Saturday, March 10, 2012
JACOB, FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FAITH, 3/10/2012
v.2-5 GOD’S COMMAND WAS HEEDED BY JACOB, Lesson 38b
Jacob knew that if he was going to get back to Bethel, some changes would have to be made in his life. By the way, God isn’t the One who needs to make a change; we are the ones who need to change!
Jacob caused his family to make some changes before they began their journey back to Bethel. I would like to point those changes out if I can. Isn’t it interesting that Jacob took the leadership role in the family? It isn’t your wife’s responsibility to be sure the family makes it to the house of God for worship. It’s yours! It is your responsibility to ensure that your household operates according to the standards of God’s Word! You will give an account of how well you lead your family in the things of the Lord. I don’t know about you, but that makes me tremble! Notice:
They Cast Off Their Deities: Rachel and her stolen images - Gen. 31:34-35. Our idols must go also (1 John 5:21; 1 John 2:15). All the things that steal love and devotion from the Lord must be removed from our lives, if we want His blessings upon us, ( Col. 3:1-2). Whatever takes your time, your money and your devotion is your god!
They Cleansed Their Dirtiness: All filthiness, inward and outward had to be cleansed. A dirty life hinders worship (Psa. 66:18), a clean life brings blessing ( Psa. 24:3-4). God expects His people to turn away from the wickedness of the flesh ( Col. 3:5-11).
They Changed Their Dress: Their garments were spotted by sin ( Gen 34). Clean garments are symbolic of separation. If we are to ever be where the Lord desires us to be, then we must dress ourselves in the holiness of the Lord ( 1 Pet. 1:16; 2 Cor. 5:17). This world and all the things that are embraced by it must be rejected by the child of God who would get close to the Lord… clothing styles; music; entertainment; etc. ( James 1:27; 1 Tim. 6:14).
They Created Some Distance: These things were buried not so they could be reclaimed later, but so they would be gone forever. What they did is a picture of repentance! Repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of direction in life. When a person repents of something, they change their thinking about it and the turn and walk away from it, putting some distance between themselves and that thing. Repent means to turn and never return! Some of God’s people need to do that very thing today. There are some things in your life that need to be repented of today. You need to change your mind about those things and then you need to change your direction in life and walk away from those things, or those people, that are causing you problems in your spiritual walk. You need to put some distance between yourself and those evil things!
It is interesting to note that they were protected as they journeyed to meet God, (v. 5). Those who will seek the Lord have a dedicated and determined enemy, (1 Pet. 5:8), but no foe can prevent the honest heart from getting right with God ( Psa. 145:18, Pro. 8:170. Are you heeding the command of God to return to your Bethel?
v. 6-7 GOD’S COMMAND WAS HONORED BY JACOB
When Jacob returned to Bethel, he rebuilt his altar and worshipped the Lord.
When we hear and obey the call of the Lord; prepare our hearts and lives for worship; then we can rebuild the old altars and worship the Lord again in Spirit and truth. That is where the Lord wants to bring each of us. And, it is where the redeemed heart wants to be.
If you have heard all of this and your response is something like: “Well, preacher I don’t really care about changing anything. I am as happy as I can be in the situation I am in right now. I don’t want to be any closer to the Lord. I don’t want to change a thing in my life. I just want to be left alone so I can enjoy myself and so I can do the things I want to do.” I would suggest to you that you probably aren’t even saved! If you know Him, there will be a hunger somewhere in your soul to be closer to him than you are. There will be a desire to worship Him; to love Him; to be near Him. If that heavenly tug is absent, then He is probably absent as well. You don’t need to get back to Bethel; you just need to get there the first time and be saved!
The altar Jacob built was symbolic of several things. When we return to our Bethel and rebuild our altars, we will find they stand for the same things.
It Spoke Of Worship - At the altar God was adored. God must be adored by His people if there is to be real worship. That simply means that we must come to a place where we are willing to humble ourselves before Him; confess our sins; claim His forgiveness; and lift His Name in our praises. Worship is about us becoming less, while He becomes more!
It Spoke Of Love – At that altar, Jacob gave his best and, ultimately, he gave himself. He proved that he loved the Lord by doing what God told him to do. John 14:15 teaches us nothing says we love the Lord like our obedience to His commands!
It Spoke Of Service - People came to the altar to make vows of service to the Lord. God is looking for people who will selflessly serve Him; who will put His first in their lives; who will give their all for Him and to Him.
It Spoke Of Obedience - God told Jacob to build the altar and nothing less would have pleased the Lord. He demands total obedience ( 1 Sam. 15:22).
It Spoke Of Obligation - Jacob owed the Lord a debt of gratitude for all the Lord’s blessings upon his life. He paid that debt at the altar! We are indebted also! Think of all the Lord has done in your life, and think of how little you have done for Him in return. God does not require us to serve Him as repayment for all He has done for us; but the redeemed heart that loves God cannot help but serve Him out of gratitude! Some examples: Mary in John 12:1-8; and Mark 14:8.
It Spoke Of Sacrifice - The altar was a place for sacrifice. The Bible doesn’t record it, but Jacob certainly offered a sacrifice to the Lord, (Heb. 9:22). The altar still stands for sacrifice, but God isn’t looking for blood. The Blood has already been shed back at the altar of the cross, one for all, (Heb. 9-10). God is looking for living sacrifices ( Rom. 12:1-2). He is looking for those people who will place all they are and all they have one the altar for God’s glory. It is those people who will enjoy the best God that has to give in this world; and who will hear Him say, “Well done” in the next world.
Conc: God changed old Jacob’s life after he came back to Bethel. God changed his name from “trickster” to “prince with God”, (v. 10). God renewed all the promises that He had made to Abraham and Isaac and gave them afresh to Jacob, (v. 11-12). God did this all because Jacob obeyed God’s call and came back to Bethel. God will renew all the promises He has made in Jesus to you today.
Let’s be honest today, some folk need to come back to Bethel. You need to rebuild those old altars and get cleaned up and worship the Lord one more time. Wouldn’t you like to have that peace that comes from serving God once more? Wouldn’t you like to be able to come to church and worship instead of coming in with a sense of guilt and shame? Wouldn’t you like for your prayer life to be powerful; your witness be clear and your joy to be full? You can have that and much more if you will only get back to Bethel.
Some of you need to come to Bethel for the first time. You know that you have never trusted Jesus as your Savior. You know you need to be saved. Well, that can happen today, if you will come to Him. Whatever the need, you can rest assured that the supply will be found in Jesus! Get to Bethel today and get what you need from God.
TODAY’S HYMN and BLESSING!
“Trust and Obey” By J. H. Sammis (1877)
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.
Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.
But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet.
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way.
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
GIVE GOD ALL THE GLORY!
Friday, March 09, 2012
JACOB, FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FAITH, 3/9/2012
GETTING BACK TO BETHEL, Lesson 38a
Let me begin by asking a few questions today. Do you remember when you met God? Do you remember that moment when Jesus Christ became your Savior? Do you remember how you felt when Jesus saved you? Do you remember the thrill of those early days of serving God, when everything connected with God: the church, the Bible, worship, prayer, witnessing, etc., thrilled you beyond words? Do you remember how wonderful those early days of blessing were? Sure you do!
How many of us would have to be honest and say that memories are about all we have left? How many would have to say that the things of God just don’t thrill us anymore? That we really don’t care anything about going to church most of the time? That we can usually find something we would like to do instead? That reading the Bible, praying and telling others about Jesus just don’t thrill us anymore? That we would just like to be left alone to do as we please and serve God on our own terms?
It’s sad, but many believers are in that shape today! It’s evident on any Wednesday night. It can be seen during the Sunday School hour. It is clear in the worship services as silence reigns and deadness dominates. It is clear as dust gathers on altars where tears used to flow freely.
