Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Story of God: Saul


The people wanted an earthly king.  God was their King!  But they complained and demanded a king.  God said, "Fine.  You can have your king."  God told Samuel to anoint one for them.  That first king of Israel was named Saul.

Saul was thirty years old.  He was handsome.  He was a head taller than other men.  He was that guy.  You know the one.  Guys dreamed of being him.  Girls dreamed of being with him.  That guy.   

He was not known as a spiritual man.  He was known for his strength, presence, courage, and might.  But God changed His heart.  People began to look at him as a spiritual man too.

Not long after Saul was crowned, the enemy Philistines were ready to attack.  Samuel had instructed Saul to wait until he could arrive and offer sacrifices.  The people of God never went into battle without the Lord's blessing and favor.  Saul grew weary of waiting for Samuel to arrive.  Some soldiers began to fear as they waited like sitting ducks.  Saul took matters into his own hands.  After all, he had seen Samuel offer sacrifices.  He knew what to do.  It wasn't ideal but it was time to act.  Saul skipped the priest and offered the sacrifices himself.  When Samuel finally arrived and realized what Saul had done, he was shocked.

Not a good moment for Saul.

Later, prior to battling the Amalekites, Samuel told Saul that God’s plan was to wipe them out completely.  Instead, Saul spared the king and the best of the livestock.

Also, not a good moment for Saul.


Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.  1 Samuel 15:10-11
 

Until this point in the Story of God series, we have primarily at the heroes of history.  Not today.  But my intention is not to pile on Saul and focus on his mistakes.  Rather it is to understand that Saul was a man who seemed to have it all.  But something went wrong.  Understanding what went wrong will help us when we find ourselves in a position of influence.

Be cautious of the life that only requires your gifts

On the outside, Saul had it all.  God did not lead him to do anything that was beyond him.  He only had to obey.

I am all for strength based living.  In other words, do what you are gifted to do.  It is why you are gifted.  Don't spend all of you time trying to improve your weaknesses to the neglect of you strengths.

But there are times when I have to realize my limitations.  It is okay, and even helpful, to wait on help from God and from others.

Saul was confident, strong, and had power.  But there had to be more to his life than just muscling his way through every situation.

Be cautious of the life that never brings your to your knees

Being broken and afraid (prior to fighting the Philistines) and willfully walking away from the plunder and riches  (after fighting the Amalekites) was just too much for Saul.  Saul was not in love with the idea of being vulnerable or lacking resources.

We too usually run from difficult situations.   We try to fix things our own way.    But parts of life are supposed to be spent on our knees…waiting on God to bless us…trusting God to provide for us.

Just because you are broken right now does not mean something is wrong.

The life that is easy and always affirming is a dangerous life.

Be cautious of the life that no longer needs God’s help

Just about everything in our life is in stages and phases.  We graduate and move on.  From training wheels, from elementary school, from childhood, from riding the bus, from dating, etc...

It makes sense that spiritually we would outgrow the basics.  Not so fast my friend.

It was as if Saul had outgrown his need for God to guide him.  It was as if Saul had outgrown his need to depend on God.  But it is the simple reliance on God that is most important.


But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22


No one is too strong, too blessed, or too mature to outgrow his dependence on God

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Story of God: Samuel


Like Samson, Samuel was born to a God-fearing woman who did not think she would ever become a mother.  Like Samson, Samuel was a miracle baby.  And like Samson, Samuel would be set apart for a special purpose.  Samuel would be the spiritual leader of God's people.

But before he could become the leader of Israel, Samuel had to accept his greatest gift:  his ability to hear the voice of God.  This would be Samuel's great contribution to the world.  He would represent the people when he stood before God.

The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. 2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. 6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  1 Samuel 3:1-10

How can we learn to hear the voice of God?

God usually speaks in one of four ways:  through His Word, prayer, people, and circumstances

And the order is important!  It must begin with #1.

1) God’s Word erases agenda from the equation

Whether we want to admit it or not, we have agendas.  We are not objective.  When we want to hear God's voice, we usually have something we want Him to confirm.  We're leaning one way or the other already.  If we begin with God's Word, that takes the emotion out of it.  At least, it helps!

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Ephesians 6:17

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12

2) Prayer erases despair from the equation

Even if God's words to us are difficult, convicting, or disciplinary, His words will contain hope!  No matter how far we have fallen, God will reach out His hand and lead us home.

If we talk to God without hope, that is merely complaining.  That's not praying.  Complaining is airing out what’s on our mind for the purpose of hurting.  Praying is expressing what’s in our heart for the purpose of healing.  Remember that God is more concerned with being close then being clear. His favorite part of prayer is the intimacy; not the information.

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:13-16

So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.  Ezra 8:23

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”  
Matthew 21:22

He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”  Mark 9:29

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:16


3) People erase isolation from the equation

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.  Proverbs 15:22

We need people in our lives.  They help us make sense of what God is saying to us.  BUT...make sure you have already filtered God's message through Scripture and prayer.  If people's advice contradicts God's Word, don't listen too long to them.

4) Circumstances erase manipulation from the equation

Have you ever manipulated a situation and then wondered if that was the only reason things happened as they did?  Frankly, I love it when God shows up and orchestrates something that I would never have thought of or never could have done.  Then I have to say, "It was just God being God."

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28


If God is speaking, it will line up!

The Story of God: Samson


Not long after Gideon died, God’s people forgot Him…again.  God allowed the enemy people group called the Philistines to conquer them.  But as always, God's love moved Him to rescue His people.

God sent news to a couple who had not been able to have a child.  They would be parents!  Their son would be set apart for a special purpose.  As a result, the woman was instructed to stay away from alcohol and unclean food.  Her son would be a Nazarite.  Nazarites took special vows and lived differently than most.  Their Nazarite son would abstain from alcohol, stay away from any dead creature, and let his hair grow long.  These vows would be a reminder to him, and a sign to the rest of the people that he had been chosen by God for a special purpose.  In this young man's case, He would rescue Israel from Philistia.

Months later, the miracle happened.  They boy was named Samson.  Almost immediately, God’s Spirit “began to stir” in Samson.

Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. 2 When he returned, he said to his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.”
3 His father and mother replied, “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.”  Judges 14:1-3

On another trip to Timnah, a lion came at him.  He wrestled it and tore it apart with his hands.  Not fitting for a Nazarite.

Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion’s carcass, and in it he saw a swarm of bees and some honey. 9 He scooped out the honey with his hands and ate as he went along. When he rejoined his parents, he gave them some, and they too ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion’s carcass.  Judges 14:8-9


When they arrived, it was time for the bachelor party.  Samson and about 30 Philistine men partied.  At the party, Samson told a riddle:  “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.” Samson said. “If you can give me the answer within the seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes. If you can’t tell me the answer, you must give me thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.”  For three days they could not figure it out.

On the fourth day, they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death. Did you invite us here to steal our property?” 16 Then Samson’s wife threw herself on him, sobbing, “You hate me! You don’t really love me. You’ve given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.” “I haven’t even explained it to my father or mother,” he replied, “so why should I explain it to you?” 17 She cried the whole seven days of the feast. So on the seventh day he finally told her, because she continued to press him. She in turn explained the riddle to her people.  Judges 14:15-17

The men approached him and said, “Honey!”  Samson said, “You only know because you pressured my wife.”  The Spirit of the Lord was on Samson killed 30 other men and gave their clothes to the men at the bachelor party.  In anger, he returned him.  The bride's father, made the decision to give Samson's wife to another man.

Later, we returned to see his wife.  He discovered she had been given to another.  He caught a few hundred foxes tied their tails together, attached a torch, and set them on fire in a field of wheat.

The Philistines wanted to kill him Samson.

Samson’s people wanted nothing to do with him.

He allowed the Israelites to tie him up and turn him over to the enemy.  But when the Philistines came to get him, Samson grabbed a bone and slayed a thousand!

