God Can Even Use “That!”

RegretsGenesis 38

Wow!  What a story!  How did this make it into the Bible?  What do we make of this story of sexual sin, deceit and hypocrisy?  It is a story we often avoid.  Liz Curtis Higgs writes in her book, Really Bad Girls of the Bible:  “Anyway you tell this story you eventually come to a scene that, even in our anything-goes society, doesn’t sit well on the psyche:  A young woman poses as a prostitute so she can sleep with her father-in-law.  On purpose.  …You won’t find much enthusiasm for sermon skits about Tamar and Judah at church.  Not many weekly women’s meetings are called: ‘The Tamar Circle.'”

And yet Tamar is called by Judah at the end of the story “more righteous” than he.  What is going on here?

Well this story is a mess from the beginning.  Judah begins by marrying a Canaanite woman named Shua.  This was not God’s will.  He began a little family and chose a bride for his oldest son named Er.  He chooses a Canaanite woman named Tamar.

Er then angers God and is killed as a result.  Onan is expected to father a child by  Tamar.  This child will not be his, however, but his dead brother’s.  This does not sit well with Onan and so he spills his semen on the ground and refuses to impregnate Tamar.  God kills Onan.  (Picking up on a pattern here?)

Judah has just one son left, Shelah.  Thinking that Tamar is somehow responsible for the death of his other two sons… he tells Tamar that she needs to come back when his last boy is older.  He sends her back to her father’s house… effectively sentencing her to live as a childless widow until the day she dies.

Thus the desperate plot by Tamar to have a child by Judah.  It is a risky, immoral, deceitful… yet effective plan.  Soon Tamar is found to be with a child by Judah who doesn’t even know who it was he who had slept with.

It is only when Tamar produces proof of paternity that Judah remarks that she is “more righteous” than hIm.  The story ends with birth of Tamar’s twin sons being born.  The baby’s room is done up in blue.  Everybody’s smiling.  But wait…

What is the take away from this bizarre story?  I can think of four:

1)  You might have a twisted testimony and you might not have done things that you are proud of… but God is into redeeming lives… forgiving sin… and setting people free of their past.  People “with a past” can be “born again” into His family.

2)  Children are NOT mistakes.  A person’s birth story does not mark them for dishonor.  God had great plans for Tamar’s son, Perez.

3)  God can use anyone as an example of his grace.  Tamar is the first woman mention in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew Chapter 1.  Some of have pointed out that her inclusion was to foreshadow the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Kingdom of God.

4)  God’s plans are higher than ours.  He transcends even the bad decisions we make in desperation.  He is carving out a plan that will ultimately bring glory to himself.

Blessings!

Pastor Wayne

Standing Out From the Crowd

Genesis 6:7-10standing out in a crowd

An old song I remember from childhood went:  “Noah found grace in the eye of the Lord and He left him high and dry!”

Never being much a fan of water… the lyrics “high and dry” drew me into His grace.  I knew I didn’t want to get wet!

“Pick me, Lord.  Pick me!” was my heart’s cry.  I wanted to stand out from the crowd like Noah and be rescued from the world flood.

As I grew up I discovered that standing out from the crowd came at a price.  I didn’t like standing out from the crowd that much anymore.  My prayers became more like:  “Lord, could you just make me like everybody else?”  “Could you do something about this puny bicep, Lord?”  “Could you shrink my nose a bit?”  Of course that didn’t happen.

The good news is that there came a day when I wanted to stand out again.   A day when I longed to stand out from the crowd… standing in the fields of His grace!  But at 16 the questions became:  “What will make me stand out as worthy of God’s grace or attention?  What will make the Lord “pick” me?”

Genesis 6:8 says:  “…Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (6:8)  How did he do it?  The next few verses give us some ideas.  As does several verses in Hebrews chapter 11.

One thing is clear… it wasn’t something Noah earned by being good.  The word for “favor” here is also translated:  “acceptance” or “grace.”  Note that Noah didn’t “earn” favor in the eyes of the Lord.  Noah was just as sinful as his contemporaries.  Yet God graced this one who “stood out.”

1.  Noah Sought the Lord.

Hebrews 11:6 says:  “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Noah had no goodness to bring… but he could throw himself upon the mercy of God.  In a world as ungodly as his was… being a mercy seeker… caused him to stand out.  And Noah believed that God was a rewarder of those who seek after Him.

2.  Noah Sought to Live Righteously

Genesis 6:9 records that he was a “righteous man, blameless in his time.”  These choices also made him stand out from his peers.  He wasn’t perfect.  No man or woman can be.  But his heart was right.  And he most likely was broken over his sin.  His faith and not his works would save him.  Grace would eventually bloom in Jesus Christ.  (The ark would become a picture of saving grace.  But more on that in the next blog.)

3Noah walked with God.

“Noah walked with God.”  Like Enoch in the chapter before, Noah too had intimacy with the Almighty.   This was displayed by his his actions.

Noah:

Waited…. 120 years of listening to lame giraffe jokes.

Preached… 2 Peter calls him “a preacher of righteousness.”  Noah probably had his share of rotten tomatoes hurled at him.

Entered… (Genesis 7:7) Don’t think that this didn’t require faith. A boat built by one that wasn’t a boat builder that has been stuffed with animals from across the planet. I wouldn’t be at ease being enclosed in such a vessel.

And Waited Some More… (v.8) – One week passed before a single drop of rain fell.

Whether  Noah was called to physical activity (ark building) or to passive activity (waiting on the Lord)… Noah remained faithful.

