August 2003

Family Bible Study lesson for Aug. 24: Finding My Place in God's Plan

August 7 2003 by Kim D. Shaver , Genesis 45:4-8, 25-28; 46:1-5

Family Bible Study lesson for Aug. 24: Finding My Place in God's Plan | Thursday, Aug. 7, 2003

Thursday, Aug. 7, 2003

Family Bible Study lesson for Aug. 24: Finding My Place in God's Plan

By Kim D. Shaver Genesis 45:4-8, 25-28; 46:1-5

God reveals His will for our lives gradually, like a "slow, but certain light," in the words of Christian teacher and author Elisabeth Elliot. Our preference would be to receive the big picture "up front." However, God wants us to walk in faith. The world says that "seeing is believing," but God wants us to believe in order to see.

Walking with God is like stepping along a wooded path late at night with only a flashlight to guide you. You have only enough light for the next step. So it is as God unfolds His plan for your life and for His larger kingdom purposes. He expects you to step out in faith and obey the light He has given you. Once you step out in obedience, then He will reveal your next step. And even if you stumble along the way or get ambushed by the unexpected, you can trust that God will waste nothing, but will weave everything together - good and bad - to accomplish His purposes and to give you a future and a hope.

Trust God's Purposes

(Genesis 45:4-8)

After interpreting Pharaoh's dream, Joseph was made chief advisor of Egypt. As Joseph predicted, seven years of plenty were followed by famine. Two years into the famine, Joseph's brothers traveled from Canaan to buy some of the grain that had been stored in Egypt under Joseph's direction. Recognizing his brothers, Joseph sent for them and revealed his identity to them. "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt." No doubt the brothers shrank back in terror, knowing Joseph had the authority to take revenge on them for their unspeakable cruelty to him years earlier. Instead, Joseph responded in grace, saying, "Do not be distressed...(it was) God who sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives in a great deliverance."

Joseph had an unshakable faith in the overruling providence of God and accepted every circumstance that came into his life as having passed through God's hand. He saw that God was at work preserving the family of Jacob-Israel. Even more importantly, God was at work preserving the people through whom He would send the Messiah to carry out the redemption of the world. Joseph trusted in a God who turns tragedy to triumph and turns evil for good. When we have such a faith, it allows us to let go of bitterness and forgive others.

Receive Assurance

(Genesis 45:25-28)

After a time of reconciliation, embracing his brothers and weeping with them, Joseph sent them back to his father to bring Jacob down to Egypt. There, the family could be cared for during the remaining five years of famine. As a gift to his father, Joseph sent 20 donkey-pulled carts loaded with grain, bread and "the best things of Egypt."

When they told Jacob that Joseph was not only alive, but ruler of Egypt, Jacob could scarcely take it in. But when Jacob saw the carts sent by Joseph, he declared, "I'm convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him..." The scripture said that the spirit of Jacob "revived." After 20 years of mourning his son, Jacob now looked forward to seeing him face to face. His spirit also revived as he saw that God was continuing to carry out His promise. The future was assured to a new generation through God's providential positioning of Joseph in Egypt.

Continue in Faith

(Genesis 46:1-5)

Israel stepped out in faith, "setting out with all his possessions" and heading towards Egypt. When he arrived at Beersheba, the sacred place where he first met God, Jacob spontaneously worshipped the Lord.

Then, in a vision, God revealed Himself to Jacob. "I am God, the God of your father." So it is often - God reveals Himself after we step out in faith. The Lord then assures Jacob that He will be with him in Egypt and "make you into a great nation ...and Joseph's own hand will close your eyes."

In spite of the suffering of both Joseph and Jacob, God had done great things for Israel's household. God worked through all the suffering to bring about deliverance and carry forward His plan of redemption.

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8/7/2003 12:00:00 AM by Kim D. Shaver , Genesis 45:4-8, 25-28; 46:1-5 | with 0 comments



Family Bible Study lesson for Aug. 31: Forgiving One Another

August 7 2003 by Kim D. Shaver , Genesis 50:15-25

Family Bible Study lesson for Aug. 31: Forgiving One Another | Thursday, Aug. 7, 2003

Thursday, Aug. 7, 2003

Family Bible Study lesson for Aug. 31: Forgiving One Another

By Kim D. Shaver Genesis 50:15-25

Did you know that strained relationships, holding grudges and withholding forgiveness are hazardous to your health? Those who nurse bitterness in their lives by withholding forgiveness have greater muscle tension, higher blood pressure and may live shorter lives.

As costly as bitterness is to our physical health, it is even more costly to our spiritual health. In Matthew 18, Jesus told a parable of a rich man who had forgiven his servant a massive debt. But then that same servant refused to forgive one of his peers for a much smaller debt.

The rich master was furious and "delivered (the servant) to the torturers until he should pay all that was due him." Jesus concluded, "So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you from his heart does not forgive his brother" (Matthew 18:34-35).

God severely judges the sin of unforgiveness. Why? For God to forgive you and me, Jesus had to die. If God went to such sacrificial measures to forgive us when we were "yet His enemies," how can we even consider not forgiving the far smaller debts of others against us?

God views right relationships with others as essential to a right relationship with Him. He expects the giving and accepting of forgiveness to be part of our lifestyle so that we can live in the love and unity that brings glory and pleasure to Him. In our passage today, Joseph is a model for the right way to forgive. And his brothers provide a model for how to honestly admit guilt and humbly seek forgiveness.

Seek Forgiveness

(Genesis 50:15-18)

After the death of their father Jacob, Joseph's brothers wondered if Joseph would now take vengeance upon them for the cruel way they had treated him years before. First, they sent word to Joseph by messenger, including a statement from their father Jacob before his death pleading on their behalf, "I ask you to forgive your brothers."

When Joseph received their message, he wept. I wonder if Jesus weeps when a sinner humbly comes to him in sincere repentance? After sending the letter, the brothers personally went to Joseph, throwing themselves at his feet in humility, saying, "We are your slaves." They didn't try to make excuses and freely admitted their guilt, providing a good model of how we should seek forgiveness from God and others.

Experience Reassurance

(Genesis 50:19-21)

Joseph assured his brothers of his forgiveness and told them not to be afraid. "Am I in the place of God?" he said. "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." And then Joseph assured them he would take care of them and he "spoke kindly to them."

Joseph had an abiding trust in the overruling providence of God to work for good even through the evil deeds of others. It is that kind of faith that enables us to release grudges as we keep our eyes on God. Joseph's forgiveness, in many ways, was like God's forgiveness of us. God not only forgives us, but He cares for us as His children. And when we come to Him as repentant sinners, He never chastises us, but accepts us with open arms and deals "kindly with us."

Enjoy Unity

(Genesis 50:22-25)

The giving and receiving of forgiveness paved the way for years of living together as a family in peace, unity and prosperity.

Because of forgiveness, the story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendents ended in hope. There was hope of the eventual exodus from Egypt that was promised to Abraham long before Joseph was even born. There was the hope that one day God would bless the world with the Messiah through the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

No matter what happened to Joseph throughout his life, he trusted in God. Just as he lived, he died trusting that God would lead his children's children into the promised land and carry his bones there for burial.

This abiding faith anchored Joseph's legacy: a legacy of godly wisdom, redemption, forgiveness and the restored unity of Israel's family.

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8/7/2003 12:00:00 AM by Kim D. Shaver , Genesis 50:15-25 | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Aug. 24: Face to Face - Wrestling with God

August 7 2003 by Tommy Bratton , Genesis 32:22-32; 33:1-10

Formations lesson for Aug. 24: Face to Face - Wrestling with God | Thursday, Aug. 7, 2003

Thursday, Aug. 7, 2003

Formations lesson for Aug. 24: Face to Face - Wrestling with God

By Tommy Bratton Genesis 32:22-32; 33:1-10

When I think back on my faith journey, the times I have experienced God most powerfully are times I have struggled with worry. In times of sickness, of relationship problems, of work-related stress, my prayers have been more real and my confession more urgent. Crisis prompts our wrestling with God.

The Encounter with God

(Genesis 32:22-26)

The text for today continues the story of Jacob on the way to meet his estranged brother Esau. Jacob encountered God in the form of a mysterious man who wrestled him throughout the night. Jacob had sent his family and his possessions across the stream of the Jabbok, while he remained behind. Though Jacob was left alone, he was not alone for long. The scripture says that a man wrestled with Jacob, but was unable to prevail against him. However, the man injured Jacob and all Jacob could do was hold on to his opponent. Jacob told the faceless man that he would let go only if the man blessed him.

Jacob's wrestling with God mirrors our own story of wrestling with the divine. When we look deep within ourselves, we are confronted with our frantic need for forgiveness. We recognize that we have often taken God's blessings for granted. We have manipulated others to gain the benefits of God's promise. We have treated God's grace as cheap, believing that we may act as we please.

In these times of crisis, we realize as Jacob did that the blessing of God can be obtained solely from God, and it can only be done in complete dependence, hanging on with all the strength we have, desperate for the blessing and the forgiveness that God alone can give.

In wrestling with God for God's blessing, Jacob proved that he cared about God's promises. He showed that he cared about his relationship with God, that he expected God to answer his prayer and to protect him and forgive him. He would not take no for an answer.

Wrestling with God always changes us; we are never the same again. Jacob took on a new name and was left with both a blessing and a limp. The limp was a reminder to him that when you have a confrontation with God, you will never walk the same way again.

From Trickster to Blessed

(Genesis 32:27-32)

"I will not let you go until you bless me," Jacob demanded of his opponent. But before blessing Jacob, the man changed Jacob's name to "Israel." The name Jacob meant "supplanter," and Jacob had lived up to his name by tricking Esau and Isaac in order to obtain the birthright and the blessing. Now, the man called him Israel, meaning "he struggled with God."

Following the confrontation, Jacob reflected on the struggle, amazed that he has seen the face of God. Nowhere in the text are we told that Jacob saw the man's face. In fact, the man desired to leave before daylight. But Jacob recognized the divine nature of his encounter. God had blessed him, forgiven him and promised to be his protection. Jacob has seen God in a new way.

The Encounter with Esau

The morning after the encounter with God, Jacob and Esau moved toward a tension-filled meeting. Jacob approached his brother, bowing down seven times with humility reminiscent of the prodigal son coming before his father. Esau, like the prodigal son's father, ran to meet Jacob, embraced and kissed him. What relief they both must have felt!

Jacob offered presents to Esau to seek his favor. Esau politely refused but Jacob insisted, saying, "Truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God." In the encounter with God, there is a parallel of the estranged brother. And in the forgiveness of Esau, there is something akin to the blessing God bestowed.

Reconciliation

The love of God and love of brother belong together. God and Jacob were brought together. Jacob and Esau were brought together. It was not easy. There was conflict and pain, but there was also reconciliation and blessing.

Kyle Matthews has a song with these words: "Love that comes easy will easily give up. When we fail love, we've got to trust the love that won't fail us." May we trust in God's love to restore us to one another.

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8/7/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tommy Bratton , Genesis 32:22-32; 33:1-10 | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for Aug. 31: Second Time Around - The Aging of Jacob

August 7 2003 by Tommy Bratton , Genesis 35:1-15

Formations lesson for Aug. 31: Second Time Around - The Aging of Jacob | Thursday, Aug. 7, 2003

Thursday, Aug. 7, 2003

Formations lesson for Aug. 31: Second Time Around - The Aging of Jacob

By Tommy Bratton Genesis 35:1-15

There are certain places in my life that I count as sacred spaces, those places where I remember feeling closest to God. A couple of years ago, I spent several days at a monastery in Conyers, Ga. During those days of silence, rest and prayer, I experienced God in a real and peaceful way. There were no distractions that kept me from seeking God. My one purpose was to enjoy God and rest in God's presence. My time at the monastery revived my soul, reminded me of my calling, and gave me the energy to go back to my congregation and serve.

Purification

(Genesis 35:1-5)

The days prior to this text were filled with defilement (Dinah's rape) and violence (the murderous revenge by Simeon and Levi). The narrative in Genesis 34 ends with Jacob in despair and his sons not understanding the economic concerns, the threats, the compromise to their religion that grew out of their quest for vengeance and gain.

God told Jacob to return to Bethel, the sacred place where Jacob had experienced God's care many years prior. Jacob instructed his entire family to put away all idols and to purify themselves before leaving. As earlier chapters spoke often of defilement, chapter 35 speaks of purification and a new start.

It is easy to fall prey to the distractions that keep us from living out God's promises. However, God continues to remind us of the times God has been with us in the past and continues to promise strength and presence for whatever comes.

Presence and Protection

(Genesis 35:6-8)

As they began their pilgrimage to Bethel, God protected Jacob's family. They had every right to fear those around them, but God caused fear to be placed in the hearts of the people of the cities that surrounded them. They made their way to Bethel unencumbered.

Throughout Genesis, God provided protection for Jacob. God was there when Jacob fled from Esau after stealing his birthright. God heard Jacob's prayer for protection before meeting Esau again those many years later. Jacob wrestled with God and survived. Because God had been faithful in the past, Jacob had faith to trust God's guidance and strength for the journey to Bethel, a journey of remembrance and renewal.

It is important for us to remember how God has brought us to this place. We fear moving forward sometimes, but God is faithful and we are called to trust God.

Reconnecting with God's Purpose

(Genesis 35:9-15)

Verses 9-12 are reminiscent of the blessing given to Jacob on the night he wrestled at Peniel, without the conflict. God appeared to Jacob and blessed him, reminding him that he would no longer be called Jacob, but "Israel." The name change signified a new person, a new creation.

The new name was also the name of the new nation God had promised to Abraham. The covenant continued through Isaac and was confirmed again to Jacob. God desired the new people of Israel to be a blessing to all people of the earth.

After the blessing and confirmation of the promise, Jacob set up a pillar of stone and made an offering to God. In the wisdom of his old age, Jacob realized the importance of the promise and his part in the covenant, as well as the primacy of God's presence and God's part.

We grow in God's grace through the tough times in life. Romans 5:3-4 tells us that "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope." Throughout the transitions of Jacob's life, he grew in his understanding of God's promise to future generations. Jacob moved from manipulation to trust. Struggles help us to recognize our failures, to trust in God, and to give our lives totally to His promise.

May we all find time to rid ourselves of idols, of distractions that keep us from being all God calls us to be. May we remember how God has brought us through tough times and has blessed us. May we reconnect with the holy purposes of God for our lives and for our families. May God bless you all!

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8/7/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tommy Bratton , Genesis 35:1-15 | with 0 comments



Focus on parents to influence youth, minister says

August 7 2003 by Marv Knox , Associated Baptist Press

Focus on parents to influence youth, minister says | Thursday, Aug. 7, 2003

Thursday, Aug. 7, 2003

Focus on parents to influence youth, minister says

By Marv Knox Associated Baptist Press

CHARLOTTE - Since parents are three times more likely to influence their children than the church, youth ministries must involve parents if they want to change teens, youth minister Spencer Good said.

Surveys of teens emphasize the importance of parents and family in shaping young people's lives, Good told participants in a ministry workshop at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's General Assembly.

"Forty-six percent of teens say their primary role model is a family member, not a pop icon or sports star," said Good, a youth minister at Lafayette Baptist Church in Fayetteville.

Asked to name their greatest influence, 47 percent of teens picked their parents, he added.

The second-greatest influence is church (cited by 16 percent), followed by peers (8 percent) and a relative other than a parent (4 percent), he said.

"Teens care and want parents involved, whether they admit it or not," he said.

"We need to get parents to 'pack the stands' (at church events for youth). If youth look to parents as role models, we need to get parents involved.

"If we're working with youth only, and not their parents, then we're sidetracking and trying to become (their) parents, which we're not," he said.

So youth ministries need to reach out to parents and partner with them in training and developing their teenagers, he said.

During dialogue, Good and many ministers in his seminar agreed a surprisingly high percentage of teens attend church without their parents.

This factor limits the depth of influence possible among teens, Good said.

The best way to get parents involved in church youth activities is to "plan good stuff," Good said.

He also suggested letting parents help plan some youth ministry events, as well as sponsoring meetings and ministries for parents without their children present.

A motivation for ministry to parents is the fact many parents need to develop parenting skills and need more information to help them help their children, according to Good.

"If parents are the influence, then we've got to educate parents first," he said.

Youth ministry should "fuse" with family ministry in the church and focus on the five purposes of the church - worship, discipleship, evangelism, fellowship and ministry, he said.

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8/7/2003 12:00:00 AM by Marv Knox , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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