Eventually, he fell in love again.  Her name was Delilah.  The men of the city went to her and offered to pay her if she could discover and reveal the secret of Samson’s strength.

Night after night, she tried to trick him.  Night after night, he lied to her.

Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” 16 With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it. 17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”  Judges 16:15-17

Delilah sold him out.  She put him to sleep in her lap and had someone shave the braids from his hair.  “And his strength left him.”

Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.   Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison. 22 But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.   Judges 16:21-22

The Philistines organized a celebration to their god, Dagon.  Samson had been defeated!  There were approximately 3,000 people. Everyone was drunk.  Samson was summoned.  They wanted to parade him around and mock him.  As everyone laughed, Samson asked a servant to lead him to one of the columns so he could lean for support.

Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, 30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.   Judges 16:28-30

This ended Samson’s 20-year reign as judge of Israel.

Samson’s lack of self-control and inability to walk away was nearly the lasting legacy.

Because he could not restrain Himself, he eventually found himself restrained in chains.

How can we develop self-control?

Keep your calling in your heart
God had created Samson with purpose.  He lost his way when he forgot his calling.  He was called to be the physical, emotional, and spiritual leader of God's people!

Doing anything other than what you were called to do will never fulfill you.  You have a created purpose. You have specific gifts.  Pursue your calling!

Keep your promises on your mind
Samson had taken the vows of a Nazarite.  He broke every one of those vows.

To whom have you made promises?  God?  Your spouse?  Your kids?
Recommit to being a promise keeper!

Keep your dreams before your eyes
Israel had a bright future.  All Samson had to do was stay on course. Our most epic fails happen when we take our eyes off the future.  When we forget that our present decisions determine our future.  Every time Samson walked past something new or shiny, he just couldn't help himself!

We must develop the skill of knowing when to look down and pick up and when to look up and press on. Mark my words, whatever has your attention will soon steal your devotion.



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Story of God: Gideon


Whether it was Moses leading the people.  Or Joshua.  It didn't matter.   God’s desire was still for the people to trust Him, learn from their past mistakes, and allow Him to be their guide.  

The people failed to do that and kept getting into trouble.  

So He sent “judges" to lead them out of trouble.  

The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites...When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”  Judges 6:1-10


When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”  Judges 6:12

What does it mean to have God's favor in our lives?  What does it feel like to have God's blessing?

Gideon wondered the same thing.  

 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”  Judges 6:13

How could God be with them and yet they still had problems?

Can I have God’s presence and not have God’s power?
Can God be by my side but not on my side?
Can God be with me and not be for me?

God had not left them but His favor was not on them.  They had His presence but not His power.

When things are not going well, the first thing we do is assume God is either not with us or no longer on our side.  

Maybe it’s because we have asked God to bless what is un-blessable.

How do we know if what we are doing is "bless-able?"

Who gets the credit? God is not interested in giving us glory.
Who does it help? God is not interested in supporting our selfish plans.  He gives us gifts so we can bless others.
How will it affect my character? God is not going to empower us to do something that leads us away from His heart.
How does this fit into God’s big plan? God will orchestrate things according to His overall plan...which we cannot see.

This does not mean that everything else fails. It means that nothing else will last.  

BACK TO THE STORY…

14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” 15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” 16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” 17 Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me.  Judges 6:14-17


The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’  Judges 7:2


GOD WAS ADDRESSING THE CRITERIA FOR BLESS-ABLE THINGS:  God would get the credit.  This would help the oppressed tribes.  This would strengthen Gideon’s faith.  This would save Israel, thus working with God’s plan of salvation.


God’s favor follows obedience (more than strength or size)


When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled…  Judges 7:22


God’s favor follows wisdom (more than intelligence or strategy)


Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years. 
Joshua 8:28


God’s favor leaves a legacy (more than a feeling)



Sometimes we need a victory to heal us.  Sometimes we need a loss. 

If my loss makes me more like my Creator, then it is a win!
If my victory damages my goodness, then it is a loss.



God will lead us directly into trouble, loss, and disappointment if it serves the bigger purpose,



Don’t mistake disappointment for defeat.

The Story of God: Joshua


Moses successfully led the people to freedom.  However, he never led them to rest.  There was just waiting.  Because they didn’t wait well, they never enjoyed God’s rest.  

Their mission/purpose was GET TO THE LAND OF PROMISE and REST.  

But the people formulated their own mission:  HAVE MY NEEDS MET!  As a result, they never found rest.


After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.  Joshua 1:1-4

THE TIME HAD FINALLY COME.  IT WAS CRYING TIME. 

THEY KNEW THERE WERE PEOPLE IN THE LAND.  THAT FACT HAD SCARED OFF THEIR FATHERS and GRANDFATHERS.  SO GOD REASSURED THEM.

No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:5-9


NOTICE THAT STRENGTH AND COURAGE ARE LINKED TO OBEDIENCE AND ALL THREE ARE RELATED TO REST. 

WHEN WE ARE WEAK, AFRAID, OR REBELLIOUS, OUR SOULS DO NOT REST.

MAYBE THE REASON YOUR SOUL IS SO RESTLESS IS THAT YOU ARE LIVING IN FEAR OR REBELLION.  

So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: 11 “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’”  Joshua 1:10-11

THE PEOPLE WERE BEING GIVEN REST!  GOD WAS ANSWERING THEIR BIGGEST PRAYER.  

MAYBE GOD HAS ALREADY GIVEN YOUR SOUL REST.  LIFE IS NOT PERFECT, BUT YOU’RE FORGIVEN.  YOU HAVE PURPOSE.  YOU’RE RESTING IN GOD.  

But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 13 “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. 
Joshua 1:12-14

WHAT?

NUMBERS 32 RECORDS THIS OATH TAKEN BY THEIR FATHERS.  THE TRIBES OF REUBEN AND GAD HAD ASKED MOSES TO LET THEM SETTLE EAST OF THE JORDAN.  THEY WERE CONTENT TO STAY WHERE THEY WERE WANDERING.  IT WAS NOT WELL RECEIVED BY MOSES BUT HE AGREED...ON ONE CONDITION

You are to help them 15 until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you….Joshua 1:14-15

ONLY THEN COULD THEY GO HOME AND REST


No one rests until everyone rests


Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. 18 Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!”  Joshua 1:16-18


NO ONE RESTS UNTIL WE ALL REST!

The Story of God: Moses



Joseph’s final words were, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”  He died at 110, was embalmed, and placed in a coffin. (Genesis 50:22-26)

In time, Egypt had a new king.  That king cared nothing for Joseph or his faith.  All he knew was that there were a lot of Hebrews.  If war ever broke out, there would be too many of them to control. So he put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor…(Exodus 1:1-11) He also ordered that every newborn Hebrew boy be thrown into the Nile River. (Exodus 1:22)

A 3 month old Hebrew baby was placed in a basket and placed in the Nile.  Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing.  She saw the baby and had compassion.  The baby’s sister came running and asked.  “Should I go find a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby?”  Pharaoh’s daughter ended up paying the baby’s own mother to nurse him.  The baby’s mother took him to Pharaoh’s daughter.  She named him Moses and raised him as her own.

Years later Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew.  He stepped in and killed the Egyptian.  He buried him in hopes that no one would know.  Not long after that, two Hebrews were fighting.  Moses went to break up the fight.  They said, “Are you going to kill and bury us too?”  Moses feared for his life and ran away to Midian.

THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL WERE SLAVES TO EGPYT.  

MOSES WAS A SLAVE TO HIS PAST MISTAKES.  

BOTH FORMS OF SLAVERY ARE DEVASTATING!

The king of Egypt died but the oppression did not stop.  God was moved to answer the prayers of His people.  He came for Moses.  At this time Moses was 80. 

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. 
Exodus 3:4-6

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”  Exodus 3:11-12

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.  Exodus 3:13-15

God unfolded His plan.  Moses was to go before Pharaoh and demand that he free the Hebrew people.  Plague after plague took place. After the plague that killed the first born Egyptian sons, Pharaoh said, “GET OUT!”   Those words meant freedom for 600,000 Hebrew men and their families. They had been in Egypt for 430 years!  It was 1446 BC.

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him. Genesis 13:17-19

As they prepared to cross the sea, they looked up and saw that the Egyptians had come after them.  Pharaoh must have changed his mind!  As you might already know, God parted the waters.  Then when the enemy chased after them, God let the waters roar.

RESCUE!  

Maybe today you need one.  Physical.  Emotional.  Spiritual.

The most predictable part of a rescue is the surprise

Sometimes it is the “how.”  Sometimes it is the “who”
Moses was a surprise choice as leader.
God used plagues and a long journey that dead ended in a sea.
God's plans for rescue will not follow the script you've written.  There will be a surprise twist!

The most critical part of a rescue is the listening

“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.  Exodus 12:12-13

The people needed to know what to do, what not to do, and when to do it.  Not paying attention would be tragic.  Timing is critical.  If they had skipped just one part of the plan, the results would have been tragic for them.  They had to be willing to listen.

The most difficult part of a rescue is the waiting

Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”  Exodus 5:22-23

They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” 13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” 
Exodus 14:11-14

Things may appear to get worse first. 
Moses and the people had to wait on the plagues…on Pharaoh…They would continue to wait….water…food…shelter…
B/c they did not wait well, they were freed but never lived.  Moses never saw the promised land.  Most of the people never saw the promised land.  Why?  They didn't wait well.

God is at work!  Trust Him.  Listen to Him.  And learn to wait well.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Story of God: Joseph

Joseph had a hard but glorious life.

He dreamed.  He was envied.  He was hated.  He was sold.  He was accused.  He was jailed.  He was forgotten. 

Eventually, he was freed.  He was promoted.  He saved Egypt. 

In spite of it all, he was successful and bitter-free! 

How?  Nothing stuck!

Joseph could not stop life from stinking.  He could stop it from sticking!


When life stinks, don’t let it stick

Joseph gave us some practical examples.  Here are a few:


When I trust God’s justice, I can respond to neglect with respect

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.  Genesis 37:3-5

He responded to neglect with respect; not with an agenda.  He did not embark on a journey in the pursuit of getting people back, proving people wrong, or teaching someone a lesson.  He never would have experienced the victory he did if he had.  He needed to be free from the junk he experienced.

When I live with a chip on my shoulder, disappointment on my mind, and a grudge in my heart, I will never become the person I was created to be.


When I believe in God’s sovereignty, I can accept my setback as a setup

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.  Genesis 39:1-4

Choose to believe God is up to something

Get in the habit of saying, “I can’t wait to see what God does with this.”

… it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”  Genesis 45:5-7


God was not and is not in favor of bullying, slavery, or blackmail.  But God, in His sovereignty, can and will use those moments for good.


When I receive God’s love, I can forgive even when I am forgotten 

Forgetfulness cannot stop the power of forgiveness

Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: 21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand— 22 but he impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation. 23 The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.  Genesis 40:20-23

Being forgotten did not keep him from being forgiving.



In time, Joseph was remembered.  The Pharaoh’s cupbearer recalled the story of the “young Hebrew in prison.”  Joseph was freed and brought before the Pharaoh.  He interpreted the dream and saved Egypt.   

Eventually, his brothers came to Egypt looking for food.  Joseph arranged a private meeting with the brothers.  They had no idea who he was.  He started crying and he screamed, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him.  They were scared to death.

They had moved on!  

So had Joseph.  The emotions were real.  But he had not allowed the emotions to keep him from forgiving.

Stop waiting on an apology and give some grace!

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. 18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.  Genesis 50:15-21


When life stinks, don’t let it stick