Monthly Archives: December 2012

Running the Race and Finishing Well

Peninsula Community Church
Running the Christian Race
December 30, 2012

As we come to the end of another year, I have spent the last couple of days looking back at this year and all that has been accomplished. I have also spent these days in thinking about my goals and desires for 2013.

As I look back at this year, I realize that we can rejoice in so many accomplishments that have been achieved here at PCC. I look at people’s lives that have been touched and blessed this year. I thought about the ministries we have and how they have reached so many people for Christ. I thought about this year’s VBS where kids from around the community joined us for a week of fun and biblical focus. I thought about how the VBS participants were able to bless Renee Bach and Serving His Children with a check for $1500. I look back at the Harvest Party where we had approximately 250 people visit the church for free hotdogs, sodas, chips and desert as well as fun games and bounce houses. I thought of the parade where we won first place in the noncommercial float category but more than that we had a presence in the community and had many ask questions about the float which led to sharing our faith with others.

I thought about Clayton sharing the Gideon’s message and the nearly $2000 we received in the offering which was one of the largest offerings given by a church in the DelMarVA region in several years. I also thought about the news I received that the offering we gave helped the Gideon Ministry in distributing nearly 4000 bibles to Salisbury University, the FCA ministry and the prison at Georgetown at the end of November and early December. I thought about the Christmas program where more that 75% of those attending the event were unchurched or did not have a church home. I looked back at the beginning of 2012 where we were healthy financially, but our cash flow presented issues for us. I am pleased to announce that we now have more than 3 months worth of finances on hand plus another $40,000 in stocks and the anticipation of another large donation coming to us at the beginning of this new year.

While all of this is important, I also thought of the people who have been touched by PCC and God this year. I thought of Penny and her family who lost everything in a fire and yet the church stepped up to donate money, clothing, furniture, and food. I thought of Gerry Wingate who has seen the touch of God on his life and has had years added to his life because a doctor was willing to do one more test. Instead of 29% heart usage they found that he was in reality at 39%, which is huge in relationship to his longevity. I thought of Baby Carter who has survived multiple surgeries before he is three months old and now he is home and growing like a weed. I thought of many others that have been going through difficult times but they have seen God minister grace to them. I thought of Jim Koons, Arlene Marvel, Phillip Dypsky, Sandy Brooks, Bob Zabit and others who have been battling physical issues but sense the presence of God in their lives in new ways. I thought of Michelle whose doctor believes her MS is in remission and therefore does not have to take her weekly medication which caused her to miss a day of her life because of the drastic side effects. I thought of so many who have come to PCC who once thought they would never attend another church because of the failures of pastors and the leadership of their previous churches.

We have so much to be thankful for. We are a blessed church. While He has done so much for us we are standing on the threshold of a new year which means we can look forward to new and exciting things that God will do in and through us. I do not know what is in store for us but I know that He will be with us and He will do great things in us. While we look back at the exciting things that have occurred this past year, we cannot live in the past but we must move forward into the future with hope and faith.

Paul understood this when he penned the words found in Philippians 3:12-15. He proclaimed, Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But, one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also.

In Philippians 3:3-7, Paul states that he had so much to brag about and so much that he could hang his hat on but he counted all of those successes as rubbish compared to what fellowship with Christ meant to him. His heritage, his accomplishments, and his friendships were not as critical to him as his ongoing need to understand Christ. He also understood that his past successes were just that, past successes. He could not live on the laurels of the past but always needed new adventures and growth in Christ.

In the passage before us today, Paul uses the analogy of an athlete and specifically a runner. Throughout my life, I have always admired marathoners and long distance runners. They have a stamina and patience that is amazing. Almost every day they are running so that they can build their strength and their ability to run the entire race. It was amazing to me to learn that most people who participate in marathons do so not to win the race but to simply finish. In essence, they win when they finish the race. For most marathoners, their competition is not just the other runners but the greatest competition is often within themselves.

