Letting Go

Ever struggled with letting go of a grudge?

If there’s anyone in the Old Testament who could have justified a grudge, it would have been Joseph. As Jacob’s favorite son, his jealous brothers sold him to slave-traders, which led to a life of serving others against his will in a foreign land. That event and others could have easily produced a vindictive spirit within him…but it didn’t.

His story is one of the most amazing in the Bible. Despite starting out as the spoiled son of Jacob, the grown Joseph of Egypt had a stubborn love for God. Instead of looking back to the past, his faith looked forward to the future. God gave him favor in the eyes of those around him and he quickly became governor. However, in the midst of the favor, the events of the past suddenly broke through into the present. His brothers showed up to buy food and Joseph struggled to keep himself composed. He was overwhelmed with emotions, and when he revealed himself to them they feared the worst. They feared “pay-back” and punishment, but Joseph offered forgiveness and restoration. He loved them and said this:

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” – Genesis 50:20 NKJV

Grudges look backward to the hurt, faith looks forward to the healing. Which way will you look today?

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The Question of Timing

Joseph was done wrong.

First he was sold into slavery, then imprisoned by a false accusation. While confined in the Egyptian prison, Joseph interpreted the dreams of two officials who were being punished by Pharaoh. When one of them got word that he was to be restored to his former post, Joseph asked for a favorable mention; but for two long years, he heard nothing. Joseph probably felt like the butler had completely forgotten him…and as-a-matter-of-fact, he had:

“Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” – Genesis 40:23 NKJV

Then one day, Pharaoh himself had a dream and the forgetful butler’s memory was jostled:

“Then the chief butler spoke to Pharaoh, saying, “I remember my faults this day…there was this Hebrew…”” – Genesis 40:9-12 NKJV

So even though time had passed, Joseph was remembered. Once he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream (foretelling a severe famine), many life-changing things were set into motion. He was released from prison, elevated to governor, and placed in charge of preparing for the famine (which eventually led to his family moving to Egypt). In the end, the timing had more to do with God’s plan than a forgetful friend.

Do you ever wonder about timing? Perhaps you feel someone “dropped the ball” on your behalf or the “in-between time” continues to drag on forever. God’s plan may not be visible yet, but it’s there nonetheless, and His timing is always, always…always perfect.

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Wisdom 10.9

“He who walks with integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will become known.” – Proverbs 10:9 NKJV

Finding sure steps on tricky terrain can be tough; but the Word sheds light on the path to reveal the next move. Scripture-proven routes may not always be the easiest or fastest, but ultimately prove to be the better choice. May our steps be sure today…

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The Simple Truth

Someone taking a “literal” approach to the Christian life is often considered simple and unsophisticated. There’s even a growing number of pastors who’ve abandoned a traditional interpretation of scripture in favor of a more tolerant view of cultural standards. It may seem like a modern development, but it’s just old heresies repackaged. Consider what Paul said in his closing thoughts to the Romans:

“…I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” – Romans 16:19b NKJV

As followers of Christ, we’re not to be comfortable with sin. That doesn’t mean we separate ourselves off into a commune, but we do separate ourselves in lifestyle. Yes, that may invite accusations of being “weird” or “one of those”, but Paul prefaces the words in verse 16, with a commendation to those who are obedient. He also said to “note” those who teach things contrary to the Word of God and avoid them (v.17). They aren’t to get “equal time” in the name of inclusiveness, lest they deceive others (v.18).

What kind of teaching are you listening to? Does it challenge you to go deeper into the scriptures? Does it encourage Christlikeness? Or does it attempt to polish a worldly lifestyle into something acceptable as “Christian”? May we be “wise in what is good” and “simple concerning evil” today.

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A Hopeful Heart

This world can be a hopeless place. Daily news events and the actions of people can leave a person feeling discouraged about life and the future. As believers, we hear the word hope a lot, but it can often feel elusive for us personally. So, with circumstances often working against hope, what are the specific building blocks of a hopeful heart?

The answer involves two parts, with the first being the “filling”. Consider this verse:

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 NKJV

God is the one who fills us with hope, but the interesting thing is what happens at the beginning. Before hope is realized, joy and peace must be present in the heart; and they are directly tied to belief. What a person believes to be true, has everything to do with their outlook on tomorrow. When there’s faith in God’s leadership, there’s hope about what the day may bring; and through the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s not just momentary, it’s an on-going presence. “Now may the God of hope fill you…”

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“Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” – Romans 13:10 NKJV

What does it mean to be a “good neighbor”? Is it watching out for another’s property while they’re on vacation? Putting someone’s trash container away? Or taking a meal during a sickness? Very simply, it’s “Christlikeness”. In Romans chapters 12-13, Paul is talking about “putting on Christ” in every circle of our life. Whether it’s vocational or personal, he says to “live peaceably” and “walk properly”. He even says to respect government officials and pay taxes with a good attitude. That can be especially challenging when the leaders aren’t very “respectable”. However, considering the political context in which he wrote those words, it’s hard to justify not doing so.

At the end of the day, to “put on Christ” is going beyond being neighborly to those who are neighborly, and doing so to the ones who aren’t. Often that takes the empowering of the Holy Spirit; and in His power today, may we be “good neighbors”.

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Evil is restless.

It’s never content with marginal status, and the Bible teaches that a proper defense is actually a posture of offense. In Romans chapter 12, there’s a series of directives given for the active, grace-filled life. There are things like authentic love, kindness, diligence in hospitality, empathy with those hurting, rejoicing with those who are happy, a humble attitude, and pursuing peace with all who are willing. And at the end of the chapter there’s this:

“Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” –Romans 12:21 NKJV

Over the centuries, many have been overcome. Again, evil is restless. God told Cain that sin was at his door, and ready to pounce; but Cain held onto his feelings toward Abel and was overcome. King Saul was once friendly toward David, but jealously crept in and he was overcome. The early church was experiencing love and fellowship, but then posturing, pettiness and pride showed up; and many were overcome.

How about you today? Will you “cling to what is good”? What will your posture of offense look like? Perhaps there’s a particular situation needing diffusion. Perhaps there’s a person in need of a conversation. Or perhaps there’s a need for some prayerful honesty. “Overcome evil with good…”

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