed to get by.... but it's obvious he was a diligent servant that went above and beyond the call of duty...that's why he got promoted.

In prison, he could have sat down in a heap and grumbled, but he remained faithful there, and was promoted again. Wow!

This challenges me.... am I faithfully doing my best, even willing to go above and beyond the call of duty? Would I continue to do this even if I was behind prison bars? Someday, we might just be put to that test!

Tomorrow's Reading: Gen. 41-42, and Matthew 15

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Day 18 - Pictures of Jesus

Today's reading: Gen. 37-38 and Psalm 9

As I begin reading the story of Joseph, in Genesis 37, so many pictures of Jesus jump out at me--maybe because a close friend and I have previously studied this story in more depth.* But anyway, here's just a few examples:

1. Genesis 37:2: "Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. ... and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father." In His earthly ministry, Jesus also fed the flock (the people of Israel) with His brothers (the "church leaders"), and unfortunately he had to bring a bad report about them to His Father because they were not doing their work properly. They were hypocrites!

2. Genesis 37:4: "But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him." I think there was also jealousy from Jesus earthly brothers because of the special care and love his parents gave him. They probably felt he was treated preferentially at times. Of course the church leaders of Jesus' day hated Jesus and could not speak peaceably to Him, even more as they saw God's favor upon Him.

3. Genesis 37:5: "Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more." These dreams pointed to Joseph as their ruler. Also, we see in the Old Testament how the prophecies pointed to Jesus as the coming King and Redeemer. Did the church leaders, in their deepest of hearts, recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of those prophecies and hate Him even more?

4. Genesis 37:11: "And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind." Here I am reminded of what happened to Mary when the shepherds came worshiping Jesus. In Luke 2:19 we are told: "But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart."

5. Genesis 37:13: "And Israel said to Joseph, "Are not your brothers feeding the flock in Shechem? Come, I will send you to them." So he said to him, "Here I am." God sent Jesus on a long journey from His heavenly home to this earth, and Jesus willingly went, saying, "Here am I." What a lesson in total obedience!

6. Genesis 37:18: "Now when they saw him afar off, even before he came near them, they conspired against him to kill him." King Herod conspired to kill Jesus before He was even close to being a potential threat. Jesus was still a baby.

7. Genesis 37:23: "So it came to pass, when Joseph had come to his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic." Before being crucified, Jesus was stripped of His clothes.

8. Genesis 37:24: "Then they took him and cast him into a pit. And the pit was empty; there was no water in it." Jesus was desperately thirsty on the cross. But there was no water for Him.

9. Genesis 37:28: "Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt." It was Judah's idea to sell Joseph. Likewise, Judah (Judas) sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. I also think we shouldn't miss the point here that Joseph was sold to the "Ishmaelites." He's basically a descendant of Isaac sold to the people, born of the flesh, the descendants of Ishmael. And so Jesus was sold to the people of flesh--in fact, He took our place so that we could be born of the Spirit.

10. Genesis 37:31: "So they took Joseph's tunic, killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the tunic in the blood." A slaughtered baby goat reminds us of the temple sacrifices in Old Testament times. This text foreshadows Jesus dying at the hands of His brothers, the church leaders.

As we continue through Joseph's story in Genesis, we will see even more illustrations and pictures of Jesus. Looking for Jesus in the Scriptures is so fascinating, and I hope more are inspired to do this with their Bible study. 

*I am not the originator of all these thoughts. Many of these points are copied from earlier notes that a friend shared from reading Gen. 37. As a result of this study a couple years ago, my eyes really began to open to seeing Jesus in the stories of Scripture.

Tomorrow's Reading: Gen. 39-40 and Matthew 14

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Day 17 - What is unbelief hindering in our life?

Today's Reading: Gen. 34-36 & Matt. 13

I was really struck by the significance of Matthew 13:58. The background is that Jesus is in His home church and home community preaching... and instead of welcoming Him, they were offended. They kept reasoning, "How could he say or do such things...isn't this just that carpenter's son? He's no one special! Why is everyone making such a big deal of this man?"

As a result we are told: "Now He did NOT many mighty works there because of their unbelief." 

So my question is... what mighty works is He not able to do in our lives today because of OUR unbelief? Have we tried in some way to rationalize away the divinity of our Lord and Savior?

Tomorrow's reading: Gen. 37-38 and Ps. 9

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Day 16 - The Perfect Prayer Model

 Today's Reading: Gen. 32-33, and Matt. 12

Genesis 32 is one of my favorite chapters when it comes to prayer as Jacob wrestles with the angel (the Lord) and holds on saying, "I will not let go except you bless me." And God grants his requests.

But this time as I read through the chapter, I actually saw an earlier prayer that led up to that desperate prayer that I hadn't seen before.

Let's start a few verses earlier (Gen. 32:9-12) where Jacob actually prays, in his desperation, the perfect prayer model.

The Perfect Prayer Model:

  • He approaches God in worship and reverence, acknowledging WHO He is: "O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac..."
  • He claims God's Word, reminding Him what He said: "...Who said to me, 'Return to your country and I will deal well with you...' "
  • He pleads his own unworthiness: "I am not worthy of the least of all your mercies which you have shown your servant..." (Inspiration tells us, "From the soul who feels his need nothing is withheld. He has unrestricted access to Him in whom all fulness dwells." (DA 300)
  • He gives his earnest desperate plea: "Deliver me Lord!"
  • He once again claims God's Word: "For You SAID, 'I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.' "
  • Then he did the best in his power to make peace -- by sending Esau presents with a message of humility - "These come from your servant Jacob"
  • Then comes the famous prayer where he continued to wrestle until breakthrough: "I will not let you go accept you bless me..."
And God answered his prayer and blessed him! But it's because it came with humility, with need, backed up by His own Word.

