Devotional Thoughts

Some Things Just Take Time

Then the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson; and the child grew up and the Lord blessed him.

Judges 13:24

Patience. And perspective. That has been my counsel to numerous people over the years. But neither of those two words sit very well with most of us. We can’t wait for anything. We want everything YESTERDAY!!! Seriously. We are the generation that screams at microwave popcorn. If the local bank has more than two cars in line, we drive off because waiting a couple of minutes is out of the question. Fast food? Hah! That’s a laugh. We fast forward through commercials, skip ahead to the last chapter, risk a ticket because we refuse to stop at the yellow light, and we will literally run people down at the local Wal-Mart just so we can be first in line. Patience may be a virtue for some people but it certainly is lacking for most of the rest of us.

Now, the reason I couple patience and perspective together is because of much of our impatient stems from a lack of perspective. Take the life of Samson for example. God’s call on his life was announced before Samson was ever conceived. The angel of the Lord had told his mother that he would, “be a Nazarite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” No confusion or questions as to Samson’s direction in life. His parents knew his manner of life and his divinely appointed work. From the time that Samson was first conceived his life was already mapped out.

But here’s an important consideration. The Nazarite calling? That went into effect before Samson was ever born. But his work as a deliverer? Samson grew into that role. Don’t believe me? Just look at the text. Samson started off as an infant. He was no child prodigy. No spectacular feats of strength as a teenager. He wasn’t Superboy. Absolutely nothing until he reached the age of marriage, i.e. manhood. And up until that point in time the Bible only gives us one piece of information, “…the child grew up…” So, let’s make sure we are all in agreement here, what did Samson do during the first part of his life? That’s right. He grew. The calling was ever-present but there was a process that could not be bypassed.

That one thought should give each of us incredible comfort. Many things in the kingdom of God require waiting. The reason the Bible talks so much about the value of patience is that you just aren’t going to make it very long without it. Just like Samson, we need to recognize that some things take time. It took time for Samson to grow into his divinely appointed role as Israel’s next great deliverer. In the same manner, it takes time to grow up into spiritual maturity. It takes time to develop godly character and disciplines. Sometimes the outworking of your deliverance and freedom can take time. (That statement will bother some of you. Yes, I believe in instant deliverance. Experienced it myself, personally. But I have also spent years working with addicts whose experience could best be described as a daily “walking out” of their habit.) Inheriting the promises? It can take time. We all want instant change and overnight results but we forget that the God who designed the process is the One who makes a caterpillar remain cocooned before it ever becomes a butterfly.

Waiting for demands faith. That’s the bottom line. We want God to do His thing according to our time-table. But God has a plan and He has a perfectly appointed time. God is never late. But He is never early either. So, let me tell you the same thing I have been telling other people for years (myself included). Be patient. God will not fail you. He remains faithful through every season of life. It might seem impossible right now but in the fulness of time, He will cause all things in your life to work together for the good. That’s His promise. And He never fails to keep his Word. But in addition to being patient, you should also ask God for some perspective. James says it this way, “…if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” If you are confused about the waiting, just ask God for a little clarity. Turn to Him in prayer. Turn to His word with an open heart. Let God grant you perspective. Let God lovingly remind you that just because you have been waiting, it doesn’t mean that He has forgotten. Remember, like Samson, some things just take time.

Devotional Thoughts

Wanting The Wrong Things?

When he (Samson) returned later to take her, he turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion; and behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the body of the lion. So he scraped the honey into his hands and went on, eating it as he went.

Judges 14:8-9

This story really seems insignificant on the surface, doesn’t it? A leisurely stroll. Some bees. Some honey. A snack on the way to visit your future bride. Seems very safe. Very serene. Almost inconsequential. Or is it? Is there something more at work here than just a hungry man’s desire to fill his natural appetite? In my opinion, this bit of scripture gives us a very clear picture of the way in which temptation works to entrap the child of God. There are at least 4 important points that bear some reflection on our part.

Samson turned aside from the initial path. When he first set off on his journey he had a destination, a predetermined path. He knew where he was going. And he knew how he was going to get there. But somewhere along the way Samson got off course. He strayed from the path. He turned aside and wandered into temptation. It’s really no different for any of us. Turn aside from God’s path and trouble is what you will find. Each of us need to adhere closely to the path that is set before us in the Word of God. Turn aside to other philosophies and pursuits and you set yourself up for disaster.

Samson ignored the potential pain. Me? There is absolutely no way am I sticking my hand into a bee hive. It just ain’t happening. But for Samson the potential pleasure outweighed any possible pain. Now, I’m not going to lie. There is a sense in which sin can be pleasurable. The Bible itself acknowledges that truth (see Hebrews 11:25). But the Bible also makes it clear that the pleasure of sin is only temporary. It passes quickly. And in the end it always brings forth death and destruction. There is always a price to be paid. Always a cost when we make the wrong choice. Foolish is the person who is willing to risk lasting pain for a moment of fleeting and unsatisfying pleasure.

Samson only saw something desirable. Samson saw only the honey. He didn’t really pay any attention to the carcass of the dead lion. He noticed it. But he didn’t take it into account. Otherwise, he would have never eaten the honey. Because of its connection to the carcass, the honey was ceremonially unclean. Samson’s Nazarite vow prevented him from eating anything unclean. That means he either forgot his vow or simply chose to ignore it. Why? Because he saw something desirable, something he wanted. Temptation is a distortion of desire. Nothing wrong with Samson’s hunger. Nothing wrong with honey itself. But in this case the honey was connected to something dead. The bottom line? God had said, “no.” But Samson allowed his own desires to overrule God’s word and will for his life.

Samson moved forward indifferent to his decision. Envision the closing scene. Samson is walking down the road, licking the “unclean” honey from his fingers. Yes, he’s moved back onto the right path. But he’s now taking his sin with him. I think all of us have been guilty of the same error at some point in our own lives. Rather than leaving our sin on the wayside we try to carry it forward with us. We convince ourselves that no one is perfect, that we’re not hurting anyone, that God is full of love and he understands our weaknesses. Samson thought he could sin and just go on living like nothing had ever happened. In time that attitude would prove to be his downfall. Leave your sin behind you. You can’t keep holding on to it.

Temptation is a part of life. You can’t avoid it. But you can prepare for it. We would all do well to evaluate our current spiritual journey in the light of Samson’s own mistakes. Have we strayed from the path of God’s plan and purpose for our lives? Have we chosen the temporary pleasures of sin over the lasting consequences that are sure to follow? Are we choosing our desires over His word and will? And finally, have we bought the lie that we can follow Christ and still hold fast to our sin? Certainly, they are all questions worth honestly considering. Samson should remind all of us that wanting the wrong things may indeed be a part of our human nature. But they don’t have to be the testimony of our lives.

Devotional Thoughts

What I Do Matters

Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years.

Judges 6:1

A tragic beginning to a triumphant tale. In time this season in the history of Israel would prove to be another testimony to the faithfulness of God. But unfortunately, it began with a painful reminder of the lack of faithfulness on the part of His people. Before diving into the story of Gideon we first need to reflect on the backdrop to this divine drama. We need to consider the circumstances that preempted the need for yet another deliverer. We need to focus in on the failures that gave birth to this time of crisis. We need to look at the real problem and the root causes that formed the foundation for this story. That’s where God started the story and that’s where we should begin as well.

The tribes of Israel had been experiencing a period of prolonged peace and rest. Judges 5 says it like this, “…the land was undisturbed for forty years.” But then tragedy set in. The cycle that so characterizes the book of Judges would be renewed as the people once more turned their backs on God and embraced idolatry. They returned to the gods of the Amorites as Baal and Asherah worship again became their religious practice. The Lord God had become an afterthought as the people placed their fear and trust in the false gods of the nations that surrounded them. The Bible sums it all up by simply declaring that “…the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord;” Definitely not their finest hour.

Now granted, none of us have probably ever worshipped Baal or Asherah. But there are still a couple of very important teaching points for us to consider here in this first verse:

1. They “…did what was evil…” No matter what our amoral world tries to tell us there is still such a thing as right and wrong, good and bad, righteous and evil. Bottom line? The Israelites’ actions were evil. Our actions do not exist in a moral vacuum. God judges what we do. And according to the standards that He has set forth in his Word our actions are either good or evil. Too many in the church today have bought the lie that what we do somehow doesn’t matter. Yes, we are forgiven in Christ. But grace was never meant to be a license for sin and evil.

2. They “…did what was evil in the sight of the Lord;…” How quickly we forget that God sees. Nothing that we do is hidden from His sight. God is not some school teacher who is oblivious to the pandemonium that takes place once their back is turned. He sees all. He knows all. Not a single one of our actions are obscured from His view. The Israelites paraded their evil actions without remorse or shame. If they were aware of God, they acted as if they could care less. Never forget. Be it good or be it bad, God sees everything we do. We live our lives in His sight.

3. The result? “…and the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years.” My choices have consequences. What I do matters. If I am upset with the fruit in my life, then maybe I need to take a look at the root. The problems that plagued Israel were the fruit of their own choices. They abandoned God and God subsequently gave them over to the Midianites. The NT declares that we reap what we sow. Sow to the flesh and you will reap destruction. That is as much a promise from God as any other verse that we have highlighted in our Bibles. When my life is in chaos I need to be honest. How much of my pain is the fruit of my own ungodly choices? It’s a hard truth but sometimes I can be my own worst enemy. It’s easy to blame God. But the mark of maturity is when we begin to recognize our own sinful complicities, confess our failings, and ask for forgiveness.

Tired of some of the fruit in your life? Maybe it’s time you took a closer look at the roots. The story of Gideon is full of many wonderful lessons. But it all begins with a powerful reminder. God takes sin seriously. It’s not a game to Him. It shouldn’t be a game for me. My choices have consequences. My decisions influence my destiny. What I do matters.

Devotional Thoughts

Lessons On Purity: No Such Thing As Magic Beans

Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his brithright.

Genesis 25:27-34

Do you remember the story “Jack and the Beanstalk”? Young Jack heads to the market to sell the family’s last remaining cow in order to buy food (I have often wondered why they didn’t just eat the cow). On the way to the market, he meets a man who tricks him into trading the cow for a handful of beans. Jack returns home and shows his mother the “magic” beans. She tosses them out the window and the rest is history.

I want to remind you today that there really is no such thing as “magic” beans. Just ask Esau. He is a man who could tell you a thing or two about beans. Esau was a hunter. He had a younger brother by the name of Jacob. Jacob was not much of an outdoors kind of guy. In fact, you could probably call him a mama’s boy. One day Esau returns home empty-handed from a long and exhausting day of hunting. When he reaches home he finds that his brother Jacob has a bowl of stew (red beans) sitting on the fireplace. Esau is hungry. Esau is tired. Esau asks Jacob for a bowl of beans. Jacob responses by asking Esua to make a trade. Esau can have a bowl of beans if he will give Jacob his birthright.

Now a birthright doesn’t mean much to us. But at that time in history, it represented Esau’s share of the inheritance, roughly equal to two-thirds of his father’s wealth. Get the picture now? Jacob is offering Esau a bowl of beans for two-thirds of his father’s wealth. Doesn’t seem very reasonable, does it? But the amazing thing is that Esau agrees to the trade. In a moment of weariness and weakness, he gives away everything for essentially nothing. In one decision he trades his birthright for momentary satisfaction.

Before we point the finger we need to take a hard look at our own choices, particularly as they relate to purity. See, the honest truth is that the enemy uses much the same means when he seeks to steal from us our birthright. Consider the following times when you should especially be on your guard against sexual temptation.

  • Disappointment. Esau has nothing to show for his labors that day. The day had not turned out according to his expectations. He has worked hard but has come back empty-handed. Temptation often comes during those times when we have been disappointed, particularly in the realm of relationships. One of the chief deceptions involving porn is that of no disappointment. The “partner” never says anything except, “Yes.” It is far easier to trade real relationships and the risk of disappointment for the temporary satisfaction that comes with porn. The problem is that real wealth comes from real relationships. Most of the men that I have counseled regarding sexual impurity lacked meaningful relationships in their lives. Porn was a temporary relief. But the guilt and embarrassment associated with it only led them to even greater isolation and loneliness.
  • Weariness. Esau declares that he is “famished.” The literal idea in Hebrew is that he is “weary, exhausted“. Temptation often comes when we are at our lowest points both spiritually and physically. Here is a word of very practical advice. At the end of a long day, when you are most tired…go to bed. Don’t turn on the TV. Don’t turn on the computer. When you are tired it is very hard to control the pull to impurity. Go to bed. What you need most at that time is rest, not ungodly entertainment.
  • Misplaced Priorities. Esau made the mistake of placing greater value upon the immediate. Immediate gratification never satisfies. The bowl of beans that fills the stomach only lasts so long. It is only a while before you find yourself hungry again. We are destined to make poor choices when we spend the majority of our time feeding the natural rather than the spiritual. Where do you spend more time each day? Reading the Word or digesting mainstream media? Maybe the struggle in your life is one of the confused priorities? I recently came across a study that demonstrated a very strong connection between time spent in Bible reading and purity. Men who had developed consistent, daily times in the Word experienced greater levels of sexual purity.
  • Confusion Regarding Eternity. Esau declared to Jacob, “I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” About to die? Really? The temptation will make you feel like you have no choice but to say “yes.” You will think you are going to die if you don’t give in. But let me remind you that it is just a lie. If you say “no“, you will live, both literally and spiritually. In fact, the opposite is true. Every time you say “yes” and give in…a part of you dies. Esau gave up tremendous wealth for a bowl of beans. So many young men are making the same choice, trading the spiritual power of pure life for the momentary pleasure of porn and sexual immorality. A birthright for beans…power from God for porn. Next time you are tempted you need to remind yourself that eternity is at stake in this battle. The enemy has targeted you because he wants to steal your destiny and your heritage. Don’t trade what really matters for something that never satisfies.

Ask God to give you eternal perspective and godly priorities. Draw strength and healing from Him next time you are weary and disappointed. Purity is His purpose for your life. You will never regret saying no to the enemy’s “beans.” I’m not saying it will be easy. But what I am telling you is that it will be well worth the struggle. Stop trading what really matters for things that can never satisfy. There is no such thing as magic beans.

Devotional Thoughts

When You Can’t See God

Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd for he was small in stature.

Luke 19:3

Ever found yourself in one of those seasons where it was really hard to see God? Your theology tells you that He is there but you just don’t see it. Pain, failure, disappointment, death, despair, life in general…they have all moved into your way and blocked your view of the Savior. Whether or not that’s you today, here are some bullet points for you to chew on throughout the day. Some will encourage. Some will edify. Some will exhort (fancy word for kick you in the teeth). Regardless, I pray that they will be a source of blessing. Enjoy.

  • Trying. Wanting and trying is not the same thing. Many of us want to see Jesus. Few are actually trying. Zaccheus was trying. He was extending both energy and effort towards fulfilling that longing. My Bible tells me that He is found when I seek Him. My Bible tells me that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Seldom in life do I find anything unless I am looking for it. Yes, I know. The blind squirrel does indeed find the occasional nut…but that is not God’s intent. We see Him most often when we spend time looking for Him.
  • Unable. Sometimes the issue is one of the limitations. For Zaccheus there was the natural limitation of his height. Small guy. Big crowd. Just wasn’t going to happen. But Zaccheus didn’t give up. There is something to be said for perseverance. We all have limitations in life that keep us from seeing God. Work. School. Family responsibilities. Health. The challenge is to not allow those types of things to become excuses. Find a way through the strength He alone can give to move beyond your natural limitations. Keep at it no matter what it takes.
  • Crowd. The crowd had come between Zaccheus and Jesus. What are those things that we have allowed into our lives that have created space between us and our Savior? Sin? Habits? Hobbies? People? Pleasure? For each of us it is usually something different. But all of us struggle against those things that fight to keep us from God. Sometimes they are obviously wrong. Sometimes they are more devious in nature and appearance. The bottom line is that there is something wrong if it keeps us from Jesus. Follow the example of Zaccheus. Get away from the thing that keeps you from Jesus. If you can’t get through the crowd, get above it.
  • Jesus. Warning. This will sound cliche’. Doesn’t make it any less true, though. Just because Zaccheus couldn’t see Jesus didn’t mean He wasn’t there. God has promised never to leave you or abandon you. I don’t know what has hidden Him from your view just now but I do know that He has not left. He is still there. Sometimes I wonder what might have happened if Zaccheus had just exercised a little more patience. If that day was indeed one of divine appointment, wouldn’t Jesus have eventually made an intentional move towards Zaccheus? Maybe He was. Maybe Jesus was trying the whole time to get to Zaccheus. But first the crowd gets in the way. And then Zaccheus takes off running. Just speculation on my part. But I like to think so. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. And it is hard to imagine that on that day there was anyone in the crowd more lost than Zaccheus. It really encourages me to think that when Zaccheus couldn’t see Jesus because of the crowd that maybe, just maybe, Jesus saw him. I’m not sure about that. But I do know that just a little while later Jesus did see him. In fact, He stopped everything He was doing to take notice of a little man stuck out on a limb.

Let me encourage you today to hang on just a little while longer. The branch might be cracking under the strain. But the Savior is coming. And with one invitation your whole life can be changed. You will see with your eyes the very One who seems hidden just now.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:13
Devotional Thoughts

A Little Positive Confession

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

Matthew 7:11

We are going to do something a little different today. I would like to start this note with a healthy spiritual exercise, some Biblical confession to help strengthen our faith and give us much needed perspective for the day ahead. We are going to “speak out” Biblical truth over our own lives. Okay? Now, I want everyone to participate. We are going to read the next sentence in this note out loud. Ready? Here goes…”I AM EVIL.” Aaahhh, felt good, didn’t it? Nothing like some positive confession to get the day started on the right foot. In fact, let’s do it one more time just to make sure we are taking in the full meaning and impact. All together now…”I AM EVIL.”

Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just telling you what the Bible declares as truth. God has said it clearly and repeatedly throughout His Word. I am evil. Morally corrupt. Spiritually bankrupt. Broken. Stained by sin. Rotten to the core. God says that there is none righteous. Not even one. There is none who does good. Not even one. Jesus Himself took it even further when He told the rich, young ruler, “No one is good except God alone.” Might not like it. Might not want to admit it. No sense trying to deny it. I am evil.

Now…here’s the point. God only reminds us of our evil nature here in this verse in order to emphasize His own inherent goodness. (It’s a literary device that you find frequently in the Bible known as contrast.) In the same way I am evil, God is good. Not just in what He does or says, but His very essence. His character. His nature. The totality of His being. He IS good. Through and through. Every fiber of His being. Every expression of His person. All He says. All He does. All He is. God is good.

With that in mind just imagine the ramifications. I am evil. And yet I still know how to give good gifts to my own children. Doesn’t mean I always do it but I at least possess the knowledge and the ability. In a way that I will never understand good gifts are able to come from an evil person. What does that say about our God? What does that say about the gifts that He gives? If I, an evil person, can give good gifts how much better in every regard are the gifts that come from One who is the fullness of good? All He does is good. All He gives is good. He can do and give nothing else but good.

I don’t know about you but I really need to remember that most days. See, I have the tendency to look at the landscape of my life and get negative. I start complaining. I start whining. I forget all about thankfulness, gratitude and contentment. I’m like the child on Christmas who has just opened the last gift and looks up only to ask, “That’s it?” It’s easy to get my eyes on the things that God has given others and lose sight of my own blessings. It’s at those times that I most need to be reminded that everything He gives is good. He can give nothing else because good is what He is. He is good. You know…I think I might try saying that out loud a couple times today. “GOD IS GOOD. HE GIVES GOOD GIFTS.” Now, that’s what I call positive confession.

Devotional Thoughts

Disappointed With God?

So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail.

Genesis 39:20

I know me. I would have been angry. Frustrated. Disappointed. I would have been wrestling with all sorts of questions. Struggling with the demons of doubt and despair. Tempted to give in to pity and bitterness. I would have been more than ready to give up and call it quits. I know the thoughts that would have been echoing across the landscape of my mind.”God, why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? Prison? Seriously? I didn’t do anything wrong! I did everything right!!! If this is the reward for integrity, maybe I should have just slept with her? And what about Potiphar’s wife? What happens to her? Aren’t You going to expose her? Aren’t You going to avenge me? Defend me? Rescue me? Where are You when I need You most? Why have You abandoned me? Do You even care? Do You really exist?” Yeah. Forget prison. The threat of jail would have been nothing compared to the torture that would have been taking place in my spirit.

Honestly, I don’t know how Joseph handled it so well. But he did. I don’t want to get ahead of myself but if you read just a little further in the Biblical text you will find something wonderful. In spite of the recent turn of events two things continued to hold true in the life of Joseph. One, God was still with him. And two, Joseph continued to prosper at whatever he did. Amazing. Even in the worst of circumstances he managed to hold fast to his faith. When everything around him and everything within him was screaming at him to quit he remained faithful. He kept trusting. He kept serving. He kept believing. He kept living for God. He refused to allow an apparent injustice to move him away from his convictions. The situation was powerless to unseat the beliefs that sat upon the throne of his heart. Sure, things had not worked out as he had probably hoped. But that did not mean that God had either abandoned or failed him.

If I had to narrow the story of Joseph down to one central theme, it would be providence. What is providence? Glad you asked. I will do my best to explain. Providence is the stitching on the back side of the canvas that forms a beautiful tapestry on the front. Providence is the medicine that heals the body even when you can’t explain it or pronounce it. Providence is the winding road that brings you to your destination even though you can’t see around the next corner. Providence is a loving and sovereign God who causes all things to work together for the good for those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose. Yes, a new and different thread had been introduced into his life but Joseph still believed in the Artist. Yes, this treatment made him uncomfortable but Joseph understood that the Doctor knew more than him. Yes, life had taken an unexpected turn but Joseph still trusted the Navigator. Joseph was tempted to feel disappointed but in his heart he knew that God would never disappoint. No matter the circumstances God would use any and every situation for His glory and Joseph’s good. Even if that meant prison, Joseph was willing to trust that God was still in control, that God was still good. His temporary season of potential disappointment was actually a divine appointment. And in time God would prove once again that He never disappoints.

Devotional Thoughts

The Power Of NO

It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, ‘Lie with me.” But he refused…

Genesis 39:7-8

He refused. “No.” One word. Only two letters. Such a small and seemingly insignificant expression. And yet, it is filled with both unbelievable and undeniable power. I wonder if Joseph had any idea what was actually at stake. As he opened his mouth to respond to his master’s wife, did he envision the impact that would result from that one decision? In a way that only time would reveal, his “no” was actually a “yes.” By saying no to temptation he was saying yes to everything that God had planned for his life. On the surface it was simply a refusal to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. But underneath the surface of his choice was the birthing of a destiny that would bring salvation to the entire known world.

Overly dramatic? I don’t think so. Ask some other people who made the opposite choice. Instead of refusing temptation they embraced their desires. The results? Esau would tell you that the bowl of beans satisfied his hunger at the moment but it certainly wasn’t worth the price of his birthright. David could explain that a night of illicit passion cannot be covered up and it’s consequences cannot be undone. Solomon would warn us that no amount of wisdom can overcome unbridled lust. The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who when faced with temptation chose the path of least resistance. We certainly are not lacking for warnings. Our lack seems to be the type of character and resolve that young Joseph so readily demonstrated. We forget at times the divine power that has been granted to us in the gift of choice. Think about it. All of the enemy’s best laid plans can be undone through one simple word. Temptation falls before even God’s smallest warrior with just one declaration.

Overly simplistic? Again, I don’t think so. Sure, there are extenuating circumstances that have to be considered. Factors such as intensity and duration. But as we will see in the notes ahead, Joseph wrestled with both and in the end it was still his choice that stayed the course. His first answer was “no.” And no matter how hard or how often his master’s wife tried to move him from his integrity his answer remained the same. From beginning to end he refused. And because he refused he did not lose the battle to maintain his purity. For some of us the struggle against temptation needs to begin with a closer look at our choices. In our minds we may be saying “no” but our hearts are saying something else entirely different. We love God. But we are still clinging to sin. With one hand we seek to push away that which the other hand is longing to embrace. If that’s the case, then it’s time to look to God for grace and strength. Come clean. Confess your failings and your sin. Receive His forgiveness. And ask God to change your choices. Yes, Joseph’s refusal was indeed remarkable. But it shouldn’t be the exception. In Christ, we can all find and experience the power to say “no.“

Devotional Thoughts

Next Time You Are Angry

So she left his garment beside her until his master came home. Then she spoke to him with these words, ‘The Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us, came into me to make sport of me; and as I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled outside.’ Now when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, ‘This is what your slave did to me,’ his anger burned. So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail,…

Genesis 39:16-20

Angry? Really? You think so? The Bible says with regard to Potiphar that, “his anger burned.” That certainly has to make the Top Ten list of greatest understatements. Yeah. I think the man was definitely angry. Let’s put it in perspective. You come home from work one day to find your wife in tears. Before you even have a chance to ask what is wrong she holds up a coat and tells you that your best employee tried to rape her. Now remember, this is not just any run-of-the-mill worker. This was the guy to whom you have entrusted your entire business. He has the “Midas touch.” Under his guidance and care your profits have gone through the roof. Your company has expanded beyond anything you could have ever expected. In fact, the man has done such a remarkable job that you even delegated the daily affairs of your home to him. Everything has been placed in his hands. Everything except your wife. And now she is telling you that he just attempted to violate her.

Keep in my mind that we have an advantage over Potiphar. We know the real story. We know that his wife is lying, that she has been anything but faithful. In fact, Joseph is the true victim in this account. She had attempted to seduce him but he had steadfastly refused. She persisted but he would not relent. Finally, she decided that if she couldn’t have him then no one was going to have him. So, now she looks her husband square in the eye and tells him one lie after another. Don’t forget. He doesn’t know she is pulling one of the greatest deceptions of the OT. Given the circumstances Potiphar reacts like any husband. His wife’s honor is at stake. His trust has been violated. He really has only one choice.

Or does he? Anger has a way of causing us to ignore reason. Anger has a way of causing us to forfeit responsibility. I can’t speak for you but I know there have been many, many times when I made regrettable decisions as a result of “burning anger.” Granted, Potiphar’s circumstances are extreme but the principle remains the same. Anger is not an excuse. Anger is never an excuse. Far too often we react rashly and without any real thought. Something is said to us. Something is done to us. We are hurt. Wounded. Disappointed. Frustrated. We become angry. And rather than putting the pot on the back burner and letting it cool down, we allow the anger to boil over and we lash out. We respond with words and actions that are intended to hurt, to punish the offender. But what happens when we have made the same mistake as Potiphar? Joseph was innocent. Joseph was fully undeserving of his master’s wrath. Potiphar had a reason to be angry. But it wasn’t a reason to imprison an innocent man. Potiphar should have taken the time to check out his wife’s story. In his anger he made a rash decision. He should have acted with greater responsibility.

Anger is a part of life. We will all experience it. We will all encounter it. And yes, there is righteous anger that should have a place in the heart of every believer. But there is also anger that leads to sin. There is an anger that abandons reason, that refuses to accept responsibility, that reacts apart from love. That type of anger has no place in any believer’s life. On a personal note, I am challenging myself to look beyond the reason the next time I am angry. I am asking God to help me act with responsibility rather than simply reacting from my own hurt. People will offend. Life will disappoint. But as His children, we are called to rise above anger. Patience. Understanding. Kindness. Love. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. These should be the marks of His children.

Devotional Thoughts

Family Or Foe?

Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more…So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

Genesis 37:5,8

Hatred. One of the most powerful emotions known to mankind. Also one of the most deadly. The history of humanity reads like a testimonial to it’s destructive nature. Hardly a nation or people have been spared it’s wrath. Generally it’s roots can be attributed to one of two main seeds. Fear. Or jealousy. We fear the unknown. We fear differences. Left unattended fear will always give birth to hatred. We grow to hate the thing that causes us to be afraid. In the same way, jealousy eventually gives birth to hatred. We want what others have. Whether it be possessions, position, or perceived pleasure, we long after things that seem elusive and unattainable. But rather than discovering contentment and satisfaction in our own blessings we allow our jealousy to become hatred. We grow to hate the person we envy.

There was no denying that Joseph was the object of his father’s favoritism. The Bible makes it clear that Jacob loved him more than the other brothers. And now it appeared that he was also the object of God’s favor. He had been given special responsibilities (reporting on his brothers), he had been given special gifts (the varicolored tunic), and now he had become the recipient of special dreams. Only 17 years of age and already he seems to have the world at his feet. In fact, according to the dream, he would one day have his brothers at his feet. Literally. Little wonder that the brothers struggled with jealousy. Imagine the scene. They had settled for the leftovers of their father’s love. They had labored in the fields while Joseph had been given the run of the family business. And now even God Himself seemed to be shining the light of divine favor upon their younger sibling.

There is a lesson here for all of us. For now let’s put aside Joseph’s responsibility in this whole situation. Let’s also lay aside Jacob’s failings. See, the temptation in life is to point the finger of blame at others. We become jealous. We become envious. But instead of dealing with the real issue at hand we fault others for our own failings. “This is all my parent’s fault. They always loved my sibling more than me. This is my sibling’s fault. Everything came easy for them. Everyone liked them.” You know, that may well be true. But unfortunately, it does not excuse our own behavior. We cannot control what other people say or do but we can control our response. And that is where these brothers failed. When they should have been rejoicing they were murmuring. When they should have been congratulating they were busy complaining. Instead of acting like family they were acting like foes.

How about us? How about our immediate families? How about our relationship with the family of God? Have we allowed another’s a favor to become a source of strife? Have we allowed another’s blessings to become a cause for jealousy? Are we complaining when we should be celebrating? Criticizing instead of congratulating? The Bible tells us that true love, “…is not jealous,…does not seek its own,…” Each of us needs to be on our guard against the poison of jealousy. Left untreated it will fester and become hatred. The end result? Family members become enemies. God’s children become separated. God has made us His children. And that means we are now a family. Let’s all learn to celebrate one another’s blessings. Instead of jealousy and hatred let’s pursue contentment and love. Let’s stop acting like foes and start acting like a family.