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

Unexpected Encounter

Genesis 28

The story’s simple, yet profound. God’s grace. His amazing grace. Jacob has no hope of earning it…all his scheming, all his wrangling, all his attempts to secure what God had promised, God’s blessings through his own efforts…seem to have backfired. Alone in a dark wilderness, Jacob got what was coming to him.

And then God showed up…everything changed. The ordinary became extraordinary. Any place becomes Bethel…any rock a sacred pillar. Have you had that kind of encounter with God yet? Abraham and Isaac’s faith weren’t enough…Jacob had to have his own encounter with God. That may be one of the most difficult things as a parent…I want so much for my boys to share my faith. But it’s not until it becomes their faith that their faith journey with God begins. And as a parent I don’t get to dictate what that faith journey looks like…only God does.

Likewise for students, your parents’ faith isn’t enough…you have to have your own encounter with God. You have to experience the ordinary becoming extraordinary.

When God shows up, He not only transforms us…death to life, son or daughter of the King… but He also transforms our earthly journey from a touring expedition into a sacred pilgrimage. After encountering God’s presence, Jacob’s life is never the same. Although he is on the same journey, he is now more spiritually aware. Just by becoming aware of God’s presence our chartered paths are transformed. We are on the adventure of faith, a wild, dangerous, unpredictable ride…going where we never thought we would go, doing what we never thought we would do.

Initial God encounters happen when we have a collision with Jesus. He is the link between the earthly and heavenly, the physical and spiritual. He is our only means of being restored to our Creator God. Only He could crush the head of the serpent. He lived a perfect life, died a bloody, horrible death, and was raised again the third day proving that He had conquered both sin and death…so that we too might conquer sin and death through faith in Him.

Having believed, God encounters should be a daily occurrence…the ordinary becoming extraordinary. But for too many of us, the wonder and mystery, the danger in following Jesus has become routine. We no longer see the extraordinary. It’s just any place and any rock. God wants so much more for us. He wants us to encounter Him afresh and experience life He called us to…this wild, crazy adventure of faith. He wants us to see every person we meet as an eternal soul that will spend eternity either with Him or apart from Him. He wants us to join Him on His rescue mission…pulling folks out of the fires of hell.

May we experience the extraordinary life we have with our Creator God in new and fresh, powerful and transformative ways this week.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on our Genesis series. Download the podcast at: Unexpected Encounter, or follow us on twitter: @ccclancaster

Like Father, Like Son

Genesis 26

The hero in our story today follows in the epic footsteps of his famous father. The covenant promises that the LORD made to Abraham are firmly in the grip of his son Isaac who shares the faith and character of his father.

When your entire life is wrapped up in one promise, when you’re life is spent looking for the fulfillment of God’s promise to you, how do you live? Abraham never stopped thinking about it. He left a legacy of faith for his son…faith and obedience. The promised passes to Isaac because of Abraham’s faithfulness and fidelity. It reminds us of the awesome responsibility that we have to pass on a spiritual heritage to our children. It wasn’t because of Isaac’s Sunday school teacher or youth group leader that he was receiving the promises, but because of his father. It should sober us as parents. That doesn’t mean that youth leaders or mentors or others don’t have a role to play…in fact, they can have a huge impact on the spiritual journey of the next generation, but the primary responsibility still rests with parents.

Abraham has taught Isaac how to worship, how to make decisions, how to listen to God. And he does. He actually does better than his father. But Isaac has also picked up from Abraham how to deceive and to fear. Isaac chooses wisely when his wife is barren, but not when he has to protect himself. He has the faith of Abraham – the exact same faith. He trusts God – most of the time. He has some maturing to do.

Isaac picked up some of Abraham’s bad habits…stretching the truth being highlighted here. Our kids are always watching… we’re hoping that they won’t make the same mistakes that we did, but unfortunately they often do…we do. Same with each generation. Especially with the “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality. How many of us get onto our kids for speeding when we model that behavior so well for them? Or how about their condescending tone with their siblings when they hear the same thing when we interact with our spouse? Our kids unwittingly pick up many of our habits…both bad and good.

What about you? As a parent, are you leaving a spiritual legacy for your kids? Are you intentional about building into them a life of faith? Could you say, like Paul, follow my example as I follow the example of Christ? Abraham had an incredible promise to pass on to his son…great nation, great land, blessing to all nations, and ultimately the Head-crushing Seed of the woman, Jesus. And though we may not be passing on the Abrahamic Covenant to our children, we have a promise. The hope of redemption. The resurrection of our bodies. The return of our King, Jesus. The new heavens and the new earth, a return to paradise. Life forever with our Creator God. Are we living like it? Are we preparing the next generation? Are we making choices that we want them to make? As a teenager, are you making wise choices in what habits you’re emulating from your parents? Are you walking in faith?

