Monday, March 25, 2013

Genesis 37 - Motives Behind Our Actions

Jacob loved Joseph there is no doubt. In giving Joseph a multi-colored robe he certainly wanted there to be no doubt. Joseph loved his father too. He would report on the activities of his brothers in the field to his father holding them accountable for their choices.

I personally don't get the sense that Joseph wanted any harm to come to his brothers; he was just so passionate about doing right that his brothers wrong became exposed.

His brothers didn't just hate him because of the fancy robe his father gave him. Joseph stood apart from his brothers and didn't join them in their antics. Joseph didn't fit in with his brothers in a good way.

His dream of his brothers and even his father bowing to him only added fuel to their bitter fire. Jealousy, shame and hatred just grew and grew leading them to sell their brother Joseph into slavery (their second choice - first was to kill him) and to lie to their father about their deed. They wanted Joseph out of their life. Rather than raising their standard of conduct and attitudes, they wanted to continue as they were without any correction or exposure of misconduct.

It wasn't Joseph that caused them to behave poorly, but their wrong motives. They made wrong choices because their heart was wrong; toward Joseph, their father, and God himself. When we act wrongly, we may blame our circumstances when in truth we have selfishness and bitterness in our hearts.

When we consider our stewardship, we find that it is not always what you do but your motives behind your choices. This is very hard for people who mostly do the "right" thing to consider that church attendance and tithing are not as important as cultivating a close relationship with The Lord so that we align our desires with His.

Whether in financial choices or choices with our time and relationships our heart is exposed by the choices we make. We can't cover it forever with good deeds to make God or others think of us as better than we are.

Today as we begin Holy Week, let's consider our motives and confess wrong attitudes before God. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land".

May God richly bless you as you seek him and as you serve him.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Genesis 36 - Impact of Materialism

In this chapter we start with an interesting genealogy of Esau. Later we will see them conflicting again with the Isaelites, but for now I would like to consider just a couple of verses:

6 Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, all the people in his household, his livestock, his animals, and all his possessions which he had acquired in the land of Canaan and went to a land some distance away from Jacob his brother
7 because they had too many possessions to be able to stay together and the land where they had settled was not able to support them because of their livestock.
8 So Esau (also known as Edom) lived in the hill country of Seir.

Esau and Jacob had a lot of barriers to their relationship, but the final barrier was wealth. Riches can separate families for a lot of different reasons. In this case, riches were more important to Esau and he had to move away.

In moving away he occupied the land assigned to him by God and left Canaan for Jacob - his assigned land. Gods purposes are fulfilled in the separation of these two brothers. It was overly obvious that these two men had different priorities in life that so conflicted that they couldn't occupy common space.

It reminds me of the example that God gave of darkness and light. They cannot coexist - one must go If the other is to be present. In the same way, God being holy cannot be with sin. We are not to entertain sin in our lives if we have been redeemed by God.

Materialism separates us from God. It is an idol that should be abandoned. It is common for worldly lusts but should not be a part if Gods people.

Materialism separates us from other people too. The management of stuff can keep us from building relationships and diverts us from spending time with those we care for most.

Finally, materialism keeps us living in greed and prevents us from being generous. If we are hoarding stuff here we are not storing up for ourselves treasures in Heaven. This world and all that is in it is temporary. We will all live forever in either Heaven or Hell; or choices here reflect the condition of our heart.

Esau became forever separated from his brother and his homeland because he was living to amass wealth here. The relationship to his family forever broken because of his greed.

As you consider your relationship to God and to others, is stuff getting in your way? How can you today put people and God in their right places in your life? Don't allow possessions to dominate your living. God has given us his son Jesus Christ that we could live life fully. You don't want to miss out on this abundance that can only be found in belonging to The Lord.

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Genesis 35 - Loss and Blessing

So often we Christians look to our times of ease and say that God is blessing our lives and to times of hardship as trials. In Genesis 35 we see how God more often works, mixing the two.

As we enter the chapter, there is no doubt that Jacob and his family need to flee for their lives after his sons slayed the men of the region. God comes to Jacob and gives him direction to leave. Jacob then does one of the smartest things he has ever done - he gets rid of idols in his household.

Just an aside here. Jacob was addressing the root cause of the chaos. The entire house was not serving God fully. There may have been some half hearted service but idols were allowed to coexist. If you have chaos in your life consider the idols that may be present. They aren't hard to find. They are those people, things or activities that keep us from single minded service to The Lord. Address them and turn completely to The Lord.

