Monthly Archives: October 2014

Preserving the Faith – Genesis 26:1-11



This coming Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.  Online and televised images remind us, this year in particular, of the dangers associated with the persecuted church in the world.  Thousands are martyred for their faith each month, all of them holding fast to Jesus, unwilling to renounce their faith in Him.  They persevere to the very end.

Maybe you wonder, “Would I hold up so well?”  Perhaps your faith is are already feeling challenged, as you go through the stress and tribulations of “normal” life.  You may even afraid of losing your faith, as you’re just barely hanging on.

Well, I hope you find encouragement, for the persecuted church and for your own walk, in this week’s passage from Genesis 26.  It is another behind the scenes look at where God is and at what He is doing.  It shows you, specifically, two ways in which God preserves the faith of Christians.  It shows you where to find strength and support, and how God can use you to provide it to others.  This passage demonstrates, once again, just how essential the book of Genesis is to understanding the Christian faith, and how it informs our life as aliens and ambassadors in the world in which we live.

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On a Mission Trip? Hmmmmm…….Maybe!


For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. (Romans 12:4-5)


I found myself thinking, for a good long time, about a tweet I read by a Virginia church planter named Joe Holland. He wrote, “Church membership is like joining a long-term mission team.” I don’t think we’re supposed to spend much time thinking about tweets, because the next one will come along at any second. But that makes them all the more suspicious to me. It seems that, by its nature, a lot of social media communication is laden with errors and off the cuff quips. I don’t mean to sound snobby, I just mean that social media seems to encourage quantity over quality. So I wondered, “Is church membership really like joining a long-term mission team?”


Missionaries, by and large, have historically been “long-term.” Missionary families and teams go to the place they’ve been called and stay there. Adoniram Judson, the first American, Congregational missionary to serve overseas, was a missionary to Burma for almost 40 years. He and his first wife, Ann, left the shores of Salem, Massachusetts in in 1813, knowing they might very well be sacrificing their lives for Christ, which eventually they did. They knew and lived among the Burmese people, loving them and telling them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ as often as they had opportunity. They had to learn the local language from scratch and Judson translated the first Burmese to English dictionary, a great help to those who would go there after him. After their first ten years in Burma, their church only had a few more than a dozen members, but they never left to find a place that was more to their liking or where they sensed God was doing a greater work. They realized that their Christian community needed them, and they needed it. They were “individually members one of the other.” They were committed to the body in which they were called, through good times and many bad.


In many ways, Judson’s story is a lot like life is supposed to be in the local church. Yet, how often do pastors and congregants view church membership like a short-term mission trip, attending and participating for a while, but without any real long-term commitment or investment?   When the first sign of conflict, change or disappointment arises, they’re out of there, off to find the next perfect church, which will be ruined as soon as they arrive. We are fallen people, coming together with other fallen people, who are gathered and shepherded by fallen leaders, yet that is the context in which the Holy Spirit is at work building up and equipping Christ’s people. It is the crucible in which we are being formed. It is the very place in which every New Testament letter encourages Jesus’ followers to thrive and endure, not leave or quit. The local church is also placed in a larger community in which its members commit to make an impact on their neighbors, loving them and telling them about Jesus, that they too may be drawn into Christ’s body, nourished and sent out on mission.


So while the statement made in that tweet might not be quite perfect, I do agree that if we think of church membership as being on a long-term mission team, we will be better focused and committed to our local church and our community. Maybe it will help us to see that church membership requires sacrifice and surrender, especially to Christ. Maybe we’ll see it less about us, as individuals, and more about Jesus and His kingdom.

