You Were Once Foreigners…

As God’s people, the Israelites, were finally about to enter the Promised Land after years of wandering in the desert, God reiterated a warning he made shortly after they had first fled from Egypt a generation earlier: once you’re settled in your new land, you must not forget your history. Remember that you(or your ancestors) were foreigners in Egypt, mistreated by Pharaoh, and that it was my grace—not merely your own efforts—that brought you from that place of desperation to where you are now, to this land “flowing with milk and honey.” Because, if you do forget, you may turn to the foreigners who seek refuge in your new land and treat them just as terribly as Pharaoh treated you.

How many of us have stories in our families that are similar? In the United States, for example, nearly everyone can trace their lineage back to somewhere else, whether those ancestors came on the Mayflower or a slave ship, through Ellis Island in New York Harbor, across a border, or through an airport. Most Americans have at least a basic awareness of their ancestral origins, often maintaining some cultural traditions or family recipes.

Too often, though, we’ve forgotten precisely what God warned the Israelites not to forget: the challenges and mistreatment that many newly arrived immigrants faced, such as the “No Irish Need Apply” signs of the mid-19thcentury. Most are likely unaware of the violence and legalized discrimination against Chinese immigrants that culminated in the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, legally prohibiting all Chinese immigrants for more than a half century. We tend to forget the resentment faced by the Southern and Eastern European refugees and other immigrants who came in through Ellis Island around the turn of the 20th century, or Benjamin Franklin’s incredulity that the Germans arriving in colonial Pennsylvania could ever assimilate.

The lesson of the Israelites is to remember our history—not so that we can treat those who come after us just as badly as our ancestors were treated, but so that we can do better, responding with the love and welcome with which we would want to be received.

Reflection Questions:

1. Are there refugees or other immigrants in your family history? Do you know what their experience was as newcomers?

2. How might remembering your family history inform how you respond to those arriving as newcomers today?

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CHRIST IS ABOVE ALL – COLOSSIANS 1:15

In his classic work, Meditations, Marcus Aurelius (portrayed favorably in the movie Gladiator as the elderly leader whom Russell Crowe loves and admires) wrote: Nature. All things come of you, have their being in you, and return to you.

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he made clear who he viewed as supreme (Col. 1:16). The apostle Paul and Aurelius held two very different perspectives on what is ultimate. Aurelius, a persecutor of Christians, believed that nature is supreme—that what we can taste, touch, see, and smell is where we find our meaning. Many men live as if they believe this, searching for meaning and identity in the things of this world. The Christian perspective is very different, though. We believe that the one God, who created all things, is ultimate and we find meaning and significance in Him. And we believe that Jesus the Christ is God.

In many letters in the New Testament, the apostles devoted time to teaching who Jesus is and to correcting false teaching and beliefs about Him. In Colossians 1:15-20, the apostle Paul reminded his readers and us that Jesus is above all.

Today, let’s start with Colossians 1:15.
HE IS THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD.
God created us in the image of God, but we are not the image of the invisible God. Jesus is different. He is not created in the image of God because He is not created; He is the image of God.

Remember the second commandment in the Ten Commandments? (See Ex. 20:4-5.) One of the reasons God was so adamant to His people not to make any image of Him was because every image we create falls woefully short of the reality of who God is. But Jesus is different. He is not a created image. He does not fall woefully short. He is the image of God.

…THE FIRSTBORN OVER ALL CREATION. The word, firstborn, in the original language refers primarily to position or rank, not chronology. The firstborn son, in this culture, was given authority and rank from the father. The firstborn would receive the inheritance. Jesus is the firstborn. He is first in rank, position, and authority, and He has received all that is the Father’s.

How does Christ as the image of the invisible God and the firstborn over all creation shift your perspective of Him?

Power to Provide

Individuals at one time or another have experienced financial setbacks, loss of relationships, postponed desires, unsettling health reports, unforeseen emergencies or even disconcerting news regarding loved ones. During those challenging times it is important for believers not to worry about how they will survive, but to trust in God’s ultimate power to provide in the midst of difficulty.

At times we want God to work the circumstance out our way according to our time schedule, but God is all powerful, all knowing, full of wisdom and he will forever show us that nothing is impossible for him as long as we trust his plan and his way.

In the Bible we witness God’s providing power with the Israelites as he provided them with supernatural:

Guidance – as he led them out of captivity towards the Promised Land
Sustenance – when he turned bitter water sweet, caused bread to rain from heaven, water from a rock and quail (meat) to literally come towards them
Prosperity – as the Egyptians favored them and gave them whatever they asked, including articles of silver, gold and clothing.

Now only God has the power to provide that way! God provided the Israelites with nourishment, prosperity and guidance utilizing resources that are above our intellectual comprehension. It is important to accept that God’s ways are not our ways and to avoid looking through distorted lenses regarding God’s resourcefulness and power.

There are several other stories in the Word of God that display God’s providing power and in each circumstance God did the supernatural. I’m at the point in my life now where I don’t try to figure out how God will do it, I just thank him for what he will come through and fulfill!

God will come through in powerfully providing for you in regards to your: God-honoring goals, church attendance, finances, family relationships, family restoration, wisdom, discernment, fortitude, confidence, desires, education, clothing, transportation, residence, entrepreneurial efforts, friendships, marriage, courtship, beauty, integrity, health, guidance, protection, provision, covering, children, peace, joy and so much more.

God’s providing power was also witnessed when he sent his son to die on the cross for our sins! Praise be to God for powerfully providing salvation by and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

God comes through in Power!

Creative Power

God has the power to create anything He desires. The book of Genesis informs the reader that God (Elohim) is our Creator and we are His creation. Only God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have creative power, wisdom and control to produce: the heavens, earth, light, day, night, seas, vegetation, trees, seeds, sun, moon, stars, seasons, days, years, galaxies, livestock, crawling things, wild animals, males and females.

When one truly accepts and respects God’s ability and creative power in all things, faith should always follow. During the seasons in our lives when we experience trials, we should take a look around and appreciate the glory of God’s creative power. God is able to create victory in your valley, triumph in your trials and conquests in your conflicts.

Oftentimes children of covenant overlook God’s creative power because of their inabilities and shortage of resources, but God owns all, created all and nothing is impossible for Him. Whilst in your valley remember that God is your source and He is able to create victory for you right where you are.

Usually we want to immediately get out of the valley experience, but for those who love the LORD, God is working all things out for their good and is creating something new in their valley experience, which will result in one’s overall victory.

We must invite God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in to create victorious situations for us HIS WAY! Victory doesn’t always mean you’ll escape or avoid your valley experience, but God is with you and He is able to create wonderful qualities within you that individuals will see and have to give glory and praise to God regarding his creative power operating in your life.

Throughout the Bible we read accounts of God’s creative power in the midst of his children’s valley experiences and each time victory followed as God came through.

For example:
The Israelites at the Red Sea
The father and his demon-possessed son
The birth of Jesus

There are many more examples in the Bible and I believe times in your life when God came through in creative power. The good news is that God’s creative power doesn’t stop! God comes through in power regarding your: healing, provision, protection, covering, salvation, loving, kindness, forgiveness, peace, joy, breakthroughs, turning points, revelations and freedom.

Praise Be To God for coming through in creative Power!

The Spirit

In this somewhat obscure passage in the book of Exodus, we meet a man named Bezalel who God is calling to create the Tabernacle of the Lord. This was an incredible call and responsibility, for the Tabernacle was meant to be the physical place in which God met with His people as well as home to the Ark of the Covenant, the beautiful, gold-covered chest containing the stone tablets in which God had inscribed the Ten Commandments.

God chooses Bezalel to do the hard, God-like work of creating the Tabernacle. But before Bezalel gets to work “to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts,” we are told that God had to first “[fill Bezalel] with the Spirit of God.” Fascinating! Why would Bezalel need God’s Spirit in order to create? Because God is the first entrepreneur, the source of all creativity, and the originator of our ability to make something of value out of the raw materials of this world. In order for Bezalel to fulfill his call to create, he needed more of God’s likeness.

