Genesis 43:15-34

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Genesis 43:15-34
15 So the men took this present, and they took double the money with them, and Benjamin. They arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph.

16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” 17 The man did as Joseph told him and brought the men to Joseph’s house. 18 And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” 19 So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the door of the house, 20 and said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food. 21 And when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it again with us, 22 and we have brought other money down with us to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23 He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24 And when the man had brought the men into Joseph’s house and given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, 25 they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they should eat bread there.

26 When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present that they had with them and bowed down to him to the ground. 27 And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. 29 And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” 30 Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.” 32 They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. 33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another in amazement. 34 Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry[a] with him.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
This is a pretty dramatic story, isn’t it?
Which of these people do you most identify with?
Why do you relate so well to that one?
Think about vs. 32.
How did this affect Joseph in his position?
What role did this play in the future of My people?
Who could you not eat with? Why?


A Thrill of Hope

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new glorious morn!

We desperately want some good news.

That’s why Hope is so thrilling.

Christ made evil temporary; good, eternal.
Unrighteousness may have its day; righteousness is forever.
Injustice seems to be holding court,
but the final verdict is just, and God will repay.
This momentary affliction is working for us
an eternal weight of glory.
The poor now will soon be rich.
Fear is fleeting; hope is eternal.
Love will win; hate will lose.
Sorrow is passing; joy is lasting.
The last will be first.
Losers will be winners.
Satan’s power is passing; Christ’s power is here to stay.

All of this was made possible on that one holy night,
when Christ was born,
and a thrill of hope set off a chain of events
that will culminate in ultimate victory for the forces of good
in heaven and on earth.

This is our story — this is our song — and you can bank on that.

John Fischer

Genesis 42:1-24

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Genesis 42:1-24
When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him. Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

Now Joseph was governor over the land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them. And he said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land.” 10 They said to him, “No, my lord, your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all sons of one man. We are honest men. Your servants have never been spies.”

12 He said to them, “No, it is the nakedness of the land that you have come to see.” 13 And they said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more.” 14 But Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you. You are spies. 15 By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. Or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.” 17 And he put them all together in custody for three days.

18 On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined where you are in custody, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households, 20 and bring your youngest brother to me. So your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they did so. 21 Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” 22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” 23 They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. 24 Then he turned away from them and wept. And he returned to them and spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Put yourself in Joseph’s place.
What was he feeling? Why did he weep?
What would you have done?


My Weekend Picks 12-18-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

This piece on Hillsong NYC in GQ Magazine is fascinating on so many levels. It’s somewhat lengthy but I couldn’t stop reading. HIGHLY recommended…

What Would Cool Jesus Do?Taffy Brodesser-Akner
hilllsong-gq-0116-1.jpg“The book on Hillsong, however—the other book, lowercase b—is that they’re the real article: the world’s first genuinely cool church. “The music! The lights! The crowds!” begins an incredulous woman narrating a CNN segment on Hillsong NYC in smarmy CNNese. “It looks like a rock concert. And the lines around the block are enough to make any nightclub envious.” The chyron reads “Hipster preacher smashes stereotypes.” They call Pastor Carl a hipster—ABC actually said “hipster heartthrob”—and Carl says he doesn’t know what that means, and he wears a motorcycle jacket when he says this.

How can I fault someone who is more sincere about this one thing than I have ever been about anything in my life? But on the other hand, if there’s one thing that’s true about Christianity, it’s that no matter what couture it’s wearing, no matter what Selena Gomez hymnal it’s singing, it’s still afraid for your soul, it still thinks you’re in for a reckoning. It’s still Christianity. Christianity’s whole jam is remaining Christian.”

I’ve been enjoying this series of devotional thoughts based on some well known Christmas carols by John Fischer…

A Thrill of HopeJohn Fischer
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new glorious morn

“That’s why Hope is so thrilling. It’s unprecedented; unexplainable. There is no logical explanation for it. Why did God let things get so bad? I can’t answer that, but I can say that, for whatever reason He did, He broke in on it with something good. And that one event brought a hope nothing can conquer.”

I LOVE this:
“Sin is always an incomplete statement. Grace is the period at the end of the sentence.”

Let’s Stop Adding ‘Yeah, But’ to Simple Declarations of Grace
Karl Vaters
Let's Stop Adding ‘Yeah, But’ to Simple Declarations of Grace“I’m not naïve. I’m fully aware of the large and growing movement to normalize and excuse sin in our culture. But I refuse to let that stop me from living and speaking about grace in audacious, Christ-like ways.

Besides, every culture has tried to normalize sins. Different sins at different times. That was certainly the case in both the Jewish and Roman cultures of Jesus’ day.

That’s why Jesus preached a ‘yeah, but’ message too. But his message wasn’t ‘Yeah, there’s grace, but don’t forget sin.’ Jesus message was ‘Yeah, there’s sin, but grace is greater.’”

This seems timely…
Source: Off the Mark

Genesis 41:37-57

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Genesis 41:37-57
This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?”[a] 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command.[b] Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. 43 And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!”[c] Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” 45 And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-paneah. And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.

46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. 47 During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, 48 and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. 49 And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.

50 Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph. Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him. 51 Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.”[d] 52 The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”[e]

53 The seven years of plenty that occurred in the land of Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do.”

56 So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses[f] and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Pretty amazing promotion, don’t you think?
How do you think the rest of Pharaoh’s staff felt about this?
He was his father’s favorite, Potiphar’s favorite, the jailer’s favorite and now Pharaoh’s favorite.
So, his brothers hated him, Potiphar’s wife hated him, the cupbearer hated him (Why do you think he forgot about him in 40:23?), and now Pharaoh’s officials…
What was it about Joseph?
What does it tell you about Me?

Christmas Music I’m Listening to This Year

Many years ago I had decided it would be a good idea to buy at least one new Christmas album each year. Well, that tradition sort of fell by the wayside and, looking over my collection I realize that I have a lot of pretty bad Christmas music.

But I have also noticed that some are quite good. Some are appreciated by no one in my family but me, but others have become the soundtrack of my family’s Christmas celebration.

Anyway, in case you’re interested, here, in no particular order, are the ones I’m enjoying this season. By the way, if you’re interested in getting one for yourself just click on the image.

You’ll probably notice that my tastes lean in the jazz direction. Along those lines I should probably admit to a bit of a crush on Diana Krall…her singing I mean! If you want a sample of this album, here’s her version of Let It Snow.

There for a while it seemed like Mannheim Steamroller put out a new Christmas album every year. They’re all pretty good, even though they tend to work with the same formula. However, I think this one is my favorite if for no other reason than the quiet, meditative version of Silent Night.

Phil Driscoll‘s album may be one that the rest of my family lets me listen to when they’re not around. What can I tell you? I’m a sucker for a screaming trumpet and a gravelly voice. It’s also noteworthy that this album was produced and arranged by the one and only Ralph Carmichael. Here’s his version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

This is a lovely album by Dave Brubeck. Don’t expect the sound of the Dave Brubeck Quartet of Take Five fame. This is a collection of songs arranged and played by Dave on the piano only. Here’s his take on Joy to the World.

It’s not Christmas until Mel Tormé sings. Here’s Sleigh Ride.

Ok, I usually have to listen to this one when nobody else is at home. I’ve loved the Stan Kenton sound since I was an aspiring trombonist in high school. This collection uses those blasted (literally) Mellophoniums which can never really be played in tune, and I think the sax section was given the weekend off so it has more of a jazz brass choir feel. Also, I have it on vinyl, so there’s that, but there’s nothing like a fat Stan Kenton brass chord. Anyway, here’s We Three Kings if you want a sample.

This one has pretty much become one of our Christmas requirements. 4 Him ended their run in 2006 but they racked up quite a list of contemporary Christian hits. Their vocal harmonies and arrangements were outstanding. My favorite on this album is Little Drummer Boy.

This album has become one of my favorites. I have no idea who is playing on it. There are no names on the disk or liner. The whole album consists of a typical jazz rhythm section (piano/bass/drums). I can’t even find a sample of it on line so I’ve uploaded Hark, the Herald Angles Sing. I really like this collection!

I hesitate to designate anything as “My Favorite of All Time” but this one by Steven Curtis Chapman would have to be one of the finalists. There are so many great moments on this disk. If you don’t have it, you have to get it. Seriously. If you don’t have this CD your Christmas will be less than it could be and I don’t want that on my conscience. Here are two samples, the fun and insightful This Baby and a stirring instrumental Carol of the Bells.

Pentatonix has had a phenomenal few years since winning The Sing Off in 2011. Seems like Christmas pairs well with a capella music. They’ve made two Christmas albums and I have them both. Here’s Go Tell It On the Mountain PTX style.

This one isn’t really a Christmas album exactly. This is a worship musical written by Tim Timmons and Stan Endicott that we did at WOCC. Actually, we liked it so well that we did it two different years. I’ve included it here because I still think it’s a great set of music to listen to. The musical arrangements are unique and are pitched in keys that are perfect for singing along. I’ve uploaded God Rest You Merry Gentlemen and there are short samples of each song on line.

So, what Christmas music are you enjoying this year? Tell me about it in the comments.

I pray you have a wonderful Christmas!



My Picks for Thursday 12-17-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

What My Kids Are Teaching Me About Worship
David Santistevan
I’ve learned that peoplewill forget what you said,people will forget what you did,but people will never forgethow you made them feel.Five Lessons Kids Can Teach Us About Worship
(Follow the link for some more explanation.)
1. Don’t Care What Other People Think
2. Be In the Moment
3. Never Stop Learning
4. Guard Your Heart From Being Jaded
5. Trust
“So take a step back. Stop trying to protect your reputation so much. Don’t worry about your image. Stand tall as a child of God and love recklessly, worship passionately, and pursue Jesus with an abandon others may see as silly.”

I really like what John Piper has done with this video.  This could be a good way to start your prayer time…

No Little Town; No Silent NightJohn Fischer
shutterstock_120017545O little town of Bethlehem,

How still we see thee lie;
Above thy deep
and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by.

“If Christ can be born into a turbulent town, He can enter a turbulent life like yours and mine and being us peace, hope,
love and joy in the middle of whatever is swirling around us right now.”
Source: Bizarro

Genesis 41:1-36

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Genesis 41:1-36
After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile,
and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke. And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. So in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh.

Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “I remember my offenses today. 10 When Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, 11 we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own interpretation. 12 A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. 13 And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.”

14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. 15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”[a]

(Pharaoh tells Joseph his dreams in vs. 17-24.)

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. 27 The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine. 28 It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, 30 but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will consume the land, 31 and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe. 32 And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. 33 Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land[b] of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. 35 And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36 That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Stop and consider everything Joseph had endured to this point.
What do you think I was doing during all this?
Once again: What kind of a God do you think I am?
Check vs. 16, it’s kind of the theme of Joseph’s life, isn’t it?
What’s the theme of your life?


My Picks for Wednesday 12-16-2015

Just some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing…

Still Proceeding -John Fischerth
“Christmas carols have always been a mysterious phenomenon to me. They contain clear, sometimes deep and complicated expressions of the Christian faith that are nonetheless a part of secular society because they are … well … Christmas carols. They are a part of the Christmas tradition everyone seems to accept. There’s more theology crammed into just one of these carols than in most sermons, and yet you can hear them in supermarkets, restaurants, Christmas shows, and from carolers on your front lawn…

And as this song plays on in shopping malls and supermarkets, listen for it. Find it out in the world, just where we find Christ, today. Worship in the world where many are still seeking Him — still proceeding.”

You Don’t Need a Date NightTim Challies
You Do Not Need a Date Night“Marriage is made up of date nights and romantic weekends. But far more it is made up of those million mundane little moments. More than it is dancing and candlelight and bed and breakfasts, it is doing chores together, driving to church together, watching a miniseries together, eating meals together. It has been my experience that the more we enjoy those ordinary moments and the more we find satisfaction and significance in them, the less we need or even desire those extraordinary occasions.”

“The View” On “Being Good” vs. The GospelTrevin Wax
Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 2.19.50 PM“A remarkable conversation took place on ABC’s The View last week.

It began with an American Atheists billboard featuring a picture of Santa Claus that says, “Go ahead and skip church. Be good for goodness’ sake.” One of the hosts, Joy Behar, wondered if religious people would take offense at such a statement.

In the conversation that followed, we catch a glimpse of how people view the role and place of religion in society, as well as the counter-intuitive nature of the gospel of God’s grace.”

I think Thom Rainer is right on most of these trends,
and on his conclusion…

16 Trends in American Churches in 2016Thom Rainer
Trends 1 to 8                 Trends 9-16
16-Trends-in-American-Churches-in-2016“I have been writing on trends in churches for two decades. I certainly don’t have a perfect record with my predictions, but my overall record is pretty good.

My methodology is simple: I observe emerging issues in some churches and extrapolate them into major trends.

In many ways, I see 2016 as a pivotal year for thousands of congregations. Unfortunately, many church leaders and church members will elect not to change anything. Those congregations will be among the 100,000 rapidly declining churches.

But for other churches, new opportunities abound. For decades, churches could choose a path of modest to no change and do okay. That is not the case today. For those congregations that are eager and willing to face the culture in God’s power and strength, they will likely see incredible opportunities for ministry and growth.

It is becoming that simple.

Change or die.”
Source: Bizarro