Sunday 02.01.15

Hard to believe February is here already! This Sunday we’ll be taking a broad glance at the life of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 and see from his example how to have faith when life is hard.

Hope to see you there!

@945 :: Sunday School / Small Groups (for all ages)
@1045 :: Morning Worship
@5pm :: Awana**
@6pm :: Adult Study, “Portrait of a Struggle” by Paul David Tripp**

**Weather permitting, stay tune for any cancelations

Give to God the things that are God’s (a devotion)

This devotion is part of our ongoing series as we journey through the Bible together as a church…

17 “Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” ~ Matthew 22:17-21

Late in Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees and other religious leaders tried everything they could to entice Jesus into some mistake so they could remove him from the scene. In Matthew 22, they fed on their fellow Jew’s general distaste for Roman rule to trap Jesus. If he said, “Yes, you must pay your taxes,” then they could accuse him of being a Roman sympathizer; but if he said, “No, keep that money,” they could report him to the authorities as a lawbreaker.

But as with all their tricks, Jesus replied with the perfect answer. “Whose image is on that coin?” “Caesar’s.” “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

There is also a greater depth in Jesus’ answer than what we first see on the surface. Consider for a moment, the things that are God’s.

First, In Romans 13:1-7, Paul told the church to be subject to and pay proper taxes to the governing authorities. At the onset he wrote, “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” This is not to say that no government is evil, some are quit evil. The Old Testament in particular has many stories where God pulls down evil rulers and governments, yet also sometimes uses them for his good ends (think: Habakkuk). Such exists, but they meet their just end. It’s also not to say that we should obey the authorities when their commands are contra to God’s commands. God trumps the king for Jesus is the King of kings.

It is to say that even the governments belong to God. To honor the king and pay taxes to Caesar is to honor God who has established governments and nations “having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God” (Acts 17:26-27).

Second, in Psalm 50:10, while rebuking Israel for worthless sacrifices God said, “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.” This is simply a poetic way for God to say, “All the earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5). Everything belongs to God. He is the Creator, the Sustainer, the Savior, the Restorer—everything is his and everyone depends on him. Every good thing we have is a gift from his hands (James 1:17).

There is nothing in our lives of which we can truly say, “This does not belong to God.” This is why when God tells us to open wide our hands and be generous with our belongings, he is not telling us what to do with our stuff so much as he is telling us what to do with his (Deuteronomy 15:11, 1 Timothy 6:18-19). Such an attitude should reshape our stewardship—yes (also 1 Timothy 6) God has given to us to enjoy but he has also given to us to share and do good to others.

Third, think back to the Bible’s original idea of image and likeness. In Genesis 1:26-27, God declared that he would create humanity, male and female, in his image. Though the fall into sin marred this, it did not destroy it (9:6). All things belong to God, but this God-mark upon humanity means that we belong and relate to God in a unique way.

When Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24), he was calling us back to the life we were created to live. A life in which we live every breath and every moment completely dedicated to him because we are his image bearers to creation. A life in which the things of this world do not steal our hearts away because being captivated by God’s grace we do all for God’s glory.

So, let us give unto God by giving of ourselves through Christ, who gave himself that we could find rescue from sin and restoration for God’s image in us.

When doing right brings trouble (a devotion)

This post is part of a continuing devotional series as we read through the Bible together as a church…

 7 And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” ~ Genesis 39:7-9

Joseph’s story is given a lot of space at the end of Genesis. In chapter 37, we see him essentially as a bratty tattletale who basks in the favor of his father yet receives the ire of his brothers. At one point they desired to kill him (sibling rivalry to an extreme), but instead sell him as a slave who eventually ends up in Egypt.

Somewhere between chapters 37 and 39, Joseph developed a greater focus on God.

Even in his servitude, God prospered Joseph’s work to the point that Potiphar, his master, set him over everything in his household. As Joseph went about his work, Potiphar’s wife began to desire him and sought to entice him into an affair. Because of his love for God and neighbor (Potiphar), Joseph refused. Potiphar’s wife continued her enticement until one day she grabbed hold of his shirt and refused to let go until he agreed.

Instead, Joseph ran from the house (literally doing what Paul would much later command:  flee youthful passions—2 Timothy 2:22) but his clothing remained in her hands. In anger over his refusals, she called out until other men of the house arrived and finally her husband. To each she accused Joseph of seeking to violate her. Out of his anger, Potiphar threw Joseph into prison where he remained for well over two years.

Joseph’s story reminds us that sometimes things go very wrong even when we try to do what is right and honoring to God. Peter spoke about this as well: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).

In both cases we see that even if others make false accusations against us or even if it costs us greatly, we are to still seek to do what is right and honorable.