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Spoiler Alert: “Birthright” – Genesis 25:19-34

created by God


Caroline and I don’t watch a lot of TV, but we do have a couple of favorite shows.  They are action/drama shows that leave you with a cliff hanger at the end of each week.  When the show’s over, we don’t click it off, but wait to see the preview for next week’s show.  I don’t know why we do that, because it only heightens our sense of anticipation for next week’s show, without really telling us anything new.  It can be pretty frustrating.
This week’s passage in Genesis is a lot like the preview of next week’s show, except that it tells you a lot about what’s coming next.  We have turned another major corner in Genesis, with Abraham having been gathered to his people and (spoiler alert ahead), Isaac’s family, especially his son Jacob, coming to the forefront for the next several months of our journey.  Genesis 25:19-34 is a prologue of what’s to come.  If you read it carefully, you’ll see that it summarizes a lot of what’s to follow.  It’s very much a behind the scenes look at who God is and what He’s doing in the lives of believers.  You may find it surprising and even scandalous.  Stay tuned this Sunday!

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“Epitaph” – Genesis 25:1-18


It’s going to happen to me.  It’s going to happen to you.  You and I are going to die.  The psalmist writes, “In your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me.” (Psalm 139:16)  There’s a day when your life, in this world, will come to an end.  You are here only as long as God, not you, has ordained.  Solomon said, “Man knows not his time.”  What a sobering thought.  I may not see you this Sunday, or maybe I will.  One of us or, perhaps, both of us may not make it that long.
I wonder if old Abraham had any clue that he would live to a ripe old age of 175.  76 years earlier, Abraham was referred to as “worn out” (Gen. 18:11), like a piece of clothing that was no longer fit to be worn it was so porous.  He probably never would have guessed that God would allow him to sojourn in Canaan, a foreign land, for the sum of 100 years. Every day of Abraham’s life was set aside for the accomplishment of God’s purposes.  Abraham, apparently, lived with that understanding.  Hebrews 11:13 indicates that Abraham lived as a “sojourner and pilgrim in a foreign land,” fully trusting God with every day.  What an epitaph to his life – “a sojourner and pilgrim in a foreign land.”  He lived in this foreign land by faith.
Abraham was from another land, and not just the land he came from.  He was from a “better, that is, heavenly country” (Heb. 11:16).  Today, Abraham is no longer on that pilgrimage; he’s no longer sojourning.  He’s home!  Assuming your faith is in Jesus Christ, you are, right now, a sojourner and pilgrim in a foreign land.  Yes, heaven is your home.  Yes, God gives you victory over death and sin through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57).  But right now, you still are a sojourner and pilgrim on a mission.  As was the case with Abraham, you are now here, in this foreign land, to fulfill God’s plans and purposes.
This Sunday, we’ll consider Abraham’s epitaph, looking for clues to aid our sojourning and pilgrimage until, as Jesus said, we “sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 8:11)

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ISIS, Putin and Morality – Beginning and the End

end of time

“For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”) And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” (Revelation 16:14–16)


The Islamist State’s genocide of Christians in the Middle East, Vladamir Putin’s escalation of conflict in Europe and the rapid erosion of Christian morals in America; many Christians are beginning to ask, “Is the end near?” The disciples, preoccupied with this question, asked Jesus similarly, “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3) Many have tried to predict the end of the age and Christ’s return, but spending time debating such things is futile and unfruitful. Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (Matthew 24:36) You are encouraged, rather, to be watchful of your faith, ready, and a faithful servant of Christ (Matthew 24:42-45). Jesus’ point is, don’t spend your time wondering, “Is the end near?,” when it’s planting, watering and harvesting time in the kingdom of God. “You were created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) You were created for good works, not good speculations. You were created to put your faith in action, not for building up a storehouse of Christian knowledge and conjecture you never put into practice.


Perhaps a better response to the signs of the times, is to look straight into the very heart of God through the Apostle Peter’s declaration in 2 Peter 3:7-9, “But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 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.” God would be perfectly justified in judging the world today. Who could find blame with such justice? Yet, God, rich in mercy, is allowing more time for those lost in darkness to turn into the kingdom of light in His Son through the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of His Spirit..


We should not be caught up speculating about the end, but rather for the beginning. We should be praying and working for salvation that brings new life to those dead in their trespasses and sins. We should be praying for the beginning of a revival and awakening of faith in our town, country and the world.   We should be faithfully at work planting and watering seeds of the Gospel, and patiently waiting for God to bring the growth. This is what we are called to do in the present age.


Just prior to the two Great Awakenings in our country, mankind had fallen so far from God and their depravity seemed was at what appeared to be at a new low. Even the majority of churches began to reflect the culture, rather than the Lord and what He called them to be. The late Dr. Harold John Ockenga, writing on revival said, “revivals are preceded by pitiful deflections of the church, which in those times is the ebb tied when worldliness, impotency, lethargy, and deadness overwhelm the church members and hope for revival apparently dies out. Yet even in this condition the heart of man turns with dissatisfaction with worldly pursuits, cries out to God for true life, and has born in it an expectancy of better days. This is the first harbinger of revival.”


If past history, and what we see in Scripture (think Judges – “Everyone did evil in the sight of the Lord.”), is any indication, we may very well be at the precipice of the beginning of something, rather than, or as well as, the end. What a shame it would be to sit in worldly comfort, chewing on useless speculations and critiquing the culture, rather than keeping our hands to the plow and seeking a surprising work of the Holy Spirit. We are, once again, at what seems to be at a new societal low. Perhaps we are nearing a time when the condition of many hearts will turn with dissatisfaction with worldly pursuits and cry out to God.   I just hope we, as a church and individual Christians, will be there to show them Jesus. “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God the Father, who has loved us and given us an eternal comfort and a good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)


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Arranged Marriage – Genesis 24

marriage christ centered

Sarah, the great matriarch of the faith, has died.  Abraham is now very old and his generation is coming to an end.  God has made great promises to Abraham and his offspring, but Isaac is still the only offspring to the promise that Abraham has.  Time is running out and the mantle will soon need to be passed on.  Abraham, therefore, must arrange a marriage for Isaac, so that he may have children and pass the covenant promises on down the line until the time in which they are fulfilled.  You can feel the tension as Abraham sends his most trusted servant to search for a bride.

If you’ve taken time to clink the link, above, and read the passage, you’ll feel that tension but you’ll also discover that Abraham isn’t the only one arranging the marriage.  God is also at work.  That’s because God works through the circumstances of those acting in faith.  That’s not just a principle for Abraham or his servant; God is at work through the circumstances of your Christian faith.  He’s at work more often than you realize.  Included in our passage are several principles, related to God’s work, you can apply to your walk with Jesus.  We’ll look at each of them on Sunday, and consider how God “will do infinitely more than all we can ask or imagine according to His power that is working among us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

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Where to Find Enduring Hope in Despair – Genesis 22:20-23:20


There is not a lot of good news in the world today.  Our country has once again ramped up the war against terror and other threats to the world and our nation’s security loom before us.  The institution of the family is not only being redefinied in our culture, it is being outright and systematically dismantled before our eyes.  Christian genocide, in many parts of the world, is a reality and elsewhere Christians are being marginalized.  Where is the hope?  Many are not finding it and live in despair.
The church in Thessalonica had begun to see despair sink into it’s own community, as they considered the fate of their loved ones who had recently died, and they began to wonder why Christ had yet to return and set things right.  Others were causing them to doubt their faith.  Paul encouraged them saying, “We don’t want you to grieve, like others who have no hope.”  Why shouldn’t they grieve?  Paul said, because Jesus died and rose again, and so shall we who believe.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is called “good news” because it is good news for a world, otherwise, without enduring hope.
This week’s passage provides reasons for an enduring hope in the midst of despair.  It considers the tension between hope and despair, as the first generation of people to receive God’s great promise to Abraham begin to die without actually seeing its fufillment.  It too reminds us, that enduring hope only comes through faith in Jesus Christ.  Join us for worship at 10:30 and Sunday school at 9:15.  Everyone’s welcome!

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