Painful Growth Rewarded

Gen 15 13,14

Moses: Introduction and backdrop

 

Hey i’m Chris Mattison and I would like to take this week to look at Moses and his incredible life story. First, though I would like to take today to look at the situation into which Moses was born.

 

God had made a covenant with Abraham that his descendants would be numerous and would inhabit the promised land (Genesis 15).  In this promise God did tell Abraham that his people would have to leave to a strange land and be enslaved for 400 years, but that they would return to their own land.  As we know countries do not like to have foreigners moving into their land, so God moved Joseph into place as the right hand of Pharaoh so that he could guide the nation through a seven year famine and so that he could provide a place of protection inside of Egypt for the Israelites (Genesis 45:8-11).  As they continued to live in Egypt they prospered and grew in numbers so much that the Egyptians became worried that they would pose a threat to them someday so the Egyptians enslaved the Israelite people. Through all of this their numbers continued to grow as their nation was being painfully incubated inside the protection of Egypt (Exodus 1:8-14).

 

It is difficult to form a new nation in the ancient world because groups always intermarry with those around them and we see this as a major issue for the Israelites for the rest of the Old Testament, and later on God uses the laws and customs that he gives them to keep them separate and unique, but at this time God uses their enslavement to keep them as a single coherent nation of people.  This is maybe one of the most “tough love” ways to keep a promise.

 

During this time the Israelites began to forget about God’s promise and to worship the gods of the Egyptians, because in their minds those gods must be more powerful if the Egyptians are more powerful than them.

 

God’s people always seem to thrive in adversity.  In the early church the numbers of Christians continued to grow even though they were being fed to lions for spectator sport and were being persecuted in every manner imaginable.    Today in areas like China where Christianity is viewed as a threat to the government and is actively repressed the number of Christians is estimated to be around 30 Million and growing rapidly.

 

Maybe you feel like your faith in Christ has set you apart and alienated you from your friends, and that is probably very difficult for you to deal with.  Following Christ means dying to self and maybe that means you have to die to your social group and put up with some ridicule and rejection from society. It can be easy to be worn down by the world and give in and start following the gods of society, and many people do that.  But we need to have endurance to run the race to the end (2 Timothy 4:7).

-Chris Mattison

Fear Not

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Psalm- 27:1 “The LORD is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid?”

Growing up in Minnesota and a large city too, I didn’t understand what a stronghold was. Until I watched Deadliest Catch. The Bering Sea has strong, violent storms and one of the ways the fishermen find safety is to drop anchor in a protected area of shallow water. The anchors are designed to dig into the ocean floor and prevent the ship from drifting. The anchor provides them safety.

After leaning that, I find the image of God as the anchor that holds me safe. The thing is I need to remember to drop the anchor, so He can hold me safe. As long as I lean on Him, I have nothing to fear. He is always on my side and seeing to my wellbeing.

 

-Susan Johnson

God’s Peace

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Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I find myself to be a world champion worrier. This skill started when I was a child: storms terrified me! I soon learned as long as I could hear the airplanes (I lived under a flight path!), everything was ok. As I grew up, my fears changed: what kind of job would I have? Would I find a good husband? (I did!) And now, I worry about my sons. Are they safe, will they find a good spouse, and will they continue to follow God?

I finally made the decision to turn my fears over to God. Many times, the Bible tells us God is on our side. He knows what is going to happen: both good and bad, he is in control no matter what! I am still unsure and often frightened, because I’m human. As long as I don’t stay in the place of me taking control. I need to move towards God and give Him the control, as it should be. Take a moment to examine a place where your worries are preventing God from being in control. Give God the control and leave it with Him.

-Susan Johnson

Let God Lead

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Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

We all have times when it seems nothing is going right. Many times, I have felt like all my plans were failing. The main thing I now realize, that was the problem: MY plans. When I take a step back and allow God to take the lead, things fall in place. This doesn’t mean things are easy, it just means God is in control and I am held safe. My fears and failures come most often from thinking I am in control instead of letting God have the control. Take a moment to allow God to take control of your problems. Thank Him for protecting you and keeping you safe.

-Susan Johnson

When Our Plan is Failing

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Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

We all have times when it feels like nothing is going right. School is hard, and you think maybe you should take a break. Your job is going nowhere, and it seems like your boss doesn’t like you. We’ve all been there! These are difficult times to trust God has a plan for all of us and even those times we feel like all our plans are for nothing. Take some time to reflect on the people you have contact with, could they be the people you need to share the message of Jesus and the salvation He offers. Sometimes when our plans seem to be failing, it is really God’s plan coming together!

-Susan Johnson

Waiting – Patiently

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Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”

Waiting, especially for a response to prayer, is always hard. How often have you asked God for guidance, only to be met with silence?  It is hard to be patient when others around you are succeeding. How do you respond to the times the answer to prayer is “Wait”? God will always help those who call on Him, sometimes He is waiting for us to be obedient.

Often when we are unsure of the direction God has for us, we seek help from other Christian friends.

Reflect on a time an answer to prayer was “Wait.” How did you respond? Do you have a trusted friend or mentor to help you be patient as you wait for God’s direction? Take some time to pray for them. Work on being patient as you wait on the Lord.

-Susan Johnson

 

How to Have Peace Instead of Anxiety

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Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

My grandma Kenney was widowed in 1946, with 11 children. This was before welfare or food stamps. She had to find a way to support herself and the children. Being a devout Catholic, Theresa found work at the church across the street. Her job was to do the laundry: the church housed 8-10 priests and had daily mass, she was responsible for their laundry and the alter linens. While to some this wasn’t important work she took it very seriously. The same pride she took in starching the alter linens, went into the priest’s boxer shorts!

