Scripture reading for January 16th: Genesis 45-47
Families and churches are prone to conflict! I know because I live in a family and have been a pastor for twenty-five years in three different churches. I have experienced conflict in family and church settings and sometimes been responsible for it myself! Sometimes conflict comes from misunderstanding and poor communication. Other times it comes from jealousy or envy. Sometimes it comes from sin and wrong-doing. Everybody wants to blame somebody else and arguments ensue about who was right or who to blame!
When Joseph revealed himself to his estranged brothers, they were astonished, speechless, and terrified! (Genesis 45:1-7) Joseph had to reassure them because he probably had to work through these same kinds of feelings himself. God had given him understanding of the greater purpose that was being worked out. “It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”
Joseph sent them away to bring the rest of the family down to Egypt to save them during the next 5 years of famine. He warned them not to quarrel on the way! It doesn’t appear that repentance had truly taken place and Joseph sensed possible animosity. We can only take responsibility for our own sins and forgive others of theirs. When we do that, quarreling is greatly reduced and peace in the family can be re-established. God works out his purposes in our families and homes even amidst the conflict and sin so prevalent in our lives. Often it’s hard to see the big picture.
Jesus Christ was sent before us to save us! He saw God’s big picture and died for our sins. If we confess our sins and repent of them, he will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all guilt and shame. But we may need many reminders to forgive ourselves, others, and let the old memories of failures fade away. May we be able to heed the ancient warning of Joseph and receive the blessing of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. “Don’t quarrel on the way!” (Genesis 45:24)
January 3rd reading: Genesis 3-5
I remember in my early childhood taking my dad’s pocketknife from the stand by his favorite chair and carving pictures on the bedroom door. It was great fun and my sister liked the pictures too. Dad and Mom were out doing chores on the farm and it was dark outside. I knew they would come in soon and slid Dad’s chair in front of the door to try and hide the “sin”. I didn’t understand it but they caught on right away when they came in the house! I initially tried to blame my younger sister for being the instigator, but was found out! I was rightfully afraid of punishment and soon reaped what I had so unwisely sown. (That was before the days when spanking was termed abuse!)
As we read this section of Scripture, we are introduced to the “serpent” who was “more crafty” than any of the other animals that God had made. This “serpent” talked to the woman Eve. His words twisted what God had told Adam and Eve. Eve was taken in by this “craft” and ate the forbidden fruit. She gave it to her husband who ate as well. They suddenly became aware of their nakedness and hid, covering themselves. Rather than being clothed with God’s Glory, their guilt now clothed them with a fig leaf!
God called out to those made in His image, knowing what they had done. When they emerged from hiding, God asked them how they knew that they were naked and if they had eaten from the forbidden tree. God used these questions to help them confess their guilt. No one likes to confess or admit guilt! Sin not only brings guilt and shame, but it also causes fear of punishment.
Today, do a quick survey of your life. Ask the Holy Spirit if there are things you are doing that you need to take responsibility for. Confess them to the Lord and ask for forgiveness and cleansing. It’s the only way I know to get rid of sin and its consequence, death! “I ate it.”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Genesis 3:12 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1st John 1:9
Scripture reading for May 27th: John 16:1-33
“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you; Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:20-22)
Jesus spoke plainly about His coming departure and the grief that would come over the disciples as they witnessed the unfolding of events. They did not fully understand what He was saying, but He knew that the Holy Spirit would help them understand fully and remember what He taught them. He encouraged them to be patient and look for the joy that would follow.
Jesus likened the disciples joy at His resurrection to that of a mother who had just had a child. The time immediately preceding the birth would be filled with pain and anguish. The birth pains had to come before the baby was introduced to the world. So Jesus had to go through the battle with the ‘prince of this world’ and face the last enemy, ‘death’! But the ‘prince of this world’ had no hold on Him. (John 14:30) The ‘prince of this world’ must be driven out! (John 12:31) This battle would involve the cross for Jesus and the ‘prince of darkness’ would attempt to hold Him in death. However, Jesus would be victorious and emerge from the grave with the keys of death and hell! (Revelation 1:18) He would spoil the principalities and powers of darkness, and make a public show of them openly by the cross! (Colossians 2:15)
When these disciples experienced Jesus in resurrection, their grief would be turned to a joy that no one could take away! They would know God the Father was true and the Gift of the Father would teach them all things. They would understand that death had no hold on them either and live with a new boldness to share the love of God in Christ Jesus! Christ’s victory would assure them of their victory! Are you living in this joy? Why not put your faith in Jesus Christ and experience it for yourself?