Friday, December 31, 2010

Pharaoh Makes Joseph Ruler Of Egypt - Genesis 41:40-45


“You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand, and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen, and put the gold necklace around his neck. And he had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, “Bow the knee!” And he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Though I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh named Joseph Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, as his wife. And Joseph went forth over the land of Egypt.

From the end of Genesis 41:39 where Pharaoh states there is no one in the land as discerning and as wise as Joseph, right through to verse 41 where he announces he has “set (Joseph) over all the land of Egypt”, there is no indication that the Hebrew youth even had a choice or say in the matter. But notice all the perquisites Pharaoh has endowing him with. Every potential CEO in the world would have jumped at them.
He was to be totally in charge of Pharaoh’s own personal household. All the people either of the nation or all those that were of Pharaoh’s kinship or household would also be required to “kiss” (pay homage) Joseph. This practice was first introduced in scripture when Isaac asked Jacob, thinking him to be Esau, to kiss him (Genesis 27:26). The same Hebrew word was repeated in Genesis 29:11 (when Jacob kissed Rachel) as well several other times prior to our current passage in relation to Laban and Jacob.

Furthermore there was to be no one between Pharaoh and Joseph. The former would only be greater as a sovereign on the throne, but not in practice. And to guarantee that statement, Pharaoh took off his ring that contained his seal and when used, served as his sign of authority on any document it was impressed upon with hot wax. This was the first mention of such a ring in scripture.

He gave Joseph a new wardrobe as well as some fine jewelry and assigned him his second most preferred vehicle. Whenever Joseph rode in this chariot, the Egyptian guards would go ahead of him in other vehicles and instruct the people on the roads and elsewhere to “bend the knee” or kneel down to Joseph as his chariot was passing. Clearly, he was established as the second mightiest ruler in Egypt. Joseph was given the right to control all activity in Egypt. Nothing could be done without his permission.
Speaking volumes, Pharaoh gave him a new name, Zaphenath-paneah. In the later Coptic language, the word signifies a “revealer of secrets” or “receiver of revelations concerning secrets”. [Coptic is the later version of the Egyptian language using its own script or alphabet, whereas the original or early Egyptian was based on the Greek alphabet.] In earlier Egyptian, the name given to Joseph is said to have the meaning of “the Savior of the world”. It is possible that Pharaoh now saw Joseph as the ‘savior’ of Egypt, his ‘world’. Many empires referred to their own conquered lands as being ‘the world’ long after this Pharaoh did.

Finally, Pharaoh gives an Egyptian woman to the young Hebrew as his wife. Asenath was the daughter of Potiphera, a priest of On. The name ‘Asenath’ means ‘belonging to the goddess Neith’. According to Wikipedia, in Egyptian mythology, Neith (also known as Nit, Net, and Neit) was an early goddess in the Egyptian pantheon. She was the patron deity of Sais, where her cult was centered in the Western Nile Delta of Egypt and attested as early as the First Dynasty. Asenath’s father was Potiphera. His name meant ‘one who belonged to the sun’ and was given to his parents by the Egyptian sun god himself, Ra. Potiphera was the priest of an ancient Egyptian city called On. The name On meant “strength or vigor”. It was in Lower Egypt, bordering the land of Goshen. It was a center of sun worshiping.

So in this short passage of Scripture we observe the transformation of a young Hebrew man to a full-fledged Egyptian ruler. He gets a new job, new powers, new clothes, new means, new respect, a new name, and a new wife. This was Joseph the dreamer. This was the man that gave all the credit for his life and abilities to God. Now what does he do with all this?

Our text simply says, “And Joseph went forth over the land of Egypt.” Is there a lesson for us here? As always, the answer is ‘yes there is’. No matter who we are, there have been, or will be, times during our life that somehow our circumstances will indeed be transformed. We may complete some education. We may get a promotion or a new job. We may receive an inheritance or get married. We may become a parent. It may be as simple as buying our first new car or home. Something happens that changes the appearance of who we are to others. It also changes our influence and impact on others, whether we recognize or not. Yet up to this point, we know who we were and the One Who helped us get to where we now are. We have always given the credit to God. The question is what happens from this point forward?

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Pharaoh Looks For Someone To Put In Charge - Genesis 41:37-39


Now the proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants. Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is divine spirit?” So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are.”

Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams foretelling the seven years of devastating famine that will hit Egypt following the seven years of plentiful harvests about to begin. He also gives him specific instructions of how to deal with it. It appears from the passage that many, perhaps all, of Pharaoh’s servants were present when Joseph was sharing the interpretation.

Interesting how there seems to be no recorded reaction of the Pharaoh to the dream itself. No “woe is us” or “why is this happening?” I was reading a review yesterday of a book by Joshua Cooper Ramo, entitled The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us and What We Can Do About It (Little, Brown and Company, 2009). In the book, Ramo says “today’s ideal political candidates (and thus potential leaders) need the essential skill of crisis management” and “we need to become resilient,” because “much of what we face can’t be deterred, prevented or even predicted.” It seems this Pharaoh was way ahead of his time – he was exhibiting those abilities thousands of years ago. The text simply says, “The proposal seemed good to Pharaoh”.

In what appears to be a cool, calm, and collected state of mind after hearing Joseph out, he simply turns to all his servants and asks, “Can we find a man like this?” Pharaoh as leader of his people knew he had to take action. It did not take him long to conclude that what Joseph had presented as a possible course for him to follow was indeed the best one. It is possible he arrived at that because he had earlier discerned Joseph’s Source of wisdom. The young Hebrew had told him that it is God that interprets dreams (chap. 41, vs. 16) and it is God that would give him an answer, it was God that was telling him what He was going to do Egypt (vs. 25) and finally it was God that was showing Pharaoh what to do about it (vs. 28). In fact, in verse 39, Pharaoh so much as says, “Since God has informed you of all this . . .” Clearly, we have here an indication of Pharaoh’s intelligence in recognizing God’s sovereignty in the matter of his dream and how to deal with it.

For that reason, when he asked his servants if they knew whether there was a man like the one that Joseph indicated would be needed, he specifically said, “in whom is divine spirit?” He wanted someone who had God’s spirit in him. He had noticed something extra in Joseph and he realized that leadership skills alone were not enough to get this job done. The individual had to have an edge and that edge was the Spirit of God. It is interesting to note that this verse (39) is the first time the ‘Spirit of God’ being ‘in a man’ is mentioned in Scripture. In Genesis 1:2, we read of the “Spirit of God moving upon the face of the waters” and it is next mentioned as a phrase here in our passage.

It seems that the answer to Pharaoh’s question of his servants received either a negative response or no response at all as Pharaoh allowed very little time for anyone to reply. Perhaps it was a rhetorical question and one for which he already had found an answer. Notice how Pharaoh describes a person that he believes has the Spirit of God in him. First of all he recognizes his relationship with God and that they are in communication with each other. Secondly, he tells him there is no one so discerning and wise as he is.

What do we learn from this account of Pharaoh’s response to Joseph’s statements about what God intended to do and what Pharaoh should do? I believe we see here an excellent example of the fact that people are searching for answers to their life (Pharaoh had two bad dreams he needed interpreted). They can recognize what believers have (the Spirit of God). They want to make use of that Spirit of God for their own purposes (Pharaoh looks for a man who has that Spirit within him). They value the person with such a Spirit (Pharaoh pays tribute to the discernment and wisdom of one filled with such a Spirit).

What Joseph had can indeed be ours today. God wants to fill us with His Spirit and use us among men and women in our day for His Glory. As I study the life of Joseph, I note that he did not ask for this. He simply lived his life recognizing God’s supremacy over it and he was fully committed to letting God be God and giving Him all the credit. Whatever issues of ego or pride he may have had as a young teen with his coat of many colors had all been dealt with as God’s very presence in his life was allowed to take root and slowly fill his every breath. Then and then alone could he be filled with God’s Spirit so that others, like Pharaoh, could take notice and recognize his value. I pray the same for you and me today.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Joseph Instructs Pharaoh On Action He Should Take - Genesis 41:33-36


“And now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance. Then let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it. And let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish during the famine.”

Through Joseph, God had just given Pharaoh some devastating news on what was about to happen in Egypt. But He also provided him, again through Joseph, with instructions on how to deal with it. Sometimes we as God’s people get advance notice on what challenges lie ahead, sometimes they come upon us unexpectedly. But I believe, as His children, in every case He gives us the means and the wherewithal to deal with those challenges. Most often the directions are in His Word, the Bible. Often they come, if we’re willing to accept them, through the wisdom of a true and tested fellow-believer. Sometimes God Himself whispers them to us. That practice of God’s, like all his promises, is one the Christian can always rely on.

Joseph basically tells Pharaoh that he needs to delegate. Not only does he need to appoint a “discerning and wise” man over the whole of Egypt, but he also needs to give that man lieutenants that are in charge over various parts of the land and report directly to him. God never intends anyone to deal with issues involving a nation or a people or a company or a congregation or a family, alone. No, His way is a team.

[Note: As an aside, many of us have always considered God’s first example of such a preference was provided later in Scripture and in the history of the Hebrews when Moses’ father-in-law instructed Moses to appoint leaders and assistants under him to help rule the people, so Moses would not get burned out. This idea of delegation however was first introduced here when Joseph was telling Pharaoh how to deal with the oncoming famine.]

We also note in this passage that the method God intended to be used in this situation was a form of a tax. The appointed overseer was to take 20% of the produce of the land from those that farmed it. God realizes that not only do those carrying out His instructions need to work in a team with others, but He also knows resources other than human are needed to get the job done. As a leader in now two missions, I have seen God blessing our plans in both those ways. It is expected that His people participate in this way. While we should never give our money to any Christian work without first making sure of the scriptural and spiritual integrity of that work, we have no choice to but to give it to some of those that meet the criteria.

[Note: As another aside, I wonder if, and I admit it is only because it is used here, whether or not that 20% figure is indeed an appropriate goal or ideal to be used by governments in the taxation of their people? At least in comparison to the, in some cases, over 50% rates that apply in countries such as Canada and the way over 20% rates that apply in the United States and elsewhere. I know getting back to 20% would be most difficult under our current economic situations but also because of the great dependency on our governments that we have become accustomed to. I believe ideally a goal of 20% overall taxation to cover all levels of government would help force us to regain a more appropriate balance between two much and too little government. Such improved balance would also provide the means whereby many could regain their self-respect and commence to fulfill their intended role as providers for those for whom they are responsible.]

Notice also the instruction that whatever was gathered, should be well guarded. The implication is at least twofold. First, others would try to take the produce by force. Second, other lands or people would suffer similar famine but not have access to such a reserve of food. I am not certain of the lesson here. Perhaps it is that we as God’s children must be aware that even when we follow God’s instructions for our lives, there will be opposition. People will try to destroy what we have, not only our physical property, but also our spiritual relationship with God. We must therefore take the necessary physical and spiritual precautions to preserve what God has given us. As a mission leader, some missionaries ask, “Why do we have to spend so much money on insurance? Why can’t we just trust God?” Well, the answer is, “Because God Himself values what He has given us and He expects us to protect it.” He has allowed laws and provisions (such as insurance) that protect us in these ways. Notice what the last phrase of this passage is: “ . . . so that the land may not perish during the famine.” It is clear God wanted to save the land, his creation.

Is it not amazing what gems we can find for ourselves when we study scripture? Here God is giving some ancient Egyptian ruler some instructions as to how to govern for the fourteen years that are to follow and yet in those instructions are some life jewels for us.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Joseph Intrepets Pharaoh’s Dreams - Genesis 41:17-32

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Joseph Hauled Out Of Prison To Interpet More Dreams - Genesis 41:14-16


Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

As soon as Pharaoh heard that a young Hebrew had interpreted two dreams in prison and they came out to be true, he sent for him. The convicting personal experience of another person is an incredibly strong influencer for others, especially when they are at the end of their options. Our personal story of salvation as well as our experiences of personal rescue by God during our lives can play a big part in the coming to Christ by an individual. Charles W. Colson, now the well-known Christian leader of Prison Fellowship, but once the ‘hatchet man’ of Richard M. Nixon, found that out. When it became known that he had made a decision to turn his life to Christ in the midst of his impinging downfall, he started getting letters from others who did likewise simply because of hearing his story. They figured if someone like Colson had such a need and felt such emptiness in life, they certainly qualified.

But let us return to our hero, Joseph. Can you imagine what was going through his mind as the guards led him out of prison and prepared him to meet Pharaoh? Did they tell him? And if they did let him know the Pharaoh asked for him, what did that mean? What had he done now? And what lay ahead in his future? He knew none of the answers to those questions, but from his life so far, he knew God had been, was now, and would be with him. Have you ever been in a similar situation? You may be heading into a brand new experience and you have no idea of what may happen. Someone may have sued you; a loved one is arrested; there’s a diagnosis of cancer; your spouse or a child of yours wants a divorce; you lose your job that you count on to feed your family; etc. What do you do? Perhaps the best you can do is to take one step at a time, but know that God who loves you so much is still with you and He will see you through this as well.

Joseph was doing just that. He shaved and got a change of clothes, ready to meet the Pharaoh. When he came face to face with the Pharaoh of Egypt, the ruler told Joseph that he knew he was able to interpret dreams. Can you think of what was going through his head? Had the chief cupbearer told him at last? Or did he hear it second hand from someone else? But none of that was his focus for long. Pharaoh was giving him credit for dream interpretation and Joseph wasted no time in correcting him and to speak of his own weakness in this matter. “It is not in me,” he told the Pharaoh. He was saying, “Don’t give me the credit.” And then he properly assigned the power to God. It was God who was going to give the ruler of Egypt a favorable answer.

The last sentence in this scripture portion is a powerful one. First, it clearly gives credit to God where it belongs. Second, it boldly proclaims that God will provide an answer. And third, it identifies the kind of answer that God would give – it would be ‘favorable’. However, it is important to note that the Hebrew word translated here as ‘favorable’ is ‘shalown’ which more accurately means complete, sound, or peaceful. Joseph could clearly state God’s answer would be complete and sound, and in the act of being given the interpretation it would provide peace from the anxiety of not knowing what the dream meant. When people come to you for advice, are you quick to speak of your own personal limited strength? Are you quick to give God the credit for what He alone can do? Are you able to assure others that He will answer them if they call on His help and that no matter what the answer is, it will be complete, make ultimate sense, and bring them peace? I must admit there have been numerous times when I did not do that when many have come to me for advice, be it spiritual, personal, or business-related. Joseph is an excellent role model for us. We need to mimic his approach.

Finally, I wonder whether this was the first time the Pharaoh of Egypt had heard anything about this God, the God of the Hebrews? As supreme Egyptian ruler, had he ever gotten close enough to Hebrews in other circumstances to have this opportunity? Or did God use his dream, Joseph’s imprisonment, the chief cupbearer’s story, and so much more to work out a means whereby this Pharaoh could have the chance of hearing about the one and only true God? I think so. Who are you meeting today? Who is God bringing into your path today? Is this his or her divine appointment? And just think, it involves you.

Joseph may have been just a dreamer to some, especially his brothers. But God saw him and used him as His mighty and bold ambassador in a situation where only he could play a role. I pray that will be our experience today as we seek His instructions and carryout His will.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Chief Cupbearer Remembers A Source of Wisdom - Genesis 41:9-13


Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharaoh, saying, “I would make mention today of my own offenses. Pharaoh was furious with his servants, and he put me in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, both me and the chief baker. And we had a dream on the same night, he and I; each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. Now a Hebrew youth was with us there, a servant o the captain of the bodyguard, and we related them to him, and he interpreted our reams for us. To each one he interpreted according to his own dream. And it came about that just as he interpreted for us, so it happened; he restored me in my office, but he hanged him.”

Since no one could comfort the Pharaoh with any reasonable interpretation of his dreams, the cupbearer Pharaoh had restored to his job after throwing him in prison, decided to share his own ‘dream interpretation’ experience with the king. The cupbearer tells Pharaoh how he and the chief baker had had dreams on the same night and how a young Hebrew in jail with them had interpreted them correctly. Three days after the dreams, Pharaoh returned the cupbearer to his role and hung the baker, exactly as young Joseph had interpreted.

Here is the cupbearer taking a risk for several reasons. First, he has the audacity to imply that he knows what the Pharaoh was going through. The idea that a mere servant could possibly understand the mental anguish of a ruler such as the Pharaoh could have been enough to set the monarch off. Secondly, the reminder that Pharaoh had once been angry with his cupbearer could have made him angry again, especially given his current mood. Thirdly, there was the risk of sharing a possible solution that could potentially backfire. What if the king approached Joseph and Joseph’s interpretation was a negative one for the Pharaoh? Then were might the cupbearer end up?

We note that the cupbearer possibly did not even remember Joseph’s name, referring to him only as “a young Hebrew”.

And finally note that the cupbearer did not tell Pharaoh what to do. He did not say, “listen boss, you must get in touch with this young Hebrew lad; he may well be the answer to your needs right now.” No, he simply informed him of his experience.

What can we take from these three simple observations – the risk, the apparent non-remembrance of Joseph personally by name, and the lack of instruction as to what the Pharaoh should do?

Are we prepared to take a risk to share our story with those in need? Are we prepared to tell them what God has done for us? Are we prepared to share what to them may seem so ‘unlikely’? Imagine, a mere Hebrew youth being able to do what all the wise men and magicians of Egypt could not do. What was the chance of Pharaoh accepting that possibility? Yet in man’s deepest needs, the unlikely becomes most probable, as we will see in the text still before us.

Turning our thoughts inwardly, how often do we forget the actual person behind the help we received? Do we remember the ‘person’ that helped us with great advice, or helped us in an emergency, or sacrificed their rights for ours? Often we do well just to remember the deed, never mind the person who performed it. I think we need to stop and reflect more on and about the persons involved in our day-to-day lives. What are their needs, their hurts, their desires and hopes?

Finally, the cupbearer is an excellent example to us of knowing what to say and what not to say in a particular situation. He knew he was sharing something with the Pharaoh. He knew, even though he was the Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and thus close to him in some respects, he had no right to tell him what to do – only to share with him what he himself had experienced. We need to learn from that as we go about our own witnessing. We need to consider both our relationships with others and our positions and then realize that Christ asks us to simply give “testimony” and be a “witness to” what He has done for us. Nothing more, nothing less.

What can a simple cupbearer of an ancient ruler teach us today? I think much. God bless us as we reflect on the need to be courageous and take risks in sharing our experiences, remembering the people behind the deeds that have shaped our lives even in small ways, and knowing what our true Christian obligation to sharing Christ is really about.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Pharaoh’s Dreams - Genesis 41:1-8


Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing in the Nile. And lo, from the Nile there came up seven cows, sleek and fat; and they grazed in the marsh grass. Then behold, seven other cows came up after them from the Nile, ugly and gaunt, and they stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the ugly and gaunt cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. Then Pharaoh awoke. And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time; and behold, seven ears of grain came up on a single stalk, plump and good. Then behold, seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind, sprouted up after them. And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears. Then Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. Now it came about in the morning that his spirit was troubled, so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh.

So the chief baker is dead, the chief cupbearer gets his job back in Pharaoh’s household, and poor Joseph spends another two years in prison, totally forgotten by everyone. Everyone but God and it is time for Him to get involved more directly.

This time Pharaoh himself has two dreams. In the first one, he is standing on the banks of the Nile River and seven shiny, healthy-looking, fat cows come out of the water and start munching away on the adjacent grass. They are followed by seven scrawny, unsightly cows, which join the first lot, and proceed to eat them up. At that point Pharaoh wakes up.

He shakes any possible effects of the first dream off and he once again falls asleep only to have a second dream. This time seven ears of grain sprouted on a single vibrant and strong stalk appear. Then seven all but dead ears of grain, due to wind and scorching sun conditions sprung up after them and gobbled up the seven healthy ears. This was enough to wake Pharaoh up again.

We can assume he got very little sleep the rest of the night for the text says that in the morning his mind was disturbed and puzzled over the possible meanings of these dreams. He immediately summons his servants and orders them to call all the magicians of Egypt and all of her wise men. Two points to note here. First, he called for “all” of them. I could understand one or two, but ‘all’? These dreams must have been much more disturbing and vivid than the text describes. Either that, or Pharaoh must have been a very insecure person. Second, do not people do much the same today when they run to seers and crystal ball gazers to interpret events in their dreams or in their lives? The world wants to know what all these things mean for them or those they love.

Yet the scripture says, “no one could” tell the Pharaoh what his dreams meant. Not even with a little bit of certainty. You will remember earlier in Genesis 40:8 Joseph had clearly made the point that dream “interpretations belong to God”. And so it is. Only God knows the future. Only God can be counted on to see us through it.

Last night I attended a baptismal service at church for thirty-seven candidates. Each were asked how long they had been a believer in Christ and why it was that they had made the decision to be baptized at this particular time. It was interesting to hear a common theme running through the responses of a significant number. They had tried everything and they were tired of avoiding, or even running away from, God. They had come to the decision that all the answers to our questions, all our best interests, all our strength and wisdom comes from Him. Now it was time to fully obey Him, get baptized, and totally rely on Him. So it is when we experience things beyond our own understanding in our lives – be they in our dreams or during our waking moments. Only God can be the real source of the answers and the assurance we need. I pray it will be so with us today, especially if we’re disturbed or concerned about something specific.

In the verses that follow, we will see how God sometimes uses those He has chosen to provide us with those answers we see to our own life’s dilemmas.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Interpreted Dreams Come True - Genesis 40:20-23


Thus it came about on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. And he restored the chief cupbearer to his office, and he put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand; but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

Can you imagine the scene? It is the Pharaoh’s birthday and of course what better time to display his authority than that to all his servants. So he throws a big feast for them with several possible objectives. He wanted to thank them for their services or he needed substitute friends to celebrate with. We do not know how popular he was outside his own palace. He would use the occasion to demonstrate he had the power to forgive peoples’ wrong against him and also the power to take their lives. To that end, he had the chief cupbearer and the chief baker hauled up from the prisons below and “he lifted up” their heads and held them for all to see. A good “sport” at their expense, for sure. Can you imagine the stillness of the scene? What would the man in charge do with these two heads of former servants and now prisoners? And who would be next? If he could determine life or death for these two, what could he do for those that were serving in much lower positions in his household?

Well, he did exactly as Joseph had said he would when he interpreted the dreams the cupbearer and the baker had respectively. The cupbearer was spared, the baker was hung.

One would think that the cupbearer would have remembered the interpretations Joseph had given to him and his colleague just three days earlier. But we are told he did not. In fact, the text says, he “forgot him”.

Perhaps therein lies the lesson for us today. Have we forgotten those that have asked us to remember them and at the time, we likely said, “yes, we will” or “don’t worry, I won’t forget you”? Have we forgotten those that we should not have forgotten, those that have really been instrumental in our lives? Finally, have we forgotten to deliver on the promises that we made? That is, can people really rely on our word?

In my own life, especially as a consultant, I have made several observations in this regard. People are not very good at keeping their promises – to their families, their friends, their colleagues, their clients, or to God. The people of God themselves, and pastors and church leaders in particular, are not always very good at it. We get failing marks in this category.

I believe we can all improve in this area. It’s all about integrity and credibility. Let our yes be yes and our no, no. We need to deliver on the goods we say we will deliver. That is part of maturing in Christ. It is my prayer that you and I are challenged to do just that.

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Joseph Interprets The Chief Baker’s Dream In Prison - Genesis 40:16-19


When the chief baker saw that he had interpreted favorably, he said to Joseph, “I also saw in my dream, and behold, there were three baskets of white bread on my head; and in the top basket there were some of all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, and the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.” Then Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days; within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head from you and will hang you on a tree; and the birds will eat your flesh off you.”

You will remember that the chief baker also had a dream the same night the chief cupbearer did and so when his colleague got a great interpretation from Joseph, he wanted the same. In a very odd way this is a depiction of what most of us are like. We see something that others have received and say, “We want that too.” But it may not be good for us. It may not be in our best interest to get it. In this case, the baker could have spared himself three agonizing days knowing he has going to be hung imminently. He could have just taken his chances with his dream. I suppose, though, there is something to be said about wanting to know what the future holds, be it good or bad. If I were dying of cancer, I’d want to know sooner rather than later.

Clearly the baker’s dream was very different in its content. In it, the baker seemed helpless as to what was happening and took no action on his own. The birds in the dream were in charge. Joseph, as the dream interpreter, could not ignore these differences. Can you imagine being Joseph and having to communicate such an interpretation? I am thankful I do not interpret dreams.

As a career counselor, management consultant, and mentor, I have had the opportunity to work with people who really wanted something which clearly was not within their reach, sometimes because of reasons beyond their control, but more often because of their unwillingness to sacrifice what was required in order to achieve their goal. Sharing reality with them is always very difficult. In doing so, I try to provide some more realistic alternatives. Those not receptive to such guidance sometimes dismiss me out of hand. Others, have come back to thank me for my honesty. In our passage here, the baker unfortunately would not have that opportunity.

What we cannot ignore in these verses is the clear lesson that two things often accompany being used by God in a very special way as Joseph was. First, we are called to do things for which we can only rely on God to do well. In this case, Joseph knew that the interpretation of dreams belonged to God (Genesis 40:8). Secondly, often the things we are called to do are very difficult and involve telling it like it is (he had to tell the baker he was about to die). My prayer is that you and I can both realize exactly how God does use us when He chooses to, as well as be committed to being used in that way.

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Joseph Interprets The Chief Cupbearer’s Dream In Prison -- Genesis 40:9-15


So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, “In my dream, behold, there was a vine in front of me; and on the vine were three branches. And as it was budding, its blossoms came out, and its clusters produced ripe grapes. Now Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; so I took the grapes and squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup, an I put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.” Then Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: the three branches are three days; within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you will put Pharaoh’s cup into his hand according to your former custom when you were his cupbearer. Only keep me in mind when it goes well with you, and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house. For I was in fact kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.”

In the chief cupbearer’s dream, he saw a blossoming grapevine with three branches reaching fruition. In his hand, he held Pharaoh’s wine cup, which he proceeded to fill by squeezing the grapes from the vine into it, and gave it to Pharaoh. A very simple dream in some respects but not necessarily easy to interpret.

Joseph, upon hearing it, interprets the dream. The three branches of the maturing vine represent a period of three days at which time the cupbearer would be taken from prison and reinstated in his former position as depicted in the dream by the cupbearer filling Pharaoh’s cup.

You can imagine the joy that the cupbearer must have felt as he heard those words from Joseph. But did he really immediately believe it? We do not know. Or was it only a feeling of “if only it were true” not dissimilar to what we often feel reading our ‘fortune cookie messages’ after a good Chinese meal?

And by the way, what was the real purpose of this dream of the cupbearer’s? Was it really all about him, his release and re-instatement? Or was it more about how God wanted to use it in the life of Joseph? Certainly Joseph was not going to let an opportunity like this go by. Being confident in his interpretation of the dream, Joseph asks the cupbearer simply to “keep me in mind” and mention “me to Pharaoh when you get out” of here. Not ‘if’, but ‘when’.

We note that Joseph then shares with the cupbearer his own situation, how he unwillingly got to Egypt and how he feels undeserving of his current imprisonment. No major complaining, just the reality of the circumstances he was in. We also note that no record of a response by the cupbearer to either the interpretation or to Joseph’s request is provided. Again, to me indicating, the author is more concerned with the Joseph plotline than that of the cupbearer.

What are we to take from this passage of scripture? I’m not sure, but here are a few suggestions. First, realize and be ready and willing to be used by God in any circumstance you find yourself in as Joseph was. Second, from the cupbearer’s perspective, allow individuals who have been clearly blessed by God to minister to you. And third, from Joseph’s perspective again, pursue solutions to your challenges by making your case and leaving the rest to God – a lesson that we all need to keep on learning. My prayer today is that we be willing and ready to be used, yes today; for those of us dealing with challenges, to allow other godly men and women to minister to us from God; and finally, to take the necessary steps to stand up for to the point of stating our case, but allowing God to bring about results.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pharaoh’s Prisoned Servants Have Dreams - Genesis 40:5-8


Then the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in jail, they both had a dream the same night, each man with his own dream and each dream with its own interpretation. When Joseph came to them in the mourning and observed them, behold, they were dejected. And he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were with him in confinement in his master’s house, “Why are your faces so sad today?” Then they said to him, “We have had a dream and there is no one to interpret it.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell it to me, please.”

God has Joseph and the king’s cupbearer and baker all in the same prison at the same time. The text says that both the baker and the cupbearer had separate dreams on the same night. It clearly states these dreams had their own interpretation. This, in my mind, is a significant statement. Clearly some dreams do have interpretations. What we are not told from this passage is that all dreams have interpretations – they may not. Dreams can be explained but they do not necessarily predict the future. The fact that the author of Genesis indicates these two dreams did have an interpretation, further supports the idea that all dreams do not. I do not believe we are to go about seeking an interpretation of each and every dream that we have. It may have just been the overabundance of chili peppers we had for supper the night before.

In the morning Joseph, being in charge of the prisoners, personally goes to check their well-being and finds the baker and the cupbearer very depressed. The text actually says he “observed them”. Here is Joseph in jail himself and he continues to do his assigned work with great care and diligence. These men were fellow-prisoners, confined with him. Why would he bother to treat them so well? Yet he enquires of them as to the cause of their woes and finds out that it is due to having no one who could interpret their dreams. And he does not just say, “oh, I see” and then moves on. I am reminded of a dear lady at a church I attended lately. As I often saw her in the lobby, I would call out, “how are you?” and keep on going. One day she blocked my path just as I had uttered the usual question and put her hands on both my shoulders and said, “Please don’t ask me how I am unless you really care and can stop long enough to have me respond. Instead, just say ‘hello’ and keeping on going.” Wow. That stunned me and I have never since asked anyone “how are you?” on the fly. Joseph was not ‘on the fly’ with the people he was in charge of. The question remains for us, “Would we go that far when we ourselves are imprisoned in the affairs of life?”

Although I have never had this desire or curiosity, I am told most people crave to have their dreams interpreted. That’s why when you ‘google’ “dream interpreters” on the Internet these days you get thousands of hits. But Joseph, indicating his actual awareness of God and his desire to bow to His authority, tells the baker and the cupbearer that “interpretations belong to God”. Now, here is the interesting perspective that Joseph had. I believe he realized he had a special relationship with God and it is for that reason he felt comfortable acknowledging that interpretations do belong to Him and at the same time to ask the prisoners to tell him their dreams so through God’s guidance and direction, Joseph himself could interpret them.

Have you ever been in a situation like that? Have you ever felt close enough to God to honestly believe that you could speak or interpret for Him? Many of course think they are there all the time. I would, however, caution us to be careful in that regard. I would point out Joseph had done nothing special, as far as we know, to acquire that gift. He could not boast that he deserved it or earned it. It was clearly all God’s choosing. He was simply someone God wanted to use. And he himself may not have even known it. In fact, he certainly didn’t have to go around telling people “I have the gift”. I would caution against those that do just that.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Joseph’s Success In Jail - Genesis 39:21-23


But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. And the chief jailer committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it. The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made to prosper.

There is nothing better that could happen to a person either already in trouble or heading towards it than to have a “but God” inserted into his or her life as was the case with Joseph at the beginning of this portion of scripture. And often that “but” is accompanied with the very presence of God. The text says, “But the Lord was with Joseph”.

For some humanly unknown reason Joseph was treated kindly in prison by the jailers. Yet the text says it was God who did that. It was also God who actually “gave him favor” with the chief jailer. Here is a beautiful account of how God wants to be involved in the lives of His children. He wants to be with us. He wants to extend kindness to us through others. He wants to have us succeed in the long run.

As we read what the chief jailer does, putting all the prisoners in the jail under Joseph’s charge, we think, “here we go again; the kid still has his charm and skills and abilities!” Do you ever wonder why, besides the obvious fact that God was with him, Joseph rises to the top of his situation and environment again? I think it is because the gifts and strengths that God builds into us, or entrusts to us, in our character and personality and the way we operate are gifts that are lasting and transferable to wherever He places us. Also He may have trained us in one situation and now wants to use us in another.

We should also note that Joseph did not say to the chief jailer, “No thanks; been there, done that and I got burned in big way last time. Just give the responsibility to someone else, please.” No, he accepted what “God” was handing him again through the jailer. In that new position, he gained the trust of his authority and became responsible for all that was done by and through the prisoners. And the text says that the chief jailer stayed out of the way “because the Lord was with” Joseph. Trust had been lost in Potiphar’s house and had been regained in prison. When things go badly for the true child of God, some of the world may be finished with him or her, but God is not.

I recently had to deal with an issue of trust in ministry. Because of the situation, it was mutually agreed by the individual and the organization involved that there should be a parting of the ways. But I am convinced that God is not finished with that individual; He is not finished using their strengths and talents. It will be a matter of where and how and the individual’s willingness to let God interfere with a ‘but God’ and with His presence.

This section of scripture ends with “and whatever (Joseph) did, the Lord made to prosper.” It is God allowing the succeeding, not Joseph in this case, not the jailer’s wise supervision, not you or I in our own case, not because of those around us – but God. It is my prayer that each of us sees the mighty presence of God’s hand in all that we do each day and for the rest of our lives. When we notice that, we can then start asking Him to make evident His ultimate intent and purpose for our situation and life. God’s purpose for Joseph was about to be revealed. Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Potiphar’s Ire and Joseph’s Imprisonment - Genesis 39:19-20


Now it came about when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, “This is what your slave did to me”; that his anger burned. 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.

Do you ever get a story from a relative about another person that just makes your blood boil? That happened to Potiphar when he came home to find his wife holding on to Joseph’s garment and telling him he tried to rape her. Although it depends on who is doing the telling, we normally buy into the story right away. Potiphar did just that, but as we know, he was wrong.

When something which at first appears a little unbelievable is told to us, it would be wise for us to pause and consider what is being said; who is saying it; why are they saying it; and what we personally know concerning the person it is said about. We need to verify it against our own knowledge and understanding and to the best of our ability, against the facts. Perhaps we would be wise also to check it with the person who may be the subject of the news.

We often fail to do so. That gets us into problems with family, with friends, and if the truth be known, with those other brothers and sisters that we worship with. Making the practice of not doing this kind of verifying starts at an early age (I have seen it in my grandchildren) and unless parents take the time to help children work out and correct the reality, it will go unchecked right into adulthood.

Of course, there are always clues along the way that should cause us to think there might be another side to any bit of surprising news. In Potiphar’s case, he may have been more sensitive and tuned in to the kind of wife he had or the feelings she was experiencing at the time. Or, he may have paid more attention to the fact that her story may not have been as accurate, given that she used it as another opportunity to blame him for all her problems. But he missed both of these clues.

Behaving true to his normal pattern, he instead reacted with himself in mind. After all, to Potiphar life was all indeed about him. So he feels very betrayed by Joseph and thus the text says ‘anger burned’ inside him. He may also have realized that now he would be ridiculed by those who had opposed his decision to trust Joseph as he had. So he acts and he acts in a most definitive way. Our first lesson here is to not act hastily as Potiphar did. There is no enquiry, no cross-examination, no opportunity for Joseph to tell his story. He is once again treated, without notice, like a simple valueless slave.

But there is also a lesson for us if when we feel like Joseph, the one lied about, the one not listened to, the one discarded like a slave who no longer had any purpose. You see Potiphar throws Joseph in jail with no word as to how long his sentence would last. For all we know, he was there to die. But here’s the interesting thing – Joseph got thrown into the jail that also housed the prisoners of the king himself. We cannot fully appreciate the significance of this bit of information until we finish the story of Joseph in the Bible, but suffice it to say, God had His hand in the selection of the jail Potiphar used.

I love the last phrase of verse 20. It simply reads, “and he was there in jail” period. The story could have ended there – “starry-eyed Israelite dreamer boy ends up as a big shot in Egypt but left to die in the king’s prison. Next story please.” But no, because the very next word, the first word of the very next verse, verse 20, is, once again, my favorite word in Scripture – “But”!

Where are you today? Were you a person with big dreams that somehow just got the bad breaks of life or had other people take advantage of you? Have you somehow ended up in a spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, or social prison? You need not be alone. You need to know that God has indeed reserved one or more of my favorite words just for your life. You need to know that He is willing and able to change things starting right now if you let Him, if you recognize that your only hope is “But God!” I pray you will be able to do that today.

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Monday, November 08, 2010

A Scorned Woman Takes Revenge - Genesis 39:13-18


When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and had fled outside, she called to the men of her household, and said to them, “See, he has bought in a Hebrew to us to make sport of us; he came in to me to lie with me, and I screamed. And it came about when he heard that I raised my voice and screamed, that he left his garment beside me and fled, and went outside.” 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 in to me to make sport of me; and it happened as I raised my voice and screamed, that he left his garment beside me and fled outside.”

Joseph flees the seductive wife of Potiphar who forcibly pursued him, but in so doing he has left his garment in her hands. She immediately calls the menservants who had been outside and gives them an interesting account of what had just transpired. But she blames her husband for placing a Hebrew in such a high position. Then she blames the Hebrew for wanting to simply do whatever he wants with the entire household, including now her. She lies about who was the aggressor in this assault, saying she screamed when he wanted to make love to her, causing Joseph to flee and leave his garment.

The garment becomes the treasured piece of evidence that she holds on to and awaits Potiphar’s return. When her husband does come home, she repeats the lies, continuing to blame him for the situation – “the Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us” – and then falsely emphasizes her own innocence. Here was a woman spurned by someone she wanted as a lover, probably ignored by her husband, bored to death with her life, and now on top of all that, her dignity had been damaged severely.

What is the lesson here for you and me? If you live long enough and sometimes, but not always, uprightly enough, there will come a time when you are falsely accused. Life is like that; people are like that. You may have done all the right things in dealing with a situation. You, like Joseph, may have said, “no” to sin repeatedly. But the ‘enemy’ does not let go; he does not give up. He keeps working things just so that it seems you will pay even more for not giving in to the ‘sin’. That is what happened to Joseph in these verses.

First, at the sexual fancy and then on the mental whim of one person, in this case Potiphar’s dissatisfied wife, a man’s reputation and his career are wiped out in one brief and on his part, innocent, encounter with her. What a bummer. Has that ever happened to you? Perhaps not with respect to sex or adultery, but perhaps involving some action you took or did not take at work, something you said or did not say in a relationship, a misunderstanding of a position taken at church, or the like.

Here was Joseph, alone in a strange land. All the friends he had gained were likely Egyptians and now with this turn of events, none of them would stand with him. And I am sure matters would just get worse.

But here is the consolation. Back in the second verse of this chapter, we read the following words, “And the Lord was with Joseph”. Was this still not the case? I believe it was. Joseph had done nothing to cause the Lord to depart from him. He was still with him. Why then all this trouble for our hero? Why all this trouble for you if you have been in similar situations? Those of us, who know the outcome of this story, may know the reason. For the rest, here’s a clue. Potiphar, whom Joseph worked for, was a pretty important officer in Pharoah’s regiment, but he was not the “main man”. Somehow, God wanted to bring Joseph to the attention of the Pharoah in order to accomplish His purpose. And the Lord was still with Joseph. And He is still with you and me, because He has something He wants to accomplish through you and me.

Stay tuned as we continue with the story of Joseph in Egypt.

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Potiphar’s Wife Makes One Last Effort - Genesis 39:11-12


Now it happened one day that he went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the household was there inside. And she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me!” And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside.

These two verses are packed with images and lessons. To begin with Joseph is alone in the house with another man’s wife who we know has strong desires for him. And there are no other men around. This is problematic. While I personally am not of the belief that a man must never be alone with another woman who is not his wife, daughter, or other close relative, I am convinced that he should not be alone with another woman if there is or ever has been any evidence of his desiring her or her desiring him, or if one of them knows that the other makes a habit of pursuing adulterous affairs, or if one of them knows his or her own weakness in this regard. Certainly if any of these feelings arise even momentarily during their private, yet legitimate, encounter, one or both of them must immediately put a halt to it and take steps not to repeat the circumstance.

After the information we have in verse 10 of this chapter, Joseph should have known that going alone into Potiphar’s house when only his master’s wife and perhaps her private servants were there, would not be a good idea. Perhaps there is something in a man (and I am sure some women) that causes them to think, “I am above becoming a victim; I can protect myself”. How wrong can one be? And yes, even if you can ‘run away’ as Joseph did when Potiphar’s wife insisted he sleep with her, he still left himself open to becoming the victim he may have thought he would never be.

After being refused, Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph’s garment, leaving him no choice but to push her away and flee. In the process he left behind his garment in her hands. Men, I am sure that at some point in your life you have discovered the spurning ability of women, I am sure you will admit that some women cannot be stopped when they have been rejected. In fact, for those of you who are Hollywood movie fans, you will note that millions have been made from movies like Fatal Attraction and other similar ones that play on just that. What we have here in verse 12 is a perfect setup for revenge. Joseph has indeed become the victim and the consequence is about to be felt.

What is the lesson for us? Well perhaps more than one. First, know yourself. Second, know those you work with or for. Third, if you are indeed the innocent victim, know you are not alone. In today’s world, there are more and more charges of sexual assault all the time. Often they are legitimate, but there are also occasions when they are not. I remember once having a sexual harassment complaint made against me by a woman working for me. It turned out, once the company started investigating, that I was indeed her third victim. She had had a record of planning such charges (with her husband’s knowledge) and then settling for considerable sums of money and moving on to the next employer. Fortunately, we exposed her practices and let her go. I was not alone. God was with me through the ordeal. Had I been alone or tried to solve this on my own, I could have lost everything.

As you face temptation today, know yourself, know those you deal with, and know God is with you. And with that knowledge do the right thing.

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Friday, November 05, 2010

Fighting The Persistence of Evil - Genesis 39:10


And it came about as she spoke to Joseph day after day, that he did not listen to her to lie beside her, or be with her.

There are some things in life that are “one-time” events. Birth is one; death is another. In between those two, one may be able to think of a small number of other “you only do it once” milestones in life. Certainly for the believer in Jesus, receiving the free gift of salvation is indeed one such event.

But for the most part, life is a journey of repeated opportunities and experiences – some that we welcome; others that we wish would just go away. Those events that most would say “I never want to go through that again” about them represent the latter. A real serious illness for a loved one or us is one such example. Another might be being unemployed for a long time. Still another may be the feeling of being violated when someone has broken into your home and literally trashed everything in sight to get to what they were looking for. And so on.

And then there are the pesky things in life. The power keeps going out. The kids keep losing their mittens. The car always needs repairs. My clothes no longer fit. I have the “nothing to wear again” blues. And so on.

Somewhere between these and the ‘never again’ events lies ‘temptation’. According to Wikipedia, “a temptation is an act that looks appealing to an individual. It is usually used to describe acts with negative connotations and as such, tends to lead a person to regret such actions, for various reasons: legal, social, psychological (including feeling guilt), health, economic, etc.”

Wikipedia continues with respect to the word’s derivation: “Though at present used in many non-religious connotations, the term has implications deeply rooted in Judaism and the Old Testament, starting with the story of Adam and Eve and the original sin.” Finally it goes on to give this observation: “‘Temptation’ is usually used in a loose sense to describe actions which indicate a lack of self control.”

I am sure there are entire sermons that can be written and given on the very concepts included in the above write-up. The Bible does deal extensively with ‘temptation’. Today’s verse is an early example.

Potiphar’s wife was indeed Joseph’s temptation. She persisted “day after day”. Temptation is like that, once it gets the whiff of your presence that it craves, it hunts you down until either it captures you or you kill it. You can only fight it or even run away from it for so long. At some point, you will need to give in to it, utterly destroy it, or ‘get out of Dodge’. Those are your choices. Giving in usually wins hands down, but it does not need to. Removing yourself from the circumstances (changing jobs, or neighborhoods, changing churches, etc.) can help tremendously but inherently there are two problems with that. First, it is not always practical. Second, you may just be running into the next bad town, scene, church or workplace. Somehow, your best choice is to determine how you can utterly destroy it.

The good news is that like Joseph, you do not have to do it alone. God is willing to fight temptation with you. He’s an expert at that. When faced with temptation, we often fail to avail ourselves of the greatest resource given to us to contend against all evil and that is Jesus Christ. God has given us everything in Him (Ephesians 1:3). With Him, all things are indeed possible. The scripture says Joseph “did not listen” to his temptation. He did not sleep with Potiphar’s wife. In fact, he avoided her.

There is no better advice we can give each other. Stand firm and fight temptation. Do not give in. Count on God’s help. Then avoid the circumstances that allow temptation to think it still has a chance. That is my desire for each of us today as we battle the temptations we will all face, even this day.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Potiphar’s Wife Desires Joseph - Genesis 39:7-9


And 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 and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, with me around, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house that I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil, and sin against God?”

Joseph is in charge of everything in Potiphar’s house except Potiphar’s wife. And she has a mind of her own. There was nothing shy about her. She was attracted to Joseph’s handsome form and appearance (Genesis 39:6), desired him physically, and boldly asked him to sleep with her.

Joseph not only refuses but also he rebukes her for what she is asking. He recognizes his position of authority and responsibility. But more importantly he recognizes both the sanctity of marriage (“because you are his [Potiphar’s] wife”) as well his moral obligation to God (“How then could I do this great evil, and sin against God?”).

Today we need to stop and think not only of others we know that may have fallen in adultery, but also whether or not we are able to prevent such a fall. These two verses seem to offer four excellent points in dealing with the situation:
1. Understand our position of authority and realize that there are inherent dangers that go along with it. The opportunities to fall into temptation and commit sin are great. We cannot conquer these snares alone; we need the protection and guidance of God at all times.
2. Understand the responsibilities we have to others in our role. These include responsibilities to our employer, our colleagues, our own family, and to those who trust us outside the position. In the case of pastors or leaders, this includes those that rely on us to be, among other things, a strong moral example.
3. Understand and be committed to the sanctity of marriage. For a Christian, the argument of “mutual consent” does not apply when sleeping with another person’s spouse. It did not matter that Joseph was single; his master’s wife was not. Neither Potiphar nor God would have granted such permission and for the Christian, every marriage is a tri-fold bond between husband, wife, and God. In fact, for the Christian, lest I be misunderstood, all adultery is wrong – even when both parties are single.
4. Understand committing adultery is not only “a great evil” but also a “sin against God”. Can He deal with it? Yes, of course He can and He has throughout the Old and New Testament and right through to today when His own children fall, but it does not make Him happy. It breaks His heart. There is a way back, but there are also most often some very real concrete and difficult consequences.

It is my prayer that each of us understands fully the implications of adultery in our lives and is able, with God’s help, to overcome the attractiveness of its fleeting pleasures that last only for a season. Let us do all we can to avoid the nightmares that often last for a lifetime. I pray God will make that a reality in your life and in mine.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Marketing of Evil -- Part VIII - The Truth About Abortion and Our Last Hope


Last in a series. I thought I knew a lot about abortion. I was mistaken. David Kupelian's chapter "Blood Confessions" on the topic in his book "The Marketing of Evil" made me mad. It also made me more committed than ever to play some role in addressing this modern day Holocaust. Here then are some of my notes/thoughts on reading that chapter as well as his concluding chapter entitled "Last, Best Hope". And by the way, I recommend you skip this synopsis -- just make sure you read the whole book!

Blood Confessions


* How did we ever get from "killing the unborn" to "choice"? Kupelian explains how the liberals and pro-abortionists get involved in "issue formulation".

* He quotes the original planners of the abortion movement of publicly lying about facts and publishing phony polls because they knew that would drive public opinion.

* He tells the story of one doctor who got fired when he started to question his involvement in abortions. That man went on to produce a film in 1985 entitled "The Silent Scream" which put the pro-life people on the offensive and the pro-abortion people on the defensive. In 1987, he produced another film called "The Eclipse of Reason" which was introduced by the late Charleston Heston. It showed exactly what happens in abortion at just 12 weeks from conception. It shows how piece by piece of the fetus is suctioned out and then re-assembled on a cold table to be sure they got it all. Contrary to popular opinion, the decision in the famous Roe vs. Wade case actually allows abortion anytime during the full nine-month term.

* As the title of the chapter suggests, person after person who no longer supports abortion but was intimately involved in thousands of them, confesses what was going on. He shares the lies they admitted telling to pregnant women. Lies like there is no pain involved for the mother or fetus; or that it is not a baby, but only a blood clot; or that there are no alternatives to an abortion.

* As I read this chapter I realized that being pro-choice is not being morally-neutral while being pro-life is just plain being moral.

* Kupelian shares what he learned and was told about concerning all the cash deals with no records so that there could be no lawsuits or any need for expensive insurance. And of course, that cuts down on any taxes to be paid. After all, the government doesn't really need "blood money". He shares how ultrasound was used to determine how far along the baby was because the further along it was, the more they could charge for the abortion.

* Mothers were not allowed to see/watch their ultrasound in case they heard the heartbeat and changed their mind.

* Finally, aborted baby after aborted baby was thrown down a garbage disposal shute. All of this evidence is documented.

* And then Kupelian makes this statement: "The question of how doctors could tear apart a virtually full-grown baby is painful, perplexing, mystifying." Amen. But he tries to explain as best he can (through the testimony of doctors) exactly how they come to do that starting when at medical school. It's frightening. Doctors actually talk about getting callous and some make statements like, "my God, that's a person!"

* He can only conclude that indeed while the Holocaust that Jews lived through was terrible and words cannot describe, today we are witnessing North America's Abortion Holocaust and we are being silent about it for the most part. Many who were for abortion and performed them in the past and have since become pro-life are madly trying to put the genie back in the bottle but it is very difficult. He has an excellent section on the relationship between hypnosis and abortion -- you'll want to check that out. He says many believe that being legal makes something moral. He shares the whole story of the "utter fraud of Planned Parenthood, the world's largest abortion provider, founded by the racist eugenicist Margaret Sanger, who preached the inferiority of nonwhite races and had close ties to Hitler's director of genetic sterilization, Ernst Rudin." And finally, he shares the full story of Norma McCurvey, the real person who was the "Jane Roe" in the Roe vs. Wade case. She shares how that whole case was a fraud and how she was used by abortion rights attorneys in their quest to legalize the procedure. You'll want to read that for yourself. She is doing all she can to reverse the decision but much is falling on deaf ears.

Last, Best Hope


In his final chapter of the book, David Kupelian talks about the silence of the institutional church and the failure of some churches to deal with the homosexual issues they are confronted with and the other issues he has identified and addressed in his book. But he also talks about the evangelical churches and how they have embraced "abandonment theology" -- that is, the thinking that says "with the end so near, why fight?" (I must admit up to about a year or two ago I was like that, but no longer.) He explains how evangelicals have become the "invisible Christians" and the consequences of us being that.

Kupelian describes the results of our "Christian mimicry of a thoroughly unchristian popular culture" and he does that very well and in great detail. Finally he calls each of us to compare what we mean by a follower of Jesus Christ, by being born-again, by being a believer if you like, against what Jesus Himself or the Apostle Paul meant by those concepts. He concludes by suggesting that the last, best hope may well be for each of us to pursue a "love of truth". It's a fascinating and well-constructed conclusion.

I give the book five stars. Please give it your time -- for the sake of those that come after you. -- Ken Godevenos, Consultant to Corporations and Non-Profits.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Marketing of Evil - Part VII -- The Media


David Kupelian has written an excellent book on "The Marketing of Evil". I'm working my way through it slowly and sharing some of his thoughts. But you won't get the full impact of his writing until you read the whole book. Here's another installment of my synopsis of the book, this time on the matter of the media.

Kupelian gives us some examples as to how mainstream media goes totally against the public. For example, take Ronald Reagan. The people loved him, the media hated him (and he gives quote after quote to back this up). But when he died, the media couldn't stop gushing all over him calling him the "Great Communicator" and quoting his now famous line, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

Kupleian than takes his readers to the movie, "The Matrix" and uses it as a parallel to the various "matrices" we all get caught in, with special emphasis on the "evolution matrix". The Matrix is all about contradictions. He also gives example after example of contradictions in the life vs. the platform of John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate against George Bush. He exposes how the media hid things from the public.

Kupelian writes, "...the more God diminishes in our lives, the more government has to rise to take His place. As William Penn said, 'Men must be governed by God or they will be ruled by tyrants.'"

Kupelian continues, ". . .when people have a real moment-to-moment relationship -- with 'fear and trembling,' as the Good Book says -- with the Living God, they do not look to government to solve all of their problems."

Then he moves to more of the political scene where he describes the role of playing Israel as the "aggressor Goliath" going to pick on the young and unarmed "Arab David". With great detail he exposes the irrationality and insanity of such a thought. Well worth the chapter alone.

But let's move on to the established church, the Catholic Church in this case and see how that ties in with the Boy Scouts of America. Kupelian shows how the media can distort reality. The clergy sex scandal was referred to as a story about "Pedophile Priests". That's convenient says Kupelian but not true. The actual scandal was about "sexual seductions of teenage boys by predatory homosexual men". He gives data from lawyers indicating that 85 per cent of the victims were teenage boys. The media was flaming irate at the fact the church was protecting these "pedophile priests" (but would not refer to them as homosexuals mind you). Yet, they also went ballistic over the so-called "discriminatory" policy of the Boys Scouts of America because they would not allow declared homosexuals to become leaders. So much so, that they managed to mobilize dozens of organizations and corporations, fifty United Way agencies, some local governments and school districts, to withdraw Scout funding or to declare the organization as prejudiced and bigoted. What a hypocrisy.

Kupelian asks the question, "What's behind all this and why does it happen?" You'll need to read the chapter, but let me give you some of his thoughts. Read the following carefully and see if this was not / is not true in your life: "With the promise of reward and/or the threat of punishment -- through intimidation, false love, cruelty, seduction, and endless other ways people appeal to the various hidden weaknesses in all of us -- our lives are shaped and molded by outside influences. In a sense, I'm describing the very machinery of life within the matrix that all of us -- even the most decent and noble -- get caught up in to one degree or another."

He appeals to us to become informed and become "free" of the matrix we have been caught in. Read this book for yourself and for your family.

I approach Kupelian's next chapter called "Blood Confessions: How Lying Marketers Sold America on Unrestricted Abortion" with great angst. See you soon. Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated, either right here on the blog or on FB.

-- Ken Godevenos, Management Consultant to Corporations including Not-for-Profits.

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Potiphar Leaves Joseph In Charge Of Everything - Genesis 39:5-6


And it came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house, and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the Lord’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field. So he left everything he owned in Joseph’s charge; and with him around he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

Imagine getting promoted at work to a very senior job and from that point on your employer’s company became a success story – sales doubled, share price soared, new products were developed, and the chairman of the Board knew that you were the reason! Well that in essence was exactly what happened in the case of Potiphar’s house and Joseph. And from earlier verses we know that Potiphar realized all this was because the Lord was with Joseph.

Potiphar was happy to leave “everything he owned” to the care of Joseph. So far, so good. But was there a downside that was missed? I believe so. Potiphar dropped the ball. The scripture says that as long as Joseph was around, Potiphar did not concern himself with anything except eating. Wow. Potiphar lived a carefree life, indulging only in the pleasures and desires of his stomach, his appetite for food. As long as ‘profits’ were being produced with Joseph’s overseeing his household, nothing else mattered to him. But he failed to see the implications of the situation or to put it in the words of Bill Hybels, “he took his eyes off the main event” and failed to realize the new dynamics at play in his life. And what were they?

Well, for starters as long as he was the one running the show, everyone looked to him for direction and leadership. And that most likely included his wife. She may well have been proud of her husband doing so well, getting to the position he had achieved in Pharoah’s kingdom, and providing so well for her. But now as he seemed to concern himself only with what he ate, he lost that attractiveness for her and perhaps for his staff. In fact, it was Joseph they all went to for direction, advice, and leadership. Potiphar was the ‘boss’ in name only. He no longer made things happen or granted favors or made decisions. Joseph was the man.

And then the scripture tells us that Joseph was “handsome in form and appearance”. Take your eye off the ball or the main events in your life and the devil is ready to jump into action. Leave your main responsibilities to others, especially those that are “handsome” or “beautiful” in the case of females turn your attention to mundane things liking eating or whatever else turns your crank, and your spouse is likely to get some ideas.

But what is the lesson for us today from these verses, as spouses, as business owners, as pastors or leaders, and as Christians? Simply this. You can delegate but you cannot abdicate. You can trust but you need to remain connected and aware. Someone else’s faith in God does not always cover you. And finally, make sure that what you focus on in life is what really matters. That is my prayer for us all. We’ll watch this story unfold in the verses ahead.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Potiphar Notices The Lord Was With Joseph - Genesis 39:3-4


Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house and all that he owned he put in his charge.

Who hasn’t read these two verses before and not wished what was true for Joseph would also be true in our own lives? Looking at this young man’s situation, we see nothing special. He was the second youngest of twelve sons in Jacob’s family. He had accomplished very little by the time he was sold by his older brothers to a traveling group of traders headed to Egypt and ultimately bought by Potiphar, the captain of the Pharaoh’s bodyguard, and employed as a slave/servant in his household.

Yet we note the following: First the Lord was with him. The Bible gives no reason as to why that was the case. God chose him for reasons known only to Himself. God saw something in Joseph that He wanted to both bless as well as use. And there is no evidence at this point that Joseph resisted God in any way. Chapter 37 tells us how Joseph dreamed dreams of success over his brothers, enjoyed the many-colored coat he had been given, obeyed his father when asked to go and find his brothers, and generally was an easy-going young man enjoying life. I would imagine at seventeen years of age as we are told he was (Genesis 37:2), with his father Jacob being quite old, he spent much time listening to Jacob’s account of how he, and Joseph’s grandfather Isaac, and his great-grandfather Abraham, served and obeyed and loved God. I believe Joseph knew all about God and in his own youthful way wanted to serve Him and love and obey Him. And now he’s in Egypt as a servant. He did the only thing he knew how to do well – make the best of it. There is no record of his complaining. God saw that. I wonder if God sees anything like that in you and me. I wonder as Jill Briscoe put it so nicely when I heard her in Toronto on October 24, 2010, “Does He have your heart? Does He have your heart?”

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Marketing of Evil - Part VI -- Sabotaging Our Schools


We have been providing summaries of David Kupelian's book, "The Marketing of Evil" (2005). This post addresses his chapter on "How Radicals Have Hijacked America's Education System".
The author makes it clear he is not writing to argue for prayer or Bible reading in schools. Instead, he purposes to show how the "government's school system has been cultivated to indoctrinate, to mold, to socialize children, and even to prepare them for the work force, but not to bring forth from within them the noble character and understanding of truth that lie buried within each child."

He quotes clinical psychologist James Dobson as warning, "Do you understand that children are (like) the stem cells for the culture? The environment that you put them in is what they grow up to be. And if you can control what they hear, if you could control what they're told, if you have access to their minds . . . you can make them into just about whatever you want them to be."

Here are some other highlights of the chapter:

* Since the 1999 Columbine school massacre, school boards have gone insane with their 'no tolerance' policies to the point of being ridiculous. He cites many examples.

* He warns us of the "my kid's school is not like that" syndrome.

* Kupelian explains thoroughly the move away from the alphabetic phonic way teaching children how to read an have replaced it with the look-say or whole-word approach, resulting in millions of poor readers. A most interesting section of the book. Parents need to read this. I thank God for my wife and daughters who are taking time to teach my grand-children how to read phonetically. The nine and seven year olds are now avid readers and the younger ones love books and will soon be reading very well.

* The education system has taken a new worldview approach to some critical issues. For example, sex outside marriage is okay as long as you don't get pregnant or a sexually transmitted disease (and even getting pregnant is not too bad, since you can get an abortion); and being 'gay' is normal -- if you think otherwise you are simply a bigot and one full of hate. What nonsense. But that's the teaching of the overall educational system today.

* Many think that a "public" school is a good thing. But they do not realize that the word "public" is really a nice way of saying, "government". Now some things that the government provides are not bad, especially if they're 'free'. But Kupelian asks, "at what cost?" Love this one line, "Free food is great too, but not if it's been poisoned."

* He points out how the educators are not necessarily intentionally trying to hurt children. Rather, they approach education from a totally different worldview -- one where God is non-existent and humans are mere animals.

* Finally, he does discuss 'homeschooling' as one viable alternative.

Another excellent chapter in this book. I wish the readers of this blog could somehow get the whole picture that David is painting all at once. It is truly a book of great impact on one's life. Strongly recommended.

In our next installment in this series we turn our attention to the media 'matrix' and how the press creates a world of illusion we think is real.

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