I am not sure that you know this but we have a 5ker here at PCC, Trina Coyle. She has already completed a couple of races. I would like to invite her up here for a moment so that I can ask her a couple of questions.
Why did you decide to run a 5k?
How many hours a week do you run?
How often do you increase the distance you run?
How many miles do you run at this stage?
Why do you enter a marathon? Is it to win? Is it the satisfaction of finishing the race?
How often do you feel like giving up? What motivates you to keep going?
When you are running a race, are there times that you look back? Why would you do that? Why is it important to keep your eyes on the road ahead of you?

Thank you Trina. As we think about running a race, there are several lessons for us to consider.

The first of these is you can’t finish a race you have not entered. God is calling us to get into the race. He alludes to the idea of racing in a number of passages of scripture. The problem is that there has never been a race won from the sidelines. God is calling us to get into the race so that when our lives are over we can echo the words Paul wrote to Timothy. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

We enter the race when we accept Christ as our personal Savior, but even after accepting Christ as our Savior we can still sit back and watch others run the race. When this happens, we can be bored and never get to experience the success of running the race. You have to be in the race to enjoy the benefits of preparing for the race.

The second lesson is a marathoner’s attitude is critical to finishing a race. Runners have an attitude that is focused and they are determined. They remain focused on the finish line. You do not find a runner focusing on what is behind them as this will distract them from the goal of finishing the race. As a runner, you must watch for pot holds, the other runners, the inclines and bends in the road. If you don’t, you will be susceptible to failure and less than desirable outcomes. Paul again gives us some insight into the life of a runner when he says, every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Paul is saying that when we run this race we do not run without a goal in mind. We do not run in circles but we always have the goal in mind.

The third lesson is runners always put the time in that is required to prepare to finish the race. Pure marathoners don’t just jog for exercise; they’re into it all the way. They read magazines about running; they set goals for themselves; they train and push themselves toward those goals. They watch their diet. None of these things are easy in themselves but they are important. We too have the necessary tools to finish the race. We have the Bible which gives us His plan. We can pray to seek His advice. We can memorize Scripture that will encourage us and challenge us. We can increase our fellowship with other believers who will encourage us in our growth. To win the spiritual race we must implement the tools available to us or else we will fall short of the goal of finishing the race. We must also lay aside the weights and the sin that cause us to not finish the race. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

If you are not in the race are you ready to join? Are you ready to do what it takes to finish the race? It is your choice. As you make the choice, God will give you the strength you need.

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God’s Gift of Family – From Humiliation to Exaltation

Peninsula Community Church

December 23, 2012

God’s Gift of Family – From Humiliation to Exaltation

 

Text: Matthew 1:1-6 & Matthew 1:18-25 

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. 

As we come to the close of this series, today, we are looking at the story of Mary and Joseph. Through this story, we are confronted with the amazement of God’s grace. As we peer into the lives of Mary and Joseph and the conditions that had an impact on the news they were about to receive, we see a couple that move from a position of humiliation and potential embarrassment to a position of exaltation.  

As we look at this passage, there are few things that stand out to me. First, we find that Mary and Joseph were betrothed to one another. When we hear the term ,”betrothal” it does not hold much meaning to us. My guess is that we only hear this term when we read the story of Christ’s birth, but the term in Biblical days had great meaning. The term “betroth” or “betrothal” αρμοζο (harmozo) is a term that literally means to “pay the price to gain the right of possession.” The groom would ask the father of the potential bride for his daughter’s hand in marriage but to secure the proposal he was to pay a predetermined price to the father for his future bride. The price to be paid was based on both the groom’s and the bride-to-be’s status socially and economically. For example, if the groom’s family were poor the price paid might be in livestock. If the family was more wealthy, the price would be much higher and could, in fact, be several thousand dollars and possible property.

