Sometimes You Just Gotta Rest

In this crazy busy gotta-do-everything-right-now life we lead, seasons of rest seem to be less and less. So, I’m forcing myself to take one during the month of August. But don’t worry! I’ll be back. (I’m going to pretend you were worried.)

I’ve got some fun things lined up for the fall. Including a guest posts at (in)courage coming at ya on September 2nd and a free giveaway I’m working on with some other writers. It’s good stuff!

In the meantime, because I know how much you’re going to miss your weekly Deeper Devo, here’s a few of my favorites, from last year, to tide you over. (Hint, hint: They cover the life of Joseph.)

The Biggest Misunderstanding of God’s Love

When You Feel Disappointed with God

How to Navigate the Best Life Even Amidst the Worst of Circumstances

The Best Decision You’ll Ever Make

The First Step to Reconciliation

How We Move Past the Hurt and Heal

I appreciate you friend. Without your support (and the encouragement of Jesus of course), I probably would have quit this journey a while back. Will you do me a favor? Over the next month, will you share Deeper Devos with someone new? Muchas gracias! See you in a few weeks!

What it Means to Have Real Faith

Faith. It’s something we talk about it. It’s something we encourage each other to have. It’s something we know we need. But is it really something we practice? Hebrews 11:6 tells us without faith, it’s impossible to please God. So obviously it’s pretty important. But what is it really? What does it mean to have faith and practice faith in the one true God?

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 50
Key Verse: “Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” Genesis 50:25

According to Hebrews 11, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph figured it out. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac…” “By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.” “By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.” “By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.”

By faith, by faith, by faith….why were these men credited with having faith? Because it was belief in the promise of God that prompted their actions.

You see faith isn’t hoping God will come through for me. It isn’t throwing a penny into the wishing well of dreams in anticipation of a desirable outcome. It isn’t crossing my fingers behind my back. Faith at its core is believing God will do what he’s said he will do. Period. End of story.

Not because I say the right words or ask enough times, but because He is faithful. On the flip side, if God hasn’t said he will do it, I can’t have faith that he will. I can ask. I can hope. But I can’t have faith.

And therein lies a major problem with today’s Christianity. We often pray and ask God to do something for us. We close our eyes and believe really really hard that he can and should do it, assuming that’s how you have faith. Then we wait patiently (for at least an hour) and end up discouraged when things don’t turn out the way we think they should.

But the question is – am I simply believing God for something I want or something he’s actually said? It’s only faith if I’m believing God for something he’s actually said. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph believed God for what he said. (Reason #1,245,377 for knowing my Bible. It makes “walking by faith” a whole lot easier.)

Thus with nothing back in Canaan but a small piece of land he took from the Amorites (Gen. 48:22) and a cave bought by Abraham, Jacob was adamant he not be buried in Egypt, but in Canaan. Because he wholeheartedly believed the promise of God that the land would one day be theirs.

In spite of the odds. In spite of the fact they were no longer living there. In spite of the fact it currently belonged to a myriad of other people groups and sounded ridiculous, Jacob insisted.

So Joseph made it happen. With the pomp and circumstance of royalty, Jacob’s body was embalmed and taken to Canaan. It was quite the caravan. Verse 7 says along with Joseph went, “All the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household.” Everyone except the kids. (Maybe they were in school. Just kidding. Kind of.)

Oh and also “chariots and horsemen. It was a very great company” (v. 9). Meaning Pharaoh’s army, probably for protection since they were entering a foreign land. What I want to know is who was back at the palace taking care of Pharaoh if all his servants were with Joseph? Very generous of the king.

When the Canaanites saw the entourage and heard “the very great and grievous lamentation” on the threshing floor of Atad, they renamed the place Abel-mizraim, which means “the mourning of Egypt”, figuring it must have been someone of great importance.

But Jacob wasn’t great because of who he was or what he’d done in life. He wasn’t mourned for seventy days by the people of Egypt because of his contributions to society. (Just two days short of the required time of mourning for a king by the way.) He was mourned and lamented and celebrated solely because of his relationship to Joseph.

My friend, it’s not about who you are or aren’t. It’s not about what you’ve done or will do or won’t do. It’s about your relationship to Jesus. It’s about faith. Do we believe God is who he says he is? Do we believe God will do what he’s said he will do?

If so, our actions will show it. Because faith without works is dead. It has no validity. “Show me your faith apart from works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). It’s how Abraham and Isaac lived. It’s how Jacob and Joseph lived. And it’s how you and I need to live.

Confident in the promise of God. Confident in his faithfulness. Confident in his sovereignty. So much so that even when it looks unlikely, even when the odds are against us, even when it seems ridiculous, we testify to the goodness of God by declaring no matter what – bury me in the land of Canaan.

Take my bones, as Joseph made them swear. Proclaiming to a lost world – “I don’t care how it looks right now. I don’t care how absurd you think I am. I believe in the promise of God.” Could there be anything more impactful to the next generation than a church who takes God at his word?

Not holding God accountable, but believing God powerful. And then acting accordingly.

Beloved of God, the patriarchs lived their faith with action based on the promise of God. They may have withered from time to time, but they didn’t give up. Faith in God required something of them, and this hasn’t changed. It requires something of us too.

