Sunday, March 29, 2009

Easter Series 2009: A Kingdom of Children


Today we begin our celebration of the most important holiday of the year for Believers. This is the season in which we commemorate the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and King, Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man, Messiah of the Jews and Savior of the World.

This year we have put together an 8 scene dramatic portrayal covering the last two weeks of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. We will watch as He leaves the Galilee with His disciples, walks down the Jordan River valley through Jericho and on to Bethany situated on the Mount of Olives before entering into Jerusalem during the Passover week. Eventually we will see Jesus become the sacrificial Lamb Who was crucified on the cross of Calvary, buried in a garden tomb, and resurrected on the third day.

These dramatic scenes will take place over the course of the next five church services, covering three Sundays and two Wednesdays in all. During this time we will meet several important Bible characters Jesus interacts with during this last two week period of His earthly life. Approximately 40% of the Gospels focus on these few days as Jesus looks for laborers on His way to The Last Passover.

The year is about AD30 when Jesus begins the journey to the cross along with all twelve of His disciples. In fact, it was early on a Sunday morning, the first day of the week just two weeks before He would be crucified, that Jesus left the city of Capernaum which is situated on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee and makes His way to the eastern side of the Jordan River and walks toward the south, following the well known path which leads to Jericho.

This was not the first time Jesus made this trip. He and His family had gone to Jerusalem each year, as did many families, traveling together and camping out under the stars, hearing stories retold of the first Passover and catching up on the news of the day.

This year the families making the trip had but one topic on their minds as they conversed along the way. Jesus of Nazareth … was He teacher, false prophet, lunatic or Lord … could He be Messiah … how else could one account for the miracles He did?

Turn with me to the book of Luke, chapter 18 and let’s read our text for today.

Luke 18
15 ¶ Then they also brought little children to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.
16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.”
17 "Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it."

(This Brown color is for production notes to help media follow along)

Dramatic Presentation Title: “The Little Boy”
Pastor Ron comes to the stage and begins his message by telling the story of Jesus and His disciples leaving the Galilee for their last trip together. Jesus is on His journey to the cross. The year is approximately AD 30, and this story takes place during the last two weeks of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry.
Pastor Ron sets the stage by telling how Jesus and His disciples began walking south down the eastern bank of the Jordan River along with many other families who are also going to Jerusalem for the Passover.
Actors ready themselves awaiting their first cue.
Cue: Reading of Scripture Text
Scene 1
Pastor Ron begins reading text from Luke 18:15-17. (Pastor Ron continues telling the story as the scene unfolds.)
*Jesus and His disciples (stage left door near the stairwell to the Children’s Department)
*Families (hallway door, far stage left, near Green Room)
*Jesus and disciples walk slowly, talking as families draw closer
Jesus and His disciples stop at stage left steps (mid-left) and continue conversation while Jesus sits and teaches His disciples. Families come close and are talking while children attempt to get close to Jesus. The disciples turn them around, point back to their parents, encouraging them to leave Jesus alone.
*House lights fade
*Spotlight comes up on Jesus sitting on the stage
Jesus stops His disciples, points His finger at them, and rebukes them and they back away. Jesus beckons the children as the families draw closer. Children come and sit around Jesus and one boy sits in His lap.
The man enters stage right from the platform near the musician area and positions himself on the floor in front of the steps mid-stage right and readies himself for scene 2 (microphone goes hot).
Scene 1 ends with the little boy sitting on Jesus’ left knee, as Pastor Ron concludes telling the story by saying,
“Jesus is still calling children to come unto Him.”
Scene 2
Cue: When Pastor Ron says, “Jesus is still calling children to come unto Him.”
*Scene 1 characters freeze
*Spotlight on scene 1 fades
*Spotlight on scene 2 comes up to illuminate the man
*Spotlight dimly lights characters from scene 1 focused on Jesus and the little boy (some movement acceptable)
*The man turns and looks at the little boy, turns back to face the congregation and begins monologue
Man: See that little boy on His lap. That was me. We all walked together in the procession on the way to Jerusalem for Passover. Jesus talked to so many people along the way. I’ll never forget one rich man who pushed his way through the crowd to talk to Jesus. He must have had something important to say but he didn’t look too happy with the answer.
My friends and I all wanted to see Jesus too, but His disciples wouldn’t let us near Him. They said we were bothering the Master. He must have heard them because He stopped them and invited us to sit with Him and listen to His stories.
Once we all arrived in Jerusalem, we heard that He had been arrested. I remember that next day so well because something happened that day that I had never seen before nor since. Around 3:00 in the afternoon, the sky turned dark. We all ran to where the crowd was gathered and there in the darkness I saw Him. I saw Jesus. Just a few days earlier, He was holding me and laughing. Now He was hanging on a cross.
I heard what I thought was thunder and then a Roman soldier say, “Truly this was the Son of God.” Jesus was dead … (dramatic pause) but that was not the last time I saw Him. Three days later it was reported that His body went missing from the tomb. Everywhere I went I heard rumors. My parents did not know what to think until we saw Him. You see I was one of the five hundred He appeared to after His Resurrection and that’s why I’m here … to tell you … He is alive!
Scene 2 ends when the man concludes his monologue by saying the words,
“He is alive.”
*Characters freeze
*Lights fade, allowing time for the characters to exit the stage as they entered
*House lights come up

After children are dismissed to Children’s Church:

Have you considered the message Jesus was attempting to convey when He stopped and spent this precious time inviting these children to come and sit with Him?

Luke 18:17 “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

Whatever is Jesus referring to?

The heart of a child and the recognizable attributes of little children epitomize mankind as God intended us to be. God intended us to be children … His children … but children nonetheless …

What are some of the recognizable attributes of children? A list of child-like traits could go on and on, however, this morning I have narrowed them down to nine attributes children possess. Or rather should I say nine attributes which possess children?

Children are unafraid of God the Father
> A sense of security for today and the future
Children are innocent of sin
> The things they do have no malice, no hidden motives
Children love to please
> Children repeat what they are praised for doing
Children have no shame
> They will run around naked in public unashamed
> Have you seen children sing or dance in front of others
> You have to work real hard to shame a child
> What can a child be truly blamed for anyway?
> And, Children haven’t learned to blame themselves yet
> This comes from their innocent nature
> And is partly due to the fact that
Children are transparent
> You know how they feel and what they believe
Children are dependent
> And happy to be so
7. Children are without the worries of life
> They take no thought of tomorrow, what to eat …
> They are moldable and flexible and go with the flow
Children are trusting of others
> Children haven’t learned to be skeptical or cynical yet
> They can be easily fooled and easily hurt
> They need the constant attention of a caring parent
Children are loving, accepting and forgiving
> Children hold no lasting grudges
> A Child’s world is a very forgiving world

Where do you think I got this list? We first see these attributes in the first book of the Bible … the Book of Genesis …

* In the lives of God’s first children, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the picture and man became wise in his own eyes.

God created mankind to be His children and as such He gave them child like traits of such as love, trust, innocence and acceptance of others. He made them dependent on Him as a Father and gave them no reason to fear Him but rather a great desire to please Him.

Nothing else can satisfy the soul of a man or woman, boy or girl like the satisfaction which comes from knowing that you have been pleasing to your Heavenly Father. God made us this way.

How tragic it is that we often grow up and forget our simple faith in God and miracles. Grown-ups seem to take upon themselves the cares of this world as though they could actually do something greater than pray and trust God.

Adam and Eve aren’t the only examples of child-like faith in the Bible. Jesus, the only begotten Son, displayed the same attributes we witnessed in the first Adam. It is through the life of Christ that we see how we ought to behave.

We too should trust and depend on our Heavenly Father, not taking upon ourselves the worries of this world, but be loving, accepting and forgiving children of the Most High God.

Which child like traits have you abandoned? Are you what God wants you to be? Make your decision to stop following your own wisdom, stop being a cynical, skeptical, worried and independent peer. Crawl up into Daddy’s lap and foolishly worship Him without fear of what others might think. That’s what Jesus was saying when He said: “Unless you become as a little child you will in no wise enter into the Kingdom of God.”

He was talking to you!

Let’s pray.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Rock

(Production Note: Before I come to the platform, show ‘Postcards From The Bible’, Volume 2, ‘The Valley of Elah’ intro and freeze frame until I get into position and begin the message)

Perhaps you know the story of David and Goliath. It’s amazing what a rock can do against a giant enemy, even when that rock is in the hands of a young boy.

One might say, well didn’t David’s enemies have rocks too?

Deuteronomy 32:31 For their rock is not like our Rock, even our enemies recognize this.

The answer is yes! However, David’s Rock was God! And believe me, there is a difference!

Turn in your Bibles with me to the book of 1 Samuel, chapter 17.
* This story is set around 1025 years before the birth of Jesus. Israel’s first king, King Saul, and his army were camped on one side of the valley of Elah while the Philistine army set their battle camp on the other side of the valley. This particular spot in the valley of Elah, near Azekah, is only 15 miles West of the town of Bethlehem, where David lived, and only 6 or 7 miles East from Gath, the hometown of Goliath. It’s interesting to me that David and Goliath only lived about 21 or 22 miles from each other for years. You know, sometimes our enemies may be closer than we realize.

Anyway, at this point David was too young to go out with King Saul’s army for the battle but his brothers went. 1 Samuel 17 tells us that these two opposing armies been camped across from each other for at least forty days. Twice every day the Philistine’s champion warrior, a giant named Goliath who was over 9 feet tall, came down into the valley and challenge the army of Israel to send a champion out to fight with him, one on one, so the battle could be determined without both armies having to fight against each other in full array.

