Archive for December, 2005

50:15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge and wants to repay us in full for all the harm we did to him?” 50:16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave these instructions before he died: 50:17 ‘Tell Joseph this: Please forgive the sin of your brothers and the wrong they did when they treated you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sin of the servants of the God of your father.” When this message was reported to him, Joseph wept. 50:18 Then his brothers also came and threw themselves down before him; they said, “Here we are; we are your slaves.” 50:19 But Joseph answered them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 50:20 As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day. 50:21 So now, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your little children.” Then he consoled them and spoke kindly to them. – Genesis 50:15-21

Have you ever felt a little too sure of yourself?  Have you ever felt like you had it all under control, that you knew where you were going and what you were doing?  Have you ever felt like it was really up to you?  I know I have and that is why I love passages like this.  It is God’s way of letting us know that we are not actually in control.  It is God’s way of letting us know that he really does have the whole world in his hands.  It is God’s way of showing us that he is the one who gets us through the bad times, the good times and anything in between. 

Joseph understood that God used everything bad that happen in his life for good.  Some would take this to mean that God even caused the bad to happen so he could use it for good.  I don’t believe this is true in most cases.  God can cause anything to happen, but in most cases he just needs to let our own human nature take control and we will do something wrong or evil.  He can then turn it around and use it for his purposes.  That is the beauty of God’s sovereignty.  We get in the way and he makes it work out his way anyway.  We literally do not have the ability to screw up his plans.  Joseph understood this and so must we.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for being in control and making everything work for your purposes.  Help us to accept and understand that the thing that go wrong around us can still be used by you for your glory and purposes.  Help us to get out of the way when we should and get into the thick of things when you ask us to do so.  I love you Lord.  Amen.

45:25 So they went up from Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. 45:26 They told him, “Joseph is still alive and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt!” Jacob was stunned, for he did not believe them. 45:27 But when they related to him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to transport him, their father Jacob’s spirit revived. 45:28 Then Israel said, “Enough! My son Joseph is still alive! I will go and see him before I die.” – Genesis 45:25-28

Recently, I have been struck more and more by God’s sovereignty.  I am a big believer in the power of free will.  I believe that God could control everything, but has chosen not to do so.  I believe that God has purposely placed limits on how he is willing to use his own power so that we are free to make mistakes and wise choices.  I think that God is trying to show me that in the end he is still in control.  Free will and God’s sovereignty are not enemies.  Free will only exists under God’s sovereign will.  However, too strong a focus on free will can begin to make a person limit God in their own mind.  I am afraid that I may have been doing this to some point.  I know that I need to recommit to letting God be in charge of my life.  I know this is not God taking away my free will.  It is me willingly relinquishing it to the creator and sustainer of the universe.  It is me bowing before God and saying "Yes Lord."  It is me looking to God as my source of direction, meaning and purpose.

Joseph seemed to really understand this.  He had ever right to be bitter at his brothers for selling him into slavery.  However, he knew that God had placed him in Egypt so that his whole family could be preserved.  What is really amazing is how God’s sovereignty shines through.  Joseph knew he was there to preserve his family.  However, he likely did not understand that preserving his family was not just to save the lives of his father, brothers and extended family.  It was to preserve the line of our savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Joseph was one important cog in God’s sovereign plan for this world even though he did not really know it.  When we truly submit our lives to God’s will we make ourselves available for God’s sovereign will to work out in our lives.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Each day I am aware that you have given me the ability to make choice for myself.  Each day I am aware that these choices are not really mine to make.  Help me to truly give up control of my future, my life direction to you.  Help me to serve you without condition or question.  I love you Lord.  Amen.

40:12 “This is its meaning,” Joseph said to him. “The three branches represent three days. 40:13 In three more days Pharaoh will reinstate you and restore you to your office. You will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you did before when you were cupbearer. 40:14 But remember me when it goes well for you, and show me kindness. Make mention of me to Pharaoh and bring me out of this prison, 40:15 for I really was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews and I have done nothing wrong here for which they should put me in a dungeon.” – Genesis 40:12-15

Joseph did seem to have a charmed life.  Everything he touched may not have turned into gold, but it did turn into grain.  Even though he was sold into slavery, he still ended up in one of the best slaves jobs possible.  He ran the household for a rich and powerful man.  This mans wife found him to be extremely attractive and tried to seduce him.  Joseph could have easily been very haughty and arrogant.  We already know that Joseph was a little full of himself when he told his brothers about his dream in which they bowed down to him.  Sure this was a dream from God, but telling it to his brothers served no real purpose other than to stoke Joseph’s pride.  For a long time I wondered why God let Joseph sit in prison in Egypt for so long.  I wonder if this was so Joseph would learn to truly rely on God and not his past "good fortune."  I wonder if this was God teaching Joseph humility.  Sometimes God does require each of us to go through tough times so that we come out on the others side spiritually stronger, but more cognizant of our weaknesses and need for God.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I don’t like trial.  I don’t appreciate times of hardship.  Truthfully, I don’t really like or appreciate them even after I understand why I needed to experience them.  However, I thank you for them anyway.  I know you use them to refine me, change me and mold me.  Help me to accept and appreciate those times and occurrences and part of your divine plan.  Help me to accept them, cherish them and look back at them fondly.  I love you Lord.  Amen.

Posting Schedule

Since we are only a few days away from the start of our team blog, we better put together our posting schedule.  Here is what we have so far.

Monday – Doug

Tuesday – Jennifer

Chris, Mimi and Julie, how do you feel about the following.  This is basically random, so let me know if it does not work.

Wednesday – Chris

Thursday – Mimi

Friday – Julie

I am sure we all are looking forward to getting started.

Leaving Town

Tomorrow morning (Tuesday), my family and I will be heading out of town for a few days. 

If there is any discussion of assigning days, or other ‘getting started’ specifics, feel free to take advantage of my absence and assign me whatever no one else wants!  emoticon

I’m anxiously anticipating studying with y’all (that’s a remnant of my short residency in KY – I like it because it’s gender neutral). 

Julie

Merry Christmas

This is my last post for a few days.  My family and I are going to a resort in Missouri for Christmas.  As the resort does not even have a telephone in the rooms, I highly doubt internet access will be available.

I hope each of you has a truly wonderful Christmas.  I pray that you enjoy the time with your family and friends.  It is my hope that those you know who are far from God will see something in you that causes them to start questioning, wondering and eventually praying.

God Bless!

39:1 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt. An Egyptian named Potiphar, an official of Pharaoh and the captain of the guard, purchased him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him there. 39:2 The Lord was with Joseph. He was successful and lived in the household of his Egyptian master. 39:3 His master observed that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he was doing successful. 39:4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal attendant. Potiphar appointed Joseph overseer of his household and put him in charge of everything he owned. 39:5 From the time Potiphar appointed him over his household and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s household for Joseph’s sake. The blessing of the Lord was on everything that he had, both in his house and in his fields. 39:6 So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; he gave no thought to anything except the food he ate. – Genesis 39:16

I often think about God’s calling on my life and the lives of others.  I have always believe God has a calling on every persons life.  For some this may actually me vocational ministry.  For most it will require working some kind of job and finding ministry fulfillment in other ways that God provides.  However, there is a third group that I think Joseph falls into.  There are those that God has not called into what we would consider vocational ministry, but he has given them a job that is their ministry.  Let me explain by telling you a story of one former pastors journey.  We will call him Joe.  Joe was the senior pastor of mid-sized growing church.  Most people would consider him successful, but he was very unhappy.  He actually did not like church ministry.  Joe decided to leave his church and just go get a job.  At this point he really did not care what it was, it just needed to be different.  Joe spent a few years moving up the corporate ladder honing his leadership and administration skills.  Eventually he ended up in the nursing home industry.  He continued to work hard and eventually became the top administrator for a large nursing home.  As he moved up the ladder in this industry he realized he had found his calling.  He was very good at making sure the nursing homes were run effectively and efficiently while giving the residents better care than they had ever had.  Joe found his true calling of God by helping seniors experience full and productive lives.  He also found a great opportunity to minister the love of Jesus Christ to these older persons.  Many of them had heard the story many times, but had not seen it in practice.  Joe practiced his faith and in doing so spread it to others.

Joseph was the same way.  He was not called to be some type of Holy man.  His skills were also leadership and administration.  Yet, he used these skills for God’s glory and in doing so saved the entire nation of Egypt and people of many other nations from starvation.  Of course, we will read about that in a few chapters.  God has called all of us to do something for his kingdom.  Our job is to prayerfully determine what it is and do it.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I thank you that each of us are uniquely and wonderfully made.  I thank you that you have given each of us different gifts and different calling to accomplish the work of the kingdom.  I pray that you would help all of us that call ourselves your followers to utilize these gift for your glory.  I love you Lord.  Amen.

33:1 Jacob looked up and saw that Esau was coming along with four hundred men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and the two female servants. 33:2 He put the servants and their children in front, with Leah and her children behind them, and Rachel and Joseph behind them. 33:3 But Jacob himself went on ahead of them, and he bowed toward the ground seven times as he approached his brother. 33:4 But Esau ran to meet him, embraced him, hugged his neck, and kissed him. Then they both wept. 33:5 When Esau looked up and saw the women and the children, he asked, “Who are these people with you?” Jacob replied, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” 33:6 The female servants came forward with their children and bowed down. 33:7 Then Leah came forward with her children and they bowed down. Finally Joseph and Rachel came forward and bowed down. – Genesis 33:1-7

Have you ever had a falling out with a person where you know in your heart you are in the right?  You go back to this person and follow Biblical principles to set everything right, but it still does not work.  Recently, I was very angry with someone because of something they had done.  I was angry for two reasons.  First, they had done something that I did not believe was right.  Second, the way they went about it was wrong.  I truly felt so wronged by this person that I kept questioning how God could use them so successfully in ministry (and God is definitely using this person in a great way.)  This whole situation was bothering me terribly, so I knew that I need to approach them to set things right.  I did.  What came out of this is that they admitted the way they went about it was wrong.  They did not agree that what they did was wrong.  However, I knew from that moment on that I was released.  I had done what I was suppose to do.  We did not disagree on an essential of faith.  We disagreed on a non-essential, so I let is alone.