Once completed, the transaction attached the woman to the man as if they were married. It was an interesting transaction as it was often a period of ten to twelve months before they would be officially married. It should be noted that during this betrothal period that there was to be no physical contact whatsoever. While there was certainly social contact during this period, physical contact was strictly forbidden. Once initiated, the act of betrothal was legally binding and could only be broken in cases of adultery. Therefore, the breaking of a betrothal covenant required a bill of divorce and was therefore a serious transgression. When this happened the woman accused of adultery faced death by stoning if the groom or the groom’s family were to insist on this action.

It is for this reason, when Joseph heard the news of Mary’s pregnancy, he assumed the worst. His first assumption was that Mary had committed an act of adultery and had therefore nullified the betrothal covenant. Can you imagine the emotions that he initially experienced? I am sure that he felt betrayed and used. I am sure there were concerns about what people would say. It is easy for us at this point to say that it was no big deal because we see the end of the story. We must remember at the time he did not know what the future would hold. Even with these emotions, we find that he was a righteous man and instead of taking the legalistic approach to the law which called for stoning, he choose instead to exhibit a spirit of grace. Rather than see her humiliated and worst case stoned, he made plans to divorce her quietly and respectfully. 

In the height of his despair, Joseph had a dream where the angel of the Lord came to him. He spoke to Joseph’s heart and proclaimed that he should not fear and that this event was beyond any one human’s doings and therefore would see a different outcome. This was a work of almighty God himself. He, God, had impregnated Mary through the work of the Holy Spirit. This was God’s child and Mary was to be the channel by which the Messiah would come. He would be all God and He would be all man wrapped in human flesh. He would be called “Jesus,” the Savior of the world. As we see in the account of Luke, He was to be called “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” In other words, He would not be a distant God where man could not reach Him but He came low so that all men might have total and complete access to Him. He came to earth so that He could experience life as a man. He was totally human, but He remained righteous in all of His ways and did not sin.

Unfortunately, as we review this story, we are only touching the surface of all that is contained here. Time does not allow us to dig as deep as we could, but I would encourage you to do your own study to mine the gems hidden in this story.  

As we have noted in our previous studies, I believe we can learn some great lessons from this story. The first lesson I see if that nothing is impossible with God. While it was impossible to be pregnant without having sex, it was not impossible with God. He is the creator and sustainer of all life. He needed a channel for His son’s birth. He needed a human vessel that would give birth to His son. This was not some sensual act on God’s part but in essence, Mary became the surrogate for God’s son so that He would remain fully God. He also needed a human mother so that He could experience life not as deity but as a human. So, Mary was given this most holy responsibility. As we read scripture, we now know that in the City of David the Christ was born to humble and yet righteous parents who were favored and chosen by God for a greater purpose. What could have been a humiliating situation turned into an exaltation of Mary and Joseph.

The second lesson we see is that God reaches out to people and includes them in His family even though we might not have included them ourselves. He has included the Judah and Tamar’s of the world. He has included the Rahabs of the world. He has included the Boaz’s and Ruth’s of the world. He has included the David and Bathsheba’s of the world. Now, we see that he also includes the Mary and Joseph’s of the world. Each of these stories teach us that Christ came to change our dysfunctions into breakthrough, our barrenness into fullness, our failures into forgiveness and now we see that God takes our humiliation and turns it into glory and exaltation. Mary and Joseph upon hearing the news was humiliated and wrought with wonder about how such a thing could occur, but we see that as they accepted the path that God had chosen them to take, they found favor with God. Why? It was because they were in the center of His will. The fact is in life we may not always understand the journey we are on, but we can be assured that God knows where you are and He will provide a way of escape so that His is glorified and so that you will find your destiny in Him.

The third lesson we see is that Christ has come to betroth himself to us. He wants to be our groom and we His bride. He wants us to live like we are married to Him. There will come a day when He will come to us as that bridegroom to take us from our earthly home to the home that has been promised to us. In the meantime, He has paid the betrothal price by giving Himself for our sin. He gave us His life so that we could be forgiven of all of our sin. We get to enjoy His presence, but one day He will come and gather His bride to Himself. That bride is the church. This is not the visible church but the true church that has accepted the price paid. What a price he has paid? He bought us from the marketplace of sin and has called us to Himself. He paid the price to gain possession of us or in reality He repossessed us.

