Friday, May 20, 2022

Genesis 41 | Small Group Questions

The story of Joseph is a favorite among children’s tales. It’s a story of family dysfunction that leads to slavery. The pain of loneliness and abandonment that ultimate lead to Jospeh saving Israel. So often we don’t sit in the pain that Joseph experienced. We don’t think about what went through Joseph’s mind in the bottom of the pit. We forget that Joseph never went to his senior prom. We miss that he lost a vital relationship with his mother. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions | The Promotion | Genesis 41

We’ve all experienced times in our life when things don’t go our way. For Joseph it was about thirteen years of his life that were taken from him. At the end of Genesis 40 we read that Joseph was once again forgotten. But in Genesis 41 Pharaoh has a disturbing dream and Joseph is remember. If you notice Jospeh’s posture, he is a completely different person than the teenager we met in Genesis 37. Jospeh learned to point to God in all situations. We see here that in his darkest times God shaped Jospeh’s character so he could lead Egypt through an immense famine. God had uniquely qualified Jospeh but it took years of shaping. 

1) We started out looking at the fable of Cinderella. Her life started out so beautiful but endured dark times. The conclusion of her story is a fairytale. When you think about Cinderella, what in her attitude/demeanor stand out to you? 

2) Read Genesis 41:1-8. For two years Jospeh waited in prison with no excitement happening in his life. Think about a period of you life that seemed pointless or lackluster but looking back, you can now see God’s hand of shaping. 

3) Read Exodus 41:14-16. Offers Pharaoh peace in his time of trouble. God has called us to be peace makers (read Psalm 29:11, Isaiah 9:6, Matthew 5:9, and John 16:33). How can you be a person who offers peace to those in times of trouble? 

4) Joseph is able to be humble in the presence of Pharaoh because allowed God to shape him in the pain of his youth (see: 1 Corinthians 10:13, 2 Timothy 4:5, and Hebrews 12:2). What painful situations have taught you endurance as a Christian? 

5) Read Genesis 41:33-40. After interpreting the dream, Joseph offers a solution to Pharaoh’s problem. Joseph is patient in the situation and does’t resort to self-promotion. Do you struggle with patience or wanting to promote yourself? 

6) It’s obvious that what Jospeh’s brothers did hurt him (read Genesis 41:50-52). Think about a painful situation in your childhood. How did that shape the way you live your life? Have you surrendered that pain to the Lord for spiritual healing? 

7) As we look at how Jospeh has changed in the twenty years since we met him in Genesis 37, share some of the inner changes God has done in his life. What Bible verses do you run to as you seek the Lord to shape your life? 

Close your time in prayer.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Genesis 40 | Small Group Questions

The story of Joseph is a favorite among children’s tales. It’s a story of family dysfunction that leads to slavery. The pain of loneliness and abandonment that ultimate lead to Jospeh saving Israel. So often we don’t sit in the pain that Joseph experienced. We don’t think about what went through Joseph’s mind in the bottom of the pit. We forget that Joseph never went to his senior prom. We miss that he lost a vital relationship with his mother. For this series I volunteered to write the small group questions that go along with each sermon. It seemed like a waste to leave them in a file on my computer and not share them with everyone.

Small Group Questions | The Waiting is the Hardest Part | Genesis 40

We first met Joseph as a seventeen year old living in his fathers home (Genesis 37). His brothers wanted to kill him but ended up selling him into slavery. From there he was accused of actions he didn’t commit and thrown into jail (Genesis 39). During this entire time Jospeh was under the watchful eye of the Lord. Through his life we learn that God is always working in our darkest moments. As we’ve sat in these couple chapters of Joseph’s life we have to be intentional to not rush ahead and see what happens. Jospeh teaches us to look for the hand of God in our dark moments. Jospeh teaches us to be patient and allow God to shape our hearts for His glory. 

1) Thinking about the first three chapters of Jospeh’s life, that we’ve studied this far, what stands out to the you most? What part of Joseph’s life can your relate to and what part is extremely difficult for you to understand? 

2) Read  Genesis 49:1-4a. Joseph has learned to care for others in this waiting period. Read John 13:34-35, Romans 12:10, 2 Corinthians 13:11, and Ephesians 4:2. What does Scripture teach us about caring for others? 

3) Some people think that God had abandoned Jospeh but we read that God was close to Joseph during this entire time (read Genesis 39:2, 23). Also read Matthew 28:19-20 and talk about how Jesus is always with us. 

4) Read Genesis 40:4a-8. Instead of falling into a pagan culture, Jospeh spoke the truth of God in that dark prison. Where is God asking you to be the light of the world to those around you (Matthew 5:13-16)? What does that require? 

5) Thinking about the interpretations that Joseph gave to the men, we read that he told the truth in a difficult situation. The Bible calls us to be truth-tellers. Read and discuss these passages: Exodus 20:16, Proverbs 12:22, and 1 John 1:6-7

6) The time Joseph spent in prison was a time of character building. Briefly look at Acts 9. Make sure to focus on Acts 9:26-31. Paul’s life was changed but he eventually moved home to grow his character. Where is God shaping your character? 

7) When we look at the entirety of what happened to Jospeh’s life, can you think of any of his: mistreatment, abandonment, and disappointment that reminds you of your life? How did you respond? Where are you still growing? 

Close your time in prayer. Pray for strength grow your character in the dark moments. 

Thursday, May 05, 2022

The Value of Life

For the last couple days I have seen much on the TV at the gym about abortion. 
My news feed in social media is filled with quotes, thoughts, and comments. 
I would like to add my voice to the mix. I feel this isn’t an issue that I can be silent about any more. Most of you will finish reading this and possibly put a label on me, I'm ok with that. It might be: conservative, Biblical, pro-life, or something else. I am pro-life. It’s  because I have life that I can speak for the unborn. I do this as a father of three children here on earth. I do this as a man who has seen much in this world and who longs to speak for those who don't, or can't, speak for themselves.  

I want to make a few broad statements that will help guide my thoughts: 
(1) I know that I’m not a mother and I don’t know what it’s like to carry a baby in my womb. There are others who might be better to share this but I want to speak as a father who was at the delivery of all three of my children.

(2) The Bible never uses the word: “abortion.” I’ll come back to this later but I want to be upfront on it. 

(3) This is a sensitive topic. I found the definition of abortion in the dictionary: 1) the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy, most often performed during the first 28 weeks of pregnancy. 2) the expulsion of a fetus from the uterus by natural causes before it is able to survive independently. This won’t be a shock and awe message, but a Biblical viewpoint. 

The value of children
In the gospel of Mark we read about this encounter that Jesus has with some children (see Mark 10:13-16). Put yourself in the scene with me today; use your imagination. Children are swarming to be around Jesus, they long to be in His presence. This was completely unexpected and contrary to cultural norms. 

A Rabi wouldn’t allow children to touch Him, but Jesus had them sit on His lap and blessed them. In the ancient world children were considered to be of lesser value then livestock. Many children weren’t given a name until the age of 5. The child mortality rate, at this point in history, was about 50%. At a time when children had such little value, we see Jesus place such a high value on them. 

In the middle of the gospel we read that Jesus was with the children. Jesus showed them value. I like to think of Jesus playing duck duck goose with the kids. Maybe a kid brought out a jump role and they are laughing while jumping rope. What if Jesus did the old pull a quarter from your ear trick on one of the little kids? The unspoken blessing here was invaluable for these children who might have felt unwanted. For Jesus to show these children this much attention would have been a cultural norm breaker. It was one of those things that sticks out in your mind because it is so unordinary. 

You might be wondering why I’m talking about Jesus spending time with children in a post about abortion. I need us to see how much Jesus valued kids. Of everything that Jesus did, Mark thought it was important enough to write this in his gospel account of the life of Jesus. Of all the miracles, the healings, the teachings, the feeding of thousands of people, Jesus spent time with children. It was important for Jesus to invest His time into them. 

Before I trusted Jesus I thought abortions were fine. In my mind, they were a solution to a problem for careless behavior. Most of the friends I knew who had an abortion was because they were careless in their sexual activity. 

Abortion was another form of birth control to solve a mistake. When I look to my past and see my old way of thinking I’m convicted on how I viewed life. I didn’t view life through the eyes of Jesus. Through the eyes of Jesus there is value in all people. Jesus sees the world from a better perspective than I see it. 

When I read about how Jesus lived, I ask these questions: 
What if God is asking us to be like Jesus and show how valuable children are? 
Is God asking you to come alongside a pregnant woman and help her through the rollercoaster of emotions of an unwanted pregnancy? 
Instead of judging people, could you throw a woman a baby shower? 

Knit together by God
Let’s talk about God’s special heart for the unborn (see Psalm 139:13-14). There is debate among humans as to when life begins. God is the creator of life and Scripture teaches us that life begins upon conception. 

God created us in our mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5). God is known as the God of creation. I invite you to write down Genesis 1 and read the creation story. Read it and think about the vast ability God possess in creation! 

Think about the medical profession with me. In one facility you have a team of doctors diligently working to help a couple get pregnant (in-vitro). There is egg retrieval, egg fertilization, conception, and placement of the new baby. Thousands of dollars are spent by a couple to conceive a little baby of their own. 

While this is going on, there is another medical facility in the same town doing the opposite. The other medical procedure is an abortion (remember the definition?). A woman is electing to remove the baby from her uterus. One couple longs for a child and another longs to get ride of a child. What a juxtaposition going on in the world. 

The Bible doesn't directly address the subject of abortion. Earlier I said that the Bible never uses the word abortion. Why not? Because it would have been inconceivable for an Israelite woman in ancient times, under normal circumstances, to consider the possibility of terminating her pregnancy. In the Didache, which is considered the earliest and most authoritative guide to Christian practice aside from the Bible itself, we read these words in Section 2:2: "You shall not murder a child, whether by abortion, or by killing it once it is born."

Think about what the early church taught and listen to these statistics about abortion. According to WHO, every year in the world there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions. That is close to the population of the State of CA. This number corresponds to approximately 125,000 abortions per day. The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, found that nearly three-quarters (73.8%) of women with a history of abortion surveyed admitted that they experienced at least subtle forms of pressure to terminate their pregnancies. 

What a contrast from the early teachings of the church. What a polar opposite of the heart of Jesus from His life on earth. 

God teaches us that He creates a baby in the womb and someone is putting pressure to remove that child. When we think about this from God’s vantage point, Scripture teaches us that God sees all of this action taking place (Psalms 33:13-15). None of these actions are unseen by our loving God. 

In fact, Jesus is the Author of Life (Acts 3:15). I love this title for our Lord. Many of these women, who’ve had an abortion, are living in shame. They have reoccurring thoughts about what it would have been like to keep their child. I know because I’ve talked with women who’ve had an abortion. 

Let me tell you what I’ve found regarding the church and abortion. The church can be judgmental. Some mothers need to know that not all babies will go full term. The majority of women don’t talk about miscarriage because it’s so painful. I’ve found that the church can be judgmental when we need to be loving. I’ve found the church can be vocal when we need to simply listen. I’ve found the church can offer advice when people really need are our prayers. Will you be a safe place for others? A person of prayer and listening? 

God sees all mankind 
Let me transition us to some real life situations that are taking place right now. There are women in the church who’ve had an abortion and they are feeling the loss right now. From my conversations with women who’ve gotten an abortion they know the birth day their child was supposed to come. These women remember the day they got their abortion. They have shared, through tears, the pain they’ve endured because of this choice. If you are one of these women, I want you to know that Coastline (the church I serve at) is a safe place to grow in your walk with Jesus. We are not going to judge you for your past choices—we’ve all made choices we regret. 

I’ve sat with women who got an abortion because they thought there was no other option. I’ve also sat with Christian couples who’ve gotten an abortion and feel that loss. Today will you find forgiveness in the arms of Jesus. I invite you to run to the cross and find healing for your pain. Allow the Lord to minister to your heart. Allow the Lord to be a healing balm to your hurting soul. You don’t have to walk through this pain alone. You don’t have to live in the silent pain.

There are women who’ve had any abortion because of medical complications. There are women who’ve had an Ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy that occurs in the fallopian tubes). These women would have lost their life if the pregnancy went full-term. There are women who were told their child had a chromosomal abnormality or a birth defect that would make life unsuitable for that child outside of the women. 

I worked with a woman who was told, early in her pregnancy, that her daughter had Down Syndrome. She choose to continue with the pregnancy and her daughter was completely healthy upon birth. These are real life situations taking place right now.

When a person has an abortion it is never easy. There is emotional trauma that occurs. The role of a believer is to come alongside a person and be a loving example of Jesus. People under stress and thinking about abortion need a loving voice to walk alongside them in life.

When we look at the entirety of this post we can conclude this: Life matters at all stages

Just like the little children came to Jesus, we can point others to the Lord. We can’t talk about abortion and not talk about life mattering at all stages. 

When I think about the delicate nature of a post like this I want to remind anyone who’s had an abortion that God loves you more than you will ever know. If the church has been rude to you, I am so sorry for that pain and condemnation. There are action points each of us can take today. 

Is God asking you to pray for a person or support a family who is pregnant? Maybe God is asking you to foster a child and give them a loving home. Pray about what to do with that extra bedroom in your home. 

Finally, I invite you to repent. If you have judged someone who’s had an abortion, I want you to repent of your sin. If you’ve been rude to someone or used your tongue to speak words that hurt, will you repent today. Find healing in your relationship with Jesus.