When we allow God in to places of loss, He will not only heal us, but He will help us grow into a deeper, better person. He will rework our soul.
What a blessing to be able to share this moment together with all of you, my friends near and far, our church community connected together. Still knowing that these are really unusual times, we still seek the Lord. So He might show us the way, the way of blessing. And I want to talk about, um, how we,
how we can negotiate some, some of life’s difficult patches, how we can find God’s goodness, even when life is hard. Yeah. You know, it’s been a difficult year. Can’t, can’t deny it. We’re on this journey that we’ve been making. And for a lot of us, it’s been rough. It’s been a rough, I mean, I’ll tell you for me personally, it’s been one of the most, you know, as a pastor and leader,
uh, and then just with some things that I’m having to work with, it’s been a, it’s been a really hard year and I think what’s made it so difficult to, uh, I think you’re all aware. of this is just the starts and the stops and the setbacks and the disappointments, and then the hopes and then the frustrations and, uh, you know, just the limitations and loss.
I think those are two things that really stand out. Yeah. That this has been a season of incredible loss for many people, and also a time when we’re being faced with not just calamities at a national level and an international level, but in things maybe even inside of our ourselves, but just with the limitation.
And that’s been, been hard really has. And, and I also want to just acknowledge at least that on top of all those difficult things, This has been a time of incredible grace as well, where God’s goodness has been evident in ways that many of us could not have anticipated. I mean, to follow Jesus is to live in grace, isn’t it?
And the Bible reminds us and you know this verse Romans 8: 28, that we know that all things were together for good, for those who love God and are the called according to his purpose. And those are two things that are mentioned there as qualifiers, right? Love and alignment. Those who love God and those who are called according to his purpose. When we, when we make sure that that love for the Lord is alive and, and something that is inside of us, that’s real and authentic, not perfect, but sincere and honest, when that love is there,
and when we are seeking to bring our lives into a place of obedience and, and, you know, again, I use the word alignment because I think it’s the best thing that I, or that I can use to describe it when we’re trying to honor what he has taught us, inevitably, goodness is going to flow and God’s going to work good in some way.
And I hope so. I’m aware that a lot, some of us, at least we may actually be doing pretty well. And I don’t want to just assume that everybody isn’t doing well in fact some of you have told me that you are, I should not. You’re doing okay if that’s your even more than okay. And I would say that that is, is a good thing.
Like I want us to be good. I want us to be happy. I want us to be joyful. I do. I know it’s the Lord’s will for us. And. And yet, even if we ourselves haven’t been struggling as much in this time, because there might be some aspects of what’s been going on that have, I don’t know, just been more suitable for who we are in our overall disposition.
And maybe there’s been a lot of other provisions that have balanced out some of the things that we’ve, we’ve been losing. And so we, we’ve adjusted we’re we’re okay. But we may be connected to people who are not OK. There may be people who we care very deeply about who are struggling. They may be friends, family members, people we’re very close to and their struggle affects us.
Their hurt affects us. Their loss is our loss, and that’s true in the body of Christ. And that’s true just in the circles of our relationships. So the principles that we’re exploring here are not just meant for us. Because we might be saying, well, I’m doing, I’m doing pretty well. So, you know, my life isn’t as hard right now, but yeah, but it may be that it is.
And if it is, and it may be that we’re connected to people who are having a hard time. So it just makes everything that we’re about to discuss exceptionally relevant. And if nothing else, it’s a, it’s a tool for us to use to help and bless others. But you know, my prayer is that this word that we’re about this, you know, about to share together would be a healing balm in the name of Jesus.
Yes, Lord. I do pray for that in Your name. Well, what I want to do is have us go back, reconnect to the Genesis account. Remember, we’re going to learn from it because Jacob is at a point where he’s on the precipice of leaving the land of promise. He’s an older man now. He’s accepted the invitation of his son
Joseph who’s risen to prominence in Egypt, and it’s been a time of famine and economic downturn, downturn, unlike any other. And so, uh, Jacob is leading his family to relocate in Egypt. And yet there’s a part of him that is concerned that he stepping outside of the Lord’s will. And so he double checks that.
We talked about all those things, the principle of double checking. And so I just want to jump in here and, uh, learn from the, the wealth of God’s word that was given, is given to us for life. Genesis 46, first one. So Israel, that’s Jacob, took his journey with all that he had and he came to Beer- sheba and offered sacrifices to the God of his father, Isaac and God spoke to Israel and visions of the night
and said, Jacob Jacob. And he said, here I am. And then he said, I am God. The God of your father do not be afraid to go down to Egypt for there I will make you into a great nation. See, God’s giving him a word of assurance. I myself will go down with you to Egypt. And I will also bring you up again in a different way though.
Huh? And Joseph’s hands shall close your eyes. And then Jacob set out from Beer- sheba, the sons of Israel carry Jacob, their father, their little ones and their wives in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent to carry him. And they also took their livestock and their goods, which they had gained in the land of Canaan.
They had prospered in the nomadic life that they had lived under the promise of God. And they came into Egypt and Jacob and all his offspring with him, his sons and his son’s sons with him, his daughters and his son’s daughters. And all his offspring, he brought with him into Egypt. Now what follows in, in the scriptures, if you were to read Genesis 46 and verses eight through 27, I mean, what, what follows is essentially what amounts to, I guess there’s no other really way to describe it.
It’s the passenger’s list. And the Bible is very concerned that we have all the details, particularly as it relates to, uh, genealogies. It wants us to know that it’s rooted in, in real history, connected to real people. These are not just fanciful names or invention, inventions of human imagination, that, that we have a connection to something that really happened.
And there’s a lineage and a way of, of looking and understanding that God’s word is embedded into something that occurred in time and space. So it’s trustworthy in that regard. But one of the things I think I mentioned, honestly, most of the time, those verses are, you know, things that we just skim over and I was actually going to do that, but there was something that caught my attention and it’s something that I would like to look at and have us look at together in verse 12, it’s a small detail.
It’s written almost in passing, but it actually was quite suggestive about something that happened to Joseph’s brother, Judah, who was the fourth son of Jacob and the one whose name. And I love this name, too, it means praise. Yeah. And the one from whom would come, David, who, who gave us songs of praise. And Solomon who gave us words of wisdom.
And then of course from the line of Judah would come the great savior and Redeemer Jesus, our Lord and our savior. It’s all connected, but we read in verse 12 and this is what I would want us to just look at. We read in verse 12 that the sons of Judah and there’s five names mentioned here, Er, Onan, Shelah Perez and Zerah, but then we’re told,
just, I can see a parentheses there, but Er and Onan had died in the land of Canaan. So we see that Judas two oldest sons died. How they died is a fascinating and colored story discussed in greater detail in Genesis 38. And that’s the way I just described that as an understatement, if you actually read it, it was an unusual thing that happened suffice to say, though, that Judah and his
wife just call her Mrs. Judah. At some point between the time when Joseph was sold into slavery and the coming of the famine, somewhere in the bracket of that space, they had lost their two oldest sons. They had outlived their sons. They had outlived the ones that they had brought into this world and, uh, Er and Onan and the tragedy and loss that has visited the family of Judah is something that we can only assume.
That even though those were harsher times where death was more of a reality. And that’s why you’ll note that in the older Testament and in the newer Testament, uh, death in child-bearing is, was for example, uh, a real thing that happened all the time. And so people would either live a long life or they would live a very short life typically.
You know, I, I was having this discussion with my oldest daughter and some of you know her Chloe she’s part of our worship team. And, and for a lot of the, um, season of that we’ve just had during the, the COVID and the pandemic time with our online service, she’s, she’s been the one that’s been closing out the services.