However, King Saul and the Israelites were terrified of this giant and no one had the courage to face him. This pride-filled giant enemy of Israel continued to taunt and humiliate the Israelite army as he arrogantly strutted in front of them each morning and each evening.

After a few weeks David’s father, Jesse, grew concerned for the welfare of his three oldest sons who were serving in Saul’s army. He sent food to them by the hand of David so that he might know how they were getting along. When David arrived at the outskirts of the camp, Israel’s army was leaving for the battlefield with shouts and battle cries. Soon the Israelite and Philistine forces stood facing each other, army against army. David ran to watch the battle.

However, when Goliath came out from the Philistine ranks shouting his challenge to the army of Israel, David saw the Israelites begin to run away in fear. You can read the story for yourself in 1 Samuel 17.

Cutting to the meat of this morning’s lesson from God, we see David enraged at the pride and arrogance of Goliath. In his passion and zeal for the Lord, David volunteered to go out and fight this giant himself. David was confident that he could defeat this pagan Philistine who had defied the armies of the living God. He said: “The Lord who saved me from the claws of the lion and the paw of the bear will save me from this Philistine.” And so King Saul consented.

David started across the valley of Elah then stopped at the stream bed where he chose 5 smooth stones and put them in his shepherd’s bag. Armed with only his shepherd’s staff, a sling and the rocks, he then continued across the valley to face his enemy. Goliath walked out of the Philistine camp toward David sneering in contempt at this young boy. “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And then he cursed David by the names of his gods.

1 Samuel 17
45 David shouted in reply, "You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD Almighty—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
46 Today the LORD will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel!
47 And everyone will know that the LORD does not need weapons to rescue his people. It is his battle, not ours. The LORD will give you to us!"

You probably know the rest of the story how that David ran toward Goliath while reaching into his shepherd’s bag. He took out a rock and when he hurled from his sling it hit Goliath in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face downward to the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine giant with only a rock and a sling. Like I said earlier:

It’s amazing what a rock can do against and enemy, even when it is in the hands of a little boy.

By the way, that’s not all that the prophet Samuel had to say about The Rock!

1 Samuel 2:2 "No one is holy like the LORD, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.

2 Samuel 22:2 ¶ And he said: "The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;

2 Samuel 22:32 "For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?

2 Samuel 22:47 "The LORD lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let God be exalted, The Rock of my salvation!

2 Samuel 23:3 The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me: ‘He who rules over men must be just, Ruling in the fear of God.

The Rock of Israel spoke … how can a rock speak? Because Jesus, the living Word of God, is a Rock. The Word is a Rock, and the Word still speaks today!

God prepared and then picked those rocks for David. While David was running across the valley no doubt God’s guiding Spirit directed David’s hand to just the right rock to bring down his enemy. God chooses rocks for each of His children who face enemies in this life.

There is a rock for every giant …

Joshua’s Rock (Scripture) – Joshua 1:8&9 This book … be strong …
Isaac’s Rock – Don’t go down to Egypt … Sow in the land of famine
Esther’s Rock – Who knows … If I perish … but I’m going to see …
Daniel’s Rock – My God has sent His angel and shut the lion’s mouth
Mary’s Rock – Be it unto me according to Thy Word
Moses’ Rock – Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord
Job’s Rock – When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold
Abraham’s Rock – I will bless thee and make thee a blessing
Samuel’s Rock – To obey is better than sacrifice
Caleb’s Rock – We are well able, let us go at once and possess …
Ruth’s Rock – Entreat me not to leave you …
Paul’s Rock – I have fought the good fight, finished … kept the faith
Jesus’ Rock – Not My will but Thine be done

What was God’s Word to Peter … Upon this Rock I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against My Church.

* What is the rock for the giant you are facing?
* God knows just what word will work against that giant.
* All you need is one Word, one Rock from God
* One word from God can change everything.
* Ask God for the Rock, the Word, you need today
* Use that Word God gives you on the enemies you are facing
* And remember, there won’t just be one giant in life, perhaps that’s why God gave David extra rocks. Keep some rocks on hand …

TAKE OUT and show THE ROCK from the stream bed of Elah.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spiritual Fitness Ten Weeks To A New You Week 10


God has an image in His mind of what your life should look like and He has a fitness plan specifically designed for each of you to get you there. You have a destiny and God has a plan to make you fit for that destiny.

The Bible says that many are called but few are chosen. Why? Spiritual fitness … or lack thereof … (Matthew 22:14)

During the past nine weeks we have studied the life of Joseph and watched God bring him through several spiritual stretching and strengthening exercises. Each time Joseph’s life challenged him to lift more weight, run farther or endure longer, he pressed himself, encouraged himself and did things God’s way.

Let me recap the spiritual exercises we have added to our fitness program thus far:

Dream Meditate Declare Relationship Presentation Participation Character Humility Endurance Kindness Candidness Influence
Faithfulness Flexibility Perspective Confidence
Normal Articulate Plan Work
Attentive Restrained Struggle Fear
Strategic Patient

Tonight we continue surveying the life of Joseph by turning to Genesis 44 where we will find our first exercise for week ten and learn the value of:

1. Persistence

Remember in week nine, Joseph first saw his brothers bow before him 25 years after they sold him into slavery, when they came to Egypt to buy grain as recorded in Genesis 42. He hid his true identity and gave them a very hard time by accusing them of being spies and putting them in prison.

At that point Joseph was unsure what to do and how to proceed but he soon realized that he did not want to forfeit his own destiny or jeopardize God’s plan by reacting out of anger, hurt or revenge. So, Joseph began to work God’s strategic plan that would demand much patience on his behalf.

Now, perhaps a year later, Joseph is still hiding his true identity from his brothers and still working his strategy with continued patience. This gives God the time and space He needs to fulfill the dream.

If we learn anything from this, we learn that Joseph is persistent. Make sure you read the story to get its full effect, however, suffice it to say that Joseph has been very persistent when dealing with his brothers, all the while carrying on other duties and demands of life.

The brothers have now returned to Egypt with their youngest brother Benjamin and proved that they were telling the truth. Simeon was released and the brothers brought into Joseph’s house. At lunch Joseph asked about their father, if he was still alive and well, and then he saw Benjamin, his mother’s son, and hid himself to weep.

Genesis 43: 31 Then he washed his face and came out; and he restrained himself, and said, "Serve the bread."

Joseph persisted with God’s plan to bring his brothers to a true heart of repentance. He commanded his stewards to fill each man’s sack with food and money and to hide his own personal silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. This Joseph did so that he might trap the brothers, accuse Benjamin of thievery and make them face their greatest fear.

Genesis 44
14 So Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, and he was still there; and they fell before him on the ground.
15 And Joseph said to them, "What deed is this you have done? Did you not know that such a man as I can certainly practice divination?"
16 Then Judah said, "What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves? God has found out the iniquity of your servants; here we are, my lord’s slaves, both we and he also with whom the cup was found."
17 But he said, "Far be it from me that I should do so; the man in whose hand the cup was found, he shall be my slave. And as for you, go up in peace to your father."

* Joseph continues to play the game right to the very end.
* A little rudder can change the course of a mighty ship, if it is held steady, even against contrary winds and driving waves
* We shall reap in due season if we faint not (Galatians 6:9)
* Luke 18:5 The importunity of the widow worked
* Be persistent, don’t abandon the dream or God’s plan

Proverbs 24:10 ¶ If you fall to pieces in a crisis, there wasn’t much to you in the first place. (The Message)

Persistence is the ability to remain constant under pressure.

The story continues as Judah intercedes with Joseph on behalf of his father Jacob. In Genesis 44:33 Judah offers himself as a sacrificial substitute for Benjamin. With this unselfish request from his brother, Joseph could no longer hide his true feelings. These were the men, his family, his brothers who had sold him into slavery and caused him more than two decades of hardship and separation from family. Now, the true test of Joseph’s character … would he, could he be:

2. Forgiving

Genesis 45
4 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.
5 "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.

* Joseph let go his resentment and claim for revenge
* Forgiveness is a grace which comes from God to a willing heart … When we see it like God sees it, we can forgive
* We should view bad decisions, wrong decisions and even the costly mistakes of others as a part of the process and not the problem
* Forgiveness may be immediate, however, restoration often takes time
* Perhaps time was what Joseph needed to be truly restored and realize that it wasn’t all about him
* Forgiveness is for the one who forgives, not for the one who needs forgiving … forgiveness makes a person stronger & more fit

Exercise number three for week ten comes to us from the last pages of Joseph’s earthly life. Ninety-three years after Joseph dreamed that first dream when he was the 17 year old favored son of his father … long after Joseph had been sold into slavery, carried to Egypt and wrongfully imprisoned … decades after Joseph witnessed his brothers bowing before him and the ultimate fulfillment of his first and second dreams … Joseph still thinks in futuristic terms.

Joseph was now 110 years old, his father is long dead and buried, the children of Israel are living and multiplying in the land of Egypt and it is time for Joseph to be gathered to God. Even though Joseph is old and about to die, he is not too old or too spent to dream …

Genesis 50
24 And Joseph said to his brethren, "I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob."
25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, "God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here."
26 So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

Thus ends the book of Genesis but not the story of Joseph!
* 4 centuries later God sent Moses to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt and take them to the land He promised …
* Joseph’s dream was remembered and his bones were carried by the Children of Israel in the Exodus from Egypt.
* When Joseph was about to die, he had his greatest dream and since he was spiritually fit, he was ready to handle anything … even life beyond the grave …
* Joseph saw a future beyond his death … Joseph was:

3. Futuristic

Joseph made every step with the Children of Israel: across the Red Sea on dry ground; through the wilderness to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments; making every step during the forty years of wandering before crossing the Jordan under Joshua’s leadership and marching around the city walls of Jericho. Joseph’s bones went with the children of Israel to every battle they fought in the land of Canaan and won each victory along with those who fought on the front lines.

In fact, it is not until all of the battles had been fought and Joshua is making his final farewell speech to the children of Israel that Joseph’s bones are finally laid to rest. Actually it is believed that it was at Joseph’s funeral service that Joshua made his farewell speech as recorded in the last chapter of Joshua.

Joshua 24
31 And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that out lived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.
32 And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.

Lest you think that this was the end of Joseph, that 98 pound weakling that exercised himself to become the heavy weight champion of the world, let me tell you why I believe Joseph wanted his bones to be carried to the promise land.

I believe that Joseph foresaw the coming Messiah, His death burial and resurrection, and wanted to participate in another great adventure. You see, when Jesus cried with a loud voice and died …

Matthew 27
52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

Oh, hold on … I bet that is not the last we will see of Joseph … Why did he want to be a part of that resurrection and witnessing crowd?

Because it puts him in heaven in time to ride with Jesus on His return to the earth for the great battle of Armageddon to set up His thousand year reign. Joseph was old, but in shape. He was such a dreamer and very futuristic … however, he could never have done it if he had not been spiritually fit!!! And that comes with a whole lot of exercise.

* Never underestimate the power of a dream or a dreamer …

So what can we do with our week … or with our life?

1. Don’t abandon your dream and don’t quit your exercise program.
2. Give your hurts, pains, and disappointments of life over into the hands of God. He will visit your willing heart with the forgiveness you need to make you strong.
3. Never forget … Your greatest day is yet ahead. Dream Again!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Spiritual Fitness Ten Weeks to a New You Week 9


So far this spiritual fitness class has offered us opportunity to stretch ourselves and add elements of spiritual fitness to our lives. Week by week we have seen how God guided Joseph through each exercise, strengthening him and making him spiritually fit to handle anything that comes his way.

It is God’s desire that we become strong believers, mature Christians, fully developed followers of Christ, strong enough in character to endure the hardships of life and ready for anything. Spiritual strength requires spiritual exercise.

Look at God’s admonition through the Apostle Paul to the church members in Corinth.

1 Corinthians 3
1 ¶ Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to mature Christians. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life.
2 I had to feed you with milk and not with solid food, because you couldn’t handle anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready,
3 for you are still controlled by your own sinful desires. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your own desires? You are acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord.

How does an immature Christian change the way they are? How does a person mature and become able to handle more difficult situations? How do we become more spiritually fit? Exercise!

James 1
3 For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.
4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.

So, without further ado, whatever ado is, let’s get back on the fitness track and learn some new exercises for this week. Again, we are using the life of Joseph from the pages of Genesis to see how we too can stretch and strengthen ourselves and be transformed into that mature, spiritually fit follower of Christ ready for anything.

Genesis 42

When we left off with the story in week eight the ten older brothers of Joseph had come to Egypt to buy grain and unknowingly found themselves bowing before their younger brother in accordance with the dream Joseph had told them some 25 years earlier. Remember, this was the dream recorded in Genesis 37 that got all of this started. Ultimately these ten brothers conspired together and ended up selling Joseph into slavery and he was carried to Egypt.

Many years had passed since then and Joseph had changed. Life offered Joseph chances to exercise himself and prove his character as one who trusted God in every situation. Joseph learned the keys to being successful and blossomed wherever he was planted. Now Joseph was the second ruler in Egypt. He recognized his brothers bowing before him but they did not recognize him.

Last week we discussed the struggle which was going on in Joseph’s mind and heart. His once hidden feelings resurfaced and now God was making Joseph stand face to face with the greatest test of his life. What would Joseph do? Even he didn’t know … however, he had a pretty well established habit of obeying God. Let’s begin with:

Genesis 42
14 But Joseph said to them, "It is as I spoke to you, saying, ‘You are spies!’
15 "In this manner you shall be tested: By the life of Pharaoh, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here.
16 "Send one of you, and let him bring your brother; and you shall be kept in prison, that your words may be tested to see whether there is any truth in you; or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies!"
17 So he put them all together in prison three days.
18 Then Joseph said to them the third day, "Do this and live, for I fear God:

The first exercise for week nine is:

1. Fear --- Fear of God.

* Not afraid that God is going to break your leg or give you cancer --- a greater fear than this …
* Fear of displeasing God
* Fear of delaying God’s blessings
* Fear of altering destiny’s crown

Nothing speaks better and more direct than God’s Word. Listen to these scriptures:

Proverbs 19:23 ¶ The fear of the LORD leads to life, And he who has it will abide in satisfaction; He will not be visited with evil.

Psalms 25:14 The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, And He will show them His covenant.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 ¶ Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.

Deuteronomy 5:29 ‘Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!

Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, To turn one away from the snares of death.

Psalms 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

If we do not have a healthy fear of God we will do stupid things and even plan to do them again and again. That’s really stupid! Joseph had no desire to run this far and lose the race here … He rightly feared God and decided to let God direct his decisions.

Exercise number two – God wanted Joseph to be:

2. Strategic

* The art of thinking ahead to maintain advantage
* To predict the future moves of others
* When I do this, they will do that, then I will do this and so on
* You can learn to forecast success by evaluating the predictable outcome of your actions before you act
* Or the predictable impact of your words before you speak

We really should learn to engage our brain before we open our mouth.

* To calculate the outcome before we engage in the affair
* To look down the road and see the pitfalls and plan to avoid them (Proverbs 12:16;23; 22:3)

Joseph had to learn and follow God’s strategy if he was going to be successful. Joseph could ill afford to just run off half cocked or make hot headed decisions and risk preempting the plan of God.

* You don’t tell the punch line before the joke. I know it’s the funniest part, but only if it is done right and at the right time … otherwise it is dull and confusing …
* Don’t get nervous and lose the winning strategy God will give you … the critical thing about knowledge is timing
* Be strategic and give a plan time to fully develop
* We cannot afford to use man’s wisdom or our own strategy, thinking we are doing God a favor or that we can win in our own strength or wisdom … you will know whose strategy it is when you win or lose. It really is all about how you play the game.

Genesis 42:19 "If you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined to your prison house; but you, go and carry grain for the famine of your houses.

Joseph knew God had a plan. He had already seen the fulfillment of the first dream God gave him … now God was marching toward the fulfillment of the second. Somehow God was going to bring Joseph’s whole family to bow before him. Joseph had to play this game out to the end and play strategically …

But also, Joseph was going to have to be:

3. Patient

Sometimes things take a long time. Almost always things take longer than right now! And for this we need patience.

Joseph had waited 25 years for this moment, surely he could wait a little longer.

Genesis 42:20 "And bring your youngest brother to me; so your words will be verified, and you shall not die."

We cannot know for sure since scripture does not tell us but it is reasonable to imagine that these ten sons were sent to purchase at least enough grain to last until the next harvest season. So presumably Joseph is putting himself in a position to wait one full year for the brothers to return. Simeon will also be forced to wait.

* We need patience to work the steps of God
* Sometimes the most Godly thing we can do is to wait on God or wait on the next step
* What we do while we are waiting on God can determine just how long we have to wait
* If you think it’s bad now, believe me, you can make it worse … be patient!

While you are being patient, you are giving God time to work on others in the equation.

I heard a pastor named Moses Vegh say: “God is getting you ready for those things He already has ready for you.” While this is most often true, sometimes we may be ready before God gets other things ready and we wonder why we are still waiting. Give God time to work all things together for good … be patient!

Luke 21:19 In your patience possess ye your souls.

So, what can we do with our week to exercise ourselves, stretch our vision and strengthen our character? How can we use these exercises this week to make ourselves more spiritually fit?

1. Find time this week to sit and meditate. Put it on your calendar. What is the subject of your meditation? “Am I afraid of God?” “Do I have a healthy fear of the Lord?” See what your answer is ... if you aren’t afraid of God ask the question: “How did I get so stupid?” Think on that one for a while.

2. Practice thinking before you speak and planning before you act. Consider at least three ways to say or do something you want to say or do, and think about the potential outcome of each one. See if you can predict accurately the response of other people based upon what you say and do. Then, ask God to give you His strategy for life … it will require some thought and some planning on your part.

3. Patience is like a balloon, the more you stretch it the greater its capacity. Practice patience by telling yourself that while you are waiting God is working. After all, patience is only trusting God.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Family Sunday


1 Corinthians 13 NKJV
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

The Apostle Paul is writing this letter to the families which attend the church in Corinth. This particular church is historically known to be an emotionally charged and event driven church. I guess one could argue that the Believers in the church at Corinth during the latter half of the first century were a bit dramatic.

Not to say that there is no place for passion in our relationship with Jesus, but we all know there is a difference between expressions of passion from a heart of true holiness and the outpouring of emotion which may get attention but does not make us more like God.

The church at Corinth was an emotional church, a sensational church, a church driven by what amounted to spiritual drama. The Apostle Paul was greatly concerned that the church was missing the big picture. It was not about individual experience but rather about the collective strength and ministry of Believers joined together by the Spirit, in one accord, unified for the purpose of community and world evangelism.

He argued that the church could not allow emotionally charged doctrines or practices of faith to divide the Believers. One minister may be gifted in some way different than another and at times one person may appear to be more spiritual than others but, we cannot afford for these things to separate us or cause us to think that one is somehow better than the other … God forbid!

Paul went on to say that he had determined not to know anything more than Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He further told the Believers to not judge anything before the time and to remember than no eternal truth can be judged by a human court. So, don’t get puffed up by what you or your favorite teachers know, each man’s praise must come from God.

The book of 1 Corinthians continues to speak directly and unapologetically to the issues of Paul’s day and to the issues of our day as well. Life unfolds in very predictable patterns and the Word of God is a guide for every one of us. Without regard as to where you are on your spiritual journey allow me to encourage you that you will never get where you want to be by allowing emotions to control your life … spiritually or naturally.

This is what the scriptures are telling us in 1 Corinthians 13:11 … grow up and stop acting like a child. One of the most recognizable traits of a person who is acting childish is their unbridled emotions. From their delusional dreams to their devastating disappointments, children ride the false highs and false lows of their small world.

We are admonished to not be overcome with the emotional ups and downs of life or to create unreasonable expectations for ourselves or others. And just realize that:

12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

We just don’t know everything and to champion emotionally driven debates or to allow emotionally charged arguments to separate us is to sin and fall short of the glory of God. This is not the first time scriptures speak to these issues. Romans 14 is dedicated to encouraging the Believer not to divide over matters of opinion.

Seeing we are still human how can we please God in this area of life? By use of the tools God has given us to work with.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.


Faith is our trust in God. When we trust God and turn life over to Him, we begin to have fewer emotional problems.

Many times depression stems from a person feeling like there is nothing they can do about their situation. In the real sense they are most likely correct. However, there really was nothing they could ever do about life but to trust in the goodness and mercy of God.

Have faith in God and turn your life, your family, friends and even enemies completely over to Him.

This is not just a ‘turn them over to God and watch them burn’ mentality. Oh no! We should turn people and circumstances over to God with a true:


The book of Hebrews says that hope is the anchor of our soul. Hope keeps us from drifting off into the seas of uncertainty and drowning in the spirals of despair.

Hebrews 6:19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil,

We may know what we want but just can’t see ourselves ever able to get it. But, can’t you imagine a loving God big enough to help you? This kind of hope anchors you in the mysterious presence of God.

Hope is what you do when you realize that God is able to do the impossible … Hope keeps you believing in the possibility.

Romans 8:24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?

The third continuing tool God gave us is actually the first …


Love is the foundation of all life, the beginning of every miracle and the end of every argument.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

God so loved He gave … this love is a love which:
* Gives
* Forgives
* Keeps on Giving (Gives Again)

When we see how God loves us it gives us hope.

Faith is the evidence of things hoped for …
Without hope it is impossible to have faith …
Without love, we have no hope.

Love gives hope
Hope makes way for faith
Faith moves mountains

Work on your love factor and it will give you hope and hope will bring faith to trust God for a better day.

Love is nothing less than a command … if you do not love, the bible says, you do not know God. Would you like to meet Him today?

Throw away your emotional arguments and invite Jesus the Messiah into your life … begin an eternal relationship today. Hope for a better day and faith to move mountains will follow!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Spiritual Fitness Ten Weeks To A New You Week 8


Catching up on the story of Joseph we understand that Joseph was 30 years old when he was brought to Pharaoh and set over the land of Egypt. By the time the story gets to Genesis 42, the first part of Pharaoh’s dream had been fulfilled. The seven years of plenty have come and gone and now the whole Middle East was in its second year of severe famine.

Joseph is 38 years old with a wife and two children. He has not seen his father or heard from his brothers for the last 25 years. His plan is working and he is in complete control of all the food supplies in the known world. God spent years preparing Joseph and positioning him for his greatest day. However, Joseph’s greatest day would not come before Joseph faced and passed his greatest tests.

God may prepare you, position you and give you great potential. However like Joseph, Your greatest day will not come before you face and pass your greatest tests!

Let’s learn some new spiritual exercises as we pick up on our story in

Genesis 41
53 Then the seven years of plenty which were in the land of Egypt ended,
54 and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. The famine was in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.
55 So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Then Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, do."
56 The famine was over all the face of the earth, and Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians. And the famine became severe in the land of Egypt.
57 So all countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all lands.

Meanwhile, back in the land of Canaan, in the town of Beersheba , which is only 25 miles east of what is now the Gaza strip in Southern Israel and only 30 miles northeast of the Egyptian border, Joseph’s family was also affected by the famine. Jacob, now 130 years old with seventy mouths to feed, heard that there was grain in Egypt. Jacob was a wealthy man and he decided to send his ten oldest sons to Pharaoh’s court to buy grain. The story continues in:

Genesis 42
1 ¶ When Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, Jacob said to his sons, "Why do you look at one another?"
2 And he said, "Indeed I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down to that place and buy for us there, that we may live and not die."
3 So Joseph’s ten brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt.

5 And the sons of Israel went to buy grain among those who journeyed, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.
6 Now Joseph was governor over the land; and it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the earth.

Our first spiritual exercise for week eight is demonstrated through the life of Joseph who, although he was a great ruler and had many servants and assistants, nonetheless he remained:

1. Attentive

Attentive is simply described as the art of paying attention.

* Joseph was involved and up to date with what was going on under his command.
* Joseph was on the job, managing the most important affairs himself.
* There are some things which will only work for you.
* God demands that we participate in our miracles
* Your greatest day will demand your attentive involvement

If Joseph had been accustomed to sleeping late, playing games or shopping during his work days, looking for a new chariot or bigger palace when he should have been on the job, chances are he would have missed his brothers coming to buy grain in the crowd that day.

Chances are that Joseph could have missed the fulfillment of the first dream God gave him … his brothers bowing down to him.

However, Joseph was a man who exercised himself in diligent pursuit of earnest and honest labor. He gave an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Joseph remained attentive to those things he was responsible for. Joseph never got too rich to pay attention.

Exercise number two for week eight:

2. Restraint

Genesis 42: 8 So Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him.

* Joseph had changed, his brothers evidently had not
* A life in God’s hands is a changing life --- you may not realize it day by day but wait 20 years and see what a difference He makes.
* Joseph knew their language and culture; they did not know his … Joseph’s life had moved on while their lives had not
* Joseph wanted to find out information, gain wisdom and insight for himself and he chose to not reveal information about himself at this point
* To keep the truth to one’s self is not a lie

We need to train ourselves to listen and learn instead of telling everything we know at the first opportunity we are given. There is an art and wisdom in holding your tongue and in being swift to hear and slow to speak.

Joseph did not have the habit of telling everything he knew. He restrained himself even in emotionally stressful moments.

Proverbs 25:28 Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.

Both God’s Word and our own common sense demand that we exercise self control and learn some self restraint so that we can act and not react to the pressures and surprises of life. Don’t show your hand before your opponent places his bet, especially if you have a winning hand … RESTRAIN YOURSELF!

Exercise number three deals with the:

3. Struggle

Genesis 42:7 ¶ Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he acted as a stranger to them and spoke roughly to them. Then he said to them, "Where do you come from?" And they said, "From the land of Canaan to buy food."

With the re-introduction of Joseph’s brothers into his life, Joseph enters into an evident season of inner turmoil and conflict of the soul. Over the next few encounters with his brothers Joseph seems to be wrestling with what he will do.

It is not immediately clear what the end will be. I believe that Joseph was struggling with feelings of betrayal and temptations to get revenge. Perhaps these were feelings which had been hidden for some years, almost forgotten, buried with the pain of the past and now, facing his brothers, the hurt of those lost years is brought to the surface in Joseph’s life. He can’t hide any longer … he will have to face the feelings and decide what to do.

* Struggle is often a necessary part of the process of life.
* Jacob his father had struggled with the angel to have his name and nature changed from someone who follows on another’s heels to a prince with God.
* Jacob’s struggle left him with an evident limp due to the angel disjointing Jacob’s hip. (Genesis 32)

That’s what happens when we wrestle with God, struggle with our greatest tests ... the tests which have potential to change our name, change our nature and prove us before God. We too are often left walking with a limp. Once we see our humanity in light of God’s greater plan we can finally deal a death blow to our own pride and ambition and give our life over to the will of God … it’s surrender.

* Peter did it with denying Christ and then his subsequent struggle and repentance;
* David did it with his greatest test after he had taken Bathsheba and murdered Uriah … he surrendered to God
* Moses did it after killing Pharaoh’s servant and hiding in the desert for 40 years … he struggled and he surrendered
* Jesus did it in the Garden of Gethsemane;
* And Joseph did it when he saw his brothers bowing before him …

What did they do? They struggled and wrestled with their hurts, fears and desires and finally came to the conclusion that God’s way was the only way for them. Each one walked a little differently afterwards … not only in their own strength, but dependent on God.

I have heard it said:

Never trust a person who does not walk with a limp.

Someone who still trusts in their own devices, their own abilities, their own wisdom, is someone who has not yet met God in His greatness and not yet ready for their greatest day.

Have you met your match in God? Have you gotten down into the struggle of who you are and who you could be? Have you surrendered to God?

No one can be fully given until they are truly broken.

Here are our goals for this week?

1. Pray you never get too rich or too important to pay attention. Or, you might just miss a key element which would have led you to your greatest day.
2. Don’t tell everything you know to everyone you meet every time you get the chance … restrain yourself … God might have a better way.
3. Embrace God’s way as your only way … surrender.

Do not discount those things which push you farther into God. Do not despise the breaking of the Lord. Ask yourself:
* What inner conflicts am I avoiding?
* Struggle with yourself; wrestle with your soul and find the pathway to God and true inner peace … you’ll find it when you surrender to Jesus!
* Herein will be realized your greatest potential.