Thursday, December 31, 2015


Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Gen. 43:1-14
Regarding the second journey to Egypt, it’s Judah who steps forward. Reuben had offered his sons, as if Jacob would find comfort in putting his grandchildren to death. Judah offers himself.
Judah is no longer a young man. Perhaps Jacob sees maturity in him. Maybe he’s just more trustworthy than Reuben at this time.
But, like it or not, they must have food. Sometimes, God gets us where He wants us through bad situations. It’s been true of us. It’s been true in our children’s lives as well. Most of the time—at least for people I know—God doesn’t appear in a burning bush and audibly tells us where to go. I wish He did.
It does sometimes seem that when we’re up against a rock, God is getting ready to work drastically in our lives.
It is so with Jacob. He asks God for mercy and submits to the destiny God has chosen for him.
Complete surrender to the will of God is often hard to achieve without recognizing our utter dependence on God, and that usually comes in the midst of trouble. Perhaps that’s why James writes to “consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.” And, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
Every good and perfect gift is from God. We recognize that when we’ve nowhere else to turn.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Sometimes We Cannot See the Hand of God

 Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: written November 20
Thoughts on Genesis 43
Sometimes we cannot see the hand of God, especially when life seems to be against us. Recently, at a memorial service for one of my last year’s AP students, the pastor quoted John Piper, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”
As it is with us, so it was for Jacob and his sons. They could not see God’s plan. Joseph—unknown to the brothers—had been harsh. He’d kept Simeon as a guarantee they’d return. He’d demanded they bring back Benjamin, and he’d put all their money back into their bags. Things sure looked bleak for Jacob and his sons. The brothers’ hearts fell, and they wondered, “What has God done to us?” And, Jacob, too, responded with dejection, stating, “Everything is against me.”
Are those not the very feelings we have in times of distress? We don’t understand God. We feel like the whole world is against us. Hearts sink. Fear takes hold, and we can become so discouraged.
As Piper stated, God is always at work in ways we cannot see. For the sinning brothers, there would be mercy. For the mourning father, there would be reuniting and joy. But, not on this day. On this day brothers and father alike were fearful and sad.
Yet, God was at work and the house of Jacob could not see it at all. How could they?
John Piper’s words sank deep into me on Saturday. They bear repeating; they are so biblical.
“God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”
These words and this narrative are both a reminder and a comfort.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Dear Christa—
Tomorrow is Christmas and it’s time for Jesus to be born. As I sit quietly pondering all the many preparations that go into Christmas, I can’t help wondering what Joseph and Mary would think of Christmas today.
The tree is lit and decorated. There are lights up the stairs and over the windows. The nativity set, that Jay and I painted so many years ago, is displayed on the coffee table. We’ll have enchiladas for supper, and our own traditional corned beef will go into the crockpot before we go to bed.
As music and smells waft around the decorated house, Christmas in Colorado couldn’t be farther from the real Christmas of Bethlehem all those many years ago. Very nondescriptly Jesus was born. Mary herself took care of cleaning the baby she’d just given birth to and He—God—was placed in a manger because there wasn’t any place else to put him. It was night. It was cold. And, shepherds came to see something they couldn’t quite figure out.
After the shepherds saw Him, they spread the word about the Child and the angels. Everyone was amazed at what they said, and then everyone went back to their work. Only Mary “treasured up these things and pondered them in her heart.”
In a week the tree will be stuffed back in its box. The lights and decorations will go back into their tubs and be shoved into the designated shelves in the basement. Christmas dishes will be put away and the old and familiar will replace them. Jay and I and our students will return to school, and we’ll pick up where we left off.
And, if we are not careful, Christmas will end—as it so often does—in Luke, chapter 2. But Jesus’ birth was only the beginning. Luke started his story at the beginning, but it did not end there. The future held more, so much more.
So, Luke continues his account to his friend, Theophilus, through the life and ministry of Jesus, through the crucifixion and resurrection on Easter morning, and His appearances and ascension, where, not a baby, but God our Savior returns to His pre-incarnate existence.
So, this Christmas Eve, let’s ponder—as Mary—Christmas.
Happy Christmas, once again, my dear friend—Christa.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Journey: Luke 2

