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365 Challenge

The Road Less Traveled

Wesley Skinner

There are a lot of verses that stand out to me when I think about what is most important. Most people have a few verses that they like or maybe they are comforted by. But my favorite verse is one that embraces discomfort. 

1 Samuel chapter 15 has influenced the direction of my life more than any other passage I can remember.  

Samuel, the prophet of God, has just told Saul, the king, his marching orders from God; 'Go and completely destroy the Amalekites;men, women, children, livestock. Anything that moves or breathes, I want their name blotted out of the history books.'(paraphrase) But that's not what Saul does. Saul destroys everything excepet the king and keeps the good of the livestock to make a sacrifice to The Lord. We find out later, whether it is true or just an excuse, that he did this because he gave into what he thought was expected of him by his soldiers. 

What Saul did was the good and right and acceptable thing in his culture. Their custom was to save the good of the livestock to make a sacrifice to God, thanking Him for victory. The problem was, God didn't want the culturally acceptable thing, He wanted obedience.  

The first time I remember this passage standing out to me was early in college. I was at a conference, sitting in the floor of the hotel lobby just doing my daily scripture reading. I had been wrestling for a while with the question of what God wanted from my life, and here was the answer. Obedience.  

What I had been trying to do for so long was work God into my plan for my life. I had bought into the Christian spin on the American dream. My focus was wife, kids, nice house, good job, lots of toys, to be important some how and give God 10%. The other 90% was mine. Or even to try and figure out how to serve God in a good and right and culturally acceptable way like be a youth pastor(nothing wrong with that just not where God was leading me, thank God!) I knew what God wanted out of my life and being a missionary, especially one who lives in America and hangs out with college students, doesn't fit the culturally acceptable paradigm. I knew that some people wouldn't understand, and after 7 years of this some people still don't. Even friends of mine in ministry that infer or sometimes just flat out say, 'when you're ready to do REAL ministry come plant a church with me.' The problem was then, and still is today, that would not be obedience to God's call in my life. 

Understanding that obedience to God will not make sense to everyone and you will feel pressure to compromise, even from well-intentioned friends is a tough reality to embrace. It is also not always an easy road, but this less traveled road makes all the difference. 

 

Start with Samuel!

Wesley Skinner

Want to read through the Bible this year but missed the start or got behind? start with 1 Samuel! Today in the One Year Chronological Bible I linked in a previous post, we have gotten through Genesis, job, exodus, Leviticus, numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges and Ruth. Now we start with 1 Samuel. And 1 Samuel is one of my favorite books! 

In this reading plan it only takes 10-15 minutes per day(another 2 if you want to read me blogging random musings as I read) and by the end of the year you will have made it all the way through! And if you missed the start, reading previous days as you have time can catch you up quickly.  

It's not too late! Don't wait for 9 months because you missed 3. Start today!  

Leaving behind the judges.

Wesley Skinner

I love the Old Testament! Most people think that's weird. When reading through the bible in a year, the Pentateuch is easy for me to get through. Yes, you see Israel quickly forget God's faithfulness and turn away, but they keep turning back to Him. Then Joshua continues along those same lines. In Joshua you see God deliver the nations into the hands of Israel as they take over the promised land. Then we hit the book of Judges. 

The book of Judges is difficult for me. Upon a first reading, Judges reads like an action packed adventure. It is fast paced and stars characters that seem superhuman. But there is a problem, a phrase that continues screaming from the pages "again, Israel did evil in the sight of The Lord and He[allowed them to be ruled by]...."

But God didn't forget about them, He raised up judges. Judges who break the very law they are supposed to be keeping. Judges who sacrifice their children and break their vows to The Lord and are faithless. Sure, the action in the book is exciting until you realize that this is not a movie. Death and destruction and war and captivity are not fleeting bumps with a happy ending. The are the consequences of sin and idolatry.

