I am continuing the God @ Work Series, and the question I have for you is, "Are you ready to step into the promises of God?" The call of Joshua was to lead the children of Israel out of the wildernesses into the Promised Land. My name is also Joshua, and I am here to tell you, "Let's Get Ready, Get Set, and Let's Go!"
The children of Israel had been on a 40-year journey out of slavery in Egypt. They went through test after test to work out the effects of slavery in the way they thought. If we have been hurt and disappointed, we develop trust issues. The bi-product of being wounded is murmuring, complaining, and blaming. God used each test to prove that He is faithful and worthy of their faith and trust.
When the children of Israel finally got to Canaan, twelve spies were sent into the land. After they came back, ten spies gave a fearful report while Joshua & Caleb gave a faith-filled message. The people chose to walk in fear and not trust God to defeat the giants in the land and as a result, entering the promised land went on hold until the first generation of the children of Israel died out.
Stepping into some of God's promises may be on hold not from our lack of readiness but because of the unprepared people around us. What should we do during the waiting period? Joshua served Moses as his assistant. Joshua deepened his relationship with God.
The Lord would speak to Moses face to face as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but Nun's young aide, Joshua's son, did not leave the tent. Exodus 33:11
We prepare for God's call by first learning to serve others faithfully. Secondly, we must deepen our walk with God, where we learn to discern His voice so we can know His will and obey.
In Deuteronomy 31, Joshua takes Moses' place. Moses prepares Joshua by telling him to "Be Strong and Courageous, not afraid, for it is the Lord our God who goes with you; He will not leave you nor forsake you."
The key to being ready is to be close to the Lord. The bible says if we draw near to the Lord, He draws near to us. The nearer we are to the Lord, the more we carry His strength. Leadership is a huge responsibility; it is natural to be afraid; that is why our strength comes from God; fear is reasonable when it causes us to turn to God.
In Joshua 1, the Lord speaks to Joshua to prepare the people to cross over and take the promised land. The Lord then tells Joshua "to be strong and courageous, not afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Being strong was repeated three times to stress the importance; it was spoken as command the final time.
Joshua 1:8 is my life verse and the key to the success of Joshua. "This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then, you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do." We can only obey God to the degree that we know His Word. The bible has the answer to every problem in the world. Leaders are problem solvers. People will only follow someone to the point that they can help them. We cannot think we can lead well if we don't know God's will, found in His Word.
We as leaders have no excuse if we are weak in leadership; it's because we are disobedient to the command "be strong in the Lord." If we are not first going before the Lord, we will not be ready to lead them when we go before the people. When Joshua was prepared, he went and prepared the people. The result was they said we would obey you just as we obeyed Moses.
In Joshua chapter three, verse five, Joshua tells the people, "consecrate yourselves, because the Lord will do wonders among you tomorrow." The most important aspect of being ready is in our hearts. We may be prepared with knowledge, numbers, and strength, but we will fail without our hearts consecrated to God. We must allow the Lord to search our hearts to ensure that our motives are pure to be set in the right place. We cannot expect to move ahead if we have things in our past that need surrendered.
In Joshua 6:7, He said to the people, "Move forward ……. Joshua had received very unusual instructions to take the city of Jericho, where they marched for six days in silence, and the seventh day they shouted. The walls of the town supernaturally came down. There is wisdom in knowing when to be silent and when to shout. In this battle, the children of Israel were victorious, and they took ground.
In Joshua 7, the Israelites were defeated at Ai. Joshua listened to the people and did not acknowledge God. The children of Israel were confident because they outnumbered the people of Ai, but their confidence was not in God, but themselves, and they lost, and Joshua learned a critical lesson.
Our drive can lead us to proceed ahead of God. We must never assume that anything is God unless we know He is leading us for a fact. To assume is one of the biggest causes of failure. The promise is clear if we seek God, He will respond. If we are unsure of direction, we must halt until God clarifies it.
Let's be ready by serving those God has put before us, deepening our relationship with God, and growing in the knowledge of His Word. Let's beset by consecrating our hearts to God. Let's go by receiving strategy from the Lord, obeying it, not leaning on our assumptions while putting all our confidence in the Lord.