What a beautiful model and illustration of what true prayer should look like! I love it!

Tomorrow's reading: Gen. 34-36 and Matt. 13

Monday, January 15, 2018

Day 15 - A Call to the Weary - That's Me!

Today's Reading Gen. 30-31 and Matt. 11

I love today's reading in Matthew 11, especially because I've just returned from almost a month of being on the road, and I'm quite weary: From Baltimore Maryland to Loma Linda California, to Phoenix Arizona, back to Loma Linda, then on to Spokane WA, and to Trout Creek Montana, then back to Spokane, and a flight to Eugene Oregon, and then down to Roseburg. Then early today from Roseburg, up to Eugene, then a flight to Seattle and finally back to Baltimore Maryland. Yeah! God is good!

Jesus has a special call for the weary. "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30)

I'm so thankful to be home and to be resting in the arms of Jesus! When I get caught up on sleep and rest and re-oriented, I might have a few deeper thoughts to share...but right now... my brain is weary, and my body is weary. I'm just thankful for Christ' call to rest.

Tomorrow's reading: Gen. 32-33 & Matt. 12

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Day 14 - Surely the Lord is in This Place!

Today's Reading: Gen. 28-29, and Ps. 7-8

I love the story of Jacob's dream of the ladder stretching to heaven. Here he was so discouraged and thinking he had forever distanced himself from God by deceiving his father for the birthright, and God gives him this dream.

When Jacob wakes up, he says simply: "Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not." (Gen. 28:16.). And the rock that was his pillow (that he was grumbling about the night before), became the symbol of his experience at the "gate of heaven." What had been hard and painful and difficult became his memorial to God's greatness and to God's presence. Yes even in those dark discouraging times when we feel forsaken and all alone, God is there.

I love the song that goes with this verse--one of my favorites:

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.
I can feel God's mighty power and God's grace.
I can hear the brush of angel's wings,
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.

In the midst of His children
The Lord said He would be.
It doesn't take very many
It can be just two or three.
And I feel that same sweet spirit
That I felt oft times before.
Surely I can say
I've been with My Lord

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.
I can feel God's mighty power and God's grace.
I can hear the brush of angel's wings,
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.

There's a holy hush around us,
As God's glory fills this place.
I've touched the hem of God's garment,
I can almost see God's face.
And my heart is over flowing
With the fullness of God's joy.
And I know, without a doubt,
That I've been with the Lord.

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.
I can feel God's mighty power and God's grace.
I can hear the brush of angel's wings,
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place

Tomorrow's Reading: Gen. 30-31 and Matt. 11

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Day 13 - Jesus' Personal Principles for Service!

Today's Reading: Gen. 26-27 and Matt. 10

For today's blog highlight of my Bible reading, I'm going to skip over the story line I've been following in Genesis and go to Matthew 10.

Matthew 10 is packed with so many gold nuggets and practical lessons. In fact, I was thinking to myself a day or so ago, that if Christians really understood and lived by the principles shared in the first few chapters of Matthew, this world would be a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT place. The principles of Christian living that Christ enunciates to His disciples and the multitudes pressing around are so backwards and opposite from what normal living usually is.

In Matthew 10, I see a list of principles for service that Christ gives His disciples. Here they are in a Melody paraphrase and nutshell:

  • I've given to you freely, now FREELY give to others!
  • Don't stress or worry about provision for the journey -- just Go!
  • Be wise, stay humble! You will be mingling with those who want to devour you!
  • Expect persecution! It comes to all those that follow Me!
  • Don't worry what to say when the pressure comes -- I will give you the words right when you need them!
  • The lessons I teach you in the dark discouraging times, share with others in the light!
  • If you are not ashamed to speak of Me, I will not be ashamed to speak of you!
  • If you love anything or ANYONE more than me, you aren't worthy of Me! (Don't forget, I left all Heaven for YOU!)
  • Don't run from the cross! Take it up gladly! But remember, I took up the CROSS first! 
It's interesting how we see Jesus life and yet, when we start to face some of the things He faced, we cry "What is happening Lord, why am I going through this hardship?!"

Yes, these principles for service aren't popular, or aren't what we'd normally like to hear. They are "otherworldly' -- in other worlds, they come from a different world than our own. But wow, how life transforming they will be if we recognize the reality and the eternal glory of the mission to which we are called. We must remember that Jesus will never ask us to do anything that He has not already done. He has led the way... Let's follow His steps! 

Tears come to my eyes as I read and contemplate today's thoughts... 

"Lord, forgive me for the times I've been ashamed to speak, ashamed to stick out, ashamed and reluctant to take up my cross... Forgive me for the times I've held Your blessings to myself and not been willing to share freely as You've shared with me... Change my heart today Lord! Make me more like You..."

Tomorrow's Reading: Gen. 28-29, Psalms 7-8

Friday, January 12, 2018

Day 12 - The Battle Within

Today's Reading: Gen. 24-25 and Matt. 9

Wow... so many stories and awesome lessons to learn from today's reading: Lessons in finding a good wife (pray hard, and look for someone that is willing to water lots of camels), learning to have quick obedience (like Rebecca had in being willing to leave right away), and not repeating the sins of the fathers (like Isaac did in not going and taking another wife because Rebecca was barren for their first 20 years of marriage!) Of course, Matthew 9 also had an abundance of powerful lessons on what it means to live and pray in faith.

But for today's highlight, I'd like to focus on one simple part -- and that is THE BATTLE WITHIN.

In Gen. 25:22-23 we find Rebecca, Isaac's wife, pregnant with twins, and yet even before they were born, there is a battle taking place in her womb. I believe it's a battle that is still taking place in each one of our hearts today.

You see, the Bible tells us that the battle represents two nations and two manner of people. I believe it can also represent the battle between the flesh and the spirit.

Naturally, the flesh comes out first...all very much focused on himself and getting his needs met. That's how we are born, and that was Esau. He was the firstborn, and he was willing to give up his birthright (representing God's blessing) just because of the lusts of his flesh. He esteemed God's blessing lightly. He was the mighty hunter, and the one that probably had all the women swooning, but he was not controlled by the spirit of God, but by his own temporal desires.

Esau was the firstborn, and naturally, he should have been the leader, but instead, he was to serve the younger. In the same way, our firstborn carnal flesh should not rule. Instead the spirit of God should rule--represented by Jacob (imperfectly) and by Jesus Christ Himself (perfectly), the second Adam. Although Jacob was imperfect, remember, it was through his seed that the promised Son eventually came...while he failed, he also repented and pled for God's mercy--and that's what one who is controlled by the Spirit will do. (But now I'm getting ahead of the story...)

So who will win the battle within, in our lives today, the flesh or the spirit? The lusts of the flesh, or the power of God?

Tomorrow's Reading: Gen. 26-27, and Matthew 10

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Day 11 - Will we Lay our Isaac down?

 Today's Reading: Gen. 22-23 and Psalm 5-6

What is the most valuable gift God has given you? Are you willing to surrender that gift back to God? This is tough! But this is the exact test that Abraham had to walk though. After waiting for years, he finally had his promised son. But the next thing we know, God is asking Abraham to give Isaac up! How could this be? Really it doesn't make sense to the natural human mind. Why would God give a gift just to take it back? Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son....the promised seed that he had waited so many years to have?

I love the following commentary on the story from the book Patriarchs and Prophets:

"God had called Abraham to be the father of the faithful, and his life was to stand as an example of faith to succeeding generations. But his faith had not been perfect. He had shown distrust of God in concealing the fact that Sarah was his wife, and again in his marriage with Hagar. That he might reach the highest standard, God subjected him to another test, the closest which man was ever called to endure. In a vision of the night he was directed to repair to the land of Moriah, and there offer up his son as a burnt offering upon a mountain that should be shown him.
At the time of receiving this command, Abraham had reached the age of a hundred and twenty years. He was regarded as an old man, even in his generation. In his earlier years he had been strong to endure hardship and to brave danger, but now the ardor of his youth had passed away. One in the vigor of manhood may with courage meet difficulties and afflictions that would cause his heart to fail later in life, when his feet are faltering toward the grave. But God had reserved His last, most trying test for Abraham until the burden of years was heavy upon him, and he longed for rest from anxiety and toil. 
The patriarch was dwelling at Beersheba, surrounded by prosperity and honor. He was very rich, and was honored as a mighty prince by the rulers of the land. Thousands of sheep and cattle covered the plains that spread out beyond his encampment. On every side were the tents of his retainers, the home of hundreds of faithful servants. The son of promise had grown up to manhood by his side. Heaven seemed to have crowned with its blessing a life of sacrifice in patient endurance of hope deferred.
In the obedience of faith, Abraham had forsaken his native country—had turned away from the graves of his fathers and the home of his kindred. He had wandered as a stranger in the land of his inheritance. He had waited long for the birth of the promised heir. At the command of God he had sent away his son Ishmael. And now, when the child so long desired was entering upon manhood, and the patriarch seemed able to discern the fruition of his hopes, a trial greater than all others was before him." (pp. 147-148)

Abraham could have easily reasoned himself out of obedience... but he knew the voice of God. He did not doubt that the one who had led him thus far would continue to lead. And if He [God] was asking for Isaac, Abraham trusted that God would work a miracle in raising him from the dead.

As I close today's highlight -- let's ask ourselves, "Will we lay our Isaac down?"

I want to share a closing thought by Chris Holland about this great test of faith for Abraham. His words are are followed by the song: "I lay my Isaac Down." Beautiful!

Tomorrow's reading: Gen. 24-25 and Matthew 9

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Day 10 - God kept His Word!

Today's Reading: Gen. 20-21, and Matt. 8

Today's reading was extra meaningful to me, (for many personal reasons) because Isaac, the promised child, was finally born! Over and over God had promised Abraham and Sara that they would have a son, and yet the years went by one after another and still no son was born. Not only did it seem more and more humanly improbable, but it got downright impossible -- at least as far as Sara was concerned. And yet Gen. 18:14 reminded us, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" Nope! Nothing is too hard for the Lord!

Although I've read this story time and time again, each time I read it afresh, it gives me new courage and hope and trust in our Amazing God, because... if He kept His Word for Abraham, I know He will keep His Word for me. God always keeps His Word. His Word cannot return to Him void, it cannot fail to come true. It's fact just as impossible as it was for Sara NOT to have a son... because God said it was going to happen and nothing could stop that, not even her age or the deadness of her womb.

What are you waiting on God to do in your life? What has He promised that you've not yet seen fulfilled?

If we know we are praying according to the will of God (1 John 5:14), instead of looking at our feelings, our circumstances, or the discouraging situations we often find ourselves in, let's look up in faith knowing that God's promises to us WILL be fulfilled! We don't know how, we don't know when...but since we have the promise, we have the assurance of the gift. And in God's perfect time, the miracle Issac we are waiting for will be born.

As my favorite author writes, "Whatever gift He promises, is in the promise itself. 'The seed is the word of God.' Luke 8:11. As surely as the oak is in the acorn, so surely is the gift of God in His promise. If we receive the promise, we have the gift." Education, p. 253

There are so many promises I could share with this story... but let me close with this one, which also gives me such courage.

"And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof." Josh 23:14

Yes, someday when we get to heaven (and many times even in this life too), we will look back and we will see, God truly did keep His Word. Not one thing He said has failed. It ALL came to pass!

Tomorrow's reading: Gen. 22-23, Psalms 5-6

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Day 9 - Go forward and don't look back!

Today's reading: Gen. 18-19, and Matt. 7

As I was reading Genesis 19 today, I was struck again by the final result of Lot pitching his tent toward Sodom. In the beginning he was still in the plains, only looking towards Sodom. Now we find that he's not living on the outskirts anymore. He's IN the city! And his daughters have married the local men. He is well invested in his life there...

And then the angels from heaven (disguised as two travelers) come to his home and tell him it's time to leave, as fire is about to fall on this city of wickedness. But Lot lingers...and his hesitancy actually cost his wife's life. 

Ellen White writes, "If Lot himself had manifested no hesitancy to obey the angels’ warning, but had earnestly fled toward the mountains, without one word of pleading or remonstrance, his wife also would have made her escape. The influence of his example would have saved her from the sin that sealed her doom. But his hesitancy and delay caused her to lightly regard the divine warning. While her body was upon the plain, her heart clung to Sodom, and she perished with it." (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 161).

I'm reminded that there are things God tells us to leave behind as He urges us to let go of the world and take the narrow path toward heaven (Narrow path referred to in today's reading of Matthew 7). Will we obey His command and go forward with full heart, or will we keep looking longingly back at the things He's asked us to leave behind... ??

I say it's time we go forward and STOP looking back! If God is taking something from us or asking us to walk away from dreams, opportunities, treasures, or something else significant, it's probably because it's getting in the way of our receiving eternal life. So don't look back. Go forward! He has your best interest at heart--and mine too!

Tomorrow's reading: Gen. 20-21 and Matthew 8

Monday, January 08, 2018

Day 8 - What is Your Ishmael?

Today's Reading: Gen. 16-17 and Matt. 6

Again and again, God has reminded Abram that he will have a son...but when the years go by and the promise is not fulfilled, Sarai decides to take things into her own hands -- and Abram's faith falters and he goes along with the plan. This is when Hagar and Ishmael come into the story. This was not God's plan, it was a sad detour...that we are still suffering the results of today!

In Patriarchs and Prophets we read: "Abraham had accepted without question the promise of a son but he did not wait for God to fulfill His word in His own time and way. A delay was permitted to test his faith in the power of God; but he [Abraham] failed to endure the trial." (p. 145)

I hate to admit this, but how many times I've done the same thing... I believe that God has promised something or is working something out in my life (maybe a job, a ministry opportunity, a relationship), and instead of waiting on God, just like Sarai, I have the tendency to try to birth an Ishmael. Thankfully God is gracious and what the enemy means for evil, He can still turn and use for good.

So what is YOUR Ishmael? What are you doing in your own way and strength that you should be surrendering and waiting on God to do? Let's not make the same mistake that Abram and Sarai made. Let's wait on God. Truly He will work all things together (work opportunities, ministry opportunities, relationships, and much more) for good in His time.

Tomorrow's reading: Gen. 18-19, and Matthew 7

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Day 7 - If God fights for us...

Today's Reading: Gen. 14-15 and Psalms 3-4

As I read the story of Abraham and his household (300 servants born in his own house) going out to battle against the kings that had captured Lot and those of Sodom, I am amazed. Think about this...There was not just 1 king's army that had come against Sodom, but four kings (along with their armies). They had already won numerous victories. And in the final battle the 5 opposing kings had not succeeded in standing against them. Now the victorious kings are marching home with their loot and Abraham comes after them with no trained military army, but only the servants born in his own household. Where 5 kings and their armies could not prevail, God prevailed and gave Abraham the victory! Just think about it! Just WOW!! This victory reminds me of the promise in Rom. 8:31, "If God be for us, who can be against us."

As I read the second part of today's reading (Psalm 3 and 4), God drove the spiritual truths home even deeper. "But thou O Lord are a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head...I will not be afraid of ten thousand that have set themselves against me round about." (Psalm 3:3,6)

And the chapters just go on to remind us how the Lord alone makes us dwell in safety!

We may not be fighting physical battles today, but we are fighting spiritual battles. And maybe in the past, we've only seen defeat. But maybe it's because we've been fighting in human wisdom and human strength. Let's remember that we are not alone and God is with us, fighting for us. And with Him, we can and will be victorious. But the battle must be HIS, and He must get all the glory. Like Abraham, we can't take even a shoe-latchet of praise or reward. It is God's battle!

Tomorrow's reading: Gen. 16-17 and Matthew 6

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Day 6 - Called to a Higher Standard of Loving and Giving!

Today's Reading: Gen. 12-13 and Matt. 5

Todays reading really raises the bar on Christian behavior and living in a number of ways. Not only am I challenged afresh as I witness Abraham following God's call to step out by faith, but I am deeply challenged by the unselfish and sacrificial way Abraham treated Lot, by giving him first choice of the land. How often in the church today (in fact this is the biggest issue in the church today), we are consumed with fighting for our "rights," or for what we think we deserve. But Abraham puts all that aside as he says, "Let there be no strife between us...we are brethren. You choose what you want and go your way in peace."

It's interesting to note, however, that after Lot moved on, choosing the best and most fertile land, God told Abraham, "It's actually ALL going to be YOURS anyway. Look East, West, North, South... see all that land (even the land Lot took), I'm going to give it all to YOU!"

Regarding Abraham's unselfish deference to Lot, Ellen White writes:

"Here the noble, unselfish spirit of Abraham was displayed. How many under similar circumstances would, at all hazards, cling to their individual rights and preferences. How many households have thus been rent asunder! How many churches have been divided, making the cause of truth a byword and a reproach among the wicked." Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 132

When I got to the second half of today's reading -- Matthew 5 with the beatitudes, I saw how these thoughts were taken EVEN DEEPER. Matthew 5 deserves to have books written about the principles shared here. If we lived and loved with THIS standard of living... Jesus would return and we'd be in Heaven. Wow!! I need to re-read this chapter over and over and pray these words. This kind of love and living will turn the world upside down. And that's what Christ is waiting for. Again, in Inspiration we find these words:

"Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own. Were all who were profess His name bearing fruit to His glory, how quickly the whole world would be sown with the seed of the gospel. Quickly the last great harvest would be ripened, and Christ would come to gather the precious grain." Christ Object Lessons, p. 69

These chapters are hard to digest in a day! What a high standard God is calling us all to!

Tomorrow's Reading: Gen. 14-15, Psalms 3-4

Friday, January 05, 2018

Day 5 - Temptations in the Wilderness!

Today's Reading: Gen. 9-11 and Matt. 4

This past week, on New Year's Eve in fact, I visited the desert (wilderness) of dry barren Arizona. Not a place I personally wanted to hang out very long. There isn't much life, and there's lots of creepy crawly dangerous insects and reptiles.

In today's reading in Matthew, I was reminded of Jesus wilderness experience and the temptations that Satan (the Serpent) brought against His flesh at His weakest point. After all, who can fight a battle when they haven't eaten for 40 days! Ahh...but Jesus had been eating...just not of the earthly kind of bread.

This story is so powerful though, because it reminds us how Satan works even now... for he knows that when we are hungry (physically, spiritually, and emotionally), we are at our weakest point and most likely to give into temptation. That's why we must keep eating our heavenly bread, or we too will fall when the temptations come.

The first temptation against Jesus is often the one Satan uses to fall us: "God's not taking care of you! He's forgotten you. Why don't you stop waiting on Him and make your own bread--work in your own strength." Thankfully, Jesus didn’t fall for this temptation, or for those that followed. As one author nicely puts it, “Jesus would rather be fed with the smallest crust of His Father’s Word than with an entire landscape of fresh bread from anywhere else.”[i]

Is this our desire as well? Are we so ravished by one look at His face (Song 4:9), that we’d rather starve from man-made bread (lust of the flesh, lust of the world, and pride of life) than be separated from His presence?

After three attempts, Satan leaves. He cannot stand against the Word of God. And just as he could not stand then, against “It is Written,” so he cannot stand today. Thus, our only safety is in feeding on the Word of God and becoming so satisfied in Him that we have no hunger for the temptations of sin.

Inspiration tells us, “Christ resisted the temptations of the enemy with the only weapon that the soldier of the cross of Christ can successfully use – ‘It is written.’ Where? In the Old and New Testaments. With these words we are to defend ourselves and warn others, holding forth to them the Word of life.”[ii]

Oh how I'm loving feeding upon God's Word!

Small extra note: It's interesting that my reading in Genesis 9 kind of paralleled Matthew 4. Because of Noah catering to the "lust of his flesh" a curse came -- and from that curse came some of Israel's greatest enemies. Also came some of the greatest enemies of our spiritual growth today! Thankfully where Adam fell and Noah fell, Christ overcame. 

Tomorrow's Reading: Gen. 12-13, and Matt. 5

[i] Ken Gire, Moments with the Savior, p. 65
[i] Review and Herald, July 13, 1897, par. 3

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Day 4 - Lessons from Noah's Sacrifice!

Today's Reading: Gen. 7-8 and Psalms 1-2

Wow! Only four days into this Bible reading challenge and already being so blessed!

So many lessons from today. Today the key thought I'd like to share focuses on Noah and his sacrifice of WORSHIP and THANKSGIVING at the end of the flood.

In Genesis 8:20 we find Noah offering 1 of every clean animal and bird that he brought with him in the Ark. (If you think about it, that was a lot of animals to kill!) Of course, keep in mind there are only 7 clean animals total of each the population of said species is practically extinct, and there aren't much options left for repopulating the earth, or for clean meat. And yet by this sacrifice, Noah expressed faith and confidence in God's ability to provide, as he seemed to say, "I'd rather have less animals with YOUR BLESSING, and trust You to provide, then keep what I see for myself without Your blessing!" This was like a tithe he made to God and is a great lesson for us today in tithing--even when we have so little. However, even beyond this lesson, we find a symbol of the Sabbath being shared.

God says, I made six days for you, but the 7th is for me! Here we find Noah and his family get to keep 6 animals (of each clean species), but the 7th animal is for God. Beautiful! And of course, God multiplied what was left. What a great God we serve!

Prayer: Dear Lord, may we truly learn what it means to sacrifice our first fruits, our best, our all, for Your glory! May we never forget that not only is the 7th Yours, but all we have is Yours!

Tomorrow's reading: Gen. 9-11, and Matthew 4

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Day 3 - Learning to Walk like Enoch Walked!

Today's Reading is Gen. 5-6 and Matt. 3

I love being reminded of the faithfulness of Enoch and Noah in today's reading! It's not because of some heroic act that they were favored of the Lord--it was because of their daily consistency, their daily faithfulness, their daily WALK with God.

In the book Last Day Events, Ellen White writes of Enoch:

"Enoch walked with God three hundred years previous to his translation to heaven, and the state of the world was not then more favorable for the perfection of Christian character than it is today. And how did Enoch walk with God? He educated his mind and heart to ever feel that he was in the presence of God, and when in perplexity his prayers would ascend to God to keep him.

He refused to take any course that would offend his God. He kept the Lord continually before him. He would pray, “Teach me Thy way, that I may not err. What is Thy pleasure concerning me? What shall I do to honor Thee, my God?” Thus he was constantly shaping his way and course in accordance with God’s commandments, and he had perfect confidence and trust in his heavenly Father, that He would help him. He had no thought or will of his own. It was all submerged in the will of his Father.

Now Enoch was a representative of those who will be upon the earth when Christ shall come, who will be translated to heaven without seeing death.

Enoch had temptations as well as we. He was surrounded with society no more friendly to righteousness than is that which surrounds us. The atmosphere he breathed was tainted with sin and corruption the same as ours, yet he lived a life of holiness. He was unsullied with the prevailing sins of the age in which he lived. So may we remain pure and uncorrupted." (Last Day Events, p. 71)

Let's pray that God will teach us to walk as Enoch walked... 

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Day 2 - How far will I go to Worship Jesus?

 Today's Reading: Gen. 3-4 and Matt. 2

Two things really spoke to me through today's Bible reading.

First, from reading Genesis 3, I was thinking how Satan's tool for getting Eve to eat the forbidden fruit was convincing her that God was holding out on her. He convinced her that God was holding something GOOD back from her, and so she needed to eat the fruit to experience that good thing. His deception then is still His deception today. His main line of attack is trying to get us to be discontent and to believe that God is not giving us the GOOD that we deserve. And so we keep following his subtle suggestions and temptations and seeking for ourselves what God has not given. And yet the Scriptures say:

"For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly." (Ps. 84:11)

Let's not fall for this temptation! For God is good, and He gives His best to those who trust in Him!

The second thing that really spoke to me this morning was from my reading in Matthew 2 where we find the Wise Men traveling such a great distance to WORSHIP the baby King Jesus. They did not come to ask favors, to ask for a miracle or for anything else. They simply came to WORSHIP! This month in the devotional section of Longing for God, the focus is on prayers that please God, prayers that worship God. As I was reading about the Wise Men this morning I was thinking how much they sacrificed just to WORSHIP JESUS, and yet how little we sacrifice. In fact, we have a hard time just leaving the warm comforts of our bed to get on our knees on the cold floor to WORSHIP Jesus. We don't have a problem complaining or giving God our great shopping list... but just leaving our comforts to WORSHIP Him???

Hmmmm..... We have some lessons to learn from these Wise Men!

My prayer today: Lord give me such a hunger and thirst for You, such a longing for You, that I will do whatever it takes, sacrifice any comforts, go to any distance, just to WORSHIP You and know you MORE!

Monday, January 01, 2018

Day 1 - Learning to Rest in Him!

Today's Reading: Genesis 1-2 and Matt. 1

Today I was reminded of the miracle of the six day CREATION, which culminated with a day set-apart to rest and remember -- Remember who? The amazing God that created us! This day of rest also represents our rest under the righteousness of Christ. God literally took a great void and filled this void with a world and vibrant life. And that's what He longs to do in our lives as well. The problem is, we don't realize we have nothing...we are completely void without Him.

This morning as I read, I was reminded afresh of the miracle of RE-creation that God longs to work in my life and heart. It's not something I can's a supernatural work that He alone can do. And yet, as He breathes fresh life into my soul, He gives me a task. Just as He called Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, He calls ME today to be fruitful and multiply. But how can I bear fruit for His glory? I have nothing good to offer? My life is barren? The answer is by staying connected to and abiding in the Heavenly Vine.

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." John 15:4,5

So lesson for today -- Stay connected, and keep RESTING in Him!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Longing for More of God this New Year? Join me!

Do you LONG for a deeper walk with God? Do you LONG to know Him more? Do you LONG to know what it means to truly worship Him in spirit and in truth? I do!

During this past Generation of Youth for Christ Conference, which was held in Phoenix Arizona, we were challenged to read through the entire Bible in 1 year. I had already made the decision to do this, but was inspired to see thousands of young people make a similar commitment. It's been a few years since I've read through the Bible all in 1 year. However, I'm excited to see how God blesses and the new insights He gives as I personally set out on this journey this coming year.

In addition to reading thru the Bible this coming year, I've decided to attempt to blog at least ONE INSIGHT God gives me each day as I read through His Word. For that purpose I am resurrecting this old blog which I haven't been using these past few years. Due to my travels and sometimes hectic ministry lifestyle, I'm not sure how this will work, but I will do my best. And I would love for you to join me in this journey. Please feel free to share the things God is teaching you as you read thru the Bible this coming year. You can even add your thoughts in the comments below each blog, and please invite others to join us in this daily Bible reading challenge as well.

There are many reading plans you can follow. I'm following the reading plan outlined in the newly released book "Longing for God" which walks you through the Old Testament, and New Testament simultaneously. I appreciate this book because it also offers additional insights each month to grow your prayer life and Bible study focus, and really has GOD at the center of the study and prayer themes. So if you can, order a copy of this book. However, I will also try to share the daily reading assignment so you can stay on track even if you don't yet have the book.

To learn more how to get Longing for God, click here! 

Okay, ready set go! Let's get started!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A New Direction

This blog is currently being reformatted. In the near future you will see a drastic change to the Morning Sonshine devotional blog. The details of the change we will share soon. Yet I will tell you one thing, you will not only be blessed, you will be challenged and transformed in your walk with the Savior of this world! Because of the changes that are taking place, this will be the last post of the Morning Sonshine devotional blog for a time. Thank you for being part of Morning Sonshine and we are looking forward to many more postings (once we update the blog) in the near future! 


