Cinderella Story

Genesis 41

Ultimately, this is a story about God. God working His plan even though at times it may not have been evident from the outside. And while that plan was played out at a macro level on the world stage in the form of a famine in the land, it was also played out at a micro level in the life of Joseph. What if Joseph had not obeyed his father Jacob to go find his brothers? What if his brothers had received him well? What if he had refused Mrs. Potiphar? What if he had been self-absorbed and ignored his two fellow prisoners? What if the cupbearer had remembered him right away and not forgotten him for two years? Joseph consistently made the right decision, having oriented his life toward God, without knowing the long-term benefits…although circumstances along the way didn’t seem to confirm it. In making the right decision suffering would come before glory…foreshadowing Jesus who suffered before being exalted to the right hand of the Father.

The story’s told: “Robert Dick Wilson was one of the most brilliant men of his time. He was a Hebrew professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. One of his graduates was the famous pastor Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse who later on went on to pastor the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Twelve years after graduation Barnhouse went back to Princeton to preach in the old Miller Chapel. On that occasion his former professor Dr. Wilson sat on the front row to hear him. Barnhouse preached and afterwards Robert Dick Wilson came up, extended his hand and said to Barnhouse, “If you come back again, I will not come to hear you preach. I only come once. I am glad that you are a big Godder. When my boys come back, I come to see if they are big Godders or little Godders and then I know what their ministry will be. And Barnhouse asked him to explain. Dr. Wilson said, “Well some men have a little God and they’re always in trouble with Him. He can’t do any miracles, He can’t take care of inspiration and transmission of the Scriptures, He doesn’t intervene on behalf of His people. They have a little God. I call them little Godders. Then there are those who have a great God. He speaks, it is done. He commands and it stands fast. He knows how to show Himself strong on behalf of them that fear Him. You Donald have a great God and He will bless your ministry.” And he paused, smiled, said, “God bless you,” and walked away…”

Joseph saves the world. He’s at the top of the heap. How would he survive prosperity? By having his soul tempered through 13 years of suffering. He learned great dependence on God…he knew of God’s greatness, believed God’s word and trusted that God’s presence was with him. Joseph was a big Godder.

So how about you, are you a big Godder or a little Godder? Is Your God the God of the Bible, who not only created the universe, but is also Sovereign over it and actively involved in both world events and the lives of His people, or is He an ineffective and impotent God, unable to help in time of need and nervously watching events unfold? How big is your God?

May we be big Godders.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Egypt…Take Two

Genesis 20

Ever experienced deja vu? Ever felt like maybe you’ve been down this path before? Much to Abraham’s embarrassment and shame he has to answer in the affirmative. Abraham, the prime example of faith in both the Old and New Testaments, still struggled with his faith? How could that be? Twenty-five years of seeing God work since that first fateful, “Go…”

Why does Moses include the account of this episode in the life of Abraham? He hasn’t told us everything about his life…there are long stretches where nothing is said. But now we have several vignettes in a row. We’ve already seen Abraham make this mistake before, so why repeat it? I think Moses includes this story to show the Israelites (and us) that ultimately the failure of Abraham’s faith God’s promises will not stop God from fulfilling those promises. Though Abraham’s faith may fail, but God remains faithful…His promises will not fail.

I don’t know about you, but I find that somewhat comforting in a weird way. If Abraham struggled, it shouldn’t surprise me my struggles. It doesn’t excuse them, but I know that I’m not alone in that struggle. Just as Abraham was a work in progress, learning more and more what it meant to follow this amazing God and still stumbling along the way, so we are works in progress learning what it means to follow this amazing God and to be His image bearers.

All the while this amazing God’s faithfulness continues to shine forth. He will deliver, He will protect, He will redeem, He will save…ultimately He will crush the head of the serpent. And if you don’t know this amazing God today…this patient, loving, benevolent, creative, faithful, powerful God today. You can. It’s as easy as believing that Jesus, the One we had been looking for came and lived the life you were supposed to live, died the death you were supposed to die and was raised again so that just as He conquered sin and death, you too might conquer sin and death and experience life…life today in His kingdom. Today is the day.

My prayer for us this week that instead of hiding, justifying, blaming, or downplaying our sin, we would simply acknowledge it, confess it and turn it over to Jesus.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Good News…Bad News

Genesis 18

Good news or bad news…which do you prefer to hear first? This episode in the life of Abraham highlights two essential aspects to God’s character represented by the two pronouncements…a message of hope and life to Abraham and Sarah and of judgment and death to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

In the first scene, Abraham dwelling in Mamre, the place of worship. The LORD announces a miraculous birth, is the Giver of life, shows grace to the chosen couple, is faithful to His promises…Seed of the woman, Genesis 3:15, He’s the Doer of the impossible. Immanent. Mercy.