I want you who may be in this very condition today, to know that things do not have to stay the way they are. God has a plan for you and it is illustrated here in these verses concerning Jacob. God called Jacob back to Bethel. Bethel means “The House of God”, and it was at Bethel that Jacob first met the Lord.
Jacob was raised in a home by parents that knew God. In spite of that, every person must have a personal encounter with God. When Jacob met the Lord, he made some vows to God,( Gen. 28:19-22). It seems that these vows were not paid. Jacob may have forgotten, but God does not forget, (Eccl. 5:1-5)! In this passage, God is calling Jacob back to that place of the first blessing. He is calling him back to that place of beginnings; to that place where the things of God are fresh, living and exciting.
I am sure that I am speaking to some people today who had a good beginning with the Lord. You were saved by grace and you started out right. But, somewhere along the way, things went wrong in your walk with the Lord. You find yourself in a place today that you never envisioned. Well, my Brother, my Sister, God is calling you back to Bethel today.
He wants you to know that He is the God of the second chance. He is the God Who allows U-turns. He is the God Who loves you in spite of where your path in life may have taken you. God demonstrates those truths in His dealings with Jacob. I challenge you to allow Him to speak to your heart today. I want to point out a few truths from this passage as we look on the subject “Getting Back To Bethel“.
v.1 GOD’S COMMAND WAS HEARD BY JACOB
God called Jacob to come back to the place where He started for God. God’s command was for him to dwell there, build an altar and worship. It had been 20 years since his Bethel experience and Jacob had gotten far away from the Lord. He had gotten mixed up in idolatry. He had grown cold toward God; and now God is calling him home!
I think it is safe to say that many Christians find themselves in this same condition today! The things of God have become dead and the life of the Christian displays that deadness. This is not a new trend, for example, The church of Ephesus – (Rev. 2:1-7)!
If you are in that spiritual state today, God has a word for you. The word He has for you is the same counsel He had for the Ephesians believer.
Remember – Isa. 51:5; Eph. 2:1-4a; 11-12 – Think back to where the Lord found you and what He did for you when He saved you by grace. Remember, and realize that He deserves better than He is getting from most believers!
Return – God’s call to Jacob and to the Ephesians was “Return.” His call is the same to you and to me. When we wander away from Him, He tells us to come back. Thank God, He will receive us and He will restore us, (1 John 1:9); Like the Prodigal Son ( Luke 15:11-24)! When we return to Him, in humble repentance, He will return to us, (Mal. 3:7, James 4:8).
Repeat – God’s call to Jacob and to the Ephesians believers is exactly the same. They were to do the first works over again. In Gen. 28:16-22, Jacob met the Lord, and when he did, he began his walk with God by performing an act of worship. He humbled himself before the Lord. He called upon the name of the Lord. He dedicated his life to the Lord. Those early steps of commitment by Jacob were essentially the same as the acts of “first love” that God is speaking to the Ephesians about.
God is calling His people back to the place where He is first and foremost in their lives. He wants us to come back to the place where our souls are aflame with love for Him. Remember those days when just the mere mention of the name of Jesus was enough to bring tears to your eyes? Remember those days when “Amazing Grace” made you want to shout? Remember when you could think about Jesus dying on the cross, rising again from the dead, saving your soul by grace and nearly have a shouting spell? That is where the Lord wants to bring you back to! Remember when you loved the church, the Bible and the brethren? Remember when God was first, and He got your best? That is where He wants you to return to. God’s plan is for us to rekindle that deeply burning first love, rebuild the altars of our worship and serve Him faithfully!
Removal – The Ephesians believer are warned that if they fail to rekindle the old flame and love Jesus first, that they will face His chastisement. I just want to remind you that those who are saved by grace can fall from grace, (Gal 5:4)! You can be removed from the Lord’s family. But, you can count on this: if you choose to walk away from God, and you refuse to return to Him, you will face His judgment in your life! That is His Word; that is His promise ( Rev. 3:19; Heb. 12:5-11).
Here is a man who has not walked with the Lord as he should have for 20 years. But, I find it interesting that he can still hear the voice of the Lord. And, I am sure that there is no more miserable person in this world than a believer, who is away from the Lord spiritually, but who can still hear His voice and His call. How hard it must be to remember the good days of walking with the Lord, while being so far away from Him today. That must be how Adam felt when he heard the voice of the Lord walking in the garden, while he hid in shame because he was no longer right with the Lord, (Gen. 3:8-10)
You don’t have to live in that misery any longer! You can come home right now. You can return to the Father and He will receive you and forgive you, (1 John 1:9). He will restore you and bless you again! Can you hear Him calling you? Jacob did and his life took a new direction!
TODAY’S HYMN and BLESSING!
“Turn My Heart “ By Lynn DeShazo (1992)
Turn my Heart, O Lord, like rivers of water,
Turn my heart, O Lord, by Your hand;
Till my whole life flows
in the river of Your Spi - rit
And my name brings honor to the Lamb.
Lord, I surren-der to Your work in me; I rest my life within Your lov - ing hands.
INVITE A FRIEND TO THE TEAM!
Thursday, March 08, 2012
JACOB, FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF FAITH,3/8/2012
JUST A LITTLE TALK WITH JESUS, Lesson 37
This is the second spiritual encounter of Jacob's life. The first was at a place called Bethel, (Gen. 28:10-22). At Bethel, Jacob saw a ladder, as Jabbok, he saw the Lord. At Bethel, Jacob became a believing man, at Jabbok, he became a broken man. At Bethel, Jacob became a son of God, at Jabbok, he became a saint of God. At Bethel he died to his sins, at Jabbok, he died to self. He left Bethel with a spring in his step, he left Jabbok with a lasting limp but with a forever changed heart.
Now, all men need a Bethel experience. Every person needs to be able to recall a time when you met God personally, you received Him and became His child. Isn't salvation wonderful? However, many never go beyond that experience. They get saved and that's as far as they go. They never seem to be able to produce anything for the glory of the Lord. While we must have a Bethel experience if we expect to get to Heaven, we also need a Jabbok experience if we ever hope to be useful to the Lord.
The very thing that happened to Jacob needs to happen in the life of every believer today. He spent the night talking with the Lord and He was never the same. I would venture to say that 99% of all Christians need to have a little talk with Jesus like old Jacob had. Let's spend some time today looking into these verses and see what transpired during Jacob's talk with the Lord.
V. 24a JACOB WAS VERY MUCH ALONE
Jacob was facing a serious time of testing. He had left his home behind and he was about to face a brother he had wronged many years earlier. At this juncture in his life, he needed to seek counsel from the Lord. The fact that Jacob spent the night in prayer is evident from Hosea 12:4. As he entered this time of prayer meeting, Jacob found himself very much alone. All he had was gone. Family, servants, livestock, wealth, everything. Jacob was forced to face God all alone!
Many people fear this kind of loneliness! People structure their time to be as full as possible. The reason? When we are alone and unoccupied, then we have to come face to face with God, (Judas, Matt. 27:3-5)! People fear that kind of intimacy with the Lord! Yet, the very thing they fear is the very thing they need the most in their lives.
When we are busy, we can occupy the heart and the mind. When we are alone and still, it is easier for us to hear the Lord when He is speaking. Many sinners tend to fill their lives with busy work so that they can avoid the voice of God. If we Christians are going to be strong in the Lord, then we must find time to be alone with God. The value of a daily quiet time is clearly demonstrated in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. He took time to be alone with the Father - (Matt. 14:23; Luke 6:12). You and I should never fear being alone with the Lord. He only has good planned for us, (Jer. 29:11), "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."