Dear Christa—
Sometimes we just end up where God wants us to be through a set of circumstances that we have no control over. So it was with Joseph and Mary. Both descendants in the line of David, they traveled to Bethlehem to register for a census, a requirement of a government not much liked at the time by the Israelites.
It was surely a difficult journey of at least three days. Perhaps Mary—ready to deliver—considered the prophesy in Micah that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but I’m doubting it. No one knows, but I’m guessing she was mainly focused on the trauma and inconvenience of it all. Even a godly woman like Mary had to have had her moments of weariness and frustration. And, a pregnant woman about to have a baby is not going to look on such a trip with enthusiasm.
It’s hard—maybe even impossible—to see a glorious future in our days of suffering. We’re far more apt to question God’s plan than to rest in the hope of a bright future, especially if the future appears anything but bright. So, Joseph and Mary trudged on toward Bethlehem to do what they had to do, register in the town of their ancestry. They also trudged on to fulfill a plan that had been laid down before the foundations of the world.
Although Joseph and Mary had been visited by angels, they still lived out most days just like us, occupied with the same duties of making a living and keeping a house, bearing and raising children. One day folds into the next, and it’s hard to see that all those steps were planned and have a purpose bigger than ourselves, but they do.
 Certainly, they took heart by remembering the words of the angel, and we must take heart by remembering the words in the Bible, as we step out into journeys that we have little control over.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Holy Spirit

Dear Christa—
Many things must have been revealed to Zechariah and Elizabeth. When Mary arrives, Elizabeth knows that Mary will bear Jesus—the Messiah, God, very God—because she refers to her as the “mother of my Lord.”
Specific things about John were revealed as well. For the Holy Spirit comes over Zechariah at the naming of John the Baptist. The trinity Godhead is evident in the coming of Jesus in every way, particularly the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit, the communicator and comforter of all Christians, would overshadow Mary, and she would become pregnant with God as a child.
Zechariah is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied the destiny of his son.
The Holy Spirit oversaw Creation as revealed in John 1. He is the impetus of Jesus’ incarnation and the avenue of power that raised Jesus from the dead. The Holy Spirit, the very essence of God, remains and walks our path with us.  He opens the eyes of the unbeliever to draw him or her to faith in Himself.
How little we expect from God, yet He has revealed Himself through the Holy Spirit, the Comforter that Jesus promised would come and remain. He manifested God’s power—His power—from the beginning to the end of Jesus’ time on earth.
He walks with us through joy and sorrow, through yesterdays and tomorrows, and He’s ever present in all our todays.
Such power, such love, such intentionality. Yet, because God is no longer flesh, we forget He is still with us.
Before and after God became a baby in a manger, He dwelt and dwells with us. He is the Holy Spirit, and He is here.
And, He is God—God with us.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything 

Monday, December 14, 2015

To Be Like Mary

Dear Christa—
Luke 1: 26-38  - To Be Like Mary
One of the most striking things about Mary is that she believed the angel Gabriel. She does ask how she could be a virgin and have a baby, but she doesn’t doubt that it will happen.
Gabriel tells her two significant things. He tells her that God Himself will place Himself in her womb through the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, he tells her of Elizabeth’s pregnancy and states, “For nothing is impossible with God.”
Mary was young and she simply believed God. As I get older, sometimes I feel more like Zachariah than Mary. It should be just the opposite. With a history of seeing God’s work over the years, one would think we’d grow more confident with age, but that’s not always the case.
As we become more knowledgeable of the world and see the spiritual and physical struggle between good and evil, we can become somewhat jaded. At times we feel like protecting ourselves from God’s plan when woe and destruction comes our way. We, in a sense, make theological excuses for God when it appears He is not at work.
We get comfortable with our surroundings and don’t expect God to work in powerful ways. We can resist stepping out in faith and belief that God is all-powerful and He actually does powerful things instead of just being able to do powerful things. To grow old in our American Christian culture can dull instead of sharpening our faith.
Maybe that’s why I like working around teenagers who see risks as adventurous—who are more willing to “put God out there” so to speak, who are willing to live a not so guarded Christianity.
Oh, to be like Mary—to simply respond, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Way Back: Luke 1:5-14