So whether it means we give trusting God will provide. Whether it means we acknowledge him before men, knowing he’ll acknowledge us before the Father. Whether it means picking up your cross or laying your most prized possessions down. Go and do it. Live by faith. Believe God will do what he’s said he will do and act accordingly. Because he who promised is faithful.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Are you trusting in God for something he’s said or something you simply want?

Alas we have come to the end of Genesis. It’s been a wonderful ride (at least from my vantage point). God has proven himself faithful chapter by chapter. So today I ask you, what difference has it made in your life? How have you been encouraged through our study together? How have you been challenged? I’d love to hear from you.

We May be Different But our Stories are Similar

Differences often blind us from seeing similarities. We get stuck on black and white, republican and democratic, conservative and liberal, christian and non-christian, CEO executive and hard working American. We chant “black lives matter.” Or “blue lives matter” Or “unborn babies matter.” And yes they do. Because life matters. ALL of life matters.

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 45:9-28
Key Verse: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who call you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

If you have skin and bones, no matter your color or occupation or background or whether you’re unborn or 98 years old – you’ve been made in the image of God and your life matters. But we divide and take sides because it’s easier to join with people who think or look like we do. Instead of reaching across the ever widening divide and saying, “You know what, we’ve both been made by the same God.” “You know what, we all need a Savior.” “You know what, in Christ our stories are actually similar.”

It’s true. In Christ, you and I – we’ve got the same story. Though the details are different, the outline’s the same. First God reveals himself to us. (Yes He chooses us. There’s just no way around it.) Then He pardons us, provides for us, and instructs us to proclaim his excellencies.

For every single one of us that’s the outline. And it’s mirrored perfectly in Genesis 45 when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. And then pardons, provides, and instructs them to proclaim his excellencies, in particular to their father.

If Joseph had not revealed himself, his brothers never would have known who he was. And my friend, if God didn’t make Christ known to us, we wouldn’t know either. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). The Greek word for “draw” is helkuo and it literally means to drag. Because the reality is we’d never go on our own.

But convicted of sin by a work of the Holy Spirit, we seek the Savior who pardons us as Joseph so graciously pardoned his guilty brothers. Though we deserve death, though we deserve hell, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities…as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:10-12) A fact I’ll never understand and forever appreciate.

But he doesn’t stop there. Jesus then gives and gives and gives to us out of his great riches. (Go read Ephesians 1.) Beautifully displayed to us by Joseph’s generous blessing of his brothers at the command of Pharaoh. Lavishing them with tons of grace and food and a change of clothes (except Benjamin who got 5 sets of clothes and 300 shekels of silver), he says to them, “You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children…There I will provide for you” (v.10-11).  

He then sent carts to carry their wives and little ones but not their stuff. Pharaoh specifically instructed not to worry about their things “for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours” (45:20). (However Gen. 46:6 tells us they still took their stuff.) (I probably would have too.)

But whether they took the family favorites or not the fact remains as long as they were with Joseph they’d be abundantly provided for the rest of their lives. As are we, when we stick close to Jesus who said in John 15:4-7, “Abide in me…for apart from me you can do nothing…If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

In other words, “Stay close to me.” “That my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (15:11). “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on…But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:25, 33).

My friend, Jesus has not only pardoned us and given us eternal life but desires to provide for every one of our tomorrow’s. If we’d simply trust and obey his fairly straightforward instructions. Which are not burdensome (1 John 5:3) but there for our benefit and His glory.

Just as Joseph instructed his brothers to go and tell their father of his great honor in Egypt, so are we to go and tell of Christ’s great honor in all the world.  1 Peter 2:9 says “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

We’ve been saved for a purpose. We’ve been saved to proclaim the most wonderful excellencies of a God willing to not only pardon our shameless sins but pay the penalty himself. We’ve been saved to tell them He is STILL ALIVE!

I can’t even fathom the conversation that must have ensued when the boys arrived back home with all the stuff and the carts and 20 donkeys over loaded with grain and bread and all the goods of Egypt (v. 23). I wonder how they said it. With remorse dripping from every word? Or with a breathless excitement? Either way, the important thing is they said it. “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt” (45:26).

At first Jacob didn’t believe them. But when he heard their story and the words of Joseph and saw the wagons and overflowing provisions, it was enough. Because it is enough. The person, the pardon, the provisions – it’s absolutely enough. So go and tell them. Tell them your story – tell them our story. Because actually it’s His story.

The LORD hasn’t asked us to convince the world. He’s simply asked us to walk across the room or the street or the great big divide and tell them that He is still alive! Oh and we’re not to quarrel on the way! (Gen. 45:24)

Contemplate and Evaluate:
For what purpose has God saved you?
When was the last time you told someone Jesus is still alive?
Who can you share your story, our story, and ultimately His story with today?

(Photo credit: Pixabay)

How We Move Past the Hurt and Heal

Genesis 45 is the stuff movies are made of, not real life. Though it happened. Every bit of it. Through wet tears and sobs so loud Pharaoh’s household could hear it, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” (v. 3)

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 45:1-8
Key Verse: “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Genesis 45:5

He couldn’t take it anymore. Judah’s little speech and remarkable display of sacrificial love unraveled the last little bit of Joseph’s resolve. I bet it felt good to finally say the words. To finally be open with his grief. It was the third time he’d wept since his family first came seeking food.

But the brothers were terrified. Completely dumbfounded, they could say nothing. So Joseph said everything, quickly stepping into the huge wake of awkwardness his omission had created to ease their fears.

“And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (v. 5-8)

Sheesh. Talk about perspective! Could you do it? After being humiliated, dragged naked, and sold as a slave. After spending year after year in jail. After missing out on a relationship with your father and youngest brother for twenty-two years. Could you let them off the hook with no zingers or little jabs? Without a quick rundown of every little thing you’d been through?

I don’t know. There’s no doubt it would take every ounce of Spirit filled control to keep my tongue in check. To keep me from blaming and renaming and making sure they understood how badly I’d been hurt.

However with the sovereignty of God at the forefront of his mind, Joseph succeeded at it. He let his brothers off the hook because it wasn’t his job to keep them there. He trusted God for the consequences and judgment of their sin instead of making himself the judge. Something quite contrary to our nature.

But he couldn’t have walked headlong into the wake of awkwardness or embraced them with not only his arms but the full depth of his heart, if he didn’t believe in the sovereignty of God.

Because that’s what makes forgiveness possible. Only when we view hurt through the lens of God’s sovereignty can healing happen.

Think about it for a minute. If nothing happens without God’s allowing of it and His control never ceases, then even the hard stuff is not without its place. Giving credence to the ever so popular Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

All things. Even the hurtful things that leave us feeling so numb a hundred bees could sting us and we wouldn’t feel it. Or in some ways might not even care. Because the cut from someone we’d trusted, someone we’d loved, someone we’d cared for, was so deep, it would leave us scarred for a lifetime.

Unless we view it through the lens of God’s sovereignty. Unless we pull back and trust that we’re still in the palm of God’s gracious and loving hand. Unless we realize for one reason or another God permitted it to happen.

Not that he approved of it or applauded it but in his supreme power and authority he allowed it. And if for no other reason than to draw us closer to Him, to let us feel his good presence in our lives, to empower us with his strength, to let us experience the comfort only the King of kings can give, then I dare say it was maybe worth it.

Because to know Him more is the ultimate gift. And to be like Him is the ultimate goal. So if it’s the hurt that pushes me in the right direction then I can heal. I can forgive. I can move past the pain without packing on the bitterness. Because my Father is ultimately in control.

As Joseph so excellently understood. “Don’t worry about it,” he told his brothers. “For God sent me before you to preserve life.” (v. 5). Three times he affirms, “God sent me. So it’s ok. It’s God’s sovereign hand that brought me here.”

Joseph had the privilege of eventually understanding why his path had been what it was. We may or may not get that privilege. But either way a child of God can rest in the comfort of knowing you are never outside the Father’s will. “The LORD directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way.” (Prov. 20:24; NLT)

Does that mean people can sin against me and it doesn’t matter? Nope. Not at all.  It simply means we can find a way to forgive. And when there is honesty and repentance and the sweet surrender of a guilty conscience evident in the offending party, as there was with Joseph’s brothers, we can reconcile. We can weep and hug and rejoice in new beginnings. Because we know we too have been forgiven. We too have been reconciled to a Father we greatly offended by our sin.

“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18). Oh how thankful I am for a Father willing to forgive me. And a King always and forever on the throne. Live today in His perfectly sovereign peace my friend.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Why is God’s sovereignty so important in relation to hurt and healing?
Are there roots of bitterness growing in your heart because of an offense long past? Through the lens of God’s sovereignty how might you be able to offer forgiveness?

(Photo credit: Pixabay)

The First Step to Reconciliation

Compassion is not my natural bent. Nine times out of ten I’d rather just tell you – or I mean everyone besides you – to get over it. I know, heartless. Ironically I have a psychology degree. Maybe there’s good reason God interrupted my plan to become a marriage and family counselor. (And a flight attendant. That was my other idea. “I’m sorry sir but we cannot land this plane if your seat is back those two inches. So just get over it.”)

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 43:1 – 44:34
Key Verse: “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

But over the years I’ve definitely seen my heart soften. As I’ve cried alongside desperately hurting friends, felt the weight of my own bad choices, and stood at the graveside of caskets far too small. To the point in which just this morning while eating my eggs I had to hide the tears that threatened as I read the broken words of a woman who lost her mother at just eighteen.

Her pain echoed through me in a way that made me so very thankful to be watering the flowers on my front porch, meeting the incessant demands of my children, and wading through a sink full of dirty dishes.

It gave me a good dose of perspective – as did over twenty years of unending guilt for Joseph’s brothers. Locked in a jail cell the betrayal of Joseph was the first thing that came to their minds (42:21). It had not left them. It had shaped them. But Joseph needed to know how. Did they feel remorse for what they’d done? Had they changed for the better? So he put them through a series of tests.

First he kept one brother back. Would they come back for him? And would they bring Benjamin? They did. But did they hate Benjamin as they hated him? Would they abandon Benjamin as they did him?

When they returned Joseph invited them into his home. He seated them by birth order. Then heaped five times as much food on Benjamin’s plate. Did they care? Nope. Apparently they didn’t. But the true test was yet to come.