V. 24b-25a JACOB WAS VERY MUCH ALIVE
As Jacob prayed that night, it appears that he experienced a Theophany. That is, he was privileged to be in a place where the Lord decided to manifest Himself in a personal manner…. A theophany is a pre-Bethlehem appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. The angel was unable to overcome Jacob. Of course, we know that God could whip Jacob with just the thought of His mind, but He allowed Jacob to fight to bring Jacob to the place where he was willing to see himself as he truly was.
At this point in time, Jacob represents the fleshy nature of man. He represents our old, sinful nature that is constantly fighting against the Lord. These natures that we are born with are stubborn, unyielding, fighting and self-sufficient. The old nature of man is everything the saint of God should not be.
The fact is, many of us are just like Jacob! We fight the Lord at every turn in our lives. God will tell us something is wrong and the old nature rebels against the Lord's truth. God will tell is something is right and our flesh will rise up in defiance. Paul struggled with this dilemma - (Rom. 7:15-25). May I remind you that the old nature is not fit to live! It deserves on thing and that is to be put to death, (Col. 3:5-10; Eph. 4:22-24; ***Gal. 5:19-25***).
We are called upon to reckon the old man dead, (Rom. 6:1-18). However, we like to drag the corpse around with us don't we? The Roman practiced taking a convicted murderer into the desert, staking him down and then laying the corpse of his victim on top of him. Just as the corruption from that corpse would fall upon that guilty man until he eventually died, so our old nature eats away at us bringing death, destruction and corruption at every turn. The old human nature is fit for nothing less that the fire of hell. It does not deserve to live! I join Paul in exclaiming, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."
I challenge you to ask yourself, "Who is alive? My self, that old man; or the Lord Jesus?" Do you constantly find yourself fighting against the Lord? Do you find yourself acting stubbornly when faced with God's plan for your life? Who is alive in you, the flesh or the Lord? Look again at Rom. 6:6-7; Gal. 2:20.
V. 25b-32 JACOB WAS VERY MUCH ALTERED
This one night in the life of Jacob was the culmination of 20 years of patient activity by the Lord. We want instant everything today. Instant coffee, instant tea, instant grits, instant gratification, instant everything! Yet there is one thing for sure: Instant holiness is not available to anyone! It is always the result of prayer, sacrifice and self-denial. It seems that God always takes His time in bringing us to spiritual maturity. He gently and patiently leads us along and brings us to the place where we can be filled and used for His glory. This is evident in the life of Jacob.
V. 25b-27 He Was A Broken man - Notice:
He Was Clinging - Jacob is no longer fighting, he is merely holding on. If we insist on fighting the Lord and His attempts at growing us, He will eventually bring us to the place where all the fight is gone. You see, He knows exactly where and how to touch your life to get your attention. ( Absalom and Joab - 2 Sam. 14:28-32). God's desire for your life and mine is that we come to the place where we stop walking in our own power and self-sufficiency and we come to the place where we are depending on Him for everything. He wants us to understand the truth of John 15:5.
He Was Confessing - The angels demands to know Jacob's name. He forced to admit just who he is. Jacob = trickster, supplanter, cheat, one who takes you by the heal. Or, in our terms, one who twists the arm. Jacob had to come to the place of seeing himself as he really was, before the Lord could use him. By the way, God can't use any of us until we are willing to admit the truth about ourselves to Him. God can't use us until we come to the place where we are willing to admit that we are failures and sinners before Him and that we are incapable of anything without Him ( 1 John 1:9). God will bless an honest heart, (Psa. 51:17), "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
V. 28-30 He Was A Blessed Man - The Jacob who left Canaan was capable of deceiving his brother, lying to his blind father, of cheating a crooked uncle. But, the man who returns is a man with a new nature. No more Jacob the "Trickster", but Israel a "Prince with God." God's purpose in breaking us is always the same. He does it so that He can make us again, (The Potter - Jer 18:4). He doesn't throw us away, but He shapes us and molds us until we fit the image He desires for us to have. He really is still working on us! Saul who became Paul was worthless until he was broken before the Lord. But, once he was broken, the world was touched for Jesus! I wonder what God could do with each of us if we came to that place where we were totally broken and yielded before the Lord?
