Sunday – August 20, 2017 Genesis 48:1-22 “The View from the Graveyard”

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Genesis 48:21-22
Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers. And I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow

God’s covenant of faithfulness is the theme that permeates Jacob’s testimony in this chapter. Seventeen years before he had complained to Pharaoh, “Few and unpleasant have been the years of my life” (47:9). But now, Jacob has mellowed. As he takes a final look backward at his life, he remembers how God appeared to him at Bethel as he fled from his brother. Jacob had deceived his father and wronged his brother. God would have been just in finding someone else to use in accom­plishing His purpose. But He appeared to Jacob and affirmed the covenant promised to him as he fled from his brother to his uncle’s home in Paddan Aram.

Twenty years later, Jacob wasn’t much farther along. He had out-swindled his uncle Laban and headed back to Canaan. He had settled outside of the land without seeking God’s direction. Then his sons deceived and murdered a whole town because one young man there had raped their sister. But God appeared a second time to Jacob at Bethel and assured him that the promises were still good.

Even in Jacob’s great time of sorrow, when Rachel died, God’s comfort had been real. The pain of that loss was still with the old man as he reminisced here (48:7). But God had been with him. Then the hammer blow of Joseph’s loss had hit the grieving man. He had thought that he would never see his son again. He went through years of confusion, wondering how the loss of his one son who seemed to follow the Lord could fit in with the promises of God. But now, at the end of his journey, God had proved Himself faithful, as Jacob held in his arms not only Joseph, but Joseph’s two sons. And so as he blesses his grandsons, Jacob tells them how God has been his shepherd all his life to that day and how God will be with them (48:15, 21).

When others look at your life, are they inclined to say, “Your God is sure faithful, isn’t He”? Or, would they say, “Your God must not be very good, because you are always complaining about the treatment you receive”? Complainers tell others something untrue about God, namely that He isn’t faithful. People are skilled in reading between the lines of our lives. If we profess to know the Lord, but our lives are a constant complaint, they put it together and make a mental note that they don’t want anything to do with our God. We’ve got to tell them, by our words and our attitudes, that God is faithful, even through the hard times.

Sunday – June 4, 2017 Genesis 40:1-23 “How to Get Out of the Pits”


 

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Genesis 40:8
We have had a dream and there is no one to interpret it.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell it to me, please.”

The two years spent in Potiphar’s prison must have been the darkest days of Joseph’s life. These years are passed over by Moses in complete silence. We read in the book of Proverbs, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). If Joseph were ever in the dumps, it must have been now. Yet we are never told that Joseph suffered from the normal emotional reactions to his circumstances that are common to every man. Instead, we find in Genesis Chapter 40 a beautiful lesson in how to deal with despair and depression.

What enabled Joseph to endure his adverse circumstances was an absolute and unshakeable confidence in the fact that God was with him in his suffering. Twice in the previous chapter we have been told by Moses that God was with Joseph. In the first instance, we are not taken by surprise that God would be with Joseph on his way up in the organization of Potiphar (39:2-3) But we are told just as emphatically that God was with Joseph while he was in the pits (39:21-23). In Chapter 40 no one could have had the confidence Joseph did that God was able to interpret dreams through him, apart from an intimate walk with God in that dungeon. And no one could have convinced the butler of this unless there were evidence of it to be seen.

The tragedy of our day is that some Christians are teaching that if a Christian merely has enough faith, he will never need to suffer, for (they say) that the death of Christ provides deliverance from all adversity and affliction. While this doctrine may be considered as encouraging to the saint, it produces just the opposite result. Had Joseph believed that if he only had the faith he could have been instantly delivered from his troubles, his faith would have been devastated by the fact that his troubles did not go away. If freedom from pain and problems is solely dependent upon my faith, then when pain and problems come my way, there must be something wrong with my faith. Joseph would then have been questioning his own relationship with God, perhaps even the existence of God, at the very time when he should have been ministering to others and giving testimony to his faith. If our faith does not endure the storms of life, what good is it?

Fortunately, Joseph believed in a God who is not only all-wise and all-loving, but all-powerful. The God he served did place his servants in circumstances that were difficult and unpleasant, but He also gave a sufficient measure of His grace to endure it. The testimony of Joseph in these dark days is a reminder to every Christian that even the righteous will suffer and that such suffering is in the will of God to accomplish His purposes. No promise is more comforting to the suffering saint than this: “I will never leave you, nor will I ever desert you” (Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5).

Sunday – February 19, 2017 Genesis 29: 1 to 30 “I Led Two Wives”

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Genesis 29:18-20
Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than to give her to another man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.

In Genesis 28, we saw God’s beginning with Jacob. At his time of great need, the Lord broke into Jacob’s life, promised to bless him and to fulfill with him all of His covenant promises to Abraham (28:13‑ 15). In 29:1, the Hebrew says that Jacob “lifted up his feet,” an expression which means that he had a new bounce in his steps as he continued his journey. God was with him, his guilt from the past was gone, and his fear of Esau had subsided. Things were looking up.

What Jacob didn’t realize was that he had just entered God’s boot camp. He was in for a difficult 20-year term under God’s unwitting drillmaster, Laban. God would use these trying years to knock a lot of rough edges off Jacob. Ultimately, yes, God would bless him. But part of the process involved breaking Jacob of his selfish ways. The readers of Moses were there. They had followed him out of slavery in Egypt, expecting to move right in to their luxury condos in Canaan, with milk and honey flowing from the tap. Instead, they had endured 40 difficult years in the wilderness and now faced the frightening prospect of fighting the giants who occupied those cities.

God arranges our circumstances to shape us into the image of Jesus Christ. We all tend to see God’s hand in the big crises, but we need to see His hand in the little irritations ‑‑ car trouble, the sick child who forces you to change your plans, interruptions. When we recognize God’s hand in those things and submit to Him, then we can grow through it. But if we grumble, we are “regarding lightly the discipline of the Lord” (Heb. 12:5), and we miss the opportunity for growth.

God promises to bless each person who trusts in Christ. Like Jacob, we say, “Sounds like a great program! Sure, I’ll let You be my God if You’ll bless me!” But we don’t read the fine print that tells us that God’s blessings always come through His discipline. To bless us and use us to bless others, God has to break us from our dependence on the flesh and shape us into the image of His Son, who learned obedience through the things He suffered (Heb. 5:8). So God enrolls us in His boot camp. Christianity isn’t a 100-yard dash; it’s a marathon. A lot of people want instant answers to their problems, and when they don’t get them, they bail out and go looking for some other solution. When you become a Christian, you’re in for life, so don’t faint when you are reproved by the Lord (Heb. 12:5). Settle in for the long haul.

Sunday – December 11, 2016 Genesis 23:1-20 “A Piece of the Promise”

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Genesis 23:1-3
Now Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2 Sarah died in Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.”

No subject is more difficult for us to face than that of death. Writer Somerset Maugham said, “Death is a very dull, dreary affair, and my advice to you is to have nothing whatsoever to do with it.” He was probably being facetious, but underneath he was probably voicing a fear that has haunted most of us: How are we to think about and deal with death, be it the death of loved ones, or our own death? But, of course, we can’t dodge it – we must die. But it’s still difficult to think about.

That question has caused some confusion among God’s people. Some have said that since Christ defeated death, we’re supposed to be joyful and victorious through it all. They deny the process of grieving. Others are quick to explain how God will work it all together for good, which is true. But we still grieve and feel the pain. Genesis 23 provides some answers to the question of how believers should deal with death. Abraham, the man of faith, loses his wife, Sarah. His response reflects both realism and faith.

It is interesting that only two verses deal with Sarah’s death and Abraham’s grief, whereas 18 verses deal with his negotiations to secure a burial plot –  but all of it is testifying that Abraham believed in more than a piece of real estate. They testify that God’s promises do not end with this life. God is going to do far more than He has done for us in this life. As the author of Hebrews says, they were desiring “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16). Abraham was “looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb. 11:10). His faith looked beyond the grave to the promises of God to send the Savior, and through Him to bless all nations.

Death, even for believers, brings hard realities. It always hurts, it always leaves us with a lonely spot in our hearts. It often brings hard financial realities. The Lord does not spare us these things just because we believe in Him. But with the pain, which reminds us of our sin as the reason death entered this world, He gives us the hope of His promises. Christ died for us, so that the sting of death is gone. Yes, we grieve at the death of loved ones, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope. He has gone to prepare a place for us. We will be reunited with our loved ones who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

Sunday – March 20, 2016 Rev. 20:1-15 “Pay Day is Some Day”

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Revelation 20:1-3
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.”

Revelation 20 is one of the greatest and most important chapters of the Bible. It presents in summary the tremendous series of events that encompass the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. Many Bible teachers believe that it is in this future period that many Old and New Testament prophecies will find their ultimate fulfillment. However, the view that Revelation 20 is speaking of a literal thousand-year reign of Christ is also one of the most controversial and a bewildering array of diverse interpretations that may be found in regard to this passage.

The term millennium, a Latin word meaning one thousand years, is the term that has come to be used of the thousand-year period spoken of in this passage. The term “millennium” is found six times in verses 2-7. The Premillennial View is the view that Christ will personally return and reign on earth for one thousand years. The prefix “pre” expresses the view that Christ returns first, then literally reigns on earth. It also views Christ as fulfilling all the Old Testament prophecies literally in a kingdom on earth. The premillennial view is the result of a literal interpretation of Revelation 20, a view held by even the very early church fathers of the first and second century.

The Amillennial View is the most popular modern view. The prefix “A” simply means a denial of the Millennium and the literal reign of Christ on earth and seeks to make the Book of Revelation a spiritual allegory. Satan was bound at the first coming of Christ and the present age between the first and second comings of Christ is seen as the fulfillment of the Millennium. Its adherents are divided. Some believe the Millennium is being fulfilled now on earth, and is equivalent to the kingdom of God in you. Others believe it is being fulfilled by the saints in heaven. It may be summed up in the idea that there will be no more Millennium than there is now, and Christ’s second coming is immediately followed by the eternal state.

Paul teaches us that the Old Testament Scripture and God’s dealing with Israel do have spiritual analogies for the Christian life. Scripture is full of such analogies and types, but the significance is based on the literal historicity of the event whether past or future. It is never a means to deny its literal meaning or fulfillment. Scripture abounds in allegories, whether in the form of types, symbols, or parables. These are accepted and legitimate ways to teach and communicate spiritual truth. However, there is a great deal of difference between such use of allegories and allegorical interpretation. In one you have the illustration and application of spiritual truth based on literal interpretation and historical fact. In the other, you have disregard for the literal meaning and historical fact based on the literal method of interpretation and in its place an allegory is set up based on the interpreter’s own fancy.

 

Sunday – November 8, 2015 Revelation 5:8-14 “In Praise of the Lamb”

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Revelation 5:13-14
And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.”

Some time ago I heard Pat Boone share his early childhood definition of heaven. It suddenly occurred to him while he was sitting (or was it squirming?) in church, agonizing through one of the pastor’s typically long and boring sermons. Heaven, Pat reasoned, was going to be just like church – one thousand years – ten thousand years – forever. It was almost too much to handle. Such a state of affairs seemed more like purgatory than perfection in his childhood mind.

Most Christians are assured that this childhood conception of eternity with God falls considerably short of the biblical description of heaven. In the words of the contemporary song, “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace …” If it is such a wonderful place, do you wonder why we do not spend more time talking about it? Simply put, Jesus talked more of hell than heaven, probably because hell and divine judgment are easier to identify with. All about us we see the ugly consequences of sin. We see suffering and anguish because of the evil in the hearts of men. There is enough “hell” on earth at present, so that we need only think of eternal torment in terms of greater degrees.

Heaven, on the other hand, seems almost inconceivable. As a young child I can remember attempting to comprehend time without end … infinity. Now I realize that heaven is even beyond that which I failed to fathom as a child, for heaven is the end of time; in heaven there is no time at all. The human authors of the Bible who have attempted to describe the beauties of heaven give evidence of their frustration at striving to depict an existence in a dimension beyond the grasp of mere mortals: “but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Let us seek to be heavenly minded, to pursue the kingdom of God and to pray for its coming. Let us also seek to be faithful in the present, serving in society as salt and light, and striving to lead others to Him Who is Life and Peace and Blessing. And let us persevere in our trials, knowing that our faithfulness will be rewarded when we see Him face to face.