Sunday December 26th
God at Work – Moses
I don’t know if you’ve ever read the actual conversation between Moses and God at the top of Mount Sinai, but it supposedly went something like this:
Moses ascended to the mountain top. When he reached the peak, the voice of God boomed from the sky, “Moses! This is the voice of God!”
“Wow! Seriously? You’re God?” Moses replied.
“Yes, I, am the one true God!”
“I don’t believe it! You’re not really God!”
“Yes, it is true, I am the Almighty God.”
Moses said, “It’s really you? No way!”
And God said, “YAHWEH.”
At the end of the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 34:10-12 says this regarding the death of Moses:
Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 for all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and all his land— 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
Deuteronomy says that since the death of Moses, no other prophet has ever known God face to face, the way that Moses did. No other prophet has ever performed the kinds of signs and wonders that Moses did in calling forth the plagues over Egypt and parting the Red Sea. No other leader was as revered as Moses. No other leader was given the Ten Commandments personally from God. No other prophet had his face shining with God’s glory the way that Moses did. Not Joshua, not Samuel, not Isaiah, or Elijah, or even David reached the heights of power or intimacy with God that Moses attained. The circumstances of his birth were miraculous. His encounter with the burning bush was miraculous.
In fact, Moses is the only man whose funeral God came down from heaven to personally arrange.
Deuteronomy 34:5-6 tells us that:
Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, in accordance with the word of the Lord. 6 And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows his burial place to this day.
And as Exodus 33:11 points out:
“The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.”
We could say that these verses are establishing Moses as the GOAT, the Greatest of All Time!
But what I want to show you today is that Hebrews chapter 3 completely blows away Moses’ claim to being the GOAT and replaces him with the true Greatest of all time, Jesus!
Let’s look at Hebrews 3:1-6
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession: Jesus; 2 He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. 3 For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. 4 For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; 6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold firmly to our confidence and the boast of our hope.
The opening chapter of Hebrews has already compared Jesus with the Old Testament prophets in general. Hebrews 1:1-2 says:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world.
And then Jesus has been compared with the angels in Hebrews 1:4-13
“Having become so much better than the angels, to the extent that He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
5 For to which of the angels did He ever say,
“You are My Son,
Today I have fathered You”?
“I will be a Father to Him
And He will be a Son to Me”?
6 And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says,
“And let all the angels of God worship Him.”
7 And regarding the angels He says,
“He makes His angels winds,
And His ministers a flame of fire.”
8 But regarding the Son He says,
“Your throne, God, is forever and ever,
And the scepter of righteousness is the scepter of His kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of joy above Your companions.”
“You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth,
And the heavens are the works of Your hands;
11 They will perish, but You remain;
And they all will wear out like a garment,
12 And like a robe You will roll them up;
Like a garment they will also be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will not come to an end.”
13 But to which of the angels has He ever said,
“Sit at My right hand,
Until I make Your enemies
A footstool for Your feet”?
Now, here in chapter 3 the Book of Hebrews begins showing the contrast between Jesus and Moses. We already know that Moses was considered to be a great man, a great prophet, a great leader, and a great lawgiver. But these opening verses of Hebrews 3 are pointing out that Jesus fulfilled all of those same roles as well; and to a greater degree than Moses ever could have imagined. Let’s look at some comparisons:
Both Moses and Jesus were called by God and sent to help His people.
Both of them ministered to people who were subject to powerful evil forces, whether it was the Egyptian Empire, the Roman Empire or the Empire of sin.
Both of them were charged with bringing people from bondage to freedom.
Both of them brought a message that provided a clear set of directions for living in this world while at the same time anticipating a better world to come.
But as the writer of Hebrews contrasts Moses with Jesus, he makes this important point: Moses was a faithful servant in God’s house, but Christ was the builder of the house. Moses was simply a worker in God’s house, but this house that we’re talking about is a house which Jesus rules over as the Son of God. Therefore, Jesus is clearly superior to Moses.
There is only one house of God and one people of God. Moses himself pointed ahead to the Messiah who was to come. Jesus told the Pharisees that Moses spoke about Him in John 5:45-47.
“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”
Paul said that Moses’ Old Testament message was the same as his New Testament message; salvation only comes through faith in Christ (Rom. 9:14-16).
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.
God’s message has been the same throughout all stages of history. The people of God are always those who are saved by placing their faith in Christ.
That’s why Hebrews 3:5 says:
“Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be revealed by God in the future through Jesus.
