The End?

Genesis 50

A good death is a fitting end to a good life. This passage about two good deaths…about dying well, in faith, knowing that physical death is not the end of the story…a reminder that as believers we are sojourners looking for the heavenly city. Sandwiched in between these two good deaths is a reminder that living well is also a challenge…

Genesis begins with a man in a garden enjoying God’s presence…it ends with a man in a coffin anticipating a restoration of that presence. The devastating effects of sin are painfully clear…death has invaded this world through sin and holds us all captive…yet the faith of the man in the coffin speaks equally clear of God’s purpose to break the power of sin through a people that He has chosen to carry forward the plan of redemption, that ultimately the promised Head-crushing Seed of the woman, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Conquering King, the Hero of our story who would come to rescue us, destroying both sin and death, leading us back to the garden and restoring our relationship with our Creator God.

Though death is a very real and painful experience this side of the garden, death is not the last word, it’s not the end, in the lives of believers. We, like Joseph, die in hope. I love what John Donne, the 17th century poet and churchman wrote…

Death, be not proud, though some have called you

Mighty and dreadful, for you are not so;

For those whom you think you overthrow,

Die not, poor Death, nor yet can you kill me.

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,

And death shall be no more; Death, you shall die.

—John Donne

C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series concludes with these words from Farewell to Shadowlands, The Last Battle “And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion…And for us this is the end…But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

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

Last Words

Genesis 49

These blessings show the ongoing reality and consequences of sin in the lives of God’s people…but where sin abounds, grace superabounds (Levi) – God is able to redeem evil and bring good from it. All the brothers are incorporated into the line of promise. The twelve tribes of Israel are not necessarily made up of the best and brightest…only one Joseph. And we are reminded that God doesn’t often call the best and the brightest…no offense. He calls the broken, the discarded, the mess-ups, the failures… Jesus said, “I came to seek and save the lost.” It’s all of God from start to finish…the faithfulness of God in redeeming evil circumstances.

Last week I mentioned the power of a father’s words…words that can bless or curse, words that can uplift or squash down. And while that is especially true for father’s, it is also true for all of us who are influencers in another’s life. What kind of words are you speaking? It’s ok to speak words of warning…we are all on a trajectory…but what is the motivation behind your words? Is it to bless? Is it the other’s good? Or is it reactionary and mean-spirited?

For some of us, we long for words of blessing from our earthly fathers…but those words don’t come. But we have a heavenly Father who has and who longs to speak blessing over us (that’s why we have an event like Father’s Eyes). A God who wants to sing and dance over us, to rescue us and restore us, to take us in His arms. God speaks words of blessing over His creation in Genesis 1, blessing over the people He created, a blessing lost through the fall. The story of Genesis and Jacob’s blessing on his sons pictures the promise of God’s blessing being restored and partially received, the picture of a Conquering King who would crush His enemies, destroying sin and death, trampling the serpent under His feet, leading us back to the garden and restoring our relationship with our Heavenly Father, Creator God. Blessing is about hope. And we as believers in Jesus are beneficiaries of that blessing.

But maybe you don’t know this God who blesses today…the God who wants to redeem your evil, the Shepherd, the ever-present God…Today could be the day.

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

Looking to the Future

Genesis 48

Jacob adopts and then blesses his grandsons with a blessing that points them to God…the Almighty God who would walk with them, shepherd and guide them and redeem them from all evil.

So what are the implications for us today? A father blesses his children, and we are reminded of the power of a father’s words. We will flesh this out a bit more next week, but for now, What does it look like for us to be a Jacob today, to bless those in our circles of influence? What does it mean to bless? The idea of blessing has encouragement, hope, anticipation, love, happiness…all rolled into one. It’s calling out the best in another, painting a picture of the future, helping them dream what could be, defining success and encouraging them toward it. Those are things anyone can do. But for those of us who striving to see them transformed so that they live and love like Jesus, that isn’t enough. We do all of those things, but from a distinctly Christian perspective. We define success differently…inspiring a fervent love for Jesus through a lifestyle of worship, renewing hearts and minds through biblical teaching, intentionally pursuing Christ-centered relationships, and strategically creating opportunities for them to impact their worlds for Jesus.

