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10 Signs a Church is in Trouble

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Sunday School, Trinity, Uncategorized on May 10, 2011 at 4:55 am

By Thom S. Rainer
May 9, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Prior to my present place of ministry, I spent more than 20 years consulting with churches across America. I have also had the wonderful opportunity to research churches primarily in the United States. Over time I began to notice certain patterns or signs that would indicate a congregation might be headed for trouble.

After reviewing my consultation notes and research, I found 10 warning signs for churches. If a church had four or more of these signs present, I would let the leadership know that remedial efforts were in order. If six or more signs were present, I was concerned that the congregation was in immediate trouble.

The warning signs below are not listed in any particular order. Nor are they the result of a scientifically accurate study. Though the information is both experiential and anecdotal, I found it immensely helpful in diagnosing the health of a church.

Church leaders should be concerned …

— If the pastor does not have adequate time to be in the Word or if he chooses not to do so.

— If the members are spending time arguing about how money should be spent.

— If none or only a few of the key leaders are actively sharing their faith.

— If there is no clear process of discipleship in place, just a plethora of programs and activities.

— If corporate prayer is not a major emphasis in the church.

— If church members are arguing about worship style or worship times.

— If church members expect the paid staff to do most of the ministry, instead of the staff equipping the members to do the work of ministry (“Why didn’t he visit me in the hospital?”)

— If there are ongoing disagreements about matters of the church facilities.

— If the church has more meetings than new disciples.

— If the leadership of the church does not have a coherent plan for what is taught in small groups and Sunday School classes.

There is a common pattern for most of the warning signs. Church members are more concerned about their preferences and desires. They are inwardly focused. They ask what the church can do for them, instead of asking how God can use them sacrificially and radically through the ministries of the local church.

True Christianity is a faith that always seeks to put others first. Sadly, in many of the churches across our land, members are more concerned about getting their own personal needs and preferences met.

I would love to hear from you about any of these signs in your church. I particularly would like to hear from some people how their churches address these matters positively and pro-actively.

Do some of the items on the warning list take place in your church? Are there others not on the list?

What is your story?

Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources. This column first appeared at his website, ThomRainer.com.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press
901 Commerce Street
Nashville, TN 37203
Tel: 615.244.2355
Fax: 615.782.8736
email: bpress@sbc.net

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fourth week in a row, a Chinese “illegal” church refused Sunday to follow government orders not to meet, and this time at least 31 of its members were arrested.

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Sunday School, Trinity, Uncategorized on May 3, 2011 at 6:55 am

BEIJING (BP)–For the fourth week in a row, a Chinese “illegal” church refused Sunday to follow government orders not to meet, and this time at least 31 of its members were arrested.

Once again, reporters were blocked from the site.

The arrests of the members of Beijing’s Shouwang Church in a public square came after church leaders made clear in the preceding days that they would not buckle to pressure from the Communist Party. More than 160 were arrested the first week they tried to meet outdoors, about 50 were arrested the second week and approximately 40 on the third week, Easter Sunday. The declining number of arrests likely is due to the government placing so many other members under house arrest, which prevents them from even leaving their homes. On Easter Sunday, more than 500 church members — including every church staff member, lay leader and choir member — were under house arrest.

The church is attempting to meet outdoors because the government has blocked all attempts by the church to rent or purchase a building. Members say failing to come together and worship would be an abandonment of biblical commands.

The May 1 Shouwang Church order of worship — given to church members and printed online at ChinaAid.org — was intended to include congregational singing of “Amazing Grace,” “Because He Lives” and “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.” But the members were arrested before the services started. It is possible that smaller groups — particularly families — followed the order in worshipping in their homes.

Although a BBC camera crew recorded the arrests during the first week, the government has since tried to block media access, briefly detaining a CNN crew on Easter and preventing three Al-Jazeera reporters from accessing the site on May 1, Asia News reported.

The CNN crew was, though, able to set up an interview with one unidentified female church member away from the site, although the crew had to work to find a spot in the city where police would not interfere. At one point, authorities were following the CNN crew’s car.

“I am really afraid of torture … and I’ve heard many stories of that,” the woman told CNN, her face unseen.

CNN’s Stan Grant concluded his segment by saying, “In this spiritual war, the Communist Party has drawn its own battle lines, determined that the only worship here will be to the state.”

Churches in China must register with the government, and those that don’t are considered illegal. But registering brings restrictions on growth and evangelism — part of the reason the underground church movement has flourished in recent decades. The arrests of Shouwang members — closely watched worldwide — are part of a larger crackdown on what the government views as dissent. Communist Party members are apparently wanting to prevent an uprising in China similar to what has taken place in Egypt and elsewhere, and they see house churches as a threat.

Each week, the church has released a statement, explaining why it has chosen to confront the government. It has chosen to try to meet at the same location in the city each week.

“Some brothers and sisters have suggested that we might want to move our services to a new location so that we could gather together,” the church said in an April 29 statement. “However, at this stage of the development of the incident, it seems unlikely that we can gather together at all. Regardless of which location we choose, the result will be the same. What the relevant government agency is concerned about is not where we gather, but whether we are going to gather or not.”

Church members say they are being obedient to Christ. Some have lost their jobs and been evicted from their homes because of their stance, with the government pressuring employees and landlords.

“The Bible tells us, as Christians, we must not give up meeting together; furthermore, as the church of Jesus Christ, we should not change our mode of Sunday worship just because someone or some entity decides that we may or may not use a particular gathering place,” the church said in a statement Easter week. “Our attitude before God should be the same as Daniel’s, that is, despite the pressure and difficulties our circumstance presents, we should behave as we normally would, coming before our God weekly to worship Him and offer up our thanksgiving, praises and petitions.”
–30–
Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press. Visit http://www.bpnews.net. BP News — witness the difference! Covering the critical issues that shape your life, work and ministry. BP News is a ministry of Baptist Press, the daily news service of Southern Baptists.

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The Salvation of the ‘Little Ones’: Do Infants who Die Go to Heaven?

In Uncategorized on September 12, 2009 at 12:36 pm

The Salvation of the ‘Little Ones’: Do Infants who Die Go to Heaven?

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In Uncategorized on August 5, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Arab Festival 2009: Responses to Sharia in the US

Response to Arab Fest in Michigan

Defenders

In Uncategorized on July 14, 2009 at 3:10 am

 

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“True for you but not for me”

“There are many paths to Heaven not just yours”

“It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere”

“What right do you have to convert others to your point of view”

If Jesus is the only way to God, what about those who have never heard of him”

“Christianity is arrogant and imperialistic; if you grew up in India you’d be a Hindu”

“I’m a good moral person God will look at that and I will go to heaven”

“How could a loving God allow so much evil in the world”

 

 Finding Answers for those that are speechless!

Too many Christians and Churches are baffled by these powerful assumptions, how do we respond to those who think this way. Most Christians scurry for cover when shot at by these sayings or ideas and shamefully walk away with no response. 1st Peter 3 tells us to always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for the hope that is in you, with love and respect. The Defenders class will help equip us for that task. Not a permanent class but a 15 week training session that will help in your Spiritual growth and confidence. Limited seating available starts Aug 16th.

Is there such a thing as Graceless Christians?

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Uncategorized on June 4, 2009 at 3:52 pm

It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.

G. K. Chesterton

 

(Eph 2:3-8 HCSB)  We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and by nature we were children under wrath, as the others were also. But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. By grace you are saved! He also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavens, in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is

God’s gift—

We start with a very pointed question, directed at supposed believers in Christ. By examining the missing pieces we can by filling in the missing parts find if we are missing the main ingredient GRACE.

What has God done for you? 1- Not much 10-More than can be described.

In looking at the rhetorical nature of this question we can see how much of the wonder of God’s grace is still evident on our lives. Are we behaving in a debilitating sense of self-entitlement, and self centered quest for personal happiness? That somehow we have moved from the rancidness of our sin to some sort of self entitlement that God exists for our pleasure as some sort of cosmic grandpa? Our generation especially in America may be one of the most self centered in history. I doubt we will be called the greatest generation like that of our grand-parents and the WW2 era. Have we become the paradox of graceless Christianity? Obviously the Bible speaks to this in several areas and stories.

(1Co 2:9-16 HCSB)  But as it is written: What no eye has seen and no ear has heard, and what has never come into a man’s heart, is what God has prepared for those who love Him. Now God has revealed them to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the concerns of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the concerns of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, in order to know what has been freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. But the natural man does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to know it since it is evaluated spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. For: who has known the Lord’s mind, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

Consider the behavior of believers that offer condemnation instead of love to those who are less “spiritual” than they are. When we try to justify ourselves horizontally instead of vertically we tend to elevate our status based on others around us. When we see ourselves vertically and in comparison to the demands of scripture we see our filthy sin filled lives and how much grace we need to survive another day. Have we known those or even ourselves drifted from a grace based faith to a behavior based faith! That somehow our behavior will earn God’s approval.  The only action that pleases God is faith.

(Hebrews 11:6 HCSB)  Now without faith it is impossible to please God,

I know right now there are some who want to apply some sort of standard of behavior to gain God’s acceptance because somehow if people’s behavior isn’t controlled then they will run headlong into paganism. Think for a moment when others don’t act like we think they should in areas of church life our tendency is to puff up and seek God’s will for others in error. The question that arises from this tends to be “Who made you Holy Ghost for me?” If God is who he claims then we probably need to spend 2 times more energy seeking His grace than seeking control of others behavior. We as believers can trust that God is in charge and has the means available to control anything that has his name associated with it. Remember we have enjoyed a generous outpouring of God’s grace, yet we can become stingy about sharing grace with others. He will reward the righteous and punish the guilty.

(Exodus 34:6-7 HCSB)  Then the LORD passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh–Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.

We also see his plea for us to use His grace not to waste!

(2 Corinthians 6:1 HCSB)  Working together with Him, we also appeal to you: “Don’t receive God’s grace in vain.”

(2 Corinthians 6:1 CEV)  We work together with God, and we beg you to make good use of God’s kindness to you.

(2 Corinthians 6:1 LITV)  But working together, we also call on you not to receive the grace of God in vain.

(2 Corinthians 6:1 BBE)  We then, working together with God, make our request to you not to take the grace of God to no purpose.

2 Corinthians 6 (Amplified Bible)

1LABORING TOGETHER [as God’s fellow workers] with Him then, we beg of you not to receive the grace of God in vain [that [a]merciful kindness by which God exerts His holy influence on souls and turns them to Christ, keeping and strengthening them–do not receive it to no purpose].

Christ’s followers of all people have known mercy and grace firsthand yet we have characterized by judge-mentalism, and intolerance rather than mercy and compassion. As an example:

Two Christians refuse to forgive one another

  • Members angrily leave the church because the changed the format of the service
  • People complain they “got nothing out of the service” because the music wasn’t to their liking.
  • Church leaders are slandered by people who have been “overlooked” for prominent positions
  • The preacher is picking on them in his sermons

In Luke 7 we see the level of religious intolerance and judge-mentalism:

(Luke 7:36-50 HCSB)  Then one of the Pharisees invited Him to eat with him. He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And a woman in the town who was a sinner found out that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil and stood behind Him at His feet, weeping, and began to wash His feet with her tears. She wiped His feet with the hair of her head, kissing them and anointing them with the fragrant oil. When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching Him–she’s a sinner!” Jesus replied to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he said, “say it.”  “A creditor had two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, and the other 50. Since they could not pay it back, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one he forgave more.” “You have judged correctly,” He told him. Turning to the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she, with her tears, has washed My feet and wiped them with her hair.  You gave Me no kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing My feet since I came in. You didn’t anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Those who were at the table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

As Henry Blackaby has stated in his book “Putting a Face on Grace”,

Principle 1: The more aware you are of your need for God’s grace, the more generous you will be towards others.

In the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee we see the outward working of religion and the inwards working of grace. We should also keep in mind the Pharisee’s were the kind of people most churches would be glad to have as members. They were very moral sounding, giving of their money, highly respected in their communities and attended church regularly. The versus listed below show a contrast in Christianity and Religion.

(Luke 18:9-14 HCSB)  He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people–greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me–a sinner!’ I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus said the one who truly sees himself as a sinner before God and seeks His Mercy is the one who finds forgiveness. The one who thinks himself in no need of grace goes away unforgiven.

Principle 2: (Blackaby) A true understanding of your daily dependence on God’s mercy causes you to be humble toward God and others.

(1 Peter 5:5-6 HCSB)  , because God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time,

As we see in the scripture Peter had some questions concerning forgiveness and quite possibly he was struggling with forgiving someone who had wronged him. Middle Eastern codes of honor dating back to the time of Christ and beyond demanded a just recompense for every offense committed. The Jewish religion specified a traditional number of times a person was to be forgiven-three times. Peter being who at the time wanted to gain Jesus’ favor and proposed a number as possible as seven times to forgive a person the same offense. Jesus had a different number and clearly different way of thinking he established not only for them but for us.

(Matthew 18:21-22 HCSB)  Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven.

Then Jesus imminently gives us the parable of the slave who owed 10,000 talents to the master who forgave him. Then the servant chokes a man and puts him in prison for a few pennies worth of debt. As the story goes the King hears of this terrible behavior and punishes the unforgiving servant with torture until he paid his debt in full. Unwillingness to forgive led this man into bondage. Much like ourselves the more graceless and unforgiving we are the more we torture ourselves and those around us till we truly repent. We willingly put ourselves into bondage and have a religion that is not only graceless but useless.

Quoting Blackaby from his book Putting a Face on Grace “Our behavior clearly communicates our understanding of God’s grace in our lives.”

Principle 3: If you are truly grateful for God’s forgiveness, you will be quick to forgive others.

There is nothing anyone can do to me that can compare with what Christ has forgiven me for doing. As Matthew 6 says if we understand it correctly Forgive us in and how we forgive others!

(Matthew 6:14 HCSB)  “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.

(Matthew 6:14 CEV)  If you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, your Father in heaven will forgive you.

(Matthew 6:14 BBE)  For if you let men have forgiveness for their sins, you will have forgiveness from your Father in heaven.

It has been said we are most like Christ when we forgive others who have hurt us deeply.

  • If we grasp the enormity of God’s extravagant grace toward us, we will gladly give generously to others
  • If we are truly broken and humbled by own sinfulness, we will not focus on the sins of others. Rather we will be motivated to humbly serve them.
  • We will forgive others- wither they deserve it or not-to show our gratitude to God. After all, that’s what he did for us.

“Being forgiven does not automatically free us from being self centered.” Think of all the name it claim it types, the doing good for God type, the earning God’s favor type, the keeping my salvation by doing good works tyranny and we see the contrast. God’s grace is given not earned we don’t deserve it but we can have it. That is amazing that God would give that to me a filthy, undeserving, worthless sinner. Who even if I could give him my best 5 minutes of my life for his gift would only insult him and bring disgrace to His Kingdom has sought me, bought me, sealed me, redeemed me, and given me far more than I could ever repay. Thank you Lord for giving me eternity with You!

For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—

(Romans 10:8-13 HCSB)  On the contrary, what does it say? The message is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. This is the message of faith that we proclaim: if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation. Now the Scripture says, No one who believes on Him will be put to shame, for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

In closing may you: (2 Peter 3:18 HCSB)  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

What makes Christianity so unique

In Apologetics, Chrisitian, Christ, Christian, Christianity, Prayer, Satan, Saved, Sin, Trinity, Uncategorized on May 25, 2009 at 10:19 pm

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What makes Christianity so unique is that our good works are supposed to be in response to God’s grace, not to earn it. We become givers when God gives us His Holy Spirit. God shows us that you cannot love without giving. Yet through Joseph’s story we learn that this giving nature is not only a response to the giving of others. We are to give even when we are mistreated or neglected. Joseph’s God-inspired blessings toward his brothers are what opened the door to reconciliation. We tend to operate according to hierarchies in our churches. It seems logical that the older should teach the younger, that the less experienced should learn from the wise. There is a danger, however, in the more spiritually mature isolating themselves from the simple faith of the young in Christ. Believers who intentionally form discipling relationships with new Christians never lose sight of how the Holy Spirit does His first works of beginning faith in His children.

We see in Joseph his unwavering faith in God’s dominance and plan for his life. When we consider his being attacked by his brothers, being sold into slavery, working to overcome his lowly position, and God blessing him only to falsely accused thrown into jail. Then again God blesses him after a time of testing, he interprets Pharaoh’s dream and becomes second in command only to Pharaoh in Egypt. But the real beauty in the story is his reunion with his family, his forgiveness, and blessing he provided for them. And probably one of the more often quoted sayings in the Bible.

(Gen 50:18)  Then his brothers also came to him, bowed down before him, and said, “We are your slaves!”

(Gen 50:19)  But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?

(Gen 50:20)  You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result–the survival of many people.

(Gen 50:21)  Therefore don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

1. How do we react to people who have done us wrong?

Some basic lies from a worldly point of view: do unto them before they do unto you,

don’t mad get even, forgive but never forget, …anymore?

We want grace when we mess up but retribution when others mess with us. What does the Bible teach us about not only our actions but our reactions?

(Mat 5:48)  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

(Mat 6:14)  “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.

(BBE)  For if you let men have forgiveness for their sins, you will have forgiveness from your Father in heaven.

(CEV)  If you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, your Father in heaven will forgive you.

(DRB)  For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences.

(ESV)  For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,

When God provides opportunities for us to forgive others he is helping conform us to his image. Being angry is not sin acting on that anger is. The language of the Lord’s Prayer concerning forgiveness, would be stated “Father forgive us in and how we forgive others”

One of the major stumbling blocks to reconciliation, forgiveness and peace is pride.

No one is going to treat me that!

How dare them!

Don’t you know who I am?

It’s their fault and when they realize it and apologize this will be settled.

Jesus’ response:

Luke 23:34  [Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”] And they divided His clothes and cast lots.

How many times are we to forgive? The scriptures give us guidance.

(Mat 18:21)  Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

(Mat 18:22)  “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven.

Part of the life of Christian, is living out our beliefs in our everyday lives. In our attitudes, how we do our jobs, how we conduct our business, how we present ourselves to others and how we behave in every situation. Not because we are better than anyone else but because we have the opportunity to show what forgiveness looks like in the flesh.

“Denial is not a river in Egypt!” an old cliché but never the less a poignant one that hits home. Denial has a way of finally hitting flood stage until we nearly drown in the very past we tried to ignore.

IN -(Gen 41:51 HCSB)  Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, meaning, “God has made me forget all my hardship in my father’s house.”

We see Joseph possibly coping with his past by naming his firstborn son Manassaeh-(“causing to forget”.) Joseph’s firstborn by Asenath, whose birth “made him forget all his toil and all (the sorrow he endured through) his father’s house”  But did he really or did Joseph react in the way a loving giving father grows into and he named his second son Ephraim meaning double fruit!

Ephraim -(“doubly fruitful”.) Joseph’s second son by Asenath, named so, “for,” said Joseph, “God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Born during the seven plenteous years; the “doubly fruitful” may refer to both the fruitfulness vouchsafed to Joseph and the plenty of the season. As regards Ephraim himself, he was doubly blessed:

From this we see Israel bless Joseph with a double blessing and adopting them as his on sons in Chapter 49 and issues 2 tribal separations to Joseph for a double portion.

Now that all is well and Joseph is one of the most powerful in Egypt second only to Pharaoh doing his job preparing for the predicted famine: here comes the very person who sold him into slavery and originally intended to kill him! How does he react 1st he keeps his identity secret, second he puts into motion a scheme to test his brothers, 3rd he  has to account for his past and depend on God for his current behavior.