Jacob buried the idols and set out to Bethel to build an altar. God kept the people of the land from pursuing them. The terror of God came on them.

Interesting that God brings Jacob back to the place where he deviated from the plan; to the place where he lied to his brother and did not come with him. By the end of the chapter you see returned to his father and his brother.

God reminds Jacob that the promises of Abraham are to come through his descendants and that it would be these offspring that would inherit the land of promise. Jacob worships The Lord and moves on from Bethel. What a time of joy and comfort that must have been for him after the rape of Dinah and the slaughter that ensued.

Three deaths occur in this chapter. Deborah the nurse of Rachel. Rachel dies in childbirth and Isaac dies. Even though God comes and speaks directly with Jacob, he is not spared suffering of loss. So much drama was taking place in his life .

Even his oldest son betrays him by sleeping with Rachel's servant Bilhah the mother of Jacob's sons Dan and Naphtali. It is hard to imagine a time of greater sorrow.

One special blessing was the birth of Benjamin. In the midst of great sorrow I am sure he was a comfort to his father.

More often than not drama continues to play out in the life of the Christian even when or perhaps especially when we redirect our attention to serving God. The real question is will you and I keep our focus on The Lord even in the midst of drama or will we use the drama as an excuse to return to selfish living? The way we spend our time, our talents and our money reveals our true motives.

I hope your days are a little less dramatic than Jacob's, but even if they are please know that even difficult times can be used by God to strengthen our faith and to bring Him glory.

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him today.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Genesis 34 - Repaying Wrong for Wrong

Chapter 34 begins with the rape of Dinah the daughter of Jacob. Shechem took what wasn't his and attempted to legitimize the act by offering to purchase Dinah as Shechem's wife.

A deal is made to circumcise all the males of the land. In order to convince the men to undergo circumcision, they explain that the wealth of Jacob would become their own once they married the daughters of the family.

I don't know that Jacob's sons were aware of the malevolent intent of the men of the land, but it is clear they had some ill-will of their own. They came into the city after the circumcision and slew the men and took their wealth and Dinah back to her father's home.

This chapter has so many lessons for us. I am not sure we can detail them in this short blog:

1. Dinah clearly was out of the protection of her family when the initial violence occurred. Young women should guard themselves because we do live in an evil world. I know of women who flaunt their freedom to dress provocatively to engage in activities that would compromise good judgement and to entertain wrong friends in their lives. Purity cannot be compromised.

2. Young men do not have rights to violate women under any circumstances. Shechem may have been attracted to Dinah's looks but based on his behavior I cannot imagine that he was attracted to Dinah's God. The union would have been fraught with conflict if not more violence.

3. Don't compromise your virtues. Shechem clearly had no respect for the policy of marrying within the faith and no respect for getting things in proper order. (Like marrying the girl and then enjoying her). Ladies, men will have greater respect if you stand firm in your faith and do not comprise for love. If any force will cause us to fall into a life of struggle, hardship and misery it is compromise for the sake of affection. Too many babies are born today without the benefit of a father and too many marriages are undertaken to legitimize an ill conceived affair. The result can lead to poverty for the children, wrong views of relationships and struggle for the woman. God gave us good parameters for establishing marriages and we should cling to them. Everyone benefits from them.

4. The deal made for Dinah was made with the express intent of ruining Jacob's family and taking his wealth. It was another act of violence planned even before the hostilities of Jacobs sons (oh, of he had just gone with Esau like he said he would). When we engage with unbelievers we have to be aware that their value systems are not centered on obedience to God and their intents may not be what they appear. We would save ourselves a lot of heartache to be wary of such entanglements.

5. Retaliation for wrongs. Dinah's brothers in their zeal to defend the honor of their sister committed even greater atrocities and jeopardized the safety of the family. It is our nature to want justice for wrongs committed against us, but is our faith in God strong enough to allow him to be out defender? God knows the evil in this world - he knows the evil in our hearts. Let him judge the evil and keep yourself from committing even greater sin.

What a sad chapter in the life of God's people. We see how quickly life can change as a result of wrong choices and unguarded moments. Our Lord is coming one day soon and He has promised in Isaiah 13:11 "I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless". God does see our plight and He is more than able to protect his people from evil if we will allow his law to govern our lives.

May God richly bless you as you seek him and as you serve him.