Saturday, January 26, 2013

Rescued by Famine (Gen 47:13-26)

13 Now there was no food in all the land, for the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished by reason of the famine. 14 And Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, in exchange for the grain that they bought. And Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh's house. 15 And when the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us food. Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone.” 16 And Joseph answered, “Give your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money is gone.” 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses, the flocks, the herds, and the donkeys. He supplied them with food in exchange for all their livestock that year. 18 And when that year was ended, they came to him the following year and said to him, “We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent. The herds of livestock are my lord's. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land. 19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.”
In the deserts of life there is a road to recovery
20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh's. 21 As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. 22 Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh and lived on the allowance that Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their land.23 Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. 24 And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.” 25 And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.” 26 So Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt, and it stands to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; the land of the priests alone did not become Pharaoh's.
 I have always felt this short story strange and a bit cruel. It does not seem to fit in the midst of the big-picture story of Joseph being the hero who God used to save the lives of the Egyptians and his entire family (who later made up the nation of Israel). Why will Joseph in this story take advantage of the people by allowing them to sell not only their land and livestock but themselves in slavery to Pharaoh in exchange for grain. They were left with nothing and were facing death, but they realized that their only hope was to sell themselves as slaves, so they said to Joseph " There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land.Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.” 

Deserts can bring a harvest through Surrender in Him
Joseph did what the people asked but he made a greater provision for them, he said“Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land.And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own." Pharaoh owned them completely however they received life and were able to still work on their land and only give 1/5 of their proceeds as a tax to Pharaoh. With this gracious gift all the people declared with joy, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.” . It looks like a win win deal, and it was. They gave of themselves to their king and their kind king gave them life and the ability to create wealth for their families (Gen 47:23-24).
What If…

What if this story is a metaphor for God's plan for all mankind, what if God masterfully put this snippet here like an artist who inserts a key, not obvious to the leisure observer. What if there is a strong message the creator and king of the universe is trying to tell his creation. What if He is saying, "You are in severe famine since sin came into your world, and if you live long enough you will see how hungry you become...hungry to the point of death. But in Me, you have grain to rescue you from death, but I need all of you. I know you need faith to believe in me, so I will give you grace to believe, my hands are open to you, will your free will bring you to me just as you are? I will give you all you need because I am good and I love you. I know you might have heard this before and have been let down by your world but I am outside of your world, I made you and know you (Ps 139). In the day you surrender you will be filled with joy unending and will have life forever more (Ps 16:11)". 
Just maybe there is a whisper from this strange story saying to you today...."Come to me and live". Think about it, ask God about this life found in total surrender to Him (John 12:24). For maybe your famine is the road towards rescue and true comfort for your soul.

Monday, January 21, 2013

"I have a Dream" (Gen 37-46)

"I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream...that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."...I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character". (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.-Aug 28, 1963)
A Dream of a clear beautiful horizon
Who can forget the "I have a dream" speech  spoken almost 50 years ago by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Christian man, father and Pastor. Fighting for the equality and justice of the Black American people and his legacy fights on still for the dignity and equality of all people. Through his leadership and sacrifice America can say..."look how far we've come" and can pick up the baton with courage to continue this race for equality. He and countless many have changed their world by following a dream...a dream not spurred by selfish ambition or passion but a dream delivered to their soul from above. These are dreams loaded with difficulty and frustrations...dreams filled with mountains of misunderstandings and valleys of solitude...dreams that cause hearers to tremble...they are dreams that call for the rescue of many and the confrontation of many more, tis a dream that comes from the sovereign hand of God.

This talk of God given dreams brings us right into another beautiful story recorded in the history book of the bible (Gen 37-46), of a young man named Joseph who lived in present day israel with 11 brothers. Joseph's father was Jacob and his mother Rachel and he was more loved by his father than any of his brothers. This naturally caused his brothers to hate him enough to plot to kill him but eventually settled on selling him to slavery to Ishmaelite traders on their way to Egypt and in Egypt he was sold to Potiphar an Egyptian officer. However before Joseph became a slave he had a dream. A dream that his brothers and parents were going to bow down to him, revealing that he was going to become a big ruler with great authority. Now how does one move from being a slave to being a king?

The magic word was, "...and the Lord was with Joseph"(Gen 39:2, 5, 21, 23, 45:9) and so he was successful in all he did. He moved from a beloved son to a slave boy, from head of Potiphar's household to a jail house and from jail through God's sovereign hand he becomes ruler over Egypt only second to Pharaoh.
While Joseph was ruler over Egypt he saw his dreams or rather God's dream for his life unfold in the most unlikely way. His brothers and father got to discover his true identity not before they had all submitted to his authority. His authority was God's plan not to build his pride but to save the lives of his family, Egypt and their neighbors. His entire family of 66 people move to Egypt and God blesses them with big families of their own fulfilling God's plan made to Abraham (Gen 15:13).God is faithful to His promises, His checks never bounce, you can trust Him with everything you have and are. You can let go, you are secure in His arms, it might seem most unlikely but He specializes in the impossible...will you dare to trust Him with your dream or rather His dreams for your life?

A God given Dream glows from above 
How will I know my dream is a God given one and not my own pursuit for happiness? I believe a God given dream is a mantle set on you, put on you without asking your permission. It is the dream that constrains you to an invisible wall leaving you no other choice but to walk its dark road, it is a dream that seeks the very heart of God and demands your very life. God's dream for your life will demand your complete surrender to Him and only then will you be set free to truly live and be used to be the rescuer of many. In the words of Henry Varley "The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is wholly consecrated to Him". May the buffeting of your soul with dreams that will not let us go, lead you into the arms of the giver of dreams Our God, our Lord and our Savior in Him alone shall you find rest and comfort for your soul (Mat 11:27-19).
"Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your soul"(Mat 11:28-29)
So keep that God given dream alive no matter how small you might think it is or how big it may burden you, be spurred on as you remember the cloud of witnesses in your celebrations on MLK day 2013 and as you witness today the 2nd term swearing in of our 44th President Barack Hussein Obama, remember they cheer you on to declare along with all the saints before them that..."God given dreams will come true when you rest in the arms of God", now this is true Comfort for your soul.

(If this story of Joseph motivates you watch out this year for the nationwide movie release of a modern day adaption of the story of Joseph called "Season's of Grey", you may watch the trailer here

Friday, January 18, 2013

"The Perfect Love Story" (Gen 29-30)

"For love is as strong as death...It's flames are flames of fire. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house it would be utterly despised" (Song of Solomon)
It is amazing how drawn we all are to a love story, Boy meets girl, they fall in love and live happily ever after. What is it about a beautiful love story that transports us to a world outside our own, a world where only good things can happen and where maybe for once perfection can reign and good prevail. A love story seems so natural to our DNA yet so foreign to our reality, some say it belongs in the movies, a picture frame or....

Sailing into the arms of Perfect love the pages of a book.

It is in the pages of one book, The Bible that we join another perfect love story found in Gen 29-30. A young man named Jacob meets a beautiful Shepherd girl Rachel and they fall in love. Jacob works for seven years in order to marry the love of his life. The years seem like days because of his deep love for her and on his wedding day something goes terribly wrong. Rachel's father tricks him by trading Rachel for her older sister Leah and before Jacob knows it, he is married to the wrong woman. Jacob however decides to work another seven years so that he can marry Rachel as well, and so he did. So Jacob, Leah and Rachel are a family and they live happily ever after....not really.

You see, Jacob's family story unfolds with Leah the "unloved wife", is comforted by God so she has four boys (Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah) while Rachel is left barren. Jealousy leads Rachel to give another woman called Bilhah to Jacob so that she can have children for her.  In the cultural context of the day this was not a strange practice...don't ask me why? Nevertheless, Bilhah gives birth to two sons Dan and Naphtali, which only makes matters worse in the house because Leah is not happy. So she decides to also give her husband another woman Zilpah to have children for her. Zilpah and Jacob have two sons Gad and Asher. The story continues to get messy when Leah negotiates her way into Jacob's bed one night and conceives and bears a son Issachar and later another son Zebulun. As for Rachel God finally remembers her and she has a son whom she names Joseph. Can you imagine being Jacob in this household full of strife and jealousy. I imagine him saying, "Did I work 14 years for this mess...I want out....Lord save me from my own family... I see no hope...I want out!". What a less than perfect love story this trace of that undying love he once there hope for such a crazy messed up family?

The storms may sail in but the pillars of Perfect love endures Forever (1 Cor 13)
This not so perfect love story doesn't end here, because the perfect Lover has been working behind the scenes, individually pursuing  Jacob, Leah and Rachel so that He may show them true love that never disappoints, He desired to hold them right in the core of their own mess and wipe off all the things that made them cry, that made them feel alone, insecure, dissatisfied. The perfect lover was there all along wooing them into the very core of love. True love which is kind, patient, holds no record of wrongs but rejoices in Truth. A Love that hopes in all things, a Love that never fails (1 Cor 13). Yes the perfect Lover took their messed up family and out of it birth a nation called Israel one which 2000 years later still holds the attention of the world. Israel a nation who hosted God Himself, providing the platform for the  consummation of His love for all mankind. So that now through His death and resurrected all of mankind who believes in Him can enter into this perfect love story all our souls long for (John 3:16).

Yes my beloved the reason we all long for a perfect love story is because we were made to receive one. So will you receive the perfect Lover today and enter into the rest of perfect love? A Love you were designed to receive, now this is true comfort for the soul.
"This is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins" (1 John 4:10)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Waiting...Lessons from a list (Gen. 11:20-26)

Very few like to sit through the reading of long lists. Reading lists of names, places or genealogy accounts can be bearable if we know at least one person on the list and share a story with them or are intrigued about their life.
Lessons from a list
What can a list of names tell us? Can they breath life into our lives?... with every name lies a story and so a lesson to grapple. A lesson I learnt from one such list is found in Gen 11. If you have read the bible a few times you will immediately relate, maybe rather unfavorable to genealogies...Reu begot Serug....Serug begot Nahor...Nahor begot Terah...Terah begot Abraham, Nahor and Haran (Gen 11:20-26).

I immediately noticed Terah because of his son Abraham. Abraham's story reveals a man chosen by God to birth a nation called Israel. Abraham was the one whom God promised a blessing for Israel and through him all the world was to be blessed (Gen 12). This blessing was incredible and quite confusing to Abraham but we know from History that God's promise did come true and we who are called Christians are the fruits of this blessing (Rom 4:11-24).

Although Abraham was a man favored by God, he carried a promise whose fulfillment took some waiting. Terah Abraham's father had to wait until he was 70 years to have Abraham (which was 40years more than his ancestors before him), Abraham waited 25 years for his promised son Isaac. This trend of waiting for a promise extends to other faithful men and women like Joseph (13 years before his dreams came alive), Moses (40 years before he leads Israel out of Egypt), David (15 years before he becomes king), Hannah (waited many years to have her first son Samuel), Elizabeth (Conceived John the Baptist in her old age) and the list can go on. 

In our "NOW" culture, how can we come to terms with being asked to wait for so long even as one who is favored by God. Is waiting a curse? Does it indicate that God has abandoned you or that he does not exist? Of course not! Although waiting will involve some suffering, confusion, disillusion, discouragement, depression, temptation and pain. Nevertheless waiting yields the beauty of perseverance, patience, humility, trust, compassion, faith, hope and love. Character traits which are necessary in living an abundant life (John 10:10) and which cannot be developed any other way (Rom 5:3-5). Jesus says,

"The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy but I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10)

So if waiting is a necessary friend of life, how can we learn to wait well? Like with any friendship it begins with a smile, an embrace and then a kiss which only comes with time and with a desire to come close. May each embrace and kiss refine you and reflect in you the beauty of heaven as you wait (Ps 37:7-9).

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"You will not surely die" (Gen 3)

Ever since civilization existed people the world over have been looking for truth, some have looked to the heavens others have looked to earth, some say their ancestors have the truth while others have made up their own truth. whatever truth you have chosen to adopt there remains one common denominator which is consequence. The consequence of ones life is built on the truths we choose to adopt.

The Truth brings Life
In Gen 3 it is reported that Truth spoke again through the mouth of a uniquely created being Eve, she spoke with confidence, "God has said if you eat the fruit from the tree of Good and Evil, you die". That was the Truth, too bad there was another truth fighting for dominance. That voice that buffets the Truth and tries to push it over says, "You will not surely that will be like God knowing good and evil". It is hard to believe that the consequence of mankind from that moment on until eternity hung on the battle of theTruth. Who will you believe?

Maybe when I was five years old this question could have been very easy to answer, I would have believed those who had showed me love and had proven their love through their presence. However now being much older and wiser, the question who will you believe can seem like an almost impossible answer to give. What is Truth? Is Truth relative or absolute? How will I know when I have found it?

 Truth is like pure gold it can stand the test of time (Prov. 12:19), it is like a well polished mirror it brings reality into perfect focus (2 Cor 3:18), nothing can be hidden behind it's gaze (Heb. 4:12). As we journey in this New Year, seeking for more, seeking for better. the great fork in the road appears like it did in the garden of Eden, choose this day which truth you will adopt.

If you had to ask me right now which path I have decided to take, who I have decided to believe? In a strange way, although wiser I go back to the simple truth of a five year old. I believe the one who has showed me unconditional love and has proven their love by their beautiful presence in my life. Because of whom I believe I live and grant life to many, but be not deceived if you choose the less than perfect absolute Truth, "You will surely die".  Seek to know Him better in the person of Jesus Christ because in Him there is fullness of life (Ps 119:160), now this is true comfort for the soul.

“…according to their kind…according to His likeness” (Gen 1)

The World Begins
Stories of beginnings are very interesting, the beginning of ones life, the beginning of a year, the newness of a marriage, the beauty of starting that new job or the excitement of a new relationship. “In the beginning” keeps us tuned in, almost leaning forward to see how the story unfolds.

In Gen 1 we see how another beginning holds our interest, the beginning of our world. God speaks and all comes to be from the earth to the sea, the trees and its fruit, the stars, moon and sun are spoken into existence. Then the second phase of creation God speaks life into our world, on the fifth day all living creatures are made, “according to their kind”. The phrase “according to their kind is used ten times through five verses (Gen 1:11-12,21,24-25) begging for us to pay attention. According to their kind God speaks into creation sky creatures, sea creatures and land creatures (Gen 1:20-25), they receive the blessing of multiplying the earth. Then there is a pause…another living being is being created according to their kind but this time it is according to a different kind separate from all other living creatures.

God speaks, “Let Us make man according to Our image, according to our likeness” and they are blessed. Blessed not only with multiplication like the animals and birds but with relationship and rulership over all the earth. God created His own kind on earth to know Him and have a personal relationship with Him and then through this relationship mankind will be able to manage earth matters according to God’s sovereign direction. The stage is set, this is the beginning.

If you are like me, I always like to ask the “so what question?”. If man was made according to the kind of God what implications does that have today in my life? Being made of the same kind as God on earth puts Human life to a supreme premium and an excellent standard of living comparable only to his Kind, which is God. Human life although not divine is sacred, comparable only to the very life of God. That is why  the very life of God (Jesus Christ) is the only suitable substitute to rescue (buy-back) humankind from  sin and death that will enter the world after the beginning (Rom 4:24-25, 5:18)...that is the next part of the story.

Do you see your life this way? Do you see the standard of excellence you are called to? Do you value all human life with this standard in mind? Not comparing ourselves with ourselves because that is foolish, but comparing our character, our being with the very character and being of God (1 John 4:17). This uniqueness is the same across cultures, across race and across sex. it is not the color of my skin that gives me value or my ability to be productive in my society that gives me value. Far be it! I am valuable because I am human, because all humans black or white, Asian or American, male or female are made in the image of God. 

Jerry Bridges in his book, WHO AM I says "Because I am created by God it means I am dependent on Him and accountable to Him". That is why one wise man once said "Understanding who the God of the Bible is, helps us understand who we are as human beings created in his image".  
About this John Calvin says,
Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say true and sound wisdom, consist of two parts: the knowledge of God and ourselves. But while joined by many bonds, which one preceded and brings forth the other is not easy to discern. 
I am also learning that the more I learn about God the creator of the universe the more clearly I see myself (2 Cor 3:17). So the key to understanding your own identity is rooted in the very knowledge of and relationship with God. If you are confused about  who you are, you open the door to all kinds of evil (insecurities, selfishness, pride and control). That is what happened when sin entered the world in the beginning…

more next time as we journey through History from the beginning, in hope that you may find the Truth of life and be set free to live out God’s likeness on earth (1 John 4:17) because in so doing lies true comfort for your soul.

Happy New Year, a new journey begins in Him.

My Testimony