“Betrayal!” January 23

 

Betrayal, Wrong Roads & Swallowing CamelsHow do you respond to betrayal? Do you play that video tape over and over in your mind, allowing it to burn into your brain, turning to anger, then bitterness? Or do you surrender it to God? Do you view it through the sovereignty of God or simply through your feelings?

And what about wrong roads, have you ever asked yourself, how did I get here? This isn’t where I wanted my life to end up. Or have you ever gotten so focused on straining out gnats in your life (or someone else’s) that you swallowed a camel?

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 45 & 46
Psalm 12.3-4
Proverbs 4.14-17
Matthew 15.1-20

 

Betrayal!

 

Genesis 45 & Genesis 46:

Understanding the Sovereignty of God

 

A great famine has brought Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to buy grain. He recognized them immediately, but they have no idea who he is. Remember he was only a youth when they sold him to slave traders. Now he looks like any other Egyptian official.

Joseph has been testing them, perhaps to see if they’ve changed, but he can stand it no longer:

¹Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Make everyone go out from me!” So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence (45.1-3).

What a reunion for Joseph and Benjamin! But I can’t imagine the shock the other ten brothers must have experienced.

14 Then he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. 15 Moreover he kissed all his brothers and wept over them, and after that his brothers talked with him (45.14-15).

The most amazing part of this story is what John MacArthur calls “a masterpiece of recognition of and submission to the sovereignty of God” (MacArthur Daily Bible).

And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt (45.4-8).

Think about it. Fifteen years had passed since that day when his brothers betrayed him. There were ten of them—older and stronger. They had thrown him into a pit. Imagine the terror of overhearing them arguing about whether or not to kill him and what they would tell their father. Later we learned that he pleaded with them, but they wouldn’t hear it (Gen. 45.21). The text says:

“And they sat down to eat a meal. Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming” (Gen. 37.25).

They sat down to have lunch while they debated his fate!

Then there was the long journey to Egypt. Did he hope they might change their minds and come after him? But no rescue. When he arrived in Egypt, was he put on an auction block?

At some point, Joseph must have made a decision to make the most of his circumstances and the Scripture says, “The Lord was with him” (Gen. 39.2). He served his master Potiphar well, rising to the job of chief steward, and was loyal even in the face of temptation. Then he was falsely accused and thrown into prison. Even there he was faithful and ended up being given a position of responsibility.

Even so, imagine the nights spent lying awake and wondering why? Why would his brothers do such a thing? Why would God allow it? When did he surrender it to God? We don’t know, but without a surrender he could not have responded as he did.

What do you do when someone has sinned against you? Do you play that video tape over and over in your mind, allowing it to burn into your brain, turning to anger, then bitterness? Or do you surrender it to God? Continue reading

Marriage: Made in Heaven? “My Story” + LINKUP

 

Marriage: Made in Heaven? "My Story" - How God took two broken lives and four divorces and did what only He can do.

We’ve all heard the phrase “a marriage made in heaven,” but it may bring to mind different thoughts and images. Perhaps, in your case, it’s of your parents’ marriage and whether it was a good one or a contentious one. Perhaps, it’s your own marriage and of the thoughts, dreams, commitments, even preconceptions, you had when you married. Perhaps, it’s the thing to which you look forward or the one over which you’ve become discouraged. Wherever you are, I believe this series will have something for you. So, whether you’re single or you’ve been married 50+ years, I hope you’ll tune in each week for this study, “A Marriage Made in Heaven?”

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. If you’re new here, either to the LINKUP or you’ve come for this series on marriage, I look forward to learning together and growing in the ability to be the husband or wife God has called us to be and to have the kind of marriages that bring glory to Him. And if you’re single, I pray you’ll take away truths that will help you in any future marriage or help you minister to others who are married.

 

Last week I talked about the fact that marriage was created in the heart of God (Gen. 2.18-25), but that many marriages, even Christian marriages, fall far short of God’s design. I said that because God created marriage, we need to look at what He has to say about it, if we’re going to enjoy it as He intended.

We, also, need to understand what went wrong in the garden and how Adam and Eve’s decision to go against God’s command and eat the fruit had an immediate effect on all of life, including their marriage.

Today I’d like to share some of “my story” and how my story is really God’s story of redemption and grace.

 

Marriage: Made in Heaven? “My Story”

 

My story starts in Maine, actually Dover, New Hampshire, because the small down where my parents lived didn’t have a hospital of it’s own.

My grandparents were hard-working, “salt of the earth” people. My maternal grandparents were good, moral people, but not “church-goers” as they might have said.

My paternal grandfather died of cancer when I was a year old. My grandmother was raised in a Christian home, but didn’t always reflect Christ-likeness to others in the family. I say that only because it had a profound effect on my mother’s view of Christianity.

But I’m profoundly grateful that when my grandmother visited us once or twice a year, she took me with her to church. Seeds were planted. In fact, I remember praying a prayer to accept Jesus when I was about 12-years old.

While I do believe that God was working and drawing me to Himself at that time, I’m not sure if it was a genuine conversion. Only He knows, but I do know that He has had His hand on me.

Mom married my dad, who was five years older, three days out of high school. Their marriage was tumultuous from the beginning. I asked her about it once and whether or not she saw “red flags” before they were married. She said, “It’s just what you did. You graduated, then you got married.”

But my mother was a good mother. She was very devoted to her three children. I think she resigned herself to making us her life early on. She never worked outside the home while we were growing up. Somewhere along the line she decided that she’d stick it out “for the kids,” at least until we were all grown. When my youngest brother graduated from high school, she left.

My parents’ marriage was characterized by drinking and partying, mostly on my dad’s part, and arguments from which my mother tried to protect us.

My dad, in spite of it all, loved his kids. I don’t remember ever seeing him angry or mean, even when he was drinking. But, addictions are inherently selfish in nature and his cost his family in many ways.

Even so, I don’t remember ever feeling I had a bad childhood. I do remember wanting something different for my life.

Consequently, I married the first time at seventeen. Neither of us had any clue about God’s design for marriage. Like my mom, I focused on my children, but unlike her, I decided I would leave as soon as I could support myself. The marriage lasted less than seven years.

The next few years were a struggle: to make ends meet, to have any energy left for my two kids, and to see where my life was going.

I, eventually, got involved with an older man, in part, because I was just tired. This time, there were “red flags” all over the place, but I rationalized them all away. I left again after seven years of his drinking and infidelity. But he was a person who didn’t “lose.” It took me almost three years to get a divorce. Years that included his stalking me, drunken break-ins, threats to burn the house down with the kids and me in it, and on one occasion, kidnapping our young son.  Continue reading

“Is this a test?” January 22

 

Medical test doctor stethoscopeHave you ever wondered, in the midst of some difficulty, “Is this a test?” Does God, actually, test His people and, if so, are tests punishments or something else? What does God do when we fail those tests?

As we continue the Genesis story, Joseph will be faced with a test. How would he respond to the brothers who thought about killing him before they sold him into slavery? And his brothers will face some tests of their own, including the fear that God was punishing them for what they did to Joseph and how he might retaliate.

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 43 & 44
Psalm 11.1-7
Proverbs 4.10-13
Matthew 14.22-36

 

Is this a test?

Genesis 43 & Genesis 44:

 

From Prison to Leadership

 

If you’ve been following along in Genesis, you know that Joseph had been thrown into prison after he was falsely accused of sexual assault, as if being sold into slavery was not enough. While there, God gave him the interpretation of two men’s dreams. Joseph asks the one that was released to remember him and his plight, but he, apparently, never did.

Two years later Pharaoh had two disturbing dreams (Gen. 41):

In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.

Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. 10 Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard.11 Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. 12 Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. 13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.”

14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.

15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”

God warned that seven years of abundance would be followed by seven years of famine. He, not only, revealed the interpretation to Joseph, but gave him so much wisdom that Pharaoh put him in charge of managing a program to prepare for the famine. His plan was so successful that people from surrounding areas came to buy grain, including Jacob’s brothers (Gen. 42).

 

You are spies!

 

Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked.

“From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.”

Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

10 “No, my lord,” they answered. “Your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.”

12 “No!” he said to them. “You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

13 But they replied, “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.”

14 Joseph said to them, “It is just as I told you: You are spies! 15 And this is how you will be tested …

I don’t know what was, actually, in Joseph’s heart when he first saw his brothers after so many years. The text says he remembered his dreams, but he, also, had to remember the hurt and the wrong they had done? He was  faced with a test of sorts. How would he respond to the brothers who thought about killing him before they sold him into slavery.

 

The Test

 

His brothers would face the fear that God was punishing them for what they did to Joseph and, later, the fear of how Joseph might retaliate.

18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. 20 But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do.

21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”

22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” 23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.

24 He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.

 

Back to Egypt

 

Time passed. Simeon was sitting in jail, probably wondering if anyone was coming back for him.

Jacob had not been willing to deal with the situation. The thought of losing Benjamin was too great for him, but his hand had been forced by continued famine.

 

God & Famine

 

God often uses famine and lack to move us or test us. Sometimes, because we have become too content in our comfort zones, fearing failure or change. Other times, there are selfish desires, hidden idolatries, or sinful patterns that need to be exposed and dealt with. There are, also, times when we may not know the strength and ability we have in Christ until it is tested.  Continue reading

“Sex, Manipulation & Revenge” January 21

 

Sex, Manipulation & RevengeGod created sex. He designed our sexuality as a means to delight and bring pleasure to one another within the marriage relationship. But, sadly, as our culture knows all too well, “sex sells” and it has been twisted and used throughout the ages to manipulate and entice and for many other evil purposes, including revenge.

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 41 & 42
Psalm 10.12-18
Proverbs 4.7-9
Matthew 14.1-21

 

Sex, Manipulation & Revenge

 

Matthew 14.1-21:

He Must Increase

 

Here we have the sordid story of King Herod, Herodias (Herod’s wife, his half-brother’s ex-wife and daughter of another half-brother) and Herodias’ daughter. It’s Herod’s birthday and this young girl is dancing for the men at the party—most likely a drunken “men’s affair” like a bachelor’s party or “gentlemen’s club” (what an oxymoron that is!)

Herodias, had probably noticed the way Herod looked at her young daughter when he thought she wasn’t looking, and instead of protecting her daughter, she used her to manipulate Herod into giving her what she wanted! And what she wanted was revenge—John the Baptist’s head on a platter! John had publicly spoken against her sinful behavior and she had decided to get even!

But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.

So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.”

And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her.10 So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother (Matt. 14.6-11).

After John’s death, we see Jesus’ grief over the loss of His cousin.

“When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself …” (v. 13).

But it was time for John to leave the stage and for Jesus to take full prominence. Remember John himself had said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn. 3.30). God can and does use sinful people to fulfill His divine purposes.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Genesis 41 & Genesis 42:

Joseph’s Story & Your Story

 

Here in these two chapters God’s purposes begin to unfold in Joseph’s life. God has used trials to prepare him and in the chapters to come we’ll see that he has learned to trust God’s workings in his life. Now he’s ready to be placed on the world stage and to be reconciled with his family.

How difficult it must have been for Joseph when God gave him the interpretation of the Butler’s and the Baker’s dreams, and yet, to have it seemingly end there! It may not have seemed so strange to us because we know the end of the story, but think about it from Joseph’s perspective.

What has God allowed in your life that seems to make no sense? How can understanding Joseph’s story help you patiently wait on God in your own life?

Finally, if you have a strained relationship with someone in your family, Continue reading

“Private Temptations” January 20

 

Private Temptations - Like Joseph and Judah, all of us are tested and tried, sometimes through private temptations. How would you respond? Like Joseph or like Judah? Have you been tempted with discouragement or anger because you are experiencing some test or trial? Is it possible God is using that situation to prepare you for something great?Like Joseph and Judah, all of us are tested and tried, sometimes through private temptations. How would you respond? Like Joseph or like Judah?

Have you been tempted with discouragement or anger because you are experiencing some test or trial? Is it possible God is using that situation to prepare you for something great?

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 39 & 40
Psalm 10.1-11
Proverbs 4.1-6
Matthew 13.31-58

 

Private Temptations

 

Genesis 39 & Genesis 40:

Two Responses to Temptation

 

In yesterday’s reading (Gen. 38) we saw Judah’s private immorality, followed by his initial public self-righteousness when he condemned his daughter-in-law to death.

Here in 39 we see Joseph’s righteous behavior even when tempted in private.

Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”

But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

10 So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.

How easy it would have been for him to say, “What’s the use? What has doing good gotten me so far?”

And talk about temptation! Here’s this woman throwing herself at him, but he shows honor to his master even in his speech (a proper attitude toward authority). Most importantly, he says, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (v. 9).

