Psalm 16 Utmost confidence in my Safe Place!

Where do you find confidence?  When everything around is in turmoil, when life gets, overwhelmingly, loud and there is a constant demand for your attention where can you find some peace?

Do you have a safe place?   This is a question those who are on the spectrum need to have an answer to.  They need a safe place to regain confidence when melt down is imminent.  A safe place to go when the stims of life have turned an otherwise healthy environment toxic.  But they surely aren’t the only ones who need to know where their safe place is.  Even King David the writer of this Psalm spoke of his safe place.  The place where he turned and found renewed confidence and inner peace to carry on.

This Psalm of David has no specific point in history for us to look up.  No heroic battles won, or near death escapes for the King of Israel.  It is simply a declaration of what David knew to be true.  So, if you have your Bible or app along you might want to turn there and follow along.  Each version has its nuances so follow along in which ever version you prefer.  We’ll look at each verse this morning out of the NIV and the NLT and see if we too have discovered David’s safe place.

Psalm 16 (NLT)

David begins,(1)   Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge.”   You and I know that God is a person not a place.  So clearly David isn’t suggesting otherwise here?  Yet repeatedly David has taken refuge in His God.  Psalm 7:1, “O LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me…” (NIV).   Psalm 11:1, “In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain” (Psalm 11:1 (NIV).  David’s confidence was clearly in the Lord, he rejected the idea that refuge was to be found elsewhere.

As I wrote that, I suddenly found myself thinking of the refugees out in Summerland that Sylvia and Renee mentioned a while ago.  If you remember, after escaping war-torn Syria, enduring horrendous living conditions, they sought refugee status in Canada.  And like winning the lottery they were granted visas and sponsored by caring Canadians.  Then they traveled to the other side of the earth, looking for a safe place to raise their family. Looking for a refuge.

And as they settled in Summerland it surely looked like safe refuge for them.  But then, as we have often seen as of late; when the vacancy rate of rental properties dips below 1%, and prices of those few remaining rentals increase with demand, these refugees had the house sold from under them.  At the point S&R asked us to pray for them, they had two months to move and it was causing great inner turmoil for them.

They thought they had found refuge in a house but it was sadly temporary.  Yet David clearly expressed much confidence in his Refuge, his safe place.  A confidence that seemed unmoved by circumstances.  David, “(2) …said to the LORD, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.”   David’s Refuge was found in the same place that S&R asked us to pray for those refugees.  In fact, God was the source of everything good in David’s life.  Can we pray for better refuge than that for them?

In verse 3 David thanks God for that which God has blessed him with.  (3) The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”

The Godly ones!  Did you notice that?  Psalm 84:10 says, A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked” (NLT)

The day I began to write this message Rika went home to her Refuge.  She had lived a long and sometimes difficult life but in the end, there was no doubt how godly she had grown.  Like some versions of your bibles, the word godly and saint were interchangeable.  Rika was a delight to be around even though she was feisty at 97, there was no doubt that Jesus was her Refuge!

David delighted in the saints because of Who their refuge was.  He didn’t worship them, but he sure admired them.  Called them heroes!  They were the people he enjoyed being around the most.

I hear sad things at times out of the mouths of people who call themselves Christians.  Like when they say they prefer the company of the ungodly.  In fact, they’d rather be out with the ungodly than be with the godly at church.   I just shake my head.

How is that possible I wonder?  How is it that a professing Christian finds more in common with the people who find nothing in common with the one whom they profess to be their Refuge?  What does this really say?  Are they truly whom they claim to be?  Or have they never actually met those “godly people” …David’s “true heroes”?

Seriously if you would rather keep the company of the ungodly that says more about you than you think.  I know you will likely come back with “but Jesus hung around with “tax collectors and sinners”, “prostitutes” and shady characters”.  “And He was God in the flesh. If it was good enough for Him it is good enough for me”

But really?  Did he hang out and party, cursing and carrying on like them?  Enjoying what they enjoyed and doing what they did?  Worshipping what they worshipped?   And did those people carry on doing the ungodly things they had always done once they had been with Jesus for a time?    His record is spotless how about yours?

Delitzsch writes, “The expression of his abhorrence attains its climax: even their names… he shuns taking upon his lips” (1:224: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs.)

David said, Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods. I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood or even speak the names of their gods” (Psalm 16:4 (NLT).   Basically, he said, “I’m not with them, I’m with the godly ones.” He taken a stand.  Which doesn’t mean he thought he was perfect like you and me!   Clearly there is a line that you and I ought not cross even as we try to bring the ungodly folks that come into our lives to further a relationship with our Lord.  But it does mean he’s all in.

 “LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine” Psalm 16:5 (NLT) David has things that are dear to him.  He’s not some ascetic monk living in the wilderness.  The truth is God has given that once shepherd boy a kingdom full of things that his heart desired.  Fancy clothes, horses and chariots and clubs and swords….  Gold and silver and precious stones, even land!   “The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!” (Psalm 16:6 (NLT).  He possesses much but it doesn’t possess him.  He doesn’t worry about leaving it to go and do what God is calling him to because he knows that God gave it to him and will keep what he needs for him.

How does he know this?  Well, David gives us a clue in verse 7.   “I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me” (Psalm 16:7 (NLT).  That’s a personal relationship with the almighty that David is getting at.  A relationship that he clearly cherishes.  His counselor is the creator of everything and he acknowledges his reliance on the God who guides.

I don’t know about you but I know I have times when my days are hectic and so full that time to think things through just doesn’t happen.  And Like David I have experienced those times when I finally go to sleep and sure enough in the middle of the night the answer suddenly comes.  I try to get up and write it down.  Or I’ll make a note beside my bed on the tablet.  Cause sure enough I’ll forget it by morning.

Now I can ask other Pastors, and talk with smart people, even Google answers when I need to know something but trusting God as your counsellor – is the safest place to go to and the safest to listen to.

David was that confident.  He was so confident in his safe place that he wrote, I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me”
Psalm 16:8 (NLT).   Put your confidence in man, and even the most loyal one will eventually fail you or not be there when you need him.  Trust in technology and you’ll find out quickly when the power fades how poor a safe place that is.  But when you have a friend who sticks closer than a brother, now you’re in your safe zone.   Now your confidence has a resting place.

I think David surprised himself with his declaration in verse 7 because in verse 8 he writes, “No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety”
Psalm 16:9 (NLT).   With God, right beside you, what have you to fear?  Yet I find, as I wander at times, that the assurance the David proclaims doesn’t hit home.  And in those times, I don’t sleep so well.  I may toss and turn all night long…ever been there?  David is doing more than instructing us and giving God praise in these verses.  These things he writes are for instructing his own heart, telling it what the truth is.  Not accepting the counsel of the wicked, or giving into fear and superstition. He reminds himself where His refuge is found and he instructs his heart to go to his Safe place when even death threatens to rob him of his peace.

He thanks God that,God will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave” Psalm 16:10 (NLT).     David didn’t want death to be the end of it all.  And now he knows that the best is yet to come! But at the time he wrote this do you think he understood the resurrection?

I’m aware that the Apostle Peter used these very verses in Acts 2:23-25 as he spoke of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, our Safe Place confirmed according to Paul.  Peter looking back confirms what David spoke in faith, looking ahead.

He was told by the prophet Nathaniel; the account is found in 2 Samuel 7:12-16, that David’s legacy would live on through his children.  But was it more than a spiritual resurrection as they call that?

Nathaniel said to him, “(12) When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, (euphemism for dying or death.  David did know that like his fathers he would die.)  Nathaniel goes on to say, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, (this would be a physical, blood line descendant) and I will establish his kingdom.  (And we know that Solomon, David’s son did carry on as King of Israel).  Nathaniel goes on to say, (13) “He shall build a house for My name,  (Still speaking of Solomon.   Solomon’s Temple is a historical, traceable fact of history…you can read all about it.  It happened as the prophet predicted.) Nathaniel predicted, “He shall build a house for My name,  and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever”. (David was told about a throne that will last longer than a man lives.  Forever. One of David’s descendants’, Jesus Christ, His Kingdom would last forever.   Jesus – the son of David, the Son of God whose body never saw decay nor did it stay in the ground!  Because on the tird day He rose from the dead in accordance to the scriptures.  Jesus would literally live forever! )   But wait for it…).     Nathaniel speaking for God goes on to say, (14)  “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, (15)  but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you”
2 Samuel 7:12-15 (NASB).   This king would suffer taking on the sins of the world, being corrected by man’s devices, beaten and hung on a cross to die, but unlike Saul who went to the grave, whose body did decay this son of David would continue to reign under God’s protection and refuge and history confirms this too.  But wait for it… Nathaniel then says, “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever’2 Samuel 7:16 (NASB).  Jesus rose bodily from the dead, “did not see decay” ascended to the right hand of God, the place of absolute authority and reigns forever.

So when David said confidently, For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.  You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever (Psalm 16:10-11 (NLT).  If this was written after Nathaniel’s prophecy, David already understood that he was of the lineage of the coming Messiah and spoke of the joy of being in God’s presence with his son forever.   Is that cool or what!  No wonder he had such confidence!

Romans 8:10-11 says, “(10)  And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. (11)  The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you” (Romans 8:10-11 (NLT).

Make this your safe place and you can never be shaken!  Amen?

James 1:1-4 Refining faith God’s way.

