Friday, August 31, 2012

Fear of Blessing

Waterfall in Hamilton, Ontario
Genesis 42:29-38

Yesterday, I was watching a documentary on Yellowstone National Park (yes, I am a PBS junkie - but I found this on Netflix!).  This is a park that is totally and completely a giant volcano and the show was explaining how the volcano has shaped the park.  For example, there are hot springs and geysers that are a result of the hot lava that lays just under the park.  There are areas there are toxic gasses because it is releasing the volcanic gasses.  There are well over 300 waterfalls mapped out in the park with more being found each year.  So many of the waterfalls are in dangerous areas and in very wild areas of the park which is why most people will never lay eyes on them.  Sometimes we have to be uncomfortable and do something that seems crazy in order to see beauty or experience a blessing.  In the verses I am looking at today, we will see that Jacob was put in a situation that brought a lot of fear.  Please read Genesis 42:29-38.

Joseph's brothers came home and reported what happened to them in Egypt to Jacob.  When everyone saw that their money had been returned to them, they were all struck with fear.  Considering how harsh Joseph had been with them, it is understandable why they felt fear from what was really a blessing being given to them.  But this also gave Jacob even more fear of sending Benjamin back with his sons to Egypt.  He reminded them that he already lost Joseph and now Simeon; he couldn't bear the thought of losing Benjamin even if the risk meant that Simeon would be set free and they could freely trade in Egypt.

There are a couple of things that stick out to me in these verses.  First, the brothers' reaction to the money is something I think we can all relate to.  This world can be very harsh at times and when a blessing is extended to us we can easily meet it with some skepticism.  Can you relate?  Have you ever received a gift that was truly a gift, but you accepted it with some distrust and maybe even fear of what might be next?  The second thing that caught my attention was Jacob's fear of walking into what seemed like a crazy plan.   It really was a big risk to take!  The above picture of the waterfall is one of three we hiked to see in Hamilton, Ontario a few weeks ago.  The first one we looked at was a small little hike to get to it, but we had to do a lot of hiking to see the next one.  If we were not willing to do a bit of walking, we would have missed out on seeing the second waterfall (although we found out after we got there that there was a parking lot nearby and we could have drove to see it!).  But, we saw some beautiful views of the canyon that we would have missed if we drove to the next waterfall.

Sometimes we have to be willing to take a leap of faith and be willing to do a long hike in order to experience the blessings that are waiting for us.  Just as most of us will never see the over 300 waterfalls at Yellowstone, the ones who are willing to explore in the dangerous territory will get to see them.  This doesn't mean that we need to be foolish either!  The people who find the waterfalls are people who are experienced in hiking the park and know how to stay away from the wildlife.  They study topographical maps of the park in order to seek out the next waterfall.  Our map is the Bible.  When we are in the Bible everyday, we are preparing for the longer hikes that God has for us.

Are you willing to take a risk and go on a journey to experience blessing?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday and Fellowship Fridays.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wounded Memory

Genesis 42:19-28

Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to suppress your feelings?  Maybe it was because you were with your children and you were trying really hard to keep your cool when you were feeling so frustrated.  Or maybe it was at work when you just wanted to cry over a bad day but needed to keep going and not let your co-workers see your emotional breakdown.  Maybe it is even a painful memory brought to the forefront of your attention and you need to suppress your reaction to the memory.  In the verses I am looking at today, we will read about Joseph needing to suppress his emotions.  But ironically, it is through his suppression of feelings that we get a stronger taste of how he is feeling.  We are finally getting a window into the emotion that must have been going through him on arrival to Egypt and now that he is face to face with his brothers.  Yesterday, the verses I looked at ended with Joseph keeping one brother while the rest were to go back home with food for their families and bring Benjamin back with them to show that their story was true.  Let's pick up the story in Genesis 42:19-28.

In these verses, we not only see the emotion Joseph felt as his brothers recounted the moment they sold him to slave traders, but we also see Joseph's mercy on his brothers.  Instead of reacting with anger and hatred to their words, he responded with love.  He sent them on their way with the grain but secretly had their money returned to them.  He could have had them all stay in prison or become slaves themselves; however, he loved them and loved his father and his brother Benjamin.  He fed their families for free and put into motion his plan to see his entire family.  We also see the brothers' fear when they realized that their money was returned to them.  They were afraid that they would all be punished, but they also didn't know what to do.

What is your reaction when a past wound is brought to your memory?  I have been healed from some very deep wounds in my childhood.  But healing doesn't mean that I have forgotten the wounds.  Healing means that I respond differently to the memory of the wounds.  Looking back on some of those painful wounds still brings a sadness to my heart; however, there is no bitterness or anger.  God has helped to learn to forgive and to not let the bad stay bad.  He has taken those painful moments in my past and used them to draw me all the more closer to Him.  It is through the fact that I do not react with anger that God's glory shines through because it is only because of the work He has done in my heart that I can experience forgiveness.  It is by desiring to get rid of the anger and giving it over to God that I began to receive the healing He had planned for me.  We truly can heal from the biggest pain of our past and experience a desire to forgive.

Do you have past wounds that you react to?  Can you give them over to God for complete healing?

This post is linked with The Grace Cafe and Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Revenge or Mercy?

Genesis 42:1-20

Over the next few days, we will read about Joseph's heart.  Up until now, we have been told very little about his feelings, but we will now begin to get a glimpse of his heart.  Imagine how it must have been like to grow up in a family where you knew that your brothers despised you and you were lavished with favoritism from your father.  Imagine getting some dreams from God showing you that you would rise to the top yet your brothers bound you up and sold you to some traders going to Egypt.  Imagine being put into a culture that was so completely different from your own where an elaborate mythology had been created when you knew and worshiped the one true God.  Imagine that because of your brothers' decision to sell you, you ended up being falsely accused and ended up in prison.  Then after many years of being forgotten, your wisdom and godliness was recognized by Pharaoh and you ended up being in charge of the entire country of Egypt.  What a life he lived all by the age of thirty!  Yet, we are never told how often Joseph thought of his family and his home in Canaan.  We will now begin to unravel some of Joseph's feelings; please read Genesis 42:1-20.

