Grace Itself! 👑

This is one of the moments in Old Testament history that I would have loved to see for myself… 

Twenty years had passed since the time Judah and his brothers sold Joseph into slavery. He had no way of knowing that Joseph had risen above a series of misfortunes to become the prime minister of Egypt. During Joseph’s rise to political power, he engineered a massive government food campaign to store up grain reserves for seven years in order to survive a predicted seven-year famine. Consequently, starving multitudes from all over the Mediterranean world choked the roads and harbors of Egypt, hoping to buy food.

The famine hit Jacob’s family especially hard. So hard that he sent Joseph’s brothers to Egypt for provisions. He refused to send Benjamin, however. His youngest son was Rachel’s only surviving son. Having lost Joseph, he couldn’t bear the thought of losing another favored son.

After a dry, dusty journey, Joseph’s brothers stood among the throngs of people seeking salvation from the famine. Like everyone else, they appeared before the government official in charge of selling grain to foreigners; that is, the prime minister. However, they didn’t recognize their brother. After such a long time, they probably assumed he had died as a laborer in the Egyptian mines. Joseph wore the makeup and official garb worn by all Egyptian officials, and he spoke Egyptian as fluently as a native. Therefore, the ten brothers observed standard protocol when addressing royalty: they bowed. The significance of this moment would not have been lost on Joseph. No doubt time slowed to a crawl as a long-forgotten dream from childhood suddenly consumed his thoughts.

Joseph concealed his identity. He played the part of a suspicious Egyptian bureaucrat in order to test his brothers, to see if they had changed. He also wanted to know if Benjamin had fallen prey to their hatred. So he held Simeon captive and sent the others home with grain, demanding they return with their youngest brother.

Naturally, this didn’t go over well with their father, Jacob. He refused to let Benjamin out of his sight; Simeon would have to fend for himself. But with the passing of time, their supply of grain ran low and they would need to make another journey to Egypt. So Judah made his father a vow.

Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. — Genesis 43:8-9

Jacob finally agreed. He realized that without food, the famine would surely kill Benjamin; but by sending him to Egypt, everyone might live.

When Judah and his brothers appeared before Joseph again, all eleven of them bowed down with respect for this man whose word was law. To their surprise, Joseph hosted an elaborate dinner in their honor. While everyone enjoyed the banquet, Joseph watched his brothers closely, looking for signs of hatred or jealousy for Benjamin. Instead of hatred, he heard sorrow in their voices. They regretted what they had done to Joseph and expressed remorse for the pain they had caused their father.

To be certain of their remorse, Joseph devised one final test. He loaded each man’s donkey with as much grain as it could carry, placed the money they had paid back into each man’s sack of grain, and then hid an expensive silver cup among Benjamin’s provisions. Once their little caravan cleared the city gates, he directed his officials to accuse them of theft and to search them for stolen property. When the Egyptian officials found the silver cup in Benjamin’s sack of grain, they promptly arrested him, threatening to keep him as a slave.

Joseph framed Benjamin for the sole purpose of seeing how his brothers would react. Would they sacrifice him to save themselves? Would they take this opportunity to rid themselves of another favored brother? Or would they try to save him?

Judah had personally guaranteed Benjamin’s safety with his father, but he was well known for his lack of follow-through. Nevertheless, he asked for a private word with Joseph to plead for Benjamin’s release.

Your servant guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father. I said, “If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life!” Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father. — Genesis 44:32-34

When Joseph heard this, he couldn’t contain himself any longer. He commanded all of his attendants to leave the court so that only he and his brothers remained. Until this point Joseph had communicated with his brothers through a translator. Now that they were alone, the men had to wonder how they would even communicate with this strange Egyptian. So imagine their shock when he gazed into their eyes and declared in their own language,

I am Joseph! — Genesis 45:3

Once the recognition was complete, the brothers’ heads were bowed to the ground once again. But this time more out of fear than respect. And the brother who had the most to fear was Judah. Judah, who undoubtedly thought of what he would do if the roles were reversed. Judah, who for more than twenty years had outrun the consequences of his betrayal. But what goes around comes around. And so he would get what he had coming to him after all.

But there was no sound of guards rushing into the room. No clamor of weapons. No orders for arrest. All was strangely calm. This would be a day Judah would never forget.

This was a day of grace.

For on this day he was given precisely what he deserved least. Joseph continued,

And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. — Genesis 45:5

This is one of the moments in Old Testament history that I would have loved to to see for myself. We can only wonder how long it took for Joseph’s words to register. How long before any of the brothers had the courage to make eye contact? They were consumed with guilt over what they had done. Joseph was consumed with something else entirely. Grace.

Not only did Joseph forgive them, but he invited them to bring their families and to live in the most fertile territory Egypt had to offer. Within seconds, Judah and his brothers went from condemned to death to the position of esteemed guest of the second most powerful man in Egypt. Once again, the law of sowing and reaping was thwarted. But this time it was thwarted by grace. As it turned out, Judah never really got what he deserved.

As is always the case with grace, he got exactly what he deserved least.

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Originally from The Grace of God by Andy Stanley
 
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Faithfulness, an Act of Faith✨✨

 

 
Sometimes the greatest act of faith is faithfulness, staying where you’re planted. -Craig Groeschel

One day you’re going to come to a fork in the road. And this new direction may look like the perfect route to take.
 
But no matter how appealing it is, God may lead you to stay the course instead. 

Maybe you’re in college right now. You’ve been thinking, I’m not going to make it. It’s too expensive. It’s too much work. This is just too hard. A lot of people would just walk away. That may even be the right thing for you to do, as long as you’re sure that’s the way God’s leading you. But if God is speaking to you — if you’re hearing that still, small voice telling you, “You are not a quitter. You’re a finisher!” — then put your blinders on. 

Get a second job. Get off that unrealistic four-year college plan you’ve been beating yourself up with, commit to a seven-and-a-half year plan instead, and remain faithful. Semester after semester, just keep plowing away, one class here, two classes there, a summer class over here. Then one day, you’ll wake up and realize you have a degree. Your story will be, “You know, it wasn’t easy, but today I have a job I wouldn’t have been able to get if I hadn’t hung in there. I’m not a quitter. I’m a finisher.” 

Maybe something’s happened at your church that you aren’t happy about. Maybe someone did something really un-Christlike that challenged your faith. And now you’re thinking, Christians? Really? Whatever! They’re a bunch of hypocrites. Forget them! Someone once said that church would be great if it weren’t for the people. The problem is that the church is people, and people are imperfect. And imperfect people can make it hard to stay. 

But what does God want? Maybe He wants your story to be, “Someone at my church hurt me. Pretty badly, actually. But with God’s help, I was able to do for them what Christ did for me: I forgave them. We worked through our differences. That was ten years ago. Today we’re at a place spiritually that I didn’t even know was possible. Now we don’t just go to church, we are the church. Together we’re making a difference in this world. It would have been so much easier just to go. But today my life is different because I stayed.” 

Maybe what you’re dealing with is even more serious. Maybe you’ve been trying to come to terms with God. Something happened that you couldn’t understand, something you didn’t like. And ever since, you’ve been crying out to God, “Couldn’t You have stopped this? Why did You let this happen? If You’re going to allow things like this, I don’t need You.” Your story could be that you walked away from God, just like many people before you. 

Or your story might be that you decided to stay with God. 

You chose to accept that God will never leave you nor forsake you, so you stayed. 

You chose to trust Him and keep talking to Him. “I don’t understand this, God. It doesn’t make sense to me. But I also know I’m not You. I know Your ways are higher than my ways. I choose to believe in You even during those times when I can’t feel Your presence. Still I know You’re there.” 

After some time has passed, maybe you’ll be looking back, reflecting on your story, and you’ll realize that even though you didn’t know it at the time, God was using that very thing that you hated to rewire you, to change you, to transform your life. You perhaps didn’t think it was possible, but you’ve indeed changed in an important way. What the enemy intended for evil, God somehow used for good. Maybe your story will be that you learned to know God and His faithfulness in a way that you never had before. Maybe your story will be that you chose to live for Him and His glory in a way you never thought was possible. And all because you decided to stay with God. 

Maybe you’ve already been remaining faithful. Maybe you’ve been doing that for a long time. You’ve stayed in the same boring job, and you feel like a failure. You’ve stayed raising your kids, but you still feel like a failure. You’ve been stuck in the same boring marriage, and you feel like a twenty-year failure. 

But sometimes the greatest act of faith is faithfulness, staying where you’re planted. 

From where you’re standing in your field, picking up leftover grain, you may not be able to see your Boaz yet. But…

Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. — Galatians 6:9 ESV

“One of my favorite stories about staying comes from one of my best friends, Bobby Gruenewald. Bobby started and sold two technology companies before he ever graduated from college. Obviously this guy is crazy smart. 

Bobby started volunteering for the church in his mid-twenties, and we eventually hired him. Although his contribution to the church was extraordinary, he didn’t feel like he was making a difference. So Bobby considered quitting and going back into business. 
 
Truthfully, it would have been easier for him. As a pastor, he still had a lot to learn. Business is second nature to him. But by the grace of God, he decided to stay. And among his many important contributions, Bobby came up with the YouVersion Bible App, an idea that has done more for Bible distribution than any idea since the printing press”

So if you are tempted to walk away, make sure to seek God, because you never know what he might do if you have the courage to stay. 

Don’t give up.

Don’t. Give. Up.

Listen to what God is telling you He wants you to do. Sometimes the right decision is to stay. 

*** From Craig Groeschel’s ‘Divine Direction’***

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Excerpted with permission from Zip It: The Keep It Shut 40-Day Challenge by Karen Ehman, copyright Karen Ehman. Published by Zondervan‎

 
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. —Romans 12:10

Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king. — 1 Peter 2:17 NLT‎


Respect is frequently absent in our society. In person — and especially online — snark and sarcasm often rule. Talking down to someone or insulting one another is the new norm. For adults and for kids, respect is often nowhere to be found.

No longer do we use terms like “sir” and “ma’am” when speaking to a stranger. Addressing elders with terms of esteem is rare as well. And having respect for authority seems to have gone out of style long ago.

Today’s digital world has taken this to a new level. It has become commonplace to sling opinions on a screen, whether on social media or while leaving a comment on a blog post. And unfortunately, sometimes these comments and thoughts aren’t tucked in an envelope of respect. Instead they are laced with cynicism, mockery, or disdain.

However, today’s challenge verse talks about respect. And not just respecting those in authority, like a teacher, a police officer, or a judge. It goes so far as to say that we are to respect everyone.

Everyone.

Does this mean the grumpy neighbour whose dog uses your yard as an outhouse? Yes.

Does it include your combative relative who never speaks respectfully to you? Yes.

What about the difficult person on that committee with you, whose personality and behaviour get on your very last nerve? Yep. That one too.

We can learn to speak respectfully no matter the situation. By drawing on the power of the Holy Spirit to temper our tongues and help us weigh our words, we can speak in a polite tone. This doesn’t mean we don’t speak the truth. It just means we verbalize it in an honourable and honouring way.

We can reflect the love of Jesus when we engage in conversations with a calm, collected, and civil tone.

Then others might notice that our speech isn’t snappy, impolite, or rude. Our language is respectful. Our words are honouring — to those we are talking to and, more importantly, to God.

Today’s Takeaways

Respecting others shows our fear of God. I used to read the phrase “fear God” and get confused. What does it mean to fear God? Isn’t God love? If so, why should we be scared of him? But in Scripture, fearing God has more to do with being in awe of Him, reverencing Him, and respecting Him. And since humans have been made in God’s likeness and bear His image, when we respect others with our words and actions, we are also reverencing God.
Everyone means everyone. We can’t miss the point in this Scripture. We are to respect everyone, not just those we like. Not just those who are easy to get along with.

A mark of true Christians is that they do not play favourites. Luke 6:32 states,
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.

Our behaviour should stand out. It stands out when we choose to show honour and respect to everyone, regardless of who they are or what we think of them.

•Lesson for the Lips‎

Can you name someone in your life who speaks respectfully a majority of the time? What stands out the most to you about how that person uses his or her words?

Do you know someone you have a hard time speaking to respectfully? Why do you think you have trouble showing that person respect with your speech?

Challenge

Think about the person you just named. It’s been said if we look hard enough, we can find a good quality in anyone. So name one good quality about this person. Take your time… you’ll eventually find something.

Okay… deep breath… reach out to that person with your words this week — either spoken, written, texted, or typed — and say you admire that quality in them. Do not expect a response. Do it only to show love and display respect. As you do, think about this verse:

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other. — Romans 12:10 NLT

Prayer

Father, help me think before I speak, making sure my words are respectful. Let my tone be tempered and my manner kind. I want to please You and honour others with my speech. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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