Dear Christa—
Way Back to the Beginning: Luke 1:5-14
Luke was serious when he said he investigated “from the beginning.” His account takes him even before Mary is pregnant with Jesus.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were both descendants of Aaron, the priestly line in Israel. Luke tells us they were “upright in the sight of God.” They were older, and in all their years they had not been blessed with a baby. Though disappointed, they were not bitter. They did everything good Jewish people did in living out their devotion to God.
As Zechariah was performing his duties in the temple, unexpectedly, the angel Gabriel appears before him. I don’t know what angels look like. There must at least at times be some kind of distinction, for their first words tend to be something to alleviate fear. Gabriel names him by name—“Zachariah.” That’s significant.
We are not lost in a sea of people. God and the angels know us by name. God even knows the number of hairs on our head. He knows us. He knows who we are, not as a mass of humanity, but as individuals with names. And, He knows our pain.
“Zechariah, your prayer has been heard.” How many years had they prayed for a child? How many years did it appear that request had fallen on deaf and unresponsive ears—yet it had not.
Zechariah and Elizabeth would have a son and he would be a “joy and delight” to them.
No prayer, no matter how long we pray, goes unheard. Isn’t it easy to give up hope and assume that God will not move on our behalf? Yet, Zechariah and Elizabeth didn’t stop praying, and they didn’t stop following God.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, December 7, 2015

That We May Know Him

Words for the Season, that We May Know Him
Dear Christa—
The book of Luke has an introduction. It is written to a specific person, Theophilus. And, it clarifies that it is a near second-hand account of the events of Jesus’ life that he has “thoroughly investigated.”
Luke was a doctor, educated, and careful. He believed the account of Jesus because he knew and had questioned the people who had been there. It’s one thing to read about something that happened. It’s so much more convincing to talk to those who were there—who can tell us exactly what happened.
And, Luke wasn’t a shabby investigator. He looked into it all “from the very beginning.” He writes his friend with a purpose, the purpose to share his findings so that Theophilus, as well, could be convinced that the claims of Jesus were valid—that Jesus was who He said He was—the very Son of God who came to redeem the world—the promised Savior, alluded to way back in Genesis—ages ago. He presents that Jesus is God; He has a plan, and He’s still active in our world.
Don’t we all need to know that? Don’t we all at times doubt the incredulousness of it all? Don’t we all need Luke’s’ words that He carefully investigated from the beginning?
I’m so glad he wrote Theophilus. And I’m so glad his inspired letter remains today.
Sometimes I, too, need an “investigated account” to “know the certainty of the things” I’ve been taught. In today’s world of mega telescopes and microscopes and where people can readily talk around the world in an instant, it can seem a strange thing indeed that God would come in the flesh and live with us—that He would die for our sins and return to a heaven we cannot see and wait more than 2000 years to return when His disciples said He was coming soon.
Where is this Son of God? What is this Christianity that sits among a number of religions blanketing our planet, tucked remotely in a universe surrounded by more than we can comprehend?
Luke didn’t just write for Theophilus; he wrote for me; he wrote for us all.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Not Just Another Day

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Gen. 42:1-24
I would imagine that the day Joseph’s brothers arrived started as any other day. We really don’t know what a day will bring forth—unexpected sorrow or unexpected joy. One thing is for sure: when those brothers arrived, Joseph knew his life had just taken a turn.
For whatever reason, Joseph accuses them of being spies against Egypt and tosses them into prison. The thought that these 10 men who spent their days keeping sheep were spies is actually a little funny, but no one’s laughing here.
Three days gave them a lot of time to think. Three day in prison gave them the honesty to verbalize their sin. Wayward though they were, they knew the one true God. They knew they had done wrong—and they knew God brings judgement.
It’s interesting that Joseph tells them that he fears God. In a different situation, that statement could have brought comfort, but it certainly does not here.
They remembered Joseph begging them for his life, and they had not listened. Now, they, too, had pleaded for theirs and been denied. And they also see that no sin goes hidden forever. Sin must be confessed and forgiven. There is really nothing else to be done with it. Hiding it only prolongs the torture of dealing with it.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, November 30, 2015

