You Really Are Who You Are In Heaven

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. Genesis 37:23

Joseph was stripped of his royal kind of robe. Jesus was stripped of his robe, too. The momentary humiliation didn’t change the destiny or the spiritual identity of either. Jesus stayed in touch with his belovedness but I suspect that Joseph did not. History would prove that the brother’s destruction of the robe of many colors, and the brother’s criminal treatment of Joseph, would do nothing to stop his ascension to a royal position in Egypt. Their sin against him only set it in motion.

Jesus was God’s Son whether anyone acknowledged Him or not. If the accusation flew that he was only the illegitimate son of Mary, Jesus was still God. When the crowd publicly humiliated him by accusing him of demonic possession, Jesus was still God. When His family eventually turned on Him and believed Him to be mentally unstable, Jesus was still God. When He hung on a Roman cross and died the most degrading death in existence, His spiritual status did not change. Jesus was still God.

If ever there were a world in which I needed to settle my spiritual identity, it’s this one. It is growing more and more unfriendly to the name of Jesus Christ, and anyone associated with Him will experience discrimination. If a barb from a parent can lay me low for four decades, how will I survive a community that ostracizes me? Suppose unfair criticism from a local spiritual leader sends me into hiding. How will I sustain the intentional diatribe of non-Christians who are looking for things they can misrepresent?

No ill-treatment in this world can change my status in heaven. God’s kingdom is what counts; it is eternal. Things on earth should be discounted; they will pass away. Though I am hated here, not one ill feeling comes from the Father above who calls me His. While earth bestows the basest kind of shame, God bestows the heavenliest kind of honor.

The only way to stay in touch with these beautiful realities is to read a Word that is eternal, not temporary. Whatever it says is true forever and ever. Today, I may be Joseph in a pit. Tomorrow, I will be reigning with Christ.

Every time Jesus was crushed, He looked up until He felt Your favor. I lock my eyes on You. Amen

When I Keep Doing The Same Things

Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. Genesis 37:20-22

There is a father who will take out his anger on his children today. He will cut them to shreds with a sharp rebuke and they will shrink and go into hiding. He’s done it before. He even saw the damage in their eyes but that did not deter him.

There is a middle-aged woman who will see dreaded circumstances repeat themselves. She will say, “Oh no, not again!” but she will make the same disastrous choice she made the last time. She does not see that God often gives another chance to do something different.

Reuben, for all his faults, did make a different choice. (Although not one that was drastic enough.) He had sinned against his father many times throughout his youth and had experienced the stab in his own heart as he saw his father’s pain. The last offense he committed was sleeping with Bilhah, his father’s concubine. With this fresh in his memory, he will not agree to take the life of Joseph, his father’s favored son. He cannot bear the thought of Jacob’s grief yet again.

Do I really learn from my mistakes? The magical answer is ‘yes’. Who is going to repeatedly put their hand over an open flame?  But that is naïve. When bad behavior is generational, thoughts of stopping happen long after the deed is done. By default, we live as our fathers did.

Jesus told Nicodemus two critical things. 1.) ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh.’We are like whom we came from. I am a product of a mother and father and will possess not only their physical characteristics but their holy and sinful bents as well. I will not deviate without spiritual transformation. And, 2.) ‘That which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.’ I am to be like by new Father because I was born of His Word and His Spirit. So here’s the question that replays in my mind? Am I more like my new Father than my earthly parents? I should be if the new birth and the things of the Spirit are nurtured.

How does this relate to learning from my mistakes? When I repeat the foolishness of my youth, the Spirit of God calls to me. “Why are you doing that? You’re now my own daughter and I’m calling you out to be like me, not them.” Past mistakes are a mirror. I see the reflection of my former self against the reflection of my brother, Jesus, standing next to me. With just a glance, I walk away and have no appetite for the former things.

Forget my last name today, Lord. I am Christine – of God’s heart. Amen

He Shouldn’t Have Done It Twice!

Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” Genesis 37:9-10

Joseph shared his first dream with his brothers and it didn’t go well. They despised him for it.  So why would he tell the second dream to the same unreceptive audience?   Perhaps he hoped that, with a second hearing, they would believe the message. 

When I’m excited about something, the need to tell someone is strong. I want others to share the wonder with me. But I can share things indiscriminately and experience the same kind of reaction Joseph got from his brothers. My need for approval can be so strong that discretion goes out the door.

Becoming a person of self-awareness is critical if I’m going to be successful in relationships. Do others receive my words and stories eagerly? Is my point of view welcomed? What is the track record with the people who are most resistant to me? If Joseph had really stopped to think about what happened when he related his first dream, perhaps he would have stopped himself before sharing the second.  I can be so much like Joseph. If I know something, I just have to say it.

There are some things I believe passionately, and I’m tempted to keep talking about them to the same group of people. Truth be told, they may be rolling their eyes when I open the topic for the umpteenth time. They are already closed and it would be wise for me to acknowledge that. God needs to heal any rejection my soul suffers and also needs to show me if my words are framed by a need to be right. That alone repels people. What I speak may be true, but no one will hear it if it comes with disrespect.

No mission is more important than being God’s spokesman but getting the message right is only half the challenge though. Getting the timing and attitude right will cause the words to roll off my tongue the way Jesus would speak.  So, what do I do with my need to be liked, respected, validated and accepted? Prior to any speeches, I take my needs to the One who makes me whole in His presence.

Give me holy pause until it’s time for me to speak. Amen

When The Enemy’s Voice Taunts

He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us?”   Genesis 37:6-8

Consider the brothers’ outrage when they questioned Joseph. Time answered them with more than a touch of irony. Later on in Israel’s history, the Philistines laughed and posed their own rhetorical questions to Saul about the absurdity of a small boy, unarmed, taking on Goliath.  And many centuries later, chief priests, Pharisees, and Pilate himself posed similar questions to Jesus about His claim to be a King.

All the questions follow a similar theme and are answered by a God who reminds us that He is not predictable and nothing is impossible when He has called and equipped the person of His choosing. He uses the foolish, the uneducated, the weak, the stuttering, the outnumbered, the shamed, the forgotten, the underdog, and the smallest, to glorify His name.

Who is laughing at you? Perhaps you’ve sustained a rhetorical question already today. “Who do you think you are!” When God’s child knows that he is called, loved, blessed, and empowered by the Spirit of God, such confidence offends many. It can even rub against the grain of a few who love Jesus but no one should be threatened.

Each of us is called, loved, empowered, and invited into holy confidence if we are willing to do the hard spiritual work that precedes it.  The challenge is this ~ few love God enough to seek Him on that level. Spiritual laziness characterizes their lives. They desire, and perhaps feel entitled to, the blessing without having to engage in the spiritual disciplines to get it. 

For each who is being taunted today, know you are in good company. Do not let any man steal your confidence. Time will write your story and silence the voice of every accuser. Walk humbly with your God, and that doesn’t mean being apologetic about your call.  Love well, serve humbly, but stand tall.

Do not let accusers undo me. Amen

Loving Children Equally. How Do We Do It?

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. Genesis 37:2-3

Favoritism can be complicated. Jacob didn’t make Joseph his favorite to the exclusion of other righteous sons. The others proved themselves to be troublemakers, bound up in foolishness. They spurned their father’s ways and left a trail of disappointment and hurt. But in all of this, Jacob acted unwisely by setting the stage for the other sons to have permanent issues with Joseph.

The heart is a complicated thing. It can be difficult to have the same affection for each of your children. If one is bent toward evil, disrespects authority, and has no regard for family, isn’t it difficult to love that one as much as another whose heart clearly belongs to God? It can be hard to disguise the pleasure you feel over the one that is righteous. It’s equally hard to hide the pain the other one inflicts when they act out against members of your family.

This is where each mother and father needs Jesus desperately. Only He can daily heal the hurts caused by a wayward child. Only He can give the spiritual fuel necessary to love the one who is unloving. Only He can show parents how to bestow unconditional love to two kinds of children. How will the child who loves rebellion not see the delight in his parent’s eyes over the sibling who honors with love and respect? God is the only one who can write the relational roadmap for these dynamics.

In the long run, Jacob should have learned from his own troubled childhood. Favoritism didn’t work out well between he and Esau. Now, he repeats it again by failing to disguise his deep affection for Joseph. He will give him a coat, the kind of coat only a royal child would wear. This will fuel the other’s hatred for their brother. Despite Jacob’s mistakes, God’s purpose for Joseph and the future of Israel will not be thwarted. Again, that is comforting, isn’t it?

You are the God of grace and redemption. Bind our families together in righteousness so that we still stand in the last day. Amen

Years Of Regret

And Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre. Now the days of Isaac were 180 years. And Isaac breathed his last, and he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him. Genesis 35:27-29

I’ve been doing some Old Testament math. It’s easy for there to be half a century between chapters. And, you and I know how long and how momentous just one year can be!  It’s important to comprehend how much time has gone by since Jacob has seen his father, Isaac. He left just after stealing his brother’s birthright and that would make the absence between them many decades long. I wonder if Jacob ever thought he’d see his father again. Perhaps he knew that this was the bitter consequence of his sin.

God, in His mercy, allowed Isaac to live until Jacob returned to his homeland. Esau was there too. Both brothers, long estranged, were there to say goodbye to their father and, together, bury him.

God is merciful. God is redemptive. But there are losses because of sin. They become a permanent ‘thorn in the flesh’ as, like Jacob, it takes a long time to find my way home. There is a lot of wrestling with God along the way, striving to be blessed again. How do I handle the loss of years? How do I not ‘grieve without hope’ for the things I suffer today that were done out of sinful intent and/or blind ignorance?  Or even worse, years seemingly lost through the wrongdoings of others?

Grace. My need for God to carry me through seasons of regret will bind me to Him like nothing else. In giving grace, He establishes His identity as ‘the Gracious One.’   My pain is transformed from bitter to bittersweet because experiencing God is such a powerful experience. It brings joy amid my losses. Given enough time, I might even experience moments of gratitude for the shipwreck because it brought me to my Safe Harbor.

The word ‘gracious’ is one of my favorite words because You have given it wings in my life. Thank you! Amen