This morning, we’re going to begin with communion.  It’s a reminder of why we’re here, how much God values each one of us, and how simple the gospel truly is.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

This morning’s service is all based on Psalm 105.  It begins this way:

Psalm 105:1-4

1 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;

    make known among the nations what he has done.

2 Sing to him, sing praise to him;

    tell of all his wonderful acts.

3 Glory in his holy name;

    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

4 Look to the Lord and his strength;

    seek his face always.

Let’s put this word into action and do just that!  Let’s give some praise to the Lord through song and glory in His name as we seek His face!

* Worship *

Life can be challenging and it’s so easy sometimes to get overwhelmed by our circumstances and to lose sight of God.  That’s why we routinely have communion together as a reminder to us of what really matters in life.  This Psalm goes on to encourage us to do exactly this; to remember Him.

5 Remember the wonders he has done,

    his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,

6 you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,

    his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.

7 He is the Lord our God;

    his judgments are in all the earth.

To be honest, I kind of struggled with this at first.  I love remembering in awe at all of the miracles and wonders that God as done, but I’m not as fond of the judgments of God. 

Remember the encounters such as when Korah and the other 250 leaders rose up against Moses and Aaron and God split open the earth to swallow them up and then burnt alive the 250 leaders.  Or remember Ananias and Sapphira when they lied about keeping back some of the money of their house sale for themselves and how they both died.

Sometimes, the salvation of some meant death for others such as the Israelites crossing the Red sea after fleeing Egypt and how that same miracle was both their salvation, but the death of the Egyptian chariots.

What this reminds me of is to not take lightly our salvation and the new covenant of God.  We are saved by God’s grace through our faith thanks to Jesus paying the price for our sin.  Since we are saved by faith, we should also live by faith in Him and in a healthy fear of the Lord.  We’ve been forgiven and set free from the power of sin.  Why then, would we choose to continue to live in sin?

It’s not that we are to be afraid of God, but that we live rightly in fear of the judgment of wrongdoing.  In fact, under the New Covenant, what we experience isn’t really the judgment of God, but the discipline of God.  We all deserve Hell, the right punishment for our sin, but Jesus took on that punishment.  We deserve Hell, but are instead freely given Heaven.  We’re not punished, but we are disciplined.

We are given the freedom of choice, but not freedom from the consequence of our choices both good choices that bring blessing and bad choices that bring curses.

If you had a good father growing up, then you understand this.  Your father loved you and you weren’t afraid of Him.  He was your provider and protector.  However, when you did what you knew was wrong, you feared his discipline.

Hebrews 12:4-11

4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,

    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,

6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Discipline is not the same as punishment.  Discipline is like the guide rails and rumble strips on the side of the road.  They are there to help keep us on the right path.  The rumble strips warns us and catches our attention without causing any harm.  If that doesn’t catch our attention and redirect us, the guide rails are there to help guide the car back onto the right path. 

Sure, we get some scrapes and dents when we hit them, but they actually served to protect us and to save us.  When we’re trained correctly, we never have to experience the rumble strips or guide rails again.  We drive rightly and stay on the path we are intended to be on.

Discipline is painful, but painful in the right way and to the right degree to steer us away from danger and not to want to go back to it again.  It’s a tool used to build us up and to fear wrongdoing.

Punishment is like a spike strip in front of a thick, solid block wall at the end of a crash test road.  They are there to stop us and inflict as much pain and harm as quickly as possible.  If you get out of line, you’re going to pay the price.  It’s a tool used to tear us down and to fear the one inflicting it.

Now that we’ve covered that topic pretty thoroughly, we move on to the good stuff.  After all, it’s the good stuff that causes us to want to obey and to stay on the right path and to make good choices anyways!

8 He remembers his covenant forever,

    the promise he made, for a thousand generations,

9 the covenant he made with Abraham,

    the oath he swore to Isaac.

10 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,

    to Israel as an everlasting covenant:

11 “To you I will give the land of Canaan

    as the portion you will inherit.”

God is a promise keeper!  God has good things in store for us.  Even His discipline is just to keep us on track to enter into them so that we don’t miss out on them!

The future that God has prepared for us is also not just for us, but for generations to come!  Part of the process is also to prepare us for it.

12 When they were but few in number,

    few indeed, and strangers in it,

13 they wandered from nation to nation,

    from one kingdom to another.

14 He allowed no one to oppress them;

    for their sake he rebuked kings:

15 “Do not touch my anointed ones;

    do my prophets no harm.”

It’s amazing to think about how an entire nation of people, Israel, was just a single family at its start.  Yet because of God’s future plans, He protected them as they travelled even rebuking kings so that they wouldn’t harm them or oppress them.  It was all about God and His plans because they certainly weren’t the perfect family.  In fact, most of us are familiar with how Joseph’s brothers treated him.

We read on a bit about that and how things got a bit rough for them as we continue on:

16 He called down famine on the land

    and destroyed all their supplies of food;

17 and he sent a man before them—

    Joseph, sold as a slave.

18 They bruised his feet with shackles,

    his neck was put in irons,

19 till what he foretold came to pass,

    till the word of the Lord proved him true.

20 The king sent and released him,

    the ruler of peoples set him free.

21 He made him master of his household,

    ruler over all he possessed,

22 to instruct his princes as he pleased

    and teach his elders wisdom.

Suffering and lack and mistreatment isn’t ever God’s destiny for any of us.  However, God can work all things together for good.  God can take what others intend for harm and evil and to tear us down and actually use it to build us up.  Joseph’s life is a great example of this!

Joseph had a couple prophetic dreams that God gave him.  Then, things got really bad and then went from bad to worse, then to really awesome, then all the way down to rock bottom before he eventually was promoted to second in command over the greatest nation on earth at that time; Egypt.  God’s dream came to pass, but it didn’t happen the way that Joseph would have ever planned it out!

The key verse here in what God was up to through the bad stuff that lead to the good stuff is verse 19.  Verse 19 may be where God has you in life here this morning, too.  It is a place that either makes or breaks us.  It is a place where we have little choice but to trust God as He shapes and forms and matures us and our character.  It’s where we have to choose to either walk by faith in what God said about our future or to walk in doubt by sight and how things are looking in our reality.

Psalms 105:19 (NKJV)

Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the LORD tested him.

Psalms 105:19 (TPT)

God’s promise to Joseph purged his character until it was time for his dreams to come true.

Psalms 105:19 (NLT)

Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character.

Psalms 105:19 (AMP)

Until the time that his word [of prophecy regarding his brothers] came true, The word of the LORD tested and refined him.

God’s discipline is not just about correcting us when we get things wrong.  Discipline can also help to grow and mature us and to develop our character.  Discipline is a significant part of the wait and of the process between the promise and the fulfillment.

God knows that His blessing will be a curse if we are not prepared to receive it.  For that reason, God will not fulfill His promise until the right time when we are ready to walk into it. 

It’s also important to remember that the safest place for us is right where God wants us to be.  Egypt was a place of provision and protection for Israel for a season, but Egypt was just a pit stop on their way into God’s promised land to them.  It was a pit stop and not the final destination.

Unfortunately, Israel became comfortable there and grew and prospered there and forgot about where they were actually heading and what they were actually destined for.  God had to raise up a national leader who was against them to cause them to get up from there and to move out into God’s actual plans and future for them.  Out in that desert place, God revealed Himself to them as they were reminded once again who they were, Whose they were, and where they were created for.

39 He spread out a cloud as a covering,

    and a fire to give light at night.

40 They asked, and he brought them quail;

    he fed them well with the bread of heaven.

41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;

    it flowed like a river in the desert.

42 For he remembered his holy promise

    given to his servant Abraham.

43 He brought out his people with rejoicing,

    his chosen ones with shouts of joy;

44 he gave them the lands of the nations,

    and they fell heir to what others had toiled for—

45 that they might keep his precepts

    and observe his laws.

Praise the Lord.

This morning, God is reminding us that there is a greater destiny awaiting us!  Where we are is not the end of our story.  That is, if we choose not to grumble and complain and wander around when things get bad.  A whole generation only got to hear about the promised land because of this and never got to enter in.

No, we want to be the Joshua’s and Caleb’s who trusted in the Lord alone and are willing to do whatever it takes to move forward into God’s promises for us.  We want to be a disciplined people who value the growth and maturity of our character more than we value our own comfort.  We want to be a people who never give up hope and trust in the Lord even when things around us are looking nothing like His promise to us.  His word will come to pass!

That is what enabled Joseph to go from brother to slave to manager to criminal to royalty and finally to live out the dream that God had given him decades beforehand!  That same level of trust and willingness to serve wherever we find ourselves in life is also what will take us from where we are at now and into the fulfillment of all of God’s promises to us.  It’s never too late and there is nothing too hard for our God!