How about you?  Do you know that you are His? Have you accepted the price He paid? It is free and available to all who will receive this gift. He has come and we have been called to be His bride.

 

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David – From Failure to Forgiveness

Peninsula Community Church

December 16, 2012

God’s Gift of Family – From Failure to Forgiveness

Text: Matthew 1:1- and 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25

As we continue to focus our attention on the family of Christ, our discussion this week will center on the story of David and Bathsheba. As we read this story, one of the first things that stands out to me is that David rather than being with his army, is at home. Listen to what the scripture says here. “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all of Israel.” It was common in those days for the king’s armies to take a break from battle in the winter as it was difficult to fight during the colder months. But once spring came, the kings returned to battle. It was important for the king to lead his armies but notice that David stayed in Jerusalem.

As we read through this text, we witness a process of sin that causes a downward spiral toward disobedience on a grand scale. Notice how the process is involved in this story. The process is simply this he saw, he coveted, he took, and he hid and covered up his sin. These four elements are almost always involved in the cycle of sin and disobedience. Let’s see how these are played out in David’s life.

First of all, we see that he saw. Because David stayed at home and was idle instead of being where he should have been he is presented with a moment of decision. As he is walking on his on his roof top, he sees a beautiful woman bathing on the rooftop of her home. In this moment, he has a choice. He could either turn away, reject the temptation that was brewing in his heart or he could continue to stand there and continue to stare at the one bathing. It is unfortunate that he chose the latter, as this was the beginning of him sliding into a state of extreme failure. Instead of taking on the attitude of Joseph when he was presented with an opportunity to sin we find that David lusted for Bathsheba.

Because of his lust for her, he coveted her. It is of great import to note that David inquired about who she was and yet even though those around him told him that she was a married woman, he continued to pursue her. It is interesting to note that he could have stopped his slide toward failure right here but he takes the next step.

It is here that David takes the next step toward his catastrophic failure. He saw, he coveted and he took her. David summons Bathsheba. He calls for her to come to his palace. As the king, he could summon anyone he wanted and almost do anything that he wanted to do. But notice that there seems to be no push back from Bathsheba. She could have refused but we don’t see that she made any effort to reject his advances. Either one of them could have cut this off but he took her and had an adulterous affair with her. He chose to commit a great sin even though he already had in his possession anything that he wanted. But he chose to go after one that could not have.

Now the story gets interesting as we find that she sends word to David that she is pregnant and that the child is his. After the consequences of his sin were revealed, instead of repenting, we find that he tries to hide his sin. He invites Uriah home in hopes that he will lay with his wife and think that the child she is carrying is his. When that doesn’t work he tries to get him drunk but even in a drunken stupor he refuses to go to his wife. It is notable to observe that it seemed that he was more loyal to the army and his comrades than David, the King was. When all the above fails David sends him to the front lines with orders given to Joab that he should be placed on the battle lines where he was sure to be killed. In essence, he was being setup. In reality it is murder. Notice that in 1:27 “The thing that David did displeased the Lord!”

But rather than seek forgiveness and do the right thing it seems that David became comfortable with his sin. You see it would have been nice for David to recognize his sin and deal with it and a year passed and David has not confessed or repented of his sin. But God sent Nathan into David’s life. Nathan tells David a story by way of a word picture and then seeks his advice about what should be done to the one who committed a serious wrong. Nathan’s story was one of a rich man who had many sheep and a poor man who had only one. When the rich man had quests arrive, he took the poor man’s lamb and had it killed so that he could feed his guests. Nathan Asks David what he would do. David is angered about this and he stated that this man deserves to die and he should restore the loss four fold.

