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

A Close Encounter

Genesis 42

Twenty years of Joseph’s life had been spent in a series of seemingly unfortunate events. A roller-coaster of emotions and experiences…beloved son, despised and hated brother, prisoner, slave, prisoner again, dream interpreter, husband, father, a big deal in Egypt. Success and seeming failure. Unfair treatment. Misunderstood. Hopeful. God’s providence…now we see that the path that Joseph was on was leading him to the realization of his dreams. In every circumstance…every hardship, every sorrow, every joy, every pain, every moment…God meant it for good.

God is sovereign over the affairs of men, but man is still responsible for his actions. It’s a divine mystery…God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Joseph’s brothers are responsible for their actions and must face the consequences of what they have done. But God uses their actions to bring about His purposes. In this story we see God’s severe mercy. He uses a famine to force the chosen family to look at themselves and at each other, to face their sin and in repentance seek forgiveness. The plan of redemption depended on these guys…as heirs of the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob/Israel, through them all the families of the earth were to be blessed. This is a story in process. We haven’t seen yet how it all plays out. But the seeds are planted, and the harvest is not far off.

Joseph is a model of forgiveness in this episode, evidencing an incredibly mature faith. He foreshadows Jesus, picturing the Redeemer to come. And although Joseph is still the main character, the brothers, as a group become a major player, finally acknowledging their sin, godly sorrow as Paul calls it, they will be led to repentance. And the great news is…they serve a loving heavenly Father who delights to forgive and be reconciled to His children.

So whether you’re a Joseph who is in a position to exact punishment but is called to forgive, or the brothers who are being awakened to need for repentance, or a Jacob who so desperately needs to be reminded of the hope that we have in Jesus, my prayer for you today is that you would have a close encounter with Jesus, that you would experience an ever increasing measure of contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with Him.

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

Amazing Love…Advent: Love

Revelation 21.1-8

John wanted his readers to lay hold of the hope for which they had been saved, that even in the midst of suffering the afflictions and persecutions of this present darkness, this present evil age, they could be encouraged that they would one day be rescued and vindicated by the sudden appearance of Jesus, whose coming would destroy the powers of evil. Throughout the New Testament the message is clear: this future hope should impact our lives today…our behavior and devotion to Jesus. So John writes Revelation to encourage us as believers to persevere in the present because of the coming victory of God through Jesus Christ in His Second Advent…don’t give up, don’t give in, Jesus wins!

Looking at this glorious picture of God’s victorious reign reminds us of His amazing love for us. The lengths that He has gone to so that we might be reconciled to Him, that we might become His sons and daughters are nothing short of incredible. From the first few chapters of Genesis, He’s been relentlessly pursuing us. It started with a promise…Genesis 3.15. One day He would send the Head-crushing Seed of the woman to rescue us from the sin and death caused by our rebellion against Him and provide a way back to the garden. That promise was fulfilled in the Person of His Son Jesus in His First Advent, who lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, was raised the third day, and ascended to the throne of God. By believing in Him the Bible tells us that we have eternal life. To those who thirst…the water of life without cost. The retirement package is chill…paradise with Him forever.

Now we wait with anticipation His return…not as the sacrificial Lamb, but as the conquering Lion, not as the Baby in a manger, but the fierce Warrior-King on a white horse.

But today is the day. John’s encouragement to believers is also a warning to those who are not following Him. Judgment is certain. Jesus is coming back. The consequences are final. There will be no escape. No watching from the sidelines. You are either for Him or against Him. My prayer is that you are thirsty today…I love that His relentless pursuit continues till the end. The offer stands open, to drink from the springs of the water of life without cost.

So don’t give up because following Jesus is sometimes hard. Don’t give in to the culture around you. Why? Because Jesus wins! Amen, come Lord Jesus!

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

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

The Waiting Game

Genesis 40

Once again we see Joseph doing the right thing and experiencing the “wrong” outcome. Why must he keep waiting? We know the LORD’s presence is with him, so why doesn’t He intervene? That brings up two very important questions…is God good? And can He be trusted?

The story of Genesis answers these two questions with a resounding “YES!” Is God good? He is Creator God who created a perfect world, and who is Sovereign over His creation. And even when we wrecked it, He is Redeemer God providing hope and the way of redemption through the Genesis 3.15 Rescuer, the Head-crushing Seed of the woman, Jesus. Can God be trusted? Over and over He has proved His faithfulness…executing judgment and providing the means of escape, blessing and cursing. Even when His people are faithless, He remains faithful.