There are key moments where blessing is more profound…high school or college graduation, wedding, new parents, at the end of one’s life. But there are also multiplied opportunities for blessing during the everyday events of life…a wise decision made, character shown in a sporting contest, hard work that pays off in a performance…Remember a father’s words are powerful…both for good and evil. Sometimes we find ourselves cursing more than blessing, calling out the bad rather than the good, and painting a dismal picture of the future based on current actions. Sometimes we are afraid to bless, living life apologetically…regrets over past mistakes. But each day is a gift, and each new day is a new gift. Wherever you are, it’s never too late to start.

Blessing is really about hope. It’s remembering the God we serve…But you can’t pass on what you don’t have. So if you don’t know this God…the God who promises to be present with you, who wants to shepherd and guide you, who wants to redeem you from all evil, today is the day. Then you too can hope for a future eternal with Him as His son or daughter, a hope that you can pass on.

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

Reunited

Genesis 46

A powerful moment in the life of the chosen family. The next chapter in the life of the family will open in Egypt. Jacob’s faith has been reignited. He has been reunited with Joseph who is back from the dead. It’s a powerful reminder of the love between a father and a son. It’s a picture of the love that the Father has for His Son Jesus…and the love that He has for you and me.

The long-awaited reunion between Jacob and Joseph is the climax of this episode. And for some of us it’s a reminder of a reunion that we’ve been longing for. Maybe you are like Joseph and time and/or circumstances have created distance in a relationship, and the reunion you long for is with a family member or close friend. I want to invite you to make a phone call or send a text. Maybe you are like Jacob and tragedy has caused you to disconnect from your relationship with God and from others in your life, and the reunion you long for is with your heavenly Father. Maybe you’ve disconnected from Him and are longing to come back. I encourage you to follow Jacob’s example…return to the altar, that place of spiritual reconnection and cry out to Him. You will find Him waiting for you and the reminder that His presence is with you. For some us, the reunion we’ve been longing for won’t happen this side of heaven. Maybe it’s a spouse, a sibling, a parent or child, or close friend that has already gone to be with the Lord. My mom died when I was two…and I long to see her. Take some time to process that as well. Praise God that physical death is not the end of our story, but is a transition to eternity with the Father. One day there will be a magnificent reunion, both with our Savior and with those who have gone before.

I love God’s promise to Jacob… “I will be with you.” That promise wasn’t just to Jacob as the patriarch…it was a promise to Israel, the people of God who were on their way to Egypt, a scandalous people that included both a Canaanite and an Egyptian. Praise God that He is still pursuing folks on the fringes, amen?

May you know the love of the Father and the constancy of His presence today.

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

The Big Reveal

Genesis 45

Both the boys and Jacob are stunned when they learn that Joseph is alive. But maybe even more stunning is the revelation of God’s work in the events of Joseph’s life. Seeing his circumstances from God’s perspective allows Joseph to properly interpret events and forgive his brothers. Looking back it’s easy to see God’s hand, but what about in the midst of his circumstances…as he was being beaten by his brothers or when he was in the bottom of the pit or when he was sold to the Ishmaelites or to Potiphar, what about when he was falsely accused and spends years in prison, what about when he was forgotten for two years…God’s plans for our good are not always simple and transparent. Often we are tempted to ask, why me? It’s easy to discern God’s will through miracles, signs & wonders, but not so much through ordinary events. As believers we can trust in God to bring about His good purpose despite what others intend. It was true for Joseph, and it’s true in our lives as well. There have been many times in my life that I’ve wondered at the path that God had me on, but looking back I see His fingerprints, guiding and directing my steps. Even in the seeming detours, the wilderness experiences, those were times of preparation for the next phase on the journey.

But what about you? Can you see God’s hand at work in your life? Do you believe that He can bring about His good purposes for you even in the midst of your current trial? It was important for the Israelites to understand that as they marched through the wilderness. It’s important for us to understand as well. Instead of chalking it up to luck or happenstance, we need to seek clarity on what God is up to. His plan often takes us through suffering…Romans 5…but it’s the fastest route to spiritual maturity. It’s the furnace of God’s love that purifies, tests and strengthens our faith, so that we begin to look for like Jesus. Suffering aligns us to Jesus more than anything else.

It struck me that there are two different paths taken to suffering in Joseph’s story. Joseph sees God’s fingerprints all over his circumstances and comes to the incredible conclusion that God is working good in spite of the evil intention of others. Jacob on the other hand, exclaims, “Everything is against me!” For Joseph, his suffering is making him more like Jesus. For Jacob, his suffering puts a pause on his spiritual progress…and it’s over twenty years before he’s back in the game. Don’t let that be you.

I love the picture that Joseph paints of God…He’s not only sovereign over the events of history, He’s also personally involved in the lives of His people. He is gracious and compassionate, a God of mercy. “God sent me ahead to preserve many lives…” It’s a word of life, not death. God in sovereign grace has guided Israel’s history. And God in sovereign grace is guiding our history as well.

My prayer for us…that we would continually be stunned by God’s work in our lives and that we would see clearly the evidences of His handiwork even in the most mundane and ordinary of circumstances.

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

 

He’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Jesus

Genesis 44

The climax of the story…Judah is beginning to look a lot like Jesus. He’s willing to sacrifice himself for the good of another. It’s the greatest theme in literature…Katniss and Prim in The Hunger Games, Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, Carton in A Tale of Two Cities just to name a few. In fact Jesus said it this way, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friend.” It’s a picture of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for us, taking our place, dying in our stead, so that we might live.

Judah’s willingness to step in and offer himself, and the brothers insistence on returning with Benjamin are evidences of a spiritual transformation that has already begun to take place in their lives. At what point did they become believers…when did they pass from death to life? It’s hard to tell exactly from the story. For Judah it seems to have started with his encounter with Tamar. With the rest of the clan? The process seems to have started when they first met Joseph and were forced to acknowledge their sin. But whenever that was, we see a different character in the boys. Looking out for others. Willing to sacrifice themselves for another’s good. They’re beginning to look a lot like Jesus, too.

That’s what trusting Jesus is all about. It’s not just getting incrementally better. It’s about a total transformation…a new creation…death to life…kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the beloved Son. God doesn’t save us just so that we could go to heaven. If that was the goal, guess what? You’d already be there. No, He saves us so that we can image Him, we can bear His image, to His creation. He wants to radically change us by His transforming grace so that we live and love like Jesus. It’s a lifelong process that begins the moment we trust Him and continues until we see Him face to face. If you aren’t experiencing that radical change? Maybe like the brothers you are carrying the guilt of unconfessed sin…as a believer you have already been forgiven, but guilt is a grace that tells us something’s wrong. We need to make it right. If we don’t, then our spiritual growth will be stunted…we will never experience the life that God saved us for. But maybe you have never said “yes” to Jesus. Maybe you’ve said “yes” to what your parents, or what your church, or what your friends believe, but you’ve never believed in Jesus yourself. You haven’t passed from death to life yet. But you can. Today could be the day.

May the transforming grace of God cause you and me to look a lot like Jesus today.

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

Back to Egypt

Genesis 43

The healing process has begun for this fractured family. Jacob is praying, and maybe hoping again for the first time in twenty years. The brothers are acknowledging their sin. Joseph has a front row seat. Good news because the plan of redemption rests with this motley crew. Through them all the families of the earth will be blessed, because from their descendants and more particularly through the line of Judah the Head-crushing Seed of the woman will come, a guy we know as Jesus. God could have chose any other way…He could have entrusted the mission to angels, He could have caused the rocks to cry out…yet He allows the plan to rest on this family. There is no plan B. Very risky proposition considering their track record. Sound familiar? His plan of redemption now continues with us, the church. A ragtag, motley crew…and considering our track record… Yet He has no plan B. We carry forward the plan of redemption.

Through this story we see both the mercy and the grace of God, working through circumstances and people to bring about restoration and healing. Jacob’s prayer. The steward’s consoling words. Joseph’s blessing. The compassion and mercy that we see reflected in Joseph is but a foreshadowing of the compassion and mercy, the grace of his distant Nephew, Jesus. Jesus, the One whose compassion and mercy drove Him to a cross to rescue you and me, who like Judah became Himself the guarantee so that we might be reconciled/returned to the Father. The One who like the Father, is waiting with open arms for His prodigal child to come home.

So whatever the weight of sorrow or guilt you may be carrying…tragedy that you have engineered or that has befallen you, may you experience His grace and mercy today.

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