Joseph

Genesis Blog-01 (1)As children of God, we have unique dreams and gifts intertwined into the fabric of our hearts; crafted by our Father who knew us before we were born. No matter what season we go through in life, but especially in the darkest of them, we doubt the gifts God has given us and the plans He has for us. Even when we are sure in what He is doing, we second guess, hesitate to fully believe in, and discredit the potential of the gifts we have in our hearts and the calling God is unfolding in our path. Joseph is a messy, beautiful, and extreme example of this struggle we all face.

From a young age, God revealed His plans for Joseph through his dreams. Through the Holy Spirit, Joseph was able to interpret his dreams and understand the weight of the calling God placed on His life. He didn’t see the weight of the future suffering he would have to endure in order for God to exalt him to such a place of authority and influence, but he definitely saw the weight of blessing. Although we have no way of anticipating all the gifts and plans God has set aside for us, we see the blessings in what we do currently know. Joseph had this joy when he told his brothers about his dream, but he didn’t see the full implications of His calling; the struggle or the magnitude of blessing it would bring.

This is important to remember when we go through hardships. Joseph suffered for years directly because of his calling. He spent years in slavery and in prison. There are times we look at our situation, as I’m sure Joseph did, and we ask God how He could possibly use us when we are so broken and far from where we feel we need to be. There are times in life we lose instead of gain, we are demoted instead of promoted, and we hit walls in the growth or usage of our gifts. This was seen in Joseph’s life when his brothers sold him into slavery to Ishmaelite traders who were on their way to Egypt. I’m sure being sold by his brothers for 20 pieces of silver made him feel anything but destined for greatness. If Joseph would have lingered in a state of doubt and despair for long enough, allowing the Devil to convince him that he was wrong about the plans God had for him, he may not have had the faith required to obey God’s direction. Several years later when Joseph’s brothers had to go back to him for more grain and to prove they were not spies by bringing Benjamin to get Simon back, their father Israel said, “Put some of the best products of the land in your packs and take them down to the man as a gift—some balsam and some honey, aromatic gum and resin, pistachios and almonds” (Genesis 43:11). He also told them to take twice the money that Joseph gave them. Because all of God’s promises are yes and amen in Him, when we lose or suffer relating to our calling, gifts, or anything else we invest in Him and His Kingdom, He will always bless us with what we lost, or things that are greater. It is so beautiful that God includes balsam, honey, and aromatic gum in the narrative of Joseph’s life to remind us that no matter what we lose in this world for God, He will give it, or something greater, back to us either on earth or in Heaven. May we be encouraged to push through doubt and any fears despite what we may suffer to follow God’s guidance and calling in our lives.

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Patriarchy

PatriarchyIf the recent boom in cinema of superhero movies has taught us anything (besides the very real possibility that maybe Hollywood is running out of ideas), it’s that people as a whole love their heroes. We love those who fight for us, who stand for something greater than themselves, who are able to do the things we cannot with fantastic abilities and daring feats of courage; even if they’re sometimes not real. Off the silver screen, we see this adoration in the respect people in this country have for those who serve in the armed forces, both at home and abroad. Heroic reverence can also be seen in the way people look at celebrities, musicians, and sports figures. We think of these individuals with qualities desirable to be emulated. We follow their every move, wear them on our t-shirts, read their memoirs, watch their interviews. We do everything we can to be as close to our heroes as possible, to know them, to be like them.

But there always seems to be something that happens. You see, as human beings, we can rapidly elevate heroes, only to have them fall just as quickly. Beloved celebrities with picture perfect relationships being caught in acts of cheating, sports figures caught with performance enhancing drugs, musicians diving hopelessly into drugs and alcohol; when our heroes falter, they fall from our grace. All it takes is one wrong move, and suddenly we’ve lost all of our enchantment. For some, it’s a loss of hope and identity, wondering how it could be that their hero let them down like that, how someone so seemingly perfect could do something so evil. For others, it’s a sense of satisfaction, feeling justified in their own folly, and perhaps even superior now that a heroic figure has an even darker secret revealed than they did. The player is cut from the team, the celebrity and athlete disenfranchised by their sponsors, with futures looking bleak. Some recover, others never do.

With Christians, it’s the exact same thing. The amount of Christian celebrities that have been publicly caught in sin is staggering, and have gone to give the people of God a bad name, despite all the good those people had done in their lives. People who put out literature, music, held conferences, and saw the very hand of God work in their lives; destroyed by greed, lusts, and egos. You name it, there isn’t a sin even the “best of us” hasn’t committed. The bible comes chock full of faulty heroes of its own, especially in the old testament. When looking into the history of the people of God, we begin with the patriarchs in the book of Genesis. Beginning with Abraham, and stretching through his offspring Isaac and Jacob, we see a bloodline chosen by God, and ultimately tainted by sin. True, these men did great feats, multiplied their wealth and dominion over the regions they traveled through and settled into, and displayed great faith at times. But their legacies bear the scars of their failures, their cowardice, and their deception. We have Abraham’s failure to trust in God when he put his wife in a position to be sexually compromised. This sin would later be repeated by his son Isaac in another context. Abraham again, who lacked the courage to wait for God’s promise, and instead slept with his servant for an heir, and had them abandoned once his own wife bore a son. And we have Jacob, who capitalized on a moment of weakness to rob his brother of his birthright, and would conspire to deceive his father to seal his brother’s fate. Despite all this, we find ourselves taught from a young age to look up to these people. “See what Abraham did? Be like Jacob, wrestle until you’re blessed!”

From Israel’s patriarchal lineage of deceivers, liars, and cowards, Jesus would eventually make his entrance into the world, and defeat sin forever. The true beauty of the patriarch stories is that despite our weakness and depraved states, God still chooses to use us for His glory. Despite being unworthy from birth, God’s love so transcends all things so much that he desires us to be reconciled to Him. And even when we fall, there is grace to pick us up, and set our feet upon the path again. Stand firm in the fact that we serve a powerful and gracious God, one who can take our dry bones and broken pieces, and make something beautiful for His glory. Be blessed.

Sacrifice

Mountain Side 1Imagine having to make a sacrifice this week. The sacrifice is unknown, yet expected to be great. This act would scare us, granted today in 2017 comfort is high and many of us have busy schedules. Rewind to Genesis 22, Abraham was called to make a sacrifice assuming God was going to provide him with a lamb for the altar, yet prepared to use his one and only son as the sacrifice.

The outcome was relieving as God did provide a ram for Abraham to sacrifice in the end, but the point of the story is that Abraham put full trust in God regardless of the weight of the sacrifice. How often do we go that far in our walk with God? Do we get to the alter? Or do we even consider going up the mountain?

Trust in God wasn’t even a question anymore for Abraham, after being 100 years old and having a child, God was sure to be evident and trust worthy of any word he claimed. Nevertheless, was man trustworthy at this point? As the story of Abraham goes, although he was promised a great offspring, this man could not come the same conclusion. Sacrificing ourselves and putting down what everything else but God says seems impossible, yet we see the success later in Abraham’s walk with God made it all worth it.

 

Sodom

_MG_1678In Genesis 18, we find Abraham and Sarah have just received the wonderful news that they’re going to be first-time parents. Despite their advanced age, the Lord was finally going to give Abraham an heir, and continue the fulfillment of his promises to make Abraham “a great and mighty nation” (Gen. 18:18). God then reveals his plan to Abraham in regards to Sodom, that He will go down to Sodom and see if the outcry against the cities are justified.

Let’s take a step back from this, and realize God’s great wisdom and mercy here. We see that God himself has let Abraham know that he is not simply a god who does something without knowing every detail about it. Although we know that God is omnipresent (He is everywhere), He lets Abraham know that before destroying the city, God is going to give it a thorough look-over, and take all things into consideration.

Seeing this nature, Abraham attempts to appeal to God’s good graces, asking if God will spare the city if fifty righteous people are found; then forty, then thirty, then twenty, then ten. The whole way down, God, who is omniscient (all-knowing), knows that there are no actual righteous people in Sodom, but God demonstrates his mercy through His honesty. God is not being sneaky here; God is not a liar, and would therefore have actually spared the city had there been only ten righteous people, but Abraham had overestimated the righteousness, and underestimated the rampancy of sin.

In chapter 19, we see two angels enter the city. They experience harassment from the townspeople, the sick bargaining Lot for their lives, and their escape from the city. During the escape, Lot’s wife – against the warning of the angels – looked back, and became a pillar of salt. Lot would bargain with the angels to go into a nearby town, instead of the wilderness, to escape the wrath of God upon Sodom. The legacy of Lot would eventually fade into obscurity, and although his sons did become the fathers of the Moabites and Ammonites, we classically use Lot as an example of a man who ultimately ended up as a failure.

The story would continue with Abraham, who would go on to become the father of Isaac, Jacob, and whose lineage would eventually reach Jesus Christ. God would fulfill the promises in Abraham’s life, and his legacy would live on to this very day. We see in the life of Abraham evidence of God’s protection, provision, and His direction. And we see in the life of Lot evidence of God’s mercies and grace, despite his fallen state. Although he certainly did not deserve it, God spared his life. But in man’s free-will, God would not force Lot to live a moral life for the rest of his days, as revealed towards the end of chapter 19. And although we often like to identify with Abraham, we are so often like Lot in life; seeking our own benefit and compromising with the world to get by.

As you begin this week, consider the situations you have been pulled out of and where you deserved what was coming, remembering God’s faithfulness and mercy, and we should not stop at simply thanking God for pulling you out of a tight spot; we need to acknowledge our shortcomings, and allow Holy Spirit to do his redeeming work. It’s up to us to seize the opportunities given by this grace, and to allow Jesus to better us as people, to conform to His character each day, and to live the lives we have each been called to live as part of His body. May you have a blessed week.

El-Shaddai

Clouds“I am El-Shaddai- ‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life.” Genesis 17:1

In Genesis chapters 15 and 17 we read of God’s promise to Abraham; that He would bless him with many decedents. It is interesting to notice that God spoke promise into Abraham’s life at a time that did not make sense. Not only does God choose to make these promises at an unordinary time; He makes promises that are monumental. As we read in the passage, we notice two distinct reactions to God’s promise. His initial reaction is to seek assurance and his next reaction is disbelief. The God of the Universe – capable of doing all things; unrestrained by time – meets the mind of His servant, Abraham.

God’s promises are divine and powerful; supernaturally pushing through the limits of reality. They are breathed by God and carried out by His dominion throughout the earth. His promises are righteous and trustworthy. What is most beautiful is that whatever God promises is always fulfilled; regardless of the weakness in humanity. Despite our questions and disbelief, whatever God says can be completely trusted because He is God Almighty. His timing is perfect and His promises are honorable. It seems like quite a lot for our human minds to comprehend: the righteousness God being fulfilled through heaven and earth out of perfect love for us.

Steadfast

RiverThen God said to him, “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations!” Genesis 17:3-4

God had promised Abram a son, and along with divine protection and descendants as numerous as the stars. In doing this, God changed his name from Abram to Abraham, which means, “father of many.” However, Abrahams current circumstance did not match up with the blessings he would soon inherit.

Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” Genesis 17:17

It seemed impossible for Abraham to have a son at his age. Doubts were manifesting and all seemed lost. Nevertheless, we have a God of the impossible who does not work from a human’s point of view.

And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith. Genesis 15:6

Whatever circumstances you are in, that you might feel is too hard or that there are too many obstacles in the way; know that what God promises, He fulfills. God eventually blessed Abraham with his first son; therefore, hold steadfast and believe in the Lord and you will see it come to pass, just as Abraham did.

Rooted

Fog TreesNow Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. Genesis 16: 1-2

If we camp out here in this passage, we begin to notice a reoccurring trend. Abram and Sarai’s biggest insecurity was rooted in their desire to conceive a child, and their inability to do so forced them to again, forgo their trust in God. When Sarai declared that, “the lord has” we can speculate that she has done two things, they being that Sarai superimposed her own understanding of God’s covenant with Abram, and as a result, acted outside of that promise for the both of them.

In the previous chapter, God presents Abram – and by extension Sarai – an infallible promise that Abram will have children as numerous as the stars in the sky; yet, Abram and Sarai both forget the covenant God made with them, and again, began to work with their own understanding. As a result, God through an angel, had to intervene and remedy the situation Abram and Sarai brought unto themselves.

Faith is so invaluable, because even when He promised Abram and Sarai children, they in the moment could not see when, where and how His promise would come to be. What makes God so objectively trustworthy and reliable, is that when He makes a promise, it is kept; as we learn a chapter later. However, this is why faith is important, because all of scripture is a testimony of how God’s promise is always fulfilled. It is our faith in His promises that keeps us rooted in Him.