May God give us the grace to do so this week.

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

Sibling Rivalry

Genesis 25

There are two main characters in this section that the drive the action of the narrative. Jacob and Esau. Esau is a man of the earth with a very earthy focus. He is looking for instant gratification, immediate satisfaction, to have his appetite satiated, and is willing to sacrifice the most important things for the near term pleasure. In the story, his appetite is focused on a bowl of stew, but it could have easily been any number of things…earthy things that can only bring short-term satisfaction, leaving him only wanting more. He has no eye for spiritual things, and willingly forfeits an incredible opportunity to be a part of God’s redemptive plan.

Jacob is an ambitious man with a skewed spiritual focus. He is calculating and patient, willing to wait, at least in the short term, to gain the advantage. He does have an eye for the long term, but believes that he must make it happen. Like Abraham and Sarah in the Hagar/Ishmael episode, Jacob knows he’s promised an incredible destiny, but can’t see how God could bring it about. The birthright is a major roadblock. Jacob must step in and help God out. He has spiritual ambition and is willing to force his way into an incredible opportunity to be a part of God’s redemptive plan.

And so we have two brothers with different world views (not unlike Cain and Abel)…but who both seem to struggle with contentment. Esau’s is a physical contentment; Jacob’s is a spiritual. Esau wants what he wants right now; Jacob also wants what he wants…good things, but he’s unwilling to wait/trust God for it.

What about you? Who do you identify with in this story? Are you more like Esau, looking for immediate gratification, focused only on the earthy things, building your own kingdom? Or are you more like Jacob, recognizing the value of the spiritual but relying on your own abilities to bring it about? Maybe somewhere in between? We’re hoping for the third character…the one who’s valuing the right things, spiritual things, and pursuing them in the right way, waiting on God. That would be Abraham at the end of his journey…but we must struggle on learning to trust God through trial and error, painful experiences and wonderful surprises. It’s a lifelong journey.

We’re reminded again of the patience and faithfulness of God…His relentless love. He will work through Jacob; He will mold his character; He will make him Israel… And this same God is patient and faithful with us and continues to pursue us with a relentless love. He’s not done with us either.

May God give us the grace to see our own failures, even in pursuing Him, and may He continue to mold us into the kind of people who not only want the right things, to want what He wants, but who are also willing to trust Him to bring them about.

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 Bride for Isaac

Genesis 24

Big decisions…how do you go about making them? What role does your faith play in the process? How do you discern God’s direction?

Three major characters carry most of the action in this episode…Abraham, the servant and Rebekah. Each one demonstrates incredible faith in a tale that on the surface is just another love story. Could, except for the Main Character who is driving the action of the story. Abraham refers to Him as the LORD, the God of heaven and earth. Both God’s providence and man’s responsibility are clearly evident. Moses makes it clear that the LORD is orchestrating the events…the human characters respond.

So what can we learn about making decisions, about discerning God’s leading in the decision-making process? A couple of practical things that hit me right off the bat.  The servant really did want to know what God wanted…and he wanted the same thing. The psalmist writes, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” How’s that? Because when we delight ourselves in the LORD His desires become our desires, so that we begin to trust in the good that He reveals instead of our own version of good. And trust is key…we won’t follow Someone we don’t trust.

So how do we delight ourselves in the LORD? Time spent in His Word, in prayer and with His people. When walking with Jesus is a daily habit, it’s easy to delight in Him. As we do that, we begin to recognize His voice…My sheep hear My voice. When we hear His voice, then our job is to respond. Isaiah says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make all your paths straight.” If we are trusting that what He says is “Good” really is good, then it’s easy to walk down the path.

Notice also that the servant was practical and shrewd…as my wife says, “He used the brain God gave him.” He was in the right place at the right time. So we too to put ourselves in places and at times to cooperate with what the LORD is doing.

The servant was in constant prayer and responded to where the LORD led. He trusted God, but recognized the human players involved. He not only was cognizant of the LORD’s working, but was able to give evidence of it to others. He was active in his faith.

When I thought about my own life, I tend to get tripped up on step one…wanting what God wants. If I’m honest, I want what I want, and I want God to bless it. And in that moment I’m really not trusting the good He has for me. I want my own “good”. Even though I’ve found out time and again that my “good” is anything but.

What about you? Any big decisions coming up? How’s your walk with the LORD? Do you believe that He interacts with your world? If He was clear, would you really want what He wants?

May God give us the grace this week to discern His leading and the clarity and courage to follow 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 Confident Goodbye

Genesis 23

“Where are you from?” A simple, seemingly harmless question on the surface. But it can have huge implications…where you’re from may explain your accent or use of vocabulary, but more than that where you’re from explains your perspective or worldview…how you see the world and process information. It can foster great pride…nothing like FIFA fever to bring out a strong sense of nationalism, and in this country, 9/11 stirred a deep and powerful sense of patriotism…and ultimately I would argue, it can become, if it isn’t already, the place where our earthly kingdoms are built.

Abraham still saw himself as a stranger and a sojourner in the land even though he had been traveling there for 62 years. And as a stranger and sojourner, he is a type of all saints whose home is the heavenly city. Folks throughout church history have described themselves “strangers and sojourners” on an earthly pilgrimage toward the city of God. They saw themselves like Abraham…living in tents (Heb. 11:9)…think about how temporary that is…looking forward to their promised heavenly home, “the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).

To see yourself as a stranger and a sojourner requires a heavenly perspective…it doesn’t mean that the earthy isn’t important…they really were looking for a piece of real estate…but it means that you don’t stop at the earthy. They were pursuing something much bigger than just a physical piece of property. They were pursuing a lasting inheritance. The land seen only from an earthy perspective, was only land. But seen from the heavenly, it was the land of promise. It represented a return to paradise. We too are looking for a lasting inheritance. And while temporary inheritances like family, jobs, friends, freedoms, etc. are important, they in themselves, fall far short of the hope that we have as heirs of the King of the universe. We are pursuing a lasting inheritance, a return to paradise. New heavens and new earth. New Jerusalem.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that Abraham and his clan and the saints of old died, not receiving the promises; yet they died in faith…their hope was not extinguished (Heb. 11:39–40). They did not realize the fullness of the promises…at this time Abraham owns only a cave and a field in the land of promise, far less than what God had promised. Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, far less than the nations he was to father. It would be centuries later before the Head-crushing Seed of the woman would appear on the scene, Jesus of Nazareth. And even though Jesus has come, the fullness of the promise is still yet future. A Sabbath-rest yet remains…a return to paradise; yet those who believe enter into it even now and will fully realize it in the future (Heb. 4:8–10). God’s promises to His people are not exhausted in this life. As Abraham in hope bought a burial plot in the land, so believers today have a hope beyond this life. God’s promises demand resurrection!

What about you? Where are you from? Can it be said of you, “You’re not from around here” because of your walk with Creator God? Could people tell that you have an eternal hope by the way you live your life? Maybe you don’t have that hope today. If not, today could be the day. You too could join the ranks of those who are sojourning through this life, strangers and sojourners… ambassadors in a war torn country, living as citizens of a heavenly kingdom that’s making an earthy impact. I would love to talk to you about that.

My prayer for us is just that…that we would live as citizens of a heavenly kingdom making an earthy impact.

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

After a Father’s Heart

Genesis 22

What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken? Relationship? Financial? Career? Future? Why was it so risky? Stakes involved? Lack of information? Uncertain outcome?

In our story today, Abraham makes what seems to be the riskiest decision of his life…going all in with God. The promises/commitments made by both the LORD and Abraham are tested to their limits. With the perplexing command that Abraham sacrifice Isaac, how could God possibly fulfill His covenant with Abraham to make him into a great nation through whom all the families of the earth would be blessed? Called upon to make such a costly sacrifice, how will Abraham remain obedient to his covenant commitment? This story presents the radical nature of faith: tremendous demands and incredible blessings.

And in our story, we have insider information, we know what Abraham doesn’t…God is testing him. As I reflected on the story of Abraham’s life and particularly on this episode, I had to ask myself the question: Could I have trusted God in that moment? Would I be able to trust God’s character, who I know Him to be, who He’s revealed Himself to be, more than my circumstances?

Abraham is what Soren Kirkegaard calls the knight of faith. Hebrews tells us that Abraham believed the absurd, that he knew that God could bring Isaac back even from the dead…Abraham had no doubt that he would bring Isaac back down the mountain with him. Abraham had the courage to obey, no matter the cost, trusting God fully that He would provide and that He would keep His promise.

What about you? Where are you in your faith journey? Are you in one of those testing times? Have you come to place where you know that God can be trusted…no matter the circumstances? Or are you still somewhere along the way? Are you able to believe the absurd, that radical obedience doesn’t mean the surrender of your joy, but the opposite, the realization of joy unimaginable? In fact, forgiveness of sins cannot make us happy if it is not accompanied by the radical renovation of our natures. For you dads out there, are you passing on your faith to your children? Can they discern the greatest of your faith by your actions?

This story is a glimpse at what God will ultimately do in order to redeem mankind and provide the way back to Himself. Isaac is a picture of the Genesis 3.15, but he’s not the One. One day God will send the One…His own Son. He will live a perfect life…He will be innocent…but He will willing sacrifice Himself in order to crush the head of the serpent and provide the way back to paradise. God the Father will provide for Himself the Lamb, so that we might, through faith in Him, have a way back to the Father. Jesus became the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.

My prayer for us is that we will believe the absurd and trust God for great things, having the courage to follow Him no matter what the cost.

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