But again the questions reveal more about us…our expectation of what life should be, our definition of what is good. Goes back to the garden. Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We’ve been deciding what’s best from our own limited, warped perspective ever since. Generally our definition of good revolves around what gives us the most pleasure or helps us avoid the most pain. Our circumstances do not determine God’s presence, they are not an indication of His involvement. They don’t define His goodness. If we have trusted in Him, His presence is with us in both good and bad times, whether the news is favorable or disappointing, whether we make the team or not.

Like we said last week, suffering is the crucible, the furnace of God’s love. He uses it to shape and mold us into the people He saved us to be. A people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Suffering can come from a number of different fronts…consequences of our own sin, results of another’s sin, or by-products of a broken world. One thing we know about suffering…it impacts us all. We are all going into a pit, in a pit or just coming out of a pit. And while suffering has the potential for great good…Paul says, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, (our suffering,) knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint…” James says it this way, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (Notice the role of waiting in both.)…suffering can also produce bitterness. And we know folks like this, don’t we? Suffering has made them very un-fun to be around. What is suffering producing in you? Resentment or hope, fog and numbness or a redemptive edge.

One other thing I don’t want us to miss from this story…we are all the baker in this story. We are all guilty of treason against our Master, our Creator. We all deserve to die. But God…being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). Jesus, the One God promised way back in Genesis 3.15, the Rescuer and Redeemer and Restorer of His creation, hung on a tree in our place. He took our curse, so that we might be blessed. He took our sin and gave us His righteousness, so that we could be reconciled to God and become sons and daughters of the King of the Universe, so that we might become like the cupbearer restored to a right relationship with our Master. An incredible exchange available to each and every one of us by believing in Him.

So whatever pit you find yourself in today, I pray that you may know God’s presence with you and that your present suffering is making you more like Jesus.

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

Out of the Frying Pan…

Genesis 39

The tale ends as it begins…the LORD’s presence with Joseph. The two primary things we see in this story…the LORD’s presence with Joseph and Joseph’s character. I would argue that knowing that the LORD’s presence is with him allows Joseph to demonstrate exceptional character. He is a faithful steward in his master’s house, and he resists the advances of his master’s wife. Don’t forget. This would not have been an easy time in Joseph’s life…far from home in a strange land, not to mention the whole slavery thing. Every reason not to make a good decision. But the LORD’s presence was with Joseph.

Why was the LORD’s presence with Joseph? It’s not because Joseph just happens to be a good guy. Although Joseph will foreshadow Jesus in many ways, we have to be careful of painting Joseph as a sinless character. The LORD’s presence was with Joseph because Joseph was a believer…like Adam and Seth and Noah and Shem and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob before him. Joseph believed Genesis 3.15…God’s promise to send a Redeemer, a Head-crushing Seed of the woman to rescue those who would believe in Him from death, giving them life instead and a hope…life in His kingdom today and a way back to the garden in the future. And believing that he had life with God, that they LORD’s presence was with him, Joseph could face suffering and trials with hope. God had an incredible destiny for him…and though his short-term circumstances didn’t show it, God was at work. More on that to come.

If you have trusted in Jesus, His presence is with you. Do you know that? Knowing that should motivate you to a different way of living. Potiphar saw the LORD at work in Joseph’s life and so did the jailer…do others (8-15) see the LORD at work in your life during the midst of the trials/suffering you are facing? Is it obvious to others that He’s with you? Are you a good steward in the work place? Is your employer blessed because you are there? Or have trials and your circumstances become an excuse to defend and justify making bad choices?

“But the LORD was with Joseph…” What a beautiful reminder…if you are a believer, He’s with you too, whether things are going well or not so well, whether you’re chilling at your father’s crib as the boy wonder or a slave in prison falsely accused and awaiting judgment. If your attempts at making lemonade have left a painful sting in your eye, remember His presence and remain faithful.