God Sees in Ages; We See in Tomorrows

 Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Gen. 41:41-56
Twenty plus years is a long time. I think it’s a lesson for me to realize that God is always at work. To look back on 20 years reveals His hand, but we don’t always see the daily sanctification that is revealed through time. Joseph is no longer a prisoner. He’s been given a new name, a wife, sons, and a prominent position, but ultimately all these things are for the purpose of God’s glory.
God sees in ages; we see in tomorrows. Eventually, our bad has a way of swinging into good. If Joseph knows more than what his childhood dreams revealed, the text doesn’t tell it. It appears Joseph simply walked the path set before him. He has few, if any, choices. So, as in Potiphar’s house, the captain’s prison, and now as Egypt’s second in command, Joseph does the work where he is. One thing Joseph knows through the good and the bad is that God is with him, and He blesses him in what he does. So, Joseph takes his pagan wife and has two sons. Their names reveal that he doesn’t turn from God, but recognizes His hand in his circumstances.
Manasseh: “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”
Ephraim: “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
Then, as predicted, the seven years of plenty ends and the seven years of famine commences, but Joseph and all Egypt is ready.
We prepare for the hardship during times of abundance. We learn of God during the good times to find Him near in the difficult. We face the challenges and heartaches of life with confidence in God because we’ve already developed a firm relationship with Him.
And, sometimes like with Joseph, God will bring about great blessing in the times of our famine.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Genesis 41

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Genesis 41
Joseph appears to have been an impetuous, smug young man. He was spoiled by his parents. He flouted his dreams before his brothers. He appears to have worn his fancy coat with pride.
If Joseph was an immature and tactless youth, he was no longer. Hardship has a way of bringing us down to size and dependent on God.
In Potiphar’s’ house, Joseph learned respect. In prison he learned humility. And all the while Joseph trusted in God. He’d observed duplicity all around him, and he chose the opposite. Joseph chose to trust in God—the God who sent him dreams and the interpretation of dreams.
Joseph’s mother died when his brother was born. Obviously, his aunt (Leah) was not nurturing toward him. His half-brothers did not love him.
Joseph surely spent a lot of time alone as a child. And, when people are alone, they often find God. Joseph, surrounded by relatives, was basically alone in so many ways. Instead of sulking, he developed a hard and fast relationship with God.
A great working of God would fall on Joseph, and he would receive a double blessing. I think Joseph knew early that in spite of his situation, God had great things for him. He believed it when he was young, and he believes it still. But, things are different now. Now as he stands before Pharaoh, he has maturity, people skills, along with a solid, open faith in the one, true God.
And, regardless of his circumstances, he puts his destiny in the hands of God.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, November 23, 2015

Two Men, Two Dreams, Two Totally Different Outcomes

Dear Christa—
Genesis to Now: Genesis 40

It appears that Joseph may not have been the only person wrongfully imprisoned. Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker had been in the prison for a while as well. One morning they were both concerned with the dreams they’d each had. Just as both men were similar and different, so had been their dreams.
Joseph—a dreamer himself—acknowledges that the dreams were from God and he could interpret them. The cupbearer’s dream had a good outcome; the baker’s did not.
Joseph asks one thing of the cupbearer and that was to remember him and plead his case before Pharaoh.
And, even though the destinies of both guys ended just as Joseph predicted, the cupbearer did not remember Joseph. “He forgot him.”
How easy it is to forget so many things God has revealed. He’s given us the Bible with instructions on how to live and relate to people. He has revealed His own character and shown us Himself.
But, it is so easy to forget. So often, like the cupbearer, we pick up our work the same as before. We witness the work of God, and we forget it.
How transformed our lives might be if only we saw and remembered the workings of God in our lives and those around us.
But, it’s so easy to get busy and simply to forget.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, November 19, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Genesis 40:1-4

