When I’ve Reached My Limit

WHEN I’VE REACHED MY LIMIT!

And Jacob their father said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has come against me.” Then Reuben said to his father, “Kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.” Genesis 42:36-38

         Have you ever had a “That’s it, I quit!” moment? Over the long haul, you had held your tongue, you kept functioning, you stayed civil in a strained relationship, and you weren’t even aware that you were so fragile on the inside. But then it happened. It might have even been a little thing that sent you over the edge but there was no more elastic in your spirit to assume the weight of it. You snapped.

         Jacob’s breaking point was in this part of the story. Joseph is dead. Simeon has been seized by an Egyptian ruler and imprisoned. (None of them knew that the ruler was Joseph.) Now, in order to release Simeon, they must bring back another brother, the prized child of their father. Jacob’s soul rips the rest of the way. This was his limit and he declares there is no way that he will release Benjamin to anyone’s care but his own.

         Everyone has a limit. The issues vary. The amounts of stress vary. The ways each person abdicates his hope vary. Some cry. Some erupt with strong words. Some just walk away and never look back. Continue reading “When I’ve Reached My Limit”

Joy Of One Who Finds A Treasure

DO I RECOGNIZE THE TREASURE?

I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.  Psalm 119:162

When I think of discovering spoil, I picture a scene in the movie, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO.  Underneath the turquoise waters of an island called Monte Cristo, a penniless man (and his friend) discover the vast treasures of the lost ship SPARTA.  After diving into the shallow waters of a cave and discovering hundreds of trunks of gold, there is outrageous rejoicing. Coins are thrown into the air in celebration and there is dancing on the rocks because this treasure forever changes their future.   That’s what a good treasure does. Continue reading “Joy Of One Who Finds A Treasure”

Age and Guilt

AGE AND GUILT

Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. Genesis 42:21-13

         It appears at this point that Joseph’s brothers are accepting the responsibility for the hard times they are experiencing. They are reviewing their past sins against Joseph and are connecting the dots between wrongdoing and consequences. Wouldn’t everybody, given the same circumstances? That’s the question. Don’t most people, with age, own their mistakes?

         I can’t even count the numbers of people I’ve talked to who decided, after many decades, to confront an abuser from childhood. There was a kind of magical thinking that people in their senior years would admit the truth. It’s assumed that godly guilt would have set in at some point in their lives. But hopes for fairness and justice are smashed when the confrontation goes poorly. I’ve heard a comment like this more than I can count. “How could a man, at 67 years old, still deny that he did anything wrong?!”He does, and we will too if we’ve not bent our heart to the Teacher over the years. Truth can be shunned no matter what the age. Only a truth seeker will own his mistakes.

         One of the hardest parts of growing up is to see the adults of our lives; teachers, pastors, lawmakers, etc. with adult eyes. Our childhood vision begins to clear. With it comes the painful realization of someone who sinned against us. Thoughts of confrontation soon follow and when anger drives the timing of it, instead of the prompting of the Spirit of God, the results are usually heart-rending.

         Is there a way to tell ahead of time whether someone will be receptive to truth when confronted? While not entirely ironclad, I believe there is. Does that person have a track record of owning truth? Is the person humble? Have there been smaller things that the person has been willing to own and apologize for?

         The sad truth about people in general, even the elderly, is that ‘men love darkness rather than light’. And, ‘the way is narrow and few there be that find it’. In the midst of this reality though, you and I can pray for the Spirit of God to open blind eyes. God is powerful and prayer can till up hardened soil of unbelief. One last thing ~ confrontation should always occur on the other side of forgiveness When the heart is hot ~ keep silent.

Older doesn’t always mean wiser. Keep us from cynicism. Amen

Shrewd For The Sake Of Christ

SHREWD FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST

By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. Or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.” And he put them all together in custody for three days. Genesis 42:15-17

         When I hear the word shrewd, I don’t naturally think of it as a Christ-like attribute. It has negative connotations but there is such a thing as Spirit led shrewdness. Joseph made use of it here, not for self-protection, and not for revenge, but for kingdom purposes. He withheld information about his true identity and then went on to manipulate events for his brothers’ ultimate good. One theologian suggests that ‘Joseph played the role of a detective conducting a tough interrogation. He could not proceed with full transparency and expect to get accurate information from them.’

         The Hebrew word for shrewdness ‘ormah’ is translated as ‘good judgment’, ‘prudent’ or ‘clever’. (Proverbs 12:23; 13:16; 14:8; 22:3; and 27:12) Shrewdness is called for when I must do God’s work in hostile circumstances. Jesus instructed His disciples to be ‘shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves’. Although this is a life-saving spiritual skill, there is little instruction on how to do it. And without it, many Christians are led into danger. They lack critical discernment; they trust the wrong people and end up in captivity. I know. I was in such captivity for 22 years as I trusted wrong people in ministry.

         We are taught that a Christian should always be transparent, always be nice. If asked a question, we should be up front and answer it completely. But there are for varying circumstances. Openness and transparency should be reserved for those who earn it. I am to walk wisely as, once in a while, I am in proximity to someone who does not have God’s interest at heart. They have a track record for dealing treacherously with others. In my gut, I feel it would have negative consequences to be fully upfront with them. I find myself giving them partial truths, a kind of Joseph-answer, in order to protect kingdom enterprises that are fragile. If I am prayerful, void of personal agendas, I can rest in the assurance that shrewdness is wisdom.

         The danger here is to read this superficially and conclude that to be on God’s side is to condone all deceit. It should be the exception rather than the rule. Anger, unforgiveness, and personal agendas are signs that plans made with good judgment are skewed. I remember that Joseph had worked through betrayal. He had suffered well. The deception he employed was for his brother’s good, not for his need to make them pay. Ultimately, he knew that God making all of them into a nation hung in the balance. What he did, he did for God, not Himself.

Don’t let false guilt get in the way of sharp judgment. Amen

 

Spiritual Gifts and Heavy Price Tags

SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND HEAVY PRICE TAGS

Now Joseph was governor over the land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. Genesis 42:6

         How fun it is to be a child and have a dream that someday everyone will bow down to me. It’s hedonistic to picture it coming to pass. Power such as this is an opiate for a kid.

         Joseph’s dream was from God but the way he perceived it might happen was not; it would take many years. Joseph needed the maturity to handle spiritual power and his brothers needed the humility brought about by years of failure and hardship.

         Spiritual gifts are wonderful things but my flesh quickly skews how they should be used. I don’t realize that I’m to exercise my gifts as Jesus would if He lived through me. Instead, I am self-centered as I use them only to feel good. I am a young Joseph. I am wide-eyed and immature, unwilling to embrace the heavy price tags associated with them. Here are a few.

  • Teaching ~ I can teach what I want to teach and enjoy the accolades of others recognizing my giftedness. But God is supposed to choose the topics, choose the audience, and craft every word. I will be loved and I will be hated but He promises grace.
  • Shepherding ~ I can shepherd those I’m attracted to and feel good when I’m appreciated. But God wants me to restore the broken and confront the ungodly. I must relinquish my need for acceptance.
  • Leading ~ I can wear my power recklessly and lead others where I think they should go. I can enjoy being up front and having people answer to me but what about servant leadership? God calls me to lead by example. True spiritual power is about laying my life down.
  • Showing mercy ~ I am gratified when I am able to extend mercy to those I feel need it and deserve it. It’s rewarding to dry their tears. But God also asks me to show mercy to those I feel are undeserving. He will also call me to withhold mercy for someone’s good until He says it’s time to act. Drying another’s tears too quickly interferes with what He is trying to tell them.

         Spiritual gifts are wonderful things, aren’t they? Yes, but joy is found when I use them in a way that earns my Father’s approval. I follow Jesus by doing only what His Father tells me to do. Every gift is under His control. I will be loved and I will be hated. I will be embraced and I will be shunned. When I rise up under God’s anointing, I commit myself to experience every mountaintop and valley on the narrow road to glory.

Your gifts, Your way, through me. Amen

 

 

Loving Truth More Than Peace

LOVING TRUTH MORE THAN PEACE

Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” Genesis 42:7

         How painful would that moment be? Joseph has been far from home since he was a young boy. He’s missed his family but was also betrayed by most of them. Now, out of nowhere, the brothers who sold him into slavery are standing in front of him. I would imagine that part of him wanted to run and embrace them. They were a connection to home. Ah, but there was another part of him ~ the spiritual part that God had tutored. He was more God’s son than Jacob’s son. Time had broadened his perspective and he was able to find restraint; to inflict a wound that would lead to reconciliation.

         Have you ever had to wound someone for their own good? If you’ve been a parent, the answer is automatically yes. But how about a sibling, a friend, or someone you’re mentoring? Inflicting a saving wound out of love is difficult, especially when the other person has hurt you. How do you wound them without having a personal agenda to take vengeance? Only time with God, a long time, will prepare any of us to deal with them for their spiritual good, not our need for justice.

         I can imagine that Joseph was conflicted. He wanted to hurt them. He wanted to hug them. He wanted to make them pay. He wanted a family again. But he knew there could be no reconciliation without true remorse. A quick tearful reunion would not require them to search their own hearts. Only severe testing would unearth true feelings. Joseph was willing to inflict it and delay his own gratification. He set aside embraces for more estrangement.

         Righteousness is often the dividing line in relationships. It fractures as one chooses Jesus and the other chooses his own passions. There can be no reconciliation without both parties being on the same page. If I love peace more than I love truth, I will rush in to make things okay when it’s entirely premature. Inflicting a wound by speaking the truth will delay any chance for intimacy but it will also give a wayward soul time to reflect and deal with his own heart.

         To be a Joseph kind of leader takes courage – the kind of courage born of an adversity that cast us on the breast of God for survival. The wisdom learned there is far more precious than the cheap embraces of those who aren’t ready to pledge true fidelity.

This is graduate school in biblical application. How am I doing, Lord? Only You can show me. Amen

Clutching My Treasure

CLUTCHING MY TREASURE

So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him. Genesis 42:3-4

         I wonder what God felt as He watched Jacob’s sons, all except one, leave for Egypt. He saw them pack for the long journey. He saw Jacob clutch Benjamin protectively and heard him declare that this child would not go with them. He read the thoughts in this old father’s heart. “I entrusted one of my favorite sons of Rachel to you on another long journey and I never saw him again. You’re not taking Benjamin, too!” God saw this father’s inability to entrust the one who was precious into His care. Though the loss of Joseph happened two decades earlier, the wound was still like it happened yesterday.

         Jacob had not gotten over his sons’ carelessness with their younger brother. He had nursed the hurt and distrust had grown with the years. Ultimately though, his issue was not with his sons but with God. He could not see, though he would see shortly, that God is trustworthy and does all things well. For now, Jacob overprotected Benjamin and trusted no one, not even the God he’d given his life to.

         What wound from the past are you hanging on to?  What wound still defines you to the point that you over-correct today’s decisions based on yesterday’s heartbreak? You are able to live most of your life quite normally but your ‘Benjamin’ is still in your clutches. Release him to God? Never.

         We know how the story of Joseph ends. We know that God oversees, with great care and vengeance, the lives of Joseph and Benjamin. In reviewing His sovereignty and faithfulness, can we not ask for the grace to stop clenching what we feel we need to protect? Perhaps today is the day each of us can acknowledge our need to play God. Can 2015 be the year we move toward setting free what we have entrapped? God can be trusted.

Gentle pry my fingers loose. Reassure me that You are trustworthy. Amen