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

Risky Business

Genesis 38

What about Joseph and his fantastic dreams? Why the hiatus to follow this crazy-twisted tale in Judah’s life? As the story continues to unfold, the destinies of these two sons of Jacob are linked in a unique way. This chapter covers roughly the same twenty-year period that Joseph will be in Egypt before the brothers come to visit. As we will see next week, Judah is a foil for Joseph. Among other things, Judah leaves his father’s home voluntarily, Joseph is forcibly removed; Judah makes bad decisions and follows his own desires, Joseph makes wise decisions and follows God. The dreams of Joseph will have a near-term impact on the family as he rescues them from famine, and they move south to Egypt. But ultimately the dreams of Joseph point us to a greater Rescuer, a greater Deliverer, a greater Redeemer, a much greater Hero…the Head-crushing Seed of the woman, a Guy we know as Jesus, who is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

Judah or Tamar. I don’t know which one best describes you. Selfish, hypocritical, short-sighted. Or self-reliant, resourceful, ends justify the means. Either way, the beautiful thing is…God uses evil in our lives for good. He’s not the Author of evil, but He is able to take our bad choices and accomplishes His purposes, many times in spite of us. Another way to say it…God doesn’t waste our mistakes. Thinking about life as a teenager…a point in life when a lot of major life decisions are made, generally the time when we have our first relationship with the opposite sex, the time when we are most tempted to experiment, decisions that can change the trajectory of our lives, decisions that may have catastrophic consequences in our lives. And many times bad choices made at this time can not only impact our life’s course, but they can also cause us to think that we can no longer be used by God. We can be deceived into thinking that life is over. But it’s not. God doesn’t often rescue us from the temporal consequences of our choices, but His grace abounds as we face those consequences. And those consequences become a part of the journey that God has us on as He fashions us into the image of His Son.

We talked about this a couple of weeks ago…God is in the process of shaping and molding us into the folks He wants us to be. He has a destiny for each one of us. And the road to realizing that destiny may be short or long, depending on the choices we make. Judah’s turning point didn’t have to be twenty years in the making. Tamar shouldn’t have had to trick her father-in-law. But God uses their choices and does an incredible thing…the hope remains alive through the mess. From this crazy-twisted story comes the line of Jesus. God can redeem our crazy-twisted stories also and bring beauty from ashes.

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

 

Esau’s Clan

Genesis 36

Why do we care about a genealogy…especially Esau’s? He’s not even the main character. Why does Moses feel the need to include all of this detail?

A friend of mine had a conversation with some missionary friends about genealogies in the Bible. These missionaries said that genealogies are gold…they’re one of the primary ways that they reach some of the more primitive cultures who still have oral traditions, where stories are passed down by word of mouth from father to son, mother to daughter, generation to generation. “The fact that God cares about the details of the biblical characters’ lives means He must care about my life, too.” What a great observation. Another way to say it is, “People matter to God.” Each name listed is an image-bearer of the eternal God. And while the names may be unfamiliar to us and difficult to pronounce, they are nonetheless important.

God created us to bear His image to His creation, and although that image was marred through the fall, it remains nonetheless. And since the time of the fall, God has been on a rescue mission. He promised way back in Genesis 3.15 that He would send a Redeemer who would save us, who would provide a way back to the garden by crushing the serpent’s head. As the story has continued to unfold, we’ve found out that this Redeemer would be a descendant of not only Adam through Seth, and Noah through Shem, but more specifically through Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed. The same promise is passed on to Isaac and Jacob. The Head-crushing Seed of the woman, the Savior of the world , the Hero of our story would come from a family, a people, but would come for all families, for all peoples. God’s desire has always been for the nations. And so the picture of heaven throughout the book of Revelation includes folks from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

People matter to God. The descendants of Esau mattered to God. You matter to God. He knows your name and desires to have a relationship with you. He loves you…He’s demonstrated it over and over. Not only do you bear His image, but He also went to unbelievable lengths to reach you…the greatest of which was to send His own Son, as the Redeemer who would crush the head of the serpent by laying down His own life. He died so that you could live, by believing in Him He would take your sin, your shame, your rebellion and give you His righteousness. A remarkably absurd exchange…the amazing love of God for you. So that you could be a part of His family’s story.

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

 

New Beginning

Genesis 35

Jacob’s spiritual journey reminds us of our own spiritual journeys…an incredible destiny full of promise and potential, a new identity, God’s presence with us. But somewhere along the way we generally find ourselves, like Jacob, slipping from the white-hot passion of following God to the lukewarm comfort of convenience and compromise. Sometimes the rebellion of wanting to do things our own way…to do what’s right in our own eyes, fooling ourselves into thinking we know what’s best. But more likely than not the daily grind and the routine of life quenches our fire.

