Brotherly Love

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. (Genesis 45:1-3 ESV)

Question: After your brothers had sold you into slavery, what your reaction be if you saw them like this?

Talking Points: Not only did Joseph survive everything, but he is now in a place of great power. He holds the key to life in his hands because he is in charge of the food being spread. For you, would there be unresolved anger? Bitterness? Maybe you would have a case of the “look at me now” fever.

In the preceding verses, Joseph put his brothers through a lot of trouble to get food. He wanted them to bring Benjamin (the youngest brother), but Jacob would not allow it. When Joseph saw his brothers love for young Benjamin, Joseph knew they were different than when they sold him into slavery. He greeted them with open arms.

Joseph had every right to be bitter towards his brothers for their actions that happened years before. But he wasn’t.

Question: What does Scripture tells us about holding a grudge?

Talking Points: Scripture plainly states that holding a grudge is unacceptable. If someone has wronged us and they are apologetic, we are to forgive them. When someone has wronged us and they aren’t apologetic, we are to forgive them.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)

Scripture tells us that we are to love one another with brotherly love. That kind of love is a covenantal love. A covenant says that even when you let me down, I will still love you. When I let you down, I trust that you will love me as well.

This week, let’s find ways to treat each other with brotherly love. Here are a few starting points:

  1. Listen to one another’s burdens.
  2. Enjoy fellowship with each other.
  3. Go out of your way to know someone deeper.

These are a few examples. We will begin there.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10 ESV)

My Talent, His Glory

Joseph is in prison. Two men are down there with him. One is a cupbearer and the other is a baker. They both have a dream. Joseph has the ability to interpret those dreams.

Two years later, Pharaoh has two distinct dreams that were very similar. He called magicians and wise men, but none could interpret them. The cupbearer told Pharaoh about Joseph. So, Pharaoh called Joseph to be brought out of prison.

And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” (Genesis 41:15-16 ESV)

Joseph knew without a shadow of a doubt that this talent to interpret dreams was not from his own power. This had to be God giving him the power.

Question: What talents or gifts do you have that you aren’t giving God the credit for? 

Talking Points: Music, athleticism, intellectual capacity, etc. The list goes on and on of talents that we have. For some, we use these talents to glorify God. For some, we use these talents to glorify ourselves. We were placed on this earth to glorify God.

Without God, we would not have these talents. Without God, we would not exist. We need to recognize that our abilities are beautiful gifts from a loving Father who freely gave them to us.

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” (Genesis 41:39-40 ESV)

After Pharaoh had shared his dreams with Joseph, he interpreted them. He also told Pharaoh that he should choose a man to be head over Egypt before the famine hits. Pharaoh chose Joseph to be that man because of his wisdom.

Some might say Joseph’s talents helped him rise to power. He started at the bottom (in prison) and now he is head over Egypt. We often see that in our culture. People like Donald Trump who began in a tiny business office in Brooklyn and is now a very wealthy business man. His business mind is what made him so successful, right?

Joseph used his talent to glorify God. By no means was Joseph trying to rise to power. He told Pharaoh the truth about his dreams. He was rewarded by his faithfulness.

Question: What was Joseph’s reward?

Talking Points: One could say rising to power to be head over Egypt is his reward. I believe the answer can go further. He had lived over two years as a prisoner. He was not raised out of that pit. After this conversation with Pharaoh, he married Asenath. They had two children. He no longer lived a life of misery. Yes, it was wealthy. Yes, he had power. But he was able to live a better life after his brothers sold him into slavery.

Our talents may take us to big things. Most of the time, they don’t. Joseph had a renewal of circumstance because God blessed his talents. When we glorify God, He blesses us with a renewal of Spirit.

And The Winner Is…

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:24-28 ESV)

The match of the millennium was not Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. Instead, we see an actual fight of man vs. the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. Picture this: Jacob is helping his family get across this stream to safety when he is jumped by this stranger. They wrestle around trying to get the upper hand. Jacob pulls this man into a headlock. He doesn’t know it yet, but he is wrestling the creator of the universe.

Question: When was the last time you wrestled with God? Who won? How did you respond to the challenge?

Talking Points: Wrestling with God is going to be a losing battle. This is especially true if we are fighting whether or not to follow in his will. Our decisions are almost always based on our circumstances or emotions. God divines a plan for us that is not based on circumstance but in love.

Jacob finally realized he was wrestling with God when the man barely touched Jacob’s hip and his hip came out of place. Jacob didn’t want to let this man go until he blessed him. The man then blessed him by giving him a new name: Israel. Israel means “God strives.” This is given to Jacob because of his strife with God.

Question: Name one other time where Jacob received a blessing that he wasn’t supposed to get.

Talking points: Jacob stole Esau’s blessing as the firstborn. Jacob was known for wanting to receive a blessing. When Jacob and Esau came out of the womb, Esau came first, but Jacob was holding onto his heel.

It is important to note what the name Israel means. Israel means “God strives.” The twelve sons of Jacob begin tribes known as the twelve tribes of Israel. As we continue to flow through the Old Testament, you will notice places where Israel “strives” with God.

God and the people of Israel, through pain and turmoil, strive for many years. It is very symbolic of the wrestling match Jacob had with Jesus. The reason being is because the people of Israel strive with God but through Jesus, they become blessed. As I think about our sins and they held him down to the cross, I think about his blessing he poured out on me: eternal life.

When God Makes A Promise

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:1-6 ESV)

God made a promise to Abraham in this passage. This promise pushed the verge of impossible. Abraham and Sarai were up in age and Abraham had no offspring. It would seem as if he never would. Abraham had settled with Eliezer to be his heir. Eliezer wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t the real thing: a son.

Discussion: Are there things in your life you have settle for but they aren’t the real thing? Have you searched for love and acceptance in things other than Christ?

Talking points: We can often find love and acceptance in things that are meaningless and don’t last. Sports, work, relationships, school, etc. We may hear it a thousand times, but we tend to continue to rely on those things to fill us. They will NEVER be the real thing. Christ’s love trumps all.

God’s promise to Abraham is that he would have a son. This seemed a little farfetched for Abraham. He is old. Sarai is old. It just doesn’t make sense. Just because it doesn’t make sense doesn’t mean God can’t do it. God promised him a son, and that’s what He would give Abraham.

Discussion: Is there a promise that God has made that seems farfetched for you? 

Talking points: Often times we believe that his grace couldn’t be extended to a wretch like me. I have done too many bad things, right? That kind of thinking is not thinking poorly of yourself, but trying to put a limit to an all-powerful, all-loving God. You are effectively saying that he isn’t powerful enough to forgive me. When God makes a promise, he follows through.

The Redeeming Rainbow: Genesis 9

[8] Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, [9] “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, [10] and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. Genesis 9:8-10

The waters had flooded the earth and all of creation, except for Noah, his family and the animals safe in the ark, had been killed. This is not a cute children’s tale: it is a story of God’s divine judgment.

Discussion: Do you think God was fair in judging the world so harshly? What made this fair or just?

Talking points: Noah built the ark and (according to Peter in the New Testament) preached for 120 years. People had the opportunity to repent and they didn’t. When people don’t respond to God’s invitation for salvation, it isn’t unfair on God’s part–they are being ungrateful.

[11] I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”  Genesis 9:12

Discussion: God established a covenant with Noah and all of creation. What is the difference between a covenant and a contract?

Talking Points:  With a contract, if one agreeing party does something in violation of the contract then it is considered broken. The whole contract becomes null and void. Basically the signers of a contract agree to hold up their ends as long as the other signatories hold up theirs too.  With a covenant, both parties agree to hold up their ends regardless of whether the other party keeps their part of the agreement. A violation of a covenant by one party doesn’t matter as far as the other party’s responsibility to continue to do what they agreed to do.

[13] I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. [14] When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, [15] I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. [16] When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” [17] God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:13-17 ESV)

Discussion: When we think of rainbows, what comes to mind?

Talking points: Notice that it is called a “bow.” Think of it as a “bow” for a moment without it being a rainbow. What is a bow used for? Hunting. Killing. Death. Now think of a rainbow you’ve seen. Which way is it pointed? Toward God! God put a bow in the sky, pointed toward him, to say that he would die before he would break this covenant with all of creation. And he made good on that promise. On the cross, Jesus died for the sins of mankind.

Have you ever received Jesus as your Savior? If not, talk to a family member about how to trust Jesus as your Savior. The next time you see a rainbow, remember God’s faithful promise to His people–and to you!

The Great Flood

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. (Genesis 6:5-6 ESV)

This is a hard passage to read. Usually in the Old Testament the emotion that God shows is anger. But this passage tells us that God was grieving. The actions of his creation caused him to grieve to his heart. We aren’t used to that emotion from God.

Discussion: Is there something in your life that grieves God? Have you ever done something to grieve your earthly parents?

Talking Points: This is a hard question to answer right away. We tend to put aside these things because we don’t want to confront them. Take time to meditate on Psalm 139:23-24. Think of some ways to talk to your parents about how you grieved them. These need to be done in a loving, genuine way.

The Ark had to be a large boat. However, the size of the Ark isn’t what is important. What the Ark represents is the most important thing. The flood water was God’s judgment on his creation because of corruption.

Discussion: If the flood waters were God’s judgment, what does the Ark represent? Who or what is our “Ark”?

Talking Points: The Ark rescued Noah, his family, and two of every animal from the flood waters. Noah was not perfect but Scripture said he was blameless in the eyes of the Lord. We are also not perfect, but we are corrupted. Our Ark (Christ) is who finds us blameless and rescues us from the judgment of sin. Please explain this correlation to your children.

And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:21-22 ESV)

The Choice

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:1-7 ESV)

Choices, choices, choices. Which car should I buy? Which paint should we use? What college should I go to? Everyday life is filled with choices. These choices are always things we should do or things we should not do.

The most important decision you have to make hangs on the impact of sin. Adam and Eve were tricked by the serpent to disobey God’s command.

Discussion: How can we protect ourselves from Satan’s snares?

Talking Points: Choose Scripture. The serpent misquotes God and tells them that God lied to them. Knowing God’s word and putting faith in God’s word will protect you from the enemy’s lies. Choose accountability. It is easy to choose sin when you have no one to answer to. When you have to confess your sin, sinning does not seem as appealing.

Consequences. Every choice we make comes with a consequence. ALWAYS. Adam and Eve received very severe consequences for disobeying God. Adam was given pain while working in the fields and death. Eve was given pain in childbirth. We often blame our problems on Adam and Eve. Here is the deal: just like Adam and Eve, we have a choice not to sin. Our consequences represent our choices.

Discussion: What are practical ways to consider consequences before you make a choice?

Talking Points: Will it impact your relationship with God? Every sin is a sin against God. Will it impact your relationship with your wife, kids, parents, or friends? Our choices will affect us, but it will also affect those around you.

The hope that God gave to Adam and Eve was that her offspring would be the one to defeat the serpent. His name is Jesus. He did defeat Satan. If you are in Christ, Satan no longer has power over you. You are a beloved child of God.

In the Beginning

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:1-5 ESV)

Every institution, every person, every team, every invention has its beginning, its own special history. Sometimes the beginning was intentional (most technology), and at other times accidental (a “mistake” in the kitchen that became the family’s favorite recipe.)

When the Bible speaks of the beginning of all things, there is a simple statement: In the beginning, God.

Discussion: What does it mean that “God” immediately follows the word “beginning?”

Talking Points: All of creation points to a creator. Divine design. The world did not come into being accidentally. If God is the “beginner” then all of creation is a reflection of Him. Not only does creation reflect God, creation glorifies him. Just as a work of art makes an artist famous, creation makes God famous. A sunrise: God’s work. A rainbow: God’s work. A beautiful waterfall: God. As creator, God is unavoidable. Everything points to him!

Verse 3 says, “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Here we see the formula for creation: and God said…and there was.

Discussion: What does this say about God that he created simply by speaking?

Talking Points: God is all-powerful. We call this God’s omnipotence—his power over everything. God speaks and things happen. God doesn’t begin with raw material—all he needed was his will to create. What God wants, God can make happen.

Application: What is in your life that you need God’s power on? Share those needs with one another and pray for each other. Give your needs to the omnipotent God who simply speaks and creates.