V. 31-32 He Was A Branded Man - The limp! Everywhere Jacob went after that day, he carried the mark of God upon his body; when he stood before Pharaoh in Gen. 47:7-10. Every step he took reminded him and everyone around him that he was the Lord's and the Lord had touched him in a very personal manner. The believer is no different , (Matt. 5:16). We ought to be branded for Jesus (Paul - Gal. 6:17) like the Law of the Bond-slave ( Ex. 21:1-6). After the hole had been bored into the ear, there was no doubt as to who the slave belonged to! By the way, folk ought not have to wonder about us either! The walk of the believer ought to be different ( 2 Cor. 5:17). When a man is walking with the Lord, he will always be out of step with the world!
Conc: Jacob's life was one of contrasts. Before this incident, faulty, substandard living marked this man's life. After this eventful night, holiness and spirituality marked him. If you were perfectly honest today, which would you say best describes your life? Carnal or spiritual? Perhaps this would be a good time for you to come to this altar and let this be the place for your Peniel experience. Let this be when you come before the Lord and allow yourself to be broken by Him for service. Let this be the time when you are forever altered. The time when you fully and finally present yourself a living sacrifice to the Lord Jesus Christ, (Rom. 12:1-2). Many of you know you have resisted His call, let this be the day when you find yourself out of step with the world and in step with God. Will you come as He calls you to Him?
TODAY’S HYMN and BLESSING!
“Have Thine OWN Way” By Adelaide Pollard (1902)
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Thou art the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after Thy will,While I am waiting, yielded and still.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Search me and try me, Master, today! Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,As in Thy presence humbly I bow.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Wounded and weary, help me, I pray! Power, all power, surely is Thine! Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way! Hold o’er my being absolute sway! Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see Christ only, always, living in me.
SHARE THIS LESSON WITH A FRIEND!
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
JOSEPH, Following In The Footsteps Of Faith, 3/7/2012
THE MESSAGE FROM JOSEPH’S BATTLES, 36d
A. There Is A Message Of Hope – If the early years of Joseph’s life teach us anything, they teach us that your childhood does not have to ruin you. On the same note, your past should never be allowed to define you! Just because you came up rough doesn’t mean you have to live that way now. Just because you were raised around harsh words and violent tempers does not mean that you have to use the same words and display the same temper! You can overcome you past by the help of God!
To look at how you act and say, “Well, that’s just how I was raised”, is a copout! People say, “Well, my mother was ill-natured and that’s how I am too.” No, it’s how you choose to be! Others say, “My parents were negative and so am I. I can’t help it!” No, it’s how you choose to be. Some say, “A bad temper runs in my family and I guess I come by it naturally.” No, it’s how you choose to be!
To blame your actions on people in your past is nothing more than a smokescreen for a heart that refuses to repent of sin and be changed by the power of God! God would change you if you would let Him! He would take the shackles of your past off forever, if you would allow Him to. Your past should never be allowed to define who you are today! What if people like Peter, Paul, King David and King Josiah had adopted the attitude of people in our day? They all had pain and problems in their past, but they overcame them all by the help of the Lord and rose above that which could have held them down. We all have the power of choice!
B. There Is A Message Of Home – If we can take anything away from the home of Joseph it is the truth that our own homes should be sanctuaries of godliness. Every mother and father should fall down before the Lord and ask for His help to make your hope a godly home. It should be a place where Jesus rules; where His praises are heard; where He is Lord and where He is honored at all times.
Our homes must be places where our children can hear the Gospel and see it lives out. Our homes must be places where the Bible is read, honored and lived. Our homes should be places of worship, where Jesus is lifted up. Our homes should be places where the voice of the Holy Spirit is able to speak to hearts and lead us in the right paths. Whether you have children or not, you ought to pray to that end today! Every home that makes up this church should stand as a shining light for other homes in the church and in the world.