In Joseph’s story we see God continue to guide him and sustain him throughout all the evil which was done to him. As bratty as he may have been around his brothers, they should not have sold him as a slave and deceived their father by making it seem as if a wild animal had killed him. Then after being thrown in prison by Potiphar, the king’s cupbearer and baker joined Joseph for a time. He interpreted a dream of the cupbearer favorably with one request: “Remember me when you get out.” Yet the cupbearer forgot until two years had passed.

In every circumstance Joseph could have become angry and bitter. He could have lashed out and lived in despair. When he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and rose to second in command over Egypt, he could have used his power to exact revenge on those who had harmed him.

Instead he trusted God and showed kindness. In 50:20-21, he responded to his brothers’ fears by pointing to his trust in God’s sovereignty: what you intended for evil, God has intended for good; and he provided for the needs of his brothers and their families.

Peter said the same basic thing: others might accuse you, but keep doing good—many times over, the Bible displays showing love and kindness to others (friend and enemy) as doing good.

When we look to the story of Joseph and when we look to God who is a display of goodness in all things, we see that when others falsely accuse us, when they betray us, when they break their promises, and when it will cost us we are to keep doing what is right.

After all, like Joseph and like Peter we follow the Lord (the better Joseph—Jesus) who was betrayed, accused, and ultimately murdered, yet it all fit into God’s good plan for our salvation and our call to follow him.

Sunday 01.25.15

Jesus said, “I will build my church,” and he does this through us and with us (the church is his people). This Sunday morning, we’ll look at how Jesus builds his church from Matthew 16:13-28…

Our foundation must be: Jesus is the Christ (16:13-23)
Our lives must be wholly committed to him (16:24-28)
Our invitation must be: “Lose your life to find it” (16:24-28)

MEN: remember, prayer breakfast at Wimfield’s on Main at 815am (hope to see you there!)

@945 Small Groups/Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Morning worship
@5pm Awana
@6pm Adult Study: Paul David Tripp’s “Portrait of a Struggle”

Because the Lord your God… (a devotion)

But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” [Jacob] answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.” ~ Genesis 27:20

With the story of Isaac’s son and Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, we are introduced to a series of schemes that ultimately work out for good (though the schemes themselves are not so good). Before he and his twin brother, Esau, were born, God told Rebekah that the boys striving together in the womb represented two nations which would come from them and be at odds with each other. And in a reversal of roles, “The older shall serve the younger” (25:23).

Jacob started early, grasping his brother’s heel as they came out of the womb. So he earned a name which could be translated he cheats or he deceives. When the boys had grown and Esau was desperate for food, Jacob conned him out of his birthright (which, also, Esau willingly gave up). Then when Isaac was old and at the end of his life, with the help of Rebekah Jacob conned their father for the blessing he wished to give to Esau.

It was in that moment that Isaac asked his son how he came about game meat for the stew so quickly, and we see Jacob’s response: Because the Lord YOUR God granted me success.

This reveals the heart of Jacob at the time. Though he was to be the son of promise of the son of promise, he lived disconnected from the God of his father and grandfather. A chapter later, on his way to seek a wife from his uncle’s family, Jacob lays down to sleep and has a dream in which God repeats the promises that started with Abraham in Genesis 12.

Still, when he woke, he made a vow which seems reluctant and demanding: “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God” (28:20-21). It was not until years later with two wives and children that Jacob really seemed to grasp the reality of God. In chapter 32, fearing what Esau might do to him and his family, he cried out in desperation. But the reality of God’s presence truly set in when Jacob wrestled with God and received a dislocated hip, a new name, and a blessing.

For many people today, God seems distant—a deity who worked well for their parents or grandparents, a god they see as your god instead of my God. Some even demand signs: “I’ll believe he is God and follow him, if…”

Yet God has given us his word, hope, and promise. He has told us of his plan to bless and restore the world through Christ. He has promised us personal salvation as part of a cosmic salvation, if only we will believe in and follow Jesus as the Savior-King. He has given us Jesus as the fulfillment of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their heritage is ours if we follow their footsteps of faith.

We don’t have to wait for God to act with something greater. Jesus is the greatest treasure we could have. But we must come to that point where we can look around and not say “your God” but rather say “my God.”

Sunday 01.18.15

The story of Abraham set’s the stage for most everything else we read in the Bible. If we belong to Jesus, then we are the children of Abraham (the father of those who believe) and heirs of promise. Like Abraham, we are to trust God and his promises, even when those promises seem distant.

Join us for worship this Sunday as we ponder Genesis 15 and Abraham, “The Father of Those Who Believe.”

@945 Small Group Bible Study / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Morning Worship
@5pm Awana
@6pm Adult Study

Our Bible Reading Challenge for this week will take us through Genesis 25-34 and Matthew 13-17. In case you missed it, check out last week’s devotion “When God Laughs.”