April 27, 2015

Dear Christa—
It’s impossible to fully understand how God’s world of His sovereignty and man’s choice coexist, but they do. Some describe it as a continuum, placing more emphasis on one or the other, but Scripture simply describes a world in which both function simultaneously. Such is illustrated in the actions of Pharaoh in Genesis 40:1-4.
Joseph is in prison, wrongfully accused, yet, God is moving. No one sees it—probably not even Joseph.
Genesis 40 begins with, “sometime later.” We don’t know how long Joseph was in prison. Long or short, he was there because of Potiphar’s wife. He could have become bitter, but it seems he went about doing a good job with where he was and waited for God to intervene. He knew he would not be in prison forever; He believed in the dreams God had given him.
So, “sometime later” Pharaoh is angry. It’s probably a scary thing to work for someone as powerful as a Pharaoh—people who can and do command at a whim. One day Pharaoh was apparently in a particularly bad mood—at least at mealtime. Disgruntled about the food and drink, he sends both the cupbearer and baker to prison.
Yet, within the Pharaoh’s actions, God was at work. Unknown to the Pharaoh and Joseph, God was setting up a great redemption plan for Israel.
God has designed the actions of people for His purposes. It matters not at all if they follow God, as Joseph, or don’t know Him, as the Pharaoh.
God was at work then, and God is at work now.
Nothing escapes His notice. Nothing escapes His control.
He is God. He is good. And, we can trust in that.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, November 16, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Doing What's Right

Dear Christa—

Doing what’s right can land a person in a pot of trouble—or in Joseph’s case—a dungeon full of the king’s prisoners. On the other hand, not doing right puts one in a far worse position, as it did with Judah and God’s dealing with him. Sometimes, it just seems like there’s no good choice.
When our kids were growing up, Pastor Mark would often say, “It’s always right to do what’s right.” I hope it made an impression on them. It must have made one on me because I often remember it.
Joseph was in a situation. He tried reasoning with Potiphar’s wife. He appeals to her responsibility toward her husband and his boss. He tells her, “My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife” (vs. 9).
He reminds her that he serves God: “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” That didn’t work, so he flat our refused her and avoided her. That was smart, but Joseph’s rejection made the woman more determined, and when he fled from her physical attempt, her desire turned to contempt, and Joseph—who had worked hard for Potiphar—finds himself falsely accused and tossed in prison.
That seems like a bad reward for doing what is right. As American Christians, I think we often feel entitled regarding God—that He will make an easy path and we’ll be showered with blessings because we feel like we deserve it.
It’s easy for us to look at Joseph’s life and dismiss his situation as God’s plan because we know the outcome, but Joseph didn’t see that at all. Joseph sees dreams unfulfilled, hard work unrewarded, and prison confinement. Yet, God did not leave him, and, I think, Joseph knew that.
As the Lord was with Joseph, so He is with us when life goes from bad to worse. In the very prison of our life, God is there and He shows us kindness. We should expect it. We should look for it. And, we should always do what’s right because “It’s always right to do what’s right.”
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, November 12, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Genesis 39

Dear Christa—

Some people are born leaders, and it seems that wherever they land, it isn’t long before they are in charge. So it was with Joseph. He may have been a slave, but he was an important one.
Yet, he is in a precarious position. His masters may have put him in charge, but if the hand of God’s blessing were to withdraw from him, he’d have been in a real mess.
If there is one striking thing about Joseph, I think, it’s his faith. Joseph had had dreams of rising to the top, and he believed them. He was confident they were from God and that they’d come true. Where did this guy come from? Who’d so influenced him in the dysfunctional household of Jacob that he had such faith? No one knows.
Somehow, in the midst of persecution and hardship, Joseph was confident that God would fulfill the dreams. And, he maintains that confidence and faith for a lot of years. Oh, he probably had his days—Potiphar’s wife, the dungeon, the cupbearer’s forgetfulness. He was human after all.
But, through all the years, Joseph possesses an abiding trust in God—a belief that God would stay true to him just as He had his father—far from the land that was promised.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, November 9, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Genesis 38:11-30

