Fellowship at Cross Creek
Intro… Well, 50 chapters later and a year and a half later, we are coming to the end of our first set of explorations into Scriptures’ ancient biblical ruins. We have studied the lives of the Bible’s ancient patriarchs–how they came to know, be called upon and existed with, God. They certainly were NOT perfect, and yet, God still used them. God was still glorified. Despite mistakes, despite death even, God’s redemptive plan continued and it still continues.
Chapter 50 brings us to the close of the life of Joseph and Joseph’s words to his brothers in v. 20…while you meant it for evil, God meant it for good, says it all. Grasp this verse…understand this verse…understand this truth…press against this truth and take into your heart, mind and soul with all of your heart, mind and soul and you may have just figured out life’s greatest truth…or greatest drama—the ability to see life through faith via God’s eternal gaze. Instead of being bent out of shape by all of life’s dramas, rather having peace in the midst of the storm. Why? God is still in control. It is not man’s evil we must seek to overcome by any means possible. No, this is NOT our mission. Rather, it is trusting in God, despite the apparent injustices, evil, misfortunes and suffering, that his greater will will prevail, and that within that greater will, whether it be in this life or the life to come or both, I need not fear. God has my destiny and ultimate good firmly in his hands. So when I feel others have wronged me, I need not be fueled by the need to wrong back, rather I trust God and go on about my business in doing things in such a manner that will bring him ultimate glory. His purpose becomes my purpose. Remember the life of Joseph; read, trust, believe, hope in, obey the promises we have as God’s children and bring an angelic, heavenly light to a world that grows more dark with each passing day. Be Joseph, be Jesus in the flesh; be his bride; be his body; be his church; his flock; his lamb; his light…even in the midst of suffering. Suffering is NOT everything. It is only the beginning. The end is his glory.
If I was teaching this to kids, I would talk, talk and talk about unfairness…life’s injustices…or perceived injustices. Why do they bend us so out of shape at times? Why do they rock our world and sometimes disproportionately, so?
After Rhonda and I had finished walking at the Landing tonight and were stretching, there was a family getting out of a van and getting ready to head down to the Landing and the American Idol pre-tryouts concert. As they were leaving, there was a six or seven year old little boy with them, kind of heavy set, who was whimpering—he wanted to throw a fit, but with this kind of subdued, but irritating whimper, you could tell he was pushing things only so far. His parents were threatening to either leave him at the car or not go at all because they were not going to put up with his whining. And what was pushing this kids’ buttons? He wanted his Crocodile Jerky, even though the family was about to eat out. Crocodile Jerky! Heck, I would have said, Give the kid the jerky. Who cares if he eats out or not! The night is supposed to be fun to begin with, right? But not having his Crocodile Jerky was rocking this little six year old’s world. And I can’t blame him. It must be good stuff. But the parents weren’t giving in, and thus the tears…thus the controlled, but definitely get-your-attention whimper.
What’s your Crocodile Jerky in life right now ‘cause we all have one? And how can God use what feels like evil for a greater good? Ever had one of those moments? Sometimes you have to wait for the reward, and kids need to be reminded of this.
The Bible’s very first word is the Hebrew word Bərēšīṯ, which means “in [the] beginning.” “Genesis” is actually the Greek word for “beginnings” or “origins,” and thus the origin for both the Latin and English transliteration: Genesis.
So what’s our goal? Just to explore. Like an archaeologist exploring ancient ruins, we are going back to the Scripture’s beginnings to do a little Spiritual digging and poking around to see what was God doing before God’s Son was Spiritually conceived in his mother Mary’s womb? What were the world, people and life like from the very beginning?
Summary of Recent Explorations…
• The Creation: The Creator Creates His Creation and its Caretakers (Adam and Eve). Gen. 1-2.
• The Fall: But a Crafty Adversary Emerges, Infecting the Creator’s Caretakers with a Virulent Strain of Deceptive Evil (non-beneficial actions). Gen. 3-4.
• The Flood: The story of the righteous Servant and a devastating Flood. In order to Save his Creation from a self-destructive and merciless evil, the Creator Must radically purge or cleanse his Creation Gen. 5-7.
• Creation’s New Beginning…Gen. 8-11.
• Creation’s New Caretaker: The Creator Raises up, Chooses and Greatly Blesses a righteous and trusting Caretaker named Abraham. Gen. 12-25.
• The Torch of the Creator’s Trusting Caretaking Now Passes to Succeeding Generations (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph…) Gen. 26ff.
Joseph’s Story…Gen. 37-50.
• Jacob’s older sons grow deeply resentful of their favored younger brother, Joseph. Gen. 37:1ff.
• Joseph’s jealous older brothers cruelly sell their younger brother Joseph, against his will, into slavery, and then inform their grieving father, Jacob, that Joseph has been killed by wild animals. Gen. 37:12ff.
• Despite being trafficked as a slave and falsely imprisoned, God’s favor mysteriously still accompanies Joseph. Gen. 39:1ff.
• Despite correctly interpreting the baker and cupbearer’s dreams while in prison, Joseph’s good deeds, go momentarily unrewarded. Gen. 40:1ff.
• Finally, when Pharaoh has two strange dreams that neither he, nor his priests, can’t interpret, the cupbearer remembers Joseph. Joseph is released from prison and is able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams as seven years of plenty followed by seven years of severe famine. Gen. 41:1ff.
• Pharaoh empowers Joseph to guide Egypt through these next fourteen years of plenty and famine. Gen. 41:38ff.
• When Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt in search of grain, they have no idea that the Egyptian official that they are seeking to purchase the grain from is their brother Joseph. Then still portraying himself as an unknown Egyptian official, Joseph accuses his brothers of spying and forces them to leave their brother Simeon behind as surety that they will return with Joseph’s brother Benjamin. Gen. 42:1ff.
• When Jacob’s sons tell him of the bargain that they were forced to accept for their grain, Jacob initially refuses to risk losing a third son. Gen. 42:19ff.
• Finally, accompanied by Benjamin, Joseph’s brothers are able to persuade their father to allow them to return to Egypt where the Egyptian official hosts a great banquet in their honor. Gen. 43:1ff.
• When a planted missing missing silver cup of the Egyptian official is found within Benjamin’s grain sack, Judah must now offer himself in place of his younger brother. Gen. 44:1ff.
• Finally, no longer able to contain his emotions, Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers and their need to return to Egypt with their father to survive the famine. Gen. 45:1ff.
• Pharaoh, in gratitude for all that Joseph had done for both Egypt and his realm, offers Joseph’s family, the children of Israel, the best that Egypt has to offer. Gen. 45:16ff.
• With God’s blessing Israel takes his entire family and flocks to Egypt where he is reunited with his son Joseph and settles in the land of Goshen. Gen. 46:1ff.
• Israel, close to his death, makes Joseph swear that he will return his body to in the Promised Land to be buried. Gen. 47:1-12; 27-31.
• During the famine, Joseph saves many lives from starvation, as well as, solidifying Pharaoh’s great wealth. Gen. 47:13-26.
• Jacob, shortly before his death, doubles Joseph’s inheritance by adopting Joseph’s two oldest sons. Gen. 48:1ff.
• Jacob (Israel) prepares to die and prophetically blesses his 12 sons. Gen. 49:1ff.
• After blessing his sons, Jacob dies, and his sons fulfill his wish to take his body back to Canaan to be laid along side the bodies of his fathers. Gen, 49:28ff.
Pray; read three times (perhaps just twice) and ask questions…
50:15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!”
Fair question? I would be asking it. What it reminds me of, is that when we think people have forgotten things, they have not? Perhaps they have suppressed those thoughts or memories, but these guys are not dumb. They have to be thinking this—was our father being alive keeping us alive? Were we protected by his shelter? But what they seem not to understand is that God’s plan is for each of them to in essence to become a patriarch as well. These sons will become the twelve tribes of Israel?
16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying,
17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”‘ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
Is this true? Scripture does not say this. I tend to think NOT. The brothers want to lie to protect themselves. Isn’t this what we all do? Lie, to protect ourselves?
18 Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”
19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?
No. I am not in God’s place and therefore not in a position to judge your fate.
20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.
The line of the entire book, and one of the greats of the entire Bible…”you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good…to bring about the present result and to preserve many lives.” If we could only see this life, and all its evil, from heaven’s eternal, timeless perspective, in order to see the good that God is still performing and all the lives that are being saved, either physically or Spiritually, either in the midst of evil, or incredibly still using man’s evil and the suffering caused by that evil, to do even greater things, it would indeed change how we view this life and its evil. As a friend of mine says, if Jesus were here he would say, “Cool it. I have it all under control.”
Thus, Joseph, now looking back, fully sees God’s plan. Amazing. Amazing for any of us to be able to look back and see God’s saving graces emerge despite man’s attempt to thwart them.
21 So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
The grace, mercy, kindness and love of God in human form…
• After Jacob dies, Joseph’s brothers fear that without their father around, their brother Joseph may take revenge for the wrongs that they inflicted upon him as a young man, so they concoct a story and message which has their father telling them to tell Joseph to forgive them for their past sins.
• But when they go before Joseph, Joseph weeps and very kindly exhorts them to not be afraid for he is NOT God, and what they meant for evil, it is clear from how things have worked out, God meant for good—to save many lives. Therefore don’t be afraid. Both you and your little ones will be provided for.
• Joseph lives in Egypt for almost a century and is able to see his great great grand children.
Summary: After Jacob dies, Joseph comforts his brothers that indeed he will not take revenge for their past sins against him because in the end, God meant their evil for both his and their overall deliverance and good.
Why did God include this event in his record or what would we not know–about God, life, myself, others, etc.–if this story were not in the Bible?
• First, how man fears. Joseph’s brothers naturally fear that Joseph has not forgotten their cruelty directed towards him as a young man. And there is Scriptural precedence for having a long-term memory. In fact, as 2 Samuel begins and King David is about to die, he will command his heir, his son Solomon, in essence, to avenge those that had dishonored the king in earlier days, and indeed Solomon will get the job done. In other words, there are always consequences to our actions, even if delayed. So naturally, they are afraid. Will Joseph remember? Without our father there to protect us, will our brother take his revenge? So they do what most of us do, they concoct a lie and send a message to that end to their brother. We always think about ourselves, and justify any means to protect ourselves, even deception. Our nature never changes. Little trust in God, but great fear in man.
• Joseph says it all. Perhaps one of Scripture’s greatest truths—what you meant for evil, God meant for good…to save many lives. Can we, like Joseph looking back on his life, say with absolute assuredness that I need not take revenge upon you for any harm you may have directed towards me. Why? God is bigger. God is greater. God is more sublime. God is infinitely more incredible. How does God use man’s evil for much better, greater purposes? Purposes that lead to man’s deliverance? How does the Creator of the Universe redirect or direct the course of human affairs in such a manner as man must take responsibility for his actions, including both good and bad deeds, and in so doing, may or will cause others to suffer or be injured, and yet, God causes even evil deeds and the suffering caused by the evil deeds to accomplish a much greater, better and beneficial purpose? And yet, that is the story of Genesis. That is the story of the Bible’s “Beginnings.” Suffering is not the end. God is alive. God can and does redeem even man’s evil to fulfill God’s nature, not only to save and deliver man from a greater evil, but to richly bless man. God seeks those who will believe, who will trust, who will put their faith, hope and confidence in the truth that he is, does exist, is all-powerful, is in charge, is merciful, loyal, faithful and kind and wants to help those who by faith do see him and will reach out to be saved or delivered by him. What’s the key? Endure evil. See the bigger picture. Trust in God, despite evil all around. Don’t panic. Seek God. Trust God. Believe God. Never, never, never give in. Never say die. Always hope, always trust, always believe, always love, always seek. Trust God despite momentary evil. Don’t play God. Don’t seek revenge. Allow God to figure out the real justice in all of man’s deceitful scheming. Can we trust God? Can we suffer? Can we trust the bigger, better perspective that this is NOT all, but only a foreshadow of a much greater existence and reward to come? If so, then we can suffer. We can see with heavenly eyes…with a heavenly heart and ears and soul. We can be God’s angel of light and truth, love and mercy in a dark and, at times depressing, gloomy, hopeless world. As Christ becomes God in the flesh to us, we, his church, his body, can be Christ in the flesh to the world. Good in the midst of evil, or a transforming good…an ongoing, maturing, changing, growing good in the midst of hatred, jealousy, thoughtlessness etc. Looking back, Joseph saw the truth. Looking ahead, can we become the truth?
Thanks… Great week away with family. Great past month, in fact. Family in from Californina…the kids are growing up and were a lot of fun to be with…followed by the incredible sounds of the Taneycomo summer Festival Orchestra–music that we rarely get to hear in the Ozarks–followed by a week of touring our home state of Missouri with wife and daughter…followed by a low key ministry week at home with the wife in wonderful weather conditions. Apparently, an artic front came out of Canada and brought us highs in the 70s in July. Amazing. Tag this along with some great biblical teaching, working on Sustainable Love © and great times with CRU, it has been a wonderful summer so far. More than I could have expected. At first I was apprehensive with all that had to get done in June, but we not only survived, we thrived. Cool temps and time away in July. It just doesn’t get much better than this. Now there are still four critical weeks to go to finish out the main portion of the summer for us, but again and again, I/we have been a beneficiary of God’s amazing grace. God give me grace for this next four-week segment, and I shall praise you abundantly. I shall praise you either way, but if this summer is NOT the summer of summer’s recent past, I will be once again amazed how no one can truly predict what lies ahead. Don’t compare the past to the present. In fact, never compare period! Trust God, one day, one moment, one task at a time.
Struggle(s)… Balance. Enjoying time with Rhonda before she goes back to work, while I am still working, but trying NOT to work full-speed, but more two-thirds speed, so I am still available to do a few things she enjoys doing during her mandatory layoff. At the same time, there are still a lot of people with lots of seemingly personal ministry needs, or at least my list grows. But I must remember, it is God’s list that counts. Summer is always a precarious season. I just thank God for the first half of summer for the Crosses. We have been seemingly unusually blessed.
Truth(s)… Seeing things, life or evil through a lens in which God exists, the Son has atoned for my sins, I have been empowered with the Spirit of God to guide me through every day, be that day and those trials, seemingly good or bad according to my typical, flesh-driven human interpretation. In other words, not sweating the small stuff. In fact, no sweating the big stuff, either. Rather, seeking to cooperate with God’s Spirit to do his will as it is laid out before me. Not riding life’s waves up and down, but staying centered, focused, dependent, open, resilient, flexible, true and for the most part obedient, even if that obedience means being treated unjustly or wrongly…even if that obedience means suffering unfairly. Why? Because what man means for evil, God can and will use for mine and others’ good. Why? For he causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God…to those called according to his purpose…that is his children…believers…the faithful…Christians…those who believe they are forgiven through the Son’s atonement for sin and are empowered with both truth and power via the presence of God’s Spirit within their lives. God’s good…God’s Spiritual benefit…our benefit…will prevail…will triumph…no matter momentary appearances. Be the faithful son, be the faithful servant; be the faithful prisoner; be the faithful administrator…be faithful…good or bad…up or down. Trust in God. Embrace heaven even in the midst of hell.
Application… For the moment, life is good. I have known it when it is not…when it has seemed incredibly unfair…dishonest…unjust…and repeatedly such. I have cried. I have whined before God. I have prayed, groveled, poured out my heart, questioned, asked for mercy, justice, relief, help…hope, and I am still alive. I thank God for the brief moment of peace because I know it can all turn on a momentary, thin dime of life. I was called to visit a family visiting from Dallas. On the previous night, they had had a great time as a family when a young seventeen-year old girl, pregnant with twins, from Branson and who had ridden the bus to Branson with one of their daughters, showed them the sights of Branson. They ended up at the Landing awed by the fountain show. The next day, after a swim at their time share condo, they were headed back to the Landing to ride the zip line, but that all changed when one of the kids went out onto the back deck to check on their dad. He was dead, lying on the porch, having been slayed by a heart attack. He was fifty. Needless to say, their lives had suddenly turned on that fragile dime. As I was sitting there, Laura, the wife, dialed a number, but then didn’t talk to anyone and then she suddenly began to greatly weep. I knew what she had done. She had dialed her husband’s voice mail just to hear his voice. Repeatedly, she told me she could still smell him in their bedroom. He had met her when her daughter had put in an ad on Craig’s List for someone to fix her brakes for twenty dollars. Later, when she was experiencing an allergic reaction to some medication, he held the trash can for her until she stopped throwing up. She said finally, she had lifted her head and said, “I will marry you,” which she did. She then said, “And he loved my kids. He loved my kids.”
As I sat there while she grieved the gargantuan change that had just occurred in her life—her angel had gone home to be with the Lord– I thought…this could have been my family in St. Louis the week before. How fragile life can be…and none of us knows. We cling to God, strap on our boots and suspenders and go live. God, be gracious to this family. Thank you for being gracious to mine, through both the difficult times and the wonderful times. My life is yours. Do with it as you wish. Use my life to save. Use my life and the lives of my family, both physical and Spiritual to save others, just as you used Joseph’s. Amen.
Biggest Struggle at the moment:
How does what happen here relate to you?
What about your kids?
Biggest Struggles (Imagine these or several–put yourself in their shoes–walk through a day with them at school, at home. What might they encounter?)
Now how does what happen here possibly relate/ (Remember this is only to give you a feel or an introductory hook or a reinforcing took; in there looking, they may come up with something entirely different.)
Remember to have fun, sense the Spirit’s leading and develop a love for these kids.
As always, thanks!
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org).