Tears in a Bottle

tears 2Genesis 40

If there is something I have learned from my time on this earth is that sorrow can be a lonely time.  No matter how supportive others can be… one can still feel all alone.  Forgotten.  Like a leaf in a stream at flood stage.  You have lost connection from the tree and are now swirling out of control… will you ever be found?

I wonder what state Joseph was in when he entered jail for a crime he did not commit?  Well Joseph did what he always did… made the best of the situation and was soon a trusted helper for the warden.  But as the story continues we learn that God is not through with Joseph.

Some time later, the cup bearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. [2] Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cup bearer and the chief baker, [3] and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. [4] The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them. (1-4a)

One day Joseph saw these two men and they were both disturbed. “Why are your faces so sad today?”   They explained that they had both had dreams and didn’t know what to make of them. I love Joseph’s optimism. “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

The two recount their dreams which are quite similar. The chief cup bearer tells his dream: “In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, [10] and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. [11] Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in his hand.” (9-11)

Joseph tells him that the three branches meant three days… and that within three days he would be restored to his position and would again place a chalice of wine into the Pharaoh’s hand. Joseph bids that the cup bearer remember him to Pharaoh when he is restored to office.

The chief baker likes what he has heard and offers his dream up to Joseph:  “On my head were three baskets of bread. [17] In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.” (16-17)

Joseph, looking a bit more somber this time, states truthfully: In three days, Pharaoh will have you executed.  And so it goes:

“Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: [21] He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand, [22] but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation.”  (20-22)

Now after the cupbearer is restored a travesty occurs. He NEGLECTED TO DO ANYTHING ALL ABOUT JOSEPH’S PLIGHT!

Genesis 40:23 reads:  “The chief cup bearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.”   I wondered how many nights Joseph lay awake wondering when his friend would come to his rescue.   41:1 tells the sad truth:  “…two full years…”

Joseph was forgotten for two more years. It was one thing to have no hope, but to see hope rise and fall had to have ripped at his heart.  He was at the rock bottom of his faith.  The chief question at rock bottom is this: Has God Forsaken Me?

Have you ever been searching for a road out in the country that even Google Maps can’t help you with? Eventually you throw up you hands and say: “Where is this God Forsaken place?”  Well that is not a Biblical statement at all!  There is no place on this earth that is “GOD FORSAKEN!”

Isaiah 40:27-29 reads:   “Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”?  [28] Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  [29] He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

The Bible teaches us that there is no place we can go or be sent that escapes his notice.

Matthew 10:29, 31  says:  “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. [31] So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Just as he sees every bird that falls from the sky. He can see where you have landed. And you are still worth everything to Him.  He knows your situation. He feels the pain in your heart. And he sees every tear you’ve cried.

Psalm 56:8 (The Living Bible) reads:  “You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book.”

Pastor Bill Hybels remarked on this verse:  “In Middle Eastern culture when every a soldier would go off to war he would buy a “tear vial” – a little tear bottle—he would give it to his wife or his mother.  She would promise, “Your absence will make me so sad, I will cry every night. And when I do, I’ll collect those tears in this bottle. When you come back, you’ll see my tears and you’ll know how precious you are to me.”

Psalm 56:8 says that God will one day be able to show us our “tear vials.” For he has witnesses each one of them. He will say to us: “Didn’t miss a one. Not a single one.”

Joseph might have thought near the end of that second year that his story was over.  But it was actually just ready to begin.

Feeling forgotten?  Know that God sees every single tear… and that your story isn’t over until HE says its over.  Hang on for one day more.

 

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Fleeing Sexual Temptation

joseph fleeing2Genesis 39

A while back I was working on a blog regarding Paul’s visit to the city of Corinth.  I was searching for a graphic to go along with it and was stumped as what to use.  I got to thinking about how much ancient Corinth was like modern day Las Vegas.  Maybe a Las Vegas skyline might work!  But I couldn’t find one that struck me as suitable.  Then I had another thought:  “I know!  I’ll get a graphic of one of those XXX signs they hang out in front of some of their clubs.”  So I typed “XXX” into Google Images.  Okay… I did not think that one through.  I won’t tell you what came up but I could not X out of that screen fast enough!

I’m sure it has happened to you.  You typed something innocent into  a search engine and got an eyeful of something you wished you had never seen.  It is becoming increasingly hard not to stumble into porn.  We talk a lot about avoiding sexually charged material and situations… but what happens when you didn’t see it coming?  What happens when an innocent conversation turns to flirtation?  What happens when you are at a friend’s house and the movie they suggested takes a raunchy turn?  What do you do then?

I’m telling you right now what to do.  But its something that you can’t do in the heat of the moment.  You must do it NOW… and not wait until THEN.

Here it is:  “Be Prepared!”

Stop pretending that this world will never be able to seduce someone as spiritually adept as you.  If you are still breathing… lust will continue to be one of the 7 deadlies Satan will use in his attempt to bring you down.

Take Joseph.  He was a young attractive, junior executive for Potiphar enterprises.  He is quietly and effectively minding his boss’s business when he becomes the target of the CEO’s wife!  “Lie with me.” She commanded.

Yet Joseph was able to escape her clutches.  How?  Because he was prepared for it!  Here is was his plan.

1.  He knew his character ahead of time!  Joseph knew who he was as a person.  He was a faithful person.

He was faithful to Potiphar.  He tells the wife:  “There is no one greater in this house than I, and [Potiphar] has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife.  How then could I do this great evil…?” (v. 9)  The consequences of sexual sin (sex outside of marriage, adultery or porn) affect more than just oneself.  They affect the lives of loved ones with cuts too deep to ever heal properly.  And Joseph’s faithfulness to his master had been a witness to Potiphar.  Why would he chuck all of the capital he had accumulated for a quick fling?

Also, Joseph was also faithful to his God.  I mean, Joseph could have given in and Potiphar might have never found out!  (Unlikely… yet possible).  But to Joseph that didn’t matter.  God would have known.  That is why Joseph exclaims:  “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?”  Not against Potipher… Against God!

Are you a faithful person… to others and to God?  Be faithful with your sexuality as well.

2.  He Knew This Kind of Battle was a Daily One.  Note that Joseph was propositioned by Mrs. Potiphar… daily.  (v. 10)  He could not avoid her frequent advances.  He was a slave after all.  It wasn’t like he could quit his job!

It is the same for you.  You cannot 100% avoid the bombardment of sexual images in our culture today.  When you get up in the morning you better be prepared to fight!

I particularly want to reach out to those who are married.  Never EVER let your guard down.  I read years ago the words of a famous Christian author that had given into an affair.  The year before it happened he had been asked by a friend where he thought Satan could attack him.  Was he weak in any area?  He wasn’t sure how to answer, but he told his friend that he knew for sure where Satan couldn’t attack him… in his marriage.  He had a strong one.

This author went on to warn his readers:  “Satan will often attack your strong side, because it is the least defended.”

3.  Finally… He Knew When to Run!

“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.  She caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me!”  And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside.” (v. 11- 12)

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians and told them to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18) I wonder if it was Joseph’s story that was in the back of his mind.  Likewise Paul wrote to Timothy and told him to “flee youthful lusts.” (2 Tim. 2:22)  He, like Joseph, knew that when all else fails… you better have an exit strategy!

Perhaps your exit strategy might be to pull out a photo of your family and show it to the person who is flirting with you.  Perhaps it is to go “unplugged” for a while… staying out of places where porn can be accessed.  Work out this plan with God and then follow it.  Memorize it like the fire escape plan on the wall where you work.  It could save your life.

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Know this… He who made you is working to complete you one day in Christ Jesus.  If you have fallen it is not too late to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and then continue on developing His character in your life.

And remember… when all else fails… you can always run!

God Can Even Use “That!”

RegretsGenesis 38

Wow!  What a story!  How did this make it into the Bible?  What do we make of this story of sexual sin, deceit and hypocrisy?  It is a story we often avoid.  Liz Curtis Higgs writes in her book, Really Bad Girls of the Bible:  “Anyway you tell this story you eventually come to a scene that, even in our anything-goes society, doesn’t sit well on the psyche:  A young woman poses as a prostitute so she can sleep with her father-in-law.  On purpose.  …You won’t find much enthusiasm for sermon skits about Tamar and Judah at church.  Not many weekly women’s meetings are called: ‘The Tamar Circle.'”

And yet Tamar is called by Judah at the end of the story “more righteous” than he.  What is going on here?

Well this story is a mess from the beginning.  Judah begins by marrying a Canaanite woman named Shua.  This was not God’s will.  He began a little family and chose a bride for his oldest son named Er.  He chooses a Canaanite woman named Tamar.

Er then angers God and is killed as a result.  Onan is expected to father a child by  Tamar.  This child will not be his, however, but his dead brother’s.  This does not sit well with Onan and so he spills his semen on the ground and refuses to impregnate Tamar.  God kills Onan.  (Picking up on a pattern here?)

Judah has just one son left, Shelah.  Thinking that Tamar is somehow responsible for the death of his other two sons… he tells Tamar that she needs to come back when his last boy is older.  He sends her back to her father’s house… effectively sentencing her to live as a childless widow until the day she dies.

Thus the desperate plot by Tamar to have a child by Judah.  It is a risky, immoral, deceitful… yet effective plan.  Soon Tamar is found to be with a child by Judah who doesn’t even know who it was he who had slept with.

It is only when Tamar produces proof of paternity that Judah remarks that she is “more righteous” than hIm.  The story ends with birth of Tamar’s twin sons being born.  The baby’s room is done up in blue.  Everybody’s smiling.  But wait…

What is the take away from this bizarre story?  I can think of four:

1)  You might have a twisted testimony and you might not have done things that you are proud of… but God is into redeeming lives… forgiving sin… and setting people free of their past.  People “with a past” can be “born again” into His family.

2)  Children are NOT mistakes.  A person’s birth story does not mark them for dishonor.  God had great plans for Tamar’s son, Perez.

3)  God can use anyone as an example of his grace.  Tamar is the first woman mention in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew Chapter 1.  Some of have pointed out that her inclusion was to foreshadow the inclusion of the Gentiles into the Kingdom of God.

4)  God’s plans are higher than ours.  He transcends even the bad decisions we make in desperation.  He is carving out a plan that will ultimately bring glory to himself.

Blessings!

Pastor Wayne