See a Victory

Genesis 48-50

Genesis 50 20 NIV

Israel asks “Who are these?” in reference to Joseph’s sons. That’s a little odd considering the length of time that Israel had been in Egypt. Had he yet to meet his grandchild whom he has just claimed as his own children? Clearly he knows about them to declare that they will receive the same inheritance as Joseph and the other sons of Israel. I think it is more likely that he is, much like Joseph did with his brothers, playing a game with Joseph. He is trying to appear as if he is slightly senile so that he can get the last laugh. When Joseph brings his two children to Israel to receive their blessing, Israel reverses their order and blesses the younger first and the older second. We see in verse 17 that Joseph has bought into Israel’s ploy. Joseph talks to his father as if his father is confused and does not know what he is doing. Israel knows exactly what he is doing. This short interaction calls a few other stories to memory. Jacob himself received the blessing due to the firstborn, although he was younger than his brother Esau. The craftiness of Jacob was clearly passed on to Joseph. We also read in Genesis 38 that the twin children of Judah born to Tamar had their birth order reversed at the exact moment of birth, with the first one to feel fresh air being the second to be born. A clear theme emerges from all of these stories: “The last shall be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16). If this reversal of roles leaves you feeling satisfied, why? Perhaps you are exactly the opposite. This situation makes you indignant. Once again, why?

 

In Israel’s final words to his children, we get a little reminder of why Judah was given more responsibility than the firstborn Reuben. Judah’s older siblings are vicious. The plot to kill Joseph and the massacre of an entire Canaanite establishment are just two examples of their perverse ways. Levi was an awful man by all accounts, but the priesthood comes out of this tribe. We know that during the wandering, the Levites were responsible for carrying all of the elements of the Tabernacle. Perhaps that was a form of punishment for the sins of Levi. Conferring this holy duty to the levites could also be considered a way to correct their course. They were pushed to become the gatekeepers for all their brothers, providing the means necessary to receive the grace of God through sacrifice and all the religious acts.

 

The other thing that grabs my attention from these blessings is that Israel blesses Judah with rulership of his siblings. This is manifested in the Kingship later. It seems like a wise choice considering who the other options are. Yet Joseph would also be a fair choice, would he not? Joseph is the one who all of the siblings bowed down to in their lifetimes. Yet Israel confers his blessing upon Judah. One issue with the reign coming out of Joseph is the split of his tribe into two halves, leaving one to rule and the other to serve, even though both are equally entitled to the position. Instead, Israel puts both half-tribes under Judah.

 

Though Joseph was a man of great power and authority, he was also a man of great emotion and compassion. We see a reflection of God’s nature in him. After Israel’s death, his brothers beg for their lives at the feet of Joseph. By all rights, this is the state we should find ourselves in before God. Then Joseph delivers one of my favorite lines of the Bible: “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good.” Those who attended reFuel will remember the song “See A Victory.” This song contains that line and I find great comfort in it. We must first experience the evil in order to come out on the other side and experience the good that God intended. Take comfort in God’s kindness.

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+48-50&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will begin the exciting book of Exodus – chapters 1-3 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Compassion & Faith vs. Reality & Doubt

Mark 8

Mark 8 35

Have you ever thought about how imperfect the disciples, that Jesus himself chose to follow him, were? They have already seen Jesus feed the 5,000 (back in chapter 6). Here there are about 4,000 hungry folks and compassionate Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “We can’t let them leave here hungry, can we?” Immediately the disciples say, “We can’t feed all these people.” And the excuses come out… “There are too many.” “We are out in the middle of nowhere.” “We only have 7 loaves.” The reality of the situation has them seriously doubting that they can do anything.

Now let’s think about ourselves in the church. Are we full of compassion and faith or do we also look at the reality in front of us and let doubt convince us that we are unable to do what seems too hard for us? I know the excuses I can find myself making. “Someone else can do a better job.” “I have a lot on my plate already. I can’t take on anything else.” “I can’t do this. I have no experience with it.” Excuses can even come with negative attitudes… “Why doesn’t someone else do it?”  “I’m not good enough.” “I’m not smart enough.” Or even, “I just don’t want to.” Where did the compassion and faith go?

Jesus makes a good point later on in Mark 8:34-35. He says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

So it turns out that it wasn’t about the disciples and what they thought they were capable of. Just like it’s not about me and what I want my life to be like or even what I think it is already. Let’s not overanalyze things, but let compassion and faith move us.

(There is a short book by Thom Rainer called I am a Church Member. I recommend it. It changed my attitude on things about church that I was a little grumpy about.)

-Melissa New

Different – Like Jesus

Mark6BellaPic

Mark 6

 

Wow! It’s now been a full week since Fuel ended, and I’m sure that many of you who attended are, like me, missing your friends, your classes, the sessions, and the overall atmosphere. But hopefully, we have been able to take what we learned that week and apply it to the way we live our everyday lives. How to be (drum roll, please)…DIFFERENT! We can see many examples of how to be different and serve the way Jesus served in Mark chapter 6. I think of this chapter as a sort of series of steps telling us how we are meant to serve.

So Jesus starts this chapter off with saying, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” (Mark 6:4) The King James version actually says, “in his own country.” So in essence, he’s telling us, “Hey, I know you like your friends, your family, your home, and it’s easy to feel comfortable there, but I need you to GO OUT and share the truth with the world.” It is not God’s will for us to stay confined to our own little nook of the world. We have to go love everybody, everywhere. Don’t be afraid to venture outside your comfort zone, and love people there.

The next main point Jesus gets to is that when you stop in a town to share the truth with people, they might not accept it; they may simply say “no”. In that case, our job is to “shake the dust off our feet” (Mark 6:11), and move on. Because what happens when we stay in one place, working on bringing the same person to the truth for too long? We miss out on bringing so many other people to the truth! If someone is not willing to accept the truth and live for God, we have to know that it’s time to move on and find people who are. Because our mission is to get as many people into the Kingdom as possible.

After the sad and brutal story of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus told the disciples to “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest for a while.” (Mark 6:31) In order to help other people build a relationship with God, we need to keep ours strong. Luke 5:16, one of the memory verses from last week, says “But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” So one important step we have to take in our lives is to take the time to go somewhere by ourselves and focus on our own spiritual health, so that we may be better equipped to go out and make disciples.

In verses 33-44, we read about how Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. It says in verse 34 that Jesus saw them and felt compassion for them. But he didn’t just push the feeling away and continue on; he acted on his compassion. He did something. It may seem impossible to do what Jesus did, but God provides you with the means to do what you are called to do. And it’s not impossible by the way – if God thinks that you should feed five thousand people with a couple of tacos and a strawberry shake, you will feed five thousand people with a couple of tacos and a strawberry shake.

Next we come to Jesus walking on the water. His disciples were astonished when he climbed in the boat all nonchalant after walking out to the middle of the sea to calm the winds for them. Why were they so flabbergasted? I mean, they just witnessed him feed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish! Well, in verse 52 we read that they “had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” Don’t let your heart be hardened. Open your eyes to the things God is doing all around you, and let it affect you. Let it change your mindset, your behavior, the very way you live your life. Because that’s why God let Jesus do these crazy things, so that we could see His power and have faith in Him. Later on, in verses 53-56, we see how the people of Gennesaret recognize Jesus and flock to him, assuming that he can heal them, because they know he has before. Flock to Jesus. Know his Father’s power. Trust in Him. Let Him make you different.

 

-Isabella Osborn

 

 

 

 

His Compassion

MATTHEW 9

matthew 9 36 redo

In this chapter we see that Jesus and the disciples are continuing an active pace proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. This lively passage not only records 6 healing incidents, but also shows 3 incidents where the teachers of the law are becoming rattled by the actions and rising popularity of Jesus.

Ready for anything and everything, the action rolls out as follows for Jesus and the disciples: 1) heals a paralyzed man, 2) calls Matthew the tax collector, 3) stops a hemorrhage in a woman, 4) raises a dead girl, 5) gives sight to 2 blind men, 6) and loosens the tongue of a mute man

Not only was Christ seemingly running a mobile emergency room, he was “hiring” new workers, contending with naysayers, and stopping to notice the big picture of the work ahead.

Verse 36 takes my breath away. “He saw the crowds and had compassion on them.” We are not lost in a crowd to Him. He knows our name and our needs. There is no end to His goodness. No bottom to the well. You can’t wear Jesus out. He’s not running on low. He’s not in a bad mood because it’s you again. “For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:16

then he said to his disciples, “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

The biggest problem in these 38 verses is that Jesus needed assistance to support the needs of the “harassed & helpless.” Nothing’s changed. May God stir your heart and mine this day to be a worker fit and ready to support the hurting. Let God’s “grace upon grace” compel us to action to not overthink but DO!

-Julie Driskill

To Fast or Not to Fast?

Zechariah 7-10

zechariah-7-9-10

Monday, April 24

Do you fast? I’ve done it once, a 30 hour famine…it was rough…of course the promise of pancakes afterward helped! 😉

Zechariah Chapter 7 dives into the question, to fast or not to fast?. “Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years?” The Israelites question whether or not they should continue to fast and grieve over the destruction of Solomon’s temple since the new temple was being built. God makes it clear that in this case fasting is essentially pointless. The Israelites chose to fast out of their own grief and sadness, they created that tradition not God. God quickly reminds them that there are more important, better ways to honor God than continuing their fasting.

The Israelites were following the tradition and rules of fasting that they created,  but not really doing anything for their relationship with God. In the next couple verses God lays out some simple truths: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.” Zechariah 7:9-10

 

Plain and simple. These are things God desires for us to do, to be. This reminds me of when Jesus was questioned about what the greatest commandments in the Bible are. Matthew 22:37 Jesus answers, ”Jesus declares, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.”

 

How great it is to have a God that desires more from us than our earthly traditions. He is a God that wants us to love and serve him by loving and serving others. Jesus’ very message.

 

To Fast or Not to Fast… do you have the answer?
Elleigh Dylewski

 

(Photo Credit: https://dailyverses.net/zechariah/7/9-10)

Gumdrops and Kittens…or Not?

Joel

joel.png

Wednesday, April 12

Let’s be honest, when God sent prophets to His people, they didn’t come with messages of gumdrops and kittens.  Joel is no different.

  • For the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.
  • Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand—
  • The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?

God’s judgement is no joke.  But (thankfully) He is also a kind and compassionate Father.

Joel 2:13 says,

Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate

Living in a different culture, we miss some of the meaning here.  Have you ever been so angry that you threw something (or wanted to)?  It’s kind of the same idea.  Grief so overwhelming that you pull at your hair, your clothes…you are beside yourself.  In Jewish culture, tearing one’s garments was a common outward sign of tremendous grief.

But here, Joel is calling for more than an outward sign.  He’s telling the people that God wants an inward change more than….

….more than going forward on ‘decision night’

….more than posting a touching quote on Facebook

….more than acting holy around your parents and church friends

Our Father is merciful and kind, but he cannot tolerate sin.  Like most prophets, Joel gives two options:  Repent or Reap the Consequences.

-Susan Landry