Moses knew that someone greater than him was coming. He was a “faithful servant” who was bearing witness of God’s promised Messiah.
In 1 Chronicles 17:14 the Holy Spirit said this about the coming Son of God:
“I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever”.
God is building a kingdom on this earth, and Jesus came to rule over that kingdom. These ancient promises spoken through the prophets have been fulfilled through Jesus, who was appointed to be our king and our high priest in the New Covenant.
That’s why verse 6, while acknowledging Moses’ faithfulness, still puts Jesus at a higher level:
“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house.”
The Bottom line is this: Moses was a servant in the house.
Jesus is the Son over the house
Servants come and go. Sons are sons forever.
Faithfulness is the key element here.
Moses was faithful as a servant in God’s house. Jesus was also faithful, but He was faithful as the Son appointed to preside and rule over God’s house.
As one writer put it – “Faithfulness on the part of a servant is required; faithfulness in a son is an expression of pure love. The contrast between a servant and a Son shows the superiority of Jesus to Moses.”
Think of it this way: the world is both God’s house and God’s family. We often use the word house in the sense of a building but also in the sense of a family, like a household. The whole world is God’s house, and we as believers are God’s family. Moses was a part of God’s universe, part of the house. But Jesus is the creator of the whole house, and the creator is obviously above the house itself. Moses didn’t create the Law; he only passed it on to the people. Moses did not create the house; he only served in it. Moses did not speak of himself; all that he ever said was pointing to the greater things that Jesus Christ would someday say and do. Moses knew a little about God; Jesus was God. That’s the ultimate measure of His superiority.
We can say that the whole world is God’s house; but in a different way, the Church is God’s household, in the special sense that God has created a special family within His house. That is a picture the New Testament shows again and again:
1 Peter 4:17 “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
1 Timothy 3:15
I write so that you will know how one should act in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.
1 Peter 2:5
“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”
That building, that household, is the Kingdom of God established through His Church, and it will only stand firm and be indestructible when each individual stone is firmly established.
That is to say, when every member is strong in the confident hope that he or she has in Jesus Christ. We need to know our true identity, and the awesome power and blessings that come with that identity. Each one of us is like a stone in the foundation of the Church. If one stone is weak, the entire structure gets a bit shaky. The Church stands firm when each one of us is standing firm, when each living stone is rooted and grounded in faith in Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, Moses should be honored as a servant who was faithful in God’s house, but as followers of Jesus we have been given even greater honor because we are actually co-heirs with the Son of God who was appointed to preside and reign over God’s household.
That’s what Paul was saying in 2 Timothy 2:12
“If we endure, we will also reign with Him”
That’s what John was saying in Revelation 20:6
“Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”
Can you grasp the reality today that you have been appointed as a co-heir with Jesus? Can you start to walk in that identity, taking your rightful place as a victor rather than a victim, as a ruler rather than one who is ruled over by sin?
The title of this message is God at Work - Moses.
But as much as we want to give proper honor to Moses, I think our main focus should be God at Work – in you and me!
Moses was a great servant, but he is dead. Jesus is alive. And you are alive.
Think of the power behind these words in Romans 8:11
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
The Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts is making us alive today, not just physically, but spiritually as well – alive to live out the destiny that God has called us to. Are you ready to be greater than Moses?
My last devotion was Playing Favorites. I dealt with the tension that favoritism has on a family, as seen with Isaac towards Esau and Rebecca towards Jacob. I am now going to deal with being favored through the character of Joseph. Jacob did not learn from his father's mistakes, and he continued the curse of playing favorites towards his children with his son Joseph.
Joseph was the child of Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel. The first story in Genesis thirty-seven is Joseph "tattle-telling" his dad about his brothers misbehaving. It then says that Jacob loved Joseph more than all his children, and the brothers hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms. Joseph now had a dream, and he told it to his brothers, which described them bowing down to him, and they hated him more. The brother's response did not stop Joseph from telling them the second dream that his dad and brothers would also bow down before him.
Joseph was rubbing his favoritism in his brother's face. He must have recognized that his brothers did not like him and would cause them to be envious. Joseph's excitement caused him not to use wisdom in his youthful zeal. We who walk in God's favor must be careful what we share with who. If we lack discernment, we will motivate others towards harming us. It is wise to only share our dreams with those who are walking in God's favor, for they can relate and support us, but to the disobedient, we should keep our words with them to a mere few.
In the following story, Joseph is sent by his dad to check on his brothers, who was a long-distance pasturing their father's flock. As they saw the 'dreamer' coming, they transpired a plot to kill him. Rueben, the eldest brother, intervenes and convinces them to throw him in a pit. As they are sitting and eating, they see a caravan of Ismaelites, and Judah speaks up, and they listen and agree to sell Joseph as a captive into Egypt.
In Genesis thirty-nine and forty, we learn the story of Joseph in Egypt, sold as a slave to Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, and then Joseph in Prison for a crime he didn't commit. In both situations, "the Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful and prosperous man." Despite being in the position of slave and prisoner, Joseph became chief overseer, and the Lord's blessing was on everything under his responsibility.
No matter our misfortunes, if we walk with the Lord, He will make the best of a difficult situation. The reason some believers are blessed more than others is not that God plays favorites; it is all about our walk of obedience. The degree we walk in obedience determines the amount of blessing and favor we experience. No more pointing fingers at blame and coming up with excuses; we are favored if we walk with God.
Joseph had been in charge of Potiphar's home; then as a prisoner in charge of the prison and next in his journey, he is made 2nd in command of Egypt. The king's cupbearer and baker offended the Pharaoh and got thrown into jail. They both had dreams, and Joseph interpreted the dreams. In three days, the cupbearer would be restored the baker would be hanged. It happened as spoken, the cupbearer promised to tell Pharaoh about Joseph's gift, but he did not. Two years later, Pharaoh had a disturbing dream that nobody could interpret; then, the cupbearer remembered Joseph. Joseph interpreted the dream, which was a warning of a soon-coming famine and a strategy for getting through it. Pharaoh said, "can we find anyone like this, a man who has God's spirit in him? He then said, there is no one as intelligent and wise as you, you will be over my house, and all my people will obey your commands."
When we walk with God, our gifts are tools for promotion. Every situation we are in is preparation for the next level of responsibility. When Joseph was asked if he could interpret dreams, he said he could not, that God alone could reveal it. Those who walk with God recognize their gift comes from Him; their reliance is still on God and not their abilities. Each born-again believer has the spirit of God at work in them; therefore, like Joseph, they have intelligence and wisdom. Joseph being a Jew, was given a position set aside just for Egyptians. There are no limits or boundaries for those that walk with God.
Joseph's dream as a child was fulfilled; Joseph's brothers came and bowed down in need of assistance due to the famine. Joseph, in disguise, drills them with questions and tests them. He now reveals his identity, weeps loudly, he tells them this was all God's plan, and they are to go and return with Jacob, and the best of the land will be given to them.
Dreams are only fulfilled if we continue walking with God. The understanding of dreams comes in time. Those who walk with God hold nothing against anyone; they see God's hand in every difficulty and misfortune.
The charge: Deepen your relationship with God so that you are not just a dreamer or gifted, but you see your dreams fulfilled and your gifts used for your promotion.
Sunday December 5th
God at Work - Isaac
If you’ve ever been camping, you know that it can get pretty dark and scary outside at night. It reminds me of that time in the Bible when Abraham and Isaac were out together, hiking in the mountains.
"Father, it's getting dark out," Isaac said, "and I'm starting to get a little scared."
"Imagine how I feel," Abraham replied, "I have to walk home alone."
There are a lot of things that we could focus on about the life of Isaac. His story begins in Genesis 21 and continues all the way through Genesis 28, and his name is continually brought up throughout the Old Testament in the phrase “the God of Abraham and Isaac”.
I want to focus this morning on one of the earliest stories from Isaac’s life, when he was just a boy. And what’s interesting about this story is that Isaac is not the active protagonist or hero, he is actually the passive victim, or at least he was almost a victim. This familiar story is found in Genesis 22:
Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” 3 So Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and his son Isaac; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place of which God had told him.
Of course, this story is considered to be a testimony of Abraham’s faith and obedience, which it surely is. And Father Abraham, I mean Pastor Roger, taught us all about him several weeks ago. But think for a moment of what this little camping trip must have felt like for Isaac as the days unfolded!
4 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the boy will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”
6 And Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.
Wow, what a really special father/son bonding time! “You two servants can stay here and wait. My son and I can handle things from here.” Think of how proud Isaac must have felt at that moment!
Isaac is still just a boy, but his dad trusted him to carry the wood for the burnt offering. And then an interesting thought suddenly dawned on Isaac:
7 Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
That’s a very reasonable answer, and Isaac probably saw no reason to doubt his father’s confidence that God had it all covered. But then this happened:
9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham reached out with his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.
Right about now, Isaac is probably starting to wonder if maybe he should’ve stayed home. His Dad seems to have lost his mind! And I think it’s very interesting that there is no record of Isaac crying out or asking his father to put down the knife. He somehow seems to have embraced a supernatural faith that God was going to take care of him. And, of course God does, by sending an angel to hold back the knife just in time:
11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not reach out your hand against the boy, and do not do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by its horns;
and Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in the place of his son.
Abraham’s willingness to offer up his beloved son Isaac is considered to be a beautiful foreshadowing of God’s offering up of His beloved Son, Jesus.
The potential offering of Isaac is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ sacrifice in a number of ways, such as:
And, of course John 3:16 calls Jesus the only Son of God and John 5:20 says that “the Father (God) loves the Son (Jesus).”
This was a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 53:7
He was oppressed and afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.
Hebrews 11:17-19 says,
That phrase “received him back as a type” is a direct reference to the fact that Isaac’s deliverance was a foreshadowing of Jesus’ resurrection.
In Acts 2:24 Peter says this about Jesus:
God raised Him from the dead, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
Often times we are encouraged to have a faith like Abraham, who we call the father of our faith. And that is very true. But I want you to realize that we are also called to have faith like Isaac had.
It’s one thing to offer up a sacrifice like Abraham.
It’s another thing altogether to BE the sacrifice, like Isaac!
But that’s exactly what we are called to do in Romans 12:1
“Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship
Our offering is intended to be more of an internal heart attitude rather one than a physical one. It is the attitude of not clinging to our personal possessions or talents. And, just like in the case of Isaac and Jesus, as we willingly offer what we have up to God, He often gives these same offerings back to us, filled with resurrection power!
Let me give you an example:
I offered my musical ability up to the Lord when I injured my thumb in a skiing accident – Because of the injury I had lost the ability to make chords on the guitar. I said “God if you will heal my hand, I will always play for your glory.” And the Lord gave me back the gift of playing the guitar and I have used that restored gift to write songs for His glory and to lead worship. I have a resurrected Isaac hand!
So, let me ask you this: Is there anything in your life that God is currently asking you to lay down, to put on the altar as an offering?
It could be something physical, it could be financial, it could be emotional or relational. The point is that it would be something precious to you, just like Isaac was precious to Abraham.
And giving up this thing might cost you something, just like it was going to cost Isaac something!
When you think of what this thing might be, then you simply have to ask yourself this one question:
Am I willing to trust God, that He will provide for me if I offer up this thing that He is asking me to lay upon the altar?
Think about this true story as you ponder the idea of offering up your life to God:
There was a large cathedral in Europe that had a magnificent pipe organ. One Saturday afternoon the custodian was doing a final cleaning of the organ loft in the balcony at the back of the church.
He was startled to hear footsteps coming up the stairway. He turned to see a man in slightly rumpled clothes coming toward him.
"Excuse me, sir," the stranger said, "I have come from quite a distance to see the organ in this cathedral. Would you mind letting me get a closer look at it?"
The custodian was inclined to refuse. He said, "What if the organist came in and found you sitting there? I would probably lose my job!" But the stranger was persistent so the custodian gave in. "Okay, but only for a moment," he added.
The custodian noticed that the stranger seemed to be very comfortable sitting on the organ bench, but then he asked to be allowed to play the organ.
"NO! Definitely not!" said the custodian. "No one is allowed to play it except the cathedral organist."
The man’s face fell, and his deep disappointment was obvious. He reminded the custodian how far he had come just to see this organ, and assured him that no damage would be done.
Finally, the custodian told the stranger that he could play a few notes, but then he would have to leave.
Overjoyed, the stranger began to play. Suddenly the cathedral was filled with the most beautiful music the custodian had ever heard in all his years.
Finally, after what seemed all too short a time, the stranger stopped playing and slid off the organ bench and started down the stairway.
"Wait!" cried the custodian. "That was the most beautiful music I have ever heard in the cathedral. Who are you?"
The stranger replied, " My name is Mendelssohn."
The man was none other than Felix Mendelssohn, one of the greatest organists and composers of the 19th century!
The custodian was standing alone now in that great cathedral, the beautiful organ music still ringing in his ears. "Just think," he said softly, "I almost kept the master from playing his music in my cathedral!"
God has designed every moment of your life. He has made you for a magnificent purpose.
When you offer your life to Him, you allow Him to play wonderful music through it.
Will you offer your life to Him today – every single note of it?
When you think of these men and women of God in the Hall of Faith listed in Hebrews 11, it is expected they are spiritual giants. If you study these lives in detail, you will find that they were flawed, broken vessels, yet by faith, God used them. In verses 20-21, we read that Isaac and Jacob by faith blessed their sons. Isaac and Jacob understood that God would use their sons despite their shortcomings because of His covenant promise. Their examples give us the confidence that though we still have brokenness in our lives by faith, God will use us. I will now take you on a journey of a closer look at Isaac and Jacob to gain wisdom from their lives to help us with ours.
Understanding someone knowing their childhood is crucial, the most significant being their relationship with their parents. Abraham and Sarah gave favoritism towards Isaac, then Isaac gave bias towards Esau and Rebeccah towards Jacob. Jacob likewise did the same with his son Joseph. When a parent, employer, teacher, coach, etc., preference one over another, they start a feud that turns into a war. The tension between Muslims and Christians began with the way Abraham and Sarah treated Isaac compared to Ishmael.
If you trace the family back to Sarai, you will find she was barren, which brought shame and despair. She responded by giving Abram her servant Hagar to produce a child, Ishmael. Hagar despised Sarai and Sarai was jealous and harsh towards Hagar. Eventually, Hagar and Ishmael were rejected and sent into the wilderness on their own. How we respond to the challenges of life becomes our character formation. It will determine whether we lead those who follow us towards faith in God or towards self-reliance. Sarah took matters into her hands, but despite the damage she caused, she still believed in the promise of God and gave birth to the promised child Isaac, whose name means laughter.
This name came from Sarah, for when God reminded her of His promise, she laughed initially; what about my age! Yet, beyond Sarah, God gave her this name for her son because when the enemy thought he had stopped His plans through her poor choices, He turned things back on the enemy's head. God was able to laugh at the Devil, for Abraham and Sarah never stopped believing, and through Issac, the covenant blessings continued. No matter how bad you have messed up, if you now start putting your faith in God, He will begin turning things around for good.
As I said earlier, Issac did not learn from the tension in his childhood and continued the pattern of favoritism. Passive acceptance characterizes Isaac; he allows his wife to control the family. He preferred Esau, a skillful hunter, tending sheep provided enough meat, so it was irresponsible for him to spend most of his time out in the wild away from his family. Esau was impulsive; he lived for the moment, preferring food over his birthright. Rebeccah favored Jacob, for he was always home, tending to the sheep. The parents together pitted their sons against each other. Ultimately, the two sons separated, the spirit of anger and hatred in the heart of Esau, the nature of lies and fear in the heart of Jacob.
This struggle between the two sons started in the womb; as we see in Genesis 28, it was prophesied that the older should serve the younger. Jacob was delivered at birth, holding onto Esau's heel. We are born in sin; it is in our bloodlines, generational, and what goes on while we are in the womb affects us. Thank God that the blood of Jesus washes us clean, but we got to acknowledge our sin, repent, and God will transform us out of the curse and into His blessings. Was it God's will that these two boys would conflict, which would last through history? That wouldn't match the nature of God, but He does know all things, and prophecy is a warning. The parents could have tried to prevent such conflict, but they didn't; they added to it.
Jacob got a taste of his own medicine when pursuing his wife, being tricked into marrying Leah instead of her sister Rachel. Laban, the sister's father knowing Jacob's shepherding skills, used his daughter's desire to force him to work for him for many years before he could marry Rachel. Jacob only got out of this situation by using his cunning ways to produce sheep that were striped/speckled, then taking much of Laban's wealth and fleeing. Now he had to live looking past his shoulder in fear of not just his brother Esau but now his uncle Laban.
Jacob had some significant weaknesses; he was a liar, as we see him claiming to be Esau to steal his birthright and father's blessing. He was a deceiver/manipulator scheming to get what he wanted. He relied on himself, not God. His mom contributed to his bad behavior, but we all have to answer for ourselves and not blame anyone. Jacob did make a vow to God, but only if God would promise to protect him. Jacob also, like his parents, showed favoritism; he loved his wife Rachel more than Leah and his son Joseph more than his other sons.
Jacob also had strengths; he valued the blessing of God. He was a giver; he gave ten percent of everything he got. When Jacob finally recognized his weaknesses in Genesis 32:9-12, he repented and put his faith in God. When Jacob faced a dangerous situation too much for him to bear, he threw himself on God's mercy for protection. That same night as seen in Genesis 32:22-32, Jacob wrestled with an angel, his hip put out of joint, but he prevailed and received his blessing. He named that place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered." The encounter was a pivotal experience for God now went to work, and Esau's heart changed, and the brothers were able to share gifts and be reconciled. In Genesis 35, we see Jacob command his household to get rid of idols. God changed Jacob's name to Israel, which means "contend with God." Jacob transformed and now was being used to lead his family.
We can learn from Jacob's life that God is sovereign and uses even man's schemes, which can be sinful, to accomplish His plans. God is more significant than our mistakes. Even when Jacob was not close to God, he was protected, cared for, and blessed. Our prayers for our family and friends are effective even when they are not yet serving the Lord. We also learn from Jacob that most people are far more like their parents than they want to acknowledge, their weaknesses passed down to the next generation. Yet, through God's intervention, we can break out of the generational cycles of sin.
We are all broken vessels, but God is the master of taking the broken and making them whole again. If our lives are not correct, our work will not be suitable. As we let God go to work in our lives, He will now go to work through our lives. We become His beautiful masterpiece, His priceless work of art.
If you recognize generational sin in your life, repent, and God will transform you, turning your weaknesses into strengths, your mistakes into His redemption.
Sunday November 21st
God at Work - Noah
I’m sure most of you read your Bibles regularly, but how many of you are aware of the football game that they played on Noah's Ark?
It seems as though after the animals had been on the ark for thirty days and thirty nights, they were getting bored. So, the B-Deck animals challenged C-Deck animals to a game of football. They began playing and the C-Deck team was unstoppable. You see, they had the Rhinoceros and once he gets going nobody can stop him. Soon the first half is over and the score is 24-0. The second half begins and the Rhinoceros looks over at B-Decks defensive line and sees a Centipede is now on their defensive line. "Give me the ball," he says, "I'm gonna crush that little bug right here and right now" The Center snaps the ball and the quarterback hands it off to the Rhinoceros who begins charging right at the Centipede. The Centipede grabs Rhinoceros by the legs and SLAMS him to the turf. The ball pops loose, and the centipede grabs the ball. He rushes down the field and scores a TOUCHDOWN!!! The crowd goes wild!
C-Deck's captain rushes over and says, "Centipede that was amazing! But where were you in the first half?" The centipede says, "I was busy lacing up my shoes."
We’re going to take a look at God at work through Noah today, starting in Genesis 6:9-22
9 This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. 16 Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark--you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them." 22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
God called Noah to work with him by building a gigantic boat called an ark. “Noah’s Ark” measured over one and a half football fields long and took one hundred and twenty years to complete! In a similar way, God has called each of us to the task of building lives that can literally change the world. And like Noah, the only way we can ever hope to complete this assignment is by answering God’s call by working with Him. And today, that’s exactly what we’re going to look at; answering the call to work with God.
God’s Call on Noah’s Life Shows Us Three Prominent Truths About Working With God
The 1st Prominent Truth About Working With God is to know that God is Actively Working in the World Today.
Why is this idea so important? Because there are many people who seem to think that God is not really active in our daily lives. They look at creation as though God basically wound up a celestial clock, left us to fend for ourselves and then He will return when His heavenly alarm goes off. Theologians refer to this false belief as “Deism”. Don’t fall for that lie. Because just like in Noah’s day, nothing escapes God’s sight. Listen to Hebrews 4:13:
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account
God is actively working in the world today. And whether you know it or not, He is actively working in your life as well. Notice what Jesus said in John 5:17:
Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working."
So, here’s the big question; What is the work of God in the world today? The answer is simple. God is still doing the same thing or the same work that He did in Noah’s day. God’s work is none other than the redemption of mankind.
Paul told Timothy,
“God our Savior … wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth.” 1 Timothy 2:4
He accomplishes the work of redemption through His Son, Jesus Christ, who came and “gave his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). But even after He was crucified, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, His work has not stopped.
He’s still working today! He has not left us to ourselves. He promised that everyone who believes in His Son will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; the very Spirit of Christ that will live in us and through us. He does not leave us alone (John 14:18).
We are living in a time when there are more Christians living in the world today than ever before. God is amazingly at work in places like China, India, Africa and South America, where revival is taking place! Even in the most hard-to-reach places, word is getting out that the Holy Spirit is alive and well! Make no mistake about it; God is actively at work in the world today and His work is still the redemption of mankind.
This leads us to the 2nd prominent truth about working with God which is that . . .
God Is Personally Inviting Us to Join Him in His Work.
“…the Lord who created you says, "Do not be afraid— I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1
When God decided to wipe out the wickedness in the world by sending a flood, he revealed it to Noah. And along with that revelation was an invitation to work with God, building an Ark that would save Noah and his family. This pattern is observed all throughout the Bible. When God is at work in the world, He reveals His work to men and invites them to join Him in His work. That include all of the prophets, as well as you and me!
Remember that God knows you inside out. Even with all of the billions of people in the world and the numerous angels in heaven, you are not just a number. He knows your name. He longs for you to work with him.
In fact, He created and designed you for that very purpose … to walk and work with him. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul tells us:
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
If God’s work in the world is redemption, and he calls us to join us in His work, then what’s our role? I mean, let’s face it, we can’t “redeem” anyone ourselves.
Well, our role is not to redeem people, but rather, our role is to be ambassadors of God’s redemption.
That’s exactly what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:20:
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
God is calling each of us to build lives that become an A.R.K. for lost souls:
A-mbassadors of God’s R-edemptive K-indness
There’s a 3rd important truth about working with God that we can learn from the life of Noah and it’s found in Genesis 6:18:
But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.
God made a covenant or promise with Noah. And the 3rd prominent truth about working with God that we need to keep in mind is that . . .
God is Faithful in Keeping His Promises.
God promised Noah several things:
That He would send a flood and wipe people out … And it happened.
That He would instruct Noah how to build an Ark … And it floated.
That He would save Noah and his family … And He did.
That He would rescind the waters … and He did.
That He would never send a global flood again … And He hasn’t.
It’s easy for us to look in retrospect at these events and think it was no big deal. But remember that when Noah entered the ark, it wasn’t raining yet. In fact, they were in the ark for seven days before it even started to rain. Genesis 7:16 tells us that . . .
The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the LORD shut him in.
Can you even imagine what was going through Noah’s mind when the Lord shut the door of the ark?
God is at work and He has invited us to join him, but make no mistake about it, it takes faith to join God in his work of redeeming the world. It takes the kind of faith that Noah had to join God in his work.
Listen to Hebrews 11:6-7
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
Let me read you those same verses from the Message Version:
It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him. By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and acted on what he was told. The result? His family was saved. His act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the rightness of the believing world. As a result, Noah became intimate with God.
It’s also interesting what Jesus had to say about Noah.
In Matthew 24:36-39 Jesus said,
36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
Jesus compared the last days with the days of Noah. Make no mistake about it, there is a day coming when, the very last person on this earth to place their faith in Jesus will do so and just like Noah, the door will be shut. Not that most people will even notice. Because just like Noah’s days, people will be going about their daily lives without a clue about what’s coming. Think about what must have been the scene at the outside of the ark when the flood waters came. People would have been banging on the door, trying to climb up the sides of the ark, looking for any possible way to get in. But it was too late. God had already shut the door.
The thing is that God always keeps his promises.
And to all who place their trust in Him, He has promised to save them. But unbelievers will be left out of the ark of salvation for all eternity.
That is truly sad. But the good news is this: The door to salvation is still open.
Jesus said in John 10:9
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved …”
Are you ready to work with God today? Are you willing to build an ark with your life as an Ambassador of God’s Redemptive Kindness?
Now is the time to share the good news of salvation – while the door is still open!