Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Grand Design ...

"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." - Genesis 45:5-7
I received the call one evening while I was in my freshman year of college. My parents were selling the family homestead. The house in which I had grown up, where I had enjoyed great friendships and experiences was gone. The family was moving to eastern Long Island, to a very quiet and dreary retirement community, and all I could see was loss with no gain. Little did I know that God had a grand design. 
One afternoon Joseph found himself in a pit, soon to sold into slavery and moved to a far off land. The family and home that he had known and loved was gone. For a number of years, all that Joseph could see was loss with no gain. But, over time he was fully prepared and specifically chosen to preserve a nation and his own family from disaster. God had a grand design.  
Today, I look back at that college phone call and realize that God was directing my parents for more reasons than their retirement. It was from that move that I found my sweet wife...what a grand design! Do you languish over the changes in life that seem to be all loss with no gain? Do you wonder where the uncharted path will lead you? Be encouraged my friend... God has a grand design for you too! 

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Weight...

"Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” - Genesis 42:21-22
It has been said that time heals all wounds. Well, C. S. Lewis, author of over 30 books, many of which addressed Christian apologetics, proposed a very different belief ..."We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin. But mere time does nothing either to the fact or to the guilt of a sin." Unresolved sin weighs upon the heart like the rock of Gibraltar.
Over twenty years had passed since Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery. Now, trouble was brewing and the first thought that came to mind was the haunting guilt of betrayal and deception. These men had lived with the incredible wrong done to their brother and the daily deception toward their father. Unresolved sin weighed upon their heart like the rock of Gibraltar.
The lesson is troubling, isn't it? Is there sin, betrayal, or deception in your past? Does it visit you in the night, or when hardships come into your life? Have you been pushing it away, thinking that "time will heal"? The truth is simple: "Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, 'I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.' And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone" - Psalm 32:5 (NLT) Unresolved sin weighs upon the heart, but confessed sin sets us free!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Future ...

"Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth." - Genesis 41:57 
Who would have thought? An early bout with scarlet fever and numerous ear infections left him with hearing loss in both ears as a child and nearly deaf as an adult. He attended public school for a total of twelve weeks. He had trouble paying attention and his teachers told him that he was “too stupid to learn anything”.  He was fired from his first two jobs for being too “unproductive”. Yet, despite all the obstacles and pitfalls, he kept pressing on. Eventually, Thomas Edison became one of the most successful and influential people in the world, having invented the light bulb, phonograph, moving camera along with many other things. We never really know what the future holds.
Who would of thought? Our reading this week has taken us from Jacob’s search for a wife in a distant land, to his lost son becoming second in command of all Egypt... a cast-away, slave boy, and convict, who became the virtual savior of a famished world. The life of Joseph tells a far greater story of inspiration than that of Thomas Edison. While we never really know what the future holds, we know Who holds the future!
Keep pressing on my friend. God is working on a far greater picture than you can see today. Choose to be a Joseph, by walking with God and being a blessing to others. Remember these words? ...The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed. (Genesis 39:23) Live your best for today and leave the rest in the capable hands of the One who holds the future.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Waiting Game ...

"After two whole years...Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “I remember my offenses today." - Genesis 41:1, 9 
Sometimes it seems that I have "waited" over half my life. I've waited to see my doctors, waited for visitors to arrive, waited for contractors to finish the job, and waited for checks to be delivered. We even waited twelve hours for my first son to be delivered (my poor wife!).  Waiting can be quite frustrating, if you don't trust the One who is in control.
The early years of Joseph were all about waiting. The Lord had given him dreams of future days, but the days dragged on into years. He looked to men who would take his plight to higher powers, but they quickly forgot him. Finally, after a long time in God's waiting room, Joseph's name was called. The waiting was quite frustrating, but... God was in control.
What are you waiting for today my friend? Do you feel that your plight has been forgotten? Do you feel that life has been unfair to you?  Consider of the words of Paul in Galatians 4:4, "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son..." You may feel frustrated right now, but keep your eyes on the One who is in control, because He's NEVER late! 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Two Paths ...

"Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again ...  How then can  I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her." - Genesis 38:26; 39:9-10 

There are two brothers in our extended family. One grew up to serve God in a very prestigious seminary. The other grew up to become an alcoholic. They were both raised by Godly parents with the same teachings and privileges. They both claimed to be genuine believers in Jesus Christ. How does one son follow a path of godliness and the other fall by the wayside? In the end, it's a matter of choice.
There were two brothers. One was older, the other much younger. Judah sat under his father's teaching far longer and had much more experience with lessons on integrity. Joseph was whisked away from home at an early age and found himself struggling to keep up in a foreign land. Judah fell into immorality without any sense of remorse and Joseph fought hard for righteousness and won. In the end, it was a matter of choice.
Do you find yourself blaming your past for your present sins and failures my friend? Do you believe if circumstances were different, you would be more devoted to God? Today, and every day, you face two paths. Consider the words of Robert Frost: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." In the end, it's always a matter of choice.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

"Keeping Up" or content?

"Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him." - Genesis 37:3-4 
The phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” originated with a 1913 comic strip that ran until 1940. The strip depicted the McGinis family, jealous of all their neighbor’s prosperity, struggling to "keep up". Jealousy is the passion that spawns hatred towards those who have more than we do and drives us to depths of untold evil pursuits. We’re just not content.
Jacob's sons had a wealth of possessions from their father's successful endeavours. They had the promise a profitable inheritance. But, they were filled with jealousy over a simple coat and additional favors shown to a younger brother. Joseph had a piece of Jacob's heart that the brothers did not have. What they did have didn't matter, they were just not content.
We'll never be content if our eyes remain focused on the "Joneses" or a Joseph. Untold evil will always get the best of us. The best counsel is found in Hebrews 13:5, "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” When the Lord is our treasure, we'll always be content.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Good Shepherds ...

"But Jacob replied, “You can see, my lord, that some of the children are very young, and the flocks and herds have their young, too. If they are driven too hard, even for one day, all the animals could die. Please, my lord, go ahead of your servant. We will follow slowly, at a pace that is comfortable for the livestock and the children. I will meet you at Seir.”  - Genesis 33:13-14
As a parent and pastor I have learned that everyone is different. Their strengths, weakness' and needs differ in many ways. Some people go through life at warp speed and others seem to wander.  The best guidance is given through loving and leading, not by demanding and driving.  A good shepherd has to know his sheep and know their limitations.
Jacob was a good shepherd, not a driven rancher. Throughout the years he grew to understand his family and flocks. He also became very patient through the various experiences of his life. Understanding and patience enabled him to care for others in a selfless, compassionate and caring way. Jacob knew his sheep and knew their limitations.
You may be a parent, leader or teacher. You may be part of a group with numerous goals. Whatever your role may be, you must choose to be a shepherd or a rancher with others. People are not cattle, they are sheep, and their strengths, weakness' and needs greatly differ. Learn to be understanding and patient and give them room and time to grow. Know your sheep and know their limitations.