Sunday, March 11, 2012

God’s Thirteen Year Plan

Today is the Third Sunday in Lent and a beautiful sunny morning for gathering here at New Life Covenant. Pastor Brad began by calling out, "Good morning. I’m grateful you’re here this morning to worship with us. We worship a big and gracious and awesome God." He went on to say, "We learned last week that God does have a plan for our lives, but He is more concerned with what we become than where we are going."

Because it was Dorothy Theiry’s 90th birthday this week we sang “Happy Birthday.”

Ken and Vicky had to leave early this a.m. because his mother passed away. For this reason Chuck and Darlene sang a pair of duets for us to open the worship time. The Shepherd’s Song, talks about being led by Christ. “He shall lead His flock like a shepherd…” Next they sang Wonderful Peace, by Ralph Carmichael, a song Chuck and Darlene first sang together 35 years ago.

After a time of worship, Brad invited Walt to come forward and share what was happening in the building committee. Slides were projected on the screen and the disclaimer that this is all really preliminary. Ideas have been stirred as we approach the next step, preliminary design work for building plans. Environmental due diligence is also part of the process.

The building as currently conceived will have three sections, including offices, Sunday school rooms and a large multi-purpose room with high ceilings for a variety of activities including worship.

Dale also presented how the needs of the church family were the primary considerations while also being realistic about costs. Dale explained the details of this tentative layout which included the challenges of working around the various building codes. The space is in the neighborhood of 85,000 square feet. If you were not here today, all this information is available by contacting the building committee.

Next steps include refining choices, looking at a similar church in Grand Rapids, and sorting out the real costs. Currently, the whole of it “is a dream on paper,” Walt said. “And please keep praying for the process.” There are many decisions to make.

After the offering was taken, we spent some time in prayer and Brad moved us into the sermon.

God’s Thirteen Year Plan

Disclaimer: These notes are an inadequate reflection of the message Pastor Brad delivered. For best results, read reflectively Genesis 37-50.

Essentially, Brad gave an overview of the life of Joseph and drew out several key thoughts, the first being: God really does have a plan for our lives.

The coach in the press box can see things that the players can’t see down in the field. So it is that God sees things we can’t see. He sees all things visible and invisible. When we're in the thick of it, we can trust Him because God has a better perspective.

Most people who have grown up in the church remember the story of Joseph and how had been given a coat of many colors which made his brothers jealous. Even many unchurched people know the story through literature and plays. Chapter 37 begins with Joseph sharing a dream he had, which made his brothers hate him even more. He dreamt that he and his brothers were binding sheaves of grain out in the field and all of a sudden his stood upright and the sheaves of his brothers bowed down to his. This naturally infuriated his older brothers.

Joseph was 17 when this happened. Thirteen years later, at age 30, Joseph was a ruler in Egypt with such authority from the Pharaoh that nothing would happen that didn’t go through him. Nevertheless, the thirteen years between these events was a pretty wild ride. It would have been easy to lose hope. It would be easy to give up if you went through what Joseph went through.

Joseph’s brothers were out attending sheep and their hatred of Joseph had festered to a boiling point. They decided to throw him into an empty well and teach him a lesson. Some of his brothers even wanted to kill him. "We can kill a wild animal and put blood on it so they can tell their father he was killed by an animal."

But after throwing him in the well and trying to decide how far to go with this, a Midianite band came along and the brothers sold Joseph for 20 shekels of silver. These gypsies went on to sell Joseph to a man named Potiphar.

Despite the hardship and impossible circumstances, it is written, “And the Lord was with Joseph.” Everything Joseph did achieved success, though things didn't always go his way.

Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, but Joseph kept his integrity and escaped from her clutches. Being humiliated by this rejection she turns the tables and accuses him of rape. Next thing, Joseph is behind bars.

Joseph could have complained about his lot in life. But instead of railing against God for his circumstances, he chose to bloom where he was planted. Even in jail he rose to the top of the inmates. Then one day, the Pharaoh’s cup bearer and baker were thrown into jail. While there the two men had dreams. They asked for help from Joseph.

Interpreting the dreams, Joseph said that in three days the baker would be toast, but the cup bearer would be released and returned to Pharaoh’s house. Joseph made a deal with the cup bearer, asking the man to remember him upon his release. But even in this Joseph got the snub.

Much time had elapsed and it would have been easy for Joseph to get discouraged, but in all those days Joseph made a choice to trust God.

God does have a hope and a future for us. It doesn’t necessarily look like the American dream. What we sometimes do is let the culture paint the picture our dreams should look like.

Too often, we paint a picture of what we think God’s will should look like for us so that we say, “As long as my life looks like this I will worship you.”

“Jesus promised those who would follow Him three things: they would be absurdly happy, entirely fearless and always in trouble.

“One thing I’ve learned, God is more interested in my character than He is in my comfort.”

Second principle: God is always with you. Even when it’s dark, He is working behind the scenes.
Joseph could have been tempted to say at any point along the way that (a) God was wrong, or (b) maybe God changed His mind, or (c) I did something wrong and God kicked me off the master plan track, or (d) maybe God just wasn't real to begin with.

Joseph could have given up. He could have said, "Maybe I better figure out how to do this life by myself." But the truth is, when it's dark for us God doesn’t sleep. God doesn’t need engery drinks to keep going. God watches over us all through the night. His grace is sufficient for you.

When Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, God’s plan was not derailed. When it looks dark, God is there with you, has not abandoned you. He is committed to working all things together for good for those who trust Him.

Third: God’s plan is always this, to have the right person in the right place for the right purposes.

Joseph's prison experience ends with Pharaoh having a couple troubling dreams himself. His magicians were helpless to interpret it for him. Suddenly the cup bearer remembers this fellow in prison who could interpret dreams. Joseph said with God’s help he could do this.

Pharaoh's dream showed Joseph that seven years of famine coming, but only after seven good years. Joseph described a solution to the famine problem, that by preparing in advance they would have storehouses of food and grain. Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of the plan.

When the famine hit, it hit far more than Egypt. Joseph's brothers came to get food for their families. What a shock when for Joseph when they came and bowed down to him without them knowing who he was. And a shock for the brothers who were terrified at the prospects of retribution.

But Joseph had God's perspective once again. "God sent me here, not you. I’m not bitter about the pit and the slavery… God has used it all for His purpose." Indeed, that purpose was to preserve the sons of Jacob for the preservation of Israel for the ultimate purpose of preserving the lineage that would one day produce a redeemer for mankind… that Jesus might be one day born to become the light of the world and savior.

We ended the service by singing that great traditional hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness.

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