This is an interesting twist of events, isn't it?  Who would think that Joseph's life would intersect with his brothers' lives ever again?  This would be the equivalent to someone being sold into modern day slavery today and sent to live in another country that their family never visits and running in to each other there.  Already, we can see God's hand on all of their lives and bringing the family back together.  Notice that we are told that Joseph recognized his brothers immediately but his brothers didn't recognize him.  This really isn't surprising that the brothers didn't recognize Joseph for several reasons.  First, they sold him as a slave - they never expected to see him again.  Second, Joseph was probably unrecognizable with the way the court officials dressed in Egypt.  Third, we are told that his brothers immediately bowed low before him, so they probably didn't get a very good look at Joseph.

How must it have felt for Joseph to see his family again?  Did he notice a difference in their physique as a result of starving from the famine?  We are told that Joseph was harsh with them and accused them of being spies from Canaan.  He told them that he needed to see their other brother to prove that they were not spies and that they would all stay in prison except one brother who would be sent to get his brother.  After three days in prison, we see a slight change and a glimpse of Joseph's mercy.  You can see where Joseph was giving them a hint of who he was by telling them that he was a God-fearing man.  He was also assuring them that no matter how much power he had here on earth, he recognized and worshiped One who was higher above all.  He would do as he says.  But he also changed the story a little and kept only one and sent the rest home to get Benjamin.  He also showed more mercy by telling them that he would send them home with the grain they requested so they could feed their families.  So we can see that even without finishing the story that Joseph was not acting out in revenge, but he was acting in mercy toward his family even though they changed the course of his life.  He wanted to see his entire family.

We can learn a lot from Joseph's example.  Even with all the horrible things that had happened to him, he was given the opportunity to enact revenge on his brothers.  Instead, we begin to see the incredible work of God in his heart and see mercy.  Mercy is possible when we have Christ in our hearts.  After all, Jesus is the one who showed us the greatest act of mercy this world has ever witnessed.  The desire for revenge only destroys our hearts; however, mercy heals.  When we are having difficulty having the heart of mercy, we can pray and ask God to change our hearts to become merciful.

Do you seek revenge or mercy for those who have hurt you?

This post is linked with Word Filled Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fairy Tale?

Genesis 41:37-57

Fairy tales are so popular in our culture, in fact there are now TV series and movies that spin off the original fairy tales.  I think one of the reasons fairy tales are so popular is because it is how the unexpected happens.  Evil happens, but then good perseveres and not only wins but ends up in a better position in life.  Cinderella went from cleaning the cinders out of the chimney to becoming a princess.  Snow White found her prince and defeated the evil queen.  So many of the fairy tales have a story of going from complete humility to a place of honor.  In some ways, Joseph's story is like a fairy tale, except he didn't have a fairy god-mother intervening on his behalf; he had the King of all Kings placing him right where He wanted him.  Please read Genesis 41:37-57 to see how God used Joseph.

Joseph went from being sold as a slave by his own brothers to working in the house of Potiphar, Pharaoh's captain of the guards.  In Potiphar's home, Joseph became familiar with the belief system of the Egyptians and learned how Pharaoh's court ran.  He was in charge of the entire household and learned management skills through that experience.  He was falsely accused and went to jail where he found himself in the most humble position.  He went to jail and was forgotten by all others outside but was still given responsibility over all the other prisoners.  But this also put him in touch with the average Egyptian and allowed him to understand how the rest of the country lived and what they thought of Pharaoh.  What seemed to be awful was probably preparing him for the position that he would find himself in for the rest of his life.

Joseph's wisdom that was given to him by God got Pharaoh's attention and suddenly Joseph found himself going from the most humble position in life to one of the most honored positions.  He was in charge of the entire country of Egypt!  Ancient Egypt was a thriving society with culture, writing, and trade.  The Pharaoh trusted Joseph's judgement completely and allowed him to put the plan in place on how to handle the famine that God declared was coming.  I doubt that Joseph understood that his dream would come true overnight after spending years in the prison.  Who would think that a person would go from prison to second in charge of one of the most influential and powerful cultures of the time?

But, it is important to remember that even though he was exposed to Egyptian culture, Joseph still continued to rely on the God of his ancestors - the One and Only True God.  He knew and believed that no matter what the Egyptian culture told him about their gods and goddesses (and there were a lot of them), God was still the only Creator and the One who was (and is) in control of all things.  This faith is what helped him through the most difficult times and it is what brought him to the position he found himself in at 30 years old.

No matter what happens to us and what our culture tells us, we need to remember the truth that God is the only God and He is our Maker.  He loves us and knows what is best for us and we are promised that He will be with us and work things out to His plan.  Romans 8:28 (NLT) says, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them."  This doesn't mean that everything in life will be good, but it does mean that no matter what we face and what bad happens, we can rest in the truth that God will prevail and He will work whatever the world throws at us for His purpose.  His plans are greater than we can understand, but He will always be in control.

Do you believe that God can work the bad into good?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Wisdom Beyond Our Own

Genesis 41:16-36

Have you ever been in a situation where you found yourself saying things that were beyond your own understanding or wisdom?  I know for myself that I have.  It is after the conversation is done that I realize that God had given me the words to say even though I personally didn't have an answer.  Josesph found himself in a situation like that when the Pharaoh summoned him to interpret his dreams.  Please turn to Genesis 41:16-36 to see how God helped Joseph with understanding and wisdom when he needed it.

Joseph found himself not only interpreting Pharaoh's dreams, but he also was advising the Pharaoh on how he should respond to the dreams.  These verses start out with the truth that interpreting dreams was beyond Joseph's abilities and that only God could do that.  With that said, the Pharaoh shared the dreams that disturbed him and asked Joseph to tell him what they meant.  Joseph told Pharaoh the meaning of the dreams and explained what the next 14 years in Egypt would be like.  He told Pharaoh that he should appoint a wise person to oversee the storing of the grain so they could be prepared for the years of famine.  This was godly wisdom that Joseph was sharing with the Pharaoh.

Joseph was faithful to God and he relied on God to do what was put before him.  We can do that as well.  We can know that when we rely on God, He will provide us with the wisdom and understanding when we need it.  It is when we are humble and fully recognize that we do not have all the answers that keeps us open to hearing what God is telling us.  It is when we recognize that we do not have the greatest wisdom that God gives us the wisdom we need right when we need it.  It is okay that we don't have all the answers because we can rest assured knowing that God does have all the answers.  And we can trust that if God feels it is necessary for us to know something, He will make it known to us.

Do you rely on God for wisdom and understanding?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty and Monday Musings.

Friday, August 24, 2012

God's Abilities

Genesis 41:1-16

Joseph's story is full of injustice, pain, and hope.  While we will not have the exact same experiences as Joseph, we could probably say the same for our own stories.  We have all experienced pain - both physical and emotional.  We have all experienced some sort of injustice.  And I am certain that at some point we have all experienced hope.  If you are in Christ, you have definitely experienced the best hope there is - hope in Christ.  I am continuing to look at Joseph's story where I left off yesterday.  Joseph was still in prison and helped interpret the dream of the chief cup bearer.  Afterwards, he asked the cup bearer to remember him and mention him to Pharaoh but we are told in Genesis 40 that the cup bearer forgot him.  That is where our story picks up today; please read Genesis 41:1-16.

The Pharaoh had two dreams that disturbed him greatly and couldn't find anyone to interpret them for him.  He knew that they had a meaning and continued to pursue the meaning.  At that moment, the cup bearer remembered Joseph and remembered that he had failed to follow through with telling Pharaoh about him.  Keep in mind that Joseph was in prison and completely unaware what was happening in Pharaoh's court.  He had been left there another two years since the cup bearer was restored to his position.  So, imagine what it must have been like for Joseph to be summoned to Pharaoh's court after being in prison so many years.  We are told in these verses that Joseph was cleaned up before appearing before Pharaoh.

Joseph was very humble and very wise and let Pharaoh know that he personally didn't have the ability to interpret the dream, but that God was the one who could tell Pharaoh the dream.  Once again, I am amazed at his total reliance on God and his recognition that it was God's ability and not his own to do what was asked.  When we can acknowledge that it is through Christ that we can do anything, we show God's glory when the job is done.  This attitude also keeps us humble, which keeps us from stumbling in so many other ways.  We can do what we can do because of God - and then when we know we are being asked to do something beyond our abilities we can rest assured knowing that God can do it and He will empower us to complete what has been put before us.

Do you trust in God's abilities?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Small Hope

Genesis 40:9-23

When we are in difficult situations, we can often look at something that gives a little hope that things may be getting better.  Maybe it is a new boss at work or a new opening in a different department.  Maybe it looks like something you have been longing for will come to fruition.  Whatever it is, it is amazing how much better we are able to deal with our circumstances when we get a small taste of hope.  Today, I want to look at how hope plays a role in our circumstances.  I left off in the middle of a story yesterday, so I want to remind you what happened in the first part of the chapter.  I looked at the chief cup bearer and baker to the Pharaoh and how they were sent to prison.  They were put under Joseph's care in the prison.  One morning, Joseph noticed that they were both very disturbed by dreams they had the night before, so he offered to have them tell their dreams.  Please read Genesis 40:9-23.

Notice that once the baker heard the favorable interpretation of the cup bearer's dream he decided that he would share his dream with Joseph as well.  Think about that for a moment.  He was given a new hope that maybe he would find himself taken out of the prison and restored to his former position.  I cannot imagine what his reaction must have been when he heard what his dream meant.  Did he try to convince himself that Joseph wasn't telling the truth or was mistaken, or did he dread what was about to happen?  I also can't imagine how that must have been difficult for Joseph to have to give him the interpretation.

Notice also how this situation also brought new hope for Joseph as well.  When he gave the cup bearer the interpretation, he asked the cup bearer to give a favorable report of Joseph to the Pharaoh.  But that isn't what happened.  We are told at the end of the chapter that the cup bearer was restored and completely forgot about Joseph.  Isn't that a hard place to be?  You can feel your hopes soaring only to have them fall back to the ground a few days later.  But I want to remind you that Joseph's story isn't done, and neither is yours.  God was still with Joseph and still had His plans for him.

It is important to remember that even when we lose our hope, we haven't lost our Creator.  He is always with us and He is faithful.  None of our circumstances can separate us from God's faithful love and we can stake our hope on that truth!  When we are in difficult places, we can know that while it is hard right now God has plans that are far greater than this.  Don't put your hope in the things of this world, put your hope in Christ Jesus who has sacrificed His life for us all.  We know that no matter what, one day we will be worshiping before the throne of God.  That is a great hope!

What do you stake your hope in?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday and The Grace Cafe.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

God's Business

Genesis 40

I thoroughly enjoy a good book, and it takes a lot of self control for me to not blast through a story in the Bible!  I love reading, and my family can testify that when I get sucked into a book I don't get anything done.  Give me a good story, and you've got my full attention.  So, when I read the Bible I have to restrain myself so I can soak in what God is saying to me and learn more from the people in the Bible than if I just read through to hear the ending.  Joseph's story is no different; however, you will be happy to know that today I picked up the pace a little because there just was no good way to split up this chapter.  Please, enjoy an entire chapter today (it's not too long) and read Genesis 40.

Yesterday, as we were reading through Joseph's story we learned that Joseph (a prisoner) was put in charge of all the prisoners.  So, when Pharaoh's chief cup bearer and chief baker were in prison they were put in the care of Joseph.  Joseph's great faith is shown once again when he encounters their need for a dream interpreter.  Notice that Joseph didn't say, "I can interpret this dream for you!"  Rather, he said, "Interpreting dreams is God's business."  Isn't that incredible faith?  That statement is challenging me today.  Every morning I spend time in prayer and part of my prayer is that God would enable me to do my job.  However, as I go throughout my day at work or at home am I remembering that this is God's business?

It is a very different mindset to remember that we are merely servants of God and that we are only able to do what we do because of His empowerment.  Ultimately, He is the one that created us with the abilities we have so just that reality alone should remind us that it is because of Him that we can do what we can do.  But then, beyond that there are times that when we rely on His strength and power that we are able to accomplish something beyond our ability.  Maybe we can have peace during a stressful situation or have wisdom to know what to say.  When we rely on God, we move beyond our abilities that God put in us at birth and we work in His power.  Philippians 4:12-13 says, "I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."  It is through Christ that we have the ability to face whatever situation we are in at home or work.  It is His strength that gets us through.

Do you rely on your abilities or on Christ throughout your day?

This post is linked with Word Filled Wednesday and iFellowship Blog Hop.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

His Faithful Love

Genesis 39:19-23

There are times in life when things just seem to spiral downward without any of your own doing.  It could be a bunch of smaller things that are adding up to much bigger problems, or it could be very big problems.  Maybe you  got the blame for something that you didn't do and it caused you to lose a friendship or a job.  No matter what, when we are receiving consequences for something that was not our fault, it really hurts in so many ways.  It hurts our pride and it makes us feel so vulnerable.  Joseph found himself showing great integrity, but also found himself being accused in the very thing that he avoided at all costs.  Please read Genesis 39:19-23 and see how God was with him even during the worst part of his life.

Notice what we are told in verse 21 - the Lord was with him and showed him His faithful love.  Notice that it doesn't say that God got him out of prison and showed justice for Joseph.  No, it says that Joseph remained there but God was with him there.  That is so important to remember.  While it had to be such a terrible and difficult place to be, God didn't rescue Joseph from the prison he was put in.  In fact, for anyone who knows this story, you know that there was a much greater picture that God was looking at and He had bigger plans.  But He didn't abandon Joseph in his prison, He was with him and showed him His faithful love.  God's love is faithful, even when we find ourselves in a place where things just seem to keep getting worse.

For Joseph, this meant that he found favor with the prison warden and Joseph was put in charge of all the other prisoners.  In fact we read something that sounds familiar...the prisoner had no worries while Joseph was in charge.  We read something similar about Potiphar in Genesis 39:6, "...With Joseph there, he didn’t worry about a thing—except what kind of food to eat!"  God had blessed Joseph with an amazing gift of administration, and He was even giving Joseph the opportunity to learn how to use it while he was in Potiphar's home and while in prison.

Even when things are so difficult, we have to remember that God is with us.  We have to trust the reality that He has ultimate control and knows what He is doing.  We have such a limited view and we need to remember that God has the eternal view.  But we can also remember that God's love is faithful and He is with us wherever we are.  In fact, He has given us wonderful gifts through the Holy Spirit and He even has a purpose for them in our lowest place.  God is in control and He is forever faithful.

Are you in a bad place?  Do you believe that God is with you and His love is faithful?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Integrity

Genesis 39:6-18

The stories and people in the Bible are amazing, but there are some that just stick out at me.  The story of Joseph is one of them because of his integrity and faith even when things were tough.  Joseph chose to honor God no matter where he was in his life - even in his lowest lows.  It encourages me to read through his story because it reminds me that God has everything in control even when it feels like everything has gone wrong.  With that said, let's continue digging in to his story today.  Last week I left off where he ended up as a slave in Potiphar's household; please read Genesis 39:6-18.

Joseph was an attractive young man and Potiphar's wife took notice of him.  Reading through these verses, it seems that she was approaching Joseph every chance she got.  But notice what Joseph would say to her in verse 9 (NLT), "No one here has more authority than I do. [Potiphar] has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God."  Notice that Joseph had so much integrity that we are told that he would attempt to avoid her as he did his work.  But he wasn't able to keep away from her completely because we are told that she came to him every day.  And her final attempt to get Joseph's attention proved to be dangerous for him.

Potiphar's wife cared nothing for Joseph, she just wanted to please her desire.  And it probably would have been easier for Joseph to just cave in to her demands and let her have her way.  Joseph was a young adult man who I'm sure had to fight back serious temptation with her proposals.  But Joseph knew that even if no one was watching, that he served a God that saw everything.  He knew that if he did such a thing, he would be sinning against that God that he loved.  He knew that no matter how difficult it was to deal with her advances, it was far more important to please God even if no one else would find out.

That is so challenging for me to think about because I have to analyze my own behavior and ask myself if I live a life full of so much integrity.  Is my first thought before I do anything whether or not it pleases God?  It is so easy to get caught up in the moment especially when we are dealing with a temptation, but Joseph lived a life that shows us that even under great pressure and temptation we can seek to please God before pleasing our desires.  We need to be aware of the great holiness of God and His sovereignty so we can remember whose desire is more important to please.  As I have said so many times before, the best way we can grow and understand our wonderful Creator is to spend time daily in prayer and in the Bible.  The more we spend time with Him, the more we will revert to what His desires are.  Let's spend time with God so we can truly live out our lives full of integrity!

Do you seek to please God first?

This post is linked with Monday Musings and Sharing His Beauty.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

To Live Is Christ

Niagra Falls
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21 (NIV)

Do you understand that verse?  This used to confuse me because I just didn't fully understand what it meant "to live is Christ."  I understood that to die is gain because dying meant that we would be with God forever, but to live is Christ?  Our world has such a different view of life from what a follower of Christ has.  In the world, we are taught that to live is everything and living the dream is to gain.  But looking at the life of Jesus has helped me understand this verse more and more each year.

Jesus is God; He is the Word of God made human.  Think on that for a moment.  Jesus sacrificed His position in Heaven to come and be with us.  He sacrificed this so we could have salvation.  Not only did Jesus sacrifice while He was on the cross, but His entire life was a sacrifice for us.  Jesus ultimately showed us true sacrifice on this earth and asked us to be willing to sacrifice our comfort as well.  So, Paul was expressing that to die would be ultimate gain because he would be with Christ; however, to live here on earth and do what God wanted of him was to live a life that Christ modeled for us.  Paul was expressing that to do the work of God was living out the life that Christ wanted of him.  Paul wrote in Philippians 1:20-22 (NIV), "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me..."  

This is a challenging couple of verses, because it causes me to think about what God wants from me.  Do I live in a sacrificial way that honors God, or do I think of myself first?  Last week, I had the opportunity to go to the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, where I heard Pranitha Timothy share what God has done in her life.  She works with the International Justice Mission and has helped to free many people from modern day slavery.  She has put herself in danger to gain freedom for others.  At the Leadership Summit she shared her story of how she only cared about herself before Christ and no one would have imagined her risking her life for a slave.  But now she lives a life that shines God's glory and she understands the message that "to live is Christ and to die is to gain."

I put a picture of Niagra Falls with this post because it reminds me of the total abandon God wants from us as we follow Him.  In her book Hinds Feet On High Places, Hannah Hurnard writes of how the water joyfully drops over the falls in utter abandon to itself.  Just like a waterfall's abandon to the cliff, we are to be willing to give of ourselves to God in whatever He wants from us.

Does your life reflect the truth that for a Christ follower means to sacrifice while we are here?

This post is linked with Spiritual Sundays and Still Saturday.

Friday, August 17, 2012

For Joseph's Sake

Genesis 39:1-6

There have been periods in my life that just seem like a low, but looking back I see how God's hand was on me and how He helped me through.  For the last few days, I took a break from Joseph's story as I read through Genesis 38, but earlier in the week I looked at how Joseph went from being the beloved son of his father to being sold to some traders.  There are some things we are told throughout Joseph's story that shows us how God's hand was not only on him, but that God allowed things to happen because he had a greater plan for Joseph.  Plans so great that no one could have imagined them!  Please turn to Genesis 39:1-6 and see how Joseph had arrived to the lowest place in his life up to this moment.

I don't know about you, but I would think that being the loved son of a wealthy man it would seem like a great low to becoming the slave in foreign country.  I'm sure Joseph was wondering what his dreams could have possibly meant as he was serving his master.  But, in verse 5 there is a phrase that sticks out at me, "the Lord began to bless Potiphar’s household for Joseph’s sake."  Do you see that?  God blessed Potiphar.  This was not because of his stellar treatment of Joseph or because he had made a great choice buying Joseph.  We are told that the Lord blessed Potiphar's household for Joseph's sake.  For Joseph's sake.  Think on that for a moment.

Joseph was at a low in his life, yet God was doing things for his sake.  You see, even though this situation probably didn't make a whole lot of sense to Joseph, he still honored God.  God was his God and He was with him.  God was intervening in such a difficult spot for Joseph even though it seemed like he had been abandoned.  Instead, God worked in such a way for Joseph that Potiphar didn't have to worry about a single thing at home except for what he should eat.  That's not so bad when you consider that Potiphar probably had some high level decisions to make all day long.  He could just go home and struggle with the decision of what he should eat for the day.

There are times in our life that seems like backward movement from our dreams - dreams that God may have placed on our hearts.  That is such a difficult place to be!  Imagine having dreams that your entire family would be bowing before you and then you become a slave.  That seems like the complete opposite direction from the dreams God gave him, yet as we read through his story we will see that it actually brought him closer to that dream.  Don't be discouraged by backwards motion.  If you are following God and things seem to go wrong; remember that God is with you.  Even if it seems so far from the dream you have been given God may be using that moment to get you closer to the dream.  It is just hard to see when you are in that place.  Be encouraged and know that God is with you!

Are you in a discouraging spot?  Do you believe that God is working for your sake?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Breaking Out

Genesis 38:12-30

Oscar Pistorius was born without fibulae in both legs and they were both amputated below the knee.  But that didn't slow him down and he found himself competing in the London 2012 Olympics.  He made history by being the first double amputee to compete in the games and he made it to the semifinals in the individual 400.  After he began competing against "able-bodied" athletes, it was determined that he had an advantage over the other runners.  An advantage...imagine that!  After further research, it was determined that the initial ruling was incorrect and he was unanimously given permission to continue competing in international races.  He may have been given the label of "disabled"; however, he chose to break free from that label to enjoy running at an Olympic level. We are often given labels by the world or the people around us that boxes us in from who we would like to be.  Labels can be things that have started with birth such as "developmentally disabled", or they can be bestowed upon by someone's actions such as "victim."  But today, I want to continue looking at Judah's story and his interaction with Tamar and see how she chose not to accept her plight in life; please read Genesis 38:12-30.

After both of his older sons died, Judah promised his 3rd and youngest son to Tamar when he got old enough to marry her so she could have a child for her first husband.  But, he secretly didn't intend to have him marry her because he was afraid that he would die as well.  When Tamar noticed that he was of age and Judah still hadn't offered him to her, she decided to take things into her own hands to have a baby for her first husband.  I am by no means advocating her behavior of tricking Judah, but what she did was refuse to accept the label of motherless widow.  In the end, Judah was the one to admit that he had wronged her and she regained her dignity.  But notice the last few verses of Genesis 38.  She had twins and the baby who was going to be considered the second born broke out and was born first.  He was named Perez which means breaking out.

We do not have to get boxed in by the world's expectations of us because when we are in Christ we are given a much better expectation.  Romans 8:31 (NLT) says, "What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?"  It continues on in Romans 8:37 (NLT), "No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us."  Overwhelming victory is ours!  Wow!  Those are powerful words...overwhelming victory.  I like how it is worded in NIV as well, "we are more than conquerors."  We can break out from the world's underwhelming expectations and choose to live and believe who God says we are.

Are you ready to break out?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday and the Grace Cafe.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Parent's Influence

Genesis 38:1-11

One of the things I have written about a few times while reading through Genesis is the idea of legacy.  What legacy are we leaving for our future generations?  Genesis takes a brief break from the story of Joseph to tell us a little of Judah's life.  For the next few days, I want to look at Judah's story and how some of decisions may have influenced his family.  Please read Genesis 38:1-11.

We are not told how closely Judah walked with God; however, we do learn that he chose to marry a Canaanite woman.  He had three boys with her and we are told that his oldest was evil in God's sight.  Knowing how important idolatry was in the Canaanite religions, I'm sure Judah's children were being raised with a mixed view on God.  Judah may have been telling them about the one true God, but his wife may have been telling them about the gods she worshiped.  You can imagine what a world view they grew up with and probably viewed God as just another god.

As parents, my husband and I are living out our faith with our children and we are sharing our faith with them.  I do not know if they will continue to follow God when they leave our house, but I know that we've set a foundation for them and I am praying for them.  But, when both parents do not honor God, it is hard for the child to grow up with a strong faith in God.  We cannot take our children to church and not live out our faith at home and expect our children to grow up loving God.  Our children are watching us and as we make our choices we are helping set the stage for future generations.  This is so important!  Being a good parent doesn't guarantee that our children will grow up making good choices, but it sure gives them a better foundation on which they will make decisions.

What example are you living out for your children?

This post is linked with Word Filled Wednesday and iFellowship Blog Hop.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Opposite

Genesis 37:12-36

Sometimes we are hurt deeply by the very people who we should be trusting to protect us.  Betrayal is painful, but I believe it hurts all the more when we are betrayed by someone close to us.  I think it is because when it is an enemy that betrayed us, we may be hurt but their behavior doesn't shock us.  When it is a friend or family, the betrayal can just tear us apart.  Yesterday, I looked at how Jacob's sons showed a lot of dysfunction in the way they responded to Jacob's favoritism of Joseph.  The first part of Genesis 37 lays out their jealousy and hatred of Joseph, which was a very dysfunctional response to their circumstances.  Today, I want to continue looking at Joseph's story and his brother's betrayal; please read Genesis 37:13-36.

We are not told anything about Joseph's response to this betrayal, so we have no idea how he was feeling.  However, we are told a lot about his brothers' feelings toward Joseph.  In fact, I believe this chapter is a good warning for all of us in the way we react to circumstances that seem unfair.  In the first eleven verses of chapter 37, we are told that his brother's jealousy turned into hatred.  That is a scary place to be!  First of all, it is so opposite of who God is and that means if we ever are feeling hatred toward someone in our heart that means we are doing a 180 from where God wants us.  The next thing I noticed is the fact that Joseph was at home with his father while his brothers were tending the sheep.  That couldn't have helped their attitude toward him!

When his brothers saw him coming, they immediately began to plot to kill him.  When we begin to walk in the exact opposite direction of God, our judgement will change.  Their hatred of him was so great that they didn't think anything of the consequences of killing Joseph.  But Reuben stepped in and prevented them from killing Joseph and secretly plotted to save him later by giving them a new plan.  One thing that I noticed is that the brothers were so engrossed in their hatred that they didn't even think anything of Reuben's suggestion of letting Joseph die slowly and alone in the cistern.  Only until the brothers had an opportunity to gain from Joseph's plight did they consider not killing him.  They received twenty pieces of silver for Joseph...something so temporary and easily squandered that would result in such great pain for their father.

It is scary to see how unforgiveness and bitterness turns to hate.  That hate is never satisfied and causes us to make decisions that have no thought of the consequences.  The further we walk away from God, the worse our decision making becomes.  When we walk the opposite direction of God, our behavior will become destructive and we please our desires over considering how we are hurting others.  This story shows an extreme of how important it is to give our grievances to God and allow Him to do His amazing work in our lives.  Hanging on to bitterness and hurt only hurts us and everyone around us.

Have you given your pain over to God?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dysfunction

Genesis 37:1-11

Conflict of any type is so difficult; however, family conflict is probably one of the most common types of conflict we can face.  There are so many factors that could play a role into why that is, but I think one of the main reasons is because we live with our family.  We don't put on any masks with our family because we can just be who we are with our family.  But that honesty can also create conflict.  A common phrase we hear about families is "dysfunctional."  I want to say that from my personal observation, there are very few people who feel like they have grown up in a family that isn't dysfunctional.  So, that makes me wonder if everyone's family is as bad as they think or is dysfunctional the norm?  I remember in college, my music therapy professor telling our class that we were at an age where we think our parents are messed up and they made way too many mistakes with us.  But he continued to tell us that as we grow up and mature, we will see that our parents and family were not as bad as we thought.  Over the years as I have occasionally reflected on that, I think that conflict within the family alone doesn't mean dysfunction.  Because, conflict can sometimes bring better results as we talk it out and forgive and love each other.  I think it is how we handle conflict within the family that creates dysfunction.  Today, I want to look at the beginning of Joseph's story and consider the family's response to their conflict.  Please read Genesis 37:1-11.

Joseph was the second youngest out of all his brothers, yet he found himself in a favored position.  Genesis 37:3 tells us that Jacob favored Joseph because he was born to him while he was old.  But, Joseph wasn't always the wisest in how he handled being around his brothers.  We are not told if he was proud or just not thinking, but he decided to share with his brothers his dream about the bundles of grain bowing before his bundle of grain.  At this point, his brothers already had issues with Joseph and this was something that definitely didn't help.  Then Joseph shared another dream about the sun and moon and stars bowing before him.  Even his father scolded him for talking about the dream.  But, there is still a difference because while his brothers became consumed with jealousy of Joseph, Jacob wondered what it all meant.

What we are reading here is some dysfunction that would shape the future of Israel.  Joseph was highly favored and Jacob was not shy about showing it.  Joseph's brothers hated him and could never say anything kind about him.  This is an unhealthy response to conflict.  You see, every family faces conflict, but in most families we still love each other.  In this family, the brothers responded to conflict with hatred.  There was no forgiveness or love that held them together.  There was severe dysfunction among the sons of Jacob.  Do you face dysfunction in your family?  Do you respond to your family with dysfunction?  It doesn't have to be that way.  You have Christ living in you and He can help you heal and forgive.  He can give you a love for the people in your family.  Just because your family responds with hate or hurt, you don't have to.  God is a God of love and forgiveness.

How are you responding to your family?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty and Monday Musings.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sacrifice

Hebrew 13:15-16 (NLT)

"Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God."

Have you ever considered yourself as rich?  I used to never consider myself rich because I live in America where there are people far wealthier than I am.  Living paycheck to paycheck doesn't feel rich in America.  But then one day, God opened my eyes and let me see the reality that the majority of the world doesn't live with the resources that I have.  He let me see that the majority of the world lives on just a fraction of my paycheck.  He showed me that there are so many people raising children on just one meal a day and have no hope for a better tomorrow.  Therefore, I am rich and I haven't used my wealth wisely.

Something God has challenged me over the last few years is the reality that there is a responsibility that comes with this wealth.  There is a responsibility to care for those in this world that were not born with the resources I have.  There is a responsibility to not squander it, but to share it.  When we make personal sacrifices to help those who have nothing to sacrifice, we are pleasing God.  We see that those are the kind of sacrifices that God wants.  We are sharing His glory with others when we are willing to sacrifice and be responsible with what has been given to us.

How does God want you to sacrifice?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Foreigner


I am now getting into the story of Joseph and I just want to look at the first verse of Genesis 37 (please read Genesis 37:1).  Have you ever lived somewhere where you felt like a foreigner?  Maybe you lived or currently live in a different country.  Maybe you just lived in an area that was different from where you grew up so it felt foreign.  I have lived in small towns and sometimes you can feel like a foreigner there if you didn't grow up there.  I know someone who has lived in a small town for over 20 years, and they have mentioned to me that while their children are part of the town, they still feel like they don't quite belong because they didn't grow up there.  It could be perception, or it could be true but sometimes we can feel like a foreigner in our home.

The life of the Patriarchs we have been studying throughout the book of Genesis lays out the fact that they were living in a place that was promised to them, yet they were still foreigners.  We will see throughout the life of Joseph that he also lived as a foreigner.  It reminds me of Hebrews 11:8-10, which says (in NLT), "It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God."  When we feel like foreigners, we can remember that this is not our true home.  Our home is where we have our hope staked in: our home with Jesus.  That is our home!

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday and the Grace Cafe.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How We Live Now

Genesis 36

Yesterday, I looked at how we can let our past rule us and make all our choices or how we can give God our past and see how He can turn anything into beauty.  Jacob had stolen Esau's blessing, which caused some drastic consequences.  Esau was very upset and had plotted to kill Jacob.  But reading through Genesis, we see that twenty years later, both brothers embrace each other and live in the same area.  The chapter I am looking at today shows Esau's descendants also known as Edom.  I am not a huge fan of reading a list of names; however, there is a reason why God puts these genealogies in the the Bible.  Please look at Genesis 36 and just see how Edom became who they were.

Esau was a descendant of Abraham, which we see still put him under some type of blessing because his descendants became a nation with kings.  In fact, reading through these verses, we see many kings mentioned in the Bible.   Notice that Esau also had a lot of wealth and had to move out of the area because the land couldn't support both him and his brother Jacob.  One of Esau's sons had a child named Amalek, and it is believed that he is the father of the Amalekites, who were Israel's enemies later in the Bible.

One of the things I pointed out a few weeks ago about Esau was the fact that he had married two wives from the surrounding culture, which was a source of great grief to Isaac and Rebekah.  He then later married his cousin, who was Ishmael's daughter.  Amalek came from Eliaphaz who was the son of Adah, one of the Hittite wives of Esau.  I also noticed that one of the names of Esau's descendants was Baal-hanan, which is a name that reflects the god, Baal.  The choices we make don't just affect us, they affect our future generations.  We can give our children over to the culture, or we can give our children over to God.  This doesn't guarantee that our children will choose to stay with God; however, we can set the stage for godly living.  I think of my husband who came from a family filled with pastors and missionaries and people who follow God.  But they are all traced back to great-grandparents who honored God.  What a legacy to leave!

Have you thought of how you live now can affect future generations?

This post is linked with Word-Filled Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

This and That

Genesis 35:16-39

Something I have been learning in my life is how there are little things from my past that may seem insignificant that come back later.  These could be things I have done well or mistakes I made that have caused consequences.  Sometimes, they are things that I never did yet they still have an affect on my life.  Sometimes it is something where I was being foolish and I learned a lesson that helps me later.  Whatever it is, our past does affect our future - positive or negative.  When we are in Christ, we do have the wonderful work He does in us that takes both the good and the bad and makes it into something God can use.  Today, the verses I am reading don't seem like there is a huge lesson in them, but I just want to point out how there are some events that have happened that may have been a factor in events that happen in Genesis 37.  Please read Genesis 35:16-39.

The first thing we read is the death of Rachel, who is the beloved wife of Jacob.  She dies while giving birth to Benjamin.  Rachel named him Ben-omi as she died, which means son of my sorrow; however, Jacob called him Benjamin, which means son of my right hand.  That is a very significant name because the right hand was a place of honor.  So, Jacob bestowed an honor to Benjamin that probably belonged to his eldest son, Reuben.  This was probably in honor of Rachel because he loved her so much, but it probably didn't sit well with all his sons.

The other thing that I noticed is the one verse mention of Reuben sleeping with his father's concubine and the fact that Jacob heard about it.  We don't get any personal information about whether or not Reuben was in love with her or if it was an act of rebellion, so we cannot say what the motive is.  However, what we can know is that this was a thing that would be interpreted as a great disrespect toward his father.  It is seems that the writer wanted to make sure that it got mentioned because even though it wasn't given a lot of attention in the Bible, it was significant.  I can't help but wonder if it played another part in Jacob's favoritism of Joseph that we will read about later in Genesis.  Events such as Rachel's death and Reuben's failure to respect his father probably played a role in Jacob's clinging to Joseph.

But, we need to be careful that while our past can affect our future, it doesn't have to dictate our future.  Our past doesn't have to determine poor choices because God determines our steps.  We are told in Proverbs 16:9 (NLT), "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps."  God ultimately decides if He will allow us to follow our own folly or if He is going to change our direction.  But what I can say for sure is that when we choose to follow God's direction (which is so much better than our own), our past whether good or bad will be used for God's work.  God makes disasters turn into a thing of beauty and His glory shines through.  All we need to do is give Him our past.

Do you allow the past to affect your decisions, or does God affect your decisions?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday and Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Full Circle

Genesis 35:1-15

There are times in our lives when it seems that God has brought us full circle and He reveals it to us in such a special way.  Sometimes we don't see it right away, and it is when we are taking account of our life we see moments where God has brought us full circle.  But when God does this, we are not the same person we were when we started out.  This isn't because we are older and everyone changes over time, the change is because of what God has done in us.  We are literally not the same person; we react differently and our priorities have completely changed.  Jacob experienced a very powerful full circle moment that I want to look at today.  Please read Genesis 35:1-15.

Just after a horrible incident with Dinah and her brothers' reaction brought them to the need to move away from the area.  God told Jacob to go back to Bethel, where he had an incredible moment with God.  It was when Jacob was at Bethel so many years before that God revealed Himself to Jacob and promised protection over him.  God had promised that He would fulfill his promise to Abraham through him.  After that moment, Jacob named the place Bethel.  In Genesis 28:20-21 (NLT), Jacob made this vow, "If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God."  Fast forward back to Genesis 35 and we see that God had protected him and had always provided for him.  We even see a reference to Rebekah's nurse dying, which tells us that he had made it back to his father's home.

Notice what God says to Jacob in verses 10-12.  He blesses Jacob and called him Israel and reminded him of his promise.  God had brought Jacob full circle to show him how much God had been with him and that he was a new person as a result.  It almost seemed as if God was reminding him of his vow as well.  In verse three, Jacob even told his family, "He has been with me wherever I have gone."  And Jacob also told his family to get rid of all idols and to purify themselves.  Just the act of going to Bethel was a reminder to Jacob that God was his God forever.  Jacob came back to Bethel a man changed by God and as a man who knew that God was His God.

How about you?  What has God done in your life to remind you of the commitment you made to Him when you claimed Jesus the Lord of your life?  Where has God brought you from, and how has He brought you back a different person?  How have you seen God's hand on your life?

This post is linked with Monday Musings and Sharing His Beauty.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Revenge

Genesis 34:13-31

Human nature leans toward revenge when we or someone we love have been hurt deeply.  But, revenge is never the best solution to take when we have been hurt because it leads to new problems that sometimes put in a situation that is just as bad or worse.  Yesterday, I explored the first part of the story where Shechem raped Jacob's daughter, Dinah.  After raping her, he fell in love with her and wanted to marry her.  The problem was the order of things; he first was only following his desires and didn't care about how he was hurting Dinah.  He and his dad pleaded with Jacob and Dinah's brothers to allow Shechem to marry Dinah, which is where we will pick up the story today.  Please read Genesis 34:13-31.

In these verses, we see so many problems!  First, yesterday I mentioned that when we are following our human desires we will be hurting more than ourselves.  Not only was Dinah hurt, but her entire family was affected.  Shechem's rash actions led to all the men in his city being killed and the women and children taken into captivity.  Second, we see that Jacob's wealth was a point of desire for the entire town and they would do whatever it took to have a share of that wealth.  Third, we see that there were undesired consequences to the revenge that was dished out.  Jacob pointed out that because of their vengeful actions, they would probably have to leave the area in order for the family to be safe.

Revenge is never the solution.  Revenge wasn't helping Dinah to heal or gain back her virginity.  I guess in a sense it let Dinah see how valued she was among her brothers; however, they could have shown that to her in other ways.  Revenge meant that their family would no longer be welcomed in that area.  Revenge is just another form of acting out of our human desires.  The problem is that God says that is not something that we are to take into our own hands.  Romans 12:18-20 (NLT) says, "Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.  Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,  'I will take revenge; I will pay them back,' says the Lord.  Instead, 'If your enemies are hungry, feed them.  If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.'" 

The thing that I have learned so strongly is that when I do not act on my desire for revenge and instead trust that God will take care of it, something happens to my heart.  I have just opened my heart for forgiveness.  When are hearts are focused on revenge, we will be bound by bitterness and rage.  We are able to forgive when we give up our right for vengeance and give it to God.  But that isn't the response that makes a lot of sense to the world.  Revenge makes sense because it appears to be seeking justice.  However, it is important to remember that revenge and justice are not equal.  Besides, who among us is perfect enough to claim that they deserve no punishment?  If we define justice according to revenge's standards, we would all be condemned to death; but God in His amazing and expanse love chose forgiveness instead.  Because of Jesus's willingness to die even though He was perfect, we have been given a new life.  So, if God's response to us is forgiveness through Christ, what should our response be?

Are you seeking vengeance for a past hurt, or are you willing to die to that desire and give it to God?

This post is linked with Spiritual Sundays.

Friday, August 3, 2012

What Wasn't His

Genesis 34:1-12

There are times when we face difficulties because of someone else's behavior.  There are times when a person's desire for something will cause them to take something from you that isn't theirs.  This can be something as simple as stealing property from you or more complex such as stealing your dignity.  If you have ever had anything stolen from you, you know that you feel defiled because your privacy has been disregarded.  Today, I am looking at a tragedy that happened to Jacob's daughter, Dinah; please read Genesis 34:1-12.

Reading these verses, I understand how devastating this was for Dinah.  As one who had been victimized as a child, I also understand that this is something that not only affects the victim but it affects the entire family.  We see this in these verses; however, tomorrow we will read further and see how greatly it affected Dinah's brothers.  The problem with what Shechem did was that he was only thinking of his desires at that moment.  He behaved in a way to please his desires and then later wanted marry Dinah.  James warns us of this very thing in James 1:14-15 (NLT), "Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.  These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death."  Shechem couldn't blame his actions on Dinah's beauty or on the fact that she was alone.  Shechem's actions came from his own desires that he allowed to take over.

Unfortunately, his actions didn't affect just him; they hurt Dinah and her family.  In this culture, Dinah was defiled and now would probably never marry.  This was such a horrible thing to do!  But we need to be careful as well, because when we allow our desires to take first place in our thoughts, we will hurt others around us as well.  We will take something that doesn't belong to us because we are only thinking of ourselves.  What is worst of all, when we are pleasing our desires, we are also putting our desires in God's place in our hearts.  We have stolen the place that God not only deserves but belongs to Him.  This is why sin gives birth to death.  Let us keep God in first place in our hearts, which not only brings Him the praise that is His, but it also keeps us from pleasing our human desires.

Has pleasing your own desires stolen God's place in your heart?

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Identity

Genesis 33

Earlier this week, I explored how at times God brings us to a greater understanding of His love for us by having us face our fears.  When we face our fears in Christ, we see that God is with us and protects us from harm.  We find that things may seem devastating; however, we are not destroyed.  That is only by the power of God!  I had been reading about Jacob preparing to meet his brother Esau after running away from him 20 years before.  I also looked at how he wrestled with God the night before, which ended with a blessing of a new name; a name that means God fights.  Today, the story continues; please read Genesis 33 (it is not a long chapter).

Notice the first few words of this chapter: "Jacob looked up and there was Esau..."  What was Jacob doing that caused him to look up?  He was walking away from the place where he wrestled with God.  He had been up all night wrestling, and he walked away a changed man.  When he looked up, there was Esau.  But notice how changed Jacob was.  This was the person who had bought his brother's birthright years before and he tricked his father into giving him his brother's blessing.  He did whatever it took to get ahead and now he was calling himself his brother's servant.  He referred to his brother as his lord.  What a changed man!  Instead of trying to dominate, he had become humble.

When we have an encounter with God, we are changed.  Looking at Jacob's life, we can see that he had a couple of encounters with God that caused life-long changes and each change brought him closer to the person that could bow down before his brother in total humility.  The same can happen in our lives as well.  When we have made God the Lord of our life, we will be changed over time.  Status in this world will fade in importance as we learn to value our relationship with God.  Notice what Jacob did at the end of this chapter; he named the altar he set up at Shechem El Elohe Israel.  That name means "God, the God of Israel."  There are a couple of things that is in that name.  First, Jacob now claimed his new name: Israel.  That is important because he believed in the new identity that God claimed on his life.  Second, Israel was telling the world that God was his god.  When we are in Christ, we also have a new identity because we are now a child of God.  We can tell the world God is the God of (your name).

Is God your god?  Do you claim the new identity you have in Christ?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday and the Grace Cafe.