Dear Christa—

Jesus is the sinless Son of God, but He also had a human lineage. One might expect that lineage to go back through devoted followers of God, and some were, but many were not.
Of all of Jacob’s sons, we might expect the Christ to come through Joseph. He didn’t. Jesus’ earthly heritage was speckled with all sorts of waywardness and Gentile mothers. Perhaps that’s to show Jesus really did come to be the Savior of all people, not just the Jews.
Women in Tamar’s day had few choices. It was exclusively a man’s world in the Middle East. Tamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law, had been sent back to her father’s house. Judah’s intention was to abandon her. Whether right or wrong Tamar did what she did. It was risky, but it worked.
Sometimes risky and sometimes kind of crazy are things that God turns around and uses. At breakfast this morning, I mentioned to Jay that the families in Genesis were just a mess. His response: “God uses messes.” It is so true—that in the midst of our horrible mess, God is still at work.
Judah’s first reaction to the news that Tamar was pregnant was to “bring her out and have her burned to death,” ridding himself of her once and for all. But, on seeing his own seal and staff, Judah is awakened to his responsibility to her.
Tamar’s actions were both risky and calculated. They could easily have ended her life.
Yet, God had a plan and from a very questionable action, Perez is born. And, through the line of Perez comes two other significant Gentile women: Rahab, who hid the spies, and Ruth, the Moabite. In the lineage of Joseph, listed in Matthew 1, many individuals are left out, but not these three women—women who did what seemed right at the time—and God worked through them. They could have been skipped over in the genealogy of Jesus, but they aren’t.
In Matthew 1, they are the only women mentioned, alongside Bathsheba and Mary. Those are five women who certainly have stories to tell. And they are five women who indicate that Jesus came for all people of all walks of life—Jew, Gentile, rich, poor, righteous, unrighteous. Jesus is the Savior of all.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, November 5, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Walking Away

Dear Christa—
Genesis to Now: Walking Away
People respond to guilt in many ways. One way is to walk away. The events that take place in Genesis 38 cover many years—enough years for Judah to leave, marry, have two sons, and those sons grow up and marry. The text does not tell us directly why Judah left his brothers, but chapter 38 does begin with “at that time.” It appears to come close on the heels of Judah having suggested to sell Joseph to the Midianites. It is true that Judah had saved Joseph’s life, but to what end? His father believed him to be dead just the same and would not be comforted. The secret had to be kept among the brothers; surely discord and guilt had followed. Perhaps the others blamed him; perhaps he blamed himself. All we know is that Judah left—and the leaving was not good.
Perhaps a thing to learn from the beginning of this account is that no one can really walk away from God. Judah’s two eldest sons were “wicked in the Lord’s sight.” And, for that, God put them to death. The Canaanite people did not worship God. The influence all around Judah’s family would have been pagan, but God still took notice of him—the same as He takes notice of all individuals everywhere, even today. And, He deals with our actions.
God sees all things. God considers individuals. God is involved in people’s lives whether they want Him to be or not. Judah ran away. Judah stayed away for many years. But, Judah could not escape the eyes of the Lord. Judah, as his ancestors before him, ran from the truth—ran from repentance. Yet, no person can run beyond the hand of God. It simply is not possible.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, November 2, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Genesis 37:12-36

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Genesis 37:12-36
What a rift—a large gorge—between the children of Leah and Joseph—
Leah’s sullenness from the lack of Jacob’s love, Jacob’s outward favoritism of Joseph, and Joseph flaunting his gift of dreams produced out and out hatred of Joseph by his brothers.
Favoritism doesn’t bring people together. It does just the opposite. The hurt causes grudges, discord, and competition, none of which makes for good relationships.
Only Reuben—the eldest—tried to rescue Joseph, not by confrontation, but by deception. But, his good intentions backfired on him, and the ruthless brothers sold Joseph to cousins headed to Egypt. And, one deception led to another. They had to come up with a scheme to account for Joseph’s disappearance. So they led Jacob to believe that Joseph had been killed.
How did they feel when Jacob mourned so for Joseph? How did the guilt bear down on their shoulders, especially the two eldest (Reuben and Judah)? Yet, not a one would admit to the truth. So often a bad decision is simply carried while the consequence of the guilt and situation grows and grows. It appears that once a bad choice is made, there is no going back, no chance to make things right, no avenue to repentance. It is a lie of Satan. It traps us into our sin, a place of perpetual sorrow and regret. Held tight by pride and deception, we neglect the repentance owed to God and man. And we suffer.
What a terrible secret they kept as they watched their father’s sorrow. How often did they ponder their actions at night on lonely fields watching their family flocks? Only years and years later would the account reveal that the action had never left their memories, had never left off haunting them.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, October 29, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Genesis 37:1-11

