Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Story - Week 3

I love the story of Joseph. It all ends so wonderfully. Joseph ends up with the last laugh! His dreams of grandeur come true. His father's preferential treatment is validated. The expression, "All's well that ends well" never depicted a story so fittingly.

I love the story, at least I love the ending. The process is not so endearing. Joseph was sold off by his brothers, forgotten by his jail-mate, and falsely accused by his boss's wife. He found himself in pits and prisons. His coat of many colors was torn and bathed in blood. For a good portion of his life he lived without the support of family. For all he knew his family had just let him go without any effort to find him. He lived in a foreign land where his dreams of success must have been fading fast.

Yet Joseph somehow kept those dreams alive and perhaps it was those dreams that kept HIM alive!

When we stop envisioning a better future then our present is bound to be full of anguish. All the despair, all the betrayals, all the pits we find ourselves in need to be interpreted by the dreams that God has placed in our hearts - dreams of success. Isn't this what Joseph means when he reveals himself to his brothers and instead of blaming and accusing he says, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good"? When the dreams seemed as good as dead, they were still very much alive in the mind of God.

All the while Joseph must have had held on to the hope that God was moving him to a happy ending and nothing could stop that from happening. Paul reaffirms this thought in Romans 8:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose…What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So, don’t give into despair; don't think that God has abandoned you. The process is sometimes very painful but happy endings come to those who keep the dream alive.

For two inspirational videos on people who successfully endured the process see the sites below:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. - Galatians 3:7, 9

In chapter two of The Story we are introduced to one of the most influential characters of the entire Bible- Abraham. God chooses this one man through whom he will build a nation that will forever have a special place in God's dealings with human beings. It is through Abraham that the Jewish race will descend and eventually give us the Messiah, Jesus himself.

As Abraham is referenced in the New Testament it is most often in conjunction with some instruction on faith. Abraham is the "father of the faithful," the example of what it means to follow God without question (or at least with just a few), the man who stands as a model to us all. And by all, I mean not only Jews but all who believe, Jew and non-Jew alike. In fact, Paul even makes the case that all of us who believe are children of Abraham and benefactors of the same promises - regardless of our genetics.

I take some pride in being a descendant of one of the pilgrims who sailed to the new land on the Mayflower. Accompanied by her parents, Constance Hopkins came to Plymouth as a child. As it turns out she is my great(x10 or so)-grandmother. I think that's cool and I'd like to think that some of the same adventurous spirit and dedication to faith that must have characterized her lives to some degree in me. I also like to share that story with my kids hoping that they will develop the same pride.

A few years ago my son Bao, whom we adopted from China, was learning about the pilgrims in his third grade class when he exclaimed to his teacher that HE was a descendent of one of those Mayflower passengers! Noting his obvious Asian heritage one child asked with a puzzled expression, "How could Bao be a descendant of a pilgrim?" In spite of genetics he claimed pilgrim ancestry.

By virtue of a spiritual connection I too claim an ancestry that is not technically mine. I am a child of Abraham and in that I take some pride. And by that connection I would like to think that the same kind of adventurous faith and dedication to God that characterized Abraham's life lives to some degree in me.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Chapter One - Creation

Creation has always been intriguing to me, especially the vastness of it all. I remember as a young child lying out on the grass on a warm summer's day looking up at the sky wondering how far it went and then wondering if it ended then what was after that. I couldn’t imagine a universe contained, but I also couldn't imagine a universe eternal! Even now as I look up into a star-filled evening sky it amazes me - the distances and sizes just boggle my mind. I figure there must be something behind it all!

Recently I've also been amazed by the variety of creation. All the different types of animals out there, each one with its own distinctive look. I'm no scientist, but I hear the naturalistic explanation of life and it just doesn’t seem to account for so much variety. If life happened by some accident then there must have been a lot of different accidents to produce all these different kinds of life. I figure there must be something behind it all!

Also, what about the earth that provides all the food for all these life forms to survive on? I walk through the produce section of the grocery store and am amazed at just how much this earth produces - all the fruits and vegetables year after year springing up from the earth to sustain life on earth. Another fortunate accident that this life that sprang up was able to find apples and bananas around to keep it alive. I figure there must be something behind it all!

The beginning of The Story lets us know that THERE IS something, or rather someone, behind all this world. "In the beginning, God…" The Bible never attempts to prove God's existence, it just states it as a given. And for me it's not a real difficult given to accept. Sure, there are times that I doubt, times that it appears to me that chance and randomness are in control, but when in doubt I only have to look up and around and evidence is all about.

As we begin The Story we start with the knowledge that, in the beginning, God is there and we can be assured that he'll be there all the way to the end.