C. There Is A Message Of Help – As I consider the problems that plagued the early years of Joseph, there is a great blessing that I can take away with me today. I can rejoice that God was able to take the ore of this young man’s life; refine it and shape it into pure gold for His glory! That is a blessing to me!
Looking at Joseph from the outside, and considering all of his problems and the dysfunction of his hone, it would have been easy to conclude that he would amount to nothing! But, God took this life and shaped him into one of the greatest men of the Bible. That is the power of grace! That is the power of God! It gives me hope as a parent. I know I made my mistakes raising my children. It is a comfort to know that God can overcome my foolishness and use my children in spite of me. It gives me hope as a Man. I see children growing up today with the deck stacked against them. It is a comfort to know that God can work in their lives in spite of their problems. He can save them and use them. It gives me hope as a person as well. When I think of my own past and the baggage I carry to this day, I am encouraged when I understand that God can use me in spite of what I am, where I have been and what I have seen and done. I hope it gives you hope as well.
Conc: When God went looking for an Apostle to the Gentiles, He didn’t look inside the church. God went to the most unlikely mine imaginable and dug out some ore that no one would have chosen. When God was finished refining and shaping that ore it became the gold called Paul. When God went to choose a new king for Israel, God didn’t look in Saul’s palace. God went to the most unlikely mine called Bethlehem and dung out some very unlikely ore. When God was finished refining and shaping that ore, He had David, “a man after God’s Own heart”. When God sought a man to lead His people out of Egypt, He didn’t choose the likely candidates. He went to an unlikely mine and dug out the ore of a washed up, eighty-year-old fugitive who was keeping his father-in-law’s sheep. When God finished refining and shaping that ore, He had a Moses.
The Bible, and the church, is filled with stories just like those. God can take us in spite of what the world and the past has tried to do to us and He can take our unlikely ore and shape it into valuable gold that He can use for His glory. Praise His name!
If you have never trusted Jesus and He is dealing with your heart, you need to come to Him and be saved. If He has spoken to you about the life you are living, you need to come and get your ore into His hands. If there are issues in your past that need to be reconciled, bring them now. If you want to come and pray about your home, come now.
If you are ready to stop making excuses for your bad behavior and you are ready to become what the Lord can make you, you come now. This altar is open and God stands ready to help you with the burdens you bring to Him.
INVITE A FRIEND TO THE TEAM!
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
JOSEPH, Following In The Footsteps Of Faith, 3/6/2012
THE MAZE OF JOSEPH’S BOYHOOD, 36c
The Problem Areas Of His Childhood – Joseph’s upbringing was not an easy one. In fact, his early years were like a minefield. It is amazing that anyone could survive the pain and turmoil of those years with their sanity, their integrity and their emotions intact. Let’s take a moment to look at some of the events that marked young Joseph’s life.
We have already talked about the problems in the home. One man with children by four women, living under the same roof, is a recipe for trouble! Add to this the fact that Jacob obviously loved Rachel more than the other women and you have trouble enough to go around, Gen. 30.
At a young age Joseph and his family make a hasty departure from his grandfather Laban’s house. They flee away under the cover of darkness, (Gen. 31:17-21), because Jacob has cleaned out his father-in-law through deception.
Imagine the fear as your grandfather chases the family, overtakes the family and has hard words with your father, (Gen. 31:22-35). Laban accuses Jacob of stealing his household gods. Jacob denies this, but it turns out that Rachel had taken them. She lies to her father to cover up her theft.
Jacob and Laban make a covenant to stay away from one another. Laban departs and Joseph never sees his grandfather again, (Gen. 31:36-55). Gen. 31:49 is not a prayer of blessing; it is a threat of violence!
As you travel, word comes that your father’s brother, Esau, is coming out with many men to meet the family. Jacob is afraid of Esau because of the way he treated Esau some twenty years earlier. He divides his flocks into three parts to be used as a bribe to soften the heart of Esau, (Gen. 32:1-23).