Zach was telling me the other day that the first couple of weeks at the Gym are particularly busy this time of year but that quickly trails off as people begin to realize the perseverance it takes to retain never mind grow healthy muscle tone.

Those muscles don’t happen over night.  Sometimes people try to take shortcuts to make that happen but that can often lead to very negative results.

Shortcuts like anabolic steroids taken to make those muscles bulge and produce a temporarily increase in strength.  In the short run, steroids may produce the looks that one hopes for in lieu of the pain of persevering at the gym.  But in the end the folly of taking steroids produces infertility and impotence.Continue reading

You think you’ve done some dumb things…check this guy out: Jonah 1

When I mentioned the book of Jonah what first that comes to mind?

Like many stories from HIStory the book of Jonah causes our creative juices to flow.   Artists throughout the ages have depicted this tiny book in several ways but none more than a whale of a tale.  Sea monsters, sperm whales, and other giant sea creatures are the usual depictions for the book of Jonah.  But frankly I think they may have missed the point.   This book is not about a giant whale!  Though to be sure a whale plays a part in this book.

And this book isn’t about a city named Nineveh, though to be sure that city is in HIStory and not only in this book.  They have found artifacts from it dated back even before 786bc.

slide1To be perfectly honest this book isn’t even about a man named Jonah though once again a man named Jonah does play a predominant role in this book and he may have even written it according to many scholars.  But this book isn’t here today because of Jonah’s story.  His story was included in it because of HIStory.  This book is all about a living relationship with Jesus Christ!  The maker of heaven and earth.

The book teaches us about our freewill and divine sovereignty.   It is about the invitation given by God, even today, to be change agents in HIStory.  Willing change agents or otherwise as we will see. And it tells of the consequences that human choice set in motion.

In this book you can find both divine wrath and amazing grace, the very hallmarks of HIStory, as you follow this man named Jonah who was called by God to bring correction to the inhabitants of Nineveh.   And from that point of view it is an extraordinary missionary story.

Today we’ll look at the first chapter and see Jonah receive merciful correction after making a few wrong choices in life.   If you have your Bible with you turn to Jonah chapter 1.

 

 (1)  The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: (2) “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” (3)  But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. (4)  Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. (5)  All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. (6)  The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.” (7)  Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. (8)  So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

 (9)  He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” (10)  This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.) (11)  The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” (12)  “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” (13)  Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. (14)  Then they cried to the LORD, “O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased.” (15)  Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. (16)  At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him. (17)  But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.  Jonah 1:1-17 (NIV)

This portion of History shows us that with God you are always free to choose.  He has given us autonomy when it comes to making choices.  We human beings are entirely free to make even really dump choices. We can even choose to ignore God Almighty Himself!

In Deuteronomy 30 we read, (19) This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (20)  and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NIV)  God has given mankind freewill.  You are truly free to choose as you will.

slide5I mean just look at Jonah!  Here was a prophet of God’s own choosing.

As this book begins Jonah is in the ministry.  He has already been used of God to deliver a powerful and clearly life altering messages that got King Jeroboam to restore the boundaries of Israel (cf. 2 Kings 14:25).   Jonah was living in the limelight because of it.  Things were going good in his ministry.  And then God sent forth this word to Jonah that he had a new assignment to attend to.  A huge assignment!

Jonah was to go and prophesy in a city that historians tell us was more than a half a million people!   A huge city in that time!  Later in Jonah we find out it takes a person 3 days to go across this sprawling city (cf. Jonah 3:3).  So this was a big assignment for the prophet of God’s own choosing!  And Jonah was even to tell them that God was royally ticked off with their behavior as of late.  This is usually a favorite thing for prophets to do, in fact you find this is as you read through the entire Bible.  It’s the usual job of the prophet to bring warnings from God.   So you’d think Jonah would be happy to oblige.   After-all he’s in the ministry.  This wasn’t his first assignment.  He was a prophet of God Most High.  Frankly there was no higher calling known to man.

But verse 3 tells us that instead of embracing the call, Jonah ran away.  He basically said I quit, I’m out of here.  Not only am I not going to Nineveh I’m going in the opposite direction just as fast as I can.  And he seriously tried to do exactly that.

He took his own money and bought himself passage on a freighter heading 2500 miles in the opposite direction.  That would soon prove to be a real waste of money.  And you know what?  Jonah was absolutely free to make that choice!

You see God has really given every human being this thing called freewill.  That just means we have the freedom to choose to ignore even God Almighty.  And if we are perfectly honest with ourselves we’d have to admit that you and I have done this on many occasions for even lessor reasons than Jonah.

So why did Jonah do it? Well, after researching Nineveh, part of me can’t blame Jonah for not wanting to go to there.  He knew Nineveh’s reputation.  Nineveh was known for the cruelty and wickedness that ran rampant in that city.

slide6Nahum, another prophet who actually proclaimed it’s downfall said of Nineveh, (1)  Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! (2)  The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and jolting chariots! (3)  Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses–” (Nahum 3:1-3 (NIV).   This was a pagan city where evil knew no bounds.  Killing was done just for sport.

Historians paint graphic images with the idolatry and hideousness of their wickedness running rampant.  slide7Even God Himself said, “its wickedness has come up before me” (2) And …Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, …Should I not be concerned about that great city?” Jonah 4:11 (NIV)

But Jonah was “a Hebrew that worshipped the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land” (10).   That’s what he calls himself in verse 10.  A man who worshipped God.  And it is clear from not only his actions in this passage but his later discourse with God that Jonah thought he was above the likes of those nasty gentiles.  Why should he go and warn them?

Clearly he had little compassion for those whom God had much compassion for.  But this too he was free to choose!  God had bestowed upon mankind freewill.  Jonah was absolutely free to choose to show his prejudice, and his lack of compassion and concern for Nineveh.  Which he promptly did by boarding a boat headed in the opposite direction.

And that’s when things got real interesting right?

Have you ever noticed God doesn’t take no for an answer?  While it is absolutely true that God gives us the freewill to make choices it is also absolutely true, as clearly seen in this passage, that God does not give us the freedom to determine the consequences of our choices.  You are always free to choose but remember He alone determines the consequences of your choice.

You are free to choose to take drugs or abuse alcohol but you are not free to choose the consequences of taking them. That may include marriage breakdown or kidney failure, poverty or homelessness.  You are free to choose to ignore the laws regarding drinking and driving but the consequences of doing so are out of your control.  You are free to tell your employer to take this job and shove it, but the short or long term consequences of doing so are beyond your control.

slide8I think Jonah certainly got to learn some of that lesson in this passage don’t you?   It began with that powerful wind that came up just after they had entered open seas.  This was no ordinary storm.  Those were hardened sailors in that boat.  They had been through storms before but not like this one.  This one caused them to get out their idols and pray like never before.

They were so afraid that they started throwing cargo overboard.  That cargo was their livelihood!  And few things cause man to jettison their livelihood other than a near death experience.  That’s what was unfolding before them and they recognized it and were terrified.

But Jonah, we’re told just went below deck and fell asleep.  His guilty conscience likely had tired him out completely.  Saying no to God has that effect.  While God gives strength and power to those who do His will; “there is no peace …for the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22).

Jonah is not a type of our Lord as some might call him.  They usually point to the way he slept during the storm, saying he had not a worry in the world.  And they compare that to Jesus who also slept peacefully during the storm.  But this was in no way like our Lord who after a busy day of miracles and healing the sick went out on the water with His disciples to rest.  As they rowed to sea Jesus was found sleeping in the hull of the boat.  And when the raging storm threatened their peace Jesus slept through even that stormy blast.  But that’s where the similarity ends.   Unlike Jonah when Jesus was jarred awake by the frightened disciples Jesus merely rebuked the waves and the storm died.

Even the captain of the boat wanted to know why Jonah was sleeping when they were about to perish.  He ordered Jonah to get up and pray to his God!

Funny, isn’t it, that those who show little faith in daily life often get very prayerful when calamity strikes?  Yet these men, captain included, were about to learn the difference between false gods made of wood and stone and the God of the Hebrews who made the sea and wind.

As the storm raged on those men in desperation cast lots hoping to determine whose fault it was that they were in peril.  And God caused the lots to fall in the right direction.  God would make sure they knew who to blame when the lot fell to Jonah.

The sailors demanded to know what he had done to piss off His God so royally. And it was here that Jonah began to do the right thing.  He confessed his sin before those men.  Admitted that he rebelliously ran away from God’s clear calling.  And then Jonah even told them what they could do to remedy the situation.  Just get rid of him and the trouble will end.

Euthanasia is what we might call it today.   Or maybe death by cop would be a better example?  Jonah said, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” … “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” (Jonah 1:12 (NIV)

Seriously?   God would actually do that?    He would actually cause a deadly storm as the consequences of Jonah’s poor albeit free choice?  The consequences of his choices could have hurt or killed everyone on that boat?  Does God really do that?

Absolutely! 

And you know how I know?  Just look what happened next?

At first they tried to spare Jonah by rowing like crazy.  They didn’t want to throw a man into the sea.  But when the storm grew and their self-effort failed their only choice left was to follow what the man of God told them to do or they too would suffer the consequences.

So they prayed some more! But did you notice to whom they prayed this time? (cf. Jonah 1:14)   It wasn’t to their idols.  It was to Jonah’s God.  The God he told them that was in charge of the storm.  And did you notice what they prayed?  They asked for forgiveness for what they were about to do.

slide10“Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm (Jonah 1:15 (NIV).

You should underline that in your Bible.  The raging sea grew calm!  The storm immediately ended the moment they obeyed God.  And what was the immediate effect of calm seas on those sailors?

At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him” (Jonah 1:16 (NIV).

Well, would you look at that!  They actually began their faith journey at that very moment.  And why do you think that you might be asking?  Because their actions showed that there was no doubt in their minds that God, Jonah’s God, was the real deal.   He really does control the storms in life.

But where did that leave Jonah?  Well in the belly of the whale of course.

God had not only chosen the consequences for Jonah’s actions He also provided a way out from what would have been certain death.   Any man tossed overboard into the sea stands little chance of being found alive but God in His mercy provided a new and more humbling mode of transport for Jonah.

There is lots of debate about what this fish was.  The Hebrew basically says “big fish”.  But Sir Francis Fox, was told by a captain and crew of a whaling ship, that a sailor fell overboard and was swallowed by a sperm whale. The sailor was rescued alive, some twenty-four hours later when the whale was captured and cut open. After being mental deranged for two weeks the sailor recovered. (Tenney, pg45)”

So I wouldn’t rule out a whale.  But then again God who instantly calms the seas could have wrapped Jonah in an air bubble and got him safely to dry land.  The fact is a fish of some sort was provided by God.  How it happened is somewhat a mystery.  Why it happened is not a mystery.  As I said at the beginning of today’s lesson, this book is not about a whale, a city called Nineveh not even about Jonah.slide12

This was all about Jesus Christ, God incarnate, sovereign Lord of the universe who later would look back at this event and say,

(29)  … “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. (30)  For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation…The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. Luke 11:29-32 (NIV).

Jesus spoke not so much about the judgement as about the remedy for man’s sinful choices.  The miraculous provision of God that saw Jesus die, entombed three days and rise again to new life.

 “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God” (Romans 6:10).

The Bible says, (19) This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (20)  and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him…” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NIV) 

Beware of the consequences of your choices today, for it is beyond your control. If God has made it clear to you what you must do, choose to do it His way.

 



Dig deeper into HIStory: Jonah 1:1-17

Discussion Starters:

  1. Do you prefer to be on the giving or receiving end of correction?
  2. Has there ever been a time when you chose not to do what you were told to do?  Why didn’t you?
  3. Has there been a time when being disciplined helped you?

 

READ Jonah 1:1-17 in several versions if available.

 

  1. Who was Jonah and what do we know about him from the OT?  (Jonah 1:1; see also 2 Kings 14:25)
  2. What do we know about Jonah from Jesus? (Matt. 12:39-41; Luke 11:29-32; Matthew 16:4)
  3. Where and what was Nineveh?  (Gen. 10:11; Jonah 3:3, 4:11 )
  4. Why did God tell Jonah to Nineveh? (Jonah 1:2;  Nahum 3:1,7,19; see also Gen 4:10; Gen 6:13; Gen 18:21; Ezr 9:6 Rev. 18:5).  What was their sin? Exodus 20
  5. How did Jonah answer God’s call at first? (Jonah 1:3,10)  Why? (Jonah 4:2; Matthew 16:4; Heb. 3:15; James 1:22; Psalm 119:27) see also (Exodus 4:13; 1 Ki 19:3; Jer. 20:7-9; Eze. 3:14;  Luke 9:62).
  6. What did God do about it?  (Jonah 1:4) How do we know it was God? (12b,15b) (see also Exodus 10:13,19; Exodus 14:21; 15:10; Num. 11:31; Psalm 107:24-31; Psalm 135:7; Amos 4:13; Matthew 8:24-27)
  7. What affect did that have on the people in the boat? (Jonah 1:5,7-8 see also 1 Ki 18:26; Isa 44:17-20; Jer. 2:28)  Where was Jonah as the storm raged? (Jonah 1:5b,6 ) Was Jonah like Jesus in Mark 4:38; Luke 8:23?
  8. What right thing did Jonah do in verses 9 and 12?  (Luke 13:3; Proverbs 28:13; Rev. 2:5; 1 Jn. 1:9, see also 2 Sam. 24:17; John 11:50)
  9. What did the sailors do? (Jonah 1:13)   Did it work?  So then what did they do? (14-15)
  10. What was the immediate effect of throwing Jonah overboard? (Jonah 1:15b, 16a)
  11. What happened to Jonah (Jonah 1:17)  (see also Hab 3:2)
  12. How is being swallowed by a big fish God’s grace? (Rev. 3:19; Joel 2:13; Matthew 3:2; Romans 6:23; Romans 10:9-10)
  13. In what ways has God pursued you?
  14. Who can you share with this week what you know Jesus has done for you?

Come Find Grace in the Heart of Penticton

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Numbers 14:22-30 God’s cure for real bad attitudes.

Numbers 140Slide2Did you know; “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)?

The Apostle James says, “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to control his whole body” (James 3:2).

Have you ever said something that you instantly wished you had never uttered?  I suspect all of us have experienced this at some point.  It happens.  If you speak for a living you are bound to say wrong things at times.  But what about those times you deliberately say things that provoke? In your passion you got angry about something and before you had time to really examine the issue your mouth opened and the words just came out. And the damage was done!

Today’s portion of HIStory speaks about the consequences of letting loose the tongue without thinking about the consequences.

Slide3Proverbs 21:23 says, “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.”

We all know that wars have been started from words uttered in haste.  And when people choose to stir up rebellion the results are often unpredictable.  Even words that are not meant to harm can break long term relationships.  Case in point…

Slide4Today is Karemi’s birthday and I remember that day like it was just yesterday.  She was such a beautiful baby.  I maybe bias but I think all my kids were good looking babies!  Anyway…I remember one day a friend of ours was over with her new born baby. Lorna was dressed in a lovely creation from her Oma and picture perfect. (OK so I’m a little bias). But our friend was flowing with compliments about her lovely chubby cheeks and beautiful smiles, enamored at just how beautiful a baby we had. And then she would look at her baby and then back to ours and back again to her baby.

So I thought she was looking for some constructive criticism about him. Now you have to realize my filters were not as good back then as they are today.  In fact, I often said exactly what I was thinking. And apparently that day was no exception.

Yes, I felt we had been blessed with a beautiful baby girl. The facts laid right there before us and even this woman didn’t dispute it. So it had to be true. And then I said something like, “someday your son may be hansom and sweep my little girl off her feet”.

Well, instantly her countenance changed, so I’m told. I don’t always pick up on such things. And she took such offence with my comment that their family stopped coming over to our house for quite some time. What I later found out from her was that she interrupted what I said to the effect of her baby boy was ugly.

Now, I know that I had good enough filters not to come straight out and say that even if I might have been thinking something like that. In my defense her baby was rather unique.  His strange curvature of the skull was beyond the symmetry for what we normally think of as beautiful or handsome.  But I was sure that was temporary.  And while the truth is I did think he wasn’t as beautiful a baby as mine I tried as best I could to think up and give a compliment.

Anyway, damage was done. I wrecked a four-year friendship with what turned out to be misplaced emphasis.   Apparently if I had left out “may be” all would have been fine?  It took them 7 years to come back over to our house and share with us why that relationship suddenly ended.  I had no idea at the time that being honest with my feelings could cause her such hurt.  I apologized when I heard her but truly the damage was done and couldn’t be reversed.  We both lost out on what was looking to be a lasting friendship.

Thank God for grace right?  Thank God we know that there is forgiveness to be found from Him even when our lips cause offence.  It may not be forth coming from the people who heard us but we know that God accepts us when, in humility, the prayer of repentance comes from our lips and we know He extends forgiveness.  And yet today’s passage in HIStory reminds us that there are always consequences for our words and actions and especially those bad attitudes when they leak out.  And sometimes the consequences last an awful long time.  Especially when, with a bad attitude, we complain about what God is doing and refuse to repent.

If you have your Bible or App alone turn to Numbers 14 and I’ll be focusing on just a small section beginning at 22.  Numbers 14:22-30


22  not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times– 23  not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24  But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. 25  Since the Amalekites and Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.” 26  The LORD said to Moses and Aaron:  27  “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites.
28  So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very things I heard you say:  29  In this desert your bodies will fall–every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30  Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.” (Numbers 14:22-30 (NIV)

I know this seems like a strange place to start this passage.  After all we are only hearing part of the story.  And what we are hearing doesn’t paint a very positive picture of God’s grace.  So, just what happened to cause our God who is slow to anger, abounding in love, forgiving of sins, to send His chosen people to wander for a whole decade in the dessert?

Slide6

In a word, “contempt”.  God said to Moses, “No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it” (Num. 14:23) We saw that same attitude last week with the neighbours and family of Jesus, according to Mark 6:3 when the people “took offense at Jesus”.   It was contempt of authority. And it always starts with a bad attitude.  An attitude that says we know better than those who are leading us.  Even better than God himself.

See the spies had just come back from the promised land and reported to the people that there were giants with huge swords that would in their estimation bring on devastation, to the people of God, if they attempted to take the land.

This wasn’t the report that Moses and Aaron or the rest of Israel were hoping for but it also wasn’t completely accurate. Yes, there were some Goliath sized enemies in that land but hey God had just delivered Israel from Egypt’s chariots and vastly superior armies.   Remember those overwhelming forces lay dead on the bottom of the Red Sea.  And not one Israelite was lost in battle fighting them!  God had won the victory for them.  But clearly that wasn’t good enough for them.  And so they grumbled and complained yet again.

If you scroll up in that passage to the beginning of chapter 14 you’ll find what their lips uttered.

Verse one and forward says, 1  That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2  All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! 3  Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4  And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt. (Numbers 14:1-4 (NIV)

Now, quite understandably they were fearful because of the report they had received.  And fear causes in all of us this fight or flight reaction.  So I certainly can understand the weeping and to some extent even the grumbling.  And I don’t think for a moment that the God who said, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7), was mad at them for their fearful reaction to the news.  The problem was they projected that fear towards who?

Towards the leaders that they had chosen to lead them out of Egypt?  Had they chosen Moses and Aaron?  Who chose Moses for that role?  Yet they said “we should choose another leader and go back to Egypt” (4).  

It’s not that they didn’t have a say in following Moses out of Egypt.  The truth is they left that former way of life of their own free will.  They chose to follow God’s ambassador to the promised land.  But the one thing they didn’t get to choose was who that ambassador from God was to be.  That was God’s choice and His alone!

Fear warps our perception and causes what appears in this case to be temporary amnesia.  For they had cried out to God in Egypt (cf. Exodus 3:7-9; 6:5-6)  because of the cruelty they were facing daily.  But suddenly now they want to return to it?

Slide8Forget not His ways!

This wasn’t the first time they wanted to go back to the ‘good ol’ days’.  In fact, every time they faced opposition they got amnesia and forgot what God had said and done for them.  And you and I aren’t much different in that regard.  We selectively remember the things of the past that we thought were “so good” but forget about all the other stuff, the heart aches, the sin that snared us, even the sacrifice that we went through to be where we are.  We humans have selective and easily distorted memories.

And Satan counts on that fact and takes advantage of every opportunity to deceive us into believing that we were better off before knowing Jesus.  Before He became our LORD and Saviour.   And at just the most opportune time Satan whispers let’s go back to the way things were.

Well just how were things before you knew Christ as LORD?  The Bible says you belonged to your father the devil and worshiped the things of his world, doing his bidding (cf. John 8:44). The devil was your lord and he would like that role back. He would truly enjoy making you curse God and die or at least truly miserable trapped in the desert of rebellion.    

If rebelling against God’s chosen leaders wasn’t enough to merit a 40 year sentence what they went on to do showed the proclivity of their hearts.  They actually accused God of bringing them through the desert so that they could die by the sword.  Like as if He was some cosmic kill joy who planned for new ways of torturing His chosen ones.  And not only that but they accused God of wanting ill for their wives and children too, as though they cared and could protect them more than God.  They grumbled and complained to Moses and said, 3 … Our wives and children will be taken as plunder.”Slide9

It’s hard for us to understand when trouble overwhelms us that God is still good.  When we feel powerless to change the circumstances we find ourselves in we may even be tempted to blame God. And you know what?  I don’t think He minds hearing those doubts and fears coming from our lips to His ears.  Look at the Psalms and you see David a man after God’s own heart lamenting time and time again about the circumstances he finds himself in.

And isn’t that exactly what we find Moses and Aaron doing in verse Numbers 14:5 and forward.  When they heard the latest grumbling they fell on their faces before the whole assembly.  (Part of me thinks they might have ducked so as not to be hit by lightning from on high. 🙂 But truly their reaction to the rebellion taking place was to intercede and call out to God to hold back His fury because they knew the sting of this unruly crowd’s words and the threats from their mouths of stoning  of those who tried to calm the storm (cf. Numbers 14:6-9) would not be taken likely from on High. (cf.  Numbers 14:10)

In verse 11  The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? 12  I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you (Moses) into a nation greater and stronger than they.” (Numbers 14:11-12 (NIV)

Again I wonder if Moses later regretted what he did next in this part of HIStory?  After all, the offer was a pretty good one.  Start all over fresh with God’s help and the promise to make him (Moses) into a great nation.  He could have distanced himself from those people who were making life so difficult for him.

But this truly humble man named Moses pleaded for them, and reminded the Lord of how HIStory might be recorded should He wipe out all those grumblers and complainers with one mighty act from on high (cf. Numbers 14:13-17).

And Moses reminded God of what God Himself had told Moses about God’s character.      18  ‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.  (cf. Exodus 34:6) Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’

And then Moses leaped out in faith interceding on behalf of those grumblers and complainers.  19  In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.” (Numbers 14:18-19 (NIV).

Sure they had repeated trampled upon and threatened the servants of the Most High from the moment God sent them to lead Israel out of Egypt but why stop forgiving them now?

Slide13God heard Moses prayer.  20  The LORD replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked” (Numbers 14:20 (NIV).   Imagine if Moses in his hurt and anger hadn’t asked God for mercy on their behalf?  What would have been the outcome?

Actually you don’t have to imagine that.  Verse 12 says what God was about to do.  12  I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them…” (Numbers 14:12 (NIV).  This was not an empty threat …  it was a call to prayer and to intercession.   So next time you think praying and intercession doesn’t change things read this passage and particularly verse 20 again.  God said it was because Moses asked!  Instead of the death penalty God chose life for His chosen ones because Moses cared enough to ask.

Yes there was still consequences as we read at the beginning of today’s passage.  But instead of the plague God actually used the people’s own words determine their punishment.

They said, according to verse 3, “If only we had died …in this desert!”  As though somehow the desert was better than what God wanted for them?  They basically said, we would prefer not going into that promised land then to risk following God (cf. v. 4).   God basically said, Ok, I’ll give you what you asked for.” Just remember you asked for it!

But I don’t think your children will have the same desire as you.  Yet if you insist, 28  … ‘As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very things I heard you say: 29  In this desert your bodies will fallevery one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. 30  Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.”

They were the two spies that saw the same giants in the land and still they tried to persuade the people (cf. vs 7-9) that God is bigger than any enemy they saw.

But dying in the dessert was only half of what they said, half of what God heard.   God said in verse 31, 31  As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected (Numbers 14:31 (NIV)
God noticed that they justified their grumbling and rebellion as though it was for the sake of their wives and children while accusing Him of ill intentions towards them.  So He said that He would deliver their children to the promised land they had rejected.  But wait, there were even more consequences for their rebellion.

God said to them in verse 33, 33  Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert.” Numbers 14:33 (NIV) Slide15They were the ones who caused their children hardship and  harm not God.  Their choices, their bad attitudes, their grumbling and complaining not only effected them but would radically effect their children for the next forty years until every last one of the people 20 and over on the day God pronounced His Judgment had died in the desert.   Even with forgiveness the consequences of their sin took it’s toll.

Now you would think that after hearing from God about what your sin wrought that you might repent and fall on your face before the Lord, wouldn’t you?  But God wasn’t finished with curing the bad attitudes.  The men who actually spied out the land and then stirred up the community to rebel against Moses got to find out first hand what a plague from God does.  Those spies died almost instantly. (cf.  Numbers 14:36-38)   Shocking the whole nation I’m sure. And showing that God truly meant what He said.

Which then was followed by that bargaining thing we do when we know the gig is up and we were in the wrong.   It says in verse 40, 40  Early the next morning they went up toward the high hill country. “We have sinned,” they said. “We will go up to the place the LORD promised.” (Numbers 14:40 (NIV)

When they heard about God’s judgment on the spies some of the people had a sudden change of heart.  They mourned their naughtiness, which was good.  And just as suddenly they were not only willing but insistent upon entering the promised land.  (cf. Numbers 14:39-45).

Seems they actually thought they were the ones in control of their destiny and not God.  Perhaps they thought they could appease Moses and cause God to relent by doing what they were told albeit after the fact.  Like, “better late then never”.  Proving once again that two wrongs don’t make it right.

The truth is when God says something will not happen there is nothing the world that can over rule Him.  God said they would not enter the promised land and in fact warned them to not go because He was not with them and their enemy was in the direction they were heading (cf. Numbers 14:41-43).  But once again they  refused to listen to those God sent to warn them.  They presumed that God would get on board with their plan now that they were on board with His promised land directive.  And God, ever true to His word, was not with them and thereby let them take a beating for their presumption.

God has a cure for bad attitudes and ill faith and let me tell you this part of HIStory reminds us that it is a dangerous thing not to heed God’s warnings.

But it also tells us that God rewards faith even from those who do not exercise it perfectly.  True to His word, Joshua and Caleb and their families did indeed get to set foot in the promised land some forty years later.  You can read about it in Joshua 1-5

God truly is, 18  ‘… is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.”  He blesses and often doesn’t treat us as our sin deserves.  (see Psalm 103:10-14)

But more than that, God sent His only son that whosoever believes in Jesus shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).   Jesus paid the penalty of our sins.   There is forgiveness of all our  sins for all who ask.   All you need to do to escape the desert is call on the name of the Lord.Slide16

In humility, pray out to the LORD, admit you have not followed the LORD but chosen to go your own way.  (Romans 3:23) And then do as Israel did in Numbers 14:39, mourn and grieve your sinful actions for Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10) .  Ask Jesus to forgive your sins, and every sin that comes to mind, confess it to Him and then accept He is good to His Word and will prepare you to go to the promised land.  He is faithful and just and will forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John. 1:9).  And He’ll give you His Holy Spirit to guide you all the way home.

And when you’ve accepted Christ’s gift to you don’t keep it to yourself but go and share it with someone who needs God’s grace to escape the desert!  AMEN!


Discussion Starters:

1. When you are out in public and see a child throw a tantrum do you form an opinion about the parents?

2. What pleases you most about God? What scares you the most about Him?

Read Numbers 14:22-30 in several translations if possible.

