Sunday, February 26, 2017


I grew up in the South and “professional” wrestling is a big deal.  (Actually, the correct pronunciation of wrestling is “rasslin’”)  Every Saturday you could watch crazy guys in crazy costumes/get-ups jumping around the ring to entertain the crowd.  But there is another kind of wrestling that is much more serious and has eternal consequences. You may be able to guess by now that we’re going to look at Jacob when he rassled with God.

Genesis 32:28

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with man and have overcome.”

Things to think about:

  • Struggling with God and with people is part of the human condition. One needs only to read history books and the news to see this is true.
  • Struggling with God
    • Jacob was literally wrestling with God all night. (His new name Israel means "He wrestles with God”) 
    • He wanted God’s blessing (which God had already promised him at the time of his birth). 
    • Initially, we wrestle with God before we allow Him to save us
      • How long and intense was your wrestling match with God?
      • Did God have to “touch” you like He did Jacob to win the match?
        • if you’re still wrestling, do you feel like your winning???
    • God has already promised us many, many things that people still want to wrestle Him for:
      • Peace, eternal life, an abundant life, forgiveness
      • Where do you see people wrestling with God for gifts already promised?
    • There are other ways His children struggle with Him:
      • Why has He allowed something to happen? Why hasn’t He caused something to happen?
        • See Job Chapters 3, 24
      • Disobedience to His commands, His promptings
      • are you currently struggling with God in some way? If so, how?
  • Struggling with Man
    • Jacob’s name means “trickster” and he certainly lived up to it. He tricked Esau of Isaac’s blessing and weaseled Esau out of his birthright.
    • He struggled with his father-in-law, Laban, a well-accomplished trickster in his own right.
      • Seven years to win Rachel (got Leah instead) and seven more years to eventually get Rachel.  Then another six years to accumulate some earnings so he could move away. Then he ran off in the middle of the night with his family and possessions.
    • In James 4:1-2 it says, "Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.”
      • “Kill” is a strong word but Jesus says our anger is tantamount to killing. 
      • Violence can take the form of a harsh word or tearing down another’s reputation 
      • do you find yourself currently in a wrestling match with someone? 
      • Would you be willing to give up in order to see that person come to Christ?
    • Families are funny things, you have probably heard the one-liner, “Our family puts the “fun” in dysfunctional!”
      • why are families such a hotbed for struggles?
      • Are you in a struggle now that you need to give up?
  • The Good News!
    • God told Jacob he had overcome. 
    • Jesus says in John 16:33,  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
    • Paul tells us in Romans 8 that we too have overcome, in fact, we are “more than conquerors”
    • How do we live out this life as overcomers?
      • In Matthew 22:37-40,  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
      • Jacob was given a new name, we are given a new nature
        • Colossians 3:9-10   "Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator."
        • Ephesians 4:22-24, “ put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
    • What is God bringing to your mind right now that sound like opportunities to stop struggling and start living out your new nature as an overcomer?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Do You Believe This?

For the last year, we have kept the Lipsey family in prayer as Joni fought her battle with cancer with grace and dignity. We have also prayed for others going through similar crises, some drawn out, and others experiencing more sudden losses.  Either way, part of being in the human family means the inevitability of death.  It can raise some very profound questions, including Is God there? and Does He care?  I believe the Bible teaches very clearly YES to both and provides us with God’s perspective on Hurt and Hope.

John 11:33-35
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

Things to think about:

·      This passage comes from the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. You will recall that Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary, early friends and followers of Jesus. 
·      "He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled”, “Jesus wept"
o  Jesus felt their very real pain. While He knew what He was going to do (raise Lazarus), in the moment He hurt alongside the friends He loved
o  What He didn’t say was, ”Hey don’t be sad, he’s in a better place now.”
§  Have you ever experienced someone’s well-intentioned but misplaced words of encouragement?
§  Why is it important to recognize the pain and grief that accompanies a great loss?
·      What is the difference between empathy and sympathy?  Why does the distinction matter? 
o  If you are going through a period of grieving, what difference does it make having someone with you who has gone through the same thing?
·      He went to them, He walked with them, He wept with them
o  Psalm 46:1 - "God is our refuge a strength, a very present help in times of trouble"
o  The origin of Greek word for the Holy Spirit is “parakletos” signifying “called to one’s side”
o  Isaiah 53:3 says in part, …”a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.”
o  Julius Caesar is famously quoted as having said, “I came, I sought, I conquered.” 
o  Jesus Christ says, “I went, I walked, I wept.” Two very different kinds of kings!
o  How does knowing God is there and He cares help you deal with life’s tragedies?
o  How can we be God’s hands and feet to others going through painful times?
·      Thankfully, as important as empathy is, Jesus doesn’t stop with identifying with our sorrow. He gives us hope that He has overcome death and if we believe, we will too.
·      In John 11:25-26 He said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
o  Wisely, Martha says, "“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
·      1 Corinthians 15 has much to teach us about death and what happens after life in this mortal body is over.
o  vv. 54-55 – “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

o  Moreover, in Hebrews 2:14-15, we learn, “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
§  And right there the shackles of man’s deepest fear, “What happens to me after I die?” are forever shattered! The bully’s biggest threat is exposed for the lie that is.
§  Does the thought of dying scare you?
§  How does the verse above shape your perspective of your own mortality?
·      1 Corinthians 15, verses 42-44, “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable;  it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;  it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
o  Thanks be to God who gives us hope that the fallen seed of our mortal bodies will be raised up anew imperishable, in glory, and in power!

·      So back to Jesus’ question for Martha – Do you believe this?

Monday, February 13, 2017

How's Your IRA Doing?

For most of us, saving for retirement is a significant part of our financial planning. Since company pension plans are mostly a thing of the past, we use Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) as the primary vehicle for amassing enough assets to build a nest egg.  Saving and planning are very good and biblical practices. Even ants are commended for their diligence in storing food during the harvest so they have something to eat out of season!  That said, here's a suggestion for another kind of IRA that should capture our attention to a much greater degree - an Inspired Revelation Account.

Proverbs 3:13-18
Blessed are those who find wisdom,
    those who gain understanding,

for she is more profitable than silver
    and yields better returns than gold.

She is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.

Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.

Her ways are pleasant ways,
    and all her paths are peace.

She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.
Things to think about:

  • We’re told to pursue wisdom and understanding more than silver, gold, or rubies. As noted above, a diligent person works and saves. So the point here is not that money in and of itself is bad. That said (and this merits its own study), being overly focused on money is not a good thing:
    • Matthew 6:21 - where your treasure is, there also is your heart
    • 1Timothy 6:10 The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil
    • Ecclesiastes 5:10 - Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. 
    • What advice would you give someone who is hyper-focused on making money?
  • In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tells us not to worry about having our needs met if we seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first
  • In The Message in Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 we read, "After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.
    • are you satisfied with your lot? Why or why not?
  • And yet, God has something much, much more valuable for us if we will seek it
  • Wisdom and Understanding
    • Wisdom - in verse 19 of Proverbs 3, it says that “by wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations...”
      • we are on firm ground when we have God’s wisdom. This is found in His Word where He gives us instruction for living in accordance with his will.
      • Psalm 37:23-24  - The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
    • Understanding - in the second part of Proverbs 3:19 we find, “by understanding He set the heavens in place.”
      • From the heavens come light, and light produces illumination and revelation
      • Psalm 119:105 will be familiar to many of you, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
      • Ephesians 1:17-18 - "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people…”
  • How do we get wisdom and understanding?
    • Proverbs 2:3-4  - "if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure…”
      • Calling out and crying aloud = PRAY
        • James 1:5 gives us a promise if we will - "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."
      • Search for it as hidden treasure - where can we search?
        • Bible, Bible teachers (church, radio, internet, books)
        • do you find your intentionality growing as you mature in the faith?
  • What kind of return does God promise if we pursue wisdom and understanding?
    • Blessing (vv. 13, 18)
    • Nothing you desire can compare to it v.15
    • Long life v.16
    • Riches and honor v.16
    • Pleasant ways, paths of peace v.17
    • Tree of Life v.18
      • how have you experienced one or more of these?
  • He will make deposits in your account
    • Proverbs 2:10 - Wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul
    • Can you describe how biblical wisdom has given you a pleasantness in your soul?
  • He will keep you from losses
    • Proverbs 12:11-16
      • Evil men
      • the adulteress 
  • So what does life with God’s IRA look like?
    • Psalm 37:18 The blameless spend their days under the Lord’s care and their inheritance will endure forever. 
      • And you can take that to the bank!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Deceiving is Not Believing

Some of the best known and most revered people in the Bible share an unseemly history, they lied. We'll look at Abraham and Isaac to see what led them to not tell the truth and what we can learn from their lapses in judgment so as to not repeat them.

Genesis 26:7

7 When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he (Isaac) said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”

Things to think about:

  • As we read in this verse, Isaac felt he needed to lie because he was afraid. We'll explore fear as a motivation a little later but we see he inherited this tendency from his father Abraham
    • Genesis 8:11-13 11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
  • In both cases, the motivation for lying is rooted in fear, and at its core fear is faithlessness
    • we scheme because we believe we must compensate for God's inability or unwillingness to act in our best interests. 
    • Therefore, Deceiving is not Believing
  • And who would encourage us to doubt God's goodness? None other than the Father of Lies himself, the Devil
    • In John 8:44, Jesus says to the Pharisees, "44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
    • Remember back in Genesis 3 when the serpent lied to Eve? "The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
      • “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 
      • Wow, directly contradicting what God had told them.
  • Proverbs 12:22 says, "The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy."
    • In Colossians 3:9, Paul exhorts us, " Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices."
  • Just to make sure we don't accidentally overlook what constitutes "lying", here are a few other terms we see used that can soften the blow of such a harsh word:
    • white lie, fibbing, fudging, shading the truth, half-truth, misspeaking, alternate facts, pretext, exaggeration, telling stories
  • What are some of the things people are afraid of that make us prone to tell a lie?
    • Embarrassment, unpleasant consequences, avoid confrontation, deflect blame, be exposed for a mistake, buy time
  • How does lying erode one's character?  How does it erode one's reputation?
  • Why is a half-truth a whole lie?
    • See Genesis 20:11-13
  • How would you explain to a child why it's not OK to lie?
  • Why is fear an on-ramp to lying?
  • If one of the underlying causes of lying is Fear, what is the antidote?
    • Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,
          and he will make your paths straight."
  • Let’s commit to replacing Fear and Faithlessness with Truth and Trust