Joseph’s older sister Dinah is raped by Shechem. Two of his brothers, Simeon and Levi trick the men of the city and eventually kill them all, (Gen. 34:1-31).
Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse dies, (Gen. 35:8). Jacob does nothing to make things right.
Rachel, Joseph’s mother, dies while giving birth to his little brother Benjamin, (Gen. 35:16-20).
Reuben, the oldest brother, commits incest with his father’s concubine, Bilhah, (Gen. 35:21-22). Jacob knows about it but does nothing, as usual.
Joseph’s other grandfather, Isaac, dies and is buried, (Gen. 35:27-29).
Joseph’s older brothers were all wicked, self-centered men.
Jacob was a passive father who allowed his children to do as they pleased with no correction.
Jacob was also guilty of favoritism. He loved Joseph more than the rest of his sons, (Gen. 37:3).
Joseph lost his beloved mother at a young age.
Joseph was uprooted and moved as a young age.
Joseph was surrounded by rape, murder, incest, treachery, intrigue, idolatry, jealousy, death and hatred. This was a very negative and hostile environment in which to raise a child. Many people can look back at your own upbringing and see many problems with how you were brought up. Some of you were brought up in violent homes. Others were raised with drinking, drugs and hellish living. Some may have been physically or sexually abused. Hearing what Joseph faced may have dredged up bad memories of your own past. Let me encourage you to place your past in the hands of a sovereign Lord. Trust Him for the grace to live with the memories and for the strength to avoid making the same mistakes.
Where did all this dysfunction come from? It all started when Abraham asked Sarai to lie about their relationship, (Gen. 12:10-20). The foundation for future turmoil was laid when Sarai gave her maid Hagar to Abraham to be his concubine, (Gen. 16:1-16). The problems in that family, and in every other family, are passed down from generation to generation. Looking at the problems that existed in this home, we should have a desire to avoid some of their mistakes. Just for the record, here is how to build a dysfunctional home:
Be less than truthful with one another.
Be jealous of other family members.
Demonstrate favoritism to your children.
Try to help God accomplish His will in your home.
Practice deception so you can get your way.
Operate outside of the will of God.
Live a life of anger, manipulation and control.
Sin is always the root cause of dysfunction in the home!
The Positive Areas Of His Childhood – Not everything was negative in Joseph’s background. There were a few positive moments along the way. Let me share a few that may have had a hand in shaping the life of this special young man. One night Jacob sent his family ahead and he stayed behind to pray about his upcoming meeting with Esau. Jacob had an encounter with God that night that changed his life forever, (Gen. 32:24-32). When he catches back up with his family, he is limping on his leg and he tells them that he has a new name. He will no longer be called “Jacob”, which means “Trickster, Deceiver, Heal-grabber”. His new name will be “Israel”, which means “Prince with God”. Jacob has a new name, a new walk and a new life. He would never live like a trickster again! Surely the change in his father was something young Joseph never forgot.
God calls Jacob to come back to Bethel. Jacob demands that they do away with their false gods. He calls his family together to worship God alone. While they are there, Jacob builds an altar, worships the Lord, and gives the testimony of how he first met the Lord, (Gen. 35:1-4). Surely young Joseph never forgot the lessons he learned and the testimonies he heard at Bethel.
Gen. 35:5 tells us that as this family journeyed they enjoyed divine protection. They were surrounded by warlike tribes, but they were not attacked. This must have made an impression on Joseph.
As I said, most of us can find flaws in our upbringing, if we look close enough. Yet, most of us can look back and see times when God revealed His hand in our lives, even at a young age. I can remember prayers, church services, godly people, etc, that left a mark on my life. Thank God for those times when the Lord moved, in spite of the darkness and the sin, and revealed His presence and His providential protection. You can never underestimate the importance of the positive influences on a child’s life. In Joseph’s case, the positive influences seem to have had far more impact that the negative ones. I think the same can be said about your life and mine as well.
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To Be Continued Tomorrow!
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