Judges is a dark book. And it is summed up in just a few words, "in those days Israel had no king, everyone did as he saw fit." Those words are more indicting than at first glance. As we leave Judges and move to Samuel you will see this talk of Israel having a king come up again. It is a slap in the face of God. It is Israel rejecting God as their king. So, here when it says, "Israel had no king, everyone did as he saw fit", Israel rejected God's rule and God's law. Everyone lived in darkness. And the darkness is seen clearly in one of the most sin-filled book of the Bible. I'm glad we are moving on to Samuel. 

 

 

God does EVERYTHING on purpose

Wesley Skinner

Among all of the specifications of the building of the tabernacle the sacrificial system and the law, something becomes very obvious, God is aGod of details!  Everything is very specific and, while I don't understand the symbology of everything that is listed, I can see why God is a very detailed person and does everything with purpose. 

Doing EVERYTHING with purpose, that is something I can really get behind! I am a creature of habit. It drives Monica crazy. And I am a creature of very specific and intentional habit. Everything I do I have carefully thought through and can give you my reasoning behind why. This may seem a little time consuming, but God wired me in such a way that I process things from many angles very quickly and I don't even stop to think about it, it's just the way my brain works. My morning routine is a Great example: as soon a I get up, I go to the bathroom get my toothbrush and while brushing my teeth gather the clothes I will wear(maximizing time) finish brushing then jump in the shower, after I shower I get dressed, put on deodorant, style my hair, put on my glasses and shoes(in that order).Then I get my coffee, which was set the night before to brew while I shower, four spoons of sugar(yes that's sweet) and a little heavy whipping cream(to thicken the coffee). From there I sit in the same spot in our office, perfect distance from the end table on my right(for my coffee), a little sunlight at my back and a comfortable seat. Then I am ready to spend time reading my bible. 

Am I OCD? Maybe... But I think God is too! That is probably why I am the only person in the world who really likes reading all of these specifics.  

If God does EVERYTHING with a purpose, what about us? Shouldn't we do things with purpose? Not saying everyone needs to be crazy like me, but what if there were a few things each day we chose to do intentionally. Maybe, it means giving yourself margin to take time to really listen to one person each day rather than speed from one thing to the next. Maybe it's choosing a person each week to call and catch up with or encourage. Maybe it's just being mindful to pray throughout the day as you go from one thing to the next. Knowing why you do what you do is key. 

What can you do on purpose today?

 

Something unmistakable(Exodus 19-20)

Wesley Skinner

One of my biggest beefs with Mormonism, aside from being altogether incorrect, is how Joseph Smith found the 'sacred writings' for the Book of Mormon. I don't generally advocate Southpark, but this clip is brilliant. 

http://youtu.be/06jF1EG8o-Q

If there is something so life changing that I will build my entire belief system around it, I'm not going to trust the word of someone who's story can in no way be verified. 

A few months back the History channel aired "The Bible" miniseries. I didn't have a problem with some of the creative liberties they took. It helped tell the story and give emotion to people who were present. One issue I did have was how Moses received the 10 commandments from God. In their depiction, Moses was stumbling up a mountain that was violently shaking and all of a sudden two stone tablets are uncovered from the shaking ground. Moses then marches back down the mountain and everyone accepts these commandments without question. 

The Bible actually gives us a much different picture. All ofIsrael was gathered at the foot of mount Sinai. God had instructed Moses to take steps to have everyone be ritually cleansed. Barriers were put up keeping people from getting too close to the foot of the mountain. The mountain shook violently and was covered in a thick cloud. Don't miss this, this is super important, the law that Israel would live by, the law that taught holiness and became the foundation for Judaism and subsequently what points out our sin and show us our need for Jesus, was not stumbled upon or handed to us from one individual who we were just supposed to 'take his word' about its truth and authenticity. God spoke his commandments audibly in the presence of 600,000 Israelite men, not counting women and children.  

Exodus 20:22 "Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven'"

Something so foundational and important, God made unmistakable.  

Even Moses can't do it alone!(Exodus 17-18)

Wesley Skinner

Delegation is great! There are a lot of times, when Monica has been talking about me, she says, 'Wesley doesn't actually do anything, he just gets other people to do stuff!' In a lot of ways that is really accurate. I'm the idea guy! And I love being the idea guy! I love dreaming big, casting vision and getting things started, then afterward, I love evaluating and seeing how we can improve. I am a great starter and mobilizer, I am not a great finisher. This is where Monica and I make a great team! I can easily get a lot of things started and not finish any of them before moving on, this is why I have read the first half of most of the books on my bookshelf. Monica is not that way, she needs completion before moving on.  

I have noticed this same problem with getting consistency in running again. I want to run. I have a great plan. When I am in shape, I really love to run. But the last time I had consistency was when I was on the cross country team at UAH. Having the team really helped me to stick with it. I have noticed this in other areas as well, I can run really hard for a while, I can juggle a lot of things, I can get a lot of cool things rolling, but unless I have other people with me, I will burn out. This is a lesson Moses had to learn. 

We get this cool picture of battle. A battle is happening and as long as Moses holds up his hands, Israel is winning. But as time progressed, he needed his friends to hold up his arms for him. Then we see Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, give him some golden advice 'The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.'

Moses learned two things here: 

1. Delegation is a beautiful thing.  

2. It is good to have people who can look from the outside in and give advice.  

Random observation: Jethro ate, with Moses and the elders, in the presence of God. 

 

God, the deliverer(Exodus 13-15)

Wesley Skinner

Exodus moves so fast! After reading Genesis which covers several thousand years over the course of 50 chapters, we now follow one group of people(Israel) led by one man(Moses) for 40ish years over the course of 4 books(Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers)! We also see God much more vocal. And as God expresses himself more, one major theme begins to come out, God's Glory!

Lasting ordinances: during the time of Moses we are going to see the institution of many things, in these chapters God gives Israel some lasting ordinances.  

1. Passover - Passover has become the longest continually celebrated festival in all of human history! The is no other celebration that still happens that predates this!  I could write much more about this, look for that blog post around Easter!

2. Consecration of firstborn. This is a really cool ordinance because we see the parents of Jesus observe it after he is born. 

Both of these, God institutes to remind Israel about the mighty hand of God that rescued them from Egypt.  

God's pressence: one interesting thing about the Exodus and the subsequent wandering is the visible pressence of God leading his people. He gives them a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. 14:19 let's us know that the angel of God was also traveling with them.  

Random oberservation: I know that it says God hardened Pharaoh's heart, but seriously, 10 horrendous plagues that destroy your country, one of which killed all the firstborn sons, now there is "the angel of The Lord" and a pillar of fire separating you from the people you are chasing, then you see walls of water opening a gap for you to go across the Red Sea. I'm thinking that's a bad idea. How much disaster is enough to get you to stop?!

God's Glory: over the course of this year, I will write extensively about this. For now I just want to mention three things, God hardened Pharaoh's heart for three reasons

1. So that Egypt would know there is a God in Israel. 

2. So that God would be glorified in Pharaoh's destruction. 

3. So Israel would fear God and listen to Moses.  

Israel complains way too much:  They have just seen God's miraculous deliverance and they give Moses a really funny complaint, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?” Funny, but still, have a little faith people! And again, when they can't find drinkable water. This will be a pattern, Israel sees God's provision, but still doubts. Can't say I'm much different though. I, so quickly, forget God's faithfulness. 

Random observation: Apparently, God is right handed(totally joking) but look at 15:6

Cool verse for the day: Exodus 14:14 "The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

 

God's plan and death due to excess foreskin?(Exodus 4-7)

Wesley Skinner

The is so much mystery wrapped up in the Exodus, none weirder than the near death of Moses before his wife touches his feet with his son's foreskin! What's up with that?! Let's start by looking just before that section. 

 "22Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son,a 23and I told you, “Let my son go,a so he may worshipb me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.'"

God's plan from the beginning was to kill the firstborn son of pharaoh!  What a picture of the gospel! For His chosen people to be set free it will take the death of the firstborn son!

Now back to the super weird verse about circumcision. The sign of the covenant God made with Abraham was circumcision, with this covenant Abe would be blessed with innumerable offspring, have a relationship with God and be given a land of his own. A land that is to be holy, set apart for God's people. So much so that later on when Moses strikes a rock instead of speaking to it, he is not allowed to enter. God will even allow a generation of faithless Hebrews to die before giving the land to their offspring. Enter Moses on his way to this promised land,  he may be God's chosen person to lead Israel out of Egypt, but God still expected him to be obedient in all areas of faith and practice. And according to Gods covenant with Abraham, Moses' son should have been circumsized. 

Other random observations: 

Exodus 5:2- Pharaoh- 'who is The Lord?'- demonstrates Pharaoh doesn't know God.  

Exodus 5:20,21- Obedience is met with hardship. Israelites first reaction is to blame God. This becomes a pattern...

Exodus 6:2-5- this one is really interesting, God reinforces his name not Elohim, but Jehovah. He gives a fuller revelation to Moses than the patriarchs.

Exodus 6:15- one of the ancestors of Moses was the son of a Canaanite woman.  

Exodus 7:5- The signs were so the Egyptians would know God.

Exodus 7:10-13- The magicians staffs also become snakes but Moses snake eats them.
 

 

A burning bush moment(exodus 1-4)

Wesley Skinner

A moment we all wish we had, that burning bush moment. How many times have you longed for God to speak to you in some unmistakable way? If only God would appear to me in some dramatic fashion, I could do what He says with confidence... Let's look at the story of a man who had that chance encounter. 

Moses, the man we will follow for the next month or more, enters the picture. As a baby, he is taken in by Pharaoh's daughter, rather than killed, like other Hebrew boys. He grows up with all the Egyptian luxuries he could want. One day he stands up for a Hebrew slave being beaten and kills an Egyptian. Moses runs for his life. He finds a place in midian and marries. At the age of 80, God speak to him from a burning bush. 

And what does God tell Moses in this miraculous way? 'Go tell pharaoh to let my people go! ' Moses, a man uniquely qualified for this job. Raised in Egyptian royalty, educated like the king, raised as brother to pharaoh, passionate about fair treatment to his kin. If anyone is qualified for this job, it is Moses and now God is speaking to him directly in a miraculous way. How does Moses respond? He gives every excuse in the book to get out of doing what God says!

I am always so quick to pass judgement on Moses. This same judgement will be a frequent theme in coming weeks, as I struggle to understand how Israel can turn from God so quickly, time and time again. But, if I'm honest, I wonder how different I really would have responded. Obedience to God is no different for me than for Moses. Sure, I don't have a burning bush telling me to do things, but when I know what God is asking of me, how often do I respond exactly like Moses? I'm not you're guy. No one will listen to me. Who do I tell them sent me. I'm not a good enough speaker. People won't want to give money to see the mission happen. Being vulnerable with people about struggling to have a baby will be too embarrassing. Calling people to go on mission will seem too pushing. Sharing the gospel with that person will end in rejection. Being myself will be insuffient. 

In the end, I wonder, if we are not quickly obedience to God without a burning bush, what makes us think we will be obedient with one? 

 

Job recap; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Wesley Skinner

Job is a great book for my generation, a generation that wants answers now! This is the microwave generation and one that doesn't wait long enough to see that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Take an engine, some seats, an air conditioner, and a radio; separately they function and have purpose, but put them together the right way( with other stuff) and you have a car. Something that involves all of the other mechanisms but in combination makes something else altogether. I wonder when Henry Ford invented the car, if he ever had in mind what we see today, or what problems may have led to progress. The "Model T" was no "Porsche". 

Now, put yourself in Job's shoes. Faithful to God. Good to other people. Blessed by God. Then, lost his wealth, livelihood, family, and comfort all in a few moments. Berated with accusations from his "friends" about his alleged sin. His wife tells him to curse God and die. We get to look at whole picture, knowing that God is showing Satan that he cannot win. But in the middle of it all, while Job kept honoring God, he wanted answers. At long last God speaks and helps Job see that he has a limited viewpoint. He doesn't understand everything.  

What if Job did know? Do you think it would have changed how difficult the situation was? I think Job knew that God was good and that his love was unchanging. I think knowing that truth kept Job's faith alive. Maybe we have hard circumstances, I doubt harder than Job's. If our hope rests in God's goodness, while circumstances may change, His love never fails. Often I don't understand why life is hard, but I know, just like Joseph in Genesis, and Job now, God's plan is good, but sometimes not easy or the way we would choose it to be. If we could only see the whole instead of focusing on the parts. 

Start with Exodus. February 1

Wesley Skinner

Did you want to start reading through the bible in one year in 2014 but missed the start in January? It's not too late! Don't let missing day 1 stop you! You can start February 1(this Saturday!) with Exodus. 

In the chronological one year bible I recommended in the intro to 365 challenge, we have currently read through Genesis and will finish Job Friday. This would be a great time to jump in!  

The arrogance of youth(job 32-37)

Wesley Skinner

The plight of my generation is our arrogance! This is a disease I have suffered from for many years. Elihu gives us another shining example. 

Elihu waited through 30+ chapters of Job's cry for God to speak, only to have three friends attempt to convince him of sin in his life. When Job's responses prove suffificient, then enters the young guy. Indignant that the old guys couldn't prove him wrong, Elihu, begins his arrogant barrage. 

In true youthful form, Elihu, begins by stating how patient and respectful he has been, then gives the longest discourse in the book. It reminds me of the way I can be far too often, I listen only for how I can arrange my counter argument. This again further reinforces, something I need to learn, I don't have all the answers! I need to learn to stop listening through other people while I wait on my turn to speak. 

Two question that keep coming up while I read Job: 

1. Did his friends actually want to be there for him? Or just be there to point out his sin? 

2. How often do I talk too much? When should I just be present and let that be sufficient? 

How should we respond to friends who are suffering?(Job 2-7)

Wesley Skinner

Understanding Job has always been a struggle for me. It's really confusing because job's friends give him a lot of seemingly good information and advice, yet God rebukes them. Recently, I have started thinking maybe that is the problem. Maybe their role as friends was not to give advice. 

Oddly enough, I have been to a lot of funerals. One that sticks in my memory often, was for a close relative's husband. He died in a tragic accident at work. I was with her at the hospital as she went back to view his body. She was, understandably, inconsolable. I remember being there with her and thinking, I should say something, but in times like that, there usually are no helpful words. They had twin little girls and in the days to follow I heard person after person tell her, 'she had to be strong for those girls'. It made me angry every time. Allow her to grieve! If you want to help, stop talking and be there for her. Help with the girls in her time of mourning, but don't add unnecessary stress to a person who's life has just been turned upside down!

This gives me new perspective on the book of Job. Why do we think we always have to say something? What can you say to a person who has lost everything? In the middle of tragedy, do you really think making a person think something they have done, might have caused the problem is a good idea?! Is that helpful in that moment?

I think the reason we feel a need to talk in these times is because our culture tells us that any emotion that is not happiness is wrong and needs to be corrected. But that is not a Biblical truth at all! We are to be joyful at all times, and Job demonstrated joy in the midst of sadness. Joy and happiness are two different things. One is an emotion based on circumstance, the other is a truth anchored and strong regardless of circumstance. We find all kinds of different emotions in the Bible: joy, sadness, righteous anger, laments, happiness, suffering, hope, fear, peace... Jesus was not always happy. Very famously "Jesus wept." Jesus mourned. Jesus righteously drove out the money changers. Jesus marveled. Jesus was sorrowful. All without sin. 

I think I'm learning that emotions are ok. Even ones that make us uncomfortable. And that sometimes, it is better to not talk. Even if there might be some truth to what you are saying. Know appropriate time and place. I can't learn this fast enough!

Job has a bad day(Job 1-2)

Wesley Skinner

Imagine things are going well for you. You are obedient to God and see him bless you. You worry about nothing except the salvation of your children. It's easy to worship God in good times, but what about bad? This is Satan's proposition to God. 

God: job is righteous, have you considered testing him?

Satan: he is righteous in good times, but he will deny You in bad. 

Isn't this the age old question? Why do bad things happen to good people? Job gives us a case study, only, God tips His hand from the beginning. We see God tell us, Job is being tested because God believes in him. So we know the why, now we get to see how he responds. 

Job has a bad day. The worst. One servant after another delivers the messages to him, his livelihood(livestock), his wealth(camels), and his legacy(children) are all taken away. Job demonstrates the proper response, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” And Job fell down in worship. Everything was taken from Job except his joy. Joy rests in the Giver not the gifts. How would you respond in the face of devastating loss? Would your faith waiver? If so, you may be worshipping the gift not the giver. 

365 Challenge; It's Not Too Late To Start!

Wesley Skinner

 

365 challenge it's not too late!

Reading through the Bible is great, but what if you missed the start? It's ok. Don't let missing the start of a year prevent you from jumping in. And now is a great time to jump in. 

Reading through the Bible chronologically allows a great place for a late start. Chronologically, the Bible starts with Genesis, and my chronological Bible ends Genesis and jumps straight into Job. 

So if you missed the beginning of the year, start now with Job and catch up on Genesis as you have time. My previous blogs can give you a good recap as well. 

The life and death of Joseph(Genesis 38-51)

Wesley Skinner

Joseph is one of the most interesting characters in all of Genesis. He is the poster child for a rags to riches story and demonstrates more character than the rest of the patriarchs, yet it is not through his line that Messiah will come. 

To recap: Joseph's father, Jacob(Israel), had one true love, Rachel. Rachel had trouble conceiving and Israel had children born from his other wife(Rachel's sister) and the two maid servants. When Joseph was born of Rachel, he was Israel's favorite. His brothers knew it and grew jealous. It didn't help that Joseph didn't know when to keep his mouth shut. Joseph has two visions from God showing his family bowing down to him, so of course, he immediately discloses all. When his brothers see the opportunity, they decide to sell him into slavery. 

Joseph is bought by an Egyptian official and we see a trend begin, everything Joseph does, God blesses and Joseph quickly ascends to positions of influence. 

Joseph's character is on display as he ignores sexual advances from his master's wife and ultimately runs out when he finds himself in a sticky situation(see last blog). Potiphar's wife lies about the incident and has Joseph thrown in prison. In prison we find the same narrative, God blesses Joseph, he ascends to a position of influence and interprets a dream for the cup bearer to pharaoh. 

Fast forward a few years, pharaoh has a dream, Joseph is brought to interpret and pharaoh makes him second in command. This is huge because famine is coming to all the land and by the position of influence Joseph is able to relocate and provide for his family. Preserving God's chosen people and setting the stage for God's next big event. "The Exodus"

One of my favorite verses occurs at the end of Genesis. Genesis 50:20 "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." Joseph's brothers finally come to apologize and Joseph realizes something profound, it's a truth found, not just throughout Genesis or the rest of scripture, but an insight into the character and purposes of God that transcends time. Joseph realizes that all the crap he went through served a greater purpose. And that if we look at life as a series of separate events, we miss the bigger picture of what God is doing. Life is not compartmentalized. Everything that we do, everything that happens, God is using to write a story much bigger than ourselves. A story that started at creation and includes us, but transcends only us. The story of God's glory written throughout history. The purpose of man. The glory of God. 

 

Don't try to resist sexual sin, flee!(Gen 39)

Wesley Skinner

Anytime I get to talk about sexual temptation, Genesis 39 is my go to. Joseph is more concerned about honoring God than what other people might think of him. That's integrity. 

In Genesis 39, Joseph is employed by Potiphar, an Egyptian official, and Potiphar's wife continues to make sexual advances to Joseph. Now, before we go any further I have to put this out there, Potiphar was an Egyptian official, she was probably much younger than him and hot. So don't give me any of that, 'it was easy for Joseph to not give in to temptation because the girl wasn't hot' , rich, shallow, godless people have trophy wives. Potiphar was likely no exception. 

So what do you learn from Joseph? 

1. Don't put yourself in easy situations to sin. This is the first thing I talk to with students about boundaries, either in a relationship or personally. Your far more likely to give in to temptation when you're isolated than not. In a dating relationship, be careful where you spend your alone time. Third wheels and public places help keep your hands where they should be.  

2. Honoring God is paramount. Joseph acknowledges sleeping with Potiphar's wife would be a violation of the trust his master had given him, but Joseph was more concerned with how it affected his relationship with God. 'How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?' If your concern is only for yourself, it is easy to sin. But if you think about how it affects other people and ultimately if it honors God or not, a simple thing becomes more significant. Integrity, character. Because even if no one knows, God does. 

3. Flee from sexual sin! Joseph knew that it was better to run away and face the consequences than to stay in the place of temptation. When you are tempted, get out! Don't just think you can resist and fight the temptation, leave. And I mean leave, physically. If it's at home alone when temptation comes, get out of the house. If you are in a danger zone on a date leave that place, get around people, or at least not in an environment that leads to going farther. This might make you a weirdo, but you have honored God and respected the other person.  

Later in scripture we see Jesus make statements like, 'if your eye causes you to sin pluck it out', I don't think he actually means pluck out your eye, but we need to take radical steps to avoid sexual sin. The story doesn't end well for Joseph, he did the right thing and got thrown in prison, but he honored God and ultimately this may have been God way of getting Joseph into a position of influence later on in Egypt. 

4. Men need to take responsibility for sexual purity. This seems unnatural in some ways because today, men as the sexually aggressive ones. Being a man is not about having sexual exploits to brag about, it's about having character. Men need to be the ones to stop things before they start. In a dating relationship a man will honor his girlfriend and respect her. He is responsible for guarding the purity of that relationship. So men, step up and take responsibility!

Forgiveness(Gen 32-36)

Wesley Skinner

Forgiveness seems like the hardest thing. It's hard to give forgiveness. It's hard to receive forgiveness. This section shows us a very overlooked part of one verse, that is very powerful. 

Let's face it, up to this point, Jacob has been anything but up-standing. From birth, there was the whole, race out of the womb thing with his brother. He made Esau sell him his birth right for some soup(wierd story). Then he tricked his father into blessing him instead of Esau. This is a sibling rivalry! Even when Jacob goes to Laban, he is still dishonest. Not really the guy I would choose as a father of the faith. But God does. 

Fast forward now to Jacob's return from Laban, he is faced with the sudden reality that when he last saw Esau, he was ready to kill him. You begin to see Jacob start to panic. He schemes and tries to figure out how to satiate esau's wrath. And at the end of his rope, he does what all people do, he prays. Scripture says he wrestled with God all night long. He would not stop until God did something. Have you ever had that kind of burden? The kind where you lose sleep? Utterly dependent on God to move? 

Finally, the brothers are face to face. Jacob, humbled. Esau, forgiving. And here comes my favorite line, Gen 33:10b "For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me." Jacob just saw the face of God. But he says seeing the forgiveness of his brother is like seeing the face of God. And he's right, forgiveness is beautiful. This looks like a story we see Jesus tell later on. A younger brother runs away and comes back to the father humbly and in need of forgiveness.

We Never see Jacob ask for forgiveness or apologize. We never see Esau bring up the offense. It's forgiveness with no strings attached. No holding anything over his head. That type of unconditional forgiveness is like seeing the face of God. Forgiving others even if they never ask for it is a demonstration of grace. The type of reconciliation only God can bring. 

Anyone you need you demonstrate God's forgiveness to? Anyone wronged you that you need to show grace? Jacob tells us that forgiveness and acceptance after wronging someone is like seeing the face of God. And that guy would know!

 

A father goes to kill his only son(Gen 21:8-24)

Wesley Skinner

God finally, after Abraham and Sarah are past the age of childbearing, gives a son to them. Isaac grows and after many years, God instructs Abraham to offer him as a sacrifice. 

I've seen friends from time to time "fast" from social media, or people like to give up certain things during Lent. This is not the same thing! God wants to test Abraham and see if Isaac has become an idol to Abraham. While Facebook or chocolate can be unhealthy, and might be idols in certain people's lives, this is much different. Abraham isn't taking "time off" from Isaac. This is a man going to place all his hopes and dreams and future and his only child on an alter to be slain, even by his own hand! He is not making due without something, that may be a minor inconvenience, at best. He is laying it all down before God and saying, there is nothing standing in Your rightful place, You have it all! While there are things God wants us to "fast" from, God is not calling Abraham to fast, He's calling him to sacrifice. 

The thing that amazes me about Abraham in this passage, is how he is immediately obedient! He doesn't wait a few days to see if God will change his mind or wait until a more convenient time in his life. God says go, Abraham leaves.  

The beauty part of this story is that God doesn't ask something of us that He is unwilling to do himself. Years later it will be His son on a hill, but this time the Father will not hold back the knife. Isaac was a gift from God to Abraham. What gifts from God have become idols to you? Like Abraham you may not need to sacrifice them, but are you willing to?

Into the darkness(Gen 18-21:7)

Wesley Skinner

God's story in Genesis has begun to follow one chosen man, the man through whom all nations would be blessed, Abraham. The bible is a book that shows us lives of people who were perfect and followed God perfectly, right? Wrong. Abraham lies about his wife, twice, Sarah doubts God, Lot chooses a land of depravity, his wife longs for sin rather than deliverance, his daughters get him drunk and sleep with him. These are some dark days we won't see arise again until the book of Judges. 

As we dive into the darkness we also see light. For the first time we see man plead with God on behalf of others. After God tells Abraham about the coming destruction of Sodom, Abraham boldly lobbies with God for mercy. We didn't see Noah do this. but Abraham knows God's heart and knows He is good. That He desires life not death. And I think this pleased God. I think God knew that by telling Abraham what He would do, Abraham would intercede. So we have our first example of man, going before God on behalf of others. This helps me remember when things look dark, God is good and desires good not harm. Who should you be interceding with God for?

one other thing I want to mention today is Lot's wife. I have no idea what's going on with the pillar of salt thing, but I think what is captured here represents all of us in our sin habits. As they leave Sodom, she looks back. Maybe it was just a glance, maybe it wasn't. Sometimes I wonder if it might have been a heart issue. Sin is something that as you leave, it pulls you back. To me this story paints a picture of salvation. God provides deliverance and offers it to us freely, but if our heart is not truly changed we will find ourselves longing for that life of sin. This looks like the same story to me as Genesis 4, "sin is crouching at your door, it's desire is to have you but you must conquer it." Sin undealt with will consume you. 

Random observationf the day: Sodom and Gomorrah were cities of "the plain", the plain of Shinar where the Tower of Babel was being constructed. 

Bonus random observation: the incestuous children of Lot become the enemies of the people of God Moabites and Ammonites.