Fearing God


Fearing God

Genesis 42:1–28

Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt

When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you keep looking at one another? I have heard,” he said, “that there is grain in Egypt; go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he feared that harm might come to him. Thus the sons of Israel were among the other people who came to buy grain, for the famine had reached the land of Canaan.

Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Joseph also remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them. He said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” They said to him, “No, my lord; your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man; we are honest men; your servants have never been spies.” But he said to them, “No, you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” They said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan; the youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more.” But Joseph said to them, “It is just as I have said to you; you are spies! Here is how you shall be tested: as Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here! Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, in order that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else, as Pharaoh lives, surely you are spies.” And he put them all together in prison for three days.

On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here where you are imprisoned. The rest of you shall go and carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me. Thus your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they agreed to do so. They said to one another, “Alas, we are paying the penalty for what we did to our brother; we saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this anguish has come upon us.” Then Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” They did not know that Joseph understood them, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. He turned away from them and wept; then he returned and spoke to them. And he picked out Simeon and had him bound before their eyes. Joseph then gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to return every man’s money to his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. This was done for them.

Joseph’s Brothers Return to Canaan

They loaded their donkeys with their grain, and departed. When one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money at the top of the sack. He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in my sack!” At this they lost heart and turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”

Matthew 14:34–36

Jesus Heals the Sick in Gennesaret1

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

One of the “Christian phrases” that unsettles me is that the Bible is an instruction book for life. The truth is, the Bible is a lot more than just that, and if we reduce it down to a set of rules to follow, we have left grace in the dust and have started on a path of works righteousness and/or philosophy of secret wisdom. The Bible is a history of God’s relationship with the Jewish people, culminating in His incarnation in Jesus Christ, and then followed by God’s redeeming work through the Church and promised return. Within that, there are laws, stories, teaching, analogies, allegories, comedy, tragedy, politics, and prayers.

That said, there is a kind of thread that comes out in two very important places in scripture and then weave themselves through the whole Bible. These are the beginning of Proverbs and the end of Ecclesiastes – the sort of “bookends” of wisdom literature found in the middle of the Bible. They say:

Proverbs 1:7

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Emphasis mine)

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Emphasis mine)

King Solomon is credited for writing both of these books. He is also credited as being the wisest man who ever lived (although there are multiple opinions on this matter). Regardless of where he ranks, I find it significant that King Solomon chose to begin and end his teaching on wisdom with one concept: The Fear of God. Tweet: King Solomon chose to begin and end his teaching on wisdom with one concept: The Fear of God.

Joseph may not have been credited with the wisdom of Solomon, but he learned the fear of God. If he learned nothing else in his journey from favored son, through the well, into the dungeon, and back up into the light of the day as a ruler of Egypt, he learned that God was in control and he was not. Ironically, this was the same faith that the sick and wounded had when they came to Jesus. They knew Jesus could help them when they could do nothing. He was in control and they were not. Beggars and princes are all in the same boat with Jesus.Tweet: Beggars and princes are all in the same boat with Jesus.

Our nation has been struggling with a desire for control for decades. We all have. Our instincts are to grab rather than give, to lash out instead of lift up with love. Those very words sound weak and sentimental though they echo Jesus’s own teaching about loving our enemies. Do we think Jesus is foolish and sentimental as well?

When do you feel helpless?

What experiences remind you that God is in control?

Click to Tweet!

  1. (Mk 6:53–56)

The Slow Boil


The Slow Boil

Genesis 41:37–57

Joseph’s Rise to Power

The proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?” So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only with regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Removing his signet ring from his hand, Pharaoh put it on Joseph’s hand; he arrayed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in the chariot of his second-in-command; and they cried out in front of him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, as his wife. Thus Joseph gained authority over the land of Egypt.

Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went through all the land of Egypt. During the seven plenteous years the earth produced abundantly. He gathered up all the food of the seven years when there was plenty in the land of Egypt, and stored up food in the cities; he stored up in every city the food from the fields around it. So Joseph stored up grain in such abundance—like the sand of the sea—that he stopped measuring it; it was beyond measure.

Before the years of famine came, Joseph had two sons, whom Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The second he named Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes.”

The seven years of plenty that prevailed in the land of Egypt came to an end; and the seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in every country, but throughout the land of Egypt there was bread. When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do.” And since the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the world came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine became severe throughout the world.

Acts 14:19–28

But Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium and won over the crowds. Then they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the city. The next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.

The Return to Antioch in Syria

After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, then on to Iconium and Antioch. There they strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.” And after they had appointed elders for them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. And they stayed there with the disciples for some time.

Cooking is an act of creation. Perhaps not creation ex nihilo as God created the world, but a kind of creation nonetheless. I continue to be fascinated by the millions of different recipes every culture seems to be able to make with the same small set of ingredients. Today we have televised contests over who can make the best tasting, most original of such recombination.

One small detail has always raised my curiosity. Why is it that some recipes, such as many pastas, call for you to boil water and then put in the extra ingredients, while other foods, such as rice, require you to put them in the water first and bring it all to a boil? Some things cook fast and others cooks slow. Cooking rice apparently is like the half-joke of cooking frogs – that you cook them slow so they don’t notice the heat until it is too late.

I think people are like that too. We don’t like to change quickly and when we get thrown into hot water suddenly, we try to jump out as quickly as possible. If we can ease into that change though, we typically handle it much better. Take Joseph for instance. If he had been plucked up from his homeland and placed in charge of all of Egypt, he would have been well out of his comfort zone, probably still full of pride, and lacking the wisdom of trusting God to guide his work. The slow boil process of refining him, or sanctifying him, prepared him for the day he would save his family from their own sin.

It works the other way too. Paul brought a quick boil kind of gospel to many of the cities he visited, gaining some immediate converts. However, some of the Jewish Pharisees from Jerusalem followed after him and began to draw people back into their former ways of life. The change Paul sought to make in their lives was confronted by enemies from both the Roman Empire, as well as the Jewish religious leaders. Some of the most faithful followers that Paul inspired ended up leaving their homes and traveling along to new homes as well. Indeed, most of the first generation of believers maintained their faith by traveling from place to place as refugees (or missionaries) which, in effect, may have been like jumping from one boiling pot to another until the gospel was finally, slowly cooked into them.

God does not want to cook us, but he wants to transform us. John the Baptist promised of Jesus that he was not coming to baptize us with water, but with fire and the Holy Spirit. As we soak up the Spirit, heated by the flame of God’s love, we are transformed into something more than we could ever be on our own.Tweet: As we soak up the Spirit, heated by the flame of God's love, we are transformed into something more than we could ever be on our own.

What kind of boiling water has God led you into?

How has that changed you?

Click to Tweet!

The End of Wrath




The End of Wrath

Genesis 41:14–36

“Then Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was hurriedly brought out of the dungeon. When he had shaved himself and changed 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.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile; and seven cows, fat and sleek, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass. Then seven other cows came up after them, poor, very ugly, and thin. Never had I seen such ugly ones in all the land of Egypt. The thin and ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows, but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had done so, for they were still as ugly as before. Then I awoke. I fell asleep a second time and I saw in my dream seven ears of grain, full and good, growing on one stalk, and seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouting after them; and the thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. But when I told it to the magicians, there was no one who could explain it to me.”

Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, as are the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind. They are seven years of famine. It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. After them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; the famine will consume the land. The plenty will no longer be known in the land because of the famine that will follow, for it will be very grievous. And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. Now therefore let Pharaoh select a man who is discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land, and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plenteous years. Let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and lay up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”

Revelation 15:1–4

The Angels with the Seven Last Plagues

Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and amazing: seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is ended.

And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb:

“Great and amazing are your deeds,

Lord God the Almighty!

Just and true are your ways,

King of the nations!

Lord, who will not fear

and glorify your name?

For you alone are holy.

All nations will come

and worship before you,

for your judgments have been revealed.”

Wrath is like a boiling pot. It generally starts completely unnoticeable. Then you start to hear a low hissing of bubbles. Steam begins to hover around it. Then the pot starts to shake (especially if the stove is not perfectly level) Finally, it starts spewing boiling water out. This process becomes even more dramatic if there is a lid tightly sealed on the pot. It becomes explosive.

The purpose of wrath is tied closely with our sense of justice. It is like an itch that lets us know that something is wrong, that we are being bitten, or that we have been touched by something poisonous to us. Justice demands action and it is wrath that propels us into that action.

We have to be very careful how we approach wrath though, because in many cases it leads us into sin. When we strive to take justice into our own hands, we do so without the temperament of mercy and the guidance of wisdom. Following wrath alone is like cutting off an arm because it itches. When punishment becomes an end into itself, we have missed the greater goal of redemption.Tweet: When punishment becomes an end into itself, we have missed the greater goal of redemption.

We see this most clearly in God’s promises of judgment and visions or wrath. In every instance we see two aspects bubbling up out of the devastation. God leaves room for repentance. Even in the midst of the judgment itself, God often notes that the people still refuse to repent, which means that there is still hope if only they would choose to surrender to Him. Secondly, God makes the point that this wrath is simply an instrument to move the world to repentance so that – every person, of every nation, would come and worship Him. This worship is a return to our source of life and turning away from our own death and destruction we find apart from God. God’s wrath is an instrument of love that brings us home to Him when His wooing no longer works. Tweet: God's wrath is an instrument of love that brings us home to Him when His wooing no longer works.

Where have you experienced God’s wrath?

How did that wrath change you?

Click to Tweet!

God’s Sufficient Grace


God’s Sufficient Grace

Genesis 40:1–23

The Dreams of Two Prisoners

Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker offended their lord the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he waited on them; and they continued for some time in custody. One night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own meaning. When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers, who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”

So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms came out and the clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.” Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days; within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But remember me when it is well with you; please do me the kindness to make mention of me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this place. For in fact I was stolen out of the land of the Hebrews; and here also I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.”

When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.” And Joseph answered, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days; within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a pole; and the birds will eat the flesh from you.”

On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants, and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. He restored the chief cupbearer to his cupbearing, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand; but the chief baker he hanged, just as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

Matthew 8:23–27

Jesus Stills the Storm1

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

Some days I am terrifyingly picky. I get ideas that I want to work out in specific ways. I believe that if I can think it, it should be both possible and probable in reality. Reality usually tells a different story and lets me know that I have an active imagination.

I want everyone to have some kind of happy ending. The story of Joseph frustrates me again and again, because it seems like people suffer without reason, particularly Joseph, the hero of the story. Things seem to work out wrong in three separate ways here.

First, Joseph, a baker, and a cupbearer are all imprisoned. Joseph is imprisoned wrongly, due to the lust of his master’s wife. We are given no reason for the imprisonment of the other two, but the kind of camaraderie they form draws out our sympathy and hints at injustice in their plight as well. Why should these three be suffering?

Second, they all have strange portentous dreams, and Joseph (who has dealt with his own dreams) asks God for an interpretation of them. God tells them that these dreams show that one (the Baker) will be executed while the other (the cupbearer) will be granted mercy and released. Why would God communicate through powerful dreams an arbitrary message of death and destruction for one and life and freedom for another?

My last problem with this story is, after the dreams come true, the cupbearer, who received mercy from God and help from Joseph simply forgets him. Joseph is left sitting in the dungeon. Why would such a vessel of mercy continue to be punished?

These stories rake against my sense of justice. It makes me want to dig for more information. Was the baker actually guilty of something? Was the cupbearer? Did someone poison Pharaoh’s food and these two were the only ones who touched it before Pharaoh received it?

Sometimes I miss it, having read it so many times, but this same sense of injustice occurs even stronger when Jesus, the only human who could ever command the wind and the water with but a word, dies on a cross, while the crowd, and even his fellow crucified men taunt him saying, If you really are the Son of God… and the truth is, He could have saved Himself. God could have saved Him, but Jesus chose to die. Tweet: God could have saved Him, but Jesus choseto die.

Joseph, along with you and I, are not strong enough to choose humility for our sake or others. We are not likely to say, “Oh, I think a few more months in the dungeon would be good for my soul, so no, don’t let me out yet.” We would make a run for the door the first time it was opened, and possibly, like the cupbearer, forget to thank whoever held it open for us. Too often, God has to hold us down in humility, before we soak it up properly. So it is that God’s grace, that is sufficient for our weakness, and which sometimes looks like injustice and unnecessary suffering, actually helps us to be more like Jesus and identify with the suffering of others.

Where has God’s grace led you to experience suffering?

How has that experience changed you?

Click to Tweet!

  1. (Mk 4:35–41; Lk 8:22–25)

Tough Choices


Tough Choices

Genesis 39:1–23

Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife

Now Joseph was taken down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man; he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him; he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge; and, with him there, he had no concern for anything but the food that he ate.

Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, with me here, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not consent to lie beside her or to be with her. One day, however, when he went into the house to do his work, and while no one else was in the house, she caught hold of his garment, saying, “Lie with me!” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, she called out to the members of her household and said to them, “See, my husband has brought among us a Hebrew to insult us! He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice; and when he heard me raise my voice and cry out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.” Then she kept his garment by her until his master came home, and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to insult me; but as soon as I raised my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.”

When his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, saying, “This is the way your servant treated me,” he became enraged. And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; he remained there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s care all the prisoners who were in the prison, and whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.

Romans 9:14–29

What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,

and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.

God’s Wrath and Mercy

You will say to me then, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’

and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ”

“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’

there they shall be called children of the living God.”

And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.” And as Isaiah predicted,

“If the Lord of hosts had not left survivors to us,

we would have fared like Sodom

and been made like Gomorrah.”

Life does not offer happy endings around every corner. Some days success looks like survival. Some days we pay lip service to grand visions and keep our noses to the grindstones for the tasks that lay in the minutes and hours directly ahead.

Joseph had many days like this growing up as a slave in Egypt. Caught between obeying his master and his mistress, Joseph may have felt like he had no choice… trapped between a rock and a hard place. It is in the moments that we are furthest from vision and inspiration that we are most tempted to toss it all away and quit. It is also in these moments that our true character is put to the test.Tweet: It is in the moments that we are furthest from vision and inspiration that we are most tempted to toss it all away and quit. It is also in these moments that our true character is put to the test.

It is easy to do the right thing when it is easy to do the right thing. It matters more when doing the right thing costs us, particularly if we are not going to be praised by our peers. Throughout history, those who stood up, when no one else would stand with them, are the ones we remember. They are the ones that show the vision when there is no vision. They are the ones that breath the first breaths of life into movements of legend. And, the best of them have no thought at the time that they will ever be known for their actions. They see it as simply following the will of God in their lives.

Do you want to be famous? Do you want to make a difference in the world around you? Try humble obedience to God. He has all the right and reason to claim the credit for Himself, as Paul writes above. Yet, He chooses not to. He prepares us for good things, set aside as His chosen people and waits for us to follow Him in the Way. Will you walk in that legacy He has created for you, or will you choose your own path instead of trusting Him?

What are the difficult choices you have to make today?

How are you planning on making them?

What does God teach about handling those situations?

Click to Tweet!

Condemning your own


Condemning your own

Genesis 37:29–36

When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes. He returned to his brothers, and said, “The boy is gone; and I, where can I turn?” Then they took Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat, and dipped the robe in the blood. They had the long robe with sleeves taken to their father, and they said, “This we have found; see now whether it is your son’s robe or not.” He recognized it, and said, “It is my son’s robe! A wild animal has devoured him; Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” Then Jacob tore his garments, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and all his daughters sought to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father bewailed him. Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.

2 Peter 2:4–10

For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment; and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he saved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood on a world of the ungodly; and if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction and made them an example of what is coming to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by their lawless deeds that he saw and heard), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment —especially those who indulge their flesh in depraved lust, and who despise authority.

There are many things in life I do not understand, and most of these I will not take the time and effort to learn. I just don’t have that much time and there are enough important things to focus on. I don’t need to understand hating people, particularly people I have never met.

There are lots of insulting words flying around social media yet again, and I don’t feel the need to add to them. Like Reuben, I come to the event too late, after those whom the world would call my “brothers”, though we share different sets of parents and upbringings, have done something horrible to yet another one of my “brothers”. Everyone wants me on their side. I just want out of this family with so many issues.

It isn’t simple, calculating the course of choices we make. Rage filled streets do not fill up out of nowhere. There is strategy and manipulation, buying and selling souls that goes on long before these events begin. The story ends with lots of excuses. People claiming they “had no other choice”.

But, as I was reminded at church this morning… we always have a choice. From our first to our last breath, we always have choices. We just may not like our options. It is easy to say that we all just need to stand up against hatred. It makes it harder when it pits you against your own household. As Jesus promised, He came to bring a sword, not peace, and doing what is right pits parents and children against one another and brothers against sisters, husbands against wives. Friends part ways over doing what is right. Are you willing to give up your friends and family to do what Jesus commands?

Mark 10:23-30

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” “

People make choices for reasons, both good and bad. I will not be able to understand them all, and do not plan on even trying. But Jesus did. From the cross, His own reason for dying there, from his own mouth was: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

There’s no excuse for sin. Not mine. Not yours. Not anyone else’s. That is the point truth brings us to and love moves us from that point onward. Love your enemy does not mean agree with them, but it still means love them. If we expect anything other than the transforming love of Jesus to change people, we are still just playing a losing game of politics.Tweet: If we expect anything other than the transforming love of Jesus to change people, we are still just playing a losing game of politics.

Who are your enemies?

How are you loving them?

What does it cost you?

Click to Tweet!

Seeing Visions and Dreaming Dreams


Seeing Visions and Dreaming Dreams

Genesis 37:1-28

Joseph Dreams of Greatness

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words.

He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Joseph Is Sold by His Brothers

Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’ ” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Matthew 14:22–33

Jesus Walks on the Water1

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Joel 2:28 tells a prophecy that Peter interpreted in light of Pentecost – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus after his ascension. However, this particular event was not the first, nor the last time that God worked through visions and dreams. Both the Old and New Testaments have multiple accounts of prophetic dreams and visions in both young and old.

Hebrew poetry, as found often in the prophets, creates emphasis by repeating the same kind of phrase with a slightly different term (known as parallelism). I take that to mean, Joel meant little or no distinction between dreams and visions here. Functionally, they serve the same kind of purpose. Dreams and visions from God push us out of our comfort zone and into God’s mission.Tweet: Dreams and visions from God push us out of our comfort zone and into God's mission.

Those dreams and visions do not bring guaranteed results though, certainly not immediately. Joseph’s dreams came true, but not for many, many years. It is also possible that the suffering he faced from telling his family about those dreams may have been necessary for him to accomplish the results of those dreams. God does not usually show us everything in detail – just our part. Tweet: God does not usually show us everything in detail - just our part.

Even Peter’s vision of Jesus, which was not a hallucination as he feared, but an actual sight of Jesus walking on the water, served in the same way. It called Peter out of his current place of comfort and moved him out into uncharted waters. Unlike Joseph, his vision had immediate effects, but they did not last long at all. Again, Peter probably misunderstood. Seeing Jesus walking on the water was probably less of a promise that Peter too could someday walk on water, and more of a realization that Jesus could not be held back by such things. It was also proof that this particular vision of Jesus was really Him in the flesh and not some evil spirit as Peter feared. Like Peter, we are often slow in comprehending the full importance of God’s visions and dreams we receive. At least until we need to. As in everything else, these gifts are meant to be taken in faith, and more often change the prophet even more than the people around them.

What visions or dreams has God given you?

How have they brought you closer to Christ?

How have they changed you?

Click to Tweet!

  1. (Mk 6:45–52; Jn 6:15–21)