Dreams

Scripture Reading: Genesis 37:2-11:

This is the account of Jacob’s family line.

   Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

In my Sunday school class that I teach, we are studying dreams from different stories in the Bible. This week we looked at the early dreams of Joseph who was not very well liked by his brothers. Joseph was a tattletale, as he brought to his father a bad report about his brothers. It probably didn’t help that when Jacob, the father,  sent Joseph to check on his brothers that were tending to the flocks, that Joseph showed up in his long-sleeved robe of many colors. It was apparent that Joseph didn’t intend to do any work. And his brothers so despised him that they could not speak a kind word to him.

We know from the story of Joseph that God was preparing him to carry out God’s will and to save many people from starvation, including his father, brothers, and their households. Joseph’s dreams served to foreshadow events that were going to happen. It’s interesting that in Genesis 40:8 that Joseph gives the credit to God for his ability to interpret the dreams of others.

In our class today, we shared some stories about our own dreams, those that we have while we are asleep. I asked my class if they believed that God still speaks to us through dreams or did this just happen during Biblical times. Everyone in the class agreed that God can and does speak to us through dreams, although for most of us, it is very rare.

I was not planning on telling our class about a dream that I had seven years ago, but I felt led by God to relate my dream as we ended our class. I told them that I had not shared this dream with many people because it was a deeply personal dream about my calling into ministry. I also told them that after telling this dream to a few people, I could tell that they held some degree of disbelief that God had really spoken to me in a dream.

I had been struggling with a call into ministry for about eight months, so you could say that this was a matter that was on my mind. Many people might say that this was what caused my dream – that I was thinking so intently about my calling that I had a dream about it. I know, without a doubt, that this was a message from God.

This was my dream: I remember floating through the air for some period of time. Below me I could tell that I was approaching some kind of village or town , but it seemed far away. As I slowly began to get closer, I could see many people on the ground and they were all dressed in dark clothing. I saw a group of men and they all had on dark suits and white shirts but they were not wearing ties. I began to sense something familiar about this place or these people, but I was not sure what that feeling of familiarity was.

Continuing to “float” through the air, it seemed that I was finally getting closer to this group of men. In the distance I could make out a few buildings and I realized that one of them was an old country church. There seemed to be a lot of activity around that church.

All of a sudden, I was there, with that group of men. It seemed that I had traveled several miles in a matter of seconds and I came up behind this one man. Suddenly I was face to face with this man and he turned to me and said, “you will be a pastor.” The man that spoke to me was my grandfather, who had died while I was a high school senior in 1981. I woke up immediately and was both terrified and comforted.

I got up out of bed and I was very shaken at the sudden and abrupt ending to my dream. I knew at that moment that God had spoken to me through a dream and I believed that my personal struggle with my calling was over. I told God that I would accept this calling and would dedicate my life to following His will for my life.

Like Joseph, my calling has not been easy, there has been many ups and downs. Following God is like that though. As believers, we are not promised that everything will be easy and that our paths will always be clearly marked. Many times we must go through difficult times and trials in order to make us stronger in our walk of faith with God.

There are those that will tell you that God cannot and does not speak to us through our dreams. I am not one of those people. God can communicate to us in many ways, including our dreams. God is all-powerful, all-present, and all-knowing. God can and does communicate to us in any number of ways. The question is not, “can God still communicate with us today?” The question you should be asking is, “Are you open to God and are you allowing God to communicate with you?”

 

 

Ask, Seek, Knock

Scripture Reading: Matthew 7: 7-8: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Jesus, in the Lord’s Prayer, teaches us that when we pray to God, we should first acknowledge Our Father who is in heaven. We should pray for God’s kingdom and His will to come before anything else. Praying for God’s will to be done before our own prayer concerns is something that most of us don’t do each time we pray. In fact, many times we don’t really want God’s will to be done; we want our own will to be done. We either misunderstand or don’t take the time to truly comprehend what this passage really says.

The same is true with this text from Matthew. We read it, but we don’t really dig deeper to comprehend exactly what the text is saying. Jesus tells us to ask, and also to seek, and also to knock. Many of us just think that if we ask God for something that He will deliver. Often we may ask God for a specific request and then we end us seeking things other than God and His will.

We want God to answer our prayers without any effort on our part. Instead of knocking we want God to deliver our wishes to our own front door. God requires faith on our part and an active seeking of His will for our lives.

Our pastor, Edward Bolen, gave some examples of this last Sunday. He told several stories of people who wanted a sign from God that would give them some reassurance. One person asked why it was that God would not give her a big neon sign as a clear indication that God wanted her to follow a certain path. God could do that of course, but how would we learn to become faithful followers of God if that were the case.

I am guilty of this in my own walk with God. Many times I pray to God for a church in which to do full-time ministry and I fail to go out into the world asking, seeking, and knocking. As followers of Christ we will face rejection, we will encounter ridicule and skepticism, and we will even become discouraged at times. However, we must not give up, we must keep the faith and continue to believe that God has designed us for a purpose in this fallen world. Persistent prayer and faith will lead you to where God is calling. Don’t give up and become discouraged; ask, seek, and knock.

 

 

 

 

 

Ecclesiastes Devotion Conclusion

Scripture Reading: Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14: Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

In our scripture reading today, the writer of Ecclesiastes is emphasizing the importance of reverently trusting and obeying God. Throughout the first eleven chapter of Ecclesiastes, the writer has talked about how everything is meaningless. And now in the last chapter, we realize that we can find meaning for our lives after all. Meaning is not found in the things that this world has to offer, such as worldly pleasures, material possessions or wealth. True meaning is found in our relationship and our daily walk with God. As we live in obedience and trust in God, we begin to find true meaning in our relationship with our creator.

This kind of reverent obedience and trust in God reminded me of an old hymn that I remember from thirty years ago in church. If you are under thirty, you may not know the beautiful old hymn called: Trust and Obey. The first stanza is as follows:

When we walk with the Lord

In the light of His word,

What a glory He sheds on our way!

While we do His good will,

He abides with us still,

And with all who will trust and obey.

Job 28:28 also speaks of what is means to live in reverent fear and obedience of the Lord: And he said to man, ‘The fear of the lord – that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.’

 Psalm 111:10 also refers to the “fear” of God that leads to wisdom: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.

Proverbs 1:7 also mentions the “fear” of the Lord and its relationship to wisdom and knowledge: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

And finally, Psalm 130:3-4: If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.

This week out in the world, I have met people who are mean-spirited, spiteful, promise-breakers, and those who are full of self-pride. I have also ran across some very kind-spirited, generous, truthful and honest people. As followers of God, we as Christians will encounter all types of people during the course of our day. It is our duty and responsibility to respond to non-believers in such a way that they will see Christ in us and want to know more about how to follow our risen Lord.

What does it mean to live in “fear of God?” To me it’s living a life that follows and obeys the commandments that God has given us. We “listen” to God and we follow His teachings not those of the world that we live in. As Christians, we are given the promise that if we live in reverent obedience to God, we will find true meaning for our lives. As we place our trust in God, we will live more meaningful, purpose filled lives and we will live joyfully in relationship with our creator.

  Prayer: Creator God, help me as your follower, to live a life that is lived in obedience to your commandments. Give me the strength to say “no” to the things of this world that tempt me and lead me astray. Teach me how to rest in your word and your promises and to live a life that is a light for your kingdom. Give me strength each and every day to shun those things that are evil and guide me in the paths of righteousness. Amen.

Trust and Obey Hymn
Hymn Writer ~ John H. Sammis, 1846-1919

Hymn Music ~ Daniel B. Towner, 1850-1919

Hoarding

Scripture Reading: Ecclesiastes 5:10-12:

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.

Our society today is all about wealth, or the accumulation of material possessions, that are intended to make us happy and content. I have met many people in our own community who have an insatiable desire to hoard products that they really don’t need to begin with, or will never use. Many of these people feel a certain type of security in buying and stockpiling these items. They store them in their homes until their homes are filled up. Then they rent storage units to continue their massive hoard of merchandise that will expire before it can ever be used.

Our scripture reading today addresses this need to accumulate goods or any type of wealth. The writer of Ecclesiastes warns all of us, that if we fall in love with money, or material goods, or wealth, that we will never be satisfied. As our assets increase, so must our time and effort increase, to maintain or grow our wealth. The hoarder will never be satisfied with what they have and their worry and stress level will certainly increase. They become consumed with their material possessions and will go to great lengths to protect their worldly goods from theft or decay. Greater wealth brings about greater anxiety.

Jesus, in Matthew 6:19-21, tells us “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Jesus is encouraging us to put our time and effort in this life, into things that are important to the kingdom of God. The world that we live in teaches us to put our endeavors into behavior that provides immediate benefits and returns to us, especially our bank account. Jesus is teaching us to put our effort into things that guarantee us, and those we reach for Christ, eternal life.

Having money and living a comfortable life is not necessarily a bad thing. The problem arises, when we fall so in love with our money and possessions, that it becomes an obstacle between us and God. Jesus reminds us that we cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24).

Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, warns his young assistant about the love of money and possessions: For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

As followers of Jesus, our focus should not be on gaining material possessions or wealth here on this earth. We must continue to develop a desire to serve Christ, by serving others, and thus storing up treasures for ourselves, as we live for eternity, with God in heaven.

 

 

 

 

A Time for Everything

Scripture Reading: Ecclesiastes 3:1-11:

1 There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 2 a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 6 a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 8 a time to love and a time to hate,
   a time for war and a time for peace.

 9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

All of us, at some point, must go through different seasons of life. There will be times that we will experience joy and happiness and moments when we must endure deep sorrow and pain. There will be times of joy at the weddings of our friends and family and periods of sadness at the passing of those that we love so much. We will have moments of silence and there will be those times when we must speak up for something that we believe to be right. As human beings we will have those times that we love those around us and there will also be times of hate toward others. In our lifetime we must live through many wars and there will also be those times of peace. As human beings, we will experience many different seasons of life during our time upon this earth.

The writer of Ecclesiastes, in the first two chapters, has written that wisdom, toil, and pleasures are indeed meaningless. In fact, the writer in the first chapter tells us that everything under the sun is meaningless. So how do you and I, find meaning in our daily lives that are lived out under the sun where so much seems to be meaningless?

We usually look for meaning in all of the wrong places in this world that we live in. Wisdom and meaning cannot be found in the world, it can only come from God. We often focus on making a name for ourselves and leaving behind a legacy so that others will remember who we were and what we accomplished. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that even kings or other important people are soon forgotten after they die.

The world that God created for us to live in poses a problem for most of us. We look to the world for happiness, fulfillment or validation and we never seem to find any of those things. Nothing on this earth seems to satisfy us, at least not for a long period of time. The things of this world cannot fully satisfy us because we were not made for this world, we were made for eternity. We were made to live with our creator God in heaven, where God is ruler over all.

I believe that we can find meaning in life if we remember this one important thing. We must come to realize that meaning comes from God; it does not come from this world. God has set the gift of eternity in our hearts but we still cannot begin to comprehend all that God has done for us as mere human beings. We only find meaning in this life when we come to cheerfully accept everything that comes our way as coming from the hand of God. As humans, we have little or no control over the seasons of our lives. God, who is eternal and sovereign, determines all of the seasons and activities of our lives.

Live out your life knowing that your creator God loves you and cares for you. Acknowledge his goodness and his wisdom and you will discover that this life “under the sun” does indeed have meaning and purpose. And we will fully discover that purpose as we spend eternity with our Father in heaven.

 

The Good and the Bad

Ecclesiastes 7:13-14:  Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.

I often wonder why really bad things happen to good people. Or why bad things happen to people that already have enough problems and obstacles to overcome in their daily lives. Why did the impoverished nation of Haiti have to be hit with the earthquake? Why does God allow young children to be stricken with some terrible disease or allow an older person to end their life in terrible pain and suffering? Why did terrorists attack our country on September 11, 2001? Why do our faithful brothers and sisters in Liberia, West Africa continue to struggle to put food on their table or to get basic healthcare, everyday?

These type of questions are not anything new to our present generation. In Luke chapter 13, Jesus was being questioned about why a particular group of Galileans were murdered by Pilate. Where they bad people, where their sins greater than the average Galilean? And why were eighteen innocent people killed when the Tower of Siloam fell on an unsuspecting crowd? Did these eighteen people do something so bad that God decided to punish them in this fashion?

Jesus refused to answer these “why” questions. Instead he wants us to train our mind to focus not on the “why” but on how to live our lives amidst all of the pain and suffering of this world that we live in. Jesus wants us to know and believe that God is not absent from us, that God is standing right there with us in the midst of our suffering. God is there to love us and to shower us with His diving mercy and His divine blessings. We will have to endure some suffering during our lives, but in the end it will somehow make us better and stronger followers of Christ.

My mother has been in two different hospitals and rehab for eight weeks now. Being the only child, the duties of taking care of her has fallen directly on me. I have always thought of myself as a strong person, but these last eight weeks have put that to the ultimate test. There are those days when I wonder if I will have the strength to get up out of bed in the morning. Somehow I manage to get up, go to work, pick the kids up from school and still find time to check on my mother at least two or three times a day.

In our scripture reading today we are reminded that there will be good days and also bad days. The writer of Ecclesiastes encourages us to remember that our same loving and caring God is the creator of both types of times. We cannot begin to understand why God allows bad things to happen, but I continue to trust and believe that God will get me through those bad days, and I know that I will emerge a stronger person of faith because of those trying and difficult times.

Paul, in Romans chapter 11, gives us a beautiful scripture of the knowledge and wisdom of God. Romans 11:33-36: Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.