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How can we cope with and most effectively experience life in a chaotic world? We live in tumultuous times: a pandemic that just doesn’t seem to quit, isolation and despair and death surrounding it — to say nothing about the deepening divide between American citizens as more and more of us turn to alcohol, drugs, violence, and suicide as outlets. 

“Self-defeating activities,” Pastor Scott called them during our Sunday study together.

Of course, the answer is Jesus — always! But as Pastor Scott also noted, such a seemingly “simplistic” solution isn’t always going to be received well by others who are in deep need, especially if they don’t have Jesus in their lives.

So how can we help them? And how can we help our fellow brothers and sisters — and yes, even ourselves? The answer again is Jesus — but by going deeper into Jesus for those in deep need.

And one of the ways we can go deeper is again by looking at our continuing journey in the life of Joseph. Because as we’ve already seen a number of times, many circumstances in Joseph’s life parallel events in Jesus’ life. In a very powerful way, Joseph truly points to Christ’s future arrival in Israel.

In Genesis 46, we saw that Jacob, the father of Joseph, is processing the news that his son — whom he long since believed was dead — is alive! What’s more, Jacob is going to move his entire family to Egypt to be with Joseph — and at a time when Jacob was well beyond years that folks typically make such a life-changing sojourn.

But the Lord, once again, comes through — and speaks to Jacob in a dream, saying “‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And [Jacob] said, ‘Here I am.’ Then [the Lord] said, ‘I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.’”

Wow! We see Jacob’s unhesitant obedience to God, answering “here I am” — indeed, a lesson for all of us to be ready whenever God speaks to our hearts. And we again see a parallel with Christ, who told his disciples after his resurrection, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

That’s the key to dealing with the chaos in our world. Throughout his life, Jacob has literally “practiced the presence of God” — operating as much as he could with the Lord foremost in his mind. And because of that Jacob readily obeys God in this latest communique and is in a prime position to live out the Lord’s amazing commands to him, even near the end of his life. In the same way, Jesus’ disciples were bolstered not only be seeing him alive after he had been executed — parallels again with Joseph — but also by Christ’s promise that he would be with them always. Talk about a boost of confidence!

Therefore, it’s imperative that each of us keep our connections with God strong and vibrant. We ought to “practice” the Lord’s presence in our lives. If you’re a Christian, you became one in an instant when you believed in Jesus for the first time; but trust is a daily task in aftermath of that wondrous moment of belief. It’s something we learn over time, even despite missteps and failures. 

Acting out that belief that Jesus is always with us amid our chaotic world is important for another reason that Pastor Scott shared: Each believer in Christ has a unique mission, and each of us must try our best to fulfill it. Sometimes that takes courage as we look into the face of uncertainty and fear, particularly in these challenging times. And that’s why we must lean on the truth that Jesus is with us through it all — and already knows the outcome!

When we’re in God’s presence, we have order despite chaos, we have joy despite disappointment — and his “being there with us” makes all the difference. And it goes beyond the truth that God is everywhere — because it’s an active choice to enter into his presence. It’s a different experience. And again, it’s something we must choose to do on a daily basis.

So, don’t be content with living on the outskirts of God’s house when he’s long since prepared a place for you inside it and is waiting on you to finally answer his invitation to enter! Go beyond your mere status as a Christian — and live like a child of God who knows deep down that the Creator is with you always.

Indeed, as our own church’s motto declares: Take Jesus home.

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As believers, when we fully embrace and understand the providence of God, our lives will change.

Not only will such an understanding change how we think about the Lord, it also will change how we think about others — and how we think about ourselves. It’s like receiving a big dose of spiritual vitality directly into our souls.

Joseph understood the providence of God — we can clearly see that after having observed his remarkable life unfold before us in the book of Genesis. And in the Lord’s providence, Joseph — and we as well — see God’s sovereignty, his compassion, and his wisdom.

Sovereignty is obvious part of the Lord’s providence. Certainly, Joseph knew who was in charge of his life — whether he was in the depths of prison or on top of the heap as Pharaoh’s ruler in Egypt. We don’t see Joseph spending a lot of time wondering why things have seemingly taken a turn for the worse; instead, he kept moving forward after he got knocked down as the Lord gave him life and breath. Pastor Scott suggested we all ask an important question: Lord, what haven’t I turned over to you yet? May we let go of that which is temporal — no matter what our circumstances — and continually hand things over to God, who’s ultimately in control of everyone and everything.

When we got into chapter 45 again, we picked up at the point where Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, all of whom thought he was gone for good. When it started to sink in for them that Joseph was right there in the flesh — the brother they betrayed and allowed to be sold into slavery — they were quite disturbed. Understandably so.

But Joseph was not vengeful; far from it. Rather, he exhibited compassion (the second element of God’s providence). “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Again, God is in charge — his sovereignty on display.

One of the incredibly freeing things about living in God’s providence is that we no longer are at the center of our lives. While some folks might have a hard time giving up that “status” — whether due to selfishness or some other sin — it’s actually quite a relief. It seems on par someone who very reluctantly is heading to a doctor for a mysterious ache or pain — and the relief that comes by finally handing over control to the physician whose medical expertise really should be driving the situation.

We also saw the amazing overflow of God’s provision for Joseph’s brothers through the generosity of Joseph and Pharaoh — underscored by Joseph instructing his brothers to refrain from quarreling during their journey back to their father Jacob. Wisdom! Another element of God’s providence, which helps us to see the goodness, mercy, and grace that the Lord pours down upon us every day. (I mean, what would believers truly have to argue and fight about when their eyes are focused like lasers on what God is giving to them?)

By the end of the chapter, Jacob’s spirit is revived by the news that Joseph is still alive, and Jacob declares his intention to see his long-lost son before he dies. Truly a dramatic ending and chapter, too, as Pastor Scott pointed out — full of emotion and forgiveness and reconciliation. Cue curtain fall! 

But you and I are still on stage, aren’t we? We’re still part of this grand, divine drama that God has written. So, what is our place in it? What are our roles? But just as important, have we allowed the Lord to revive our spirits as he revived Jacob’s spirit? As Pastor Scott noted, the words in Hebrew describing the miracle of Jacob’s soul coming back to life are the same Hebrew words used to describe the Lord breathing life into Adam. It’s that powerful — and all of us have access to it!

So now, if life has been bringing you down recently for whatever reason — big or small — why not make it a point to turn from the temporal things and to the One who provides living water, who restores our soul (Psalm 23), who quenches our thirst forever. 

And remember: You and I are but dust. We see only infinitesimal pieces of the tapestry God has been weaving since before time and the universe began. Let us be reminded today and in all of our days that God is writing the drama of life and exhibiting his wisdom, his compassion, his sovereignty over all things in the process. Indeed, by the power of his incredible providence.

May we all rest in that truth right now.

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This past Sunday we were introduced yet again to an astounding truth from the life of Joseph that we can apply to our own lives right now. And this time — as Joseph finally reveals his identity to his brothers — we encountered the jaw-dropping parallels between circumstances in Joseph’s life and in the life of Jesus.

Certainly, the prophets of the Old Testament — Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, to name a few — point to facts and circumstances in the life of Christ so that his divinity and lordship may be known and verified. But in addition to the traditional prophets, God drops in many more clues and hints and downright poetic parallels in the full narrative of the Old Testament that can be seen in the life of Jesus.

We’ve already encountered some of them in our study of Genesis — in chapter 3, for example, after the fall of man, God tells the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve that “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” And we know the “he” the Lord refers to is Jesus.

And we’ve also seen a number of parallels between things that happened to Joseph and circumstances in the life of Jesus:

  • Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him; Jesus’ brothers — the Jewish leaders — also plotted to kill him.
  • Joseph found himself talking to a pair of criminals in jail, the cupbearer (who found life) and the baker (who was executed); Jesus was on the cross between two criminals, one who believed in him and found life, and the other who did not.
  • Joseph’s brothers who betrayed him ended up bowing to him and acknowledging his superior office; the New Testament tells us that one day all people will bow before Jesus Christ and confess him as Lord.

But we’re just getting warmed up!

At this point in the drama that’s unfolding in chapter 43, Joseph has been testing the integrity of his brothers to see if their morals have changed for the better. And they have — and Joseph is moved by this. He’s also overcome with emotion having seen his youngest brother Benjamin in the flesh — so much so that he retreats to a chamber to weep in private.

Then Joseph has a silver cup of his placed in Benjamin’s sack to see how his brothers will react when they’re accused of stealing it. And lo and behold, one of Joseph’s brothers — Judah — does something similar to that of a New Testament figure with a name that’s almost the same: Judas.

“Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears …” Judah said to Joseph amid this moment of crisis. Not unlike what Judas did in the Garden of Gethsemane — a moment of complete betrayal, as Judas’ kiss identified Jesus, and the temple guards arrested him. But then the parallels end — because Judah does something sacrificial and offers his life in exchange for the life of his brother Benjamin!

Judah. The brother whose idea it was to sell Joseph into slavery in chapter 37; the brother who in chapter 38 left his family and one day thought he was having sexual relations with a prostitute, and it ended up being his daughter-in-law. This same Judah was a changed man by chapter 44 — and Joseph recognized this.

In chapter 45, Joseph’s weeping reaches a breaking point: His brothers don’t know who he is, they don’t see him — and they are missing out on so much in life after betraying him, suffering in the aftermath, and now failing to recognize him.

And as Pastor Scott pointed out, this closely parallels Jesus’ weeping for Jerusalem in the New Testament: “And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.’” (Luke 19:41-44)

So, Joseph tells his brothers who he is. And this moment of truth is difficult for them to digest. They don’t recognize Joseph. Much like — yes, another life of Jesus parallel! — the disciples who encountered the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus and didn’t recognize him until the very end of their time together.

And Joseph speaks to his brothers in such a comforting and compassionate and merciful manner: “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Wow! Indeed, Joseph shares with his brothers that God had a bigger picture in mind all along — and his brothers are part of that intricately woven tapestry.

In fact, we see later in Joseph’s big reveal to his brothers that he has a place for them and their families right there with him, a place where he will be their provider amid the famine, where they will be safe and have life. Much like Jesus telling his disciples that he is preparing a place for them in his Father’s house — a mansion with many rooms!

How cool is it that the Lord worked all this out in Joseph’s life and then put so many similarities in the life of Jesus — which acts as a sign to all of us that God’s eternal words are true and trustworthy.

So, let us ask ourselves this week: What are we not getting or seeing or understanding about what God is doing at this moment in our own lives? What truths is God trying to reveal to us that we may not be perceiving? Are there things that are our eyes closed to?

May the Lord open them up.

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Last week we got a look at Joseph’s positive and robust attitude that kept him moving the right direction despite difficult circumstances. And this past Sunday we saw yet another one of Joseph’s positive traits: his integrity.

As Pastor Scott shared, exercising integrity allows us to do three important things in life: 1) Resist temptation, 2) Exercise strength to face challenges, 3) and behave honestly.

Joseph certainly showed his ability to resist temptation by avoiding the sexual advances of Potiphar’s wife, going so far as to run out of her house rather than being around her one second longer! He also showed his strength in the face of immense challenges — most notably being thrown in prison for years after Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him. And Joseph was incredibly honest, telling the baker hard truths and not taking credit for helping Pharaoh but instead giving credit to God alone as the one who interprets dreams.

And now with the Lord having delivered Joseph from prison to become the governor of Egypt under Pharaoh, we witnessed a massive turning of the tables. With a famine engulfing the region as Joseph correctly predicted, his long-lost family is in trouble. So, we read that his father Jacob sent Joseph’s brothers — save for Benjamin, as Jacob feared harm might come upon him — to Egypt to buy grain so they won’t starve to death.

Do you remember the dream Joseph had years earlier that got him trouble with his brothers — that they would one day bow to him? Well, it came to pass as his brothers all prostrated themselves before Joseph in their plea to acquire grain! Thing is, though, while Joseph’s brothers failed to recognize him after more than 20 years apart, Joseph recognized them! Uh oh.

At this point, one naturally might assume someone in Joseph’s position would take revenge on his brothers. Certainly, Joseph had the power to put them to death with a single command and wave of his hand. But he didn’t. No, instead Joseph tested their honesty and integrity. And amid various tests Joseph put them through, his brothers had the chance to examine their hearts and experience a reckoning in regard to their sinful treatment of Joseph when he was but a teenager. 

It was an important moment: they were enduring the uncertainty of waiting to see what Joseph would do. Would he kill them? Throw them into prison? Turn them away and leave them in hunger? As Pastor Scott noted, we all endure periods of waiting and uncertainty — and it’s rarely fun. But as believers in Jesus, we can be confident that he knows the outcomes and is holding our lives in his hands. And as Christians, we can rejoice that God has forgiven us of our sinful pasts through the blood Jesus shed on the cross.

But Pastor Scott shared something else all of must take to heart, no matter where we are in our spiritual lives: If one believes in Jesus but is living a sinful life, that person is asking for trouble. Because the Lord loves us and wants us close to him, he will discipline those he loves — and that can result in serious and even unpleasant circumstances as God motivates us toward repentance. With that in mind, wouldn’t it be better to act now in repentance so we don’t live in unnecessary fear of “what might happen”? To live in the promise of Isaiah 41:10? “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

As we made our way into chapter 43 and encountered Joseph’s brothers telling their father everything that had happened to them, Pastor Scott noted yet another game-changing moment: Jacob reluctantly agreed to let his sons return to Egypt with Benjamin and face Joseph, and he told his sons, “May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man.” In other words, “El Shaddai” — the God who fulfills promises.

Are we passing the integrity test in our own lives? We must remember that our feeble human strength not sufficient to live lives of integrity, filled with instances in which we resist temptation, face difficulties, and operate in complete honesty. We can’t do it on our own. We need the strength only El Shaddai possesses. Only he can bring about deep change in us.

That principle is present in Jesus’ words found in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” 

We are indeed dust; living and breathing at this very moment only because God allows us to live and breathe at this very moment. So, let us acknowledge this truth, come before the Lord in humility, and practice leading lives filled with continual repentance — and integrity.

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One of the wonderful things we’re seeing develop in Joseph’s life is his attitude. And as we learned this past Sunday in our study of Genesis 40 and 41, Joseph’s strategic and God-focused attitude is making all the difference for him and for others.

At this point Joseph’s in a fairly decent position with influence and responsibility — if you call being condemned to prison “decent”! I doubt any of us, all things being equal, would have anything positive to say about Joseph’s unjust stint in the slammer. No one wants to be a prisoner; and Joseph certainly doesn’t belong there given the fact that Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him — when in fact she was the guilty party! Talk about a moment when even believers in the Lord will naturally wonder, “Where is God in this situation?”

But as we’ve also learned, the Lord was “with Joseph” — in the false accusations, in the injustice, in the nightmare and shame of prison.

And we got a hint of God’s presence in a tangible way when Joseph, lo and behold, was placed in charge of all the prisoners — just as he was placed in charge of Potiphar’s house. God’s hand was on Joseph, and that was even obvious to non-believers around him.

Then God worked another miracle: Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker were jailed as well, and Joseph was charged with looking after them. And we can assume based on Joseph’s track record that he did a great job — above and beyond the call of duty. See, Joseph got to know them quite well — so well that after they both experienced disturbing dreams, Joseph asked them why they seemed troubled. Not your everyday question from a fellow prisoner.

But as Pastor Scott explained, it was a heart-opening question. And a simple one. Sometimes that’s all we need to do in our personal relationships — you never know when someone has been hoping and badly wanting to unload their burdens. Maybe we can help take others’ problems into the light of a biblical worldview that they couldn’t see before. What about you? Whom has God brought into your life? Just as God brought Joseph and the two prisoners together, he also brings people into our lives in strategic ways for his purposes. Divine appointments!

So, Joseph interpreted the cupbearer’s dream (he would be restored to his position) and the baker’s dream (he would be put to death), and both interpretations came to pass. When Joseph gave the good news to the cupbearer, he asked him to pass along a good word about him to Pharaoh — but the cupbearer failed to do so.

Now, for many folks, this could be their final coffin nail. It was yet another disappointment for Joseph during his time in Egypt, and he could have just given up on God. But he didn’t. As Pastor Scott noted, Joseph’s emotions trailed behind his beliefs. And that kind of God-focused attitude was exactly what kept him on the path God had for him — for another two years!

By chapter 41, Pharaoh had disturbing dreams as well — seven skinny, ugly cows devouring seven plump cows; seven skinny, ugly ears of grain devouring seven plump ears of grain. What could these dreams possibly be about? Indeed, no one — not even magicians and wisemen — could figure them out. And then the cupbearer reentered the picture and recalled to Pharaoh how Joseph correctly interpreted his dream and the baker’s dream.

That’s all Pharaoh needed to hear. He summoned Joseph, whose attitude again came into play, telling Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” And the Lord did just that. Joseph told Pharaoh his dreams meant there will be seven years of abundance in the land followed by seven years of famine — which led to mass storage of grain so the Egyptians could survive. Naturally Pharaoh was grateful, and as we’ve seen previously, Joseph again was placed in charge. He became Pharaoh’s right-hand man.

What a change from prison life! And we’re talking the culmination of 13 long years of up-and-down — but mostly down — circumstances as a slave in a foreign land. But at the end of it, since Joseph didn’t give up on the Lord, he received a signet ring and gold chain around his neck and held a special office of authority in Egypt.

Is there a famine in your land today? Do you feel like a slave to your circumstances? Are you feeling like you want to give up on God and send your faith packing? Remind yourself of Joseph’s life and what he endured and what kind of attitude he placed ahead of all his troubles. And the same God who was with Joseph the whole time also is with you and me. Today. Right now. And God isn’t far away. The Lord is right there with us in all of our trials. And as hard as it may be sometimes, we must be willing in our pain and disappointment to take the difficult step of asking, “What is God doing in this situation?” Or maybe we need to ask, “Is Jesus truly who he said he is?” Or perhaps, “Is the Bible truly the word of God?” Whatever question you need to ask of God, fear not. The Lord knows what question you have for him before you even knew what it was! And then ask away — and expect God to reveal some incredible, life-changing truths as you take that next step on the path he’s placed before you.