Regret

Since this morning’s sermon at The Church at Avenue South from Aaron Bryant, I’ve been thinking about the story of Joseph in the Old Testament a lot today. More specifically, my thoughts have been centered on Joseph’s brothers.

I’ve always wondered why it was that when his brothers came to Egypt to buy food during the famine that Joseph recognized them but none of them knew who he was.

I realize that he was probably dressed in Egyptian garb and would  have had his hair and beard styled in the Egyptian fashions of that time.

I wonder if one of the reasons he was able to spot them was that they were still stuck in that moment when they made the horrible decision to sell him into slavery over 13 years ago.

Some of you reading this are still stuck in the past. You’re frozen in time in the moment when a relative hurt you or a friend betrayed you or a spouse deserted you. You haven’t been able to move past that moment in time.

Joseph had moved on, both literally and figuratively. By the time his brothers showed up, he had been though slavery, false accusations, imprisonment, and later exaltation. He had seen how God was with him through it all.

He was able to see at the end how God used what his brothers had meant for evil and turned it into something good. In fact, God used what was done to Joseph to set up the salvation of an entire nation in the making.

You come to the place where you release the hurt and pain done to you when you realize how God has redeemed it. When you’re able to forgive those who wounded you, you open the door to the prison and find out that it’s you that you’re setting free.

God still works all things together for good– even the bad and hard things– and that includes your story. That doesn’t excuse what people have done to you and it doesn’t lessen the pain, but it does mean that your wounds and scars are not the end of the story. God has a way of redeeming and restoring what was taken from you and giving you something so much better in return.

 

 

More Quotes I Love

“But God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it—made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand” (C. S. Lewis).

“What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing” (C. S. Lewis).

“Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then be sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always has existed and always will exist. Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has—by what I call ‘good infection’. Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else” (C. S. Lewis).

I started out to write something original, but I decided I didn’t like what I had written so I borrowed a little from some writing I did like. You can’t go far wrong with Mr. Lewis.

I promise tomorrow that I will be back with my own words.

 

Praying for Boston Tonight

boston

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).

I, like so many of you, just happened to turn on the television and spent the next several minutes trying to figure out what was happening at the Boston Marathon. The more I watched, the more I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It felt like I was watching a disaster movie.

It was horrific. People being carried away with missing limbs and blood splatters on the streets isn’t what you normally see on the news, especially that early in the day. The same feeling I had on 9/11 came back, only this time it felt scarier even though the terrorist attack was on a much smaller scale. I thought, “This could have happened anywhere at any marathon or half-marathon or 5k. It could have been The Music City Marathon and one of my friends who got caught in the explosions.”

I still have trouble accepting that it really happened. Did some deranged lunatic really blow up a bomb, then set the second one to go off just as the first responders were arriving? Did he really put shrapnel int the bombs to make them more lethal? Did he target that 8-year old boy or did he just have the misfortune to be in the way?

I can’t fathom the logic behind something like this. This level of evil goes beyond anything my mind can comprehend. A part of me wants to see this guy caught and shown no mercy, the way he showed mo mercy to these victims.

Then I remember the story of Joseph. How he suffered atrocities at the hands of his own brothers. How he ended up sold into slavery, the first victim of human trafficking in recorded history.

I especially remember his words in Genesis 50. What people intended for harm and for evil, God turned it into good and to salvation for a whole nation. Not only did survival come out of these atrocities, but salvation came through the person of Jesus, from the lineage of David.

I don’t know how, but I do know God will turn this heinous evil into good– someway, somehow. I don’t mean the act itself was good or that the aftermath is anything worth celebrating, but a reason for all of us to mourn and weep.

Yet I do believe that there will be stories that come out of this that will glorify God. Stories of people who sacrificed their bodies and lives so that others could live. Stories of how people came together as one, running toward the carnage when others were running away, and giving a little glimpse of what the Kingdom of God looks like.

The most shocking part of all is that God offers forgiveness even to the very individual who plotted and carried out one of the worst acts of terrorism ever. No one is too low for God to reach and no one is beyond his love. No one.

So I’m praying for the families of the victims and for those who are suffering with wounds that are more than just physical. I’m praying for God to make this and every other act of evil right.

I’m praying more fervently than ever, “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

Yet I know that one day someone’s testimony of faith will start out something like “I remember exactly where I was when those bombs went off at the end of the Boston Marathon and when God showed up to me in a very real way.”

PS Interestingly enough, today’s Bible verse of the day on my You Version app was Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Just Call Me Joe

I think maybe you and I can relate to Joseph (I mean the one from Genesis, not the one who married Mary, the mother of Jesus, although he’s a pretty cool dude, too).

He found himself in a fairly rotten situation. Sold into slavery by his own brothers. Ok, so he got a little cocky with the whole coat of many colors and maybe overshared with the whole “one day all of you will bow down to me” dreams. But he tried to do the right thing for the most part.

But I love the part where it says that God was with Joseph. That’s what stood out about him. Whether he was being sold in the slave market or running Potipher’s household or wasting away in a jail cell or ruling as one of Pharaoh’s top men, God was with him. It was obvious.

I love the fact that Joseph didn’t mess around when Potipher’s wife tried to seduce him. When “No” didn’t work, he got out of there. What really matters is that he didn’t wait until she made advances to decide how he would act. He was about pleasing God from the beginning. By the way, I picture Potipher’s wife looking like Anne Baxter from The Ten Commandments. Or maybe Angelina Jolie. Take your pick.

I also love the part where God’s favor was with Joseph. Not just when Joseph was in a good place or riding high on success. Even in a dark prison cell, God’s favor was with Joseph and God used Joseph to impact the lives of those around him.

I can relate to the fact that Joseph had a hard time forgiving his brothers. I would have, too. But in the end, he forgave them and took steps to reconcile with them.  That’s the important part.

My takeaway from Joseph’s life is that God can uses you no matter where you are. Just because you’re not in a good place doesn’t mean God isn’t with you or working in and through you. In the end, your story is about more than just you. Just as God used Joseph to save an entire nation, so God may use you to impact the lives of people you may never meet.

I love the fact that you don’t have to be a perfect saint with a spotless past for God to use you. You just have to be willing and available wherever you are.