It’s interesting to note that the Tabernacle was meant to be a physical representation of the way the world ought to be, with God at the center of it. The design of the interior of the Tabernacle pointed worshipers to the Holy of Holies, an interior room in which the Israelites believed God physically existed. The Tabernacle was essentially its own world, with everything pointing towards God. So when God called Bezalel to create the Tabernacle, He was inviting him to mimic God’s creation of earth, thus bringing glory to God by emulating his creative Spirit.

When you and I create—when we launch new businesses, write new books, compose new songs, build new things, create new art—we aren’t doing something “secular.” We are imitating (albeit in a quite imperfect way) the work of The First Entrepreneur. Creativity is not a fringe thing. It is central to who God is, and who we are as His image-bearers.

God Is Holy

Our God is holy and expects us to be holy. What does ”being holy” mean for me? To be holy is to be distinct, separate, in a class by oneself being morally pure.

One of the places God declared His holiness was to Moses at the burning bush. Here God reveals Himself in a fire which encompasses a bush, but contradictory to its nature of consuming the bush, here it is not burnt. It is here God tells Moses that the ground he is standing on is holy.

Suddenly with the presence of God, the bush and the place became holy. So with God’s presence in my life, I can also become holy in God’s sight. We see the same in the lives of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were thrown in a fire that consumed those who threw them. They were taking a walk and having fellowship with their maker that even the worldly king witnessed.

The holiness of God should guide and govern our thinking on how we would live lives pleasing to God. This brings in a sense of accountability to God, others and us. It will eventually impact our attitude and the way we worship God. It should instill in us a positive fear which would motivate us to obey God.

It cautions us about what we accept and practice from those around us. God does not want us to be consumed by the situations around us.

However, the fire of this holy God should consume the unholy parts in our life, like jealousy, greed, lies, or any form of sin found in us. Just as a blacksmith purifies the metal by repeatedly putting it through fire, God purifies us by allowing fiery situations in our life, not to consume us but to purify us.

What are some of the fiery situations in our life today? It may be a terminal sickness, death of a loved one, difficult workplace, annoying people around us, etc. In this fiery situation we need to be like the bush and the three Israelites who were not consumed but had fellowship with their maker.

This image of God being holy gives us a hope of His presence and fellowship even during the tough times in our life. When we have God’s presence and His fellowship, we would be living holy lives that others around us can see God in our lives.

Changed

Being changed by Christ means understanding who you really are in Him. You are His disciple. Over the next four days, you will read from God’s Word about what a disciple is and explore the various things disciples do.

A great example of a disciple can be found in the early church as they worked towards carrying out the Great Commission of spreading the good news of Christ into all the nations.

Jesus’ parable of the vine and branches offers us a perfect picture of what being a disciple of Christ should look like.

As a disciple of Christ you will find a need and meet it, find a hurt and heal it, and Jesus will ask you to do a lot of things that won’t fit neatly into a point on a page.

As a disciple of Christ, it’s important that you publicly stand with Him in celebrating your new life, which is why baptism is a great first step for a new follower of Christ. Over the next three days, you will explore what the Bible has to say about the importance of baptism.

There is spiritual power in baptism. This spiritual power is experienced in the fact that you are publicly standing with Christ. You are being baptized into Christ’s death and you are also being raised into new life.

Baptism is a symbol of your being changed by Christ. If you have never been baptized, let these verses serve as encouragement to you in taking that very important next step.

Being changed means reading and studying His Word regularly. Over the next seven days, you are going to explore verses related to understanding what the Bible is, where it came from, the power of the Bible, the reliability of the Bible, and the importance of mastering the text and being mastered by it.

God’s Word is eternal and has and will continue to withstand the test of time. It is absolute and we must submit to His Word in the way the writer of Psalm 119 explains.

Where did the Bible come from and how do we use it? Paul answers these questions in 2 Timothy 3:10-17.

We know the Bible is reliable because it passes the internal test in answering the question do the writers of the Bible claim their writings are true? It also passes the external test in answering the question what does outside evidence say about the Bible? Finally, it passes the bibliographic test by answering the question how well were the original documents translated to today? Today’s scriptures give answers to these questions.

God calls us to master the Bible and to be mastered by the Bible. As a follower of Christ, we must read the Bible regularly so that we can learn what it says, understand what it says, and do what it says. More importantly, we must allow His Word to transform and change us.

In order for God’s Word to change us into what God desires us to be, we must read His word regularly. Today, you will learn what the Bible says about the importance of reading and studying His Word on a regular basis.

There are four things the Word of God brings us: power, healing, direction, and freedom.

Being changed means understanding who God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are and how they interact in your life. This week you will read passages that will help you understand more about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Today you will read about God being your spiritual father.

Not only does the Bible show us that God is our spiritual father, but it also illustrates three characteristics of His fatherhood: He is a patient father, a forgiving father, and an intimate father.

Jesus is Immanuel meaning God with us. God came in the form of His son Jesus to live among us so that He could ultimately provide us eternal life by dying on the cross. Today you will explore what the Bible says about Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection.

Jesus is Immanuel, and as Immanuel the Bible tells us that He comforts the afflicted and He afflicts the comfortable.

God sent the Holy Spirit to be our counselor. Being our counselor also means that the Holy Spirit serves as our intercessor, our advocate, comforter, and helper.

The Bible says there are three things the Holy Spirit does for you: He comforts you, counsels you, and convicts you.

You are empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit gives you the power to share Christ boldly, gives you power when you are weak, gives you power to have hope in a hopeless world, and gives you power to experience all the fullness of God.

Being changed means you connect with God through prayer. Our relationship with God is like any other relationship we have. We must spend time and connect with God and we do this through prayer. Over the next seven days you will spend time reading what God’s Word has to say about the importance and the power of prayer.

How should we talk to God? The Bible shows us that we should talk to God with gut-level honesty and talk to Him about everything that matters to you.

How should we talk to God? The Bible also says we should talk to God continually and that we should listen for His response.

Not sure how to pray or where to start? Start with Jesus’ example that He shared with His disciples, which is known as The Lord’s Prayer.

What matters to God when you pray? The Bible says your relationships and motives matter.

What matters to God when you pray? The Bible says the way you live matters, your faith matters, and God’s will matters.

Jesus encouraged us to pray without giving up. He illustrated this through the parable of the persistent widow.

Being changed means supporting and regularly attending your local church. Over the next seven days, you will read what the Bible says about what the church is and how you should support the local church through serving and tithing.

The church is not just a building. We are the church and each one of us is called to be ministers.

God has called you to meet the needs in your church.

God has given you both talents and spiritual gifts to use in serving His church and in ministering to others.

We support the local church through the tithe. All throughout the Bible God asks us to give Him a tithe, which is 10 percent of our earnings. In fact, the only time God ask us to test Him in the Bible is related to the tithe in Malachi 3.

Not only does God ask for our tithe, but He also desires us to be cheerful givers beyond the tithe.

During His ministry, Jesus often discussed the importance of tithing and giving generously.

Being changed means engaging in Biblical community. God did not design us to do life on our own, which is why it is vital that we engage in Biblical community with other believers. You will conclude this reading plan over the next six days by reading about the importance of Biblical community from God’s Word.

You’ll never do all God wants you to do without the right people around you. You need people in your life that are with you heart and soul. A great example of this can be seen with Jonathan and the armor-bearer.

One of the benefits of Biblical community is being around other believers that help you grow both spiritually and relationally.

Biblical community comes in many forms, the most common of which is within your local church in the form of regular church attendance and in small groups.

One of the greatest benefits of being in Biblical community with other followers of Christ is having people that support you during difficult times.

Biblical community can occur within a group of believers or between two people. In fact, some of the strongest forms of Biblical community happen between just two people. It’s important that we have believers in our life that can mentor and counsel us, as well as keep us accountable.

On this final day, you will read about the life change that has taken place inside of you as a result of your accepting Christ as your Savior. You have been forever changed as a result of your decision to follow Christ. The old is gone, and the new has come!