How would you react in a similar situation? You have been painfully and terribly treated, possibly injured by someone and now they are powerless and you have all the power.

Forgiveness is not forgetness that is stuffing your emotions inside and not dealing with them. Real forgiveness is recognizing the harm and justifiably wanting restitution for wrongs done against you and giving God ownership of the justice. It has been suggested to write down your grievances and give them to God! i.e. like a God box or something if that nature and put a physical action with a spiritual decision.

Don’t we all occasionally hope that time has changed the rules? That God would let this one slide so we could seek our own retribution.

Haven’t we hoped for someone’s forgiveness and reconciliation only to be ignored?

Do we feel as if we have really reaped to the degree we have sown?

Last the closing of the Patriarchal writings and the opening of the Exodus are several centuries. What one characteristic do we see even 400 years later? The children of Israel were still a peculiar people and had become vilified by the Egyptians. Somehow we think a friendly society that accepts Godly people is good for us, but truly it invites integration and usually compromise. Had Egypt remained friendly to the Israelites, the tribes could have been absorbed into Egypt’s pagan culture.

Has that happened I our country today, we have had a society that integrated with the church to the point the church gave up its responsibility?

The Patriarchs-Abram

In Uncategorized on April 28, 2009 at 2:22 pm

The Patriarchs month of April:

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Abram his call, through the birth if Isaac:

Background passages: Genesis 12-23

Chapter 12: We see Abram called by God to leave his country, family and friends to follow the call of God to a desolate foreign land promised to him. The main message is Go the requirement is trust and obey. God was revealed in his Glory to Abram and he went from polytheism to monotheism after his encounter with the living God. Some basis for this is found by the names they used and his father’s occupation. Then names of his family suggest they were named after the moon, or the moon god, or his associates. Abram’s father was an idol maker and he was probably around 40 something when the tower of Babel was started.

(Gen 12:1-2 HCSB)  The LORD said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

 

(Act 7:2 HCSB)  “Brothers and fathers,” he said, “listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he settled in Haran,

 

This encounter and calling was one of the most pivotal moments in history, when a polytheist and idol worshipper was redeemed. We see the rebirth of monotheism in very corrupt and perverse culture. After the flood Nimrod was establishing Babel the mother of harlots. He carried on his oppression and violence in defiance of God himself, daring Heaven with his impieties, as if he and his huntsmen could out-brave the Almighty, and were a match for the Lord of hosts and all his armies. As if it were a small thing to weary men, he thinks to weary my God also, Isa_7:13. (Matthew Henry)

 

We see God choosing to bless Abram soon to be called Abraham with a blessing that reaches through time to today’s believers and Israel.

 

(Gen 12:3 HCSB)  I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

 

What do you see as a blessing in your life in your life?

 

How can you bless others with that blessing?

 

One of the biggest lessens we learn early on about Abraham is his obedience to God’s call. Even as he had several personal failings just like us, he persevered and obeyed till it was judged as righteous.

 

(Heb 11:8 HCSB)  By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was going.

 

God is calling all of us to leave our familiar spiritual routines, and comfort zones, and every hint of mediocrity and go to a place He will show us. When we settle and stop the journey we miss out on God’s ultimate blessing, an intimate relationship with Him.

 

After Abram had reached Canaan the land that God had promised a severe famine started and God had Abram keep going to the Negev. A desert located in the southern part of Israel. To recap God called Abram from somewhere around the Persian gulf he traveled north to southern Turkey then south to Canaan, where God promised him all the land he had set foot on  and then a major famine sends him to the desert then eventually to Egypt.

 

(Gen 12:10 HCSB)  There was a famine in the land, so Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine in the land was severe.

 

We see Jesus also sent to the desert after his baptism and the Holy Spirit came upon him and God proclaimed him.

 

(Mat 4:1 HCSB)  Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.

 

Paul after his Damascus road salvation and having his sight restored spent 3 years in the desert.

 

(Gal 1:17-18 HCSB)  I did not go up to Jerusalem to those who had become apostles before me; instead I went to Arabia and came back to Damascus. Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas, and I stayed with him 15 days.

 

 Have you ever found yourself in a “desert” after following God in obedience to a promise?

 

Take a moment and write about it.

 

To quote Beth Moore” The weaknesses of God’s children do not strain the strength of God”. We see Abram telling Sarai to claim she is his sister instead of his wife to save his life from his own perceived threat instead of trusting God for his protection. Abram panicked all he could imagine was destruction instead of God’s protection.

 

Have you ever discovered that decisions made in panic, fear or self protection mode can have undesirable consequences?

 

God rescued Sarai even if Abram didn’t.

 

(Gen 12:16-17 HCSB)  He treated Abram well because of her, and Abram acquired flocks and herds, male and female donkeys, male and female slaves, and camels. But the LORD struck Pharaoh and his house with severe plagues because of Abram’s wife Sarai.

 

Those who choose to abuse or harm God’s children walk in dangerous ground, wither in this life or the next. God’s providence is to protect his children and to administer justice to those who seek our destruction. We tend to think in the moment and He takes the eternal view. With comfort and without fear we can rely on God in every situation. If you think God forget he didn’t, if you think he doesn’t understand he does! If you try to negotiate with him you assume he needs more information, or lacks a clear view of the problem, or worse he forgot something that you happened to remember. (Are you kidding?) God is sovereign, always present, always watching, never sleeping, always vigilant, always on time and always right. If there is a question in your heart or mind seek his word, his Spirit and his comfort.

 

As time and opportunity move forward remember Lot his nephew who is traveling with him on this sojourn. Their flocks have grown the need for food and water has out a strain on man and land, they are now out of Egypt and in the Promised Land.

 

(Gen 13:5-7 HCSB)  Now Lot, who was traveling with Abram, also had flocks, herds, and tents.   But the land was unable to support them as long as they stayed together, for they had so many possessions that they could not stay together, and there was quarreling between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were living in the land.

 

Proverbs speaks to quarreling especially in our close relationships.

 

(Pro 13:10 HCSB)  Arrogance leads to nothing but strife, but wisdom is gained by those who take advice.

 

If all were perfect there should be no pride, jealousy, and rivalry especially in our close relationships. Sometimes it seems we get along better with those we know the least and keep at a distance. We rob ourselves of intimate friendship when we keep people at arm’s length son to speak. Just for the record the definition of intimate is more closely aligned to friendship than with physical sexual involvements. We tend to be more crass and base in our understandings on occasion. In the text we see quarreling between Abram and Lot’s clans to settle the matter Abram shows his wisdom and understanding in this matter with Lot.

 

(Gen 13:8-9 HCSB)  Then Abram said to Lot, “Please, let’s not have quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, since we are relatives. Isn’t the whole land before you? Separate from me: if you go to the left, I will go to the right; if you go to the right, I will go to the left.”

 

How did Abram show his wisdom in this matter? (VS. 8-9)

 

(Gen 13:10-11 HCSB)  Lot looked out and saw that the entire Jordan Valley as far as Zoar was well-watered everywhere like the LORD’s garden and the land of Egypt. This was before God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. So Lot chose the entire Jordan Valley for himself. Then Lot journeyed eastward, and they separated from each other.

 

How did Lot choose his portion?

 

Abram gave the Lot the choice of the land and, Lot chooses what appeared to be the best property. Those who earnestly desire to please God (and therefore place others first) may sometimes think humility turns out badly. We can sometimes turn humility into victimhood thinking the more pitiful we are the more piety we have. Not only untrue, but the underlying behavior is anything but humble. God wants to bless us; it’s in his nature he can’t help himself. We are to obedient and He will always prove to be good! When we are motivated by selfishness, what appears to be a good move may very well have us pitching out tents next to Sodom? We don’t earn God’s favor we already have it. We don’t earn his love he already proved it. True love is defined in the Scriptures our choice is to simply love others as Christ loves us. Love should be a verb not a noun. Love isn’t what I say it’s what I do.

 

Col 1:21-22 And you were once alienated and hostile in mind because of your evil actions. But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him—

 

(Joh 3:16 HCSB)  “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

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