Monday, January 30, 2012

Joseph's Trust in God

I am sitting here recapping some small group notes from last night’s meeting and I am afforded the opportunity to reflect on Acts 13:52,
And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.  (Acts 13:52 ESV)

"We must have a correct understanding of God in order to have Joy in the face of both acceptance &
rejection. God is at work in all things and He is ultimately in control of whatever situation we find ourselves."  Matt Brewer

I wonder what this must look like in a believer’s life today?  I join this thought with my daily reading from this morning in Genesis 45.  I am so amazed at the way God orchestrates the life of his servant Joseph.  In the text we see, and are reminded that God is Sovereign over all.

[4] So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. [5] And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. [6] For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. [7] And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.  (Genesis 45:4-7 ESV)

Often times in the midst of extreme loss and heartache we question God about why He would allow such things to happen.  I am reminded that when we have doubts in life, we must battle those doubts with the core truths of the Bible.  The core truth of the sovereignty of God is echoed through this text.  The reality is, Joseph had been hated by his brothers and so as an effort on their part to rid their lives of Joseph, they sold him to a traveling group of Ishmaelites.  Joseph is then thrust into a situation in Potiphar’s house where he is head over all of Potiphar’s affairs.  Then Potiphar’s wife accuses Joseph of a sexual advance, that did not occur, and Joseph finds himself in prison.  He makes his way through the ranks, while in prison, and the next thing we find is an encounter with two men that needed dreams interpreted.  As the one man, the cupbearer is returned to his position in the house of Pharaoh, some two years later Joseph is called upon to interpret one of Pharoah’s dream’s.  In this instance, as Joseph stands before Pharaoh, Joseph could have credited his own power for interpretation of the dream, but Joseph declares that only the God of the Hebrew’s can interpret dreams and this HE does through Joseph.  What a story, but the story doesn’t end there.  Pharaoh makes Joseph second in command to only him and because of God’s wisdom and providence, Joseph is used by God to spare Joseph’s entire family.  In Genesis 45, (above) we see Joseph reveal himself to his brothers and more important than that, we hear Joseph’s view of God through his circumstance.

Joseph declares that his brother’s should not be mad.  That would be because Joseph is not mad and he has forgiven them all for their action of trading him as a slave some 13+ years before.  Joseph recognizes that through his journey, God has sent him ahead to preserve life!  Wow, what a view of God and what God’s purpose is for Joseph’s life.  If you are like me, my inclination is to think, “Well that is good for Joseph.”  The core biblical truth is that just as God used Joseph to spare Jacob and his brother’s, God desires to use us to preserve his remnant.  God desires to do this in the lives of our families and in the lives of those that we call friends and quite frankly, in the lives of those we may not view as friends.  The real question is; do we know HIM, do we recognize His plan and are we obedient to HIS plan for our lives?  I am certain of this, God gets glory through those that seek no self glory and His plan is to save people and to draw people to Himself.

[9] The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9 ESV)

The question that I must ask myself is; do I trust HIM to get me through the tough times in life and do I believe HIS WORD.
[8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:8 ESV)
[6] And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  (Philippians 1:6 ESV)

[28] And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  (Romans 8:28 ESV)

God did not do a wondrous work of salvation in our lives for us to remain full of ourselves, selfish and left in immorality.  May we join the battle and may we crucify our fleshly desires in order that we make much of GOD so that others see the love of Christ spilling over and out of our hearts.  God break our hearts for people and allow us to see beyond our circumstance for the advancement of YOUR KINGDOM.  GOD YOU ARE SOVEREIGN!

[18] And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Can I look but not touch?

Job’s fight for purity is something that is almost extinct in our culture today.  Immorality runs rampant around us and for many of us, myself included, we turn a blind eye.  Let me be the first to say that this topic is not written from the perspective that “I have it figured out” or that “I have it all together,” because I do not.  I am a sinner but not an excuse maker.  This  is not written from the perspective of “I am the judge and the jury.”  This is written for us to think about what God has to say about living a life of purity.

As I think about purity, I must search the scriptures to detail what God thinks about purity.  The thoughts of God recorded thousands of years ago apply to this day in 2012.  Immorality, what is immorality?  What better place to go than to an area that was jacked up with immoral sin.  Let’s look at what God says through his servant Paul to the church at Corinth.  “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans,”
According to 1 Corinthians 5:1 immorality is defined: 88.271 πορνεύω; ἐκπορνεύω; πορνεία, ας f: to engage in sexual immorality of any kind, often with the implication of prostitution—‘to engage in illicit sex, to commit fornication, sexual immorality, fornication, prostitution.’
Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996).