1. What punishment did Israel’s sin wrought? (Numbers 14:22-23; 28-29 )

2. What was their sin? (see for back ground: Numbers 13:27-33 ; 14:1-4, 10, )

3. What did Moses and Aaron do when they heard the grumbling? (Numbers 14:5, 13-19; Psalm 106:23)

4. Does God listen to prayers on behalf of others? (Numbers 14:20; Exodus 32:31-33; 34:9-10; Dan 6:10;9:19 ; Psalm 78:38-39; Jonah 1:1-3; Jonah 3:7-10; Jonah 4:1-2; Eph 6:18-19; Isaiah 26:16; Acts 1:14; 12:5; Romans 12:12; Phil 4:6; Col. 4:2; 2 Tim 1:3; 1 Tim 2:1 )

5. Did God actually forgive Israel in our passage today? (Numbers 14:20 ; Micah 7:18-20; 1 Jn 5:14-16)

6. Who were exempted from dying in the dessert? And Why? ( Numbers 14:24, 29-30 , 6, Num 32:12; Jos 14:8-9)

7. Did Moses and Aaron go to the promised land? (Deut 3:23-26; 34:4-5; Numbers 20:28 )

8. How does a bad attitude lead to bad choices?

9. In what part of your live do you need to show an attitude of gratitude towards God this week?

10. In what area of life are you praying for more strength from God?

11. Who are you currently praying and intercedeing for before God.

Mark 1:40-45 The Least of These?

To see all of today’s study questions, click here.

That passage in Matthew has always caused me great concern.  I’ve wrestled with it for years now.  Especially every time I walk by a street person or drunk out begging or get accosted by the guy who stands at the corner of Channel Parkway and Eckhardt Avenue.  Lately though I’ve wondered are these the least of these that Jesus is speaking of?

So tell me.  Are people like the ones pictured here the ones that Christ was talking about in Matthew 25? Why or why not?  Are these the least of these?  What do you think?

(Zach wrote down the answers on the screen.   See the video above if interested in how we grappled with this question.)

Slide1
As I came to this morning’s passage I chewed on this story in Mark for more than a week before sitting down to write out my thoughts. And as I did my mind would keep coming back to that passage in Matthew 25, back to “in as much as you have done it to the least of these you have done it unto me” (40).   Are these stories intertwined?  Do they complement or antagonize each other as it seems.

I looked at all my commentaries and many different versions of the Bible itself to see if I could better grasp why this story is included and what practical applications I can draw from it.  But every time I started to write I kept coming back to just a few questions.

  1. Are there people you find particularly uncomfortable to be around?

I don’t know about you but I find those who are physically disfigured be it through disease or accident at least somewhat uncomfortable to be around.    Now I’m not exactly sure why.  But I think it may stems from my morbid curiosity.

I find I want to really take a good look and examine what has happened that caused this disfigurement.  I want to look at  them from different angles and get right up close.  In fact I find some things fascinating that way.  But I also know, that more often than not, that starring would make the person really uncomfortable to be around me.  So for the main part I restrain my curiosity at least until I can get to know the person and hear their story.

Slide2I found that getting to know part particularly difficult when I was in Kenya though.  Since I did not know the native tongue it was often hard to even begin a relationship.  Never mind getting to know someone well enough to ask those awkward questions that would allow me to satisfy that curiosity.

And there were a few totally cool looking people that I would have been interested in finding out what happened.   I so wanted to hear their story.  Like my friend Pastor Wyjonji the bigger man pictured here.  His head and hands were truly amazing to see.  As I talked with him I found out that it was some sort of heart defect that caused some hormonal imbalance which in turn caused this wavy growth on his head and unusually big hands and body size.

When I first met him in 2011 I wasn’t sure I’d get to see him again as the heart issue seemed of major concern to him and those around him.  We prayed together and God saw fit to keep him around and a part of every visit to Fafarol since.   He is a truly amazing man, gentle and very loving!

The man next to him, pictured here, is a stock photo I got of what leprosy looks like according to some info I found.   I’ve never met him but again I’d love to hear his story.  I can’t begin to imagine what life has been like for him, can you?

Leprosy is a disease mentioned often in the bible.  In fact leprosy would from a biblical sense actually describes both of these men.  It was  used to describe many skin ailments from severe rashes to unusual deformities.  So it was not limited the same definition as Leprosy today is.

Today’s leprosy has much fewer strains and scientists now believe it all started in East Africa and spread throughout the centuries and across the continents following trade routes.

The characteristic loss of fingers and toes, facial deformity and even blindness is due to the nerve damage that the disease inflicts on its victims.  Since the nerves no longer send pain impulses to the brain, those with leprosy often don’t know that they burned or cut a finger or toe which eventually becomes infected and if left untreated falls off or requires amputation.  And though leprosy was fairly common in Biblical times this disease is still very active in our world today.  In fact in the last year or so 121 countries reported new instances of this terrible disease which is caused by a germ, or bacteria, called Mycobacterium leprae.

Even in Canada 2-10 new cases are found each year.  It is treated quite effectively today with multi-drug-therapy that takes from six months to a year to complete.  But once started this therapy quickly makes the person no longer contagious.  So Isolation is no longer necessary as it was practiced Biblically and especially practiced throughout the middle ages until about 1960.

Slide4This Island was once connected to Crete but according to historians it was dug around and eventually fortified in the 1500’s.  Being well fortified and separated from the peninsula  made this the perfect place to put people, to isolate them from the rest of the population.  And in the early 1900s to 1953 the island was used as a leper colony having housed many people with leprosy at times.

In Biblical times often the leper was simply put out of the camp, town or city and forced to live away from family and friends.  In fact it wasn’t unusual for these poor souls to lose all human physical contact if the disease was not cured.

Once the priest pronounced the person unclean, according to Leviticus 13:45-46, “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.” 

So not only was the deformity debilitating but depression must have been rampant for these social outcasts.

Which makes our Bible story today all the more miraculous and touching once you realize what this poor man had been going through.

So if you have a Bible with you open it to Mark 1:40-45 and let’s look at this passage together this morning.

 “A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”  Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.  Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning:  “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”  Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere” (Mark 1:40-45 (NIV).

 “If you are willing you can make me clean!” – As this man comes and kneels before the Lord the one thing that is not said by him is “I’m not sure if you can help me but give it a go”.

Slide6There was no doubt that Jesus had within him the power to heal this deadly, deforming, disease, called leprosy!

Where did this man get such faith?  How did he know that Jesus could heal?  Had he heard about all the people outside of Peter’s house that found that Jesus not only heals the sick but casts out demons?  We can only assume he did because his earnest plea was full of faith!  you can make me clean” (40).

And yet having been subjected to isolation for who knows how long, and having not had the simple pleasure of a hug in ages this dejected man did express some doubt.  Didn’t he?

It appears from what he said that he wasn’t so sure that Jesus would chose to help him.  That’s what this “if” is about.  Why is it that,  It is sometimes easier to believe in God’s power than in his mercy ?(Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 630) 

Have you found yourself there?   You believe that God can do what you need Him to do but you just aren’t sure He’ll do it for you?

Why is it that we can believe in His power but not His mercy and grace?

Slide7Somehow this man had faith that healing was in the realms of possibility.  And he certainly knew there was nothing he himself could do to get rid of leprosy.  But I believe he also knew that emotional sting along with the stench of this disease.  The sting of isolation had created doubt.  And that isolation caused him to doubt that anyone cared enough to help him at all.  But that doubt was short lived.

You got to love our Saviour’s response!  And His compassion even at a time when Jesus was trying to avoid the crowds… it speaks volumes about our wonderful saviour.

If you look back just a couple of verses (Mark 1:30-39) you’ll see that Jesus had tried to escape the growing crowds of people wanting miraculous healings.  He even snuck out under cloak of darkness to a secluded place so he could have a talk with His father uninterrupted (cf. Mark 1:36).   And when the disciples finally found him and told him everyone is looking for you he said “let’s go somewhere else!” (Mark 1:38)  But when this poor dejected man knelt before Him compassion welled up inside of Jesus.

And then He did the remarkable.  He did what no one else had done since the day the man was sent away from that town.  Jesus actually reached out …and touched the man!  That’s the miracle here.  He reached beyond his comfort zone, beyond the cultural taboos and touched a disease ridden man.

 

Now, scientists today are pretty sure that leprosy spreads through contact.  Particularly through sneezing and coughing because of direct bodily fluid contact like most infectious diseases.   And I’m sure when Moses, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit, set forth the laws concerning leprosy, God already knew it spread by contact.  So there was good reason for social isolation.  So when Jesus reached out and touched this man it was not the thing to do humanly speaking.   It was the beginning of a miracle!

The fact is most of us might even find being in this man’s presence uncomfortable, never mind actually reaching beyond that discomfort and touching him.  Even though today we know that the chances of actually getting leprosy from casual limited contact are slim indeed.   And yet the stigma is still there big time.

But can you imagine for a moment the eyes of the disciples?  Of Peter, James and John as they watched what Jesus just did?  It would have been priceless to see their expressions as Jesus hand actually made contact.  Since anyone who touches something unclean becomes unclean until evening at minimum according to the laws of Moses they would have been aghast!  The Law which guided their thoughts and at convenient times even their actions was in them from childhood.   They knew that no one was to touch a leprous man!

Yet that didn’t stop Jesus, he not only reached out, touched the man but answered that man’s question, “I am willing!  Be clean!” (41).

