Monday, November 23, 2015

Two Men, Two Dreams, Two Totally Different Outcomes

Dear Christa—
Genesis to Now: Genesis 40

It appears that Joseph may not have been the only person wrongfully imprisoned. Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker had been in the prison for a while as well. One morning they were both concerned with the dreams they’d each had. Just as both men were similar and different, so had been their dreams.
Joseph—a dreamer himself—acknowledges that the dreams were from God and he could interpret them. The cupbearer’s dream had a good outcome; the baker’s did not.
Joseph asks one thing of the cupbearer and that was to remember him and plead his case before Pharaoh.
And, even though the destinies of both guys ended just as Joseph predicted, the cupbearer did not remember Joseph. “He forgot him.”
How easy it is to forget so many things God has revealed. He’s given us the Bible with instructions on how to live and relate to people. He has revealed His own character and shown us Himself.
But, it is so easy to forget. So often, like the cupbearer, we pick up our work the same as before. We witness the work of God, and we forget it.
How transformed our lives might be if only we saw and remembered the workings of God in our lives and those around us.
But, it’s so easy to get busy and simply to forget.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, November 19, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Genesis 40:1-4

April 27, 2015

Dear Christa—
It’s impossible to fully understand how God’s world of His sovereignty and man’s choice coexist, but they do. Some describe it as a continuum, placing more emphasis on one or the other, but Scripture simply describes a world in which both function simultaneously. Such is illustrated in the actions of Pharaoh in Genesis 40:1-4.
Joseph is in prison, wrongfully accused, yet, God is moving. No one sees it—probably not even Joseph.
Genesis 40 begins with, “sometime later.” We don’t know how long Joseph was in prison. Long or short, he was there because of Potiphar’s wife. He could have become bitter, but it seems he went about doing a good job with where he was and waited for God to intervene. He knew he would not be in prison forever; He believed in the dreams God had given him.
So, “sometime later” Pharaoh is angry. It’s probably a scary thing to work for someone as powerful as a Pharaoh—people who can and do command at a whim. One day Pharaoh was apparently in a particularly bad mood—at least at mealtime. Disgruntled about the food and drink, he sends both the cupbearer and baker to prison.
Yet, within the Pharaoh’s actions, God was at work. Unknown to the Pharaoh and Joseph, God was setting up a great redemption plan for Israel.
God has designed the actions of people for His purposes. It matters not at all if they follow God, as Joseph, or don’t know Him, as the Pharaoh.
God was at work then, and God is at work now.
Nothing escapes His notice. Nothing escapes His control.
He is God. He is good. And, we can trust in that.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, November 16, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Doing What's Right

Dear Christa—

Doing what’s right can land a person in a pot of trouble—or in Joseph’s case—a dungeon full of the king’s prisoners. On the other hand, not doing right puts one in a far worse position, as it did with Judah and God’s dealing with him. Sometimes, it just seems like there’s no good choice.
When our kids were growing up, Pastor Mark would often say, “It’s always right to do what’s right.” I hope it made an impression on them. It must have made one on me because I often remember it.
Joseph was in a situation. He tried reasoning with Potiphar’s wife. He appeals to her responsibility toward her husband and his boss. He tells her, “My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife” (vs. 9).
He reminds her that he serves God: “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” That didn’t work, so he flat our refused her and avoided her. That was smart, but Joseph’s rejection made the woman more determined, and when he fled from her physical attempt, her desire turned to contempt, and Joseph—who had worked hard for Potiphar—finds himself falsely accused and tossed in prison.
That seems like a bad reward for doing what is right. As American Christians, I think we often feel entitled regarding God—that He will make an easy path and we’ll be showered with blessings because we feel like we deserve it.
It’s easy for us to look at Joseph’s life and dismiss his situation as God’s plan because we know the outcome, but Joseph didn’t see that at all. Joseph sees dreams unfulfilled, hard work unrewarded, and prison confinement. Yet, God did not leave him, and, I think, Joseph knew that.
As the Lord was with Joseph, so He is with us when life goes from bad to worse. In the very prison of our life, God is there and He shows us kindness. We should expect it. We should look for it. And, we should always do what’s right because “It’s always right to do what’s right.”
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, November 12, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Genesis 39

Dear Christa—

Some people are born leaders, and it seems that wherever they land, it isn’t long before they are in charge. So it was with Joseph. He may have been a slave, but he was an important one.
Yet, he is in a precarious position. His masters may have put him in charge, but if the hand of God’s blessing were to withdraw from him, he’d have been in a real mess.
If there is one striking thing about Joseph, I think, it’s his faith. Joseph had had dreams of rising to the top, and he believed them. He was confident they were from God and that they’d come true. Where did this guy come from? Who’d so influenced him in the dysfunctional household of Jacob that he had such faith? No one knows.
Somehow, in the midst of persecution and hardship, Joseph was confident that God would fulfill the dreams. And, he maintains that confidence and faith for a lot of years. Oh, he probably had his days—Potiphar’s wife, the dungeon, the cupbearer’s forgetfulness. He was human after all.
But, through all the years, Joseph possesses an abiding trust in God—a belief that God would stay true to him just as He had his father—far from the land that was promised.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, November 9, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Genesis 38:11-30

Dear Christa—

Jesus is the sinless Son of God, but He also had a human lineage. One might expect that lineage to go back through devoted followers of God, and some were, but many were not.
Of all of Jacob’s sons, we might expect the Christ to come through Joseph. He didn’t. Jesus’ earthly heritage was speckled with all sorts of waywardness and Gentile mothers. Perhaps that’s to show Jesus really did come to be the Savior of all people, not just the Jews.
Women in Tamar’s day had few choices. It was exclusively a man’s world in the Middle East. Tamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law, had been sent back to her father’s house. Judah’s intention was to abandon her. Whether right or wrong Tamar did what she did. It was risky, but it worked.
Sometimes risky and sometimes kind of crazy are things that God turns around and uses. At breakfast this morning, I mentioned to Jay that the families in Genesis were just a mess. His response: “God uses messes.” It is so true—that in the midst of our horrible mess, God is still at work.
Judah’s first reaction to the news that Tamar was pregnant was to “bring her out and have her burned to death,” ridding himself of her once and for all. But, on seeing his own seal and staff, Judah is awakened to his responsibility to her.
Tamar’s actions were both risky and calculated. They could easily have ended her life.
Yet, God had a plan and from a very questionable action, Perez is born. And, through the line of Perez comes two other significant Gentile women: Rahab, who hid the spies, and Ruth, the Moabite. In the lineage of Joseph, listed in Matthew 1, many individuals are left out, but not these three women—women who did what seemed right at the time—and God worked through them. They could have been skipped over in the genealogy of Jesus, but they aren’t.
In Matthew 1, they are the only women mentioned, alongside Bathsheba and Mary. Those are five women who certainly have stories to tell. And they are five women who indicate that Jesus came for all people of all walks of life—Jew, Gentile, rich, poor, righteous, unrighteous. Jesus is the Savior of all.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, November 5, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Walking Away

Dear Christa—
Genesis to Now: Walking Away
People respond to guilt in many ways. One way is to walk away. The events that take place in Genesis 38 cover many years—enough years for Judah to leave, marry, have two sons, and those sons grow up and marry. The text does not tell us directly why Judah left his brothers, but chapter 38 does begin with “at that time.” It appears to come close on the heels of Judah having suggested to sell Joseph to the Midianites. It is true that Judah had saved Joseph’s life, but to what end? His father believed him to be dead just the same and would not be comforted. The secret had to be kept among the brothers; surely discord and guilt had followed. Perhaps the others blamed him; perhaps he blamed himself. All we know is that Judah left—and the leaving was not good.
Perhaps a thing to learn from the beginning of this account is that no one can really walk away from God. Judah’s two eldest sons were “wicked in the Lord’s sight.” And, for that, God put them to death. The Canaanite people did not worship God. The influence all around Judah’s family would have been pagan, but God still took notice of him—the same as He takes notice of all individuals everywhere, even today. And, He deals with our actions.
God sees all things. God considers individuals. God is involved in people’s lives whether they want Him to be or not. Judah ran away. Judah stayed away for many years. But, Judah could not escape the eyes of the Lord. Judah, as his ancestors before him, ran from the truth—ran from repentance. Yet, no person can run beyond the hand of God. It simply is not possible.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, November 2, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Genesis 37:12-36

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Genesis 37:12-36
What a rift—a large gorge—between the children of Leah and Joseph—
Leah’s sullenness from the lack of Jacob’s love, Jacob’s outward favoritism of Joseph, and Joseph flaunting his gift of dreams produced out and out hatred of Joseph by his brothers.
Favoritism doesn’t bring people together. It does just the opposite. The hurt causes grudges, discord, and competition, none of which makes for good relationships.
Only Reuben—the eldest—tried to rescue Joseph, not by confrontation, but by deception. But, his good intentions backfired on him, and the ruthless brothers sold Joseph to cousins headed to Egypt. And, one deception led to another. They had to come up with a scheme to account for Joseph’s disappearance. So they led Jacob to believe that Joseph had been killed.
How did they feel when Jacob mourned so for Joseph? How did the guilt bear down on their shoulders, especially the two eldest (Reuben and Judah)? Yet, not a one would admit to the truth. So often a bad decision is simply carried while the consequence of the guilt and situation grows and grows. It appears that once a bad choice is made, there is no going back, no chance to make things right, no avenue to repentance. It is a lie of Satan. It traps us into our sin, a place of perpetual sorrow and regret. Held tight by pride and deception, we neglect the repentance owed to God and man. And we suffer.
What a terrible secret they kept as they watched their father’s sorrow. How often did they ponder their actions at night on lonely fields watching their family flocks? Only years and years later would the account reveal that the action had never left their memories, had never left off haunting them.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything