January 10, 2017

January 10, 2017

GENESIS 30-31

Focus Verse: “When Rachel saw that she was not bearing children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children or I’ll die!’

Jacob became angry with her and said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?’

Then she said, ‘Here is Bilhah, my maidservant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and that through her I too can build a family.’”

Genesis 30:1-3

I’m going to go back to a little bit of the reading yesterday for this one. Let me first say, what a mess! For those who say that the Bible doesn’t say that polygamy is wrong isn’t really reading the story here. This is like an episode of Jerry Springer (for those of you old enough to remember that daytime debacle on television.

Honestly, the account would be rather funny if it weren’t so sad. Let’s do a quick recap for those not reading the full plan with us: All of Jacob’s deceit that he pulled on his brother Esau and his father Isaac is coming full circle, as Laban tricks him by giving him his daughter Leah in marriage instead of Rachel as he had promised. Then, when Jacob gets mad, he give him Rachel too. So Jacob becomes the first in the line leading to the Israelites to take multiple wives…and boy does it backfire!

Jacob loves Rachel more than Leah…which makes sense because he never wanted to marry Leah. So to make up for it, God gives Leah a whole bunch of male children (a HUGE sign of blessing back then). Meanwhile, Rachel can’t have any children, so she pulls out the blueprints from her Grandmother-in-law, Sarah, and has Jacob sleep with and marry her maidservant Bilhah. So Bilhah pops out two kids, all the while Leah has stopped having children and figures, “If Rachel can do it through her maidservant, so can I!” and gives Jacob Zilpah to sleep with and marry.

We even get to the point where the two women are trading herbs and spices for who gets to sleep with their husband!

If that doesn’t spell trouble, I don’t know what else does! So, if you are ever asked why the Bible doesn’t teach against polygamy…you have a good go to answer now…IT DOES! STAY AWAY FROM IT!

Amid all of this though, we see the glimmer of something (or Someone). This family is the very definition of dysfunctional. In fact, the character of Jacob is an extremely hard one to talk about from a Christian moralist standpoint.

Here’s the thing with Jacob and his family: they don’t do ANYTHING right! Morally, they are skunks…they stink! Their family is messed up beyond belief. Jacob is a liar and a schemer (you don’t want to buy a used car off of this guy) and it seems to rub off on his family with his wives. Leah is shady in her dealings with Rachel (not to mention these two sisters poor maidservants!) and Rachel steals a bunch of stuff from her father before Jacob decides to (shadily) quit his job and get out of dodge in the middle of the night.

It is so easy to look at these people and think, “Why in the world would God bless people like this?” World renowned theologians have struggled with this for ages. Why would God used such a messed up man like Jacob? Why does God seem to reward Jacob for his deceitfulness?

But let’s turn that question back on ourselves.

And there you have it. Our old friend. THE GOSPEL MESSAGE.

I’m going to go back to the quote from Timothy Keller because it is SO true: “The Gospel says you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, but more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope.”

God used Jacob and birthed an entire nation (in a pretty messed up way) from him for the same reason He uses us: because HE is good and HE is love. WE are broken. WE are messed up. WE are all Jacob and Leah and Rachel.

Jesus Christ, on the other hand, dealt with the same things – HE took a bride (the Church) that no one wanted. HE watched His spouse turn to another and give all of their love away. HE experienced the ultimate shame – and instead of lashing out and finding his own ways to get back at those who had wronged Him, He forgave completely.

Have you experienced that kind of love from the Savior? You can!

January 9, 2017

January 9, 2017

GENESIS 27-29

Focus Verse: “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’ He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’”

Genesis 28:16-17

Jacob brings up an important theological point here: God is all around us all of the time. As a worship pastor I’ve heard a lot of complaints about this aspect of God on songs like “Holy Spirit you are welcome here” and similar lines that invite God to us. And the critiques are “technically” right. We don’t need to pray for God to come to us. He’s already here. So the more accurate prayer is for God to open our eyes to where He is already working.

That said…I still like inviting God to come to us. “Holy Spirit you are welcome here” is still a great prayer to pray. Yeah, God knows He’s welcome. He also knows that you want to be healed of cancer, or that you are in need of financial help, but you still pray it don’t you?

Anyway, back to Jacob. Another key theological issue Jacob brings up here is what exactly the presence of God evokes in us. I think it is so funny that in our prayer meetings and church gatherings, we pray for the presence of God and to see His glory fall, but I don’t think half of us understand what will happen when He shows up.

When God’s presence falls, you fall. When the glory of God shows up, you hit your knees. When God’s glory comes, the earth shakes. It is a terrifying thing when God shows up. We’ve lost sight of that amid the soft, fluffy God that gets preached today.

I read a blog once that used 1 John 3:19 (rather poorly in my opinion), “Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.” to say that as people justified by Jesus Christ, we won’t have to kneel before God. I just can’t see that happening. God is simply too amazing for that.

And that’s what we lose sight of. It’s not that God is scary and mean and nasty and Jesus is the soft, fluffy, loving figure that saves us from the big, scary God. It’s that God is so much more than we can wrap our minds around. When you’re in His presence you realize that. You realize how tiny and insignificant you are. You realize the Gospel, to quote Timothy Keller, that “you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, but more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope.”

The God I serve is worthy to bow to. He’s so big…that I am terrified in His presence. Don’t you want that kind of God? Or are you satisfied with a god small enough that you can make him bow to you?

January 8, 2017

January 8, 2017

GENESIS 25-26

Focus Verse: “That night the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.’ Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.”

Genesis 26:24-25

We’ve talked about this before; the presence of God is the most important thing in this world (and the next). Abraham knew this and God blessed him for it. He also did something we in the faith need to make sure we aren’t missing out on – HE DISCIPLED HIS SON! Where do you think Isaac learned to build an altar? How did Isaac know to call on the name of the Lord? Because his father taught him the most important things in life…the things of the Lord.

We cannot miss this with our children. Notice one thing Abraham did NOT do: he did not experience God for his son. He couldn’t. Everyone needs their own experience with God. That’s not something that can be taught. But you can teach your children how to get there. What to look for. How to seek Him. And then on top of that, you can teach them what to do once He shows up.

I love what Isaac does once God shows up. He sets up shop right there. What a fantastic idea! Here is God’s presence…guess where I’m building my house? Right here! Guess where I’m digging my well? Right here!

Now don’t misunderstand me, God’s presence is all around us. He is everywhere all the time. But we can get into such a rush trying to get on to the next “ministry opportunity” that we forget to just dwell in His presence. Do you feel God moving somewhere around you? Take, at the very least, a moment and dwell in the presence of the Lord.

Life is busy. No one will argue with you about that. But let’s prioritize here. The presence of God is above all else. Everything else can wait!

January 7, 2017

January 7, 2017

GENESIS 22-24

Focus Verse: “’I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son…’”

Genesis 22:16

So much could be written on Genesis 22. So much has been written and preached from that chapter. Abraham, in the ultimate test from God, is asked to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. AND HE DOES IT! Every parent in the history of the world shudders at the thought. Now praise God, he is told to stop before he actually kills Isaac, but there is no question, Abraham is sold out for God.

That’s where I want to focus today: God’s words to Abraham, “because you have not withheld…”. If you are being completely honest with yourself and God right now, what are you holding back from Him? We all have it. I have it. One area, one thing, that challenges God’s lordship in our lives. Something that if He asked you to kill, you’d have second thoughts.

Isaac was that area for Abraham. Lot’s of times that what happens to God’s fulfilled promises to us, the gift becomes more important to us than the Giver.

So let’s do some self examining today. What is that thing you need to surrender. What do you need to be willing to give up. Now Abraham didn’t end up having to give up Isaac, but if he would have been asked to go through with it, I believe he would have.

Every promise God has ever given belongs to you when you hold nothing back from Him. When you give God everything you have, He gives you everything He has.

January 6, 2017

January 6, 2017

GENESIS 19-21

Focus Verse: “’My lords, he said, ‘please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.’

‘No,’ they answered, ‘we will spend the night in the square.’”

Genesis 19:2

Two angels show up in Sodom. They know what they’re going to find there. Lot tries to stop them. He knows what they’re going to find there.

I should point out something interesting: when Lot first chooses to set up camp, the Bible tells us that Lot pitched his tents near Sodom. Here Lot appears to have moved into Sodom. Isn’t that just how it is with sin? We love to play around on the outskirts of sin. Hang out on those blurry, grey lines. But those lines become harder and harder to define, and eventually we find ourselves living right in the middle of the places and things we said we’d never get caught up in.

Let’s get back to Lot’s reaction to these angels showing up in Sodom. Don’t we do the exact same thing with the Lord? We even do it with other people. Come on now, your family has that one room. The room where all the junk gets tossed right before guests come over. We have these same rooms in our souls with God.

