Monthly Archives: June 2013

Simple Evangelism

At the risk of over simplification, the success of Joseph boils down to 3 factors. Since God is no respecter of persons, this holds true for for us today.

First, God is real and is number one. Without anyone else He still exists. He is the all in all, the creator, the mighty one, the master of the universe. Without God nothing good happens. God existed back in Joseph’s time, as he exists for us today.

 Second Joseph had a relationship with God.  He accomplished amazingly good things. He was thankful for God and because of that he was in a position  to help others. He continued to look to God despite what was going on around him.

When we neglect our own relationship with God we miss out. Nothing ever should stand in the way of freely associating with God. We have that right because of the sacrifice and resurrection And ascension of Jesus Christ. We didn’t earn it. There is no altar rail, no veil, no condemnation by others, education, position, ethnic background, gender, overloaded schedule or anything else in this life that should get in the way of our approach to the throne.

Finally once we know how much we are loved by God, then we can begin to really help others. It is beautiful the changes in Jacob’s family as Joseph rose up. Jacob’s blessing in Genesi 49:22-26 says it all:

22 Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: 23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: 24 But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:) 25 Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: 26 The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.

A fruitful bough runs over the wall! The reason Joseph ‘was separate’ from his brethren was that he knew God and listened to Him. It was evident in Joseph’s life that he listened to God from the very beginning of the record on Joseph. It is that simple!

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Entering Into His Rest – The Promised Land

Up in the North woods of Wisconsin, life is a little more simple than in the hustle and bustle suburbs. The sky is so blue, the trees are so green and sunlight just loves to dance through through the leaves as they move in the breeze.

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There is no high speed internet. We do get dial-up through the phone but it is so-o-o-o-o slow. It is just enough to write the blog and publish it. If I want to spend more time on line, I can run into town and go to a local cafe that has wifi. I did just that once this week and ended up having a wonderful conversation with a beautiful Christian. I am reminded that there is fruitful living outside the walls of my own firewall.We do have television, but we only get 4 and all of them are local channels. Local channels don’t provide the speculation and theories that cable TV provides with non-stop news coverage.

In Genesis, the great men and families of God had places of rest, places like Beersheba, Bethel, and initially the garden of Eden. These were places of serenity because these men were able to enter God’s rest because of what He revealed to them.  Wherever God is is a place of rest.

Throughout Genesis, the topic of migration comes up several times with the patriarchs. Abraham went to Egypt due to a famine. Egypt was not the promised land God spoke to Abraham about. Isaac was also faced with a famine and God told him not to go to Egypt and he prospered. Jacob asked God whether he should join Joseph in Egypt during another famine and God gave him the nod and they ended up settling down in Goshen for quite a while. Israel’s families prospered there for a while.

Places are a temporary provision of God at various times. Goshen was ideal. The Israelites were shepherds, they needed ample fertile land for their livestock. Goshen provided that. It is located on the Northeastern side of the Nile. The Nile river flowed northward into the Mediterranean Sea. It provided a rich delta at its outlet. Egyptians looked down on the shepherding profession so by camping out in Goshen, the two cultures were kept separate. There had been problems with this in Canaan as some of the children of the patriarchs took Canaanite wives. The rich heritage of Israel was preserved living there.

Goshen was located closer to the land God promised the Israelites than any other part of Egypt. Egypt afforded the new young Israelite nation protection against marauding kings of other lands. God’s promise to Jacob that He would make them a great nation could bud into fruition.

“Location, location, location” is not an absolute.  Eventually, things changed in Egypt and there came a time to exit. God has no specific place, but He can utilize geography to bless  His people at various times.

For us today, we have truly entered into his rest when we we accept His grace. In Acts 7:49-50 it is recorded:

Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?

One can be in the midst of hustle and bustle and be in God’s rest. It can also be said that quiet and stillness can be restful, but it can cause unrest too.

Hebrews 4:9-12 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

It seems like a contradiction to read ‘hath ceased from his own works’ and ‘Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest’ but when the Word of God is read and worked by a spiritually-minded person, rest is the result even if you are in the middle of a busy life. God is the place of our rest wherever we are.

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Happy Father’s Day Everyday!

Recently I was listening to a great podcast about how simple it is to develop a relational connection to God. A person had sent in an email asking how. He was frustrated saying it was his experience that the average person has about the same chance of developing a relationship with God as winning the lottery. I stopped to think about how someone could ever think that, but actually it’s quite easy given the world we live in.

How many religious systems even agree about how God communicates to us? There are systems that actually judge and shun and people who don’t think the same way. There must be more than 25,000 Christians sects in existence. This is pretty confusing if someone is looking for God in one of these groups. How confusing and misleading! It is discouraging to people looking from the outside in. That type of thinking can even discourage those on the inside looking around. Zealous Christians do some very human things and separating into groups is tops on the list. So much for human design. There is one Lord, Jesus Christ, not a bunch of human mini lordships.

