Week of 3/10/19 - Pages 66-81

I’ve always loved this portion of Joseph’s life. Often the focus is on Joseph’s amazing ability to forgive his brothers. What they intended for evil, God intended for good. This time around, I was struck by the fact that his brothers carried the weight of their sin during the years Joseph was in Egypt. When Joseph accused them of being spies, then tested how they would treat Benjamin. The brothers thought their misfortune was because of what they did to Joseph years before. Even years after Joseph had forgiven them and settled them in the best land of Egypt, they were fearful after their father died that Joseph would harm them.  It was as if they believed their actions were unforgivable and they were just waiting for their punishment. They couldn’t seem to accept the forgiveness offered by Joseph, despite the fact that he demonstrated it through word and deed. 

We all sin, we live with the consequences, guilt and regret of our own actions. If we don’t turn it over to God we carry the weight of our actions for years; like Joseph’s brothers not accepting forgiveness, waiting for punishment. On this side of the cross, through Jesus’ word and deed, we are offered the ultimate forgiveness. I love the fact that we have a Lord who loves us, is compassionate and gracious, he is slow to anger, abounding in love, he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us, Psalm 103:8-12.  Through Him we can live freely in forgiveness of our sin, which will in turn allow us to forgive others and ourselves when we fall short.

Week of 3/3/19 - Pages 53-65

I just love Joseph!  I can see how his brothers were just over him and what they perceived as his bragging. As someone who has a tendency to get a little over excited, I can see that he just wanted to share about his dream, not realizing the repercussions. I really don’t think Joseph thought that his sharing would land him in a well to die and that his brothers were that mad and jealous.  

 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,” Romans 8:28. As I read this week’s reading, this verse played over and over in my head.  We don’t always see God’s hand in our everyday, but when we have been walking with Him for some time, we have the privilege to be able to look over our shoulder at the work God has done in our lives. God has taken some very bad things in my life and Joseph’s and used it for His glory.

 In my case, God has taken substance abuse, divorce, ADHD, and a mediocre childhood and used them to shape me into someone with compassion, joy, and awareness that I would otherwise not have. He has given me the opportunity to walk alongside people who have the same struggles. He has given me the chance to share His light and truth with others.  

 I feel that Joseph was the same way. He most likely would not have chosen all of the struggles he went through, but once he saw how God used those struggles to put him in a position to help his family and others, I don’t think he would have changed a thing if it meant ending up in a different place. 

Week of 2/24/19 - Pages 40-52


Often times you will hear people talk about the “Old Testament God” versus the “New Testament God” and their struggle to reconcile the perceived differences. People view the “Old Testament God” as wrathful, judgmental, condemning and punishing, while the “New Testament God” is loving, gracious, compassionate, and forgiving. Yet what stands out to me as I read this week’s passage of Jacob and Esau is God’s amazing grace in the midst of deception, betrayal and lies. 

The passage begins with Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau, scheming to deceive her husband Isaac in giving the blessing to their younger son Jacob. An elaborate ruse ensues and Jacob is given the much coveted blessing instead of Esau. Jacob’s life is in danger once Esau learns of the deception, so Jacob is sent to Laban, Rachel’s brother living in Haran. Here Jacob receives a taste of his own medicine as Laban offers Jacob his youngest daughter Rachel in marriage after working for him for seven years. But like his sister Rebekah, Laban deceives Jacob by giving him his older daughter Leah instead. Jacob has to work seven more years in order to marry the younger daughter Rachel. What trickery and deception!

Yet in the midst of all of this, God comes to Jacob in a personal and gracious way. As Jacob flees his home and makes his way to Haran to live with his uncle, God comes to him in a dream. In the dream God reminds Jacob who He is: “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac.” He then blesses Jacob saying, “The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as the dust of the earth…And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go…I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” Wow! Does God know what Jacob has done? Doesn’t he know how Jacob has deceived his brother Esau out of their father’s blessing? So although Jacob is living with the consequences of his deception, God continues to bless him and to use Jacob to bless others.

When Jacob awakes from his dream, he responds by saying, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” Isn’t that often the case in our own lives? As we go through various circumstances in our lives whether because of our own choices or not, we are often unaware that God is in that place with us. Like Jacob, we are caught off guard that our Heavenly Father is with us, that He meets us personally, that He promises to bless us and that He reminds us that He will never leave us. What circumstance do you currently find yourself in that you may be unaware that your loving, gracious, compassionate and forgiving God is with you? 

Week of 2/17/19 - Pages 27-39

The book of Genesis fascinates me every time I dig into it. The richness of the stories both grand and small. The very real people's lives we get to look into with an authenticity and depth we rarely experience outside of perhaps a few close relationships.

There are several interesting story lines in this section, but the thing that struck me this time through Genesis was Abraham's character; the good, the bad and the ugly of it and how this can actually bring us comfort today. Please understand that I have tremendous respect for this incredible patriarch of God's chosen people. In fact it is because he deserves our deep respect that I think we can receive peace and comfort when we look honestly at the full picture of Abraham's character. 

 On the good side, Abraham had such faith and confidence in God that he followed God into a completely new direction for his life. He left his security and everything familiar to go where ever God told him to go. He even believed and trusted God so completely that at over 100 years old he was willing to follow God's test of his faith and sacrifice his only heir and son, until God stopped him at the last minute. Personally I do not know that level of faith. I do not think I could have done what Abraham did on the mountain with Isaac.  Abraham shows tremendous faith in God.

 On the ugly side, I am grateful that God includes in the Holy Scriptures the very significant lapses in Abraham's faith and character too. On Page 27 Abraham shows an incredible lapse in character and faith in God to protect him when he passes Sarah off as his sister to King Abimelech and then the King takes Sarah into his harem. I have to admit that I can be very judgmental of Abraham when I read this story. I think: "WHAT..!!! Are you kidding me Abraham, how could you be so fearful? Less than 12 months ago God sat face to face with you and personally promised you that Sarah would bear you a son within a year, how could your faith be so overcome with fear and desert you."

 It is easy to read that story and be indignant about Abraham's severe lapse in character and faith.  But I think this is where the application of this story can really help us. As I humbly walk with Jesus and I listen to the Holy Spirit in my day in day out life, I am often made aware of the significant lapses in my own character and faith. Truth be told about my lapses, they are for reasons much less dire than the possibility that my life is about to be taken, as was Abraham's fear. My lapses normally come out of the fear of losing my job, or that my kids might struggle, or health issues for loved ones, or that I will not have enough money to retire as I desire.  These lapses in my faith and even character happen even though I can also point to specific examples of God's incredible faithfulness in every one of these very same areas.

 Whatever the reasons behind our character lapses, or the times when we find our confident faith has deserted us, we can take comfort in these stories of Abraham and Sarah. Even the patriarch of God's people was fearful, struggled to trust God at times, and suffered severe lapses in character. When fear, past pain, or life's current circumstances overwhelm us and we respond poorly, know that God is not far and that His deep desire is to have us draw close to Him - not push Him away or spiritually run and hide. We can soon enjoy profound peace and comfort after our lapses, if we humbly draw close to Jesus and allow Him through the Holy Spirit to teach us how to be more consistent in our character and increase our faith (Matt 11:28-30).  He is the most gentle and faithful of teachers, and He always rewards the humble heart who draws near! May the Lord comfort you as you draw close to your Heavenly Father.

Week of 2/10/19 - Pages 14-26

The story of Abraham is a powerful one. It is one of faithfulness to God. There is a point in the story where God tells Abraham that he will have another son. At this time in his life he was old. He was about 100 years old. His wife was about 90. When both of them heard the news that they would have a son, they were in disbelief. They doubted what God told them. At one point in the story God responds by saying, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” When I read this, I paused. I probably read it 5-10 times and just focused on it. We often forget of the power and might of God. We forget that God can do all things. Dwell on that. He can do ALL things. There is no need to doubt, worry, fear, or be anxious about anything because the God of Abraham is the same God we know and love today. This same God is capable of all things, and even more importantly, He loves you and me. He loves beyond our understanding. When we humble ourselves, and think about the greatness of God, we are left in total wonder. 

Week of 2/3/19 - Pages 1-13

Beginnings Introduction

 This week marks the start of our incredible journey into the Old Testament.  Your book, Beginnings, contains the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy in their pure, narrative (or story) form. 

 It’s important to realize, as you begin this journey, that you are reading a story. It is a story that reflects real history.  There are those skeptics who see these extraordinary narratives as far-fetched.  They read such fantastic accounts of paradise-like gardens, talking snakes, life-giving trees, global flooding, gigantic animal- bearing boats, burning bushes, plagues, and parting seas – and chalk it up to myth, or at least, allegory.  By allegory they mean, that these stories are not history – they didn’t really happen because they couldn’t have – but rather they must be ancient fairy-tales that serve as fanciful wrappings of ancient moral values or beliefs.

But I urge you, don’t buy in to the skepticism.  Such skepticism is based on the idea that these kinds of fantastic stories could not be grounded in fact because they “are scientifically impossible.”  But, if you believe in God, the supernatural being Who created the universe “out of nothing”; Who made Man in His image; Who found a way to not only design and build paradise, but restore and recover it after it had been marred by sin; even if you’re not sure what you believe, but are toying with the possibility of a Supreme Being – then talking snakes, gigantic boats, and parting seas are relatively miniscule matters in comparison.

To deny the historicity of the Old Testament is to deny its divine inspiration, something Jesus believed in unequivocally and pointed to as proof of His identity as the Son of God. The first five books of the Old Testament are history. They read like history. They offer first hand accounts, genealogies, geographical and anthropological realities of past cultures and civilizations.  But more importantly, they give us a glimpse of the beginnings of not only our world and mankind, but of the nature and character of God and the relationship He fashions and facilitates with human beings. 

The timeless and universal value of these stories can only exist because of their authenticity and realness.  Real men and women wrestling with God, and finding their way to Him through His redemptive, merciful plan.  That’s why Paul writes, “the things that were written beforehand were written for our leaning…that we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). They were also written so that we would be warned to not make the same mistakes as they did – repeating history all over again:

 As examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come (1 Cor. 10:6-11). 

The Old Testament is, indeed, a collection of authentic stories of messy lives.  They resemble our lives – struggling to be lived out daily, interacting with God and the world around us.  They have become an invaluable teacher for us, a “tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we could be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).

Make no mistake; you are reading history – the ancient Story of stories.  And your story intersects with this Story, becoming more a part of it everyday.  So jump in, and enjoy it in all its epic glory, confident that you are reading the Truth about God, about you, and about your relationship.  

Happy Reading!

Pastor Lee