4.  Noah was a good father.

“Noah became the father of three sons:  Shem, Ham and Japheth.” (6:10)  Why do I even mention this?  Because Noah’s fatherhood is mentioned again and again in the book of Genesis. (5:32; 6:10; 6:13; 9:18-19)  Genesis 10 even records the genealogy of each his children.  In the Hebrews 11 the author notes that Noah: “in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household.” (11:7)

Dad’s obedience was crucial for the survival of this family.  Mom or Dad, your obedience to God is just as crucial for the survival of your children.

———————-

So….in a nation of rebels… How did Noah stand out?  By seeking the Lord’s favor, by living righteously (even if everyone else was not), by possessing an active faith, and by being a good parent to his children.

The question is:  Do you stand out in THIS generation?  God’s desire is for all to come to faith in Him (1 Timothy 2:4).  He wants to choose everybody.  He chooses those who exercise faith in Him.  And like Noah… He leaves them “High and Dry!”

Hold That Note!

Hit That High Note1 Peter 4: 10-11

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

I don’t believe I’ve ever shared this on my blog, but I love Oldies.  I listen to the 60’s on 6 more than any other channel on Sirius/XM and have over a thousand songs on my Ipod from the 60’s and 70’s.  (I’m listening to Fats Domino‘s “I Want to Walk You Home” as I type this.)  Many of my friends also know that my specialty is quirky stories about these songs.  I hope some day to start a blog called NOTABLES to feature some of these stories.

Here is one today from Tom Jones‘ Discography.  In 1965 Tom Jones began his career with his first big hit, “it’s Not Unusual.”  It went to #1 in England and reached #10 here in the U.S.  He was new and successful so he was asked to sing for the new James Bond movie, Thunderball.  He sang the title cut.  The end of the song features a note that is very high and sustained.  He delivered it all right, but passed out in the recording booth afterward.  Asked about that monster note in a later interview he said:  “I closed my eyes and I held the note for so long when I opened my eyes the room was spinning.”

That is dedication!  To hit and sustain the notes God is calling us to sing in the chorus of life also requires such dedication.  Peter says that we have each been given a gift.  We are to be good stewards of that gift.  In my analogy, we have all been given a voice and we are each called to keep that voice in tip top shape.  Then Peter reminds those that have speaking gifts to speak as though they were speaking “the utterances of God.”  Sloppy or ill prepared oratory isn’t going to cut it.  Peter then reminds those that have serving gifts, to serve as though God were powering their efforts.  A half-hearted sense of duty will not sustain you.  Why not just go ahead and hit that (grace) note of yours and then sustain it!  Put everything into it.  Give it your all!

Maybe you have be doing your particular ministry in your church for a while now.  Maybe you have it down cold.  You don’t have to put as much effort into it as you did when you started.  It practically runs like it’s on autopilot.  Do some evaluation this year.  It might not be on autopilot… it could be on life support!  Stretch yourself and your faith.  Go for that note!  Sing it with all the strength that God supplies you.

Enough said…. I Gotta go…. The Classics IV are now singing “Traces.”  Love that song!

Lord, Remember Me For Good

FuneralPsalm 25:7

     It is an old joke, but one worth retelling.  A certain minister was met with an odd proposal.  The brother of a rather notorious sinner came into his office one day and offered the minister a sizable gift to the church’s building program.  It seems his brother had just died, and he was willing to give the money to the church in his memory, but only if… during the funeral… the minister was willing to call him a saint.  After some thought, the minister finally agreed.

The day of the funeral arrived and the minister began his sermon.  “This man that just died, we all know his reputation… he was a womanizer, a drunkard, a con artist and a thief.”

He paused for a moment, then continued:  “But compared to his brother he was a saint!”

We laugh at that joke because we have all been in funerals of those with a dubious reputation… and have listened with embarrassment as family members and friends spoke of their character as though they were little Billy Grahams.

But truth be told, there is a lot of truth that we would like not to be told at our own funerals.  We want to be remembered for our good.

While reading Psalm 25, I got to thinking:  What if God were to speak a eulogy at my funeral… what would HE say about me?

In Psalm 25: 7, David asks of the Lord: “Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good.”

This is a bold request, but one–that in Christ— He has granted.  This is seen in how some OT characters are spoken of in the NT – of Moses: Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant… Hebrews 3:5; of Job – “You have heard of the endurance of Job…” (James 5:11); of Lot (!) – “and if He rescued righteous Lot…” (2 Peter 2:7).  Did you hear that right?  Moses, Job and Lot.  Yes, Moses.  The one who not only didn’t want to be the deliverer, but wanted God to sent Aaron instead.  Yes, that Moses, was called faithful.  Yes, Job.  The one who complained insistently that he was being treated unfairly and wanted to take God to court.  Yes, that Job, was called patient in the NT.  And Lot… LOT!  The one who steadily moved toward sin, until he reached the point of having to flee from falling fire and brimstone.  Yes, that Lot was called righteous in the NT.  How can this be?

And what will be spoken of you in that final day?  You might think that your list of failures and sin will be an albatross to be worn by you throughout eternity.  But the Scriptures teach, that when you are remembered, it will be for good.  Because Jesus died for you… redeemed you… and paid the penalty of your sin for you… Because of Jesus… God will remember you for good!

After listing a litany of sins, Paul writes this in his first letter to Corinth: “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:11)   [notice the highlighted verbs are in past tense].

There are days that I am like David… I am reflecting on my past and the things that I have done and I get this sense of dread.  I think:  “What must God (who sees and knows everything – including my thoughts and intentions)– what must He be thinking of me?  Through the blood of Christ… I know that when He thinks of me… He thinks of me for good.  Hallelujah!  Thank you Jesus!