I knew my grandmother when she was retired, yet she still attended mass as often as she could. Life had been hard, yet she trusted God and his word. She kept her iron and ironing board next to her chair. And on the ironing board was her Bible, and as she talked with visitors, her hand was always on the Bible. To the very end, she brought her needs to God and trusted He would always be there for her.

Take some time to reflect on a person of faith who you admire. Thank God for the example they have provided for you.

-Susan Johnson

Thankful for Encouragers

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This week, I hope to give you encouragement from God’s word. I hope you can find examples of the people who have helped you in your walk with Jesus and wait patiently for God’s plan to come together.

Lamentations 3:22-26, NIV.  — “Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’  The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

When I was a young newlywed, I started attending my husband’s church. (I was raised in a different faith.) Many of the members were my husband’s family, so they played a large role in my decision to be baptized. One was his cousin Kathy. Kathy is a natural encourager and she would often send me notes, seemingly when I needed them most. Coming home from work to see an envelope with her neat handwriting, always made me smile.

Kathy has remained a faithful encourager, even when life seems darkest. I remember her quoting Lamentations as a source of encouragement after the death of her daughter and today, this gives me strength facing loss in my life. Reflect on someone who has encouraged you on your faith walk, if possible send them a note telling them how they encouraged you to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation.

 

Susan Johnson

Delighting In God!

 

psalm 37 4

I enjoy walking my dog and try to do that several times a week in the morning. It’s a wonderful time to think and talk to God before the busyness of the day takes over. So, I was thinking about what I wanted to write about and Psalm 37: 4 kept coming to mind. When I think of this verse two young ladies come to mind that I will channel this morning. My niece Kaitlyn Walters, used this verse in a devotion umpteen years ago at Southeast Camp and Jennie Montgomery spoke on this subject at Guthrie Grove at the graduation service last year. The brain is a really amazing thing with all the information it keeps stored up for us!

So I will break down the verse, what does it mean to “Delight yourself in the Lord”? Delight means: a high degree of gratification or pleasure: joy. I think when you feel joy and pleasure when in the presence of the Lord, that you will want to spend time with him. You will want to get to know Him better. When we meet people that we enjoy; we talk to them, text them, ask questions to find out their likes, dislikes, their thoughts. We want to get to know them. It is the same way with God, to really know Him and delight ourselves with Him is to want to get to know Him better every day.

“He will give you the desires of your Heart.” When we are delighting in God, we are in tune with Him and His will for our lives. Our desires will parallel His and we will find fulfillment in Him and not in the things that the world would have us desire, like riches, fame, and power. The greatest example of someone who delighted in the Lord, would be Jesus. Jesus loved spending time with His Father. At the age of 12, in Luke 2:49, it says: “And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? ”At that age, he was in the temple, trying to learn about His Father, he was delighting himself in the Lord. He would go and spend hours praying to God.  Before he was led to the cross, he said “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Jesus, did not ask His father for riches or honor. In fact even though he didn’t want to die, he submitted to the Father, because he was willing to let His desires become one with his Father’s will. I pray that we will all delight in the Lord, spend time with Him, and that the desire of all of our hearts will to be to spend eternity with our Father in the Kingdom.

Sherry Alcumbrack

 

Time in the Desert

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There are several instances of people in the Bible spending time in the desert.

Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s house but he was an Israelite. When he was a young man he killed an Egyptian who was beating one of the Jewish people. Fearing for his life, he fled to Midian, married and became a shepherd. We don’t hear from him again until God appears to him in a burning bush in Exodus 3. Moses went on to become one of the most famous leaders of the Jewish people and led them out of Egypt and to the brink of the Promised Land.

The children of Israel were at the threshold of the Promised Land but they let fear hold them back, and so God made them wander for 40 years in the desert. In Deuteronomy 8:2 “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”

Israel became a mighty nation that proclaimed the name of God to all nations on the earth. The prophet Elijah after his encounter where he defeated the prophets of Baal, feared for his life, and ran away, he was fed by an angel, then traveled 40 days and 40 nights, and ended up in a cave in Horeb. The Lord came to him in the cave and asked in 1Kings 19:9b “What are you doing here, Elijah?” This was right before the Lord showed himself to Elijah in the small whisper of wind. Elijah went on to continue being a bold prophet of God to the Israelites.

John the Baptist was in the desert until his appointed time to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. He preached the gospel of the coming of Jesus to thousands.

Jesus spent his time in the desert when he was going through his temptation. After this, he went on to establish a ministry that would change the world. He became the sacrifice that would save us all from our sins.

In all of these instances, God was with them and so they had no reason to fear. Fear is a natural emotion for humans but when we give in to fear instead of trusting in God, it is a bad thing. My daughter painted this picture for me a few years ago, because she knew that Joshua 1:9 was one of my favorite verses “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord, your God, will be with you wherever you go.”

When we feel like we are in the desert, due to circumstances in our lives, we need to relax and let God give us some rest and then get out of the desert and let God use our lives in an incredible way. In all of these instances, they came out of the desert a better person. All of these people allowed God to use them for what he had planned for their lives. I pray that we all let God use us to fulfill His plans for us. We can always rest in the knowledge of Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Sherry Alcumbrack