Today’s reading made me thing again about this situation.  Jacob was a man greatly used by God that often did things wrong and did not admit them or even necessarily think they were wrong.  He was a man who stole the position and blessing of being the first-born.  He was a man who did not love all of his wives.  He was a man who favored one child over another.  He even put some of his wives and children in greater danger than others when he was approaching Esau.  I don’t think anyone would say these were right belief and actions, yet he was a man greatly used by God.  I know I have often talked about how God uses us even when we fail his continuously and act improperly.  This situation requires me to live out that belief and accept that someone who wronged me is still being greatly used by God.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Your ways are not my ways and for that I am thankful.  I do not see what you see and I thank you for doing things I do not understand.  Help me to follow you regardless of others and what they may do.  Help me to accept you will continue to use others and me even though we make great mistakes.  Help me to continue to forgive and move on to what you have for my family and me.  I love you Lord.  Amen.

30:1 When Rachel saw that she could not give Jacob children, she became jealous of her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children or I’ll die!” 30:2 Jacob became furious with Rachel and exclaimed, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” 30:3 She replied, “Here is my servant Bilhah! Have sexual relations with her so that she can bear children for me and I can have a family through her.”

30:4 So Rachel gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob had marital relations with her. 30:5 Bilhah became pregnant and gave Jacob a son. 30:6 Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me. He has responded to my prayer and given me a son.” That is why she named him Dan.

30:7 Bilhah, Rachel’s servant, became pregnant again and gave Jacob another son. 30:8 Then Rachel said, “I have fought a desperate struggle with my sister, but I have won.” So she named him Naphtali.

30:9 When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she gave her servant Zilpah to Jacob as a wife. 30:10 Soon Leah’s servant Zilpah gave Jacob a son. 30:11 Leah said, “How fortunate!” So she named him Gad.

30:12 Then Leah’s servant Zilpah gave Jacob another son. 30:13 Leah said, “How happy I am, for women will call me happy!” So she named him Asher. – Genesis 30:1-12

Leah and Rachel were not just sister.  They were also wives to the same man.  The probably grew up competing with one another just like many sibling do.  However, when they both became Jacob’s wives their competition soon was out of control.  Rachel became increasingly jealous as her sister kept on having sons for Jacob.  Leah joins right into the "fun" and soon both of them have given their maidservant to Jacob so they can count those children as their own.  As I read this, I kept on thinking how ridiculous this sounds.  However, It dawned on me that we often act the same way with our sibling, co-workers, friends and others who surround us in our daily lives.  No, most women don’t try to have as many male children as possible anymore.  In Biblical times having male children was believed to be a sign of blessing (as the father of three wonderful girls, I think it could be considered a curse :-).)  We do have our signs of blessing we try to obtain.  It might be wealth, the right job, the right spouse or something else.  The real problem is that these rivalries have nothing to do with real blessings from God.  Real blessings are not things (or even having more children than someone else.)  Real blessings could easily be having the children God wants you to have (like three beautiful girls.)  Real blessings could be having the spouse God has given you.  Real blessing could be having true friends and healthy relationships.  Real blessing could even be having wealth and the God given desire to share it with those less fortunate.  When we turn anything into a competition we miss out on the real blessings God has in store for us.

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are the God of every good and perfect gift.  You are the God who gives us blessings we do not deserve.  Help us to keep our eyes open to real blessings instead of focusing on the things of this world.  Thank you for helping us to change our priorities.  I love you Lord.  Amen.

28:18 Early in the morning Jacob took the stone he had placed near his head and set it up as a sacred stone. Then he poured oil on top of it. 28:19 He called that place Bethel, although the former name of the town was Luz. 28:20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God is with me and protects me on this journey I am taking and gives me food to eat and clothing to wear, 28:21 and I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will become my God. 28:22 Then this stone that I have set up as a sacred stone will be the house of God, and I will surely give you back a tenth of everything you give me.” – Genesis 28:18-22

Jacob was not much of a man of God.  He was a thief and a liar.  He fooled his father into believeing he was his brother so he could have the blessing of the first born.  He took his brothers birth right away for a bowl of stew (of course, it does not say much of Esau for selling it.)  Even when God shows up in a dream and promises to protect him and make him into a great nation, Jacob agrees to serve him with many conditions.  Of course, God had already agreed to these condition, but that doesn’t change the fact that Jacob felt the need to reinterate them.  In Genesis 15:6 it says that Abram believed and God consider his response of faith to be genuine loyalty.  Instead of responding in faith, Jacob set out to create the covenental version of a prenuptual agreement.  Yet, God used him.  God blessed him.  God fulfilled his promises through him.  For that I am thankful.  Jacob deserved to be cast aside in favor of another, but Jacob was part of God’s plan just like we are.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for making me part of your plan.  Thank you for not casting me aside when I try to put conditions on my faith.  Thank you for loving me so much that you forgive me when I respond to you improperly.  Help me to serve you in faith and without conditions.  Help me to go where you tell me to go when you tell me to go.  Help me to listen to your still small voice.  I love you Lord.  Amen.

 

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