Consider Christ

Connecting Points

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Today’s Topic: Consider Christ

Today’s Text:  Genesis 39:20 (ESV)  And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison.

Is not the picture of Christ becoming more and more clear in the life of Joseph? Does not the nature of the Perfect Servant manifest itself in the response of one who loves the Lord to the injustice thrust upon him? Are we not strengthened and encouraged for the reality of our own lives when we see the faithfulness of God to sustain and strengthen those who are faithful to the Holy Spirit in them?

The deeper I go into this incredible study of the life of Joseph, the more I am confronted with my own pride that seeks to protect myself and to be known by taking the side of righteousness. I am convicted of my motives for arguing right and wrong, which many times are just to prove I’m right so I can validate myself. Yet here, in this simple life of Joseph, I see Jesus, our supreme Example of how to walk in an evil world.

Joseph was described as a handsome man in both form and appearance. Potiphar’s wife took notice, and while her husband was busy running the country, she wanted some attention and sought it from this Hebrew slave. She tried to use her position and his bondservant obligations to satisfy her own pleasures. Joseph refused, and in her fear of being discovered she took the offensive and falsely accused Joseph of attempted rape. Her husband believed her, and had Joseph thrown into prison.

“That’s not fair!” We cry out against such injustice, and well we should, for it stands in opposition to the spirit of holiness and justice we have received from the Lord. But we have also received the mind of Christ who humbled himself to suffer unjustly on our behalf. (Phil. 2) Consider the agreement between Joseph’s response to injustice and the life of Jesus:

  • Both were tempted but did not sin;
  • Both resisted the temptation three times;
  • Both were falsely accused;
  • Both remained silent in their own defense;
  • Both accepted the punishment they did not deserve;
  • Both punishments purchased freedom;
  • Both imprisonments – Joseph’s literal and Christ’s spiritual – pronounced judgment.

Read the story again in Genesis 39-41. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to the incredible truths of redemption. See the practical and prophetic applications of Christ’s life lived in the midst of injustice.

Oh that our lives would first and foremost embrace the life of Christ that willingly sacrifices self for the sake of others. Then and only then may we confidently and correctly address the injustice around us with the right motives – motives of humility, not pride.

Pastor John

Do It Well

Connecting Points

Monday, April 29, 2013

Today’s Topic: Do It Well

Today’s Text:  Genesis 39:3-4 (ESV) 3 His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had.

I saw a funny post on Facebook this morning. It was a picture of a young woman sitting on the floor with her head in her hands. The caption read “The first five day of the weekend are the hardest.”

Mondays are tough for many people because it means back to work after one or two days off. We tend to live for self. We serve our employer out of obligation and necessity, but we set our sights on the times we get to do what we think makes us happy. We endure work so we can reach playtime.

May I suggest to you that as followers of Jesus Christ we choose a different perspective? You see, work is not cursed. God gave Adam work to do in the Garden before Eve was even created, let alone sin showing up on the scene. God ordained work as good and meaningful for man. It was a part of His perfect creation designed to bring abundance to man’s existence.

Over and over in Scripture we read of people who worked hard and were blessed. We hear the Apostle Paul saying, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” and “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,  not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,  rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man,  knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.”

Only one conclusion can be drawn from the preponderance of evidence in the Bible – your work matters to God and He expects you to do it well, even on Mondays.

Joseph wasn’t in the ideal job. He wasn’t even in his place of choice. It was all forced upon him by the evil intentions of others. Yet Joseph did three things that we can connect with:

  1. He accepted his position as the current choice of God for His life, knowing that God’s presence brings God’s blessing.
  2. He let everyone around Him see that the Lord was with him.
  3. He did any job he was given with excellence, and he found favor with his master.

So rather than sit around with your head in your hands dreading the return to work, start thanking God that you have work and that He is at work in your life. Instead of complaining about your boss, impress him with your excellence. Someone has said that the reason the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence is that you are spending too much time there watering it when you should be watering your own grass.

So get to work – and do it well. It is God’s will for you.

Pastor John

Another Waiting Room

Connecting Points

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Today’s Topic: Sitting in the Waiting Room

Today’s Text:  Genesis 39:1 (ESV) Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there.                              Genesis 37:9 (ESV) 9 Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

How many minutes of our lives are spent sitting and waiting? Maybe it would be better tallied in hours. We wait in doctor’s offices, DMV (department of motor vehicles) lines, grocery store check-out lines, Texas Roadhouse, and the worst of all, stoplights. Hours of life spent waiting. We do it because we know what’s coming. We are willing to wait for what has been promised – medical help, driving privileges, nourishment, and green lights.

The issue is not that we wait, but rather how we wait. What we do while we are waiting says a lot about who we are.

The sign on the wall of the doctor’s waiting room says “If you have been waiting more than twenty minutes for your appointment, please tell the receptionist.” After ten minutes I am already watching the clock and at nineteen minutes I’m starting to make my move.

At the DMV we watch the numbers flash on the wall, trying to predict who will be next, and hoping that someone got discouraged and left so our number comes up faster. We call ahead for seating at the restaurant so when we arrive we can jump ahead of those who have been waiting longer. And at stoplights, we watch the light controlling the opposing traffic so we can predict when ours will turn green and we can get an immediate jump on everyone else.

We have trouble waiting, and the trouble is caused by our need for immediacy. We want immediate gratification, immediate fulfillment, and immediate solutions. We think we have the right to put our needs ahead of everyone else’s. We determine the appropriate amount of wait time and when it is reached, we spring into action to bring about a quicker resolution. After all, a promise is not a promise unless we can have it fulfilled now, right?

What we do while we wait on God is a significant statement of our faith. Weak faith takes action. Strong faith gets stronger. Weak faith disrupts the potential for the greatest blessing. Strong faith receives the full reward God intended. Weak faith enjoys a moment of personal satisfaction in knowing what it accomplished. Strong faith enjoys an eternity of joy seeing what God has accomplished. Weak faith takes control of the outcome and suffers the consequences. Strong faith leaves the outcome to the Lord and experiences peace that passes all understanding.

In all of the tragedies of Joseph’s life that were thrust upon him by weak-faithed control freaks, never once did he stop waiting for God to fulfill His promise to him. He had enough faith to never stop believing the God-given dream. He never tried to change the dream or hurry the dream, and he most certainly never tried to fulfill the dream in his own way. He waited, and as he waited through false accusations and false imprisonments, and false friendships, he grew stronger until the day God chose to fulfill the dream.

Those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Many of us are sitting in waiting rooms right now. We are waiting on construction jobs, job interviews, relationships, financial issues, adoptions, and a myriad of other situations. Life is lived most often in a waiting room. But it is a waiting room of God’s design and choosing. So pick up the available reading material on the coffee table that’s been provided by the eternal Doctor (the Bible), and sit back and relax. No matter how long it takes, God always fulfills His promises.

Just ask Joseph.

What? Me a Servant?

Connecting Points

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Today’s Topic: He Became a Servant

Today’s Text:  Genesis 39:1 (ESV) Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there.

Thank you for sticking with this study of the life of Joseph, which up to this point may have seemed too doctrinal and not very practical. But doctrine is the foundation upon which all practical application must be built. If we do not have solid doctrine we will be, as Paul warns in Ephesians 4:14, children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Do not let doctrine scare you. Do not permit shallow waters to be your only place of refreshment because they are warm and comfortable. Dive into the deep waters and swim where faith is required and strength grows.

As we continue to discover the marvelous picture of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior that is painted by the life of Joseph, we come to the parts of the story that combine good doctrine with personal application.

First, we see Joseph being sold on the slave market by the clan that bought him from his brothers. Through an uncontrollable series of events in which Joseph was powerless he goes from being the chosen and beloved son of prosperity in his father’s household to a common slave in a foreign land. Yet the degradation he experienced was nothing compared to the voluntary self-humiliation of Jesus Christ when He left His throne in the Father’s house and became man – and not just man, but servant-man and eventually, on the cross, a slave to sin.

Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV) 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus himself said, “The son of Man has not come to be served, but to serve.” And again He said, “He who would be great in the Kingdom of God must be the servant of all.”

The connecting point to our lives is apparent – we are most like Christ when we are the servant of God and the servant of others. Paul’s challenge to us in Philippians 2:5 is to have the same mindset as Jesus Christ had when He willingly gave up His position and power in heaven to become a servant of those He loved. The promise he declares is that in Christ we have that mindset as a permanent reality.

We all carry around in our minds the list of things we would never give up for God or for others. Each list is divided into one or more of the following categories:

  • Time – there are limitations on how much time I can surrender without affecting my own agenda and goals.
  • Treasures – there are limitations on how much I can give without affecting my personal financial security and my goals to have more treasure.
  • Talents – there are limitations on how my skills can be used to serve others without affecting my ability to get things done for me or for my boss.
  • Title – there are limitations on how much honor and prestige I can surrender without affecting my personal assessment of my worth.
  • Trust – there are limitations on how deep my relationships with others will be allowed to go so I can avoid the pain of conflict and broken trust.

Joseph had no such list. Jesus had no such list. Slaves and servants are not allowed such lists. As a servant of Jesus Christ, today I destroy any list I have, for I have been crucified with Christ, and the live that I now live is not my own. I was bought with a price – the price of Christ’s life – and I accept His life of servant-living as my own.

He Sent His Son Anyway

Connecting Points

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Today’s Topic: He Sent His Son

Today’s Text:  Genesis 37:14 (ESV)  So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word.”

When I was a young dad, one of the ways I taught responsibility to my children and instilled confidence in them was to send them on errands. They were simple errands at first, like bringing me the remote for the television, yet each errand showed them that I trusted them and believed in their ability. It had nothing to do with me being lazy. Really.

But seriously, sending someone on an errand is a statement of trust and an affirmation of ability. When Jacob sent Joseph on an errand to find his brothers and bring back word of their location and condition, he made a statement of his trust in Joseph and affirmed his ability to accomplish the task. Yet this errand didn’t turn out well. It ended in what Jacob thought was his son’s death as Joseph’s brothers conspired to eliminate him from the family line once and for all so they could protect their lifestyle choices and futures.

The grief and guilt Jacob must have felt was intense. He mourned for his son many days and refused to be comforted, stating that he would go to his grave in grief. He had no way of knowing what would happen to his son when he sent him on the errand, but that did not reduce his grief. If only he had known the real story and had been able to see the end result, it might have helped. But that raises the most important question of all – if he had known what would happen, would he have chosen to send his son at all?

What if Jacob knew in advance everything that would happen to his most beloved son?

  • His own brothers would not believe his words. He had revealed to them the secrets of their futures and they rejected it.
  • They conspired to eliminate the threat to their own plans and purposes.
  • They stripped him of his coat and exposed him to public shame and humiliation.
  • They threw him into a pit and left him for dead.
  • They hypocritically tried to erase all guilt from their hands by turning him over to someone else who would be responsible for his future.
  • They covered his precious coat in blood to convince their father that Joseph was truly dead.

What if Jacob had known all of this? Would he have chosen to send Joseph on that errand? Maybe, just maybe, if he would have known the future results that would eventually save them all from certain death. But even then, for any human father, that would have been unimaginably hard no matter how much we trusted their ability to accomplish it.

Yet that’s what God the Father did when He sent His Son on an errand to find His brothers. The Father knew His Son would not be believed; that He would be rejected; that the very people to whom He came to show the Father’s love would conspire to eliminate Him; that they would strip Him of His robe and expose Him to public shame and humiliation; that they would attempt to remove themselves from any responsibility for His death by having Him killed by another group of people – the Romans; and that they would put him in a pit and leave Him for dead, and then conspire to make everyone believe that He is still dead.

Yet God sent His Son on that errand knowing all of those things. His love for each and every sinner is so great and eternal that He was willing to watch His Son suffer more than we can imagine because He knew it meant ultimate salvation from certain death.

God sent His Son for me.

For you.

Now what will you do? Will you be like Joseph’s brothers, or will you become the brother of Jesus and a child of God?

Tell the Truth for Good

Connecting Points

Friday, April 19, 2013

Today’s Topic: Tell the Truth for Good

Today’s Text:  Genesis 37:2 (ESV)  And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father.

Nobody likes a tattletale. The problem is that we have allowed pride to define what a tattletale does or is.

You see, telling the truth can be motivated either by personal gain or by the desire to see good come to others. But when someone tells the truth about us, we generally don’t believe they have our good in mind. We believe they are trying to hurt us in some way so they can improve their own image and status. While that may be true in some cases, we must not assume it is always true.

The very beginning of the story of Joseph illustrates this. At seventeen years of age, Joseph was much younger than his brothers. The very first statement we have about Joseph’s life is that he brought a bad report about his brothers to his father. We have all seen this happen with siblings in our own families. The younger ones love to bring bad reports to the parents or grandparents about the activities of the older ones. It is generally motivated by a sense of jealousy or a feeling of being left out, but the tattletale behaviors happen often.

It would be natural for his brothers to think that Joseph was trying to better his own position with their father. We may even believe that ourselves, and think less of Joseph than we should. But this seventeen year old boy was respected by his father for telling the truth in love, and he was rewarded for his pure motives of wanting good for others.

First, his father rewarded him by making him a special coat. I understand that there is no specific connection in the story of the coat to the report that was given, yet the Holy Spirit chose to put those two events in sequence and I think that is significant. When the brothers saw the coat, and realized that it probably meant their father believed the report that Joseph had brought against them, they hated Joseph and would not speak a kind word to him any longer.

How sad that we so quickly break relationships and even retaliate against those who are ultimately seeking our good simply because we don’t like the truth being told about what we have done. Our pride is powerful, and when it appears that our worth, image, status, or future could be negatively affected by the truth being told, we take the side of self-protection rather than truth.

Second, I believe that Joseph’s father respected him and knew that his motives for telling the truth were pure because later, in Genesis 37:14, Jacob sends Joseph on another fact-finding mission. So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word.”  Jacob knew that Joseph would bring him honest information about the status of his brothers and the flocks. Joseph was respected because he could be trusted to tell the truth, not for his own good, but for the good of others.

We must consider how we respond when we know someone is watching us and is making reports about us. If we are living in pride and believe to any degree that we are responsible to protect our image and status, then we will react as the brothers did and not only begin to hate the messenger but also to attempt to eliminate the threat. But if we are humble and truly believe that the truth is what sets us free from the bondage of pride and self-fulfillment, then we will accept the correction of others who love us enough to tell us and others the truth.

Tattletales are not always bad, but let’s change their names to truth-tellers, and let’s honor them as instruments of God for our growth and our good. Then let’s all become such truth-tellers, who never speak the truth with the intent to benefit self, but only speak the truth when it will truly benefit others.

Pastor John

The Revealer of Secrets

Connecting Points

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Today’s Topic: The Revealer of Secrets

Today’s Text:  Genesis 41:45 (ESV)  And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-paneah.

When I was in fourth grade I tried to change my name. I was fascinated with the story of Jonathon in the Bible, and wanted to be just like him. So on all of my schoolwork I changed my name. It didn’t take long for the teacher to call my parents into a conference and explain that I was a troubled boy, at least in the area of identity. My parents were upset and demanded I stop using that name and return to my given name because it had significance for them. To this day I have never been told what that significance was, but I obliged.

I’ve been called many other names in my life. I had nicknames like Gork, Stringbean, and Trumpet. The first one was likeable because it was a derivative of my name, but the others were not so fun because they reflected physical appearance. I will leave you to determine what Trumpet referred to.

Names are meant to be significant. It is by the name of Jesus that we are saved, and in this case it represents both character and mission. Some names in the Bible reflected physical appearance, like Esau. The names we give our children may have family significance. Sometimes names were changed to reflect a change in a person’s life, like Saul to Paul or like Joseph to Zaphenath-paneah. Not a household name is it, but it has deep significance.

Joseph’s new name was given to him by Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt. It occurred right after Joseph had been summoned from his false imprisonment to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Having proven himself to be the Revealer of Secrets, Pharaoh chose that as his name. As a type of Christ, Joseph’s new name connects us to one of the missions of Jesus, to be the Revealer of Secrets.

Joseph revealed secrets in a variety of ways.

  • He wore a fancy robe given to him by his father, which revealed the true heart of his father.  Jesus also wore a robe – not just the one fought for by the guards at the cross, but the robe of flesh, and by wearing it He reveals the love of the Father. He showed us how much the Father loves His Son, and He revealed to us how the Father’s love can be ours.
  • Joseph’s robe also revealed the true nature of his brother’s hearts. Jesus, in the robe of the flesh, also reveals the secrets of man’s heart. He was the Light shining in the darkness, exposing all the thoughts and intents of man’s actions.
  • Joseph also, through the interpretation of dreams, revealed the plans that were necessary for the survival of the nation during the coming famine. Likewise, through His teaching on earth and through the prophets and writers of Scripture, Jesus reveals to us the plan and purpose of God that will bring survival in the coming days of God’s wrath.

Just as Pharaoh needed Joseph to make sense of what was going on in his personal and political life, so we need Jesus, the Revealer of Secrets, to make sense of what is going on in our lives and in the world around us. Just as Pharaoh had to place his faith in what Joseph said, so we must place our faith in what Jesus said. He is our Revealer of Secrets.

Pastor John