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Genesis 37:1-11
Joseph was loved more than his brothers because he was born to him in his old age. The other issue was that he was a child of Rachel’s, the person Jacob chose and truly loved. It is a wonderful event when 2 people who love each other have a child.
Joseph was spoiled as a child. How could he not be? Israel (Jacob) outwardly favored him. He had a special robe made for him. All the other brothers knew he was their father’s favorite. And, perhaps these brothers of concubines felt slighted and shiftless. Perhaps they justified their poor actions, feeling like secondhand children, whose shortcomings Joseph readily reported to their father.
And since children cannot change how their parents regard them, Joseph’s brothers’ hurt turned to hatred, and that hatred settled on Joseph. Instead of hating their father, they, instead, hated what Israel loved above them—Joseph.
Being the favored child among so many, being a younger brother, being immature, probably gave Joseph the confidence to lash out the only way he could against them. He gave a bad report of them; he gloated over them with details of his special dreams.  And, all the while, they hated him more.
Finally, he tells his dreams to Israel, and his father rebukes him. Maybe he, too, had become perturbed with Joseph; or maybe he desired to protect him from his brothers. But, as Joseph’s brothers despised him more and more, Israel “kept the matter in mind.” He has to wonder on which of his many sons will God’s promise fall. By now he has realized that gaining the inheritance was sovereignly given to him by God and not through his craftiness.
Maybe Israel had learned that it’s best to just wait on God and let Him bring about His plan in due time, which is exactly what happens with Joseph—just not in the manner either Joseph or Jacob could have desired or imagined. But, there was purpose behind the trials Joseph would endure in Egypt. Joseph would not turn from the spoiled, favored child to the wise and trusting servant of God overnight. That would take a long stay in Egypt—in far less than favored circumstances.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, October 26, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Genesis 36

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Today: Genesis 36
It’s kind of hard to tell—at least for me—just exactly how things sized up for Jacob, Esau, and Isaac. Did they ever live close to each other? It does appear they had some connections with each other, although the accounts of their stories, for the most part, are dealt with separately.
But, we know that when Isaac is 180 years old, he dies, and these 2 brothers bury him. Then in chapter 36 the account of Esau is given.
He may not have produced the Promised Child or inherited the promised land, but Esau still became a great nation, the nation of Edom, who dwelt in the hill country of Seir. In the end God had blessed them both. Isaac had said in his blessing to Esau that he would eventually throw off the yoke his brother had on him. Jacob may have stolen the blessing, but it seems Esau had cared little for the promise that had been sent from God.
The things that often seem to disturb us the most often have a way of eventually sliding into the background and becoming insignificant. Also, Esau wasn’t the one chosen by God to inherit the blessing from God, so we shouldn’t be surprised that it wasn’t valued by him. He also doesn’t appear to have any problem with picking up and moving away. Esau’s only regret seems to have come with the realization that his choice of wives were a source of heartache for his parents. And it’s kind of hard to know who was to blame for that, probably both Esau and his parents.
And as for Rebekah, their mother, nothing is said of her. Apparently she died sometime while Jacob was away. It’s kind of interesting that the death of Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, is mentioned and Rebekah’s death is not. Maybe that shows that prestige means little after all; maybe it was just timing. I guess it didn’t matter enough to deal with.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, October 22, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Genesis 35:8-29

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Finally Home Genesis 35: 8-29
After many long years, Jacob finally returns home—his real home where his father lives. Just because Jacob put away the idols that his family had followed and set off to do what God wanted, it did not mean that things would go well for him.
On his way, Rebekah’s nurse, Deborah died. Rachel dies in childbirth and is buried along the way, never to meet her father-in-law Isaac. Reuben, his eldest, sleeps with Rachel’s servant (Jacob’s concubine). What a relief it must have been to at last see his father’s face, even in his sorrow. And surely it brought joy and relief to Isaac to once again see the face of a son who’d been absent for so many years. But, the homecoming was shadowed by the events that had followed Jacob’s decision to follow God wholly.
Following God doesn’t mean life gets easier. But, it does mean that there’s a God in heaven. It means He cares for us. It means what happens has purpose, and we know it. And now that Jesus has come and the Holy Spirit the Comforter has come, we surely don’t walk the dark days of earth alone. There is strength for each day. And as each day folds into another and another, we too will eventually arrive home to see our Father’s face—not a father with old human hands, but God Himself, who knows the purpose behind each sorrowful and jubilant step we’ve taken.
It’s good to be home.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything