Saturday, January 31, 2009

2009 - Day 31 - Grace to the Guilty

January 31, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: Grace to the Guilty

Passage of the Day: Genesis 45: 1 – 8 …
1 Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Make everyone go out from me!” So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it.3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. 4 And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

My Journal for Today: Note the words I have highlighted in bold and red in today’s passage … “AND God” as well as ”BUT GOD!” In so many things in life, which turn things around in the face of human failure or seemingly impossible odds, we can only say, “BUT GOD did it” or “AND GOD was at work here.” Certainly this applies to the scenario involving Joseph and his brothers. I don’t think I need to remind you of the incredible place Joseph had found himself in the presence of his brothers who had sold him into slavery almost 20 years earlier. BUT GOD and His grace had intervened; and as we saw in the last two days, AND GOD had shown Joseph how His transforming grace had changed the brothers, especially their leader, Judah, who was quite obviously a changed man.

BUT GOD had also changed Joseph, who was tried by the fires of life in Egypt, … by the tests of temptation by Potiphar’s wife, … by the rigors of unjust imprisonment, … and by the elevation of power … to be in exactly this place in time, willing and able to say to his brothers [in verse 7 above], AND GOD sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” And how revealing is this as a vertical perspective on life, as we studied from Genesis earlier this month? Really, I doubt if a better example could be found.

Do you have any BUT GOD instances or AND GOD stories in your life? I sure do. If one could have known me close to 30 years ago, a cynical agnostic who was deeply into a double life of habitual sexual sin; and then to compare that with my life now as a surrendered Christian who has been transformed to love and serve God as totally as I can. One would have to say, "ONLY GOD could do something like that in someone’s life.”

Like Joseph’s transformation and Judah’s transformation, mine is definitely an “AND GOD” alone story. It’s way above any set of human choices to come from where Judah, Joseph, and Bill Berry came in our lives. I’m certainly not trying to elevate myself to the status of a Joseph; but my story, like his, is definitely A GOD THING! And in such super-human stories, as humbly as I can reveal mine, as well a theirs in today’s passage, only God gets the glory – exactly as it should be!

I hope you’re now thinking of a “BUT GOD” or an “AND GOD” story from your life, thanking our Lord for where He has brought you in life; because, as Christians, we probably all have them; and we can all say, as our Genesis hero Joseph could say, … “TO GOD ALONE BE THE GLORY!”

My Prayer Today: Lord, You and You alone could take my life from then to now; and may it be only for Your glory. Amen

Friday, January 30, 2009

2009 - Day 30 - Final Exam, Part Two

January 30, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: Final Exam, Part Two

Passage of the Day: Genesis 44: 17 – 34 … Link available for your reading/study

My Journal for Today: As Swindoll points out in Great Days with the Great Lives, yesterday reviewed Joseph’s test of his brothers’ vertical perspective, … i.e., how they viewed their past and present through God’s eternal view of life. And the brothers, especially the key older one, Judah, passed that vertical test with flying colors. Now, for today’s devotional, we see Joseph continuing his testing with one more angle of examination, this time focusing on the horizontal perspective of the brothers toward their father and the younger brother, Benjamin. And again, with Judah becoming the spokesman and focus of this test for the brothers, Joseph sees his long lost family as changed men.

To me, this scenario is an Old Covenant picture of how God’s saving and enabling grace brings transformation in any who are willing to surrender to God and allow His Spirit to bring about Godly change in the values, choices, and lives of a child of God. And Judah is a prime example of the transformational power of God for believers. Some 20 years earlier it was Judah’s jealousy and hatred for the sons of Rachel and indirectly for their father, which brought him to strike out at Jacob (i.e., Israel) by using Joseph, first planning to kill him … then deciding to lead the brothers to sell him into slavery so that they could benefit financially from his sin-driven hatred. And now, in Joseph’s testing and Judah’s response, we see a transformed man, Judah being very willing to unselfishly protect young Benjamin, also a son of Rachel, as well as to choose to protect his father, protecting him from the loss of “another” son (at least in what Judah imagined would be Jacob’s feelings).

Isn’t this a wonderful Old Testament example of the New Covenant truth and reality expressed in 2nd Cor. 5: 17, … that God produces changed lives from the reception of God’s grace (see also Eph. 2: 8 – 10)? Judah passed Joseph’s tests completely because Judah displayed God’s fruit of transformation, which shown through like a light in the darkness.

And we need to see that God will allow challenges into our lives, as those confronted by a man like Judah to help us grow into His fruitfulness and to be purged from our flesh-driven ungodliness, as we can read the Apostle Paul write about in Gal. 5: 19 - 23. That’s what Joseph saw in Judah; and I know that Joseph must have smiled with satisfaction, like God must when we pass His tests and shine our Godly light in the dark places of life so as to glorify our Father in Heaven (see Matt. 5: 16).

My Prayer Today: Father, as You test me, may I be prepared to pass with Your flying colors and grow in Christlikeness. Amen

Thursday, January 29, 2009

2009 - Day 29 - Final Exam, Part One

January 29, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: Final Exam, Part One

Passage of the Day: Genesis 44: 1 – 16 …
Utilize this link to read, study, and mediate on this passage.

My Journal for Today: This is interesting stuff for any believer. It sure is for me. Here we have Joseph setting up a test, a trial for his brothers, to see if they had Godly values in their heart. And as the trial unfolds, we see Joseph planting a silver chalice in the bag of young Benjamin, which was discovered by the Prime Minister’s steward when he came to do a check of their belongings as they were traveling back to Canaan once again with grain.

And upon the return to the household of the Master (i.e., Joseph), Judah steps forward to take the lead for the brothers, … Judah, who’s hatred had almost caused Joseph’s life when the brothers finally decided to sell him into Egypt rather than kill Joseph. And we read Judah’s remarkable confession, which was exactly what Joseph wanted to hear. I’m sure Judah’s words had to have been an answer to Joseph’s unvoiced prayers, … that the hearts of these men who had hated him over 20 years earlier would be softened, … that they would come to repent of their evil deeds, … and that they would see God at work in all of where the Lord had taken them, including this, most recent, episode.

And really, as Swindoll points out in his devotional entry, when you consider all the water under the bridge in the lives of the brothers, especially Judah, what took place in today’s passage is really God’s answers to Joseph’s prayers. Joseph didn’t want to reveal himself until he could see that the brothers had remorse, not only for the incident with the cup, but also for their past rejection of Joseph.

And in verse 16 of today’s passage, Joseph hears what he wanted to hear, … that Judah recognized that God had not let their past sins go unchallenged, … that Judah’s remorse had transformed him enough to take responsibility for the cup which implicated Benjamin, … and that here were his brothers standing before him, ready to be his brothers again.

Somehow, I know that others who read this, like myself, have unresolved anguish or hurts from the past to which we have taken to God but yet remain unresolved. I still pray for a sister who is lost, one who totally rejects God in her life; but like Joseph, I have seen God intervene in the lives of family to bring them to Himself. My mother, whom I feared was lost, came to confess Christ as her Savior just hours before she passed away, literally on her death-bed. My wife’s mother, who was deeply into dementia in her last years, we’re convinced, had a Spirit-led epiphany, discovering God just about a year before she died. So, meditating on this scenario unfolding in the life of Joseph and knowing and believing God’s word in 2nd Peter 3: 9 [linked for you here] , that He desires that my sister come to Him just as Elly patiently waited and saw our mothers saved by God’s grace, I am lifted up with hope.

So, if you’re like Joseph, doing all you can, but leaving unresolved family issues on God’s throne of grace, hopefully you can find a refuge of hope in today’s passage and my words of testimony and witness. God desires that any/all come to Him; but it still must be those who can repent and receive His saving grace. And we read that truth in Judah’s answer to Joseph’s trial.

Keep praying for lost or wayward family; God not only relishes in your trust and patience. He also patiently waits for His chosen family, like Judah, to seek His mercy.

My Prayer Today: Like Joseph, Lord, I wait on You to intervene in the life of my family to bring them to repentance and salvation. Amen

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

2009 - Day 28 - A Reflection of Christ

January 28, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: A Reflection of Christ

Passage of the Day: Genesis 43: 33 – 34 ...
33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth; and the men looked in astonishment at one another. 34 Then he took servings to them from before him, but Benjamin’s serving was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him.

My Journal for Today: Today, emphasizing Joseph being a picture of the mercy and grace of our Lord, Jesus, Swindoll closes his devotional entry, reinforcing what he spoke of yesterday: …

First Swindoll makes reference to the passage in Isaiah 30: 18, certainly appropriate for this study …

Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.
For the LORD is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him.

Then Swindoll continues … “Do you long for Him [i.e., Christ]? I’ve got great news! In an even greater way – greater than you could ever imagine – [our Lord] longs to be gracious to you. He is offering you all the things you hunger for. The table is loaded, and He is smiling, … waiting for you to sit down and enjoy the feast He prepared with you in mind. Have a seat – grace is being served.”

As we pointed toward in yesterday’s devotional, that is the picture we get from meditating on this segment of Genesis 43, where Joseph’s brothers, being convicted and repenting of their past treatment of Joseph, were treated, without knowing all there was to know of their brother, to an overflowing and limitless abundance of grace from this lord of the king’s household.

As Swindoll repeats today, can we see ourselves at our Lord’s table of mercy and grace? Because if/when we can, we will find that, with our being receptive to His mercy, we can join in with THE LORD of God’s kingdom, dining with Him in His abundance forever. That is the message of Rev. 3: 20 – 21, which states, …

20 Behold, I [The Lord] stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

Is that not the coolest prospect one could imagine, especially since I deserve nothing short of death for what my sinful life represents? Well, I don’t know about you, but I pray that my life is lived by being willing to open that door and letting my Lord in so that I can dine with Him – at His table.

My Prayer Today: Lord, come in and dine with me! Amen

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

2009 - Day 27 - A Banquet of Grace

January 27, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: A Banquet of Grace

Passage of the Day: Genesis 43: 31 – 34 ...
31 Then he [Joseph, after being overwhelmed with emotion and tears] washed his face and came out; and he restrained himself, and said, “Serve the bread.” 32 So they set him a place by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. 33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth; and the men looked in astonishment at one another. 34 Then he took servings to them from before him, but Benjamin’s serving was five times as much as any of theirs. So they drank and were merry with him.

My Journal for Today: One doesn’t have a doctorate in theology or Old Testament religion to see what the scene in today’s chosen passage depicts. It is a banquet of grace with which all born-again Christians ought to identify.

Here we have a band of sinners, Joseph’s brothers, who had come into the presence of a powerful lord. They had their past sins on their consciousness; and they were filled with guilt and fear as to what their fate might be. They had acknowledged their guilt before God, recognizing and repenting of their ways; but now they had humbly come into the presence of one who could meet out any justice he saw fit for them.

And it was to their astonishment that they were entreated to mercy from the lord of this household, actually to a banquet of grace. They certainly didn’t deserve to sit and feast in the king’s court and partake of this lavish bounty offered to them. But they were overjoyed to be able to do so, partaking from the mercy offered to them by this grace-filled lord.

And now, as much as any time during the Old Testament character study I have undertaken with Chuck Swindoll’s help, I think one can see why I see Joseph as an Old Covenant picture of the character of our Lord and Messiah, Jesus. These men had done nothing short of pound the nails in the hands/feet of their brother, much as we have done to Christ with our sinful past. And the sinful brothers in this tale, like yours truly, deserved nothing short of death. But like Joseph’s brothers, recognizing my sin and receiving the grace of my Lord, the Christ, I can now sit at His table and partake in faith from His mercy and grace, which is unlimited and full of abounding favor.

And truly, God’ mercy, depicted in this scenario today, in the words of John Newton’s wonderful hymn, is “AMAZING GRACE that saved a wretch like me.” And this was also the case for the guilt ridden brothers of Joseph. And one day, though I deserve death, I will sit at the wedding feast of the Lamb of God because I have acknowledged my sin and received my Lord’s grace. And so, in this little scene from Genesis 43 we see a picture of why we can find our salvation from a merciful God, Whose grace abounds in the face of our guilt.

Do I sense a “PRAISE GOD” and a “HALLELUJAH [!!]” from anyone reading here? Those are certainly my feelings; and I hope you share them.

My Prayer Today: Oh, praise Your Holy Name, Lord, for my being able to sit at Your table of love and grace. Amen

Monday, January 26, 2009

2009 - Day 26 - Strength To Weep

January 26, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: Strength To Weep

Passage of the Day: Genesis 43: 24 – 30 ...
24 So the man brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys feed. 25 Then they made the present ready for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they would eat bread there. 26 And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed down before him to the earth. 27 Then he asked them about their well-being, and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 And they answered, “Your servant our father is in good health; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads down and prostrated themselves. 29 Then he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your younger brother of whom you spoke to me?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” 30 Now his heart yearned for his brother; so Joseph made haste and sought somewhere to weep. And he went into his chamber and wept there.

My Journal for Today: Don’t you just love the realness of Scripture? Here was our strong and mighty hero, the Prime Minister over millions; and our Bible tells us that Joseph, learning that all of his brothers were finally with him, including the young one, Benjamin, whom he loved; and also learning that his father still lived, Joseph just lost control of his emotions and had to leave to find the solace of his bedroom where he could be alone with God and weep. As Swindoll points out, all of a sudden all those years of loneliness and missed birthdays with his family came rushing back into his consciousness; and our very human Prime Minister became the little boy back in Canaan who was at odds with his brothers. It was all just too much; and he let it all out in tears.

What I love about this is how I can identify with this human saga. We’ve all been in places where our feelings become too much. I was just at a funeral the other day for the mother of a dear friend; and just being there reminded me of the quiet strength of my mom, who is now with Jesus. The feelings flooded forth; and I know that I was not alone at the home-going celebration of this lovely woman. My tears came easily in this moment of memory and empathy. So, I can identify with the strength of Joseph to allow his feelings to flow out in tears.

I agree with Swindoll that Joseph’s weeping was not a sign of his weakness. No, to the contrary, it was a sign that his heart, being in surrender to God, could feel the pain of the past and he could express that quietly alone. He didn’t need to make a show of the emotions to his brothers. As we’ll henceforth read, the response to Joseph’s emotions was yet to be revealed to the brothers; but at this point this strong man needed to allow his feelings to be shared with the One Joseph knew he could share anything; and that was with God in solitude.

I hope that we all realize that there is nothing we cannot share with our God. He desires that we share our inner-most feelings with Him. And I hope we’re all like Joseph, with the strength and vulnerability to do just that.

My Prayer Today: Oh, Lord, your eye is on the sparrow, so I know You’re watching me. Amen

Sunday, January 25, 2009

2009 - Day 25 - Calming Response

January 25, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: Calming Response

Passage of the Day: Genesis 43: 15 – 23 …
15 So the men took that present and Benjamin, and they took double money in their hand, and arose and went down to Egypt; and they stood before Joseph. 16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Take these men to my home, and slaughter an animal and make ready; for these men will dine with me at noon.” 17 Then the man did as Joseph ordered, and the man brought the men into Joseph’s house. 18 Now the men were afraid because they were brought into Joseph’s house; and they said, “It is because of the money, which was returned in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may make a case against us and seize us, to take us as slaves with our donkeys.” 19 When they drew near to the steward of Joseph’s house, they talked with him at the door of the house, 20 and said, “O sir, we indeed came down the first time to buy food; 21 but it happened, when we came to the encampment, that we opened our sacks, and there, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight; so we have brought it back in our hand. 22 And we have brought down other money in our hands to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23 But he said, “Peace be with you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.

My Journal for Today: Yesterday, we looked at intentionally moving toward and super-naturally developing a vertical perspective on life (i.e., a faith-based attitude) rather than reverting to one’s own natural, horizontal perspective (i.e., a fear-based attitude); and we noted that to develop the latter, we need to decide to surrender self to God and exercise faith over fear, first intentionally, and then long enough until a vertical surrender to God becomes our second nature.

In today’s passage (above) we read the result of both perspectives. Joseph’s brothers, having been returned to Joseph’s presence, certainly are illustrative of a horizontally developed, fear-based attitude which led to their guilt and anxiety in the presence of Joseph. And in Joseph’s servant, to whom the brothers poured out their story of fear, we see the results of being under the influence of Joseph, who was the exemplar of a faith-based, vertical perspective on life.

We don’t have the name of this servant, who listened to the story and recognized the anxiety of Joseph’s brothers. However, we read of his response to the men’s fears. He spoke words that would calm the men and dispel their fears. But how would such a servant of Joseph, and an Egyptian at that, be able to speak to them in this way, actually witnessing to them about the God of Abraham. Well, of course, it had to have come from the influence and teaching of Joseph, who had become a model of faithfulness to his God.

Here was a man who knew how to turn the men’s horizontal fears into a vertical perspective of faith. First, he invoked the Hebrew concept of “shalom” to these men. Note, in Gen. 43: 23, Joseph’s steward, after hearing of their fears, invokes the Hebrew greeting of “Shalom” (i.e., “Peace be with you), which had to have had a calming effect on these men. Then this faithful witness for Joseph, who very likely had become a believer under Joseph’s influence, knows exactly what to say – telling the men the truth – to dispel their anxiety; and in his words we read of the Egyptian’s witness of their own “Elohiym,” their God Almighty, which undoubtedly helped the brothers to see that they were in a save and friendly place. Then came to ultimate calming touch, as Simeon, who had been held by Joseph as leverage to promote Benjamin’s return, was returned to them unharmed (and likely relating how well he had been treated in their separation).

The point here is that the vertical perspective on life, as we discussed in yesterday’s devotional, which is grounded in surrender to God, yields faith rather than fear, dispelling anxieties which comes from our human-based horizontal outlook on life. Joseph – and in today’s case his Egyptian servant – are clear examples of letting faith dispel fear and living in such a way as to let God pour His grace into our lives, as He had into Joseph’s life for all the years he had been in Egypt. Joseph’s brothers are examples of the opposite, which is fear-based, horizontal thinking, developed out of years of trying to dispel guilt by denial and defensiveness.

I hope you, as I have, clearly see the difference; and we can become like Joseph and his servant, believing in God to the point we see things first and foremost vertically, in faith, rather than letting our very natural fears overtake us.

My Prayer Today: Lord, in the moments of life which produce anxiety, help me to see that You are in control and I am a child of the King. Amen

Saturday, January 24, 2009

2009 - Day 24 - A Vertical Focus

January 24, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: A Vertical Focus

Passage of the Day: Genesis 43: 13 – 15 … [see focus passage in bold] ...
11 And their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: Take some of the best fruits of the land in your vessels and carry down a present for the man—a little balm and a little honey, spices and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. 12 Take double money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight. 13 Take your brother also, and arise, go back to the man. 14 And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!” … 15 So the men took that present and Benjamin, and they took double money in their hand, and arose and went down to Egypt; and they stood before Joseph.

My Journal for Today:
When I read this passage and meditated on it a bit before reading Swindoll’s devotional, I actually was struck by the same thing which Swindoll used as a teaching vehicle in his book today. We both apparently wondered what happened on that long trip back to Pharaoh which the 10 brothers had to take. In the passage, we are brought, through the author’s writing, directly from Jacob’s charge to Pharaoh’s court; but there was that long caravan back; and the men had a lot of time to contemplate, to commiserate, and to discuss what was going to transpire.

Yes, Jacob (“Israel”) had expressed the hope that “El Shaddai,” (Hebrew for “God Almighty”) would give his boys mercy; but did the 10 sons really contemplate that; or did they do what is the most likely human reaction as they traveled to Egypt … to contemplate, in fear, the worst which could happen? Certainly most of us, when we’re presented with the choice to think negatively or positively, will gravitate toward the negative. And in doing this we gravitate into horizontal thinking. At least for a moment, when his boys departed for Egypt, Jacob forced out a vertical perspective, hoping that God Almighty would intervene and give his boys mercy. But it is likely, as his boys traveled to Egypt, that there was a lot of horizontal thinking going on.

Today, Swindoll uses this scenario to teach the reality that it’s not easy to move from horizontal thinking to a vertical perspective on life. It’s like trying to get rid of a deeply embedded bad habit; and we know that habits don’t just change automatically. It takes intentionality and discipline. It takes at least a moment of reflection; … then it takes acknowledgment of the need for change; … and then there is a commitment to move from one pattern of life to another … followed by proactive planning; … and finally, there is the rigorous discipline to think or do something for long enough to replace one habit with another. This is not a finger-snap moment in life. It takes time.

In this case, it would have been NATURAL for Joseph’s brother to dwell in the negative – or horizontal thinking – all the way back from Canaan to Egypt. But Swindoll speculates and teaches what it would have taken for the brothers to change on the way back. Chuck speculates that it would take a three step process, if these brothers were to move from negative to positive on their journey. And the first of these steps is to "recognize and admit [the] negative mentality.”

As Swindoll points out, much of the cure and change of a course-correction in life comes in recognition, ownership, and confession … as well as an honest admission of the need to change. I don’t know about Joseph’s brothers, but unless they were able to reflect on their past mistakes and admit their sins, these dudes were not going to come before the Prime Minister of Egypt with the right, vertical perspective on life. It takes a commitment to change … to change. And that begins with the reality and vulnerability to admit failing and to seek a surrendered will, allowing God (our vertical thoughts) to do business with our heart and to transform our lives. And that is the tough process of decision which must lead to discipline.

Swindoll’s second point in this process is that we must … “force a vertical focus until it begins to flow freely.” I once had a friend, a leader in business, who often used to say, “Fake it until you make it.” When we recognize and acknowledge that our past patterns need to change, we’re insane if we expect a change to occur by doing the same things we have done in the past. It takes change to change. We have to intentionally do something different and keep doing it long enough for a new pattern, hopefully a successful one, to become a part of our choices and actions. And beginning that process takes repentance – i.e, the willingness to turn from one direction to another. And that’s not an easy thing to do. I’ve heard it said that it takes 80% of a rocket’s fuel to get that rocket just a few feet off of the launching pad. And for Joseph’s brothers to change from horizontally directed fear to vertically directed faith would take a decision on their part … a decision which would not be easy given their horizontal and very human past.

Finally, Swindoll posits that the process of habit change will more likely happen if we don’t demand too much of ourselves at the outset. He says, “Stay open to a new idea (or behavior) for at least five minutes.” What he means is that choosing a new direction (i.e., true repentance) may be too much to ask of our will power for even a full day in the beginning; but it’s not too much to ask for our minds to handle five minutes at a time.

Years ago, when my mentor realized that I did not have a disciplined, daily devotional life, he asked me if I might be willing to commit to ten minutes a day for a morning quiet time with God. When he asked me that, I was almost shamed into realizing that 10 minutes per day was not much time to intentionally schedule to begin building a more abiding relationship with my Lord. So, I did. I began with 10 minutes, which quickly became 20 and then 30 minutes over time, … which ultimately became an hour a day. And I had to decide and discipline myself to get up earlier to devote such time to God; but the more I did it, the more God poured His enabling grace into this time … and the more, I realized, I was getting from the time commitment. The whole process moved from horizontal decision to vertical discipline; and I changed.

From this meditation, I hope any reader can evaluate what might be needed to go from horizontal, and a very human, direction to vertical, and decidedly Godly, direction in life. Can we afford five minutes of vertical thinking in small spurts of decision daily to recognize, repent, and reorganize our thinking to head in new, vertical, direction in life? Jesus said that this was the process of discipleship, when, in Luke 9: 23 (hope you know that one by heart), “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” That is moving from horizontal to vertical; and I pray that is the direction of change in my life.

How about you?

My Prayer Today: Lord, help me to be a vertical thinking and doer in life. Amen

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Four Berry Patch Beauties

Hey, Y'all ... I think it's about time that I inject a more personal tone to my blog here, ... though I don't want to imply that my devotional journal entries are not very personal - because they are!
However, those of you who know our family, which we affectionately call "The Berry Patch," are very aware of how our lives revolve around the four beautiful jewels depicted above. And since they grow and change so rapidly, I need to interject pictures like this for any who come here who love us and desire to see the Berry Patch beauties.
Above (#1) is Sydney, 7, who is growing like a weed ... and so smart and sensitive, it's hard to believe. She actually loves her sister, Brooklyn, that much (in the foto). It's really almost scary to see how much she cares for her sister. We certainly didn't experience that with our two, their mom and sister, when they were growing up.
Now (#2) the foto of the Colorado two hides a bit of the reality of Amanda (5) and Alexandra (2). Little Alex is really into the "terrible twos" and she can make life a real drag at times for Amanda, who'd love to dote over her sister like her cousin Sydney does for Brookie; but Alex won't have any of that.
Oh, how we enjoy sharing time with these four. This PawPaw gig is definitely a gift from God!

2009 - Day 23 - God's Direction

January 23, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: God’s Direction

Passage of the Day: 42: 1 – 12 …
Go to this link, read and study this passage

My Journal for Today: When I read this passage, in the NKJV, I was struck first by the fact that the name of the father, “Jacob,” after reading his name used in this way, in verses 6 – 12, God’s word refers to the old man with his post-wrestling moniker of “Israel.” I say this because I was led this morning back to Genesis 32 where I re-read of Jacob’s encounter and wrestling match with a Man who was God, likely a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. And after that struggle with God, Jacob’s name, which in Hebrew means “one who deceives,” was changed to “Israel,” which means “one who struggles with God.”

And here in our passage for today as Jacob’s name, "Israel" is used, we can see why these names are so revealing of the character of Joseph’s dad. It was in Jacob’s sin nature to be a deceiver; and God had recognized long before this, by changing Jacob’s name to “Israel,” that this man would struggle with his Lord for direction and blessing all of his life. Jacob was such a stubborn man; and in our passage for today we read [see verse 10] that his son Judah noted that his Dad’s personal struggles, his fear and delay, had put their family in jeopardy. And then we see how “Israel” once again set up a plan, a scheme, which somewhat deceptively would try to cover all the angles as he finally decided to send his boys back to Egypt for more provisions.

As I read this and meditate on the implications of this study, I find myself wanting to say to Jacob/Israel, “Just find God’s direction, and follow it!” And that is what Swindoll is pointing his readers toward in his discussion of this passage. So often I am like “Israel,” procrastinating in fear, and seeking within myself to come up with my own way; and all God desires is for me to do is what old Solomon wrote to his son (and to us) in Proverbs 3: 5-6, “Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. In ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”

Why, so often, do I find myself seeking the path within myself? And then when I finally make a decision, I don’t even consider God’s will or direction for my path. And like old “Israel” here, I often try to scheme my way – even wrestling with God as did Jacob in the past – to cover all the bases with MY way so that I can get God’s blessing with MY decisions. And all God wants for me is to seek HIS way; and we know from His word (again see Prov. 3: 5-6 as well as Psalm 37: 4 and James 1: 5-6) that when we surrender to God and seek His way, expecting that we will get His wisdom, He will – through His enabling grace - reveal HIS way … THE way.

What I am reminded of from my time with God here this morning, and need to learn more permanently, is that I need to stay in “surrender mode” in my life, rather than reverting to doing things, in the words of the old Frank Sinatra song, “MY WAY.” All I have to do is compare Joseph’s “M.O.” to Jacob’s. Joseph was in continual surrender mode to His Lord; but Jacob was always looking within himself for God’s way. The former will always work – the latter, never! When we surrender to God’s will and His way, usually finding it through His word [see Joshua 1: 8], we will save a lot of time; and often we don’t have to find out the hard way as Jacob did when God had to give “Israel” a permanent and painful disability for the man to receive God’s blessing. Personally I’d rather learn my lessons gracefully …without the pain.

So, I hope that I can learn this lesson and seek out God’s direction rather than relying on my own – very painful - way.

My Prayer Today: Lord, make Your way my highway! Amen

Thursday, January 22, 2009

2009 - Day 22 - A Horizontal Viewpoint

January 22, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: A Horizontal Viewpoint

Passage of the Day: Genesis 42: 29 – 38 …
29 Then they [Joseph’s brothers] went to Jacob their father in the land of Canaan and told him all that had happened to them, saying: 30 “The man who is lord of the land spoke roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country. 31 But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. 32 We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no more, and the youngest is with our father this day in the land of Canaan.’ 33 Then the man, the lord of the country, said to us, ‘By this I will know that you are honest men: Leave one of your brothers here with me, take food for the famine of your households, and be gone. 34 And bring your youngest brother to me; so I shall know that you are not spies, but that you are honest men. I will grant your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.’” 35 Then it happened as they emptied their sacks, that surprisingly each man’s bundle of money was in his sack; and when they and their father saw the bundles of money, they were afraid. 36 And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me.” 37 Then Reuben spoke to his father, saying, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you; put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” 38 But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is left alone. If any calamity should befall him along the way in which you go, then you would bring down my gray hair with sorrow to the grave.”

My Journal for Today: Among football fans it is said that “… it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback.” Another pertinent saying might be, “Hindsight is always 20/20.”

I raise these old sayings because, as I read today’s passage, which focuses on old Jacob’s response to the news brought to him by his sons upon returning from Egypt, it would be easy for me to judge the old man saying that he responded with knee jerk fear. Certainly we see this very human viewpoint because the patriarch of this Hebrew family, from the lineage of Abraham, whom God had given His covenant promises, could not seem to see God in the picture of the events which had befallen his family. As Swindoll points out in his devotional for this date, Jacob had only a HORIZONTAL VIEWPOINT on what had transpired.

Upon learning what this “lord of Egypt,” who, of course, was Joseph, had done in keeping his son, Simeon, hostage, Jacob immediately assumed the worst; and seeing things – again, horizontally - from what had happened in the past, he just reacted by thinking that he now had two dead sons. And he horizontally projected that he might lose Benjamin as well if he were to be taken to Egypt. And here we are with 20/20 hindsight … as well as 20/20 foresight, being able to read/know God’s word as to the end of the story. It would be easy for believing Christians to judge Jacob and say, “Oh, you of little faith!”

But in my own rearview mirror, I can think of many times when I was confronted with life challenges and my viewpoint on life was just as horizontal as Jacob’s. Swindoll challenges his readers, “Call to mind your most recent test. Did you rest calmly in Him [i.e., God’s promises, provision, or power]? Or did you push the panic button out of fear?” Though I’m not a betting man, I would wager that most of us would have been no more vertical in our viewpoint than Jacob, taking the very human horizontal view on things as did this Jewish patriarch and reacting with fear and anxiety.

When we’re thrown into the swirl of worldly and personal events, it’s far easier to view things horizontally rather than vertically, trusting God implicitly and His truth from such biblical promises as we should know in Deuteronomy 31: 6, 8 … Isaiah 41: 10 … Romans 8: 28, 31 … Philippians 4: 6-7, 13 … or 2nd Timothy 1: 7. These truths just popped into my head as I was meditating on Jacob’s reaction; and I was convicted to have to say that given what Jacob learned and what he had experienced in life, even knowing and believing the truths of those verses above, I probably would have been a horizontal thinker just like Jacob. I hope that I could know God well enough to respond vertically to His promises rather than horizontally, reacting in fear; but I really don’t know how I would come out on such a test of my faith.

All I can do is continue to grow in my relationship with Christ; and I contend that I’m certainly much more of a vertically oriented Christian now than I was 25 years ago when I first surrendered to Christ. And knowing more and more of my Lord through His word, like those passages I referenced above, I now have more of a personal foundation from which to respond to life vertically rather than to react horizontally as did Jacob. But as it says in 2nd Cor. 13: 5, we need to continually, or at least periodically, test ourselves in the faith to see how vertically our responses to life might be.

Are you a Christian with a vertical or a horizontal viewpoint on life? I maintain that if we answer with the latter, we likely don’t know God from His word well enough. So, what must we do to become Christians with a vertical viewpoint on life? Well, we immerse ourselves in God’s word and invest the time to get to know our God intimately; and then, we abide in His truth. Because, to know God deeply is to love God deeply; and to love Him deeply will be to obey Him completely. So, I plan to do all I can daily to saturate my life with God’s word; because it is in God’s truth that I can develop a Godly, vertical viewpoint on life.

My Prayer Today: Lord, help me to be more like Joseph and less like Jacob. Amen

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

2009 - Day 21 - New Perspective

January 21, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: New Perspective

Passage of the Day: Genesis 42: 25 - 28 ...
25 Then Joseph gave a command to fill their sacks with grain, to restore every man’s money to his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. Thus he did for them. 26 So they loaded their donkeys with the grain and departed from there. 27 But as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey feed at the encampment, he saw his money; and there it was, in the mouth of his sack. 28 So he said to his brothers, “My money has been restored, and there it is, in my sack!” Then their hearts failed them and they were afraid, saying to one another, “What is this that God has done to us?”

My Journal for Today: This is a most powerful and personal segment of Joseph’s story for me; well, in this case about the brothers. It tells of God using Joseph’s interaction with the brothers to pour out the Lord’s prevenient grace into their lives, giving them a new perspective on life.

You can read the unfolding story from the passage; but as I said, these circumstances from God’s word have a deep and personal impact on me. They take me back to April 13, 1983, when God poured out His prevenient grace into my life to give me new perspective.
Prevenient grace is God’s grace which “comes before.” It is when God sets about life circumstances to either draw the lost to Himself or to bring the Christian into a closer relationship with God. On 4/13/83, as a lost soul, I was confronted with a set of life circumstances which, as for Joseph’s brothers, communicated that God was in control of my life; and He desired me to repent and go a different way.

Sure, for the brothers, it was Joseph who had carefully given the money back to them; but God used that pre-planned incident to give the brothers the ability to view life as God desired them to see things. And that’s what happened to me when I listened to the testimony of a young quadriplegic in 1983; and God used that testimony and the words from Phil. 4: 13 [I hope you have that one memorized] to help me see that I needed God’s strength in my life to deal with my human failings. I, like Joseph’s brothers, after denying God’s view for so many years, could finally see what I had been and where I needed to go. I, like the brothers in today’s scenario, finally had the perspective on that day in 1983 to be reborn of mind and heart. It was the day when the truth of 2nd Cor. 5: 17 came alive for me … the day that the old me had died (see also Gal. 2: 20); and a new way of seeing the world was now my way of seeing things.

Perhaps you were like Joseph’s brothers or Bill Berry or the Apostle Paul, whom we remember was knocked from his donkey on the road to Damascus and given a new perspective on life [see Acts 9: 1 – 19]. Maybe like me, you can remember when your perspective on life changed. Perhaps you can’t put a stake in the ground of time to remember when it happened for you; but you know that God’s Spirit is in your born-again heart and allows you to see life with conviction and direction because your life is yielded to God in a pursuit of His will and His way. You still have a sin nature; and you still must see the world through very human eyes, but God’s Spirit and His word, since you’ve surrendered to His Lordship, help to illumine your path in life and you are, because of God’s perspective, becoming new in Him (see Ps. 119 – yes, all of it - and Phil. 1: 6).

Joseph’s brothers would never see life the same way after the incident recorded in today’s passage; and as we’ll read in upcoming devotionals, God’s full power from His prevenient grace was about to unfold as God and life would reveal Joseph being alive. But right now God was using this set of circumstances to get them to a place where they could see their sinfulness of past choices and a willingness to surrender to God as their Lord. They had a NEW PERSPECTIVE. And we all need to have that kind of perspective on life, always seeking to see life through God’s eyes. How about you? Are you seeking to find God’s way of looking at your life circumstances; because if you are truly a Christian and trying to view life through only your own eyes, you, like Joseph’s brothers, are going to have to confront life through the eyes of agonizing reflection; … until, that is, you are able to surrender and move toward God and away from self?

Take it from one who’s been there and is now one who sees the folly of trying to view life through my own sinful eyes. It’s much better to put on the glasses of Godly perspective and do all I (we) can to see life through the 20/20 vision of God’s will. Without such a view of life, I become spiritually blind; but I know from my Messiah’s mission statement (found in Luke 4: 18) that He desires to help me see my way to follow Him through His eyes. And that will be my continual pursuit … His vision … to walk in His way … through His word as my light in the darkness (see Ps. 119: 105).

My Prayer Today: Give me Your perspective, Lord. Help me to see life through Your lenses; and to find Your path as I walk to follow You. Amen

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2009 - Day 20 - Guilty

January 20, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: Guilty

Passage of the Day: Genesis 42: 21 – 24 …
21 Then they said to one another, “We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.” 22 And Reuben answered them, saying, “Did I not speak to you, saying, ‘Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us.” 23 But they did not know that Joseph understood them, for he spoke to them through an interpreter. 24 And he turned himself away from them and wept. Then he returned to them again, and talked with them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.

My Journal for Today: “We are truly guilty,…” were the words of Joseph’s brothers as they were confronted with the reality of their past actions when they were merely reminded of their deed by the questions from this young Prime Minister. And yet they didn’t know that their brother stood right before them; and Joseph could understand their Hebrew words, though he cunningly used an interpreter to give the brothers the impression that he didn’t speak their language. And the reactions of the brothers were emotionally wrenching, or maybe uplifting to Joseph, who had to leave their presence because he became so emotional hearing them admit their guilt.

We don’t know exactly what the tears from Joseph represented. It could have been joy in finding the family he had lost; or it could have been tears of empathy, because Joseph knew exactly what it felt like to be in the custody of a power over their life. But we do know that Joseph had to turn or walk away from his brothers to hide his emotions. And we also know, from the unfolding of the story to come that Joseph’s emotions were devoid of any bitterness toward the brothers – a most super-natural response, for sure!

Now, we see a carefully enacted ploy develop to move his brothers to go back to Canaan and bring his father and younger brother, Benjamin to him. But no matter what their sentence from Egypt, through Joseph, the past guilt of these men had caught up to them. As Swindoll very perceptively writes, “… when God comes to tap on stooped shoulders and to break a guilty heart, He does not stop with a slight nudge or mild reproach.” And that is why believers, who live by the truth of 1st John 1: 9 (as I pointed out yesterday), must keep short accounts of sin, coming to God’s throne of grace for cleansing from confession any time sin is perpetrated, comes to one’s consciousness, and is acknowledged by the guilty party.

However, we can be so stupid at times as Christians, holding on to guilt and shame, when it is needlessly retained. How intelligent is it to hold on to a burning ember when we only need discard it and receive the balm of healing from a merciful and graceful God Who promises us complete cleansing and healing from His blood? That’s just dumb [!]; and as my wife often says, “There’s no real cure for dumb.” But so often we can be so dumb as followers of Christ; can’t we?

I hope we can be smarter than the brothers of Joseph, who held on to their guilt for over two decades. But as they confronted the Prime Minister of Egypt, who unbeknownst to them was their brother, little did they know that they were going to have to pay the piper … and the piper was Joseph, … the one whom they had wronged; and this was about to become apparent to them. Stay tuned! The plot thickens; and the truth is more wondrous than any novel.

My Prayer Today: Lord, help me to be always open and real with You, holding on to no shame and seeking Your mercy. Amen

Monday, January 19, 2009

2009 - Day 19 - Taking Responsibility

January 19, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: Taking Responsibility

Passage of the Day: Genesis 42: 1 - 24 ...
Go to this link to study this passage …

My Journal for Today: Here we have a most interesting scenario. After his years as a slave in Egypt, in prison unjustly for two years, and those years of administration and stewardship as the #2 in command in Egypt, Joseph encounters the brothers who years before had put him into a pit and sold him into slavery; and now we read that these brothers thought Joseph to be dead to their family.

It would be very easy in this confrontation between the brothers and Joseph to make the brothers into the bad guys; and most certainly the brothers had wronged their little brother in their past jealousy. However, as the scene unfolds here, we actually read of the brothers taking ownership of their ill begotten decision to sell Joseph into Egyptian slavery.

As Swindoll’s devotional points out, in verse 21 of Gen. 42, we read a very telling use of pronouns … “Then they said to one another, ‘ We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.’ ” Note how the brothers, to one another, were taking direct ownership of their treatment of Joseph now that they were confronted with this memory and Joseph’s strategic ploy to bring his father and younger brother, Benjamin, back into his life. The lesson is revealed from these brothers; and Swindoll writes, “The first step toward softening a seared conscience is taking responsibility for one’s own personal guilt.”

Joseph’s brothers could not blame their dad’s passivity or Daddy’s favoritism of Joseph in those early years. Those factors may have contributed to their jealousy and anger back then; but their choice to toss their brother into that pit and sell him was their choice, not the fault of their father. Even if Joseph, in his youth, had been an arrogant youngster [which may have been the case], it would not have excused them for the ungodly choice of selling their brother into slavery. But now, they were seeing their true sinfulness and taking the responsibility for these past deeds. And so we read the brothers pointing directly to themselves with the series of “we” pronouns in verse 21 above.

Yes, God had engineered all of Joseph’s past to bring him to this place of family confrontation; and as we’ll read later this month, there will be more to this story as it unfolds. However, here we learn a valuable lesson of conviction when an ungodly set of circumstances is clearly uncovered. When we are wrong, we are wrong; and only by recognizing, acknowledging, and confessing our sinfulness can God bring about the ultimate cleansing of this guilt.

New Covenant believers should know the truth of God’s word in 1st John 1: 9 about God’s grace being available to cleanse ANY believer in ANY situation for the confession of ANY sinfulness. Sometimes, that’s hard for obedient and Godly believers to accept … that God will actually provide His saving grace of forgiveness whenever that one is willing to take responsibility for sin and confess those sins before God and mankind. And this is the lesson we see shining forth from this family confrontation, involving Joseph and his brothers.

Oh, how I pray we all can glean truth and grow from this scene.

My Prayer Today: Lord, when I am wrong, I am wrong; and praise Your mercy and cleansing grace when I am willing to acknowledge my sin and bring my faults to you. Amen

Sunday, January 18, 2009

2009 - Day 18 - Giving For His Glory

January 18, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: Giving For His Glory

Passage of the Day: Genesis 41: 53 - 57 ...
53 Then the seven years of plenty which were in the land of Egypt ended, 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. The famine was in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Then Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, do.” 56 The famine was over all the face of the earth, and Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians. And the famine became severe in the land of Egypt. 57 So all countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all lands.

My Journal for Today: Let me begin today’s journal entry, quoting from what Chuck Swindoll wrote at the end of his devotional for today: “With authority comes the need for accountability. With popularity comes the need for humility. With prosperity comes the need for integrity. … Joseph passed all three (of these) character tests with flying colors.”

After reading the passage for today, no one could logically, or even emotionally, dispute Swindoll’s contention above. Egypt and the surrounding lands apparently experienced one of the worst famines ever experienced by these people [see verse 56]. And here was Joseph, … exactly the right man in exactly the right position [obviously by God’s mercy and providence] to make a difference; and yes, he comes through with God’s flying colors. In verse 57 we read how Joseph, who not only didn’t hoard the proactively stored grain and food for himself or merely for Pharaoh’s court; but he opened the Egyptian storehouses for anyone who needed the food and for other neighboring lands who might want to purchase the excess to meet their needs. That’s humility, for sure. That’s accountability, to God and to his fellow man. And that’s integrity from God’s hand, through Joseph, to all who were in need.

Right now, as I write this, we are going through hard times economically. And in such times there are always those who have come into these times with more of God’s abundance than others. Some in the latter category of need are there because they have made poor economic choices. Some are in need because they couldn’t help it or because they couldn’t compete in a competitive world due to some handicap. And these times tempt and/or test those who HAVE to choose whether they are going to help those who HAVE NOT or merely to hoard the excess for themselves And as Swindoll indicates, Joseph came through this test of human temptations with the pure gold in his God-developed character. He prepared for the tough times; and when they came, he became a light of helpfulness in the darkness of privation.

I hope all can see, who read of Joseph, in the pages of God’s word, that he was an arch type of Jesus Christ. We see in, Joseph, Christlikeness like we never see in other Old Testament figures. Even great figures like Moses, David, or Solomon had their periods of human weakness and ill-begotten choices. But Joseph was a man like no others of the Old Covenant. He was like Christ; and we read from his life much of the character which we would read of in Christ in the New Testament. So, as we read his story, we need to pay attention to learn of the character of the coming Messiah who would become THE PERFECT picture of character for us.

And to close this entry, let me quote from Swindoll’s devotional, a prayer of aspiration to Christlikeness …

My Prayer Today: “Jesus Christ, I need You. I have all of this [Your providence] to account for; and I can’t take any of it with me. Please use me as you see fit.” Amen

Saturday, January 17, 2009

2009 - Day 17 - Forgive And Forget

January 17, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: Forgive and Forgen

Passage of the Day: Genesis 41: 46 - 52 ...
46 Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt. 47 Now in the seven plentiful years the ground brought forth abundantly. 48 So he gathered up all the food of the seven years which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities; he laid up in every city the food of the fields which surrounded them. 49 Joseph gathered very much grain, as the sand of the sea, until he stopped counting, for it was immeasurable. 50 And to Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, whom Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah, priest of On, bore to him. 51 Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: “For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house.” 52 And the name of the second he called Ephraim: “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

My Journal for Today: As Swindoll in his devotional book points out for today, this is an interesting passage written by the author of Genesis under the influence of the Holy Spirit. In it we read several very mundane and personal details about Joseph’s post-prison life, after he had been blessed by God and Pharaoh to become Prime Minister of Egypt as that country approached and prepared for a famine in the land.

As Swindoll helps me see, the first thing we see is that Joseph honored God by being monogamous, as was the Hebrew teaching – certainly not the Egyptian tradition for kings … nor even the Middle Eastern tradition of those days. Joseph, in his position as Prime Minister, could have taken as many wives or concubines as he desired, especially in his position of privilege and power. However, he resisted those temptations and remained monogamous, having two sons by one wife. This small detail reveals how Joseph ignored the world and concentrated on his faith in the One, True God.

Next there is the matter of why God, through the Author of Genesis, relates the details of the naming of the two sons. Actually Swindoll’s devotional doesn’t discuss one feature about the naming that God allowed me to see this morning. It is the fact that both of the names were Hebrew names and not Egyptian. I think that this is significant, showing us that Joseph desired to openly declare his Jewish heritage even with his position of influence in the Egyptian government. And names in the Middle Eastern culture were a big deal. By using Hebrew names, Joseph, openly declares that he and his sons were from the Family of God.

And then, as the text explains it; expositors, like Swindoll, help me to see that the two names for his sons were also declarations of meaning about Joseph’s character; and the first of these, Manasseh, which in Hebrew means “to be made forgetful,” speaks of how Joseph was blessed to be able to forget all the past ills which had befallen this man of God. Joseph didn’t choose to relent to the temptation to visit revenge upon all those in his past, like Potiphar’s wife, who had wronged him. No, he humbly chose to set those memories aside and concentrate on the future, looking to God’s providence as he had done in those years of testing in prison.

And finally, there was the name, Ephraim, which in Hebrew means “to be doubly fruitful;” and this speaks forcefully, I believe, of how Joseph viewed his life … that as being incredibly blessed. And yes, this even means that he saw all that had happened to him as being a blessing. Think about it. When a man can see all those years of servitude, slavery, and imprisonment as blessing, we see that Joseph was prepared by God for blessing and to be a blessing to those whom God would bring into his life. And this we will see unfold in even more of Joseph’s life in the upcoming days of devotionals.

I’m taken by this passage to remember that I must forget the ills in my life, trusting, as it says in Rom. 8: 28, that all of life’s circumstances work together for my good since I, like Joseph, believe in and follow the One, True God. And secondly, I see, from the naming of the boys, that I must, as it says in 1st Thes. 5: 18, always give thanks for all the blessings that God brings into my life … yes, even the challenges and tribulations of life; … because God is in control; and He will always be working for my good and to complete me, as it says in Phil. 1: 6, into the image of my Savior.

My Prayer Today: Lord, help me to become Manasseh and Ephraim in my life as expressions of Your character in me. Amen

Friday, January 16, 2009

2009 - Day 16 - Don't Panic ... Trust

January 16, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: Don’t Panic … Trust

Passage of the Day: Genesis 41: 41 - 46 ...
41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 And he had him ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried out before him, “Bow the knee!” So he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Pharaoh also said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no man may lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” 45 And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-Paaneah. And he gave him as a wife Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On. So Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt. 46 Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt.

My Journal for Today: Revisiting the same passage as we studied yesterday, Chuck Swindoll, in his devotional book, takes different view of the scenario I analyzed from the perspective of God’s intervention yesterday. Swindoll asks how this scene of the 30 year old becoming Prime Minister would have been viewed by the farmer in the field or the slave in the stone quarry of that day. He speculates, and accurately I believe, that this man of his time would have wondered why this young Hebrew dude would be elevated to the rank of 2nd in command in Egypt so suddenly.

Swindoll says such a man many have been saying or thinking, “Who does he (Joseph) think he is? Who did he bribe to get all of this?” And given this historical scenario, I certainly would be tempted to wonder what’s going on. Hey, right now I wonder what’s going on with a lot of the happenings in this world. Like Habakkuk did in his times, I wonder what God is doing allowing all the evil to unfold in our world – and even some carried out by so-called “christians.” Why does God let this evil be so pervasive in our culture and world. So, who am I to say that the man in the field in Joseph’s day should so easily have faith in something they can’t understand from the mind of God.

When Joseph became the Prime Minister of Egypt, that man in the field didn’t have a clue about where God had taken or was taking Joseph. He didn’t know about Joseph’s history … about how God had prepared and refined Joseph through all those trials in his life … how God had prepared Joseph to be right there at that time to save Egypt from a coming famine … how God was preparing Joseph for his future revisit of his brothers (more to come on that – stay tuned if you’re studying with me!).

When Habakkuk raised his questions to God about what was going on in his world (see Habakkuk, Chapter 1), God had to reveal to this Prophet that He, the Lord, was even going to allow the world to get far worse than it was at the time of Habakkuk’s lament. And often, as now in our world, we see bad stuff happening; and as it says in Isaiah 55: 8 – 9, we just don’t have insights into God’s mind and we don’t see the present, and most certainly the future, as God sees things.

But Habakkuk learned this lesson [see Hab. 3: 17], as should we. He learned what Joseph had come to learn at the point of our passage for today. They learned that no matter how bad things seem or may be projected to be for the future, God is in control; and we must avoid panic and trust, as we should know from Deut. 31: 6 in the OT and Hebrews 13: 5 in the NT, that God will never leave us, nor forsake us. No, as it says in Deut. 31: 8, God is even – and always – going on ahead in the lives of true believers to shape a God-ordained future for us.

The question is, do we learn from our lives that we must trust in a God, Who is God; and do we know that we are not God? Oh, from my own life, how many times have I wanted to be in control when I feel out of control? But there are times, like those times when Joseph was in prison, or when Habakkuk was so confused by the evil he saw in the world, or when I see stuff like pornography becoming so pervasive in our world; yes, there are times when we don’t – or won’t – have a clue as to what God is crafting in our world. So, we must simply follow His directions from His world and follow the prescription of Joshua 1: 8 or Proverbs 3: 5,6 or Phil. 4: 6-7 [and I hope you’ve memorized and internalize those passages].

In times like Joseph was in, even though the man in the field was clueless; … in times like we face today, when I’m clueless as to God’s design for the future, I’ve simply got to stay cool … and trust my God.

My Prayer Today: I do, my Lord. You are God, dear Jesus; and I am not! And I yield it all to You. Amen

Thursday, January 15, 2009

2009 - Day 15 - Tender Mercies

January 15, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: Tender Mercies

Passage of the Day: Genesis 41: 41 - 46 ...
41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 And he had him ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried out before him, “Bow the knee!” So he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Pharaoh also said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no man may lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” 45 And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-Paaneah. And he gave him as a wife Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On. So Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt. 46 Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt.

My Journal for Today: When I’m feeling down or depressed, I love phrases like, “It’s the darkest before the dawn.” It reminds me that things may seem like the night at the moment; but the sun is going to rise on a new day soon. And that is what we see in the outcome of Joseph’s dark days in prison. Because as we read in today’s passage, the sun came up on this hero of the faith BIGTIME!

He had been in the slammer for two long years, having been incarcerated unjustly by his former master, Potiphar. And then in prison he had been led to help the Pharaoh’s butler whom he asked to give a good word for him. However, the king’s cupbearer summarily forgot about it until Pharaoh needed a dream interpreted; and the butler, who had been reinstated as Joseph had predicted two dark years earlier, finally remembered Joseph’s ability to accurately interpret dreams.

And so, Pharaoh called Joseph, who interpreted a series of wild dreams for Egypt’s king. None of Pharaoh’s wise counselors had been able to do it; but Joseph was ready and up to the task, laying out a scenario for the king and predicting an upcoming famine in the land and the need for Egypt to prepare for the coming horrors by preparing ahead of time. And now, we enter the story as Pharaoh needs someone to manage the land in preparation for the famine; and somehow, with the help of God’s discernment, I believe, the king sees that Joseph is the man for the job.

So, in this wondrous moment of God’s intervening mercy, Joseph learns, as Swindoll writes in his devotional for today, “… a broken and contrite heart is not the end, … it is the beginning.” Here we see Joseph being a wonderful example of someone who waited and waited in faith in the dungeon of life, knowing that God was always in control and that the Lord would never leave him there in prison. Joseph’s faith had allowed him to go through the fire of testing so that the dross in Joseph’s life could be burned off. And now our hero had emerged as pure gold, purified and ready for a God-laden plan to unfold in his life.

And wow, it began with a bang. Pharaoh puts his own signet ring on Joseph, which Swindoll points out was like giving the young man (only 30 years old) the keys to the kingdom. It was the ultimate credit card, which would allow Joseph to travel anywhere and have the authority of the most high. Talk about going from the “pits to the pinnacle,” as Swindoll points out.

Have you ever been so down you couldn’t look up; and then you find yourself lifted up with a glimpse of glory? I have; and it’s so tempting in that high moment to be prideful … a dangerous scenario because God cannot pour His grace into a heart of pride (see Prov. 3: 34 or James 4: 6). The Apostle Paul was there. In 2nd Cor. 12, we read of Paul coming down from a wondrous spiritual high; and God had to allow Satan to give Paul some “thorn,” which was horribly painful, so that Paul would come to learn that the pain was a blessing from God to keep him humble enough to receive and use God’s enabling grace. And it is in this moment of revelation that we read Paul quote Jesus, Who says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in [your] weakness.”

I love that passage because it’s Jesus telling Paul (and me and all Christians) what Joseph had learned. That God can use anyone who recognizes and acknowledges their weakness and submits to God’s Spirit, seeking the grace that one will need to be used by God. And God can use a Joseph or a Paul who has been seasoned by the fires of pain and privation. And he certainly did with Joseph; and I hope we all realize that God can and will use any of us IF we surrender our lives to him as “living sacrifices,” as Paul wrote about in Rom. 12: 1-2.

My Prayer Today: Lord, I would rather not have to go through prison or a thorn to surrender and receive Your grace. I do so willingly and gladly now. Amen

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

2009 - Day 14 - Humility When Promoted

January 14, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: Humility When Promoted

Passage of the Day: Genesis 41: 16 - 41 ...
Please read and study today’s highlight passage to which you are linked here.

My Journal for Today: Having read and studied today’s passage from Genesis 41, we now begin to see the fruition of the refinement process Joseph was taken through in his life prior to this incident, … being thrown into the pit by his brothers, … being sold into slavery in Egypt, … being led to Potiphar, … having to flee from Potiphar’s wife, … being unjustly thrown into prison, … being exposed to Pharaoh’s butler and baker, … interpreting their dreams, … being forgotten for two years in prison after the predicted release of Pharaoh’s cupbearer, … and now being brought to Pharaoh, the butler having “coincidentally” remembered Joseph’s dream interpretation skills. All of this was the Refiner’s fire in action.

And after all of this, Pharaoh lays out this intricate series of dreams, requesting that Joseph discern their meaning. And in that moment we see how God had taken Joseph through all of the above travail to refine the ore of his soul into a character of pure gold. Now, in this moment of confrontation, Joseph could have promoted himself and demanded freedom and power; but this was not the case. Our hero of God’s story, quietly, but assertively, promoted only God as we read Joseph say in verse 25, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do: …”

God had prepared Joseph for just this moment; and God’s man came through in flying colors, laying aside the temptation of pride and the desire for compensation from the king. No, somehow – and I believe it was God’s Spirit of discernment – Joseph knew that God was in control and would bring about a God-led path if he, Joseph, would only be true to what God had revealed to him from Pharaoh’s dream.

And we see the result of God being in control and Joseph surrendering to God’s revelation. Pharaoh hears the dream, as discerned and revealed by Joseph, including God’s plan for Egypt to be spared the effects of seven years of famine; and “somehow,” again I believe being led by God’s prevenient grace, the king sees that the ragged prisoner standing there before him would be the perfect candidate to become the #2 man in Egypt, … his Prime Minister.

Have you ever manipulated a situation with self-imposed ideas to elevate yourself in someone else’s eyes; and then later you regretted it because of how circumstances backfired in your face? Well, I have; and Joseph certainly had that temptation before him. But the pure gold of his character, refined by the fires of life, was laid out for Pharaoh and Egypt to benefit from God’s plan for Joseph. At this point in our reading, we’re not privy to the wonderful story to come about the return of Joseph’s brothers into his life. Joseph certainly didn’t know what was to come in his future. He only responded truthfully and humbly to what God presented for him; and God elevated Joseph, helping Pharaoh to take Joseph from prisoner to power.

A lesson for us all … for sure!

My Prayer Today: Lord, I know the risks in this prayer; but help me to remain humble to your leadings and to avoid pride by elevating self over You, my Savior. Amen

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

2009 - Day 13 - The Turning Point

January 13, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: The Turning Point

Passage of the Day: Genesis 41: 1 - 16 ...
Please read and study this passage to which you are linked here.

My Journal for Today: And after I read that this morning, Charles Swindoll in his devotional makes a good point. That day when Joseph woke up I doubt if he had an inkling that his day would be a turning point in his life. Swindoll reminds me that the day Moses would witness the burning bush probably looked like any other dull and dreary day in the life of a shepherd when he woke up. And young David, who was out there in the fields watching over his daddy’s flocks, on the morning before he was to be anointed king by Samuel as the king-elect, probably had no clue that the day was to be a turning point in his life.

I remember that day on April 13, 1983 when I woke up to head in to work. And little did I know that when I plunked in a cassette tape in my car’s tape player to listen on the way to work that what I was to hear, and what was to happen shortly thereafter, would change the course of my life forever – yes, even my eternal life. Because on that morning I heard a story and some things transpired shortly thereafter that broke me to the point of me being able to receive Christ as my Savior and Lord. Yes, for me that morning, which started out as just another day, was THE TURNING POINT for my life.

And for Joseph, his day, depicted in Gen. 41, when he woke up as a prisoner in a dungeon in Egypt, had spent two full years there and had been passed over by the very man he was about to see in Pharaoh’s court again. But as events unfolded, Joseph began to see that that things would never be the same for him again.

You’ve read it in today’s highlight passage above. Joseph was brought to the king’s court because FINALLY Pharaoh’s butler, prompted by the king having a dream which couldn’t be interpreted by all the Egyptian wise men, remembered that Joseph, two years before, had interpreted his dream accurately. And so, Pharaoh called for Joseph and laid out the dream, telling him, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it.”

And don’t you just love Joseph’s humble witness, as he retorts, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” As Swindoll point out, most of us, being put in Joseph’s place would probably have said something like, “Yeah; good Pharaoh; … and if that dude over there (pointing to the Butler) had just remembered me two years ago, I would have been here a lot earlier to help you with your dreams” But there were no sour grapes from Joseph. No, this was a man, as we pointed out yesterday, who had been put through the caldron of heat for two years; and he was ready for this TURNING POINT moment. And his reply was cool and calculated … humble to the core, conditioned by his readiness from the previous two years.

I’m thinking about that this morning as I sit here in my quiet time with God. I say to myself, “What could happen today which could be a turning point for me or for someone else?” Yesterday, our cleaning lady told me that she’d like for me to help a friend of hers come to receive Christ into her life. Who knows, maybe on that day, God might use me to be part of His design in the turning point in someone’s eternal life. Yes, who knows? Well, God knows; … and that’s all I need to know.

My Prayer Today: Lord, I’m in your hands. If this is to be a turning point day; I’m ready! Amen

Monday, January 12, 2009

2009 - Day 12 - Darkness Before The Dawn

January 12, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: Darkness Before The Dawn

Passage of the Day: Genesis 40: 20 – 41: 1
20 Now it came to pass on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. 21 Then he restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. 22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. 41: 1 … 1 Then it came to pass, at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh had a dream; and behold, he stood by the river. [emphasis added in bold/red]

My Journal for Today: Yes, we revisit the same passage as was our focus yesterday; but this time the emphasis is on the short phrase in bold above. And my devotional author, Chuck Swindoll, uses the word picture of the process of gold being refined in fire by noting that Joseph had to endure two long, boring, hard years in the fires of this prison while God refined him for Joseph’s life ahead where he would need to be stronger and purer.

There’s no way to short cut the refining process; and we have to face the fact that God is the refiner. He, alone, is in control of the fire and the timing of the refining process; and as Joseph learned, it can be a long and painful process at times, often without any insight as to why the refining has been undertaken in the way it has or for the length of time involved. Also, during the refinement process, it can seem as if nothing is happening.

But something very important is happening. In the fires of life, in God’s timing, as Swindoll points out, “… we are being strengthened; … we are being established; … we are being perfected; … we are being refined into pure gold.” Joseph in these two years of the grind of prison was being refined in purity and shaped for greatness. And God, The Refiner and Shaper, knew exactly what Joseph would need for His, God’s, purpose ahead.

Swindoll reminds his readers in today’s devotional that Joseph was not the only one in the Bible who had to go through The Refiner’s fire. There was Abraham who had to wait on the birth of his son, Isaac. There was Moses who spent 40 years being refined in the desert as a shepherd before he saw the burning bush. And how about Elijah who waited in anguish by that brook; or Noah who waited 120 years for the rain while building that curious arc? And in the New Testament there was Paul who had to spend three tedious years in Arabia being prepared for ministry after being knocked dramatically off his horse on that road to Damascus.

Getting the picture? As Swindoll insightfully points out, for the present time, the dull burn of life may seem like nothing’s happening; but be assured, the Refiner’s fire is at work. And if we submit to the fire, in God’s time and in His way, the dross of sin and self will be burned away, leaving the refined Christlikeness spoken of in Phil. 1: 6. So, I wait … often impatiently; but I wait to let God shape me into His image … for His purposes.

My Prayer Today: I may not understand Your timing or Your process or Your fire, Lord; but I trust that You are shaping me for Your future and Your glory. Amen

Sunday, January 11, 2009

2009 - Day 11 - Grace To Endure

January 11, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: Grace To Endure

Passage of the Day: Genesis 40: 20 – 41: 1 ...
40: 20 Now it came to pass on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. 21 Then he restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. 22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. 41: 1 … 1 Then it came to pass, at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh had a dream; and behold, he stood by the river.

My Journal for Today: Okay, yesterday, and repeated today, we were reminded about the story of our protagonist, Joseph, being passed over and forgotten by the cupbearer when Pharaoh’s butler was released from prison. Joseph had confidently told him of God’s interpretation of the dream which would have this man being forgiven by Pharaoh. And when the cupbearer was released as the dream had indicated, Joseph had to have thought, “Well, here’s my ticket out of here.”

But as Swindoll in his devotional book for today reminds us, Joseph waited and waited and waited. For TWO LONG YEARS he waited; and it would have been very human for him to think, “What gives, God? Why am I being left behind in here?” But he didn’t think that. For those two years, as Swindoll writes, “This remarkable man … continued to wait – to trust – to hope – and to lean on God.” And any of us who have felt or now feel like we’ve been passed over or mistreated or put down, need to see this example of Godly patience in action. As we should know from the truth of 1st Cor. 10: 13 (and you really need to have that one memorized and internalized), God will always give us the grace of endurance if we believe and recognize that He would not have us go through any trial without our being able to, with His faithful help, handle the test.

As I said yesterday, and it’s worthy of repeating, … when we’re being tested by the trials of life, we have to intentionally go into an expectant waiting mode, knowing God’s truth (as we need to have verses like, and I repeat Romans 8: 28 or Proverbs 3: 5, 6 or a Hebrews 13: 5 deeply imbedded in our heart) that He will never abandon us and He always is using our life circumstances to prepare us for HIS future plans and to shape us into HIS image [see Phil. 1: 6]. Instead of relenting to the very natural tendency to say “WHY,” we need to be asking, “WHAT, Lord, do you want me to learn from this which makes me more like You?”

Oh, I know that’s a tough attitude to take or to have. Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we don’t want to have to take on God’s cup of trial or testing; but if it’s to be, we have to have our Lord’s, and Joseph’s, attitude of “If it’s Your will, Father, I accept it.”

Two more long years did Joseph languish in that prison where he had been thrown unjustly. Think about it … two more years in that dark, dank, dungeon. Yet, with God’s enabling grace, giving Joseph the power to endure, he waited as God shaped him by this experience. For what he didn’t know; but God’s grace of endurance did allow Joseph to trust that God was testing him through the caldron of life to burn off some dross from his soul, purifying and preparing him for some Godly purpose ahead.

Oh, how I pray that I can have this patient endurance when the tests/trials of life come in the future, no matter how harsh or unjust (from man’s viewpoint) they might be. May I wait and have the hope of a Joseph that I’m being prepared for God’s purposes in His time and in His way.

My Prayer Today: Oh, I don’t want tough trials, Lord; but if they are what You need to shape me to be more like You, bring them on; and give me Your grace of patience to endure. Amen

Saturday, January 10, 2009

2009 - Day 10 - God At Work

January 10, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: God At Work

Passage of the Day: Genesis 40: 20 - 23 ...
20 Now it came to pass on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. 21 Then he restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. 22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

My Journal for Today: After I read verse 23 above, I want to say something like, “Aw, common, God, give the dude a break?” I know, and Swindoll points to the proven adage, that one grows the most and grows the strongest in trials rather than through times fit involving the “warm fuzzies” of life. Great Days with the Great Lives for today points to something I’m sure you know; and that is that many in history have become who they are in greatness due to the tests, trials, and tribulations of their lives. And nobody, certainly, is a better example of this than was Joseph.

Here, in today’s passage, we read of our hero trying to help out this cupbearer-butler for the Pharaoh, even asking the butler to remember Joseph, who knew of and was foretelling this cupbearer’s imminent release from prison. And how was Joseph treated? The dude goes off and forgets Joseph and his plight. As I said above, “Aw, common, God, what’s with this?” Have you ever felt like that? I’ll bet you have.

But then, as Christians, we think of the biblical truths of a Romans 8: 28 or Proverbs 3: 5, 6 or a Hebrews 13: 5; and we know that God was NOT forgetting Joseph. No, God was still at work in Joseph’s life and circumstances. When we face similar negative challenges, in life, we may not be able to perceive God’s WHY, especially when challenges come one after another in life; but somehow we have to come to the realization that God is in the mix with which we’re presented – no matter what it is or how often such things happen. And as we can say with 20/20 hindsight, reading ahead in Joseph’s life, he was being prepared, in attitude and spirit, for the confrontation which would take place with his brothers, who were to come back into his life.

How Joseph dealt with the attitude of that butler would have everything to do with how he would one day handle life when his brothers would show up again. But in that moment of time, when the butler simply passed over and forgot him, it had to hurt. How do we handle the “passovers” in life? Do we trust and know that God is in the midst of disappointments like that experienced by our model, Joseph? I hope and pray that I can grow to be like Joseph; because if I do, I know I’m growing into my goal of Christlikeness.

My Prayer Today: Oh, Lord, help me to see You when You lead me through the valley of the shadows as You did your child Joseph. Amen

Friday, January 09, 2009

2009 - Day 9 - A Positive Attitude

January 9, 2009 … Swindoll’s Topic for Today: A Positive Attitude

Passage of the Day: Genesis 4: 4 - 19
Go to this hyperlink to read, study, and meditdate on this passage.

My Journal for Today: Norman Vincent Peale became a famous Christian author and speaker in the 1950s by writing a book entitled, The Power of Positive Thinking. Peale was the Joel Osteen of his day; and his positive thinking gospel became all the rage. Now, I’m not an advocate of the “word of faith” teachings which many so-called “Christian” thinkers and teachers put forth, from Peale to Osteen and others. However, in the life of Joseph and in this one passage, we see that having and exercising a positive outlook on life, coupled with a “surrender-mode” attitude in one’s relationship with God, can produce some remarkable outcomes.

What a positive attitude Joseph had, having been unjustly thrown into the slammer at the false accusation of Potiphar’s wife. And that’s in the context of having been thrown into a pit by his brothers and sold into Egyptian slavery. And still, when he was confronted by these two court officers, the butler and baker for the Pharaoh, what is Joseph’s first thought? Was it, “Hey guys, I know how you feel; life is a bummer, isn’t it?” No; almost reflexively Joseph notes these two men are down and out; and with positive gusto, he offers to help.

And as Charles Swindoll points out in his devotional entry for today, what Joseph does to help these men is solid evidence of a positive outlook on life. Because he offers to help these men interpret their dreams. Surely you know or remember what happened the last time Joseph attempted to interpret the dreams of others. It involved his brothers; and what happened? Yes, Joseph was thrown into, as Swindoll writes, “pit city” and sold down the river into Egypt as a slave. So, most of us, given such a history, would be quite fearful, negative, and guarded, being in prison with Joseph’s history, meeting these men who needed to have their dreams interpreted. But not Joseph; … he saw a need and with positive, almost reflexive responsiveness, he responded to help. That’s a God thing; and it was a God-driven choice … a positive choice … to exercise positive faith rather than negatively based fears.

A positive attitude (which I believe is a combination of humility and faith) does not create the power to help others. In others words, faith in action, as some would teach today, does not have power, in and of itself. No, rather, a positive attitude, with choices that act on that attitude, provide the platform to allow God to pour His enabling and empowering grace into the actions which are driven by the positive attitude. Joseph didn’t relent to the natural fears which most of us would have, given his past and present circumstances. Joseph rather becomes a model of being able to see needs and act because of his Godly attitude and his willingness to let God use him.

So, I’m confronted and convicted by this reading and study today. How about you? I have to ask myself, when I see others who are in need and I have a history to recognize their pain or suffering, would I balk and feel an avoidance response; or … would I be able to say, “I know how you feel, let me help!” ? I pray it would be the latter; don’t you? And I know that developing a positive attitude, a God-surrendered attitude (see Phil. 2: 5 and Romans 8: 31), is the foundation for such response.

My Prayer Today: Lord, develop in me a heart of Joseph … to see needs and respond in faith as You can use me to help meet the needs of others. Amen