Jacob puts away the foreign gods, purifies himself and puts on some new clothes…a new beginning. But there is a challenge to this new beginning…Jacob still knew where he buried the idols, and so do we. Many times we’re tempted to return to them. We’re tempted to return to the old life and many times, if not most, God uses the consequences of our choices to wake us up, to bring us back to our spiritual roots…to return us to Bethel.

Jacob was in a place of convenience for 20 years before he left Laban’s hacienda to return to the land. He was in a place of compromise in Shechem another 10-15 years. But both times, God showed up to call Jacob out of his complacency, to remind him of his incredible destiny. God was not giving up on Jacob. He was a lynch pin in His plan of redemption. God could have chosen another way…maybe someone less stubborn and self-reliant, less proud and deceitful, but He chose Jacob; and He was committed to Jacob realizing his new identity as Israel…His savage mercy, His fierce grace.

Some of us have just come out of a place of compromise and are experiencing a renewed sense of destiny…that God has called us to make a big impact on His kingdom right where we are. Some of us are still in a place of compromise and are experiencing the consequences of our choices…be encouraged. God is not done with you yet. But you have to put away those things that are keeping you from Him, your idols whatever they may be, and return to Bethel. Some of us are on the threshold of entering a place of compromise…don’t do it. Remember who you are…a child of the King. You don’t have to go down that path.

Some of us aren’t compromising simply because we aren’t in relationship with this amazing God yet. I hope you’re curious. I hope you’ve gotten a glimpse of His incredible love and relentless pursuit of you. He wants to give you an unimaginable destiny as one of His children, spending an eternity with Him in His kingdom through faith in His Son Jesus, who lived a perfect life, died a horrible death, was raised the third day conquering sin and death and crushing the head of the serpent, so that you too could have a new beginning.

 

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

Tragic Consequences

Genesis 34

What has happened to Jacob? Where is Israel in all this? Just when Jacob seemed so close to realizing his new identity, he now appears to be so far away.

While there are a number of other characters involved in the story, Jacob’s the primary one. It’s his decision to settle down in Shechem rather than going to Bethel. And his compromise, his partial obedience, sets up the rest of the narrative. It allows Dinah to be in a dangerously vulnerable place. His failure to respond and to lead his family results in the brothers taking matters into their own hands.

This is another one of those episodes that we could ask where is God in the midst of this mess? His name is not mentioned even once. He doesn’t seem to be factoring into Jacob’s thinking, much less his family’s thinking, at this point. I don’t know how long he’s lived outside of Shechem…but it’s been too long. Partial obedience is disobedience…it’s compromise, and he’s compromised far too long. When we are in that place of compromise, God seldom factors into our thinking even when tragedy strikes…even when we experience the consequences of our choices.

So where is God? He’s still there in the midst of the mess. He hasn’t lost control. He is still working in the lives of His people. Jacob, like his daddy and granddaddy, is called to be a blessor of the nations. But also like Abraham and Isaac, his actions result in cursing rather than blessing. Instead of introducing the townsfolk to the love of Creator God, they’re introduced to a sword. Yet God is still in the process to transform Jacob into Israel. He’s not done, and He hasn’t given up on Jacob. But for Moses’ original audience, this episode would have highlighted the danger of compromise. It doesn’t turn out well.

God is still at work in our mess too. When the sin of others tragically impacts us, when our anger overwhelms us, when we are tempted to withdrawal and look out for number one, He sees and He cares. He knows and will one day judge. But praise God that He is patient. If not, all of us would be annihilated. For no one is innocent. Since the time of the fall, when the world was fractured by our sin and rebellion, God has been on a rescue mission. He’s promised a way back to the garden, a way back to life with Him through faith in the One He promised to send…the Genesis 3.15 Redeemer, the Head crushing Seed of the woman, Jesus, who lived a perfect life, died a bloody, horrible death, was raised the third day, conquering both sin and death, crushing the serpent’s head. He has provided the way back for us to Creator God.

I don’t know who you are today…Dinah, Shechem, Jacob, Simeon and Levi…but Jesus died for you. He understands your shame and your guilt, your anger, and your fear. He took it all with Him when He was nailed to the cross. He came to bring life. He wants to restore and heal you. And He wants to remind you that you are an image-bearer. You have infinite value. You are loved.

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