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January 1, 2004

What Our Sons Should Know

When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elom the Hittite. They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah. Genesis 26:34-35

Men, are we taking the time to teach our sons what they should know? Are we deliberate about it? Some lessons are taught; others are caught. Unfortunately, our sons seem to learn the things we wish they hadn’t. Like us, Isaac learned both good lessons and bad lessons from his father, Abraham.

Sadly, a lesson Isaac caught was how to deceive those around you when you are afraid. Since Isaac’s wife Rebekah was a beautiful woman, Isaac feared the Philistines would kill him and take her. Just as his father had done with Sarah, Isaac told them Rebekah was his sister. Fortunately for the Philistines, Abimelech saw through the deception; he was burned once by Abraham and most certainly wouldn’t allow Abraham’s son to pull the same trick. On the other hand, there was a lesson that Isaac learned, either through Abraham’s teaching or his modeling, that would serve him well. Isaac knew how to build an altar and how to call upon the name of the Lord.

But there seems to be an important lesson that was never learned. If Isaac had learned it, he might have taught his favorite son, Esau. When Isaac was forty years old, his father sent a servant to another land to find Rebekah. When Esau was forty, he married two Hittite women who brought much grief to Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac never taught Esau the importance of a godly wife. He could have intervened earlier. He could have demanded that his son not marry the women in Canaan, but Isaac turned a blind eye to Esau’s choice.

Lord, am I teaching my son as I should? There are so many things he has caught from me. I pray that somehow I have been able to model more of the good and less of the bad. I want so much for him. Continue to teach him the importance of godly relationships – with others and with You.

Bless him, Lord. Teach him what I forget. May he bring glory to You and You alone!

January 2, 2004

A Father's Power

Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?” Genesis 27:36b

Oh, what power we have as fathers to instill hope and a future for each of our children. The power of a blessing is something that is not well understood in our time. Fathers continually neglect their responsibility to bless their children, and entire generations wander about – unsure of their place in this world.

We all know the story of how Jacob stole the blessing from Esau. Rebekah schemed so her favorite, Jacob, would be blessed. There is deception throughout the story. But I believe at the heart of the matter, the primary responsibility for the pain that was caused lies with Isaac. It was his favoritism of Esau that made the situation what it was.

Isaac favored Esau, and his blessing reflected it. EVERYTHING was given with his blessing. Isaac left nothing for his other son, Jacob. When Esau discovered what had happened, he cried out, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”

Now, wouldn’t Jacob have been asking the same thing? The tradition was to instill a blessing on the firstborn. But Isaac didn’t get it: he had the power to bless both his sons! He chose one over the other, and it backfired on him.

Why is it that men still don’t get it? When I gained the courage to look my father in the face and say, “I needed more from you,” all he could say was, “I did the best I knew how to do.” I understand that. I accept that. My father still cries over the blessing never given by my grandfather. But he still has the power! He just doesn’t get it. He didn’t have much to start with, and he thinks he as given it all away. But God gives us so much more! All we must do is ask for it.

Father, You know how I have longed for my father’s blessing. How is it that as a grown man I could get so excited by his arm merely squeezing my side two weeks after I asked for more from him? I wouldn’t call it an embrace, but I recognize it as my father’s attempt to bless me.

Help me, Lord, to pour blessing on both my children. I may not have received enough from my father to go around, but You have more than I could ever ask for! Bless my children, Lord Jesus. Lay Your hands on them. Use them for the glory of Your Father in Heaven!

January 4, 2004

The Real Problem

Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalat, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had. Genesis 28:8-9

Why do people think that marriage will solve all their problems? Many of my single friends express what I once did: "If only I could get married, things would be better."

Any married couple can tell you - marriage doesn't solve anything. It only makes life tougher.

Any why is it that many people who are married say, "If only I could marry someone else..."? Unfortunately, we live in a society that easily throws away one marriage to start another. The other day, I spoke with a friend about the upcoming celebration of her twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. We both commented that it is difficult to find many people who have been married to their first husband or wife for twenty-five years. Somehow, marriage has lost its value.

Esau thought marriage would fix his problems. He had two Canaanite wives that brought nothing but displeasure to his parents. After losing the blessing from Isaac, Esau seemed to be searching for a way to regain his father's favor. He took another wife who was not from Canaan, a daughter of Ishmael.

