The Story

Chapter 29: Paul’s Mission

When Saul of Tarsus, who later became known as Paul, saw the resurrected Jesus on the Damascus Road, he converted to Christianity. He made three long missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire, planting churches, preaching the gospel, and giving strength and encouragement to early Christians. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, Paul is credited as the author of 13 of them. While he was proud of his Jewish heritage, Paul saw that the gospel was for the Gentiles as well. Paul was martyred for his faith in Christ by the Romans, about 64 or 65 A.D. He epitomizes the well-led Christian life; but we see that he did not fall upon it by accident or coincidence. Once this happened, he lived his life to fulfill his purpose…his mission.

Paul realized that he was called to spread the good news of faith & salvation and God’s heart for the world. He did not go haphazardly wandering into cities, through the wilderness and generally looking for just anyone who would listen. He was intentional and determined about where he planned to go. He would first go to the synagogues; which made good sense being that it was generally in the heart of the city.

We know this often spelled trouble for Paul and Barnabas. After an invitation to speak in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, they are invited to say more at a second Sabbath meeting. This time, “…almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” Awesome! Why? Because Paul, ever-living out his mission, ignited the call to mission in others; as we know, word-of-mouth is sometimes a great way of reaching others when the mission field seems impossible. On the other hand, if they had no interest or refused to hear what he had come to say, he would move on to the Gentiles. He was very clear in his teachings about Jesus’ message without putting his own personal spin on what was true to make it more palatable or to make it easier to convert non-believers.

Paul, as with most of God’s messengers, was met with outright scorn, persecution and unimaginable physical abuse. He and Barnabas were even thrown into prison. While Paul resisted those against him, he also resisted being idolized. He kept everything in perspective. Intentional. It is hard to not feel sympathy for the trials of Paul; however, God used those trials to further validate the cause.

One of Paul’s most famous statements is: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV), reminding us that our power to live the Christian life comes from God, not ourselves. Paul also recounted a “thorn in his flesh” that kept him from becoming conceited over the priceless privilege God had entrusted to him. In saying, “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:2, NIV), Paul was sharing one of the greatest secrets of staying faithful: absolute dependence on God.

Much of the Protestant Reformation was based on Paul’s teaching that people are saved by grace, not works: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-“ (Ephesians 2:8, NIV) This truth frees us to stop striving to be good enough and to instead rejoice in our salvation, gained by the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

We, too, are called to that brand of Christianity – whether we are new Christians or life-long. We are called to think and plan and then act in ways that serve God.

  • What might be different in our lives if we were deliberate about our faith and spreading the Word?
  • What conversations might take place if we were unafraid of what persecutions we may face?
  • How could you better serve with the gifts and talents give to you by God?

Let’s all allow Paul to be a model to us for what it means to live missionally, attuned to God’s will over our lives!

Cheryl Grant

Chapter 24: No Ordinary Man

As a new writer for this blog, I feel Tom Rich was amazingly polite in giving me this chapter to begin my WRCC blogging career. I suppose, based on this chapter’s content, there was some discussion in the Rich household that probably ended up something like this: “Well, this Wasson guy could probably use all the help we can give him…I got it! CHAPTER 24!

Chapter 24 gives us a one-chapter synopsis, a highlight reel of the amazingness of our Savior. Such things included in the chapter are events with such a high impact level that they are some of the most famous aspects of the Scriptures. Parables, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ many miracles, and several key interactions with the disciples, are included in this chapter.

As I was preparing my thoughts for this posting, I found myself thinking back to a three-year span of my life, where I had as much impact on the world for the rest of history, as Jesus had done in this three-year period. And…well… I am still waiting for those three years that can even come close to comparing. In fact, I bet that if you were to do the same sort of self-reflection about your own life and try to imagine the best three years of your life, having a worldwide, ongoing impact, such as these three years in Jesus’ life, that there would be none of us who could honestly say we even come remotely close.

There is no doubt that Jesus is worthy of every ounce of praise we give him. In fact, reading Chapter 24 made me fall deeper in love with our Savior. You know why? Because, as he went through this part of his life, his main focus was on teaching about his Heavenly Father, not just on doing miracles. He performed miracles because he loved people, not so that he could have a highlight reel. He did nothing in his entire life for show. Every single ounce of his being was to glorify God through his life and actions. The Scriptures even give us an insight into the primary focus by the way this chapter begins. Taken from Mark 4:1, “Again Jesus began to teach by the lake.” It is the use of the word, again, that hit me like an Andrew Luck TD strike in the chest, because I was quickly reminded that Jesus’ teachings were not his hobby — they were his life.

Jesus, clearly, was successful at satisfying his goals for coming to Earth. I think — actually, I know — that it isn’t just because he is the Son of God. Granted, I am sure that didn’t hurt his chances at success, but still. Jesus had three attributes in his life that, if we were to each emulate, we could also be a little less ordinary ourselves.

  1. Jesus was all loving. He had, as mentioned at the end of the chapter, a “rock-solid” sense of who he was. This self-confidence in all he did allowed him to do everything with an overarching love that dictated his actions. I speak for myself here, but I know that there are times when I struggle to find peace in a situation and if I approached it with love, I know I would have a much better chance of a successful outcome. I bet, today if not sooner, that we will all have a situation arise where we can act with love, or without. Try love.
  1. Jesus lived each day with an unrelenting passion to achieve his goals. What is keeping you from having the life you want to have? If you are like me, you are not pursuing your passion with everything you have. We all have something that drives us, but we also have something that is keeping us from “getting after it.” Chase your passion with reckless abandon, and if you do not know how to get started, or what that means to you, pray passionately. God will answer.
  1. Focus on the forever. Jesus worked endlessly to prepare all of us for the eternity that awaits us in heaven. He endured more, pursuing his work, than we will ever endure, and he was able to do that because his focus was not on the now, His focus was on the forever. I know there is a lot going on in the news these days, and I know we each have so much going on personally, but I also know that the more we focus on the now, instead of the forever, we become a little less salty, our city on the hill becomes a little less bright, and we will all become a little less like Jesus.

Though there are so many more ways that Jesus proved to everyone he was “No Ordinary Man,” there is comfort to be taken from the fact that with a daily focus, prayer, and immersing ourselves in the Lord’s word, we too, can become a little less ordinary.

In His name,

Eric J. Wasson

Chapter 20: The Beauty and Courage of the Queen

A few random thoughts regarding Chapter 20 of The Story:

First, this chapter reminds us of how women were considered more as property than people. King Xerxes, like other kings of the time, had absolute control over his subjects. Whatever the king said, happened; whatever or whomever the king wanted, he got. Although many women in many countries have more rights and legal protections today, we must never forget that the tendency of our sinful hearts is still to treat both men and women as objects – things, really, to help us get what we want. Our prayer should always be that God, with the help of the Holy Spirit, would give us pure eyes and pure hearts to see and treat people as he sees them, as unique, special and priceless creatures crowned with his glory, made in his image.

Second, this story of Queen Esther is one of my favorite Bible stories, because the good guys win and the bad guys lose. Esther’s obedience to her Uncle Mordecai (and by extension, obedience to God) yielded a wonderful life-saving result for the Jews throughout King Xerxes’ kingdom.

But Esther risked her very life by going to King Xerxes without being summoned. She was quite aware that Queen Vashti had earlier been banished from the king’s presence for disobeying his command to appear before all his guests. She knew the king’s law, that anyone who came into the king’s inner court without being summoned was to be put to death, unless the king extended the gold scepter. She had no way to know if her effort to intervene on behalf of her fellow Jews would be successful. It took a big leap of faith to do what Mordecai had asked.

Third, Mordecai’s pivotal statement to Esther resonates deeply with me:

“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

This is a strong reminder to all of us that our station in life is no accident; we are where we are by the grace and sovereignty of Almighty God. Think about it: how much control did you have over which family, country, or year you were born into? Did you choose your parents or your siblings? Did you choose whether to be born in the 20th century or in a much more ancient culture? Did you choose whether your parents were financially well-off or mired in poverty?

Nope. Not one bit.

We fool ourselves with the idea that we’re in control of our lives, but when, in casual conversation, someone asks me, “Got everything under control?” I usually respond, “No, because control is an illusion.”

Both Mordecai and Esther had faith that God would deliver his people from harm. He had done it before, many times. They did not know how God would do it, but they placed their trust in the Lord of Heaven’s Armies to deliver them again, one way or another – ceding ultimate control of the situation to God alone.

Finally, Proverbs says that pride goes before a fall, and certainly there is no plainer example of that principle than in the arrogant and boastful life of Haman. We cheer when Haman gets his just desserts; that was a good day for the Jews. But it should also serve as a clear warning that pride is a sneaky enemy that can ruin and debilitate any and every area of our lives.

Many pages have already been written and many sermons already preached about Queen Esther, and for good reason; the lessons we can draw from this story are nearly endless. I encourage you to read this story more than once and let God’s Holy Spirit shine a light on your own life, to purge the evil and cultivate the good that he wants to grow in you.

Reading along with you,

Lew Middleton

Chapter 18 – Daniel in Exile

Trust in God.

We hear and read these words often, yet our own sinful nature doesn’t want to comply.

When confronted with challenges and trials, we often turn to our own abilities or the abilities of others to solve our problems instead of turning to God in faith for help. It seems that we often turn to God only after we have found that our own efforts are not working and we desperately need an answer.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego certainly found themselves in a challenging situation and could have taken the easy way out. Surrounded by unbelievers and commanded by the ungodly King Nebuchadnezzar to worship an idol of gold or face death, these men demonstrated an unshakeable faith in God and refused to worship the idol. When threatened with being tossed into a blazing furnace, they responded in faith that God would deliver them from the furnace. Even more remarkable is that these men were willing to accept death if God did not deliver them from the flames. Their trust in God was so strong they saw their situation as a win-win no matter what happened.

Daniel found himself in equally challenging circumstances. While King Darius had high regard for Daniel’s abilities, he allowed himself to be influenced by those who hated Daniel. Prompted by the other administrators who were jealous of Daniel’s abilities and who conspired against him, King Darius issued a decree that in essence outlawed prayer to God and demanded that everyone worship Darius. Daniel knew of the decree but continued to pray to and worship God. The king, trapped by his own decree, had Daniel thrown into the lion’s den.

We know how this story ends. Daniel was not eaten by the lions. He trusted in God’s perfect justice that no harm would be done to him since he was innocent.

Not only did God save these men but he also demonstrated his power and sovereignty to ungodly kings in such a dramatic way that both King Nebuchadnezzar and King Darius acknowledged the power of God. Nebuchadnezzar was moved to issue a decree that nothing was to be said against God and Darius issued a decree that the people of his kingdom were to fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

Even if we are not facing the life-or-death circumstances Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel were confronted with, we daily face the choice of trusting God in all circumstances big or small. God is amazing and blesses us often with good things when we place our trust in him, but what about those “fiery furnace or lion’s den” moments in our own lives when things don’t always happen the way we want them to? The greater test of our faith is in these moments when, like the men in these stories, we trust whatever outcome occurs knowing that God will always have our best interests at heart. Jeremiah 29:11-12 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen.”

Trust God in all circumstances. He will always be with you.

May God bless you,

Mike

Chapter 17 – The Kingdoms’ Fall

Chapter 17 begins with the reign of an unrighteous king and ends with the complete destruction of Jerusalem. We have the portrait of kings: some bad, some not so bad, that leads to God’s wrath toward his people. But this chapter also shows God’s mercy and love. We are once again shown the cycles that are produced within the lives of God’s people, and we are directed to the idea of legacy.

Manasseh became king and reversed the good that his father, Hezekiah, had done. He brought back the detestable worship of idols and profaned the name of the Lord. The people of Israel refused to listen to the Lord. It was only under great duress that Manasseh repented and turned to God. Manasseh’s son, Amon, turned his back on God as well, followed by the spiritual renewal of Josiah. Josiah’s God-centered reign gave way to Jehoahaz, and shortly thereafter Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim’s son Johoiachin, became king and followed in his father’s wicked ways. Last but not least was Zedekiah, who continued the evil precedent left to him by his forefathers. The cycle of good king, bad king had completely taken its toll. Israel was crushed by a number of outside forces.

It’s not as if Israel had not had warning that this outcome was to happen. The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel had their ministries during this time period. Their message was clear; repent and turn back to the Lord or face destruction, but God’s people refused to listen. It is always advisable to heed wise counsel.

The Christian life can often be viewed much like that of the Israelites during this time. Although we don’t like to look at it this way, we often wander from the presence of God seeking other things to focus our life on. The job, school and family are all good things, but they can  become too much of a focus and rob God of the attention he deserves. So events in life begin to point us back to God. We repent, redouble our efforts towards God, only to end up in the same situation somewhere down the road. It turns out our lives are not so very different from the Israelites. So how do we end the cycle of falling away and returning to God and find the rest only he can provide? By spending time with him. By listening to him. By following his word. Doing all of these things on a consistent basis. Only then does the cycle cease to control our lives as we live as children of God.

Chapter 17 also makes one think about the concept of “legacy.” Each one of these kings had the opportunity to pass on a legacy to his successor. Whether it was a father or prophet, each king had someone in his life pointing back to God. It was up to the king to choose if he would follow God or not, but the option was always there.

As Christians we have this ability also. There are people in our lives that we influence, be it family, friends or co-workers, who see just how we react in everyday situations. Do we get frustrated and go our own way, or do we react in a way that honors our Heavenly Father? Do we act this way on a consistent basis? The people around us watch us a little more closely when we say we follow Jesus. Over time our collective actions begin to form a legacy. It is how we are remembered for what we do and not just what we say.

Whether we live in the cycle or not, we still leave a legacy. It can be good or bad. We can choose to pass on our beliefs and convictions to those around us or we can stay silent. We can lead those whom God has surrounded us with for him or we can become followers in the world around us.  We can break the seemingly never-ending cycle and begin to live a life with a legacy worth following.

Chris Taylor 

 

 

Chapter 16 – The Beginning of the End (of The Kingdom of Israel)

In the northern kingdom of Israel, King Hoshea was a traitor to both his people and to the Assyrian king who had appointed him. Israel had known many evil kings and continued to worship idols as they turned further away from God; so he allowed them to be taken prisoner by Assyria. As these events were occurring, there was a new king on the scene, Hezekiah, to the south in Judah. Only 25 years old, Hezekiah was completely obedient to God and destroyed all of the false idols in the land. In return, God made him successful in whatever he did. Because he was unlike the king of the north, he rebelled against the king of Assyria and refused to serve him.

The Assyrian king sent three of his men to intimidate Hezekiah. In closing, they said, “Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?” Great faith or not, this must have been daunting, because at that time, the answer was no.

Not many people can relate to a threat of this magnitude, but most of us can relate to feeling overwhelmed, outnumbered and afraid. Human beings are all vulnerable to threats of painful and tragic events that are out of our control. We cannot control many illnesses, natural disasters, death, etc. But the question for us is, how do we respond to them? How do we recover? Do we surrender and lose hope or do we cling to our faith and follow the example of Hezekiah?

Hezekiah was not rash. He sought counsel from the prophet Isaiah. He was afraid and he was desperate. Isaiah was a man whom God had spoken through many times and he assured him that the Lord would destroy both Sennacherib and his army. When the king of Cush was about to march out against him, Sennacherib again sent messengers to Hezekiah with a letter that the god he depended on would not deliver his kingdom.

This seems to have signaled an imminent attack and was the boiling point for Hezekiah himself, for he acted. He did not seem to take the threat personally but seemed instead to be incensed at the blasphemous words spoken against God. This is a place where things might have gone differently if Hezekiah had not been a man of great faith. He did not simply fall to his knees and cry out in prayer. He went up to the temple of the Lord and prayed. “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.” He went on to ask for deliverance.

Ever faithful and consistent in his pursuit of love and compassion for his children, the Lord heard Hezekiah’s prayer. That very night, the angel of the Lord went out and put 185,000 of the enemy to death. The next morning when this was discovered, the remaining Assyrians, including Sennacherib, retreated. It is difficult to imagine what they must have been thinking. It certainly would have rendered them terrified. Imagine the supreme arrogance and power they must have been feeling before they slept the night before. They likely had a great feast and party not just in anticipation of their victory but their complete faith in it.

There are many times when God uses certain people to make an example of others and for others. Divine intervention, as we now call it, is undoubtedly the only way good King Hezekiah could have defeated the Assyrians.

Soon after things began to get back to normal, Isaiah reminded the Israelites to follow the Lord. But they turned away from God repeatedly and, as they did, things continued to get worse for them as a nation. Despite their disobedience, God delivered a promise through Isaiah. A new King, a suffering Servant, a Savior, the Messiah, who would bring eternal life in heaven for those who believe.

Yes, the Lord’s pursuit of us is awe-inspiring as is his desire to have a personal relationship with each and every human being, great and small, and provide us with a Savior who not only forgives our human nature but delights in us!

Cheryl Grant

Chapter 14: A Kingdom Torn In Two

“Direction – not intention – determines our destination.”

That’s the theme of Pastor Andy Stanley’s book, “The Principle of the Path.” In essence, Stanley’s claim is that where we are in our lives is a result of the many decisions we have made, which have led us down the path where we now find ourselves. Each decision represents another step on the path. If we are making poor decisions, that leads to a poor direction and a life filled with regret. If we are making good decisions, we are following a good direction and are much more likely to live the life we want and that God wants.

As we consider the importance of forming character, we need to keep the example of Solomon firmly in mind. Perhaps there is no one else in Scripture whose life presents such vivid contrast between choosing the right path and choosing the wrong path and consequences that followed.

Early in his life, Solomon’s heart was eager to please God. This led him to make wise decisions, and these decisions led him to walk a path that pleased God, which resulted in Israel becoming a great and powerful nation. Other nations and their leaders were also blessed repeatedly by the wisdom of Solomon.

Later in life, however, Solomon chose the allure of his 700 wives and 300 concubines, many of whom were from nations about whom God had said to Israel, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after other gods.” The warning could not have been any clearer; but Solomon made the conscious decision to marry them anyway.

Step by step, over time, Solomon became less interested in pleasing God and more interested in pleasing his many wives and concubines. This led him to adopt worship practices that God abhorred. Indeed, the Scripture says, “The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.” God then promised that Solomon’s kingdom would be split into two.

Chapter 14 of The Story is a sad and disappointing account of what happened to Israel after Solomon’s death. But there’s an important aspect of the principle of the path we need to pay attention to in this chapter: The choices we make, and the path we take, affect not only our own lives and the lives of our contemporaries, but also the lives of our descendants. It’s true – what we decide today will have consequences that outlive us into succeeding generations.

For the nation of Israel, Solomon’s decision to please his wives instead of God meant nothing less than civil war. One united nation devolved into two warring factions who bitterly hated each other. Perhaps the saddest outcome was that most of the succeeding Israelite kings were just as bad, or worse, as their ancestor Solomon.

When we find ourselves in a tough spot, our first instinct is to plead with God to get us out of the mess. But this is not how God deals with us. Instead of looking for a quick escape, we need to realize that we’re on the wrong path and that we’ve been on the wrong path for some time. And then we need to turn around and get back to the point where we can start going down the right path.

This “turning around” is the meaning of repentance. Repentance is much more than saying you’re sorry; it’s changing direction. It means realizing you’re lost. Most important, it means agreeing with the Holy Spirit that there’s no way you can accomplish this directional change all by yourself; you must have God’s help. You must ask the Spirit, who lives inside you, to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. God will certainly do his part, and we must also do our part by putting one foot in front of the other and begin, step by step, to go down the right path.

And it will probably take more time than you think.

May we always keep the story of Solomon in mind as we consider the far-reaching consequences of the choices we make each day. May we learn to lean heavily on God’s Holy Spirit to create an inner desire to please him, and not ourselves, with those choices.

Lew Middleton

Chapter 6: Wandering

Photo Credit: Eric C Bryan via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Eric C Bryan via Compfight cc

At the end Chapter 6 of The Story, Moses gives a final motivational speech to the Israelites, reminding them of the need for an attitude of gratitude. Moses reminds the Israelites of the many blessings they had received from God. God had brought them out of Egypt, freed them from slavery, guided them through the wilderness, and provided for their needs along the way. Signs of God’s presence, power, love, and goodness were all around the Israelites and yet they persistently complained about their circumstances. Worse still, they acted in direct disobedience to God.

There are several instances of ingratitude, lack of trust, and disobedience on the part of the Hebrews on the journey to the land God had promised them. For example, God provided manna for the Israelites when they were hungry, but eventually they complained and wanted meat. On another occasion, as they moved closer to the promised land Moses sent scouts to explore the land of Canaan. When the scouts returned from their 40-day journey they described the rich land as flowing with milk and honey just as God had promised. However, instead of encouraging the people to press forward into the land, the Israelites came up with excuses for why this could not be done: the people were too powerful for them, the cities were well fortified, giants occupied the land.

In both instances God’s anger burned against the Israelites and he used severe measures to discipline them. When they complained about eating manna and demanded meat, God gave them what they wanted — to such an extent that the people were struck with a plague and many died. When they refused to enter Canaan and wanted to return to Egypt, God did not allow any of the older generation which he had led out of Egypt to see the promised land of Canaan. None of the ones who treated God with contempt lived to see the land.

What is the lesson here? God was testing the Israelites. He wanted them to trust him, obey him, and give thanks to him for the blessings they had received in the challenging circumstances they encountered. God’s blessings should have been reason enough for the Israelites to trust God, but their lack of patience, fear, and disobedience got the better of them.

In applying this to our lives we should be alert to our own complaining, which can easily work its way into our lives. I know it does in mine. Further, when we fail to put our trust in God and insist on doing things our way, we risk suffering unpleasant consequences. When we do make mistakes and suffer consequences for our sin, we need to remind ourselves of the unending love God has for us. His discipline comes from this amazing love. Ultimately, God uses the circumstances and trials in our lives to shape our character. As we learn to humble ourselves before him, express thankfulness for his blessings, ask for his guidance, and trust him in all circumstances, we will discover that God has the very best in mind for us.

God’s Blessings,

Mike Huser

Thursday Reflection: Chapter4: Deliverance

As I was reading Chapter 4 and reflecting on the Egyptians and Israelites many thoughts came to mind.  Thoughts of how incredibly stubborn and ruthless Pharaoh was when it came to the Israelites.  Pharaoh was a powerful man that could make final decisions.  Being rude and arrogant and just right down hateful to the Israelites because he didn’t know or respect their God was just evil.  The Egyptians forced the Israelites to do their work, not listening to their needs, and basically keeping them in daily oppression was harsh and unjustified.

Moses and Aaron took their message to Pharaoh, as directed by the Lord, to state the Israelites’ case.  What was the result?  More hard work and more oppression.  There are times when I feel hardships too.  At times things appear worse and I feel as if my nose is just above the water in a raging storm and I’m treading as fast as I can to get to the other side.  I think these “tough” times are the times I feel very close to the Lord.  He wants us to come to Him and depend on Him, trusting and obeying.   He has delivered me in so many areas and I have to trust and remember that He will continue to deliver me from difficult situations.

I am a good whiner.  I believe the Israelites were good at whining too.  Afterall, they whined to get bread, meat and water.  Duh, did they really think that the God who delivered them from the Egyptians was going to take them out to the dessert and not provide for them?   We thank Him for our meals each time we sit down to eat.  We lift up prayers for the things we need.  In the Lord’s prayer, we pray “Give us today the food we need”, and we know that God is going to provide our daily needs.  Why do we sometimes doubt?  Why do we second guess Him sometimes?  We can’t provide certain things, but, He can.   And God will generously provide all you need.  Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 2 Corinthians 8

I have to come clean, there are days when I am just like the Israelites, feeling sorry for myself because of something I think I need and God doesn’t provide it in my timing or at all.  I’m reminded in His Word, that he will generously provide all I need.

So today, let’s all thank Him.

Thank you Lord for all you do for us and for all our provisions.  Thank you for your good Word, for allowing it to be alive in our lives and how you walk with us throughout our days.  Help us to be reminded of how you are the mighty one and only “I AM” and our deliverer!

And all God’s children said: Amen!

Sherri Stetnish
Connection Director

The Story – Chapter 3: “Joseph: From Slave to Deputy Pharaoh”

When dissecting the meaning and message of the Joseph story, I’m drawn to the image of a word puzzle. If ever there was a particular Bible story that contained more intertwined themes, I would be hard pressed to find it. Let’s look at this word-puzzle-of-a-story and see how many theme words we can find hidden in it.

I find such words (in no particular order) as deceit, jealousy, pride, arrogance, sibling rivalry, anger, sin, fear, forgiveness, salvation, redemption, family values, greed, humility, dreamer, favoritism, revenge, rebellion, and punishment. And, the list could go on the more you look. These themes are scattered throughout the Bible and find their final meaning and fulfillment in the Good News of Jesus in the New Testament. There the lessons are revealed as we see parallels and foreshadowing of Christ take place throughout the Old Testament.

We have all experienced the interesting dynamics of family life. Some of us have endured and survived great dysfunction in the process and have even seen family life disintegrate. What about Joseph and his large family – how did they get to this point?

Sometimes size of family doesn’t matter. We’ve already seen some of these themes play out earlier between brothers, Cain and Abel, then between Esau and Jacob, Joseph’s father. It seems that the same issues run in the family and just get passed on, except in Joseph’s case, on a much larger scale, as he has 11 brothers.

As in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), this story of Joseph is as much about the sons as it is about the father. Jacob, the father, has a history of deceitful behavior by playing into his mother’s favored status; he cheats his brother, Esau, out of his birthright by fooling his father, Isaac (Genesis 27:1-40). He continues the trait of favoritism by giving Joseph a bright coat to wear. And, in his young, immature way as a dreamer, Joseph flaunts himself to his brothers saying they would bow to him. Maybe this was just childish acting out of his royal aspirations, but the brothers had enough of his taunting dreams. “That little twerp,” they thought. Their move that was a plot to get rid of their annoying, obnoxious brother was also an act of rebellion and deceit against their father playing favorites. They were about to end that family tradition.

Just like the Roman soldiers stripping Jesus of his robe and vying for it, the brothers strip Joseph of his brightly colored coat, a controversial gift from the father, Jacob. In casting Joseph into a cistern for three days and bringing him back up to sell him into slavery, we can relate this to Joseph foreshadowing the death and resurrection of Christ. His brothers, like the apostles, abandon Joseph and symbolically, through their brother Judah (note the similarity in name and behavior to the apostle and traitor Judas), sell him off into slavery for 20 shekels of silver.

What happens next, after this treachery, is the brothers’ deceit about Joseph to their father (again, the family trait), and Joseph’s journey to Egypt where he resurrects himself through his God-given gift of interpreting dreams for the Pharoah – reminiscent of what we will see later on in the book of Daniel. Joseph rises in prominence and power in a country that would become a major oppressor of the Jewish people. Joseph proves to be quite adept at handling his role which, because of the famine, puts him in front of his unsuspecting brothers again.

Many of us might disagree with the way Joseph dealt with his brothers. However, Joseph had learned the principle of servant leadership and chose to show kindness and mercy to his family and forgive them – a Christ-like gesture of love and reconciliation. Looks like everyone has grown up and gone beyond pettiness to an all-embracing, unconditional love.

I think we all struggle with some, if not all, of these word themes in our lives. I know that life sure doesn’t always turn out the way we plan. We all hit bumps in the road and get sidetracked by detours. The following line from a John Lennon song sure speaks to me and resonates this reality – “Life is what happens while making other plans.”

So much of the Joseph story is our story. God involves himself in our journey back to him but not without difficulty. So many of these themes play out strongly in our lives. Seeing how God interacts in our lives and the lives of those around us (our extended family) in these stories in the Bible gives us hope and encouragement for a positive and pleasant outcome.

If we fast forward the lessons of this story up to the time of Jesus, we still see the squabbling going on even among the apostles. Three accounts (Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10: 35-45; Luke 9:46-48) in the gospels reveal that the message had still not sunk in. They were still arguing over favored status with Jesus, when he gently rebuked and reminded them that this type of jockeying for power and position was not to be in his kingdom – “But among you it will be different.”(Mark 10:43). This quote from Mark became the recurring mantra for me going through “The Journey” and helped me realize more fully that all followers of Jesus must have a servant’s heart. We all share together in God’s favored status of salvation. No need to bicker and quarrel! Love one another – we’re all part of God’s family.

Don’t stop – keep looking for more word themes that stand out and speak to you.

Praise God for his patient love, kindness, and mercy!

Your fellow traveler on the road to Heaven – we’re family, you know!
Pat McQuillan