Joseph had his cup, his silver cup, placed in the mouth of Benjamin’s sack. Then sent his steward after them. “What have you done? Why did you take my lord’s special cup?” But they were indignant. “What are you talking about? We didn’t take his special cup!” (obviously my paraphrase)

So certain of their innocence they put their lives on the line. “Whichever of your servants is found with it shall die, and we also will be my lord’s servants” (44:9). And lone behold there it was in Benjamin’s sack.

They tore their clothes. What on earth? But how? Why? Then together returned to the city. Every last one of them. And offered themselves as Joseph’s servants. But Joseph refused, “No no no, I’ll just take the little one. He’s the one who had the cup.” (more of my paraphrase)

How Joseph held it together as his brothers groveled before him, I have not the slightest idea. But he had done it. He had created an opportunity for his brothers to betray Benjamin, just as they had him. Only this time the stakes were higher. In exchange for Benjamin he offered each of them their freedom. Tempting, very very tempting.

But they wouldn’t do it again. Not now. Not ever. It would kill their father. I think it’s safe to say God their hearts had been softened. Besides, Judah had made a promise to return Benjamin and he intended to keep it. So he offered his own life in exchange for Isaac’s favorite boy. The kind of quality one might expect from the tribe of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ.

There was no jealousy. No strife. No teetering back and forth as to what to do. Just selfless determination that allowed them to gather on the highly coveted edge of reconciliation.

Something you may long for or hope for or dream of in this vast world of broken relationships. But how did it happen for them? How did they get to the point wherein love and honesty and grace and mercy were about to burst forth with no restraint?

They let go. All of them. Joseph of any and all bitterness, anger, hate, or revenge. The brothers of all jealousy and envy, and deception. They let go of hurt feelings and grudges. They let go of pride and selfish ambition. And they let go of control. A big one for Jacob.

With little option remaining, Jacob surrendered. “So be it,” he said. And “May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man” But as for me…“If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved” (43:14). He let go. And he let God.

When God calls us to let go of something – be it a loved one, a dream, a plan, a life of guilt or anxiety or favoritism, a seed of bitterness or an all encompassing envy, a feeling of control, a long standing lie, or an ever-present wish – it might be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do. But if it’s the right thing; if it’s God asking you to do it; if it means deliverance or blessing or freedom or reconciliation, then it’s absolutely worth it. And possible through Him who gives us strength (Phil. 4:13).

Little did Jacob realize his boy, his long lost boy, was that dreaded man. And that letting go would bring the most beautiful of blessings into his life. And little did his sons realize the breaking would bring about the best kind of remaking. And the admitting the most brilliant forgiving.

My friend is there something you need to let go of today? Something you’ve long held onto because it’s too scary or too hard or too shameful to admit? Today I pray you find the courage to surrender. To be real. To be honest. Because on the other side just might be the most beautiful of blessings, a reconciliation you didn’t think possible, a remaking you never saw coming, or a forgiving you never thought you’d get to experience.  

Contemplate and Evaluate:
When have you let go and saw God’s gracious hand work things out for the better?
What do you need to let go of today? A wish, a dream, a thought of envy or seed of bitterness? Ask the LORD to give you the strength (Phil. 4:13). And remember His mercies are new every morning.

(Photo credit: Pixabay)

The Best Decision You’ll Ever Make

Sometimes I have the best ideas. Like a few months ago when I told the kids it was National Cleaning Day so we had no choice but to wash windows and baseboards and bedding and every toy they own. Brilliant I tell you! Until they asked my mom if she too had participated in National Cleaning Day. (I’m sorry, what did you say?)

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 41:37- 42:38
Key Verse: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

Then there’s the bad ideas. The really really bad ideas. Like the time I decided to dye my hair black (with permanent hair dye mind you). And then wept uncontrollably the next morning because what on earth had I just done! Clearly there was a reason God did not give me black hair!

Or the time I had shin splints in college and decided I would be responsible and get ice packs and ice them with absolutely no protection WHATSOEVER on my skin. I pushed through the burning sensation for um well much longer than I care to admit. But long enough to give myself burn marks that looked like a map of the Galapagos Islands, on both legs, and didn’t go away for several years. Yes, years. Go ahead and google “map of Galapagos Islands”. I know you want to.

But Joseph didn’t have bad ideas (at least not that we know of). Just really good ones. Seven years of famine – no worries Pharaoh. Just hire a man to gather and store up grain during the seven abundant years so Egypt can still thrive during the seven bad years. Brilliant! “Joseph, you’re hired!”

Can you even imagine? One minute he was serving up mash to his fellow prison mates (at least that’s what I imagine him doing) and the next he’s being served an endless array of any and every delicacy the eye had ever seen as second in command of Egypt. (Up from the grave he arose right?)

Clothed in fine linen, with a gold chain about his neck, and Pharaoh’s signet ring on his finger, they put Joseph in a chariot and took him for a ride. “Bow the knee!” They called out before him. I wonder if there was confusion. “Hey, anyone know who the new guy is?”

“Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (v. 46) to begin the ministry God had set before him. And not so ironically Jesus was also thirty when he began his. Then Pharaoh gave Joseph a gentile wife. Another not so ironic coincidence considering Joseph is a picture of Jesus and we the church, Christ’s bride, are gentiles.

As head honcho or governor Joseph got right to work storing “up grain in great abundance…until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured” (v.49). It was vast and abundant! As are the “immeasurable riches” of God’s grace (Eph. 2:7) and the “unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph 3:8).

A good thing since “all the earth” sought grain from Joseph. Or at least the world well beyond Egypt’s borders. Hence he was a savior to the whole world because he alone could give them life. I think you know what’s coming. Acts 4:12 says of Jesus “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Only Jesus can give us life. And he gives it to “all who call on him” (Rom. 10:12). Just as Joseph gave food to anyone who came to him.

As the famine spread and people far and wide showed up, Joseph must have anticipated his family’s arrival. Pretty sure I would have been wholesaling tums had I been in his shoes. What will it be like to see them again? Will they recognize me? How will they react? Have they changed? Will they still hate me?

Then one day they showed up. Well ten of them anyway because Jacob would not dare part with Benjamin. Did they ask around as to what to do? Or did they know it was the governor they had to seek? Had to approach. Had to ask for food to feed their families.

No matter, they went. Best decision they ever made and “bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.” The very fulfillment of Joseph’s dream.

Yet they didn’t recognize him, though Joseph knew exactly who they were (I think we could easily draw another Jesus parallel here.) Joseph tested his brothers by speaking harshly to them and putting them in jail for three days. Then he told them they could all go home except for one. Didn’t matter who but someone needed to stay until they returned with Benjamin to prove they weren’t really spies (another brilliant idea).

Somehow Simeon was chosen. When the boys got home and told Jacob all that had occurred, he was adamant Benjamin would be going nowhere! “Bad idea boys! Not gonna happen.” But their enthusiasm to return was hindered when they discovered “every man’s bundle of money was in his sack” (42:35). Obviously the governor would assume they stole it!

But there was absolutely no way Joseph was going to let his brothers pay. He just couldn’t. It was a gift. Because salvation cannot be bought. Nor can it be earned. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

We can’t buy it my friend. He won’t let us. Salvation is God’s gift to any and all willing to receive it. Willing to come to him. Willing to take and eat of the bread of life. It’s the best decision you’ll ever make – to go to Jesus. To seek him and the bread he offers. Because only He can save you. Only He can give you life.

Contemplate and Evaluate
Have you gone to Jesus to receive the bread of life? Or have you tried to buy it? Tried to earn it? Tried to gain it from somewhere else?
What evidence of His presence do you see in your life? 
What new insights have you gained regarding the similarities between Joseph and Jesus? How has it encouraged your faith?

(Photo credit: Pixabay)

How to Navigate the Best Life even Amidst the Worst of Circumstances

How does a man keep from growing bitter after being sold by his brothers into slavery, falsely accused of raping another man’s wife, and thrown in jail for a crime he didn’t commit? Humanly speaking, I have no idea. I have a hard enough time not being bitter when someone takes my parking spot. Or when one of my kids throws up the night before Thanksgiving and my entire strawberry pretzel salad, homemade yeast roll, and apple pie universe shrivels into nothingness and I want to scream at them for getting sick. (Just keepin’ it real.)

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 41:1-36
Key Verse: “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.” Psalm 119:165

But I can’t even fathom my family turning on me. Selling me. Utterly rejecting me. How do you not let bitterness weave it’s tangled web? In reality, there’s really only one way. And it’s going to sound so cliche. So 9am Sunday schoolish you’re gonna fight the need to give me a pep talk. (Come on Stacey you can do better than that.)

But it’s the truth. How does one keep from losing it in this crazy upside down so incredibly unfair world? By meditating on the one true God and His word day and night. That’s it. That’s the simple answer to every unfair circumstance, every plight, every struggle, every difficulty we will ever face. God and His Word ever in the forefront of our minds.

“Oh, the joys of those who…delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night” (Ps. 1:1-2, NLT) Even when others malign or seek to bring us down. “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble” (Ps. 119:165).

Counseling is good, but God’s counsel is better. Listen to what it did for the writer of Psalm 119. “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors” (v. 24). “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life” (v. 92-93).

The author of Psalm 119 goes on to say, “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise” (v. 147-148). I wonder if Joseph did just that the morning Pharaoh summoned him. His heart wrapped in God’s perfect peace he began his day with not a clue the cupbearer had just mentioned his name. Until the commotion. The kind that happens when there’s a rush. A rush to accomplish the king’s orders.

Verse 14 says, “They quickly brought him out of the pit.” Did they tell him why? Did they give him a rundown of Pharaoh’s dreams ahead of time or what might be at stake if he couldn’t offer an interpretation? After shaving and changing his clothes, “he came in before Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it” (41:14-15). But Joseph was quick to respond, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

Joseph was not about to take the credit. A true servant of God never does. Because they know apart from Christ they can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). But what’s even more incredible is Joseph’s quick willingness to speak of God to a man who believed himself to be a god. Not a wise thing by worldly standards. This was Joseph’s chance. His one opportunity at freedom. Yet he risked it all by speaking the name of Elohim not just once, but five times to the highest ranking man in the world.

Why? Why would he do such a thing? Because when you meditate on God and his word you cannot help but speak his name. “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Joseph listened to Pharaoh explain his dreams and then explained that God was revealing to Pharaoh what he was about to do. Seven abundant years would be followed by seven years of terrible famine. So he best get prepared.

No one but Joseph was able to give Pharaoh understanding. Not even Pharaoh’s wise men. No doubt it was God who gave Joseph understanding but based on Psalm 119:98-99 something else may have been involved. “Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies…I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.” God’s word isn’t just a lamp unto our feet but our eyes and ears and minds and hearts.

In fact, it’s our very life (Deut. 32:47). “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). It’s a powerful weapon my friend. It keeps me calm when I don’t want to be. It points me in the right direction and gives me hope and confidence and instills me with patience.

Do we know for sure that’s how Joseph made it through those long unbearable years? No, but I just don’t see any other way. You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Is. 26:3, NLT)

So let’s fix our eyes on Jesus. If we love him with our whole hearts and seek His word as though there is no greater treasure in this life, I truly believe we could live the kind of life that Joseph did, even amidst the toughest of circumstances. “Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight” (Ps. 119:143).

Soak it in sweet friend. Soak in every bit of God’s word. It’s more than just a road map to eternal life, it’s a road map to the most abundant life. Even amidst the most dire of circumstances.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What level of importance do you place on God’s word? How is that reflected in the time you spend meditating on the Scriptures?
When has God’s word been a refuge for you? How has it given you hope in hard times?
What changes do you need to make to give God’s word higher priority?

When You Feel Disappointed with God

Have you ever been charged with a crime you didn’t do? Or handed a punishment you didn’t deserve? I have a dear friend whose husband was minding his own business one day (on his way to workout actually) when he got pulled over. And the next thing he knew he was being cuffed and thrown in the back of a sheriff’s van. Little did he know his identity had been stolen and used to buy (let’s just say a few too many) prescription drugs.

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 40
Key Verse: “Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful…Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!” Psalm 31:23-24

Completely helpless and obviously a weeeee bit concerned, Andy sat in jail the entire day charged with a class D felony; while Cari called everyone she could think of who might possibly be able to pull some strings on behalf of her falsely accused husband. And then she waited. Come evening she was able to post bond for him at Easy Ed’s Bail Bond Service. (Honestly that was the name.) But it was far from over. It took almost a year to clear things up.

Joseph however, had no one to speak his defense. No one to post bond for him or pull a few strings or clear things up, so he remained in jail. “Numbered with the transgressors” just as Jesus was (Is. 53:12), and appointed caregiver of the king’s chief cupbearer and baker, who had apparently done something to offend the king, he waited and waited for God to get him out. But it didn’t happen.

After some time (we don’t know how long) the cupbearer and baker both had dreams on the same night but with no access to Pharaoh’s wise men for understanding, they were noticeably troubled. Joseph on the other hand was not, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me” (v. 8).

An absolutely astounding statement considering Joseph’s own dreams had occurred more than a decade prior and had yet to come true. If it were me, I probably would have responded with something like “Sorry guys wish I could help but I stink at interpretations. I once had these crazy dreams my family would bow down to me but obviously I was way off.”

But Joseph didn’t even blink. The only explanation for his confidence – an unwavering faith in the dreams God had given. He had not lost hope. He had not given up. He firmly believed it would happen. (Anyone else put to shame by this kid’s relentless faith or is it just me?)

After listening to the cupbearer describe his dream of a vine with three branches that budded and blossomed, and shot forth grapes quicker than my three year old can devour a pack of oreos, Joseph gave the happy interpretation. “In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office.”

Great news thought the baker. So he shared his as well.  Only the outcome wasn’t so favorable for him. “In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head – from you! – and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you” (v. 19). Talk about bearer of bad news! Way to not beat around the bush there Joseph. 

Then they waited a never ending three days to see if Joseph was right. The cupbearer anxious for the day to arrive while the baker hoped it’d never come. And Joseph? Well I imagine him a bit anxious as well. And hopeful. This was his chance! His God given opportunity. He’d asked the baker to remember him and speak to Pharaoh on his behalf. Surely he would. The whole thing was obviously God’s doing.

But when the third day dawned and everything happened just as Joseph said it would, there was no summons from the king to see the boy who’d predicted it all. No orders to bring up the man falsely accused. In fact there was no request at all. None. Because the cupbearer forgot about Joseph for two whole years.

Two whole years! Think Joseph was disappointed with God? I do. “LORD why? Why did you not do anything? I just don’t understand.” (Ever been there?) But here’s the thing. God was doing something. He was. It just wasn’t evident. Had the cupbearer mentioned Joseph to Pharaoh right away, it likely would have meant nothing to him. He had more important matters to tend to than a Hebrew slave. But when the time was right, it would mean everything.

A reminder to me to trust God because only he knows the why behind the when.

Allowing Joseph the opportunity to interpret the cupbearer and baker’s dreams, not only set the stage for Joseph’s rising but probably reignited the hope of his own dreams. And solidified a confidence within him that would come in handy when it was time to interpret Pharaoh’s.

He just needed to wait a little longer. The story was bigger than just him. And more often than we realize the same is true in our lives. It’s not just about us. It’s about God and his plan and his people and his purpose. Which sometimes requires us to wait a little longer (You have no idea how much I didn’t want to type that sentence.)

Giving us opportunity to bring glory to God through an unbending, unrelenting, undeniable faith. Wanna be someone great? Be a person of faith in a season of wait. Joseph didn’t do anything miraculous. He simply had faith in a long and difficult season of wait. When things looked bleak. When it looked as though it would never work out. When he was disappointed…he trusted God. My friend, “The LORD preserves the faithful…Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!” (Ps. 31:23-24) And you too will be someone great.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
When have you been disappointed with God? Perhaps right now you’re in the middle of “two whole years”, how can you showcase a relentless faith? What Scriptures can you hold on to?
What lessons have you learned in seasons of wait?

(Photo credit: Pixabay)

The Biggest Misunderstanding of God’s Love

How do you define love? Affection, allegiance, devotion? 1 Corinthians 13 defines loves as patient, kind, not envying, not arrogant or rude. “It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” In other words – the opposite of anything and everything selfish.

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 39
Key Verse: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Rom. 5:3-4

My dictionary app defines it as “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.” I’m good with that. But I realized the other night while rocking my two year old that I’ve inadvertently added something to my definition. With his little arms about my neck and his head snuggled tightly against my shoulder I could not deny the overwhelming desire within me to protect him. Forever. From anything and everything hurtful and hard.

Because when you love someone you protect them, right? You walk closest to the road so they can walk in the grass. You kill bugs and spiders and bees. You taste the cottage cheese first to make sure it’s still good. You scream “STOP” at the top of your lungs when they run full steam into a parking lot. (And so on and so forth…you get the idea.)

Because love and protection go hand in hand. They just do. Which is why Genesis 39 puts my head in a tailspin. God loved Joseph. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. He dedicated twelve whole chapters to the retelling of his story. He granted him success  (v. 3, 23). He was with him constantly (v.2, 21, 23). He showed him steadfast love (v. 21). He gave him favor in the sight of his overseers. And wisdom and set him over all the land of Egypt. Yet God did not protect him from hurt and pain and devastating circumstances as my definition of love wants to assume he should have.

Taken unjustly from the vicious hands of his brothers, Joseph served as a slave to the best of his ability. His owner, Potiphar, took note and placed Joseph over everything in his home. Which was all well and good until Mrs. Potiphar noticed “Joseph was handsome in form and appearance” (v. 6). (A trait he got from his mother – cf. Gen. 29:17.)

Unable to restrain herself, she begged Joseph, “Lie with me.” In other words “Have sex with me.” But he refused, recognizing that to do so would be a sin against God (v.9). Yet she persisted day after day. Talk about temptation! Especially for a lonely young man in his twenties! Not to mention it’s quite likely Mrs. Potiphar was young and beautiful herself.  

But one day she got forceful. Grabbing Joseph by his garment. Probably something like a long t-shirt. So the fact he had to leave his shirt implies she had a pretty good grip on him. Joseph had no choice but to flee. Doing exactly as he should according to 1 Corinthians 6:18. I kind of feel like we should stand up and clap. This is one impressive young man.

But instead of a standing ovation, “his feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron” (Ps. 105:18). Because Mrs. Potiphar lied straight through the skin of her beautiful teeth, falsely accusing Joseph of trying to rape her. (I feel angry just typing that.)

And you know who else was angry? Potiphar. Though I’m not so sure his anger was directed at Joseph or he would have killed him. Caught between a rock and a hard place (i.e. a wayward wife and a public scandal), Joseph was put in jail. And not just any jail – the place where the king’s prisoners went. God was doing something. But do you think Joseph understood that? Or do you think he questioned God’s love for him? “LORD I’ve done everything right! Why is this happening to me?”

Personally, I would set up camp on the questioning side of things. Because when you love someone you protect them from things that hurt right? Well, not necessarily. (And herein lies one of the biggest misunderstandings of God’s love.) According to Scripture sometimes it’s best for us to feel the hurt. Because “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5).

God didn’t protect Joseph from disheartening circumstances because it wasn’t in Joseph’s best interest. God’s goal is not protecting me, it’s sanctifying me (making me more like Christ.) Which is often done through the hard things. The unfair things. The I don’t understand why this is happening things.

His love doesn’t protect us from everything that hurts. His love enables us to get through it.

2 Tim. 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Jesus confirms in John 16:33, “In this world you will have tribulation.” He tells the disciples in Matthew 24, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.” (I know, so uplifting.)

Chances are we’re gonna go through some tough stuff. Sometimes those tough things are our own fault because of sin. Other times, it’s completely out of our control. But it’s never because God’s love is lacking. He never promised to protect us from everything hurtful and hard but He has promised to one day rescue us from it all. Thanks be to God who has “rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13).

My friend God’s love may not always look like we think it should. But rest assured He loves you. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13, NLT). Just as Jesus has done for you.

Contemplate and Evaluate
Does your definition of love include protection? Has it caused you to question God’s love in hard to understand situations?
How has God’s love enabled you to get through difficult circumstances?

(Photo credit: Pixabay)

When Adversity is Actually Opportunity to Walk in the Likeness of Christ

Why, I don’t know, but my children revel in bringing me bad news. “Oh mooommmmyyyyy I have something to tell you and you aren’t gonna like it” (On that last part be sure and say it in a cheery sing song voice and really draw it out, nice and slow) It baffles me really. You’d think at some point they might catch on that bad news does not make mommy happy. It makes me frustrated. And generally upset. (Unless I’m in the middle of a massage, being fed large amounts of fruit, on a tropical island.)

Devotional Scripture: Genesis 37
Key Verse: “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” 1 John 2:6

However if I’m at home alone, with four little stinkers, trying to make dinner and get to baseball, and one of them colors all over the wall with my favorite pen. Probably not the best idea to sing your way into the kitchen as though it’s the best day of your life because your little brother is about to get in trouble and mommy’s gonna blow a gasket. (Darn gaskets. Amazon really needs to sell those in Prime.)  

But for whatever reason, it’s just so much fun. At least for my people. I have no idea if Joseph enjoyed it, Jacob’s second to youngest son. But while he was out pasturing the flock with his brothers Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher they did something he knew their father would not like (v.2). Something bad, though Scripture doesn’t tell us what. And Joseph had no hesitation telling Jacob about it.

Because they were close. Very close. So close we could say it’s a picture of another Father/Son relationship in which the Son (Jesus) always did the will of His Father (John 6:38). Just one of the many ways we will see Joseph and his incredible story parallel that of our Savior. Though at the time Joseph had no idea God was painting such a picture. All he got were two crazy dreams with no explanation. Not even a heads up things were gonna go south for a bit.

Unfortunately for Joseph his brothers weren’t too fond of his dreams. As in they hated him even more when Joseph told them their sheaves would one day bow down to his. Along with the sun, moon, and eleven stars. They already didn’t like Joseph because of Jacob’s favoritism towards him. An issue you’d think Jacob would have realized is hurtful when his own father favored his brother over him.

But verse 3 clearly indicates he didn’t. Jacob “loved Joseph more than any other of his sons” and gave him a “robe of many colors.” Which can also be translated “robe with long sleeves.” It’s the same word used to describe the robe King David’s daughter Tamar wore as a royal daughter (2 Sam. 13:18). Only people in managing or royal positions wore robes with sleeves because they didn’t have to work like the poor folk; who found sleeves to be bothersome and a bit much for everyday tasks.

So when Joseph showed up wearing his robe with the big puffy sleeves, you can imagine how his brothers felt about the whole thing. (I can distinctly remember telling my brothers, “You’re not the boss of me!” Which makes perfect sense now. It was the 80s. They were probably wearing big sleeves. Or maybe that was me.)

Anyway, the dreams merely added fuel to the already burning fire of hatred passionately brewing in their hearts. What I don’t get is how Jacob and Joseph didn’t see it coming. Did they honestly have no clue? Otherwise why would Jacob send Joseph, without even a servant, to his brothers who were supposedly pasturing the flocks near Shechem (of all places) but were actually farther north in Dothan. A distance of maybe 50 miles or so.  

That’s no daily jaunt! Joseph traveled alone for days. Only to be greeted by fratricide. His brothers wanted him dead! But not wanting any further trouble on his head Reuben suggested a pit instead. Great idea big brother! So when Joseph came near they stripped him of his robe (Jesus also got stripped of his robe) and threw him in. Genesis 42:21 tells us Joseph begged them to let him go, but they wouldn’t listen.

Instead, they ate. “And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. ” (v. 25) When it dawned on Judah whose name, by the way, is translated Judas in Greek. The same name as Jesus’ betrayer. “Hey, we could sell him!” With the exception of Reuben, who must have been tending the sheep, they concluded this to be a brilliant idea. So off Joseph went for a mere twenty shekels of silver. (Jesus was betrayed for thirty.)

Can you imagine the heartache and confusion and fear battling in this young man? I have to think he felt a bit betrayed by God. “What did I do to deserve this LORD?” Ever said those words? Yet God loved Joseph. He had great plans for him. And part of that plan was walking in the likeness of his Son.

I’ve had my fair share of “why” moments. Why LORD does it have to be this way? Why LORD do I have to be the one? Why not someone else? But maybe those hard things were simply opportunities for me to walk in the likeness of Christ. (Please don’t ask how I did.)

Our stories may not parallel Jesus as Joseph’s did. For just as the Father would one day send Jesus to his lost brothers, so did Joseph’s father send him. And just as Jesus was hated by his brothers for declaring his future sovereignty, so was Joseph hated for declaring his. They didn’t believe Joseph, nor did they believe Jesus. Therefore just as Jesus would one day be stripped, mocked, and betrayed – so was Joseph.   

This young man’s life, though he didn’t know it, was a mirror image of his Savior. Just as ours is meant to be. In mind, speech, love, service, sacrifice, and steadfast faithfulness just to name a few. So the next time life takes an unexpected turn, throws you a curveball, makes you think twice about God’s faithful presence. Consider that maybe, just maybe, it’s not because God’s turned his back on you or forgotten that the muck just got a little thicker. But so you can have opportunity to walk in the likeness of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Contemplate and Evaluate
What trial or difficulty have you been given to radically display the likeness of Christ? Have you been faithful to do so?
How can you walk in Christ likeness today?


Photo by Pixabay