In the second scene, Sodom is described as exceedingly wicked. The LORD pronounces  judgment, is the Taker of life, judges the seriousness of sin… seed of the serpent, Abraham is faithful to intercede for, the LORD’s the Just Judge. Transcendent. Justice.

God is both merciful and just. Merciful to those who cry out to Him. A Just Judge to those who reject Him. But notice even in His judgment the mercy He extends toward the wicked for the sake of the righteous. His desire is not to destroy, but that all will come to know Him. And to that end, Abraham intercedes for Sodom. Praying for the good of the city because of the potential impact that the righteous can and should have.

We have a similar opportunity to intercede…to pray for those who are far from God. To stand in the gap for our 8-15. Like Abraham, we too, are called to be a source of blessing to the families of the earth, all of us who have believed are a part of the people of God who are to faithfully bear His image to the rest of His creation. So if you are a believer, pray…pray for your 8-15. Pray for the city.

If you have not yet come to the place in your spiritual journey where you would say that you have a relationship with God…you can have that today. It’s as easy as believing that Jesus came and lived the life you were supposed to live, died the death you were supposed to die and was raised again so that just as He conquered sin and death, you too might conquer sin and death and experience life…life today in His kingdom.

And if you’re like Sarah, maybe you’ve crossed the line from death to life but are still struggling with trusting God in the day to day. Maybe you are worn out with waiting for God to “show up” in your situation. Maybe you’re not sure that He is able to help. Or maybe He can, but will He (or why would He?)? Remember the LORD showed up for Sarah…to strengthen and affirm her faith so that in Hebrews we’re told, “By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.” The LORD wants us to trust Him in the day-to-day, and not just for a secured future.

My prayer for us this week is that we would be a praying people…interceding for those who don’t know our Rescuer. And for those of us who are Sarah’s, that He would show Himself real in our day-to-day.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Kicking Down the Door

Genesis 16

­­­Why is it so hard to wait? And why is it so easy to take matters into our own hands…to kick down the door?

Tens years and no sign of movement. The promise is confirmed to Abram, but what about Sarai? It’s easy to see how and why Sarai gets to the place where she feels like she needs to kick down the door, you know, help God out. Names are key. God sees, and He hears. It takes the faith experience of Hagar to remind the chosen couple of what they should have already known. And although they should have known better…so should we.

But how many times have we done the same thing. I shared the story of my work experience last week. My journey out to California has some of those same elements. I knew God had gifted me to teach. I had a desire to pastor a church. So I began to test a few doors. As time went on, I became more and more desperate and pushed harder. And each time I pushed, I became more frustrated and bitter. It wasn’t until I stopped pushing and went through the door He had opened that I found peace and eventually my way here doing what I love to do.

A good friend of mine asked a very perceptive question…how do I know when to wait and when to take action? In other words, when is waiting just laziness or taking action kicking down the door? If we are honest with ourselves, I think we know when we are taking matters into our hands, when we are rushing in. God sees and hears, but He also speaks…He guides. Unless He’s clearly directing, it’s best to wait. But when He’s clear, it’s time to move…to go.

Bottom line: when we kick the door down, when we try to help God out, we are in effect saying we know better than God. We are doing what’s right, the good, in our own eyes. And there are always ramifications. Anger. Frustration. Job loss. Broken relationships. Etc. Abram and Sarai’s decision has far reaching consequences…conflict in the Middle East, Muslim and Jew/Christian even today. And many times the negative effects are the result of the comparison game that inevitably gets played every time we do what’s right in our own eyes…I put myself in the place of God. Instead of trusting that God sees and hears, that He knows, I become the one who sees and hears others, judging and condemning them.

So, where do you see yourself in the story? Abram…failing to trust God and lead well. Sarai…failing to trust God and taking matters into your own hands, helping God out, kicking down the door. Or Hagar…realizing, maybe for the first time, that God does see and hear you, that He knows you and wants to rescue you. Whichever you are today, God sees and hears and knows and cares. If we have learned anything about Abram so far, we know that he will be building another altar shortly. The consequences remain, but restoration is available.

My prayer for us this week is that we realize God sees, hears, knows and cares about us, and may that give us the freedom to love others unashamedly and run after Him.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

A History-Making Decision

Genesis 11.27-13.1

“What is the hardest decision you’ve ever had to make? What made the decision so difficult?” Was it the cost…comfort, convenience? Was it fear of the unknown? Was it the stakes?

God gives Abram a simple (not easy) command…”Go.” Abram was to leave everything he knew – country, relatives and family – to go to an as yet undisclosed location. The blessings that follow are contingent on his going…on his obedience. But his obedience is predicated on faith. So what faith are we talking about? Genesis 3.15. But how does Abram know about Genesis 3.15. Don’t forget that Abram is a direct descendant of Adam through the line of Seth, and of Noah through the line of Shem. He comes from those with a spiritual heritage of calling on the name of the LORD, of walking with God, of believing the Seed promise of 3.15. Much like Noah who was described as righteous and blameless…not because he obeyed, but because he found favor in the eyes of the LORD…he believed the promise of 3.15…so he obeyed, now Abram will be called on to obey because he too has found favor, is righteous through faith. That’s important for us to keep in mind. There can be no obedience without faith.

The call of Abram in Genesis 12.1-3 is a key event in the biblical story. It ranks up there with Genesis 3.15 in the OT. It ties together both creation and redemption…it echoes the creation mandate and carries forward the plan of redemption, the search for the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman. It showcases God’s grace and reveals His heart for His creation. And it’s fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus’ charge to His early followers to “make disciples of all the nations” is a reflection of “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” It would be hard to overstate the importance of this passage.

But God’s call required a response. To experience what God had in store for Abram, he had to step out in obedience. He had to go. He had to be a blessing. For the Israelites to experience the blessings of the covenant at Sinai, they too would have to walk in obedience. That would cost them their comfort and convenience…they too would have to leave what they knew. They would have to embrace the unknown. They would have to risk everything. They would have to give up their definition of good…of doing what was right in their own eyes and trust that what God was calling them to really was good…that it was life. They had to believe that God truly loved them and wanted their good. And they would have to love Him in return.

What would have happened to Abram if he would have refused God’s call? Would he have lost his salvation? Not at all…but he would have lost his destiny. He wouldn’t have experienced the good that God had for him. The trip to Egypt illustrates this truth…Abram was to be a source of blessing to the nations, but he ends up being a source of cursing to Pharaoh. Thankfully not the last word when it comes to Abram.

I appreciate the honesty of a friend of mine who said, “God calls us away from our life and to His life. Something twinges when you say ‘leave comfort and convenience’ I don’t know what it is in me yet, but I need to. I know that fear, jealousy, pride – will keep me living my life. I’m tired of the cliché ‘comfort zone’, but it’s accurate. I need comfort. I need predictability. The life I am drawn to meets my expectations and has very few surprises. Does this sound like the life God calls people to? Noah, Moses, the judges, the prophets, the disciples? God called people to be kings and slaves, warriors and shepherds. But He called them away from themselves. I am convicted that I am, for the most part, living my life, proceeding with my plans, doing what seems right in my own eyes. I don’t want to go blindly after whatever seems to be the opposite direction. I do want to obey. I do want to move in faith to the life God is calling me to. I have set out on journey of faith, but what do I keep dragging around with me. What tethers me to peace? Is is faith or is it my inability to let go completely? Am I creating my own peace and not trusting God’s?”

But what about you? As important as Abram’s call was to the working out of God’s plan in salvation history, Jesus, the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman, calls us all to “Go” or better yet to “Follow”.  And that call is every bit as important on a micro-level as Abram’s call on a macro-level. Jesus calls us to leave our comfort and convenience, to leave what we know, our old life, and follow Him. A simple command, but not an easy one. It means that we have to embrace the unknown. We have to risk everything…but only in this sense: we have to die to defining good in our own eyes and trust in what He has revealed as good. Maybe that’s a new job…maybe building a relationship…maybe making a kingdom investment that financially doesn’t seem to make sense…maybe it’s a call into ministry… Whatever it is, experiencing the good that God wants for you requires obedience. It means taking the risk.

And like Abram…and the Israelites…you will fail. But God is still faithful, and He is patient. Proverbs 24.16: “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” Churchill said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

My prayer for us is that we would the courage, like Abram to take the risk, and enter into the wild adventure of a life spent with Jesus in His kingdom.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Confused

Genesis 10-11

Why are we so fascinated with making a name for ourselves? As I thought about this passage, I wondered why Moses included this story about the tower. Is it simply to explain where the different languages and people groups come from? Surely there is a bigger purpose. He wants to teach the ancient Israelites something about God. So what is Moses trying to teach them and us from this account?

When we try and make a name for ourselves…it is rooted in pride…and what is pride but giving ourselves the worship that God deserves, it’s worshiping ourselves as god. It’s rooted in pride, is often expressed in rebellion and leads to confusion. It confirms our own sinfulness…the truth that every intent of the heart of man is only evil continually. The first recorded group project does not turn out so well…it is a monumental act of rebellion with far reaching consequences. It echoes the sin in the Garden, and the promise that you can be “like God”. The sin of Babel is both pride and rebellion, the making for ourselves a name so that we might be famous. It’s the throwing off of the yoke of obedience and even dependence to declare ourselves sinfully independent. And it’s a refusal to obey God…defining good for ourselves apart from what God has revealed…”Let’s build a tower and a city so that we are not dispersed over the face of the earth.” The effects of the fall from Genesis 3 continue. The root cause of sin was not dealt with in the judgment of the flood, only its effects on people and creation at that time. In addition to Noah and his family and the animals, sin hitched a ride on the boat and continued its reign over mankind and all of creation through Noah and his descendants.

No doubt God judges sin. But even in His judgment we still see His mercy, His amazing, undeserved love. In the shadow of the flood of Genesis 6–8, God could have chosen a much more severe punishment for their sin. Instead He puts a halt to it. Man’s rebellion does not thwart God’s purposes. God acts in sovereign ways to accomplish what He wills. God’s plan for man after the flood was that they multiply and fill the earth. Now they will fill the earth. 

Babel once again highlights the consequences of man’s attempts, through sinful independence, to be his own god.

The cycle continues. God’s faithfulness…our rebellion. The image-bearers failing to image Him, to reflect our perfect, benevolent, beautiful Creator God to His creation. Yet God continues to pursue…the Seed of the Woman. Genesis 3.15.

But what about you? Where do you find yourself building towers, looking for fame, rebelling against God, making a name for yourself? The desire for selfish independence and for god-status is still alive and well. We’re still building towers. But God hasn’t given up on us. Moses reminds us once again that the Seed of the Woman is coming…that He has come in the Person of Jesus, the Son of God, to do what we could not do…provide the way back to God. To conquer sin and death. To restore the image so that we might return to Paradise. That by faith in Jesus, who lived the life that we were supposed to live, totally obedient and dependent on God, who died the death we deserved to die, that through faith in Him we could participate in the most absurd gift exchange in the universe…His righteousness for our sin…so that we can have life…a different kind of life, real life, eternal life with Father God in His kingdom. I don’t understand it, but am amazed by it. I can’t explain it except for God’s incredible, amazing love.

My prayer for us this week is that we recognize our own tower-building tendencies and turn them over to Jesus, the Head-crushing Seed of the Woman.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Brave New World

Genesis 9

So…“Where is your hope found?” As I thought about this passage, I was struck with the two different pictures presented in this chapter. The first picture we have is of God re-upping with His creation. Having destroyed the world with the flood, He makes a covenant with those emerging from the ark never to use the waters of the flood to destroy the earth again. Judgment and mercy…mercy and judgment. God rescuing. God’s faithfulness. Just look at the rainbow.

The second picture is of us blowing it…again. I know. I know. It was Noah’s fault…or maybe Ham’s…no, no, no it was Adam’s. Whatever…given the same circumstances…there but for the grace of God go I. Noah is presented as a second chance…a second Adam. The possible Seed of the Woman. Lamech said it. I mean he’s blameless, he’s the only one righteous in his time, he walks with God… Like Adam, he will be the father of mankind, he will cultivate the ground, and … he will be tripped up by fruit, he will sin and he will be naked and ashamed. The cycle continues.

God’s faithfulness…our rebellion. The image-bearers failing to image Him, to reflect our perfect, benevolent, beautiful Creator God to His creation. Yet God continues to pursue…the Seed of the Woman. Genesis 3.15.

But what about you? Where is your hope found? Even the best of men disappoint. Ultimately they cannot save. They will fail. They will fall. But there is One who can save…One who can rescue. The Head-crushing Seed of the Woman. God will do what we cannot. He will send His own Son to rescue us. The Perfect One who will lay down His life in crushing the serpent. The only One who can bring hope in a brave new world where fear and terror and the fight for survival are the new norm. The only One who can right the wrongs and restore God’s original creation purposes and the good world He made.

My prayer for us this week is that we would not trust in mankind or make flesh our strength, but that we would know that our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…that He is our Solid Rock.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Listen online at:http://www.centralchristian.org, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster