Tag Archive: faithfulness


Stock photo. Pyrmids . Proverbs 3.3

This week, we look at Miriam (Moses’ sister)  in our Unsung Heroes of the Bible sermon series. Karen Kennedy, Director of Publicity and Promotion, shares her thoughts…

In Exodus, Miriam was first introduced—not by name, but by the description of “his sister.” As she watched her baby brother, Moses, float down the Nile, we gain glimpses into this courageous, resourceful and smart young girl.

Pretty impactful, first impressions, don’t you think?

In retrospect, we understand Miriam’s monumental role in God’s upper story because of whom she rescued. But there is a lot more to her life than this one-time deed. As I piece together the few references concerning this woman, I see a beautiful and quiet faithfulness emerge.

Faithfulness is more than a one-time action.  It is a minute-by-minute, day-by-day, year-by-year commitment to being loyal to a person or a cause.  It takes stamina, guts, and faith to remain faithful when every circumstance cries out, “Forget this person; time to pitch your tent somewhere else!”

I don’t see Miriam forsaking her brother.

For forty years, Moses lived in the palace while she lived in slave quarters.

For another forty years, Moses lived free in Midian while she suffered as a slave in Egypt.

Eighty years. Eighty years is a long time to build a case against this “fine” brother named Moses.

But it doesn’t appear Miriam harbored those thoughts because she quickly rallied behind Moses as he spoke God’s commands to Pharaoh for six months. When the unforgettable night came for Israel to leave Egypt amid the mourning cries of the Egyptians, Miriam was there. She was also there when they reached the impassable barrier of the Red Sea, walked on dry ground across the sea and saw walls of water swallow up the Egyptians.

Miriam, Moses’ sister, then became known as a “prophetess,” who led a group of women to direct their praise to the Lord.

“Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.” Exodus 15:20-21

In those eighty years, she remained faithful. Personally, I know I would not have passed this 80-year test. In fact, sometimes I don’t pass the 80-second test. Hardships, temptations, resentments, you name it; I tend to turn to the left and to the right before I finally (and I mean finally) center on the One who faithfully opens His arms to me at every turn.

He is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4b

He is faithful. And I need to be faithful as well. It is a requirement.

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2

How about you? Are you at an 80-second faithfulness level? 80-minutes? 80-days? Or are you on track for Miriam’s record? No matter where you are, would you please share some practical steps that help you stay faithful?

Photo credit: Stock photo: Pyramids

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Rebuilding the Walls (4 perspectives)

A-New-Day-Is-Coming-Screen-One

Perspective 1- Barb Miles

The Israelites are moving back to Jerusalem, the temple is rebuilt and the walls are being reconstructed.

Can’t you see generations of Israelite families sharing their lower stories of their wandering, good times and bad times, hunger or having plenty of food to eat?  Several weeks ago public television had a series of programs on the Dust Bowl.  The Dust Bowl lasted 8 – 10 years through which time they also experienced periods of the unknown, when would they have clean air to breathe, how to keep their food clean, not knowing when the wind would stop blowing.  Through this period of the unknown they went also through periods of faith and periods of disbelief, as the Israelites.

When Nehemiah organized the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem, the lives of  God’s people were also rebuilt.  When the Dust Bowl finally lifted, people had to rebuild their lives.  The span of time was different in each case, but in both Lower Stories people wondered when God’s promise of bringing them back to their land or reestablishing the land for growing crops would happen.  Would God would see them through this terrible dust storm?

God is faithful!

Perspective 2- Pastor Phil

As I was reading this chapter one spot made me stop and think. The temple was back up and it was the first day they gathered for worship. The people wanted to hear the Law of Moses or the Torah. This is what happened:

“So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.”

Did you catch all that? Daybreak till noon…and all the people listened attentively. No sporting event to worry about, no choir, dance recital to make sure they were out of church on time. In that moment they were ready and hungry to hear the Word proclaimed.

Have we become desensitized to the hearing of God’s Word? Are we really at the place in our worship lives that anything over an hour is too much? What would it look like if we were to sit all morning till noon and attentively listen to the Word?

May God rejuvenate a hunger for His Word in people today that drives people to the Word instead of the temporary trappings of the world.

Perspective 3- Dan Petrak

Perspective 4-Heather Robarge

“The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”  This sentence made me chuckle a bit because I am absolutely one of the Jews in this passage.  Again, I identified with them, “Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, ‘Wherever you turn, they will attack us’.”  I get so worked up when I am overwhelmed, scared, or unsure of the future that I forget who is ultimately in charge!  Thank goodness for the calm steady voice, like that of Nehemiah, who reminds me who I belong to and who is the boss.  It’s as if Nehemiah, jumps in and says, “Hey everybody, chill out!  We have nothing to worry about; remember who’s in charge?”

I get frustrated that I need to be reminded of something that I already know, but I am so glad that I have awesome people in my life (My Nehemiah and Ezra’s) that are willing to give me a God smack every once in a while.  When that smack comes and I snap out of it, the relief is overwhelming.

God’s Messengers (4 Perspectives)

Dark-Days-screen-one

Perspective 1- Kelsey Rath

While reading chapter 15 in the Story something that jumped out at me was on page 203. The start of the chapter.

Later, the Lord said to Elijah, “Leave and go across the Jordan River so you can hide near Cherith Creek. You can drink water from the creek, and eat the food I’ve told the ravens to bring you.” Elijah obeyed the Lord and went to live near Cherith Creek. Ravens brought him bread and meat twice a day, and he drank water from the creek. (This is worded differently because this part I got from the NIV Bible. It’s the same meaning though.)

I think doing all that takes a lot of trust. Don’t you? Ok, so God is asking Elijah to leave his home, family, and all his things. Then to go east of the Jordan. He has to drink water from a creek or brook. And finally he has to eat the food ravens provide him with. I don’t know about you, but for me that would be tough! It takes trust to do all of those things. Elijah had that trust. Do you have that kind of trust? The trust to go along with God and know whatever he asks you to do, he’s with you?

Perspective 2- Pastor Ron

Would you ever consider letting a call from God go to voice mail instead of picking up?  Yet, that is what was happening with many of the Kings of both the Northern and Southern Kingdom.  God sent prophets to speak his word to them and most of the time they were too busy to listen or worse flat our rejected God’s prophets.  Even when God showed up in dramatic fashion, for instance when he consumed the sacrifice, wood, stone and water when Elijah prayed to him.  You would think this would bring the King to his knees.  Nope, the only one he kneeled to was his evil wife Jezebel.

God sent prophet after prophet and usually with a pretty stern word of rebuke.  The words at time can even seem harsh, but they were true.  God spoke those words with just one purpose – to bring his people back into a relationship with him.

Now as much as I would like to think I would not let God go to voice mail if he called, I wonder.  When I really want something, even if I know it is wrong, I think it is easy to ignore God’s call.   It is easy to convince ourselves that God wasn’t talking directly to this situation or if He knew the circumstances He would think it was okay.   You do realize that He still has only one purpose in mind.  He is calling us back into a relationship with him.

What’s that I hear?  God is calling.  Will you pick up or let it go to voice mail?

Perspective 3- Barb Miles 

Again and again God gives us opportunities to listen, to follow, to learn.  In this chapter  and others we have read in The Story, we have seen people repeatedly fall in and out of faithfulness to God.  Two more prophets Elijah and Elisha tried to witness their faithfulness in God but had successful stories and unsuccessful stories.

Is our Lower Story like this too?  Do we live in and out of our faithfulness of trusting God.  Just because we have just begun a new year doesn’t mean it is time to decide to spend more time in the Word and with God. I have felt so good about reading the Word during these weeks of reading The Story.  It is becoming a habit without a New Year’s resolution.  It gives me peace.

Perspective 4- Dan Petrak

This week we will finish out the book of Genesis which has been packed full of people with a past, a people who struggled through difficult situations, a people who were by far not perfect. Genesis can be a very challenging book, especially for non-believers. We can give them a pass on their non-belief because they have not signed on to this. But as believers we hear from Jesus who spoke of Adam and Eve as real people in history. Jesus died and rose again, so anything that he says, I am on board with. On with the study…

We start the story off with another group of people that are flawed beyond imagination. Generation after generation you would think people would change based upon events of the past. But…nothing changes.

Read Genesis 37:2-5

What do we learn about Jacob (Israel), in these short passages? He has not learned anything. His battle with his brother, Esau, was started because his mother favored him over Esau. That situation we studied last week and we know that it was a bad situation all around. God was still able to redeem the bad and make good come from it. Jacob came before his brother Esau and was humbled. These life circumstances still taught him nothing against favoritism. Jacob loved Joseph and Benjamin more than his other sons because they came from his favorite wife (again extending from the problems with the multiple wives situation).

Have you ever been the favored one in a relationship? Have you ever been on the other side of that having to see someone else get favored? What did it feel like? Keep those in mind as we move forward with the story.

Read Genesis 37:12-36

Joseph’s brothers know exactly how to deal with the problem, “Kill our brother!!” Why? Because Dad sent him out to see how they were doing? Nope. There’s more to the story.

Joseph was Jacob’s youngest at this time, and his very, very favorite son. The other sons were not only older, but Joseph had been born of Jacob’s favorite beloved wife.

The dysfunctional family problem became obvious by Jacob’s words and actions. He gave Joseph a beautiful cloak to wear, demonstrating his affection. Apparently none of the other sons had received such gifts. Israel obviously was not an observant father when it came to his other, hard-working sons. Joseph wasn’t in line to inherit anything other than the typical son’s share, so what else enraged his brothers?

They called Joseph “the dreamer” because he had experienced dreams that indicated that his parents and brothers would bow down to him. Being a typical teenager, he pretty much bragged about this dream in front of all the family. This was probably in part to find help in deciphering the dream, but having not questioned his father in private, we have to assume that he was not totally humble concerning this dream that would turn out to be God’s message concerning the future.

His brothers’ rage was so intense that they plotted his murder, even to the point of telling his loving father that an animal had killed the boy. That certainly tells us something of the brothers’ faith in God and respect for their father, and what it tells us is not good.

Judah was the oldest, but it was brother Reuben who convinced the others to just toss Joseph into a nearby cistern. I guess that’s a step in the right direction, though apparently this would also have led to the boy’s death. At the sight of an approaching caravan, Judah stepped in and persuaded his brothers to sell Joseph to traveling traders rather than kill him. Joseph was on his way to Egypt to be sold as a slave. The picture of the map at the top of this post will help give you a good idea of the journey that Joseph went on.

How would you react in Josephs situation? Was Joseph completely innocent in the situation?

Many would curse God and give up their faith, or sit down and give up, or do everything they could to mess up their new master’s plans. often times we think Joseph is innocent. But think about him as the younger brother and his approach to his older brothers.

Read Genesis 39:1-20

The next time we see Joseph he is in Egypt as he was sold to a man named Potiphar. Joseph remained faithful to God and tried to be the best slave in the household.

Could you do what Joseph did? He was sold into slavery out of hatred by his brothers. This could have left him bitter and angry at the world, refusing to do anything.

There is a story within the story of Potiphars wifes lie concerning Joseph’s supposed attack.  Potiphar was the captain of the guard. He could have had Joseph executed for what his wife charged Joseph had done, but he did not. There is a real possibility that Potiphar knew that his wife was not exactly faithful, but to save face and not publicly imply that she was a liar, he had to do something to punish Joseph–thus the prison sentence instead of death.

This is the second time that Joseph’s world fell apart.

Was there anything positive that came from Joseph’s time in Potiphar’s household?

We tend to focus on the negative things that happen to us instead of the great things that could be going on. How can we start to focus on the positive things in our lives?

How do you think you would have handled life in such difficult circumstances?

Read Genesis 40

Even in prison, Joseph was the best worker of them all. He rose to a position of authority again! After interpreting the dreams of the Pharaoh’s servants, the one who lived forgot all about Joseph for two more years of jail time, remembering him only when the pharaoh’s priests and advisers could not interpret his own dreams.

While we attribute our dreams to pizza and beer overload, the Egyptians put great stock in dreams (http://www.fruitofthenile.com/dreams.htm).  When a dream projected an obvious vision, the pharaoh was greatly concerned. Interpreting the dream therefore raised Joseph’s reputation to a great level in the leader’s eyes.

Read Genesis 41:14-16

Pharaoh called Joseph out of prison to interpret his dreams. This was good news and bad news for the Pharaoh; there was going to be great growth for the next seven years, but this would be followed up with bad news that the land would be seven years in drought and famine.

Read Genesis 41:39-41

God’s plan for Joseph (unknown to him) was rapidly coming to a climax as the dream was fulfilled in famine and plenty. It’s amazing that this event was even happening to Joseph at all. He was an outsider, a slave, an inmate…but now he was the no. 2 man in all of Egypt. Amazing!

Joseph used his talents given to him by God to put things in order according to the plenty and famine.

What kind of leadership skills do you think Joseph used to make all of this happen? What can we learn from him when leading others?

Read Genesis 42:1-8

The famine not only hit the land of Egypt, it also affected Joseph’s brothers and family living over in the land of Shechem. Jacob knew that without help from Egypt his family would perish.

So, Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy grain, and there begins a story worthy of any Hollywood masterpiece.  Ten brothers were sent. Joseph, of course, did not even know of Benjamin’s existence.

Why do you think that Josephs brothers did not know him?

Was it their assumption that he was long dead, or at least a lowly slave in some unknown place? Was it the long time that had passed and aged them all? Or, did God blind them to recognizing their brother? Was it all of these, or something else?

Perhaps it was Joseph’s make-up. He was wearing the facial makeup that we have become familiar with from the drawings in history books and movies, as well as an Egyptian high official’s clothing.

Why did Joseph torture (figuratively) his brothers with demands, imprisonment, and accusations that were of a death penalty nature?

During the meal, when Joseph gave Benjamin five times the portion of the other guests, it was an almost unbelievable honor for the young man. To give a guest in Egypt three times as much as others was considered the highest honor.

After tears shed away from the dining room, “Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph! Is my father still living?’ But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.”

Why were they terrified and he overcome with joy?

Here is the vast difference between Joseph and his brothers. They had lived their lives in terror of being found out; of their great sin being revealed. When they realized who had been tormenting them, they did not react with joy, but terror. The one they had tried to kill was not only alive, but second in power only to the Pharaoh in Egypt. Joseph had lived a life without malice or revenge in his heart. He had lived a life devoted to God, knowing that everything happened for a reason and that God’s plan would be revealed.

In chapter 50 of Genesis, Gods purpose in Josephs life is revealed. We find out why he could live a life of joy after being victimized as a youth. He summarized what he had been trying to explain to his brothers for years since their arrival in Egypt. He said to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good….”    God can use any life for His glory; He can heal any life for His story; He can guide any life on His own path.

Before we close I wanted to point out one character in this story other than Joseph. I wanted to highlight Jacob.

Read Genesis 37:32-35

Jacob refused to be comforted by anyone. Has grief ever hit you so hard that you refused to be comforted? What did that event do to shape your life?

This event shaped Jacob throughout the rest of his life. Take a look at what he says when the brothers try to take Benjamin with them to Egypt…

Read Genesis 43:1-11

The exchange that Jacob has with his other sons is interesting. You can tell he did not want to let Benjamin go. He questions and questions and finally agrees. The oldest son identifies that if he doesn’t come back home with Benjamin his father will lay his head down and die. One more bad event was going to throw him over the edge.

Jacob was deeply affected when he thought Joseph was dead. Do you think he ever got over it? Did he allow this pain to divide his relationship with his other children? When we have a bad event that occurs in our life do we allow that to consume us and every other relationship around us?

If we look at how Jacob responded to tragedy vs. the way Joseph responded, what can we learn?  What is the one or two points of the Joseph story that continue to build up your faith?

We are left with a question at the end of Genesis. Though Joseph is highly respected; a man of great power in Egypt, he feels he has to assure his brothers (probably relatives, since his “brothers” would have been ancient) “…God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”  Were the Israelites already being eyed as potential slave labor? Could they not leave of their own accord?  Or, did God reveal to Joseph that the time would come when only God’s power could rescue them from a foreign land? Or, was it an instruction to wait for God’s timing before leaving the land that had rescued them from starvation?

What are your thoughts about the great patriarchs, and Joseph, as we leave Genesis behind and meet Gods reluctant hero in a time four hundred years after Josephs family entered Egypt?

Please let me know if there is something that you want to look at in the text and we can do that. Thanks for reading and following today.

Be blessed and be a blessing!

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