Feb. 3, 2019
Explore the Bible
Genesis 37:5-11, 19-27 (HCSB)
In my healthcare and research work, I often set goals and then design processes to reach those goals. It is beginning with the end in mind. This worked so well I implemented the same process for my evangelistic and missional goals. But that didn’t work so well.
John Stott said, “We should not confuse the objective, what we think will happen, with the consequence, what really happens.” I learned God is in charge of both means and end results. I need to concentrate on obedience and accepting the plan God uses to accomplish His purposes.
Joseph most definitely began with the end in mind. God gave Joseph two dreams. In the first dream, he and his brothers were binding sheaves. Suddenly Joseph’s sheaf rose and stood upright, while his brothers’ sheaves gathered around and bowed to Joseph’s sheaf. When he told his brothers, “They hated him even more” (Gen. 37:5). They already hated Joseph because he was Jacob’s favorite.
God gave Joseph another dream. He saw the sun, moon and 11 stars bowing before him. He shared the dream with his father and brothers. Jacob responded with a rebuke, “Are your mother and brothers and I going to come and bow down to the ground before you?” (Gen. 37:10). His brothers were jealous and plotted to kill him. Reuben had second thoughts and suggested they throw him into a cistern. When the brothers saw a caravan of Ishmaelites, they sold him into slavery.
Some scholars believe that the brothers assumed their actions would prevent the fulfillment of the dreams. If this is correct, the brothers were acting in conscious rebellion against what they might have understood as prophetic knowledge. Their jealousy clouded their judgment.
We need to accept God’s plan to accomplish His purpose. We should also use wisdom in communicating God’s truth with others. We can, as in the case of Joseph, be thankful that God’s purpose ultimately will be accomplished despite the efforts of some.
Bible Studies for Life
When substances take over
Ephesians 5:15-21 (HCSB)
Ephesus was a center of pagan worship. Many Ephesians worshipped Bacchus, the god of wine and drunkenness. Worshippers approached Bacchus in a drunken state, using every sensual practice possible.
In contrast, Paul talked about how to commune with the God of heaven. Paul exhorted, “Don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). The King James Version reads, “which leads to excess.” The Greek word used here is astia, and it was used to describe excess and riotous living. It is the negative of sozo which means “to save.” Astia literally describes the type of living that comes with substance abuse. Paul expected the Ephesian Christians to live differently than the pagan worshippers. They were to be “filled with the Spirit.”
Spirit-filled Christians need to pay careful attention to their walk with Christ (Eph. 5:15). To be Spirit-filled is to be Spirit-led. When we abuse substances and become impaired, we are more likely to be led by sensuality and waste valuable time. Paul said to make the most of our time (Eph. 5:16). We should use our time wisely to seek opportunities to win persons to Christ, teach others the Word of God, be involved in the discipleship of immature Christians, encourage others in their walk with God and do the work of the church.
Since time is valuable, Paul also exhorted the church to be wise and seek God’s will (Eph. 5:17). We need to seek God’s will and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. We can avoid misery, wasted time and resources if we seek God’s will on what He wants for our lives.
The byproduct of a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led life is worship (Eph. 5:19-21). The four Greek participles in this text, to “speak,” “make,” “give” and “submit,” are in the imperative tense, which means they are things we must do.
We should allow only the Holy Spirit, not any substance, to fill us and lead us to do the things of God.
Feb. 10, 2019
Explore the Bible
Genesis 39:3-12, 19-21 (HCSB)
Even the most faithful and God-honoring believer will experience temptation. Many believers fall into sin because they thought they were strong enough to stand against temptation and not flee from it. An example could be if you stop drinking alcohol, then the last place you want to be is in a bar. There will be times when temptation presents itself; you must turn and flee (1 Thess. 5:22). A great example of this is Joseph and his encounter with Potiphar’s wife.
After arriving in Egypt, Joseph was sold to a man named Potiphar who worked for the Pharaoh of Egypt. Joseph rose to the status of chief steward in Potiphar’s household. The Lord was with Joseph and gave him success. The Scriptures go into detail about Joseph’s physical characteristics. This is by design. Joseph not only had to deal with the normal temptations that came with his age, but also had to deal with a woman who needed attention because her husband was preoccupied with protecting Pharaoh’s court. Potiphar’s wife was attracted to Joseph, and she tried to force herself on him. In the process of fleeing from her, Joseph left his cloak behind.
Joseph’s cloak provided evidence for false charges, which resulted in Joseph’s imprisonment. Joseph did the right thing, but it didn’t turn out well. Joseph’s integrity led him from a cistern to a dungeon. Joseph did not sulk or make demands; he remained faithful to God in his present circumstance. God was with him and granted him favor with the prison warden. Joseph maintained an optimistic and faithful outlook on life despite his circumstances.
Joseph was extremely loyal, strong against temptation and faithful to God even in the midst of unfair circumstances. This is the kind of character we need to emulate and/or develop in our lives. We may not have control over our circumstances, but we do have control over our response. Our ability to overcome temptation depends more on our Christ-like character than on our circumstances.
Bible Studies for Life
When marriage is questioned
Genesis 2:18-25 (HCSB)
Our pastor’s wife leads and hosts a multi-generational brunch for all the women in our church. She assembled a team of men to volunteer in the set-up and the tear-down for the event. She described this men’s group as the “He Team.” I was proud to serve and honored that there was no hesitation in the use of a masculine personal pronoun.
There is much confusion about gender in the popular culture. Many persons feel there is a conflict between their physical gender and the gender they feel they identify with. Often it is a case that they are not comfortable with their bodies or the expected roles associated with their genders. The American Psychiatric Association calls this gender conflict “gender dysphoria.” This is not to be confused with being gay or lesbian, which is more about being attracted to the same sex. Those who don’t want to identify with male or female are called non-binary. Gender confusion leads to confusion about marriage.
The distinctions in masculine and feminine were created by God. God also instituted marriage between one man and one woman. In Genesis 2:18, God said something rather interesting, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” God called everything good up to this point. The creation of the female was for the welfare of the male. She was to be his “helper.” The Hebrew word is ezer, and it is used to describe the function of the female to the male. It is in no way a demeaning word. It is used in the Old Testament to describe one who can provide what is lacking in the other.
Man and woman were created with unique genders. The institution of marriage was created to see a man and woman leave their families and cleave together as one. Marriage between one man and one woman includes the fundamentals for God’s plan for the family unit.