Slide8Alexander MacLaren writes,  “People tell us that to believe in sudden conversion is fanatical. This is not the place to argue that question.” (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture – St. Mark 1-8, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1906), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 48).

Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured!(42)  It was over in an instant!  A few words of instruction and the Master was on his way.  It has taken me much longer this morning to speak about this event then the event itself took!

But do you think, even for a moment, that this man, once the leprosy was gone, wanted to do what Jesus asked of him next?

We read in verses 43-44, “Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning:  “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them” Mark 1:43-44 (NIV).

Funny isn’t it?  He told that man, don’t tell a soul!  And the man immediately told everyone he came in contact with.  Warren Wiersbe so eloquently puts it,

“Jesus told this man to keep quiet, and yet he told everybody. Jesus commands us to tell everybody—and we keep quiet! (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2001), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 114).

Jesus specially said to you and I, “… as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give…Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you until the end of the age…(Mat. 10:8, 28:19)…

But know this!  “…whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”(Matthew 12:50). 

Those who go and tell the Good News, who make disciples…those are Jesus’s brother’s, and sisters…  You mean like some poor leprous man who was healed but couldn’t follow the Master’s immediate orders?

But wait, doesn’t that make him one of the least of these?  As well as one of Jesus brothers? Hmmm?

Slide9

Why do you suppose Jesus said, “don’t tell anyone” to this once leprous man?  Especially if He knew that the man wasn’t capable of keeping this secret between them?   Why was that included in this passage?

Well some say that Jesus was using reverse psychology on him.  You know, if you tell someone they can’t touch something they will likely prove you wrong quite quickly.

But other scholars seem to think it was because Jesus didn’t want that kind of publicity.  He wasn’t looking to become the best magic show in town.  Jesus had come to bring salvation from God, to restore wholeness to broken humanity not just heal disease, but something far more important.

But to this man who was isolated and hurting physically, emotionally and spiritually, the sudden release from the prison he was in was overwhelming good news!  There was no keeping that a secret!

That kind of good news is just too much to keep inside!   So that man “went out and began to talk freely, spreading the good news.

There were consequences to his actions though!  It’s right there in the text.  Verse 45.

As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere”  Mark 1:45 (NIV).   

“Surely you can see how Jesus took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows …” Isaiah 53:4 (NIV)?

Slide10Did you notice?  Did you notice Who was then the one on the outside looking in?  Did you notice Who was now in a sense the outcast, the one in forced isolation?

Mark says,  “Jesus could no longer enter a town openly…he had to stay outside in lonely places!”  Could that be why He asked the man to keep it to himself?  To do as Moses commanded, and give glory to God the old fashioned way?

And yet that’s our Saviour!  He was willing to trade places so that the very illness that separated us from God could be remove once for all.  And it cost Him His very life on the cross.  And that was only the beginning as we saw last week.  He has risen!

Jesus still answers our prayers of desperation with those words that brought healing and comfort to that leprous man.  “I am willing, Be Clean!” (41).

And that kind of takes us full circle to where we started today.  Back to Matthew 25.  Back to the least of these.  Who are the least of these?  Is it the poor, the imprisoned, the outcasts?  Well, actually the answer is right there in what Jesus said.

Slide11I don’t know how I missed it for so long.  It’s not talking about those who are goats, who Christ said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ …they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:46 (NIV).  They are the ones who mocked the Master and persecuted His brothers, and sisters and even His mother!    These goats are NOT “the least of these”.

The least of these are you and I and everyone who, having been set free by the master and having gone out and, talked freely, spreading the good news, even if it meant we went hungry, thirsty, or naked!  And trust me there are plenty in foreign lands who fit those descriptions.   Many who are forced into isolation or imprisoned or beaten and murdered because of Christ’s name on their lips.   Jesus says to them as well as you and I:

 “… ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:34-40 (NIV)

They are the ones that Christ said is our brothers and sisters to whom we had the privilege of feeding and clothing, visiting and even giving a cup of water in His name!  AMEN?


 

Read Mark 1:40-45 in several versions. Then read Matthew 25:31-46 and begin the lesson.
1.  Are there people you find uncomfortable to be around? Why is that? What makes you or them uncomfortable to be around?
2.  Who is Jesus referring to in the Matthew 25 passage as “the least of these”?
3.  What do we immediately find out about the man in Mark 1:40?
4.  What do you know about his infirmity?
5.  How would you define his disease Biblically? What does the Bible say about it?(see also Lev. 13:1-46; Num 12:10-15; Deut 24:8-9; 2 Samuel 3:29; 2 Kings 5:27; 2 Kings 7:3-4; 2 Kings 15:5; Luke 17:12-19)
6.  Do people today still suffer from that disease? (Ask mr. google for statistics, you may be surprised!)
7.  What did the man do when he met Jesus? (Mark 1:40) Why is it easier for us to believe in God’s power than in His mercy and Grace?
8.  How did Jesus respond to the man’s faith and doubt? (see also Mark 6:34; Luke 7:12-13; Heb 1:3; Heb 4:15; Ps. 33:9)
9.  There was more than one miracle mentioned in verses 41 and 42 what were they?
10.  Why did Jesus strongly warn the man in verse 43? (Mark 7:36; Matthew 9:30; Luke 8:56)
11.  What did Jesus tell the man to do? (Mark 1:44; see also Lev. 14:2-32)
12.  What did the man actually do? (Mark 1:45) What is so funny about that? (See comment in my notes)
13.  Who actually are “the least of these” according to Matthew 25:40?
14.   Is there a person that makes you uncomfortable that you need to help this week? Who should you see in them?

Week 5 – Genesis 12:10-20 Grandfathered Mission of Grace

I don’t know if you have noticed or not but I’m not picking out all the usual stories from HIStory as we progress in this 52 Week Challenge.  In fact I’ve already jumped over several prominent passages that we preacher types like to focus on in favour of some stories that we don’t hear much about.  And today is no exception to that rule.

 

To see all of today’s study questions, click here.

Slide1

While the natural inclination would have been to focus on Genesis 12:1-2 as the main point of this chapter I chosen to look further along the journey of faith to see how, even with God’s anointed and chosen vessel,  mission can get side tracked.

The call of Abram and his walk of faith in response to that call in verses 1-2 is the very birth point of the Jewish nation and some might say missions in general.  And we may get all excited and think that, because it was so clearly God’s call, this mission should have little or no opposition.  And we couldn’t be more wrong.

Slide2Here’s a man 75 years young setting out on a faith journey after hearing God say, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” Genesis 12:1-2 (NIV).    A magnificent call if there ever was one.  But did you notice the many testing grounds he immediately went through?

Open your Bibles with me to Genesis 12:10-20 and let’s begin with HIStory as we look at their story, and see how it still impacts our story.

“Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.  As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are.  When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live.  Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”  When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman.  And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace.  He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels. 

But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai.  So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife?  Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!”  Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had” (Genesis 12:10-20 (NIV).

This part of Abram’s journey has always been a bizarre story to me.  In fact it seems so… I don’t know just how to put this but…it seems so lacking in faith doesn’t it?

What I mean is, it paints a portrait of a sneaky conniving man who would go to great lengths just to save his skin.  This is not what we would expect from the father of a nation of faith.

So what is it that we are to glean from this story?  Is it that telling lies or as some would argue “half-truths”, that this is somehow applauded or even condoned by God?  Are we to learn that the ends justify the means?  Or is there another explanation?  Another point that we need to understand as Disciples of Christ?

Slide5

Since verse ten continues to set the scene for us (Gen. 12:10) we need to back up a little to grasp the context.  Abram the son of Terah, a citizen of Mesopotamia,  (modern day Syria, Iraq and Iran), has obeyed God’s call and actually leaves his homeland.

Think about that for a moment.  Would you leave your friends, the people you’ve grown accustom to and lived with for the past 75 years?  Now ‘day’s people don’t seem to settle long in a community.  But Abram was born and raised and lived in Mesopotamia for 75 years when he answered God’s call!  Abram left his father’s household, and Sarai left all her relatives behind as well.  They just set out one morning, servants and belongs in tow, and leave.   This was no little undertaking for him.

Slide6Think about that for a moment.  Would you leave your friends, the people you’ve grown accustom to and lived with for the past 75 years?  Now ‘day’s people don’t seem to settle long in a community.  But Abram was born and raised and lived in Mesopotamia for 75 years when he answered God’s call!  Abram left his father’s household, and Sarai left all her relatives behind as well.  They just set out one morning, servants and belongs in tow, and leave.   This was no little undertaking for him.

If you have ever uprooted your family and moved from one community to another you know as do I that it is not easy.

I can well imagine the conversation between him and his wife, their parents, and their siblings.  Each one questioning and commenting on this audacious move.  Some were likely very much against it others quite excited for it.

Now, in this internet age, we can always Skype, or Facebook, and in so many other ways keep in touch, with those we have left behind.  We have ways to soften the blow, a little bit, but even today it is still not easy.

Yet for Abram and Sarai this move literally them cut off from all they held near and dear not knowing if they would ever meet again.  Yet, with mission in mind, away they went expecting to find God’s promise just around the corner and over that next hill.

From the passage it seems like they started off with great gusto.  It’s an adventure…most men love adventures.  It’s in our genes.  Some women do to but often they are more the nesting types. Settle down, build your house, raise us a family.

Slide7

When Abram’s household reached their first recorded stop in the Promise Land, that’s verse 7, God told Abram.  “Look at the land before you…this is for your offspring” (cf. Gen 12:7).    Verse one said what?  “Go to the land I will show you”…right?  And God said what in verse 7?  “Look at this land…”  Abram got excited and built an alter and worshiped and praised there.

So why did Abram set out again?

It doesn’t say right?  It just says they kept going, the adventure continues.

This time it’s to a place called Bethel which means “house of God” (BBC) and there too Abram built another alter.  Seems to me that they had arrived in the Promised Land. Abram was excited!  His faith was growing.  He called on the name of the LORD.

And then they kept going.  What were they looking for?  Were they hoping for greener pastures? What made him decide that this too wasn’t the Promised Land God mentioned in verse one? Why didn’t Abram settle right there and raise his family?

Was it perhaps because, the promise of verse 7 was for his offspring and he didn’t have children of his own yet?  So why stop now?

Unlike the first stop and first alter where God shows up and blesses Abram this second Alter found silence from God.  Hind sight always seems better than being in the midst of things.  But do you suppose Abram later realized he wandered past the goal unawares?

Anyway they continued on.  But when they went around the corner they ran into the Negev.

As I was researching for this morning I found out that: “In October 2012, global travel guide publisher Lonely Planet rated the Negev second on a list of the world’s top ten regional travel destinations for 2013” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negev).   Why’s that?

Slide8

Looks to me like it’s a dessert!  Seriously!  Look at this picture.  In its best regions it is semi-arid lands where the temperatures sore past 45 degree Celsius on a regular basis.  Why do people want to travel to the dessert?

That’s kind of what the Hebrew name “Negev” means; “dry place”.   Different strokes for different folks. But did you know this place also covers more than half of modern day Israel making it a good chunk of the Promised Land?

Anyway, Abram wasn’t about to settle in that part of the Promised Land either and who can blame him?  Verse 10 says there was a severe famine in the land.  It’s a dessert! What was he expecting?  Shady green pastures?

It was a severe famine so Abram did what he thought was necessary.

He packed up moved from Alberta to BC.  Ok so Alberta isn’t a dessert.  But it sure being deserted these days!  People moving because of the major downturn in the economy.  Estimates I’ve heard have it that more than 100,000 people have packed up their families and moved in the last year.

And no Karemi & Zac didn’t move here because of the downturn they moved because they believed God directed their steps here.  They both left good jobs on their faith journey.  And they too have run into some faith testing times.  You can hear about it on our Youtube channel under Hosea 1 @ One Direction.

Anyway, Abram wasn’t taking any chances.  There could be food down in Egypt for his household.  So off he went, seemly completely forgetting about God’s promise both at the start of the journey and again at his first alter along the way.

Slide9

Here’s what I see this far from HIStory.  1. Every faith journey has its testing points along the way.  Expect them.  2.  When God is silent; remember to wait upon the Lord for clear directions before moving on.  Unless of course His last word to you was move on.  3. If you don’t wait things get worse before they get better.

Beginning in verse eleven the story goes from a faith journey and it takes a bizarre twist. Some might applaud Abram for his clever escape from the famine in the Negev.  Ah yes… the Negev?  The dry place, right?  His faith journey went from experiencing God’s blessings and relationship before Bethel to silence as they continued on and then Abram hit a dry place.

Do you ever feel like that?  Your faith has hit a dry spell?  A famine of severe testing?   What should you do when this happens?

Do you do as Abram and Sarai decided to do… to head for what appears greener pastures.  Do you abandon what you know God had called you to?  That’s what it appears Abram and Sarai did… and who can blame them?  Certainly not me.

I believe that in the absence of clarity from God, Abram did what we all tend to do, he resorted to survival instincts.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I applaud Abram, as should we all, for stepping out in faith.  He actually listened to God and began the journey.  I sometimes wonder how many people God asked before finding one that actually did as He was told.  But then again I fully accept that God knew perfectly well who to ask, “flaws and all”.

And contrary to the many myths that float around, Abram clearly had some flaws to deal with at this point in the journey.  But one wasn’t in knowing beauty when he saw it.

His wife, Sarai, was a knock out! That’s what verses 11 and 14-15 tell us.  Verse 11 says, “As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are” (Genesis 12:11 (NIV)).   And was he right?  I mean she’s like over 60 at this point.  Or was Abraham, at 75ish, getting a little blind?

Slide10Well, verses 14-15 seems to agree with his assessment of the situation, right?  “When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman.  And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace”  (Genesis 12:14-15 (NIV)). Abram was bang on with his assessment.    But do the ends justify the means?

Is that what people of faith ought to do?  I know, I know, Sarai was technically Abram’s “half-sister”, “the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother” was his excuse when he pulled this shenanigan again on another unsuspecting ruler in chapter 20 (cf. Gen 20:12).  So he wasn’t telling Sarai to tell them an outright lie just omit the part about being his wife.  But do the ends justify the means?

 

After-all Proverbs 12:22-23 says, “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthfulA prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly.” (NIV).   This verse is the heart of business 101.  Be truthful but don’t give the company secrets away!  There is a difference between the need to know and simply a desire to know that helps govern most business transactions.  Some cards you play closer to the chest and only reveal if they need to know.  But when it comes to public health and safety?

Slide12Abram put the whole Egyptian nation, and especially its Pharaoh in harm’s way by this sin of omission.  And at first it worked just as he thought it would.  Pharaoh was delighted in Sarai, took her for his wife (cf. Gen. 12:19).  Not just ‘put her in his harem’ as some commentators allude to so as to soften the terrible thing Abram had done.  Verse 19 tells from Pharaoh’s point of view that they became one flesh.

Think about that for a moment.  The one person that was critical to the birth of the Messiah was traded off, in fear, put into another man’s bed, not once but twice by this man of faith?

Instead of protecting his wife Abram put her in harm’s way.  And for what noble purpose?  To save the nation?  To help God fulfill His promise of the seed? No!  It was to save himself and so he could grow richer (cf. Gen.  12:13).

This trial of faith was almost a complete failure of Abram’s part.  And, except by the grace of God, the outcome of his deception could have been far worse.  But God’s word is better than man’s best attempts at conniving and scheming.

Instead of being a blessing, Abram became a stench in Egypt’s nostrils, one that Pharaoh couldn’t get rid of fast enough when he found out what Abram had done.  We read that God brought a curse upon Pharaoh and those in his land.   We’re not told what disease or sickness it was but hey with all the weapons at His command it could have been a pesky mosquito delivering a Zika  or Malaria outbreak.

Slide13

The point is somehow, Pharaoh put two and two together and came up with Abram’s lie.  We’re not told how he knew but he surely did.  And immediately Sarai was sent off with her husband back to the Negev.

So what is our take away from this story?  Well as I see it, God promised Abram, “Whoever blesses you I will bless.  And whoever curses you I will curse” (Gen. 12:4).   But Abram, like all of us men, was suffering from Adam’s disease of Gen. 3.  So he took matters into his own hands on this occasion instead of continuing to trust the Lord and His promise.

And again…which of us can blame him?  The famine was real.  And it was real bad.  But the faith that Abram had to begin the journey crumbled when push came to shove for he hadn’t yet learned to trust God with all of his life.

It seems to me that this is a lesson you learn by failure for the most part.  I wish it wasn’t so.  We could simply read and learn from Abram’s mistake and choose to walk in faith but the likelihood is we will learn this lesson along the rough roads of faith.

Abram would have to live with this failure and the consequences wrought by his sin of omission.  And though it may look like he gained much by going to Egypt just look at where he was before that part of the journey.  He was standing in the Promised Land by verse 7.

 

Slide14

  1. But wait, there are also several amazing God things here to be seen.
    1. This chapter begins with God speaking to Abram. And Abram recognizing it was God and obeying His voice.  (See also John 10:27)
    2. Look at God’s response to Abram’s failure. Does God say, hey Abe you blew it?  And leave him to Pharaoh’s wrath?    No!  God actually uses this dry spell to bring about greater faith.   (See also 1:Pt. 1:7)
    3. We see a God who not only is watching over but also rescues His children when they wander and He leads them back to the path of righteousness.  What marvelous mercy! (See also Heb. 7:25)
    4. We see a God whose word is worthy of our trust even when circumstances scream otherwise. (See also Prov. 3:5-6; Psalm 118:8; Psalm 56:3; Isa 12:2, 43:2;  17:7-8; Rom. 16:26-27; Jude 1:25 )
    5. We see that God even moves our enemies to bring His children blessings at times. (see also Gen 47:13-26; Ex. 12:36; 2 Kings 7; 1 Cor. 1:27)

    God is the reason we exist to help people know and follow Jesus Christ. He is the God of all mercy, and the God of Grace MB Church in the Heart of Penticton.

    “For you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

     Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

    (1 Peter 2:9-10 (NIV)).

 



Questions for this passage:

Read Gen. 12:10-20

  1. Do the ends justify the means?
  2. Would you leave your friends, the people you’ve grown accustom to and lived with for the past 75 years?  
  3. Where was Abram in Gen. 12:1, 7, 8, 10?
  4. Why did Abram end up in Egypt? Gen. 12:10
  5. Why do you suppose there was a famine in the Negev?
  6. Have you ever experienced a dry spell in your faith? A time when God seems silent on what direction you should take?
  7. What should we do when God seems silent or our faith is dry or the circumstances look bleak?
  8. What made Abram decide that this wasn’t the Promised Land where he was called to?   Why didn’t he settle where he was in Gen. 12:7-9 and raise himself a family? 
  9. What does Abram tell his wife in Gen. 12:11-12?
  10. Should Abram have told Sarai to withhold the fact that she was married to him? (Gen. 12:13)
  11. Do the ends found in verse Gen 12:14 justify the means? Why or why not? (Gen. 12:17-19 See also Gen. 20:1-16)
  12. Put another way. Is it ever right to ask your wife to sleep with another man?
  13. What is it that we are to glean from this story?   Is it that telling lies or as some would argue “half-truths”, that this is somehow applauded or even condoned by God?
  14. So what is your take away from this story?   What have you learned?
  15. 5 things about God you can learn from this story.
  1. This chapter begins with God speaking to Abram. And Abram recognizing it was God and obeying His voice.  (See also John 10:27)
  2. God actually uses this dry spell to bring about greater faith.   (See also 1:Pt. 1:7)
  3. We see a God who not only is watching over but also rescues His children when they wander and He leads them back to the path of righteousness.  What marvelous mercy! (See also Heb. 7:25)
  4. We see a God whose word is worthy of our trust even when circumstances scream otherwise. (See also Prov. 3:5-6; Psalm 118:8; Psalm 56:3; Isa 12:2, 43:2;  17:7-8; Rom. 16:26-27; Jude 1:25 )
  5. We see that God even moves our enemies to bring His children blessings at times. (see also Gen 47:13-26; Ex. 12:36; 2 Kings 7; 1 Cor. 1:27)

Pastor Gail’s Hawaii photo journals.

Hello to all!

this is the first note from Travels 2013 as we head to Maui in the morning.  If you received this email and do not wish to be included, please do let me know and I will adjust ;-).

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Weatherman had been pessimistic, but this day is a beauty! and we wandered Stanley Park for a couple of hours, and even dropped into Queen Elizabeth park on the way.

WHALES SOON!!!!

shalom

gail, mike and G’ma Shirley

 

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Aloha
fair winds are blowing and in a few minutes we will be heading 50 feet to our beachfront for a little wakeboarding and our beginning snorkling. We participated in the great annual whale count this morning and while it was not a photo op, there was adventure for sure as we watched a competition pod (many males chasing one female) and even a DOUBLE breech!! monday afternoon is whale watching boat and hopefully there will be photos then.

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Thursday and friday were very rainy, even dangerous on parts of the north east shore…the trade winds dump rain there and leave Kihei almost a desert in the rainshadow of the mountain. we toured a bit and saw big vistas and strange ancient lava formations eroded and beaten by the sea… they are called the Dragons teeth, and the photos show why!! After the storm a lovely sunset.

Sunday morning at the local Baptist Church. Perhaps next week at the local Hawaiian congregation, tho the locals tell me they encourage and welcome visitors the service is in the Hawaiian language!

bye for now
gail mike and g’ma shirley

Aloha! for all you keeners out there with questions….here is the information that our whale count volunteer leader sent to us!
enjoy!

gail mike and g’ma shirley

ps
we were in the group that saw both the competition pod (males chasing one female) and also the double breech!!!

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Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2013 09:10:45 -1000
Subject: Great Whale Count Results!
Aloha Great Whale Count volunteers,

Thank you all for volunteering your time to make the Great Whale Count possible this year. It was a successful Count, and the afternoon gathering seemed to be a fantastic way to sum up the event. For all those volunteers unable to attend the gathering (or for those that did attend but want more information), you will find a link to the results

Mahalo!!!

 

Aloha once again!  we have successfully ended our first week on Maui and all are well, and no sunburns!  When we arrived the trade winds were howling most of the day and intense in the late afternoon…every day now it is softer and gentler and in the calm sea we have watched whales every day.   Often the whales can been seen just in the bay close at hand as the mothers and calves like to rest and nurse in the shallows,  but most of the activity is a few miles offshore in the deeper water trench between the islands.  Last night after supper we sat on the lanai, binoculars glued to eyeballs, and watched as a mother and calf traveled south across our line of site.  Together those two put on a continual show of breaching, tail flipping and flipper waving!

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Tuesday we travelled the infamous road to Hana and i must say the road is everything it is reputed to be! windy  w i n d y WINDY and did i mention the 1700 corners and who knows how many one lane bridges??? I will try to post a video, i know how to do that for facebook, but not too sure how to send it on email, but i will try, just to give you an idea!  We stayed overnight in Hana and wandered leisurely back the next day stopping often to view waterfalls, jungle, bamboo groves and majestic sea vistas.

 

Tuesday afternoon was the much anticipated sail plane over Haleakala, and again, what a delight!!!   Hans is knowlegable, learned to fly at age 14 in Holland, and is semi retired and still loving it!  His skill was needed as those pesky trade winds made it a rather challenging ride near the mountain, and he was most careful not to make me air sick (i was fine).  Hans curled around in large lazy loops just like an eagle, gaining 500 to 900 feel altitude with every spiral….up and well over the top of the volcano, and at first it appeared the mountain was socked in with cloud, but it turned out to be only a halo ring of white mist, and the crater was open for a spectacular view!!!!  believe it or not i forgot to take photos in a few places cause I was too busy watching!   The vessel is a sail plane, which means a motor and propellor and we powered up and up, but it is a sail plane, so the engine was turned off and we softly floated over the top and down the backside of the ridge into the Hana airport!

G’ma was most excited to see me back on the ground! and then it was Mikes turn and we 2 ladies headed over to the black sand beach for lunch, where we discovered a nest of mongoose playing peak a boo in and out of the lava rock wall.

 

The mongoose were introduced to the island years ago to deal with the rat problem that the early sailing ships had brought into port and left on shore.  Bad move. The rats are nocturnal and the mongoose are day runners, so now they are the pests on the island and the rats have nothing to fear!  pests they may be, but awfully cute for inquisitive tourists!

 

Flowers abound, some i can name, others i have no idea!  but when i can i will label the photo so you can know which is which.

 

Son Craig and family arrive saturday, kayak adventures await, thanks Scott for the flippers!!!!!!!!  and most likely tomorrow we will head for a 2 hour drive up the flanks of Haleakala for the sunset and maybe a few star shots if we do not freeze!  temperature in Kihei is about 82F and at the top of the mountain is about 30F!!

Aloha for now

gail mike and G’ma shirley

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good sunny morning to you!!

warm, lots of whales and still windy……windy  ( blowing wind) and windy (twissssssty roads)  is spelled the same and are fast becoming the descriptive words for this vacation!

Come along for a drive in the country….


Aloha everyone

Another lovely day in Maui, the kids arrived last night, and the little ones from Calgary are definately jet lagged, but so very happy to be here in this lovely space with us. Thot you might enjoy a little view around some of the sumptuous condo we have been resting in…ground level, walk out to the lanai (porch) for breakfast lunch and dinner if we wish to. 3 bedroom 2 bathroom and a lovely equipped kitchen for us cooks to play in…. coconut prawns and salad tonight for dinner! Large gas BBQ’s at the end of the lawn beside the warm fresh water pool and a few more BBQ’s on the roof if we feel like the big view! The end wall in the living room is totally glass with 3 enormous roller shades to temper the blazing late afternoon sunshine.

All of these photos are taken in on or around the property just to give you a taste.

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A special little treat for me this noontime as i was walking knee deep in the menehune….all around me literally 100’s of little fish began to jump out of the water in repeated attempts to escape…. escape the eel that was chasing them for dinner!!
(no, no camera at the time)

The prevailling wind is up again and quite a swell is on the bay, but hopefully tomorrow morning will be calm as we go whale watching!!

aloha

gail mike and g’ma shirley

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03-06-2013 Goodmorning all!

Frankolins woke me up again this morning squawking at the rising sun….tho there are plenty of chickens and roosters on this island, it is the chubby little brown frankolins who seem to be the morning activists!  Mom and I started off down the beach, promptly spotting turtles grazing at the algae along the menehune wall, and sandpipers snapping up their breakfast at the waters edge.  There is some type of a night crawling crab who live in burrows at the beach edge just above the waterline.  their tracks are ranging from a little  1 inch to a B I G 10 inches across, but they are long asleep in their nests before we go beach combing.  perhaps i will stake out at midnight on the beach to spot a few!

 

Soon we will be off up island for the day in and around Lahaina.

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The flower photos (and a few critters) are a collection from over the past 10 days from various places on the island, some are named,  others i have no idea what they are called, but they are still pretty!  The best plumeria i have found so far was in the church yard where we worshipped on sunday,  the 1790 church foundations are still visible, and the community has simply installed a concrete floor, fiberglass benches, and church service is in the open air under the palm trees next to the flowers and smells and bird calls of the tropical morning air.

Tomorrow morning we will be up and away early on a Molokini snorkle adventure!

ALOHA

gail, mike and g’ma shirley

 

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Looking for more of Gail’s Travel Blogs? Click on more Grace and select her category.

Friends of Missions

On Sunday Sept. 30th Friends of Missions held their annual Golf Fundraiser. Tim & Bonnie, Arty and Carol put their hearts into making this an enjoyable day for all who came.  In this video Tim explains some of the antics that went into this “golfing” adventure.

 

We are so thankful for the generosity of all those who gave so much to make this an effective fundraiser.  Those who gave prizes as well as those who played and paid and then paid some more.  May God bless you all!

Gail took a few hundred pictures and then made this great video as a reminder of this awesome day.

See you for next year’s FOM fundraiser!