Sunday, January 30, 2011

Slaying Giants: Joseph


Genesis 39:20-40:4,23; 41:1 So Joseph's master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king's prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail. But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph's charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it.
The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph's charge because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper. Then it came about after these things, the cupbearer and the baker for the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt.
Pharaoh was furious with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. So he put them in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, in the jail, the same place where Joseph was imprisoned. The captain of the bodyguard put Joseph in charge of them, and he took care of them; and they were in confinement for some time.
Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing by the Nile.

Giant #1: Lost years/time – many times in life we come to a point of evaluation. It happens as we look ahead after high school or college and realize how big the world really is. It can happen after we have worked for a few years and we are not sure if what we are doing is what we want to do for our life. Then there is the “mid life” one where you begin to wonder what your life has been all about, and you panic wanting to leave something of substance behind. Then, as we get older still, we have a long look back and wonder what we could have done differently or better. Every New Years I sit down and reflect what was and what could be.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Slaying Giants: Jacob


Genesis 32:24-31 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob's thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the dawn is breaking." But he said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob."
He said, "Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed."
Then Jacob asked him and said, "Please tell me your name." But he said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved." Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh.

So, there’s this story of in the Old Testament of Jacob wrestling with God and he extracts from God a blessing. It is pretty easy to have a quick read through and try to apply some principles of prevailing prayer here. All we have to do if we want something from God is to wrestle it from Him. Is that really what is happening in this story? Is this a model of prevailing prayer? Is the giant that Jacob is wrestling with the blessing, the future? What do you know about Jacob?

In Genesis 25:21-26 we read “The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”
When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob.” Jacob was in a constant struggle from the womb with his twin brother Esau. Esau had: the birthright, the physical superiority, and was his father’s favourite. And so Jacob began to take what he wanted, even though it was promised to him. You read that passage and you quickly begin to understand that Jacob invariably knew God’s promise to Rebekah because Jacob was her favourite. Jacob tried to get in his own strength what God was going to give him all along. In doing so, though, he lost God’s peace and presence, replacing that for 21 years filled with anxiety.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Slaying Giants - David



Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; and they were gathered at Socoh which belongs to Judah, and they camped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. Saul and the men of Israel were gathered and camped in the valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array to encounter the Philistines.
The Philistines stood on the mountain on one side while Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with the valley between them. Then a champion came out from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was clothed with scale-armor which weighed five thousand shekels of bronze.
He also had bronze greaves on his legs and a bronze javelin slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and the head of his spear weighed six hundred shekels of iron; his shield-carrier also walked before him.
He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel and said to them, "Why do you come out to draw up in battle array? Am I not the Philistine and you servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will become your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall become our servants and serve us." Again the Philistine said, "I defy the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together." When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. 1 Samuel 17: 1-11

Ever had a tough life experience where you thought you were going to be overcome? Some huge big problem that loomed over you and threatened to bury you. Sometimes these things are physical, and sometimes they are more giants of the mind that come in and create tremendous stress and strain.
If you were in Sunday school as a child you invariably became familiar with the elements of this story. It is such a classic story of the “supposed” underdog triumphing over a bully, yet it is so much more than that. David wasn’t the underdog - Goliath was; he just didn’t know it. Do you remember where else in the Old Testament we see giants? Israel was sitting at the edge of the Promised Land and they sent 12 spies in. 2 came back and said let’s do it, charge! 10 came back and said we can’t go in because, while the land is more than we could have ever hoped, there are giants living there we could not possibly defeat. I think David may have recalled that history as a boy growing up and maybe even made a vow that he would never doubt like those 10 spies did. God said it, I believe it, that’s final. So he comes to the Israel camp bring food and looking for news of his brothers and Goliath makes his challenge. 40 days Goliath has been doing this, and the army of Israel gets more and more afraid at each challenge, so when David asks how it is going, his brothers get angry at him, taking out their frustration on David. What can we learn from this story about slaying giants? How can you and I overcome these big things in our lives?

Start from a place of strength. When I say this, I do not mean that we find a firm rock when we need it  and apply leverage. We do not say, “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth” as Archimedes did. If you want to slay giants, you need to start long before the giants appear. God was with David when He faced Goliath in part because He was with David when David faced the bears and lions of his shepherding days. David had gotten to know God and had an established relationship with God that stood the test of time. When you read about salvation in the New Testament, it is not a prayer you said one time when you were 8. That is not faith. Faith is not just a quick decision, but a planned following. Look at Hebrews 11. Faith is better translated faithfulness. It is a robust and full word that we have reduced too much in our Western Church to mean just a one-time event. Faithfulness is the strong place we begin – the place of surrender and commitment to following Jesus. Jesus did not say, “Pray and accept Me in your heart”. He did say, “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”

There is no way around this. You follow Jesus not with attendance, but with a broken and contrite heart; not with saying the right things, but doing the right things flowing out of the Spirit working in you. These are all things we have talked about over the last few years. There are spiritual disciplines, which John Wesley would call means of grace, that allow us to experience more fully the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

One of my favourite songs from Don Francisco is about King Jehoshaphat. He had a good relationship with God, and so when trouble came he simply asked God what to do and Jehoshaphat went out and did it and the victory was won. Joseph, in spite of his troubles, kept in a good place with God, and ended up saving his family from famine because of his faithfulness. And so David in this story, di and said the things that were in character for him, because of his strong relationship with God. You and I are in that strong place when we do the things like reading the Bible regularly, praying and meditating, fellowshipping in church, living lives of integrity and love. As we are obedient to the Spirit in these things, we begin to live in that place where we can slay the giants who come.

Part of this beginning from a strong place is remembering God’s help in the past. In this story, David recounts to the king how God delivered David from a lion and bear. When you look at the nation of Israel, much of their feasts and annual events are about how God has worked in their lives in the past. There is great value in this remembering, as you invite the Spirit to continue that same work in you. As individuals, we could probably each list several specific things that God has done in and through us. As Christians, we need to look no further than the cross and Pentecost. God revealed Himself to us in the incarnation, and empowered us in the sending of the Spirit. It is the Spirit that transforms us. It is the Spirit who saves and draws men and women to the father. A few years ago I challenged you to set markers in your life; markers that would cause you to remember specific things God has done. Most of us will have a marker of some crisis point in our life where we recognized we needed a Saviour. Most of us will also have a marker where we surrendered our lives fully to God, forsaking all. That is called sanctification. Some call it rededication. The name is not nearly as important as the choice you made, which you continually make in being obedient to the Spirit’s work in your life. As David was going through this story, he had confidence knowing that as God had delivered him in the past, so God would deliver him against this giant who challenged not just Israel, but Israel’s God. How did Israel mark many of those moments? They would make this big pile of stones. What do you think David was thinking as he picked up those 5 smooth stones. Do you think one reminded him of god’s deliverance from Egypt? Perhaps another was the story of Jacob wrestling with God, or maybe the deliverance of Isaac by a ram caught in the thickets. Maybe they were his stones, of God giving him the strength to defeat a bear and a lion. Have you got stones in your pocket? Find some stones, and keep them in sight.

Lastly, when we are facing giants, we know we can go in the confidence knowing God will deliver. How do we know that? We know that because we are involved in God’s mission, not ours. As followers of Jesus we have been caught up by the Spirit and are participating in the missio Dei – the mission of God. David wasn’t fighting for his name, or his families, or even Israel’s. What ticked David off was Goliath’s blasphemy about the powerlessness of the God of Israel. David knew that God was able to give Him strength to defeat Goliath, because God is more than capable of defending Himself. The great part about this story is that He used David to accomplish His purposes. What a privilege to be used of God in this way or any way. That is grace working in and through you, and that is exciting stuff.

Are you facing giants? Be strong in the Lord, remember His acts of grace in your past, and go out in confidence knowing that God is already going before you. You are a child of the Creator of the ends of the earth, a joint heir with jesus, and have the seal of the Spirit upon you. Yes, go out in confidence.