The real problem was: Esau needed to work on Esau. He had problems that had nothing to do with who he married. Esau disregarded the importance of his birthright. His relationship with Jacob was obviously strained. How could Jacob have taken so much from a brother he loved? No. Marriage wouldn't solve anything for Esau. My guess is, it would only make his life tougher.

Father, I confess that I do not always value my marriage as I should. Sometimes I consider throwing it away because it seems too difficult. Yet I know that marriage or divorce would never meet my greatest need. I need You!

Continue to make me the man You have called me to be. Help me to be the husband I should be to the wife of my youth.

January 5, 2004

Praise - Despite the Misery

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "This time I will praise the Lord." So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children. Genesis 29:35

Leah must have been miserable. She was married to a man who didn't love her. Jacob had worked for seven years, and then, in his eyes, he got stuck with Leah. I'm sure that didn't help her esteem one bit. To make matters worse, her husband loved her sister Rachel, who happened to be "lovely in form." (That's the Bible's way of saying she was a real knockout in the body department.)

After one week - Leah's bridal week, which was probably not the happiest week of her life, Jacob was given Rachel as his wife also. I'm certain Leah felt this deal was rotten. Jacob worked for seven years before she married him. And now he was getting Rachel on credit!

Leah must have been miserable.

But Leah had something Rachel didn't. Leah could have children. Rachel was barren. So have children is what she did! With each son, she thought, "Now, he will love me!" After three sons, it didn't appear Jacob's heart would change. However, with the birth of her fourth son, it wasn't Jacob who changed. It was Leah. She praised the Lord.

Leah learned an important lesson. Despite the misery that often comes with life, we should continue to praise the Lord. That is why we were made - for His glory - not our own.

I've spent most of my life trying to gain the attention of those around me. God has given me many talents, and for a long time, I saw them as my opportunity. Maybe, I could get noticed... then I wouldn't be so miserable. Like Leah, I finally learned the lesson. It's not about my glory; it's about His!

But Lord, sometimes I fall back into the misery trap. This morning I feel depressed, and I don't know why. I am physically weary and emotionally exhausted and can't determine the cause. I have nothing to complain about. You have done nothing but bless me. I haven't fallen into the sinful patterns that have so often depressed me in the past. Where did this come from? If I did what I wanted today, I would crawl back in bed.

Father, help me to praise You - despite this misery. I have no reason for feeling the way I do, so I feel worse. I feel selfish because Your blessing hasn't been enough to satisfy me.

Walk with me, Lord. I feel that I could easily seek attention in unholy ways. I am vulnerable to the enemy, but the enemy is rendered ineffective my our praise. So I will praise You, Lord. May You be glorified by all I say and do today.

January 6, 2004

Prosperity at a Cost

In this way he may grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and maidservants and menservants, and camels and donkeys. Genesis 30:43

There aren't many redeeming things to say about Jacob when he lived in Haran. In my opinion, he went from bad to worse. By day he manipulated his father-in-law's flocks to increase his wages, and by night he allowed himself to be used as a mere breeder in a game of manipulation between Rachel and Leah.

Some might say that he had it made. He could sleep with any of four wives each night, and he grew richer each day. But what kind of man was he? How much did Jacob's prosperity truly cost him? It is truly amazing to me that from a family this dysfunctional came the great nation of Israel. What a mess!

Lord, I sense that You want me to ask for the redemption of my own dysfunctional family. But I don't know if I want the responsibility that come with it. It has been too easy to simply walk away. I don't know if I even like them enough to deal with them.

Soften my heart, so I might become prosperous by Your hand and not my own.

January 7, 2004

A Pile of Rocks

"May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us." Genesis 31:53

Laban and Jacob had a godly heritage, but they hadn't made it their own. In truth, they were worldly men who approached their relationship in worldly ways. They cheated one another. They deceived one another. In the end, I believe they both realized how they hadn't been completely forthcoming, for they took an oath to not harm the other. They made a pile of rocks and said, "May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other."

But how different would their lives have been if they had both embraced the God of their fathers? If they had been seeking God's will in their relationship, how much good would have come from it?

Do I have relationships that I approach in worldly ways? Am I seeking God's will, or will I someday see the fruit of my selfishness? Will I someday make a pile of rocks and promise not to cross it to harm another?

Father, help me to include You in all my relationships. If I am using someone to meet a need in me without giving of myself in return, forgive me. Help me to embrace Your ways in all I do.

January 8, 2004

Face To Face

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. Genesis 32:24

Why has my whole life seemed like a wrestling match? Am I like Jacob? Am I trying to succeed in my own strength at every turn?

Jacob changed. Exactly what brought about the change, I don't know. But somewhere along the way, his selfish heart began to soften. He began to care more about the people in his life than about what he could grab from them. Jacob grabbed Esau's heel at birth. He grabbed his brother's birthright and blessing. He grabbed his wives and flocks from Laban. Oh, he worked hard along the way, but he seemed to grab hold of all these things and pull them in tightly saying, "These are what make me who I am. See how much I have achieved!"

But while going back home to the land God had promised him, we witness a change. Jacob acknowledged that everything he acquired was due to God's blessing. He originally crossed the Jordan river with his staff alone. He now returned a wealthy man with many children. As Esau's men approached, Jacob sent out gifts. Then finally, he sent his family and possessions ahead as he stayed behind for the night. He let go of all he had acquired.

It was then that God wrestled with him face to face.

Lord, why do I wrestle so? I know the truth: You give more than I could ever grab for myself. Yet life is still a struggle.

You have given me inspiration and understanding in order to teach, yet I struggle with trying to shine because of my knowledge. In the end, I look stupid.

You have given me talents that bless and inspire others, yet I struggle in sharing them with a pure heart. In the end, I too often desire the praise and affirmation of men.

You have given me a loving and affectionate wife and two wonderful children, yet I struggle to love them as I should. In the end, I fear I could choose to pursue my lusts over them. I could lose everything.

Continue to protect me, Lord, from this nature inside that would choose the world instead of You. Wrestle with me for as long as it takes; wrench me if You must. I long to be in Your grip. Hold me tightly - face to face.

January 9, 2004

Servant Leadership

"So let my lord go on ahead of his servant..." Genesis 33:14a

Jacob finally got it! All his life, he had been trying to gain control. Before Jacob was even born, God told his mother, "the older will serve the younger," referring to how Esau would one day be under Jacob's authority. It seems that Jacob spent so much time and energy trying to make it happen.

When the day came for Jacob's return to Canaan, his words and actions toward Esau indicate that he finally got it. He finally understood what it is to be a leader. To lead requires servanthood. To lead requires sacrifice. To lead requires humility. Jacob bowed to his brother. He gave of himself, and he spoke with a reticence that was uncommon for him.

Lord, I want to be a servant leader. My new job is taking off. My new responsibilities as a supervisor are more fun that I expected. I am amazed at the blessing You have given me. Help me to be humble. Let the first word others use when they speak of me be "servant." Let them see You in me. You are the Greatest Servant of all time. Make me more like You.

January 12, 2004

A High Cost To Pay

But they replied, "Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?" Genesis 34:31

Jacob's sons appointed themselves as judge, jury, and executioner when their sister Dinah was raped by Shechem. They convinced Shechem and his father Hamor to have all the men circumcised. Then, Shechem would take Dinah as a wife. But all along, the plan was to weaken the city in order to affect revenge upon them for Shechem's actions. When every man was hurting, Simeon and Levi killed them and took all they had. The men of Shechem weren't blameless in their thinking. They merely saw an opportunity to increase their wealth. By doing this, they would have access to the flocks that belonged to Jacob.

I think one of the most amazing aspects of this story is the righteous indignation of Jacob's sons in light of where their story leads. Eventually, they will sell one of their brothers into slavery, yet they couldn't accept Shechem's sin. Jacob's reaction is also interesting. He is upset with his sons, as one would expect. But his concern is over how the Canaanites will treat him. He doesn't seem to care about the simple things - like deception and murder.

I wonder... if Jacob had addressed the real problem with his sons - the heart problem, would the outcome of their story have been different? Would Joseph have been sold into a life of slavery? Would Jacob have experienced the pain of losing his favorite son?

The story ends happily, but the road that leads there is full of lies and pain. All of it worked together for good because God had a plan from the very beginning, but the broken hearts were a high cost to pay.

Lord, help me to seek Your ways along the journey. I know Your plans will be successful, but I don't want a life of pain and trouble. I want to walk with You - to enjoy You - to live in peace and joy. Help me to seek Your face today.

January 13, 2004

Honor Your Father

Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is Hebron) where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. Genesis 35:27

Jacob had been gone for a long time. He returned to Canaan with many sons and camped near Shechem. Eventually, God told Jacob to settle at Bethel, the place where God appeared to him when he fled from his brother Esau.

With all this moving about, there is an unexpected trip. Jacob went to Hebron. His father Isaac was still alive.

I'm surprised.

For one thing, Isaac was already feeble when Jacob left. Now, he must have been almost an invalid. I guess the other thing that surprises me is that Jacob didn't immediately go to Hebron. If his father was still alive, why didn't he go there first? There was obviously not a strong relationship between them. But regardless, Jacob honored his father by being there to bury him.

Lord, I feel convicted today. This is not the first time that You have challenged me with the thought of my own father's death. Can I move past the many years with no relationship to honor him when he dies? Jacob apparently did. I believe Jacob received just about as much from his father as I have from mine. What he got, had to merely accept; very little was freely given to him.

Father, help me to continue on this journey of forgiveness. I may not have the type of father-son relationship I would prefer, but I can accept what I have. I can honor my father at the end.

Help me to bring honor to You, Lord. Stay near today.

January 14, 2004

The Second Son

Esau too his wives and sons and daughters and all the members of his household, as well as his livestock and all his other animals and all the goods he had acquired in Canaan, and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. Genesis 36:6

Esau moved away. Despite his favored relationship with Isaac, he moved away. He settled in Seir, the land of his father-in-law Anah, whose daughter Oholibamah was Esau's wife.

A father-in-law can be such a blessing. Although Esau had a good relationship with his father Isaac, he lost the blessing. Nothing that belonged to his father would be his. Jacob had stolen it. But Esau started a new life, and my guess is that his father-in-law Anah was a big part of it.

Lord, my father-in-law helped make me the man I am today. It is his strength and care that I attribute to my areas of strength now. My childhood was broken. My father was uninvolved. My greatest weaknesses and struggles took root under my father's care.

But I am overcoming the failures. Everyday, my understanding of godliness increases; this took root under my father-in-law's hand. Interestingly, my pursuit was changed by something I wished had never happened. The death of my father-in-law gave me no choice but to become a man - to step out - to take control when no one else would lead. Even in death, he teaches me.

Lord, how I miss him so! He poured so much into me - his second son. I was seventeen when he adopted me. No, I wasn't married until I was twenty-one, but my father-in-law became my dad long before that.

Jesus, help me to some day be a great influence on my son-in-law. Help me to love my second son like I was loved.

January 15, 2004

The Pain of Favoritism

His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. Genesis 37:11

Jacob understood the power of dreams. He understood that sometimes they were more than entertainment. Sometimes, they were prophetic. Sometimes, they help us see God's plan in ways we otherwise might not understand.

Jacob also understood the power of favoritism. He understood the pain it causes - the dissension it brings. His own father favored his brother Esau. Yet Jacob favored his son Joseph. His brothers hated him for it.

When Joseph dreamed dreams of prophecy, Jacob realized something was different - something was special. A day came, however, when Jacob's dreams for his favorite son were dashed. Joseph's brothers took revenge.

Father, help me to understand the pain of favoritism. Help me to love all as You love them. Help me to be more like You.

January 16, 2004

An Unworthy Judge

About three months later Judah was told, "Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result, she is now pregnant." Judah said, "Bring her out and have her burned to death." Genesis 38:24

There is little worse than the unrighteous passing judgment on another. Judah declared that his daughter-in-law Tamar should be killed for her promiscuity. All along, Judah knew he wasn't qualified to pass judgment on anyone in this regard. Three months earlier, he had solicited a prostitute. Several years earlier, he made a promise to Tamar that he would have his son Shelah fulfill the role of kinsman redeemer, to carry on the name of Er, the husband she lost, yet he never intended to keep his promise. Some time before that, Judah participated in a plot to kill his brother Joseph, and it was his idea to sell Joseph into slavery.

Judah had no room to pass judgment on anyone. Nor do I.

Lord, I have been wicked in Your sight more times than I can imagine. Thankfully, You have been merciful. Er and Onan were wicked, and You took their lives. I deserve the same.

So why do I sometimes judge the actions of others? I am not worthy to judge them. If I got what I deserved, I would no longer be alive. But You have loved me enough to forgive. Thank You, Father, for Your mercy.

Help me, Lord, to be filled with mercy. Help me to see the wrongs of others and understand: they need Your mercy and redemption just as I do. Make me a man of compassion. Make me a man who stands up for what is right - without condemnation. It is not my place. It is Yours. And You chose to send Your Son. Thank You, Jesus, for the gift of eternal life.

January 17, 2004

Flirting with Danger

One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. Genesis 39:11

Joseph knew that danger lurked around the corner. Potiphar's wife had her eyes on him, and she was watching for the opportune moment to tempt him. Despite his continued rejection, she hoped a day would come when Joseph's defenses were down. Every man is weak at one time or another. Potiphar's wife was simply watching for Joseph's time.

Why did Joseph go in the house alone? He knew what could happen. I'm sure he felt that he could stand strong as he always had. Stand strong is what he did.

Once again, Potiphar's wife seduced him. Once again, he rejected her. This time it backfired. She took revenge. Joseph was unjustly accused and unjustly thrown in jail. It would have been better if he had never gone in the house at all.

The interesting thing is: before this time, Joseph took special care to not be with Potiphar's wife. He was the boss of the house! Why didn't he protect himself this time by ensuring the other servants were present? Maybe he felt the danger had past. Maybe he felt he could handle whatever came his way.

Lord, there are times that I know I can stand strong, so I might choose to go closer to danger than I should. Wouldn't it be wiser to stay away altogether? I know I cannot hide from temptation. It will find me regardless. But help me to discern Your plan. If I should enter a dangerous place, surround me by Your Spirit and the protection of my Christian brothers. Too often, in my pride, I cross the threshold into danger, and I am harmed. Help me to learn from these lessons. Help me to be righteous as Joseph was righteous. Give me wisdom, so You can be glorified.

January 18, 2004

Looking Beyond the Misery

When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh's officials who were in custody with him in his master's house, "Why are your faces so sad today?" Genesis 40:6-7

Joseph's life seemed pretty rotten. He was sold into slavery, and now he was imprisoned in the dungeon of a house he once managed. But despite his circumstance, Joseph was a compassionate man who could look beyond himself to the concern of others.

The king's cupbearer and baker were thrown in the same prison with Joseph, and Joseph was assigned to watch over them. One day Joseph noticed a difference in their countenance. They were unusually sad. Both men were distraught over dreams they had the night before. Joseph trusted the Lord, and he interpreted the dreams.

How amazing that Joseph even cared enough to ask! What would have happened if Joseph had been so focused on his own miserable circumstance that he didn't notice the sadness of these two men? The dreams would not have been interpreted. Eventually, the men would be gone from prison. The baker would be dead, and the cupbearer wouldn't have a story to tell when the time was right.

Lord, help me to always be aware of the needs of others despite my circumstance. Too often I am only focused on me and how I may feel, when there are others in need of encouragement. Forgive me for living a selfish life for so long. Give me the patience I need to bear the prisons into which I have fallen in my life. The day will come when I will be completely free. Until then, let me make a difference for those in my path along the way.

January 19, 2004

Holding Out

When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. Genesis 41:56

Joseph understood the importance of being patient and waiting for the right time. The famine began, and the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Yet Joseph waited until the famine had struck the entire land. If the people had simply accessed the stored grain as soon as the abundance stopped, they probably would have been wasteful. Joseph knew that seven years were ahead, so he made the people wait. A man who is starving will take more care with the little he gets; Joseph knew this.

Lord, help me to be wise as Joseph was wise. Your Spirit dwelled within him. Even Pharaoh recognized that. Give me the patience it takes to store up and to hold out. It must have seemed overwhelming to Joseph to be in charge of all Egypt at the age of 30. He trusted in You. Help me to do likewise.

January 20, 2004

When Dreams Come True

Then he remembered his dreams about them... Genesis 42:9a

It must have been surreal. Joseph had seen dreams played out before his eyes. The baker was killed; the cupbearer was restored. The land experienced abundance, then famine. But to have his own dreams come true - to see his brothers bowing before him... he must have pinched himself to see if he was still awake or if it was yet another dream. He must have experienced such emotion.

Lord, I have been full of emotion as I see Your will played out before my eyes. I am overwhelmed. My marriage is more vibrant than it has been in years. My work is more exciting - and more stressful! Just as Joseph needed Your Spirit to guide him, I need You to place Your hand upon me. Give me patience as I work to establish a new place for myself. Help me to walk in Your strength.

Thank You for Your blessing!

January 21, 2004

The Weight of the Wait

"As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice." Genesis 43:10

Israel was afraid for his son Benjamin. His fear kept his sons from returning to Egypt for more food. All the while, Simeon sat in an Egyptian jail, and Joseph went about his business waiting for the return of his brothers.

I wonder how Joseph felt. My guess is he was an emotional wreck. All the years of hurt probably pressed upon him. The weight of his emotions must have been enormous. As the days passed and the weeks went by, Joseph may have questioned his actions. Should he have sent his brothers back to Canaan? Should he have revealed himself already? The wait for his brothers return must have been excruciating.

Lord, I am so often pulled down by the weight of my emotions and so often distracted by the wait for Your return. Help me to be anxious about nothing. Help me to be patient as I see Your plans unfold. Press upon me Holy Spirit, so I might be fruitful today.

January 22, 2004

Guilty!

"What can we say to my lord?" Judah replied, "What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants' guilt. We are now my lord's slaves - we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup." Genesis 44:16

Guilty! There is no other verdict. No man except Jesus Himself has lived his life without the shadow of guilt upon him.

Judah fell before Joseph a broken man full of guilt and shame. Although he didn't realize it, he was standing before the one in Egypt who knew the truth. It was Judah who said, "Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites." Judah saved Joseph's life by taking away all that he had. When Judah was faced with the possibility of telling his father Jacob, "Benjamin is no more," he broke. How could he go on? Judah pleaded for Benjamin, but I think in some ways he was pleading for Joseph. Judah was making amends for his brother as he should have done years before.

Lord, I stand before You a guilty man. Eventually, all my guilt will be uncovered. It if were revealed today, I don't feel I could go on. So many lives could be hurt if the truth were seen about the things I have done.

Yet, You know the truth about me as Joseph knew the truth about Judah. Joseph looked upon his brother with compassion. I know that Your heart is full of compassion as well. You came to this earth. You died to remove the guilt.

Help me to hold fast to this truth. You have forgiven, and I no longer need to be ashamed. My guilt and shame have kept me in a place of darkness for far too long. Your light is refreshment to my soul. Continue to shine on me.

January 23, 2004

Afterwards

And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him. Genesis 45:15

Twenty-two years had past. A great deal had happened since Joseph was taken from his family. Joseph had seen the darkness of slavery and prison. His brothers had seen the darkness of guilt and shame. But despite the pain - despite the years of hurt, Joseph didn't blame them. He could see the bigger plan. He knew that God worked out every detail to put him in a place to save the ones he loved.

And what a wonderful scene it was! Joseph took the time to draw each brother close - to forgive him - to encourage him - to start anew.

Jesus, the day is coming when You will reveal Yourself. Many will be terrified. Many will be sent from Your presence, but I long to remain - to experience Your embrace - to kiss your face - to talk with You afterwards. What a glorious day it will be. Come, Lord Jesus!

January 25, 2004

New Places

"I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph's own hand will close your eyes." Genesis 46:4

Jacob was leaving Canaan, and he would never see it again. How sad it must have been. The land that was promised to him and his descendants would be a memory for him. God promised that Jacob would return, but I'm sure Jacob knew it wouldn't be in his own strength; he would die in Egypt.

Lord, sometimes You call us away from where we thought we would be. Your plans are not always what we had hoped and dreamed. But even when we are called away, You promise to be with us.

Help me, Lord, to hear You. If You are leading me to new places, give me the strength to say goodbye to the old. I want to be with You - wherever that is.

January 26, 2004

Used Up

Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number. Genesis 47:27

All of Egypt was wasting away. The Egyptians sold everything they had, including their bodies, to Pharaoh. Joseph is credited with reducing the people to servitude. Interestingly, Joseph's family prospered. God's chosen increased in number, while the Egyptians lost all they had.

Things haven't changed much over the years. The world will use us up completely. God will bless and protect. So why do we ever chase after what the world offers? It will only destroy us - make us slaves to the sadness - and take everything we have.

Lord, I am one of Your chosen only by Your grace and mercy. Help me to continue in this struggle to throw off the chains of the enemy. I long to serve You and You alone.

January 27, 2004

Forced Destiny

When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim's head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father's hand to move it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. Genesis 48:17

No matter how hard we try, we cannot force the destiny of our children. Joseph was unhappy when his father Jacob gave the higher blessing to his youngest son. He tried to force his father into changing, but Jacob wouldn't budge. Ephraim would be greater than Manasseh.

Lord, I want the best for my children. Sometimes I wish I could make it happen for them, but I know their destiny is Your concern. Help me to take my hands off of them. Accept my constant prayers on their behalf. They are called to mighty things. Fill them with Your Spirit, so You will be glorified.

January 28, 2004

Unforgotten Things

All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him. Genesis 49:28

To receive an appropriate blessing is not necessarily something I want. Jacob blessed each of his sons, but as the blessings are given, some aren't very pleasant. They contain reminders of adultery, murder, and greed. At the end of his life, Jacob remembered things that I'm sure his sons wished he had forgotten.

There are things in my life I would rather forget. But they are there nonetheless. Will I someday be remembered for the beds I have defiled - for the cities I have plundered?

Lord, I beg for mercy. I know Your saving grace, yet there are times I still feel unworthy; I feel wretched as I remember where I have been. The enemy wants me to remember these things only, so he can hold me down. Pick me up from the bottom, Lord. Honor me, so You might be honored all the more.

When others think of me someday, let them remember You.

January 29, 2004

Does God Weep?

"'This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.' Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father." When the message came to him, Joseph wept. Genesis 50:17

How many times does God weep when we ignore all He has done for us?

In the eyes of the world, Joseph had every right to take revenge for all his brothers had done. Now, Joseph's brothers were afraid. Their father was dead, and they could no longer hide from their sins. His brothers begged for forgiveness - forgiveness that had already been granted and proven by Joseph's actions over the years. Their very lives were owed to Joseph. His wisdom and position had saved them from certain death during the great famine, and they now enjoyed the prosperity of Goshen. Upon hearing their request, Joseph wept. How could his brothers be asking for forgiveness now? Couldn't they see how much he loved them?

Lord, time and time again You have proven Your forgiveness. The blessing I enjoy from Your hand is great. Yet, I still feel unforgiven on occasion. The enemy taunts me with memories of sins long-since forgiven, and I find myself begging to be forgiven all over again. Oh, there is always new sin. My heart continues to deceive me, and I fail You. But the sins of yesterday sometimes weigh me down.

Does this make You weep?

When I dwell on forgotten sins, it must sadden You. Your heart's desire is for each of Your children to soar above the wearies of this world, yet so often we cling to the chains that keep us from flight.

Help me, Father, to live with anticipation of blessing rather than fear over punishment that will never come. Jesus already received it on my behalf. Forgive me for disregarding the cross. Make me a man of great joy rather than great sorrow.

I am forgiven! Praise God for all He has done!

January 31, 2004

Oppression

But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread... Exodus 1:12a

Why does oppression seem to bring growth? The Israelites were oppressed by Pharaoh, yet they multiplied in number. The early church was oppressed by Rome, and they grew in number. Even today, the underground church in China expands as the oppression increases.

What is it, Lord, that causes good to come from bad?

Today, I feel oppressed - oppressed by an enemy who want to see me fail. When we are oppressed, we have a choice to make. Will we give in to the enemy? Will we suffer the consequence? Or will we trust that God will deliver us and increase His blessing?

Father, deliver me. Show me the road out of the oppressor's lair. Give me the strength to face the enemy and to cling to You. May you be glorified!

About January 2004

This page contains all entries posted to The Potter's Hand in January 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2003 is the previous archive.

February 2004 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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