God provided one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ. The simple answer for access to God is to accept the finished work of Jesus Christ.

I Corinthians 1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?

There were many things going on in Corinth at the time this was written. Paul had to address some very basic concepts. Remember the people who lived during this time had no ipods, TV revivals, ezines, Kindle, or even Bibles! paul walked into town and talked to them about Jesus Christ.

What separates people, denominations and groups of all types? It is not always a section of the Bible doctrine. I have seen groups that exist within miles of each other who believe exactly the same thing and yet remain separate, not approving of each other. Even in a very tight knit group and families, people will not see eye to eye on all things. I Corinthians 1 addresses division.

For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I Corinthians 2:2

Jesus Christ is a simple truth. Jesus walked this earth doing God’s will and teaching all who would listen about God’s love, not only in words, but in powerful works that were available to all. It is not complicated. As God’s son, when he was crucified and buried, God, the maker of the heavens and the earth, the God of all power, got His son up from the dead and made him lord over those who would believe.

I John 3:1-2 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

As sons of God we belong to a great family. I am so thankful when a brother or sister in Christ shares the heart of God that is timely and full of love. I am not really looking to see where we differ in doctrine. It is my own responsibility to read the Word and  trust God to give the increase. We have so much to offer each other when we understand and believe God works in our hearts through the spirit and His Word.

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Some Things Just Don’t Cut It!

The generation in which I grew up in (and by the way am still growing up in) is a curious one. Many of us tried to reject the  “plastics” mentality (The Graduate) and became truth seekers. Everywhere in culture ‘truth’ is touted, lauded and attested to. Journalists, politicians, and even theologians rally under the ‘truth’ banner, but more so than not they all disagree. Where is the ‘truth’?
Having stepped in the mud in all these categories, I’ve learned that ultimate truth is very difficult to find in the ‘thoughts and intents’ of the human mind. Even in the categories of religion, truth gets mired. A beautiful case in point popped up in my last blog.  I got to a place on one verse where I just couldn’t understand its meaning. I checked many sources and worked the verse and ended up more frustrated. So I stepped back out of the verse and looked at all of Genesis and the context and frustration was replaced by joy.
I read the Bible with two major premises in my mind: first, God is absolutely good and in him is no darkness (not even a cloud or shadow), and second he wants us to have the whole truth. I make all decisions based on these two points. It’s a great filter for what I read, people I read, listen to and associate with, and things I become involved in.
 The Bible or rather the Word of God written in the Bible, is the ultimate truth. God created the universe; He is the authority. The Word is not a lifeless book, it is vibrant, alive and life-changing. God reveals who He is through the Word. Since God is spirit, he utilizes holy spirit in the individual to bring the Word to life. (Romans 10:9-10 is the access code that activates it)
It is our choice where to look for truth. So many things in the world vie for the position of being the ultimate source of truth. There is only one truth because there is only one Creator. All men are liars, howbeit intentional or unintentional. We created nothing! How many of us have ever designed a leaf, or a tree or a blue sky? The greatest of God’s works is His Word!

Hebrew 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

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Fear not: For am I in the place of God?

For many scholars and ministers, who look at Jacob’s family album and  deliverance God brought through Joseph, forgiveness is the big theme. Joseph is honored for his great forgiveness.  I think forgiveness is a little easier than people think. It relies on God. For me,the Joseph record is the story of God’s great love and provision.

The true exercise and action of man are in trusting and believing God. Genesis is filled with records of people that sojourned through the wilderness of life, physically, mentally and spiritually, to ultimately find the wellspring of grace that was really right there all the time. Jacob’s sons were no exceptions.

Genesis 50:14-21
And Joseph returned into Egypt, he, and his brethren, and all that went up with him to bury his father, after he had buried his father. And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.  And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. 

And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

After all the ways God showed His love during hardship and famine, despite the poor relationships, envy, strife, evil intentions, immorality and lack of trust; Joseph’s brothers still worried that they were in big trouble having fear of what would happen to them. Have you ever thought this way? Joseph reminded them how God turned all of it for their good. God is what resided in and kept Joseph’s heart. God was available to them too.

It is interesting listening to ourselves when we talk about God.  We may talk in chapters, verses, formulas and quotations, pontifications and special language. We talk fast, slow, loudly, quietly, intensely or cautiously about God. If we listen to ourselves long enough the ‘trust factor’ starts to become visible. It shows in the above conversation in Genesis 50. The ‘trust factor’ is not that we’ve proved every jot and tittle of the Bible. It is about our relationship with God. Bottom line is just what Jesus Christ told us in the gospels:

Matthew 22:35-41 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

 

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