And lets take a “fresh” approach on immorality as defined by Merriam-Webster; immorality is defined as  the quality or state of being immoral; especially : unchastity.  

Now as I read these examples, my flesh and my mind think, “That is extreme.”  No one would really behave in such manner (prostitution?  really???).  I am then reminded of the culture we live in, what was  happening in Corinth is exactly what happens today.  Are we desensitized to sexual sin in our culture and in our churches?  The reality is that most do not wake up and think suddenly, “I believe I am going to have sex with a prostitute today.”  That being said, sexual immorality and sexual sin obviously is a process.  So what does God’s Word say in the book of Job about Job’s dealings with sexual immorality?  I am so glad you asked. 

First, Job addresses sexual immortality in chapter 31 of his book.  
[31:1] “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?
(Job 31:1 ESV)

Job recognizes that HE is the Lord’s and that by being fully surrendered to the Lord, Job is in a covenant relationship with the FATHER.  That being the case, Job is committing himself to purity of the eyes.  Job is stating I will not look at a woman lustfully.  In our culture, we have adopted two vantage points with our eyes as men.  First, for young men that are unmarried, the culture’s view is looking hurts nothing.  Second, for those that are married, our culture declares you can look, but do not touch.  I would have to say that with Job’s wording in this verse, biblical men must not even look!    Let’s view Jesus’ teaching in the beatitudes.  
[27] “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ [28] But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
(Matthew 5:27-28 ESV)

According to this passage, to look with lustful intent is to commit adultery.  So the real question is how do you feel about adultery and about the commandments.  I have heard on dozens of occasions that the commands are old and irrelevant in our culture today.  With this thought, I am again reminded of the words of Christ.  
[17] “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. [18] For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. [19] Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. [20] For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:17-20 ESV)

First the law is fulfilled in Christ, not abolished.  Second the law and God’s Word will NEVER pass away.  Third, we would do well to teach these to all that we know especially our children.  “You shall not commit adultery.
(Exodus 20:14 ESV) is so important for genuine believers.  To live a life of sexual immorality mentally and or physically is not the will of the Father for HIS children.  Our response is to identify immorality in our lives and confess it as sin.  Repent of this sin and to find someone to hold us accountable.  Sexual immorality in the form of internet pornography is a struggle that few men can overcome on their own.  Men, we have to recognize that viewing immorality in any fashion (sneaking a peek on the internet or when we think no one is watching) is detrimental to who God is calling us to be in HIS word.  

Lastly, in Job 31 we see a consequence for an immoral man.  
[9] “If my heart has been enticed toward a woman,
and I have lain in wait at my neighbor's door,
[10] then let my wife grind for another,
and let others bow down on her.
(Job 31:9-10 ESV)  
Our approach must be taking every thought captive and filtering our thoughts through the word of God!  May we guard our eyes men!  The text means exactly what it says.  If a man’s heart is enticed toward a women then his wife will be involved in sexual immorality.  We don’t know what all that means but may we be warned that there are dire consequences for each person’s immorality and that is why we must wage war for purity to be at the foundation of who we are as a biblical man.  Men, join me in praying that there would be a massive movement and a heart cry for purity in the lives of all that profess to be Christians.  The sad reality is that many proclaim, but few are genuine converts, which is a different topic for a later post.  I will close with this passage as an instruction from the apostle Paul; 
[18] Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. [19] Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, [20] for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
(1 Corinthians 6:18-20 ESV)  
Stay tuned for a follow up post, Romans 6; slavery and the sinner. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Daddy, Daddy, DADDY!

Two things have happened to me this week that I will not soon forget.  

First, I was reminded that Ana is ACTUALLY my daughter.  The situation occurred around 11pm Tuesday night.  Everyone in the house was asleep and I was doing some light reading when I heard what I thought was one of the children calling for me.  I wasn’t sure if one was having a bad dream or what was going on so I sat and listened for a moment.  Turns out, Ana was calling me and with each time she called my name, she called louder and louder.  Obviously she was not asleep, so I went to check on her.  As I entered her room she was saying there was a bug on her, however, after careful inspection no bug was located.  In those few moments I recognized a few simple things about adoption.  These are not earth shattering, but I am always amazed at the small things that God allows us to see about our lives when we slow down long enough to pay attention.  

I am Ana’s physical representation of Jesus Christ.  Now that is not a new concept.  Since the first Adam, (in the garden of Eden) earthly fathers have been their children’s view of their heavenly Father.  Wow, how convicting that is for me.  For me, the reality is that little Ana was scared of a bug that may or may not have been in her bed.  For whatever reason she was screaming out for me.  Wow what an honor to be her earthly father.  As I chew through the eternal aspects of the fact that I am her physical representation of her heavenly father, I am reminded of several key passages that encourage fathers on this very fact. 

[4] “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [5] You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [6] And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. [7] You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. [8] You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. [9] You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV)

[6] Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.  (Proverbs 22:6 ESV)

These two passages are motivation enough that I know I want to be found faithfully training my children up in this fashion.  I also want to encourage/equip other fathers to do so like wise.  This desire to train up children and equip parents happens to also be the foundation of student ministries at Lifepoint Church.  In God’s sovereignty, he found it fitting for me to be Ana’s father and in this, I want to protect her from bad dreams, imaginary bugs, and anything else I can.  Most importantly, I want to teach her the Word and instruct her in wisdom and discipleship.  May we as parents, covenant with our children and the Lord to ensure this happens in our children's lives.

[15] For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
(Romans 8:15 ESV)

The second truth I realized this week; many in this world will fail to recognize the fact that Ana is my daughter.  Today, I was purchasing Jennifer’s tag for her car.  (This was my third attempt, literally)  So while I am waiting in line and waiting for the process to be complete, my children are absolutely going crazy.  That serves me right for trying to accomplish too many tasks that took us deep into nap time.  As I turn to gather my children, I here a man shout, “A child just ran out the door!”  Yep, you guessed it, I am so proud!  That is MY ANA!  What happened next was epic.  I replied to the man’s outburst, “That is my child!” then a lady said, “No, that wasn’t your child…” when the reality was that YES IT WAS MY ANA and just because we look different, no one even thought it possible she would be my daughter.  Now I know what you are thinking, and no, I am not that guy that is easily offended.  The reality is that we live in a world that still see’s color and because I have a chocolate daughter people for the most part think I am babysitting Ana when she is with me or maybe, people think my wife is African American.  All this being said, I was not upset or even put out with the situation.  It was just hilarious and I am so thankful; thankful that Ana was standing right at the door for her Daddy to come and get her.  Another great day in the books. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Integrity and Rigteousness, the heart of EVERY believer...

As I contemplate integrity I am drawn to the spiritual aspect of integrity as defined in Job 27.  
[Job Continues: I Will Maintain My Integrity]
[27:1] And Job again took up his discourse, and said:
[2] “As God lives, who has taken away my right,
and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter,
[3] as long as my breath is in me,
and the spirit of God is in my nostrils,
[4] my lips will not speak falsehood,
and my tongue will not utter deceit.
[5] Far be it from me to say that you are right;
till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.
[6] I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go;
my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.
(Job 27:1-6 ESV)

Integrity: integrity, innocence, i.e., a state or condition of moral goodness in a life, with a focus of not having guilt or sin
James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

In this passage, we see Job and we have read how his life has succumbed to complete loss.  This loss does not include his wife, these alleged friends and his life.  However, the rest of whom Job was has been removed, i.e. possessions, health and wealth.  Yet we see Job clinging to two things that I believe from a spiritual aspect are closely related and are of equal importance, righteousness and integrity.  

Righteousness is defined;  accurate(1), fairly(1), just(10), just cause(1), justice(3), righteous(15), righteously(6), righteousness(76), righteousness’(1), rightly(1), vindication(1), what is right(3).
Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).   

All this in common, how does God present Job in the early chapters and how do others testify about him?

[3] And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.”
(Job 2:3 ESV)

[9] Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”
(Job 2:9 ESV)

Through all that has happened, Job clings to integrity and righteousness.  Today I ask myself, “Am I a man of righteousness and integrity in ALL that I do?”  I attempt to be a man full of righteousness and integrity  but fall woefully short.  May I be broken over my sin and repent immediately as the Holy Spirit convicts me of my failure.  May this be our prayer today!  May we value Christ so that we are concerned about righteous living and being men and women of biblical integrity.  May we desire to live this as an example to a lost and dying world.