The God of my father

Read: Genesis 31-32, Matthew 10:24-42

My grandfather was a pastor. For nearly my entire life, he was my pastor. That is, until he died.

Called to the ministry long before he entered it, he had an anointing to heal. People from all over were drawn to his charisma, his grand personality. He was a strong man in ideals and in faith. When he passed away, another minister preached—yes, preached—at his funeral. A room full of people from every facet of his life, both from church and work, heard this pastor speak of the mantle that would now be passed on. Like Elijah to Elisha, the anointing of Papa’s ministry would pass on, but not just to one person. It would spread. The foundation that he laid would not go to waste. The ceiling of his ministry would become the floor for those who would follow in his footsteps.

What is the significance in those who have gone before us?

All through the Bible, God is referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). It was recognised that the men who had gone before had a certain relationship with God. It was generational. And it was important to remember.

…the God of your father…

Genesis 31:29 (NIV)

If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac…

Genesis 31:42 (NIV)

Genesis 31:53

“O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac…”

Genesis 32:9 (NIV)

In two chapters of Genesis, there are no less than four examples of God being referred to as the God of a generation passed. Why?

Because God made promises to Abraham and to Isaac. Over and over again, God had proven himself faithful to Jacob’s father and grandfather. In his persistent reference to the God of his fathers, he reminded himself of those promises and that faithfulness.

We may throw away many things from the previous generation, but one thing that should never be set aside is the faith—the God—of our fathers. I don’t for one second take for granted the spiritual foundation that my grandfather laid. I know that he prayed for every person in his family by name every day. He prayed for me. I know that his work and his prayers were not in vain. I know that the relationship with God that I enjoy today has a lot to do with the relationship he had with God while he still walked this earth.

If you are fortunate enough to belong to the God of your fathers, don’t take it for granted. Look into your heritage and see the promises and the faithfulness.

If you are the first in your line, lay the foundation for future generations. Be the Abraham in your lineage.

Let us never forget the God of our fathers.

Irrevocable

Read: Genesis 29-30, Matthew 10:1-23

A story came out in the news this week about a pastor of a large church. He, like many of us, has a past. And, like many of us, he dealt with it and left it where it belonged. Until recently, he had been enjoying the success of marriage and family and ministering to his congregation.

Before I go further, let me clarify that the situation in question happened when he was a young man working in a church. The actions were of a sexual nature and involved a 17-year-old girl. By all accounts, he was immediately remorseful and admitted his transgression to those to whom he was accountable in the church. He apologized to all involved and was removed from his position. Nothing has been brought forward to say that such actions took place on any other occasion.

Now, with the #MeToo movement bringing all sorts of people out of the woodwork, this pastor is having to relive his shame. I in no way condone his actions, nor do I belittle what happened to the woman involved. There is no place in society for any sort of sexual misconduct. But, with all of the very public accusations and shaming, what seems to be missing is the greatest component of all: grace.

When Jesus began his public ministry, the people he brought alongside him were far from what society would call blameless. He called the blue collar workers. He called the tax collectors. He called the sinners. And then he walked with them. He ate with them. He taught them. Then he empowered them and sent them off into ministry.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

Matthew 10:8 (NIV)

Some scholars believe that Jesus’ instructions here did not only reference the physical needs of the people, but were also representative of their need to be healed and revived spiritually. The men Jesus called had all been healed and brought to life in one way or another. The greater their sin, the greater the grace they received. And who better to extend grace than the one who has already received it?

If we demand that this pastor, because of his past sin, is no longer fit for ministry, then we must throw away the entire Bible. We can no longer sing our worship songs. We must seclude ourselves for fear of being infected by the sin that runs rampant in our churches.

Paul’s sole purpose in life was to kill Christians. Matthew was a tax collector (the very worst kind of evil). David, the man after God’s own heart, was a sexual predator and a murderer. Yet all of these men, and more, made invaluable contributions to the Book that we hold so closely to our hearts.

Romans 11:29

Who are we to stand in judgement of someone who has asked for, and received, forgiveness? Who are we to say who is and is not fit for ministry? David was guilty of far worse than most of us and yet we still sing his songs in church every Sunday, thousands of years after they were written. Paul himself should have been put to death for his crimes against Christianity, yet he made some of the the greatest contributions to our faith.

If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.

John 8:7b (NIV)

Without grace, we are all guilty. None of us should be fit for ministry. But if we do as Jesus told the woman described in John 8 and leave our life of sin, there is no condemnation. But for the grace of God we should all be buried under a landslide of stones.

For I am the least of all the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

1 Corinthians 15:9-10 (NIV)

God has called us all. No one, not even He, can revoke that calling. And it is only through His grace that any of us are able to walk in the purpose He has set out before us. What I give should be only from that which God has given through me. Judgement is not a gift from God. Grace is.

 

God wants you!

Read: Genesis 27-28, Matthew 9: 18-38

All over Israel, Jesus went with his disciples. He taught and he healed. There are no accounts of Jesus refusing healing to anyone who asked. Everywhere he went, crowds followed and Jesus had compassion on them. So he told his disciples to do something. Pray. Pray for workers because the harvest is plenty.

Matthew 9:38

We can assume that they prayed.

How often have you prayed this prayer? How often has your pastor asked you to pray this prayer? We all know that there is a great harvest of souls out there in the world and the only way that they can be brought into the body of Christ is if people go out and get them. So we pray. And we pray. And we pray.

But take a look at the next verse:

He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

Matthew 10:1 (NIV)

Who did Jesus ask to pray for workers? His disciples. Who did Jesus send out as workers? His disciples.

When he told his disciples to pray for workers, he wasn’t asking them to pray for a group of complete strangers. They were praying for each other. They were praying for themselves.

Chances are that, if you feel a burden to pray for workers to reap the harvest (and even if you feel no burden whatsoever), you are the worker God wants in the field.

Let the well alone

Read: Genesis 25-26, Matthew 9:1-17

Every year on Christmas Eve, my mother and I watch White Christmas. We’ve seen it so many times that we can pretty much quote the entire movie and sing along to every musical number, which is why today’s reading reminded me of a song from this classic film.

I know of a doctor

Sad to say, one day he fell
Right into a great big well

He should have attended to the sick
And let the well alone

The Minstrel Show

Like the song, it’s sad to say, but many Christians have unknowingly found themselves at the bottom of a deep pit. Instead of attending to the sick, they stayed too close to the well.

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 9:12-13 (NIV)

In 2005, John Burke published a book called No Perfect People Allowed. Since then, many churches, including my own, have adopted and promoted this phrase. In no way are we discounting that, though Jesus’ sacrifice, we are being made perfect, but we are tending to the spiritually sick by letting them know that they are welcome as they are. For too long, the church in general has acted like a quarantine for the spiritually “healthy”. And, in doing so, we have become just like the Pharisees who scorned Jesus for breaking bread with the tax collectors and sinners.

C.T. Studd

If we want to avoid the bottom of the well, we need to stay away from it. Though we need the fellowship of other believers, we are not called to close our ranks, but rather to go out and find those who most need what we have. Like Jesus, we are the doctors and nurses who need to go out onto the battlefield and pull in those who are sick and dying. It’s time for us to attend to the sick and let the well alone to do the same.

Be brave

Read: Genesis 23-24, Matthew 8

How many times in your life have you packed up and walked away from everything to start something completely new without knowing all of the details? Probably never. The vast majority of us will never really step too far out of our comfort zone. We do what we know and avoid what we don’t. But what if we’re missing out?

God made a big promise to Abraham. He knew and trusted that God would make it come to pass. His wife, though well beyond her child-bearing years, gave birth to a son. Through that son, God promised that Abraham would become the father of many nations. Now, that son needed a wife in order to fulfill this promise.

After swearing an oath to his master, Abraham’s servant went in search of a wife for Isaac. He had very specific instructions and probably doubted the point in making the trip altogether. But his master trusted the Lord, so he would also trust the Lord. All that trust paid off and the servant found the girl he was looking for on the first try. He proposed by proxy and the girl accepted.

So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?”

“I will go,” she said.

Genesis 24:58 (NIV)

Many may think that only the truly desperate would accept such an offer. The servant made it known that the family she’d marry into was very wealthy. But Rebekah’s family was wealthy in their own right. She was also a very beautiful woman, so it’s not like she wouldn’t have had suitors. Instead of staying at home and marrying the boy next door, Rebekah, in a matter of hours, made the choice to leave behind all that she knew and tie herself to the unknown. Aside from the lure of wealthy in-laws she had no way of knowing what her life would become.

It can be a scary place to be, this unknown. Rebekah seemed to take it in stride. But how prepared are we to go? When a man told Jesus he wanted to join up with him, but he had to bury his father first, Jesus told him to let the dead bury the dead (Matthew 8:22). There truly is no time like the present.

Had Rebekah remained where she was, I’m sure she would have found a nice man to marry. She could have stayed comfortable and wealthy among her own people. She could have had a good life. But, when she accepted the proposal from the servant, what she didn’t know was that she had also become part of a far greater promise.

I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

Genesis 17:6-7 (NIV)

Rebekah, by trusting in the servant’s word, brought herself under the covenant God made with her father-in-law. She, through her husband Isaac, would become the mother of many nations, part of an everlasting covenant.

Most of us want to know the end before we even begin. We need all the details so we can make a list and weigh the pros and cons. That’s not how this works. God asks that we trust Him. And if we truly trust Him, we don’t need to know the end because He is the end.

Revelation 22:13

When we refuse to move before we have all the information, we rob ourselves of the blessing God has in store for us. Like Rebekah, we need to be brave, take the first step, and trust that our God knows what He’s doing.

The business of prayer

Read: Genesis 20-22, Matthew 7

Matthew Henry the business of prayer

I have noticed that prayer meetings—though some of the most important meetings a church can hold—are often some of the least attended. Everyone will turn out for the day when they get something, but no one wants to show up when they have to give something, especially of themselves.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Matthew 7:7 (NIV)

Ask. Seek. Knock. These terms are not meant to indicate a single action, but a repetitive one. Keep on asking. Don’t stop looking. Continue knocking. Keep doing it until you get an answer.

In a culture of instant everything, having to wait for anything seems like a waste of time. Time is money, after all. But aren’t there things in life that are worth far more? Perhaps our relationship with Jesus? The greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward.

Take a look at Abraham. God gave him a very specific instruction.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and got to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

Genesis 22:2 (NIV)

Now, if you’re Abraham, do you simply say, “OK,” and go about that which God asked you to do? The scripture doesn’t say so, but I believe that Abraham would have been praying the entire three day journey to their destination. What father wouldn’t do everything and anything possible to avoid the loss of his only child? I am sure that his words were very similar to Jesus’ before his death.

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.

Luke 22:42 (NIV)

How often do we pray like we really mean it? As though our very lives—or the lives of loved ones—depend on it? Is prayer a hobby or it is our business? It could be said that prayer is the family business. If we declare ourselves to be a part of the family of God, then prayer has become our business. It is our trade. It is our responsibility to hone that trade.

If you have yet to see the answer you seek, keep on seeking. Ask until you get a response. Knock, pound on the door if you have to, until it opens. Because then, and only then, will you see the rewards of your labour.

For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Matthew 7:8 (NIV)

Can you keep a secret?

Read: Genesis 18-19, Matthew 6

SECRET: Separate, hid, concealed from the notice or knowledge of all persons except the individual or individuals concerned.

Some things in life should be public. Our faith being one of those things. No one should ever doubt your salvation or your Christian walk. The way you behave in public should set you apart. But some parts of that walk should remain secret. Jesus addresses three such portions: giving, praying, and fasting.

In Jesus’ day, there were those in the temple who went to great efforts to make sure that everyone knew what they were up to. They needed the world to know that they were righteous and holy because of what they were doing. Let the trumpets sound and the heralds declare!

To what end? What was the purpose in making public their “holy” acts? If it was for acknowledgement then their entire purpose for giving, praying, or fasting was made void for all of those things should be done to glorify God. And if we are seeking our own glorification for doing those things, then how can God get any glory?

Jesus tells us these things should be done in secret. For if we do it when no one is watching, then we can know that our heart is in the right place and our reasons for doing these things are indeed for the glory of God. The reward we look for should not be immediate gratification, but eternal glory. In each instance, we see that there is a reward for keeping our holy acts between ourselves and the Lord.

…so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:4 (NIV)

Matthew 6:6

…so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:18 (NIV)

You see, when we turn our focus on to God rather than on ourselves, not only is the glory given to whom it belongs, but we also receive the reward our actions deserve. A reward is not warranted if our sole purpose for giving is public accolade. But when we give for the purpose of being generous, even in secret, God sees and He stores up for us a heavenly reward that is far greater than anything we could receive here on earth.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

God’s kingdom should always be first and foremost. It is first for His benefit that we give, pray, and fast. Those things will then benefit others and ourselves last. Matthew Henry said that what we do must be done from an inward principle, that we may be approved of God, not that we may be praised of men.

Not all secrets are shady. There is nothing dubious or nefarious in giving, fasting, or praying. Jesus encourages us to do all of these things. And it is not only that we do them that matters, but how we go about doing them.