Then Nathan makes a statement that reaches a level of crescendo in David’s heart and mind. “David, you are the man.” What sad words. But these words penetrate David’s heart and he immediately repents. It should be noted that it is from this experience that we find that David pens the words of Psalms 51, 32 and 36. David experiences God’s forgiveness but his actions come with a price.

As a result of his sin that went without a righteous confession, David had to suffer a great price. Notice that Nathan proclaims the results of his sin. Because David kept this a secret, his punishment was to be in administered in the open. And, it impacted more than just him. The sin committed by David and Bathsheba would result in the death of the child conceived between David and Bathsheba …Nathan continues by saying – Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun'” (2 Samuel 12:10-12).

In the end David and Bathsheba have a second child together and his name is Solomon. Christ’s lineage would be kept in tact even though there was a grievous sin and difficult consequences involved.

As we look at this story we see that there are several lessons to be learned. First of all when we find that we are spending more time trying to hide our sin than deal with it we have a problem. Isn’t it interesting that David spends such an inordinate amount of time trying to hide his sin rather than making his sin right.

Secondly, we note that sin has consequences. We see that his sin caused the loss of his son. There will also be great turmoil as the sword would not depart from his kingdom. God also brings about evil in his home. And finally we see that his wives will be taken and given to his neighbors. We see this worked out in a number of ways. For example, the current headlines of this young man that perpetuated these actions on this elementary school has now caused there to be a ripple effect around the world. For many there has been the act of adultery in their lives and though they thought they had the act revealed, the ripple effects of those actions are felt by the family, the spouse, the children, and by their associates.

Thirdly, we all need a Nathan in our lives. We need someone that will speak the truth and bring us to the place of recognizing of the reality of our hearts. It should be noted here that we must be sure that God has called us to be a Nathan in someone else’s life. Too often we get involved when it was never God’s will.

Fourthly, there is always forgiveness in Christ. There is never a sin too great, too bad, or too evil that God cannot forgive. There is forgiveness at the foot of the cross. Forgiveness and repentance is not to be something that is feared but rather it is to be embraced as it brings freedom to the heart. Regardless of the consequences of our decisions we can live with a heart that is free. We can walk in liberty. Once again notice the power of these words in 2 Samuel 12:13, “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.” He is forgiven and he is restored.

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From Barrenness to Fullness

Peninsula Community Church
December 9, 2012
God’s Gift of Family – From Barrenness to Fullness

Text: Matthew 1:1-6 and The Book of Ruth

I have made a decision this morning to skip the story of Rahab and move to the story of Ruth. This is not meant to diminish the value of Rahab’s story but I feel that it is important to go to Ruth’s story as it stands in dark contrast to Judah’s and Tamar’s story (Gen. 38). Last week, we saw a story of deceit, deception and broken promises. This week, our story begins in a similar way but has a different outcome and a different tone to it in many ways.

Our story today takes place in the days of the judges who ruled the land (1:1). If you remember your biblical history this was a time when the people would follow God for a season and then they would turn their backs on God and do their own thing. Each time, God would raise a judge up to bring order and to save the people. While it is not clear when this story took place precisely, most historians believe it occurred about the same time as Samson (Judges 13-16).

In studying this story, we could divide the story into two sections. One section would be the story of barrenness and the second section would be the story of fullness and fulfillment.

We begin with barrenness in the land as there was a famine in Bethlehem (1:1). As we read this story we see instances of great irony. The first bit of irony is in the fact that the term Bethlehem means “city of bread” but the “city of bread” was barren and no crops were being produced. Because of the famine and the barrenness of the land, Elimelech decided to move his family to Moab where it seemed that the land was prosperous. This action, however, showed a disregard for the provision of God. It is interesting to note that Elimelech’s name means “God is Sovereign” or “God is King.” Instead of trusting God which Elimelech’s name intimates, he chose rather to take things into his own hands and relocate his family to a land that would present some great challenges.

By moving to Moab, Elimelech put his family at risk because the Moabites manifested a total disregard for God’s ways. The Moabites were especially known for sacrificing children to appease their gods. By moving to Moab, Elimelech was exposing his family to these ungodly religions and unholy acts. He also diminished the possibility that his sons Mahlon and Chilion would marry godly women.

As the story progresses, we see that there the barrenness in relationships. As life would have it we find that Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, dies. We do not know why he died. Some theologians have tried to intimate that he died as a result of his disobedience in moving away to a land where he and his family would be influenced by ungodly men and women and their ways. But there is no clear indication in the text as to this conjecture.

Prior to his death he and Naomi, his wife, had two sons. They were named Mahlon and Chilion. It is ironic that Mahlon’s name meant “sickly” or “diseased” and Chilion’s name meant “weakness” or “wasting away.” Names were important then but even these names baffle the mind as to why these parents would have named their children such names. Mahlon and Chilion married two Moabite women named Orpah and Ruth. But after ten years these men died and Orpah and Ruth found themselves facing the rest of their lives as widows. And if you remember our discussion from last week, you will remember that that this is the last place a woman would want to find herself: husbandless and without much hope for the future. And because Noami did not have any other sons, there was little hope for the future for any of them.

Because of these deaths, Naomi and Elimelech’s family is now facing the barrenness of heritage. Because of the death of her husband, the death of her two sons and the lack of sons to carry on the family name, we see that Naomi fell into a deep depression. It is interesting to note that her name meant “my pleasantness” or “sweetness.” But after the death of her husband and her sons she proclaimed that her name would no longer be Naomi, “sweetness” but would be Mara “one who is bitter.” No one could blame her as she was left without a husband, no son to care for her, and no heritage to depend on. As far as she was concerned life was over. She was all alone. In her despair, she encouraged her daughter-in-laws to return to their respective families but an interesting thing happens.

Orpah whose name means “turning back” decided to return to her home. In the text, we witness the act of Orpah kissing her mother-in-law which was a way of Orpah saying goodbye (1:14). She would take her chances with her family. Ruth on the other hand clung to Naomi. For the record her name means “a friend.” A true friend is one that is with us no matter what happens or what issues arise. Ruth was that kind of friend. Ruth had a spiritual awakening as her cry was “Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” It is supposed by some that Naomi had an influence on her life to the degree that she had accepted the ways of Jehovah and had committed her heart to God.

So off to Bethlehem they go and once they arrive back in Bethlehem, things begin to change. There is a glimpse of hope and life. We now turn from barrenness to fullness. Let me share with you where I see fullness manifested.

There is fullness in that Ruth finds favor with Boaz. Naomi remembers that Elimelech had a relative named Boaz that could help them. Noami instructs Ruth to go and glean from his fields. The law of the land was that the homeless and poor could go onto the fields after the harvest and collect whatever grain had fallen to the ground. As the story progresses, we see that a love story begins to blossom. Boaz takes notice of Ruth and he offers her shade and protection. He instructs those harvesting the grain to leave extra behind for her so that both Ruth and Naomi will be cared for. In Ruth he saw a woman committed to caring for Naomi and a woman that was humble and pure.

There is fullness in God’s provision of a kinsman redeemer. Boaz had the potential of being Ruth’s kinsman redeemer according to the Levirate law (4:1-13). But there was an obstacle in the way. There is one other that would precede Boaz, so Boaz goes to him and offers a deal. It is interesting to note that when the next of kin thought he was going to inherit land and money he was excited but when he realized that the deal also included marrying a Moabite he decided that he did not want to do this because it would cause all that he had to go to Elimelich’s family. He was more concerned about his name and his heritage than he was helping out Ruth and his relative Elimelech.

When the kinsman refused Ruth, a common ritual for that day was performed. The custom of the day was that when the kinsman redeemer gave up his right he would remove his sandal and give it to the next heir. The sandal represented the land that was to be possessed as when someone drew up a contract for land it was measured by one stepping off the land that was to be apportioned. In some cases when the next of kin would refuse the widow, they would take the sandal and would spit on the ground as a means to humiliate the one refusing to follow through with their commitment. Some historians believed that sometimes the widow would spit in the face of the offender. Boaz through his actions confirmed to the elders that he had bought Elimelech’s inheritance so that the name of the dead might not be cut off from his brothers and the gates of the native place.

From here we see that Boaz and Ruth are married.

Fullness in God’s provision of a future and a hope. What began as barrenness we now see as fullness because God provides a son for Ruth and a heritage for Naomi and Elimelech’s name would be remembered. Ruth gives birth to Obed. But notice what transpires. The people are not as excited for Ruth as they are for Naomi who now has a grandson and an heir.

Listen to what the Bible says here in Ruth 4:14-17. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

While Naomi has an heir this is no ordinary heir for Obed ties the genealogy of Perez to David and in essence ties Perez, Obed, and David to Christ himself. What a glorious day!

So what do we learn from this?

First, we learn that God is at work in the darkest moments of our lives. When we don’t see Him working, He is often working the hardest for us.

Secondly, we see that out of barrenness comes life. When we think that all is lost, God intervenes and brings life. And, sometimes it is in very interesting ways.

Thirdly, we can miss the blessing of God even when there is blessing all around us. While her husband and sons had died, Naomi missed out on the fact that she had a daughter-in-law that loved her and would do anything for her.

And finally, we must realize that Jesus came as that elder brother who would become our kinsman redeemer. He is the one who would give himself for us so that we would have an inheritance, a hope and future.

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God’s Gift of Family – Dysfunction to Breakthrough

Peninsula Community Church

December 2, 2012

God’s Gift of Family – Dysfunctional to Break Through

 As we continue our this series this morning, I am reminded of what Tim Keller, the senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City had to say about this particular story and stories like it in the Bible. He stated that “we can’t always read the Bible as inspirational stories for us to imitate.” The reason for this is that some stories serve to warn us about the consequences of broken promises, disobedience and dishonesty. And this is certainly one of those stories as it is filled with deceit and broken promises and moral degradation. And yet, we can learn so much from the failures of the characters represented in this text.

Our text this morning is Genesis 38, but rather than read the entire text I will allude to different passages at different times throughout the message. It is interesting to note the placement of this particular story as it is almost a sidebar to the story of Joseph. It seems out of place but we know that God does not do anything by mistake. He chose this story as it shows us how open the arms of God are.

This is a story of a dysfunctional family. Our story opens with Judah leaving the safety of his family and his religious heritage to go to Canaan. There he became accustomed to the religious beliefs of that land and he married a Canaanite woman who bore him three sons: Er, Onan and Shelah. When Er was old enough, Judah arranged for him to marry Tamar. But, in verse 7 we see that Er was wicked in the sight of God and the Lord put him to death. By law Judah’s 2nd born was to marry Tamar in order to carry on the family name and to provide the eldest son with a lineage and a means to pass on his inheritance. But Onan refused to follow through with the commitment of providing offspring for his brother. As a result, he too was put to death because of his evil acts. Then Judah promised his youngest son to Tamar but he was not old enough to marry at this time. But as we will see Judah reneged on his promise.

On a first read of this text, it is possible to be left with a misunderstanding about the story. But to fully understand the story, we must review two cultural issues at play in those that culture.

 The first if these is what was known as the Levirate Law. In those days, the law stated that if a wife’s husband died, it was the father-in-law’s responsibility to provide protection and security for her. This was accomplished by having the next oldest unmarried son to marry the widow. This was necessary so that the family’s name might be carried on and so that the widow would be protected. In those days, this was important because the future inheritance and lineage of the eldest son was critical. This was most important in view of the coming Messiah, the one who would redeem the world from sin.

 A second cultural issue was the status of widows. To be a widow in that day was the worse thing that could ever happen to a woman. As a widow, she was an outcast and she was not always selected as the marrying kind.

The problem was that when this law went unfilled two problems were brought to bear. There was an embarrassment for the father for not having an heir and there was shame on the part of the woman who was not able to bear children.

As we continue with this story, we see that Judah reneged on his promise to give Shelah to Tamar as a husband. As a result, Tamar decided to take things into her own hands. She knew that Judah would be headed to sheer his sheep. She positioned herself on the roadway so that she would be seen by Judah. She took off her widow’s clothes and replaced them with the clothes of a prostitute. It is interesting to note that she must have had a clue to Judah’s lifestyle and his susceptibility to prostitution or else she would not have used this as a temptation for him. He went in and lay with her. When she sought the agreed upon payment, he agreed to leave his staff and signet ring with her until he could pay her later. It should be noted that leaving these things behind would be like leaving your wallet and credit card behind in today’s culture.

As the story progresses, we see that word comes to Judah that Tamar is now pregnant. What does Judah do but he orders her to be burned to death, immediately. But the plot thickens as she reveals that she possesses the staff and signet ring belonging to the one who impregnated her. Judah is caught in a trap as he recognizes his staff and signet ring. As a result he calls off the death sentence which, honestly, was harsh even for those days. He is convicted as seen by his words to Tamara. “She is more righteous than I since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” Note, that he did not say that she was righteous or that her deeds were righteous but simply that her she represented a more righteous position than he did.

So how do we apply this story to our lives?

First of all we can never be driven by misplaced fear. Uncontrolled fear always has unhealthy results. It appears that Judah was driven more by fear rather than by faith in God. He was afraid that if he allowed Shelah to marry Tamar that he would face the same end that his brothers did. It is also interesting to note that Judah’s wife had also died and with the circumstances involving his other two sons he reacted in fear and refused to allow the marriage to take place.

Secondly, we must never blame others for our faulty emotions. Because of his faulty emotion of fear, Judah blamed Tamar for everything that had happened. In verse 11, Judah sends her home and promises to give Shelah to her as a husband. But because he was afraid rather than take responsibility it was easier to blame her. He did not want to admit that he had a role to play in this. For him she was the problem. There was something wrong with her. He sent her away with no intent to marry her off. Many of us may have been in that spot where we have been the scapegoat of blame. There was a season in my life, whether it was real or imagined, I believed that I was being blamed for my parent’s issues (divorce, anger toward one another and so on). Perhaps, you may have experienced this first hand but we can move forward from being dysfunctional to accepting breakthrough faith.

Thirdly, regardless of the circumstances of our lives breakthrough is possible. We see here that Judah had a breakthrough because as he was confronted by Tamar and was shown the staff and signet ring, he repented and called off the death sentence. It is interesting to note that Tamar says do you recognize these items. This was a break through moment for Judah. He recognized not only his staff and signet ring but he also recognized his sin. In essence he repented by declaring her more righteous than himself.

The story could have ended here but six months later Tamar gave birth to twins. One of the twins born to Tamar was named Perez. His name meant “breach” or “breaker through.” Names in those days were important as these names were often prophetic as to the future of the one who was named.

While he was born into a dysfunctional situation it did not stop him from having a breakthrough in his life. Here, we see the grace of God breaks through every situation and it breaks into our lives. We do not know much about Perez but we know that he was the great grandfather of Boaz, David, Solomon and eventually Christ himself. What a heritage? What began as a dysfunctional family ended with the one who would be a break through child and would become the predecessor of the King of Kings. Perez was to be the vehicle by which Christ came. We also see in this story that while Judah was punishing Tamara for his sin the real Jesus takes on our sin and forgives us.

So what do we learn from this story? We learn that regardless of your past, regardless of your mistakes you have made, sins committed, or wrongs done to you; there is potential for breakthrough. How about you? Are you ready for a breakthrough? Are you ready to move from a state of dysfunctional circumstance to receive Christ who brings a breakthrough? He invites you to come. So, will you?

 

 

 

 

 

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