Joseph realized that sin is first and foremost against God. While our sins can create major problems in other relationships with people, the biggest problem they create is in our relationship with God (Gal. 6.7-8; Heb. 12.7-11). As Joseph said, how then can I do this …?

Sexual immorality, lying, stealing, drunkenness, outbursts of anger, and other sins of commission (what we do) are not the only ways we sin. We can also commit sins of omission, things we should do, but don’t—like forgiving someone who has wronged us or taking full responsibility for our own failings.

James 4.17 says, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

But, after repeated attempts to seduce Joseph, Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses him of trying to rape her. When she tells her husband, he has Joseph thrown into prison.

 

Tested & Tried

 

Why would God allow all this to happen to Joseph? Had God left him? Was He punishing him?

We know that isn’t the case, because the text repeatedly says that the Lord was with him:

The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate (Gen. 39.2-6).

20 Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. 23 The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper (Gen. 39.20-23).

All of God’s servants are tested and tried. Sometimes He uses other people, even sinful people like Joseph’s brothers and Potiphar’s wife, to do it. Abraham was tested as he waited for the promised child and then by the command to sacrifice that child. The “mama’s boy” Jacob was tested as he was forced to flee the home life he loved and as he was betrayed by his father-in-law. Later we’ll see Moses being tested and refined as he spends forty years herding sheep … and David by running from Saul for years.

The Apostle Paul said of himself:

“From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness …” (2 Cor. 11.24-27).

We, too, are tested and like the men and women in the Bible. Sometimes He uses sinful people (a difficult spouse, child or other family member). Sometimes He uses our circumstances (financial hardship, sickness, loss, mistreatment, betrayal or some other difficulty). Continue reading

“Can God redeem YOUR past?” January 19

 

Can God redeem your past? - Can God redeem your past? What things in your family or your past do you wish weren't part of your personal history? Can God really use it for good? Does it disqualify you from serving God or ever being used in a meaningful way? Check out today's reading in Genesis, especially the story of Judah and Tamar.Can God redeem your past? What things in your family or your past do you wish weren’t part of your personal history? Can God really use it for good? Does it disqualify you from serving God or ever being used in a meaningful way? Check out today’s reading in Genesis, especially the story of Judah and Tamar.

Our New Testament reading talks about the heart. What kind of heart do you have? Is it hard, stony, full of thorns, or is it good ground?

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 37 & 38
Psalm 9.11-20
Proverbs 3.31-35
Matthew 13.1-30

 

Can God redeem your past?

 

Genesis 37 & Genesis 38:

Here comes that dreamer!

 

I continue to be blessed by our time in the book of Genesis—the book of Beginnings. I pray that this journey is as fascinating and enjoyable, as well as, practical and enlightening for you as it always is for me. I never tire of these stories. There is so much new to learn every time we walk with our spiritual ancestors.

Here in chapter 37 we have another seemingly sad story with which many of us can relate. There’s Joseph, Jacob’s son by Rachel, his “first love.” His father openly shows favoritism to the boy creating a great deal of resentment with the ten older brothers.

Although Jacob’s behavior was wrong, their attitudes were clearly sinful, as well. Even when we’re sinned against, God holds each of us responsible to respond in a godly way, these boys, definitely, did not!

This story is a good reminder to us that our preferential treatment of one child often does great damage to their relationships and can actually lead to that child being estranged from his or her siblings.

Joseph adds to the problem by sharing some dreams. Remember when the brothers saw him coming they said, “Here comes that dreamer!” Though the dreams would prove to be prophetic, pointing to a time when he would be exalted over his family, it wasn’t wisdom for him to share them.

It brings to mind a verse in the New Testament about Mary and her infant Son. It says:

“And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2.18-19).

Sometimes when God shows us something, we need to ponder it in our own heart and be selective about sharing it.

Perhaps she had learned that lesson earlier. Imagine what would have happened if Mary had gone around telling people she was pregnant with the Son of God. Even Joseph found it impossible to believe, until God spoke directly to him.

 

Redeeming the Past

 

Tomorrow’s reading and the remainder of Genesis will pick up the story of Jacob’s family with Joseph as the central character, but here in chapter 38 we have the story of Judah and Tamar. This story can be hard to understand without some cultural background.

The story centers around a custom called the levirate marriage where a close family
member, especially a single brother, would marry a widow to produce an heir for a dead brother who had died childless. It had both practical and spiritual significance. Continue reading

“What is the unpardonable sin?” January 18

 

What is the unpardonable sin? - Two questions that have been asked for over 2,000 years: What is the "unpardonable sin"? and "Could I have committed it?"Two questions that have been asked for over 2,000 years: What is the “unpardonable sin”? and “Could I have committed it?”

 

Welcome to our daily “Bible in a Year” devotional. I hope you’ll join us every day. Scroll down for more commentaries or click on “Bible in a Year.” Don’t worry if you’re behind, each day’s devotion stands on it’s own. Anytime we read God’s Word, it’s profitable (2 Tim. 3.16).

 

On to our reading …

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 35 & 36
Psalm 9.6-10
Proverbs 3.27-30
Matthew 12.22-50

 

What is the unpardonable sin?

 

Matthew 12.22-50:

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

 

What is the unpardonable sin? - Two questions that have been asked for over 2,000 years: What is the "unpardonable sin"? and "Could I have committed it?"

There’s often a great deal of concern about verses 31 and 32 where Matthew talked about the unforgivable or unpardonable sin:

31 “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

Jesus described it as “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.”

Notice Jesus was talking to a group of Pharisees who knew the prophesies about the Messiah, witnessed His miracles first hand, knew the truth of His claims, and still blasphemed the Holy Spirit: They watched God work and then attributed those works to Satan for their own evil purposes. And Jesus knew their hearts.

Charles Ryrie in his book Basic Theology says, “… theirs was a sin committed to His face. To commit this particular sin required the personal and visible presence of Christ on earth; to commit it today, therefore, would be impossible.”

To blaspheme is to lie about God, something of which the Apostle Paul was certainly guilty before he was converted on the road to Damascus. But it wasn’t unforgivable. So, as far as rejecting God, making fun of believers, denying the truth, and many things that you and I may have done, none of those things are unforgivable. So what is the only sin which will keep up out of heaven today? Continue reading

“The Danger of ‘Small’ Things” January 17

 

The Danger of "Small" Things - How many, seemingly, small decisions and compromises do we all make that can have huge consequences? In our marriages? In our parenting? In our thinking?

What can we learn from the small decisions and compromises that people in the Bible made and what happened as a result?

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 33 & 34
Psalm 9.1-5
Proverbs 3.21-26
Matthew 12.1-21

 

The Danger of “Small” Things

 

Genesis 33 & Genesis 34:

Big Consequences

 

Have you ever thought about how “small things” can set the course of our lives, sometimes in ways we never intended.

James, in talking about the tongue, said, it is a small member—a little part of our body, but he went on to say that it’s like the rudder on a ship. It sets the course of our lives (Jas. 3.4-5).

What about other “small things”? What about small decisions, small compromises, small indulgences, small thoughts, “small” sins? How do they affect our lives and the lives of those we love?

In chapter 33 Jacob, now called Israel, continued on toward home after the reunion with his brother Esau after twenty plus years. But on his way, Jacob set up temporary homes first in Succoth and then in Shechem.

Genesis 34 contains a very sad story. Jacob’s daughter Dinah had decided to go into town “to see the daughters of the land.” She ended up being raped, which in turn, lead to the brutal slaughter of all the men in the city of Shechem. Even though Shechem, the young man who raped her, professed his love for and desire to marry her afterwards, it didn’t change what was done.

Dinah, possibly 15 or 16 at the time, appears to be Jacob’s only daughter. Was she the apple of everyone’s eye, especially her mother’s? While it is possible she left the camp without her father knowing, it is unlikely she did so without her mother’s knowledge.

The text says she wanted to see the daughters of the land. Maybe to see what was in fashion, how they dressed, how they wore their hair. Maybe she didn’t just go “to see,” but to be seen. How did she end up unsupervised in a pagan city? Was she spoiled?Did her parents have trouble saying “no”?

Shechem was apparently, the son of the city’s founder. Verse 19 says, “He was more honorable than all the household of his father.” The word “honorable” is translated “respected” in the NASB. It comes from a root word meaning “to be heavy, weighty or burdensome.”

It doesn’t mean he was honorable or respected in the best sense of the word, but that he was influential. Daddy’s boy carried a lot of clout! That would explain how he could talk the other young men into being circumcised (34.13-17), the condition Dinah’s brothers gave before they would allow Dinah to marry Shechem.

Was he, perhaps, an ancient version of the “affluenza” teen we read so much about a year or so ago? Look at what he said to his father after the rape, “Get me this young woman as a wife.” He sounds like a son who was accustomed to getting what he wanted. What may have seemed like “small” indulgences to his father had huge consequences.

Often, “small choices,” if not filtered through God’s principles, can lead to an attitude of entitlement. Many of our children today think they are entitled to the latest video games, the latest cell phones, etc.  Continue reading

“Biology or Sin?” January 16

 

Gentlemen, excuse me for a minute while I talk to the ladies. Ladies, have you been guilty of using biology as an excuse to disobey the second greatest commandment, to love your neighbor as you love yourself?

Rachel had stolen from her father and when he came looking for his property, she used the fact that it was “that time of the month” to cover her sin! Is it possible we do much the same thing in various ways?

Also, what was Jacob’s wrestling with God all about? Did Jacob “win” that wrestling match, why did he go away with a permanent limp, and what does it all mean? Why does God allow us to wrestle with Him in prayer sometimes?

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 31 & 32
Psalm 8.6-9
Proverbs 3.19-20
Matthew 11.1-30

 

Biology or Sin?

 

Genesis 31 & Genesis 32:

Traditions & Unburned Bridges

 

Today we’ll talk about Jacob and his divine wrestling match, but first, I want to comment on a couple of other passages.

Jacob has decided to take his two wives and his children and head home.

In 31.16-20 and 31.35 we see these two sisters, Jacob’s wives, express belief in God, “… whatever God has said to you, do it.”

The next thing we know Rachel has stolen her father’s household gods before they head off (31.19)!

It seems so ridiculous that once she knew the truth she could think there was any power in something made by man’s hands! And yet, don’t we come up with our own man made solutions instead of waiting on and trusting God?

Maybe, she “kind of believed.” How else could she explain how Jacob prospered in spite Laban’s schemes?

Maybe she found it hard to leave behind her family “traditions”? Remember many of the pagan people believed in many gods, not just one. Maybe she didn’t want to “burn any bridges” with those other “gods.”

Again, what about us? Do we say we trust God on the one hand, but “not burn our bridges” on the other? What are you hanging on to “just in case”?

 

The Manner of Women

 

And this one’s for us, ladies:

Jacob had left without telling Laban. Now Laban returns home and finds Jacob and his daughters gone, along with his household god.  Continue reading

“Marriage: Made in Heaven?” + LINKUP

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. If you’re new here, either to the LINKUP or you’ve come for the new series on marriage, I look forward to learning together and growing in the ability to be the husband or wife God has called us to be and to have the kind of marriages that bring glory to Him. And if you’re single, I pray you’ll take away truths that will help you in any future marriage or help you minister to others who are married.

 

“Marriage Made in Heaven?”

 

We’ve all heard the phrase “a marriage made in heaven,” but it may bring to mind different thoughts and images. Perhaps, in your case, it’s of your parents’ marriage and whether it was a good one or a contentious one. Perhaps, it’s your own marriage and of the thoughts, dreams, commitments, even preconceptions, you had when you married. Perhaps, it’s the thing to which you look forward or the one over which you’ve become discouraged. Wherever you are, I believe this series will have something for you. So, whether you’re single or you’ve been married 50+ years, I hope you’ll tune in each week for this study, “A Marriage Made in Heaven?”

 

Was Marriage “Made” in Heaven?

 

Where did we get the institution of marriage? Did it start in one particular civilization? Is it the creation of government or prehistoric social engineers?

We have to go back to the beginning, to the book of Genesis to find that answer.

18 And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.

21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.

23 And Adam said:

“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

God said it was not good that man should be alone and He knew that nothing else in creation could take the place of two human beings in a relationship like the one shared within the Trinity itself.

So, He created a woman that was taken out of man. Then He called them to a “one flesh” relationship. He made two from one and then called the man and the woman to have a relationship that makes them one again.

Marriage was “made in heaven” or perhaps, more accurately, in the heart of God. But many marriages, even Christian marriages, fall far short of God’s design.  Continue reading