We do our little song and dance, like Lot did for these angels. “Hey God! Look over here! Look what I’m doing for you in this area! Don’t look over there! For heaven’s sakes, don’t stay the night in the square! Isn’t it past Your bedtime Lord? Shouldn’t you be turning in? I’d hate for you to see what I become around 1 AM.

But those are the areas that God wants to see the most. That’s where the real you is. So why not let Him in today. Just like Sodom and Gomorrah, He might need to burn some things up that don’t belong there and it’s going to hurt when He does, but you will be so much better off once He has complete lordship over your life.

Give it a try and tell me if I’m wrong.

January 5, 2017

January 5, 2017

GENESIS 16-18

Focus Verse: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

Genesis 18:14

 

This is our problem today. We don’t believe the answer to this question is yes. We believe in a weak God.

The mobs of Christians around the world are picking up their stones right now.

I’m going to pose this one question though: IF you say your answer to this question is yes…SHOW ME! I firmly believe that the reason more people don’t believe that the Bible is a HISTORY book, and instead buy into the lie that these are a compilation of stories to inspire us and make us feel good, is because Christians have stopped believing this single truth. Sure, they will tell you they believe it, but their lives don’t reflect that.

It’s not enough to believe something with your intellect. Sure, it helps, but this truth – that God is able to do ANYTHING – needs to be at the very core of who you are. I can argue and persuade you all day about how God created the universe and designed the laws of physics, so what’s so hard about believing He can bend those laws he made? In the end though, that will just get you more knowledge.

Knowledge is good. Wisdom is good. But there is something that knowledge and wisdom can never get you: experience. We all need a fresh experience with God. We need Him to show us that nothing is too hard for Him. But be careful praying that if you don’t really mean it. In order for God to show you that nothing is too hard for Him, He’s going to have to push you out of your comfort zone. You’re going to have to leave the comfort of your favorite pew and venture out to the next row or two to where He is calling you.

But the world needs you!

The world needs to see someone who has made the decision to be God’s man. The world needs to see someone who has made the decision to be God’s woman. The world needs to SEE a BIG FAITH in an even BIGGER GOD.

YOU could be that person.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. The power that rose Jesus Christ from the dead and defied the laws of nature and death lives in you the moment you accept Jesus as your Savior and believe He rose from the dead.

SHOW the world.

January 4, 2017

January 4, 2017

GENESIS 12-15

Focus Verse: “Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar.

Genesis 13:10

“But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, “I made Abram rich.”’”

Genesis 14:22-23

The difference between Lot and Abram is spelled out perfectly in these two verses. Lot’s choice bears a striking resemblance to Genesis 3:6, when Eve sees that the forbidden fruit looks good to eat and is pleasing to the eye. I am very curious to know whether or not Lot knew much about Sodom and the lifestyle of the people there. There is one thing that is clear from Abram’s response, the Lord told him about what was going on in Sodom and made sure to warn Abram not to be involved in anything near that city. So whether Lot knew or not, this one thing is clear, Lot was not listening to the Lord when he chose which land to settle in and instead chose based on appearance.

Abram on the other hand, wasn’t just ignoring appearances of things, he was actually turning down physical wealth in order to keep himself free from unrighteousness. Now let’s note, Abram wasn’t a jerk to the king of Sodom. He didn’t lay out a five point sermon for the king on all of the reasons why he was an awful human being and deserving of eternal judgment (well, maybe he did, but the Bible didn’t find it important enough to tell us of this detail). He doesn’t condemn the king at all. He just says I can’t accept your goods because God told me never to be in debt to you.

Abram’s response is remarkably similar to a response we see in Matthew 4 where Satan offers Jesus everything He could ever want if He just denies God and bows before Satan. And what is Jesus’ response? Jesus doesn’t just turn down Satan’s offer…there is something even more subtle going on here.

When Satan offers Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” he is offering Jesus something that already belongs to God. Satan’s offer isn’t just for all the kingdoms; his offer is to obtain all of those things without going through the cross. So Jesus doesn’t just tell Satan that He doesn’t want anything he has to offer; Jesus is telling Satan, “I would rather go to the cross and carry out my Father’s will than accept anything you could possibly give to me.”

Wow! Is God’s will that high on your priority list? Does your life reflect that? Or do you need to walk away from something you chose because it looked “pleasing to the eye” and focus in on what God is telling you.

Good news: Jesus chose the cross. That means that no matter where you are, it’s never too late for you to choose it too.