Now she’s taken a break because she just had a baby. And one of the things that we were discussing was how the, the, the doctors mentioned to her that, uh, in light of the way that the baby, our granddaughter was positioned inside of Chloe, that in another era, she probably would’ve died. And, you know, that was just a sobering reminder of how, you know, um, much we take for granted, you know, and I think in that, in this period, in the book of Genesis, things like death, having a child we’re real things and, and it was not uncommon.
And yet still, uh, to lose your two oldest sons, Er and Onan must have been something that affected deeply Judah. And it got me actually thinking about, you know, and of course the whole family and Mrs. Judah as well, as I call her. Um, but I remember when our young family, my family Cheryl’s and my family
dodged a bullet. That’s the only way I can describe it. As about 30 years ago, I was just actually starting as a pastor. And, uh, it had been two years. I was, uh, 27 years old and I had an office at the church building, which is actually in the Mission here where I’m sharing this message. And that office was on the second floor behind the balcony.
And it was, uh, it was the pre- cell phone era that, that, I mean, I think there were people who had, in fact I’m pretty sure there were, there were people who had mobile phones. This is the only way I know how to describe it. If you see a picture of it, you look it up. They were actually more like walkie talkies that you would see in World War II.
I mean, the cell phones that they had were, you know, just you huge, mega pieces of machinery and, uh, you know, they were cumbersome and only, only those who are kind of wealthy or on the cutting edge had the walkie-talkie phone that with no cord. And that was quite a breakthrough. But anyway, I know for, for some of you, it’s, it’s hard to imagine being disconnected.
I get that, honestly, I’m so used to having a phone or a device on me that it’s, it’s hard to imagine not having the speed of access, but there was a time I can assure you. There was a time when we did not have smartphones and, and that time had its pros and it had his cons. I mean, there’s a, uh, danger. I think we’re all aware of this and always being connected and it’s, it’s a little, it’s a little addictive.
And I do think that one of the downsides of, of the iPhone era, this, this era of mobility and connectedness and connectivity and just exceptional technological advancement, is that it does set us up for an unhealthy and, and toxic life pace. It really does where we’re just always on and it requires discipline.
I think, you know, that and intentional restraint and disconnect, and that’s a whole lot easier said than done. In the older days it felt harder to get information quickly, but it, and it, because it was, I mean, for me, I couldn’t just Google up a question to double-check something. Um, even as a pastor, I would have to go back and spend a lot of time researching through books and encyclopedias.
And it was just a laborious process. That was just an assumed part of, of life for generations before us, that we now, uh, really just can’t really even comprehend because we, we know that in a matter of, of seconds, we can get most of the information we need and when we don’t get it, we actually kind of get frustrated or, you know, upset.
So it’s, it’s interesting how times have changed, but I wonder if, uh, in an era such as this where a lot of our time gets sucked up in distractions and, and, you know, w- even some things that are just not even helpful, they’re just neither good or bad. They’re just kinda mind numbing or distracting, but there are other things that are unhealthy, really unhealthy that we can wander into as well.
And they hurt and they damage us. So, you know, um, I just wonder if, if maybe if Sabbath and intentional disconnection, maybe even more, yeah, even more important because there are so many voices vying for our attention. And I wonder if, um, we might not be more, we might have more duress than we realize because we’re under a ton of non-stop digital and informational, uh, movement.
And it’s just like, it’s just, we’re constantly being bombarded. Anyway, Pastor you’re wandering. That’s what I hear somebody tell me. Hmm. I know, but it’s good, I guess in a way, but remember not all who wander are lost, so bear with me. But anyway, back to my story, I got to remember back to my story because it’s connected to what happened with Judah, at least in a, in a way, but it was about three or four o’clock in the afternoon.
And I had been out of the office for a couple of hours when I came back there, uh, I noted that there was a message handwritten taped to my door and no one could contact me. I didn’t have a phone. I remember this was the pre-phone era. And on that note, it said call Kaiser, uh, Caleb. That was our oldest son who was about 14 months at the time.
He was just a little guy. You know, Cheryl was actually pregnant with Chloe who just had our granddaughter Caila, who is it? Her name is Chloe Cahill. And, uh, yeah, it, well, Kaiser had, um, yeah, I still remember it, get a little emotional remembering it, but Kaiser had had Caleb been in an intensive care. He had just been rushed to the emergency and, and when I,
when I called, they told me it was very serious and they wouldn’t go into the details, but they said I needed to get there right away. And evidently it was some type of a serious seizure that he had. And I remember, I just remember this vividly leaving the church, driving, uh, up 17th street crossing
over Market going over to Divisadero, going down, praying, praying, really praying with fear with, fear, yes. And questions racing through my mind about my son, because I was just, one, I wasn’t sure does this mean he’s gonna gonna die? Does this mean he’ll have, you know, permanent brain impairment and he’s so little and I just, I, all those things were racing through my mind and I was trying to trust God and praying for his deliverance.
And I’ll never forget walking into the unit and seeing my little guy, the little fellow, uh, seemingly unconscious, uh, splayed out on the table. And, there were, you know, Cheryl was there, but there were six, six to 10, seven people working on him and, and, and tubes were everywhere. And there was an oxygen mask on his face.
And I, I felt so helpless. I was worried. Um, even though I had steadied myself in prayer, I was frightened. Like I said, that, that he would suffer real brain damage or die. And, um, you know, he ended up, the good news is he ended up being okay. And, and though it wasn’t a hundred percent certain what had caused him to have the seizure.
We were pretty sure it was connected to the chemicals and fumes near the floor of a printer shop where, where we had brought him with us and anyway, he ended up recovering completely. And now he is a fine young man in his thirties, uh, early thirties, bright, intelligent, a follower of Jesus, um, part of our church community.
And I’m very proud of him, works here in the city, but I look back on that moment as a time when Sheryl and I. And, you know, I don’t think about it enough. I don’t say thank you enough to the Lord I, at the time I did, but I think as the years have gone by I’ve, I’ve forgotten. In fact, it’s something like this that brings it back to my mind again.
But I think we were spared the impact of tragedy and I hope you understand loved ones, how that would have changed the course of our family and this church forever. You know, as a pastor, I have over the years, worked with people where that has not been the case. And I have found that grace is needed, at those times, more than ever.
And this brings us back to Judah for his growth and transformation is I think I really do the re- this is the connection. I think it’s one of the underappreciated subplots in the account of Joseph’s life story, the emergence of Judah as a sensitive sacrificial man, striking and unexpected. And I actually think it’s connected in part to the pain that he walked through in that 20 year period in that gap.
Um, in that gap of life where he lost his two oldest sons, you remember it was, uh, Judah who convinced a stubborn and fearful Jacob to finally let Benjamin go. Remember in Genesis 43 his passionate and heartfelt, plea, just put it up there real quick. He said, Judah said to his father, send the boy with me and we will be on our way.
Otherwise we will all die of starvation. And not only we, but you and our little ones, I personally guarantee his safety. You may hold me responsible if I don’t bring him back to you. And then, then let me bear the blame forever father. And if you recall, so that’s Judah being sacrificial. And if you recall, it was Judah who also pleaded with Joseph when Benjamin was caught with the apparent stolen goods and was about to be taken captive as a slave saying, essentially Judah appeals did what the other brothers did not do.
He appeals, he says, let me take his place. He’s so young. He’s so young -minds me of a Miserables, right? You’re so young and it’s going to tear my aged father apart. And you won’t be able to bear it. I will give up my freedom. I will give up my life for his, is Judah says, and in that sense, he was for foreshadowing his greatest disseminate descendant, who will do, uh, for all of us, um, what Ju- dah offered to do.
But that, that of course is Jesus. And that’s another story, right? A greater story of sacrifice. I remember in that moment, Joseph was overwhelmed. It was unexpected. And in Joseph’s mind, he’s thinking, is this the same man, Judah, the one who was so callous, so clever and shrewd that he came up with the idea to have me sold as a slave?
Yeah, it was the same one. Now it appears, this is the, this is what I want us to, to hear. It appears that time and loss had reworked his soul, made him a different man. Judah stands out as the most changed of them all, of all the brothers he’s the most changed. And I just have to wonder if part of that change had to do with the, the loss that impacted his life, that, that he was deeply affected.
Um, and, that that, that, that tragedy became a catalyst for positive change. I mean, suffering and loss loved ones tend to do one of two things to us. Don’t they they either soften us or they ruin us
Suffering and loss tends to make people more loving and kind, and sensitive and sympathetic. This is what I’ve noticed after now, years of pastoring and observing, um, people, or it tends to make people more embittered and callous and indifferent to the pain of others in its worst form. It kind of creates a kind of coldness and insensitivity.
And here’s the thing, when we allow God into the places of loss, not only will He heal us, but I believe He will help grow us into a deeper, more, um, well, I don’t know, just, uh, a better soul, a better person. He will rework our soul. That’s what I’m saying. And I love that phrase. I love the idea of God reworking our
soul it’s one of the things He does and, um, no one else can do it the way the Lord can. When we surrender to Him, He can rework our soul. When we surrender our pain to Him, He can redeem it. He, when we surrender our lost years, He can, He can return them in a different way. You see what God does? See, what happens when we allow Him to? Do we see his goodness on full display?
You know, one thing is clear. Judah had learned to trust, you know, God, but he had also earned the trust of his father and we’re given an interesting detail. Just want to throw this in there. As they approached Egypt, look what it says in Genesis 46, verse 20. This is from the NLT says as they near their destination, Jacob sent Judah, Judah ahead to meet Joseph and get directions to the region of Goshen.
There was a trust that Jacob had in Judah. Judah becomes the point person and, and his story reminds me of a few things. Three of them, I’m just going to just really quickly allude to, uh, and share before we break for, uh, our song. And, uh, but there’s a fourth one that I’m going to share on the backside of the special
uh, that we’re going to enjoy together, but Judah’s story reminds us of a few things that we can do when life gets hard, when the rain comes and it will, it may not come the way that it came into Judah’s life, but rain will come. And when it does, you know, um, there’s some things that it would be helpful for us to remember.
The first two actually have to do with relational disappointment, and the last two have to do with pain. But remember this because Judah is a model of this. Remember that, and here it is, number one, people can change and people can grow. And that’s obviously true of those who follow, you know, follow Jesus, you know, and it can be true people who don’t follow him.
I had, I acknowledge that. The likelihood of growth is enhanced dramatically when Christ is welcomed in, because at its core, the Christian life is when it’s, when it’s genuinely engaged and when real commitment is made, right? It’s not so much true if it’s just done as a passive kind of religious filler that we live at a passive surface level.
No, but when it’s really something that is, uh, a deeply embedded part of our life. We will find that it becomes a life of continual grace and breakthrough and growth to honestly, to the day we die. Like we, and we can flourish. Even in our older years, I’ve seen this, I’ve watched it happen. So remember this: people can change.
People can grow. Judah had changed. He had grown, he had learned, he was a different man that can happen for all of us. We can get better. We don’t have to get bitter. We can get better. And the second thing let’s be careful about putting people, especially people we are close to. And I say this a lot. You hear me say it into boxes, always viewing them through the same lens in a way, in a certain way.
We can lock people up and never let them out. We just put them in and they’ve disappointed us so much that we will always see them through the lens of that disappointment. And. By God’s grace. I appeal to you that we need to leave room for change. We need to leave room for grace. We need to leave room for God to move in a life.
He can. He does. He will. It’s a pattern of the Lord It’s His way of blessing and we need to pray for better days. We need to pray and celebrate small improvements. Sometimes we fixate on the disappointments and we, we don’t celebrate enough. The improvements, even though they’re just small, that people are making, you know, sometimes people start with a real, you know, they’re, they’re, they’ve, they’ve gotten themselves into a place where they’re so deep, deep -ly depressed into, um, a low place that even
for them a little progress, sometimes doesn’t look like much, but for them it might actually be a big step. And we need to really thank the Lord for that and encourage and applaud that. And, and I’m not talking about just saying happy things to say them, but we, if we can focus on things that we can encourage that are good, we will find that there is a greater likelihood that that will happen again.
Right? And then the third thing, this one shifts a little bit. But it has to do with what I think happened in Judah’s life, is something that I’ve found to be true. That profound progress is often connected to profound pain. And I think, like I said, it’s part of Judah’s transformation. When we submit our loss to Jesus, we should not be surprised.
when leaps of growth and layers of healing occur. I mean, I’m talking about the breakdown that leads to the breakthrough that leads to the breakout. You remember? I always talk about that. To such a degree that we become wounded healers in his name. And that’s what we’re reminded of in second Corinthians one, right?
Three and four, that all praise to God, the father of our Lord Jesus. God is our merciful father and source of all comfort, how thankful we are for that? But then look what it says in verse four, he comforts us in all of our troubles so that we can comfort others when they are troubled. We will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.
Do you see what that’s saying? We have been healed to heal. We are being healed to help and heal others. It’s the way of Jesus. And when it works right, Um, there’s nothing like it in the world. So I do want to remind all of you. It’s the time I get to do it. To our online community. If you’re new here, don’t feel any pressure around it, really.
I want you to, but I do wanna remind everybody about our giving time. It’s how our church keeps doing what we’re doing. And it’s about being faithful to God and our tithes and our offerings and honoring it with our first fruits. And remember, you can give it a number of different ways that so many of you have been doing so beautifully.
You can give by sending it into our offices. You can give online through our website. You can go and do what I do, which gives through the app. But I always say, you know, make sure we give him our heart. And I think that the two are more connected then we realize, but we’ve got a great song that we’re going to share.
And it’s called When the Rain Comes. It’s about what happens when we get hit with things and, and, um, we could be disappointed with ourselves, disappointed with others or just the, the tough spots in life that are even sometimes a little bit tragic in terms of loss. Keep that in mind as we share this song, I’m going to come back.
I mentioned there was four things I have one more to share.
So one of the things that the song reminded us of was that in addition to God’s unshakeable love. Um, we also have been given the gifts of other people in our lives and the blessing of being there for one another. Do you see that the blessing of being there for one another? And can you hear me when I say this and this is the fourth thing that I mentioned.
The part of the way God redeems the pains and the shames of our past, thinking about Judah, is by making us more compassionate and tender more empathetic and sensitive to others who are hurting. I mentioned how, you know, Judah had some dark moments in his life. I mean, the initiator of having Joseph sold into slavery, the guilt that he bore there.
And yet over time, God had reworked his soul and the Lord, his goodness was there in this hard place and brought about healing in life. And I think it’s, it’s something that when we’ve been touched with God’s goodness, we are then invited to become wounded healers. I think we understand that wounded healers in his name being there, being available in our imperfections to minister of life in a good way.
An arm on a shoulder, a listening ear, a word of prayer, a text of encouragement that we send because God put it in our heart to do so, expressions. I call them the expressions of kingdom love. Lord, help us to do this. Help us to do this. You are so good. You’ve been so good to us. You are so good. You are so good.
You are so good. And you were so God and you call us to sow good. And you call us to, sow God, so don’t forget. Lord wants you to know how loved you are. He’s the healer. He’s the one who redeems the lost years. Yeah. I mean, may He keep you, me, too, I pray for it in every way in your spirit, in your soul, in your body, and in your mind.
In Jesus’ name.