Christ's Touch

In the old testament you find many incidences where God uses His hands to touch humanity. In Isaiah God says that with an outstretch hand He is calling out to a people who do not know Him to come to Him freely. In Exodus God physically moved Moses to the cleft of the rock and with His hand He shield him from His glory. In Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, and other books of the Bible, shows a God who wants to be close, personal, intimate with His people! Oh how He yearns within Himself to gather us in His arms, in His lovely embrace! 

I believe many of us view God as personable, but as a God who likes to be touched and likes to touch? We can not comprehend it! Yet God is asking us to resemble Him in every aspect of our lives, including touching people with our hands and our heart.

"Physical touch is another method Christ used in His longing to connect with us, and I believe He still uses it when we touch each other through hugs, etc.

Another example of God touching humans is Genesis 2:7, when He FORMED man of the dust of the ground. That means God created the first human being exclusively by touch! Touching is how we as a race came into existence. That's powerful."(Steven Winn)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A New Creation

I was struck by Romans 8:11 this morning.  In our Christian journey we realize that it is Christ alone that forgives us.  It is Him alone that cleanses us.  He Alone can give us that new heart.  None of these things can we do or do we have any part in accept accepting and believing in Him to accomplish them in us.

Its Christ work alone that forgives, cleanses, and transforms us (basically kills the old man of sin that we are).  And then it is Christ's work alone through the Spirit that will "also quicken" our "mortal bodies".  But this is no partial work.  He does not just cleanse or forgive some of our sins.  It is all or nothing.  It is complete.  So to with our life in Christ.  He will not only work in some but in and through all or nothing.

The old man made choices for us in the past.  He said eat that, do that, enjoy that, have that, strive for that, etc.  And we did it.  He controlled us and it was his power that was in control.  Many of us are trying to live godly in Christ Jesus while still being under the control of that old man.  He is a crafty one though.  He will allow you to have just enough power to do just enough good things to think you are not still under his control.  Yet you are never truly happy cause he is still dictating certain aspects of your life even when you don't know it.

The only answer is to have a new master in complete control.  One that is doing it all for you as you simply allow Him to work in and through you as the old man did.  If Jesus does not have all the old man is letting you think He (Jesus) has some.  Don't be deceived.  A life in Jesus is a life that is completely Free.

Matt F Mattzella

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The War is Fierce!

"This is what the LORD says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's." 2 Chronicles 20:15 
The battle is hot, with vengeance the enemy is attacking, and there seems to be no end in sight. Bombs exploding, guns firing, swords clashing, men and women screaming as the battle rages on. Solider of Jesus, are you weary and worn from fighting? Are you severely wounded?

Do not lose heart, Jesus is on your side! He is the best general you can trust your life with, He hasn't lost a battle yet! He is your commander, your trusted companion and friend in this war we are in. He hasn't left you to fight alone, in fact He is in the front lines braving the attacks that may come your way!

He is our help, our protector and our strong fortress--Psalms 18:2
We do not have to fear, He will uphold us--Isaiah 41:10
He is with us, He will go before us--Deuteronomy 31:8
He is our shield and our strength--Psalms 28:7
He is our rock and our deliever--Psalms 18:2
He is our healer--Psalms 30:2
He was wounded for us, and by Him we are healed--Isaiah 53:4,5
He knows our needs--Philippians 4:19
He has found a way of escape--1 Corinthians 10:3

The Lord will win this battle and very soon we will live in peace with Him in His kingdom! Have hope! The Lord is on your side!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus!

"What is it that we are to focus on now then that will prepare us for and even hasten the second coming?"  The answer is simply JESUS in the context of where He is, what He is doing, and what He is trying to accomplish right now.

Dan. 8:14 gives us a clue and key as to what Jesus is doing right now and what He is desperately trying to draw our focus to.  The heavenly sanctuary is being cleansed.  All of our sins are being washed/put way.  All the sins of those who are willing to have them taken away anyway.  To get a full picture of what is taking place and where are focus should be please refer to the day of atonement as described in Lev. 16 and 23.  Are we corresponding to these things.  If not we will not be happy with the results of the second coming.

Why is this so important to understand?  We have been looking for the second coming yet there are things that must come first that if we do not undersand and correspond to we will be lost.  Good thing Jesus has not come. Why!?  Because the overwhelming evidence, especially among Christians is that the world and God's people are not ready.  They are pushing God away while trying to draw near to Him because they/we have not understood the things that we must understand, correspond to, and accomplish before He comes.

We must participate and correspond with Him in the work of Atonement.  This must be our focus right now.  Once that becomes our focus than it will be completed.  Then what?  Then the sealing must become our focus. (Rev. 7 and 14)  We cannot be sealed unless we have corresponded with Christ in the atonement.  We need to be ready for the sealing.  When God's people make this their focus because it is Christ's focus then it will be completed and the second coming will be able to take place and the second coming will become the focus not only of God's people but of Jesus as well.

Oh may our eyes be open to the realities of our living Saviour.  Let us turn to Him.  May we focus on Him where He is, not where we want Him to Be.  Let us not look past Him looking to Far in the Right Direction.

Matt F Mattzella

Monday, April 07, 2014

God Accepts All

To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. Isaiah 66:2.

Those who search for worldly distinction and glory make a sad mistake. It is the one who denies self, giving to others the preference, who will sit nearest to Christ on His throne. He who reads the heart sees the true merit possessed by His lowly, self-sacrificing disciples, and because they are worthy He places them in positions of distinction, though they do not realize their worthiness and do not seek for honor....

God places no value on outward display or boasting. Many who in this life are looked upon as superior to others will one day see that God values men according to their compassion and self-denial.... Those who follow the example of Him who went about doing good, who help and bless their fellow men, trying always to lift them up, are in God’s sight infinitely higher than the selfish ones who exalt themselves.

God does not accept men because of their capabilities, but because they seek His face, desiring His help. God sees not as man sees. He judges not from appearances. He searches the heart, and judges righteously. “To this man will I look,” He declares, “even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” He accepts and communes with His lowly, unpretentious followers; for in them He sees the most precious material, which will stand the test of storm and tempest, heat and pressure.

Our object in working for the Master should be that His name May be glorified in the conversion of sinners. Those who labor to gain applause are not approved of God....
Humble workers, who do not trust in their great gifts, but who work in simplicity, trusting always in God, will share in the joy of the Saviour. Their persevering prayers will bring souls to the cross. Heavenly angels will respond to their self-sacrificing efforts....
These workers are trees of the Lord’s planting. In a peculiar sense they bear fruit equal to the fruit borne by the apostles. A rich reward awaits them in the future life.

This devotional is from In Heavenly Places, by Ellen G. White.

Saturday, April 05, 2014


"Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God."  Psalms 38:15

Waiting can be wearisome
.  Waiting to hear back from your Doctor about the latest test result.  Waiting for your son or daughter to call you once they reach their destination.  Waiting for a friend to pick you up so you guys can go shopping.  Waiting is so hard.

Did you know the word "wait" is one of God's favorite verb?   Noah waited for God 120 years before the great flood came.  Abraham had to wait 25 years for God to fulfill His promise of giving Abraham and Sarah a son.  Because of Israel's sin, they had to wait 40 years to enter the promise land.  Through out the old and new testament God's people had to wait on Him.

Yet God wants us to wait and while we are waiting for Him to take action, we are to trust Him. We are very impatient people, and God knows that, that is why He wants us to learn the value of "waiting patiently". If we let God reveal His will in His time, we will see it came at the right time, therefore the beauty of waiting is we will receive the blessing just when we need it.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him..Psalms 37:7

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Prayer and Decisions – The Example of Jesus

"And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;” – Luke 6:12-13
Jesus had been busy preaching and building up His public ministry work for lost humanity. Although He was indeed the Son of God, he was also the Son of Man. He keenly sensed His need for reliance upon the Heavenly Father and for the wisdom that only the Great God of Heaven could reveal. As Christ entered human flesh he also became subject to the dependance of human beings upon the power, strength, and wisdom of God the Father. Jesus knew that they only way to tap into this power was through prayer! Sincere, earnest, heartfelt, humble, passionate, persevering prayer. Christ often spent whole nights in prayer as He needed strength and wisdom for the activities of the next day.

When it came time for choosing His twelve disciples who were to become the apostles or messengers of the gospel to the whole world, Christ felt the need for much prayer! He chose these 12 men from among those who had begun to take an interest in His work, and who had a heart to follow Him, and even Judas.

Christ prayed for wisdom all night long. And then, knowing that He had received from the Father what was needed, he begun the work of choosing His 12 disciples from among the others. He chose the men who were later going to spearhead the carrying of the gospel to the entire world and begin His church upon the earth. What an important task to be done, and what a terribly important job of selecting these men.

Should we not follow the example of Christ? Oh, let us pray! Let us pray earnestly for the Lord’s wisdom and guidance for our lives and for His work! Before making those critical decisions of life let us bow before the throne of the Almighty God of Heaven and Earth and pour out our hearts to Him for wisdom! Let us linger upon our knees before the Lord, talking with Him sincerely. Let it not be a surface work merely, or just a short uninterested few lines, but rather a season of heartfelt and sincere prayer. Praying about a job? Praying about a move? Praying about a spouse? Consider well our need for God’s incredible wisdom and let us seek it earnestly!

Benjamin Burkhardt

Monday, March 31, 2014

It Is Time to be Alert

And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. Romans 13:11.

My brethren, you must have Jesus enthroned within, and self must die. We must be baptized with the Holy Spirit, and then we shall not sit down, saying unconcernedly, “What is to be will be; prophecy must be fulfilled.” Oh, awake, I pray you, awake! for you bear the most sacred responsibilities. As faithful watchmen, you should see the sword coming, and give the warning, that men and women may not pursue a course through ignorance that they would avoid if they knew the truth.

The Lord has enlightened us in regard to what is coming upon the earth, that we may enlighten others, and we shall not be held guiltless if we are content to sit at ease, with folded hands, and quibble over matters of minor importance. The minds of many have been engrossed with contentions, and they have rejected the light given through the Testimonies, because it did not agree with their own opinions.

God does not force any man into His service. Every soul must decide for himself whether or not he will fall on the Rock and be broken. Heaven has been amazed to see the spiritual stupidity that has prevailed. You need individually to open your proud hearts to the Spirit of God, You need to have your intellectual ability sanctified to the service of God. The transforming power of God must be upon you, that your minds may be renewed by the Holy Spirit, that you may have the mind that was in Christ.

If the watchmen sleep under an opiate of Satan’s and do not recognize the voice of the true Shepherd, and do not take up the warning, I tell you in the fear of God, they will be charged with the blood of souls. The watchmen must be wide awake, men who will not slumber at their post of duty, day nor night. They must give the trumpet a certain sound, that the people may shun the evil, and choose the good. Stupidity and careless indifference cannot be excused. On every side of us there are breakers and hidden rocks which will dash our bark in pieces, and leave us helpless wrecks, unless we make God our refuge and help.—The Review and Herald, December 24, 1889.

This devotional is taken from Ye Shall Receive Power by Ellen G. White.