Genesis 39:1-12

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 39:1-12
Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.

Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.

11 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Do you still think Joseph is arrogant?
Would an arrogant man resist Potiphar’s wife?
Is it arrogant to know that I have blessed you?
What is humility, really?
Does humility help you resist temptation? Why?

Genesis 38:1-30

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 38:1-30
(Read the whole chapter at the link above. I’ve copied one portion here.)
12 In the course of time the wife of Judah, Shua’s daughter, died. When Judah was comforted, he went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13 And when Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14 she took off her widow’s garments and covered herself with a veil, wrapping herself up, and sat at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that Shelah was grown up, and she had not been given to him in marriage. 15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 He turned to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” 17 He answered, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” And she said, “If you give me a pledge, until you send it—” 18 He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet and your cord and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. 19 Then she arose and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
These people are messed up, aren’t they?
Remember, these are the people I’ve chosen to for my Great Plan.
Do they remind you of anyone?
Do you think I can use you?
I’m gonna ask you the same question I asked yesterday:
What kind of a God do you think I am?

My Weekend Picks for 12-11-2015

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

This is a fascinating behind the scenes look at how the correspondence between Charles Schulz and one fan helped him make a difficult move…

Why Charles M. Schulz Gave Peanuts A Black Character
-Paul Sorene
Charles M Schulz Franklin letter civil rights“People I like can be divided into two groups: a) those who enjoy and get Charles M. Schulz’s wonderful Peanuts comic strip; b) those fools who don’t. All of human life is in the artist and writer’s 17,897 comic strips.

In 1968 Schulz noticed the Civil Rights movement, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and read a letter from Los Angeles schoolteacher Harriet Glickman. She had a question for Schulz: would he include a black child in the Peanuts gang?”

The Most Essential Life Skill: Teachability -David Murray
“There’s one characteristic that separates the successful from the unsuccessful in every walk of life: teachability.

Those who are teachable, and remain so, usually succeed. The unteachable usually fail. I’ve seen that in business, I’ve seen it in the ministry, I’ve seen it among students, and I’ve seen it in my children.

No matter how much talent and gifting we have, if we are, or become, unteachable, we will never reach anywhere near our full potential in our careers, our callings, or our relationships.”

Why don’t Muslims condemn terrorism? -Marty Duren
Short answer: They do.
[Image credit]
Why don’t Muslims condemn terrorism? It’s a question we hear a lot after full scale terrorist attacks or individual killings. It isn’t surprising given the ongoing conflation of Islam, the major world religion, with extremist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda that represent a tiny fraction of the whole.

The fact is there are many, many condemnations following every terrorist act, or violent acts carried out by Muslims. Attacks that make the news are repudiated, usually swiftly. The repudiations are rarely noted.”

This next piece is somewhat lengthy, but it is very moving and worth your time. It is the story of how God is using one man in the midst of the refugee crisis. If you, like me, live in the shelter of American borders, this will help you get a feel for what is happening elsewhere. I love his quote at the end of the piece: “I understand why you’re afraid, but that fear is not from God,” he says. “You don’t have to be afraid. You have to show love. If we don’t, we’re giving the win to ISIS.”

Love and Loss in Syria’s Refugee Crisis -Cort Gatliff
“In the middle of this chaos, Ibrahim, a former Muslim who left behind his home in Syria, is serving refugees in Istanbul and taking advantage of every opportunity to tell them about his faith in Jesus. “This is the best time for the Muslim refugees to hear the message,” Ibrahim says. “Their hearts are so soft.” He spends his days ministering to those who’ve been caught amid this massive forced migration, but he’s also waiting to be granted immigrant status so he can reunite with his wife, whom he hasn’t seen since 2013, in the United States. Since becoming a follower of Jesus in 2004, Ibrahim felt God was calling him to serve among his Muslim neighbors.

He just never knew what that would look like, until now.”


Not Your Typical Christmas Post

I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but Christmas is two weeks away.

I like pretty much everything about Christmas, I really do. Well, except for the sappy Hallmark movies, but I watch them because Kathie likes them.

I mean, we decorate our house with Santas in the kitchen… DSC_0028

…snowmen in the bathroom (even though they sometimes make me feel a little self-conscious)…



…a Teddy Bear tree in the front window…DSC_0016

…a regular tree in the family room…DSC_0024



…a nutcracker guarding the front door…






…and some outdoor lights…

DSC_0023 And it’s all stored in an assortment of plastic bins and cardboard boxes that I dutifully drag down from the attic every year after Thanksgiving, and then haul back up in January.


I like the food, the family gatherings and the candle light Christmas Eve service at church. I like breakfast casserole with the kids and grandkids on Christmas morning. And I LOVE watching loved ones, especially the kids, opening their gifts.

However, I sometimes think that all this stuff may play a role in keeping us from seeing the real meaning of Christmas.

The real meaning of Christmas.

To be honest, I get sort of tired of hearing that phrase. It seems everyone has their own idea about the “real meaning of Christmas.”

Love for all mankind.

The warmth and comfort of family.

Giving to those in need.

Peace on earth.

A Baby in a stable (“no crying He makes”).

To be sure, I have nothing against any of those things. In fact, in one way or another, they all spring from that first Christmas.


Have you ever stopped to look at Christmas through the eyes of the people who lived it?

We tend to sentimentalize the events of Bethlehem that night. But,  for starters, try to imagine living in a land where the king could order the execution of all children under the age of two…and it would actually be carried out. Many people live in fear today. Fear of terrorists. Fear of politicians. Fear of big business. Fear of genetically modified food. Fear of vaccines. Even fear of our neighbors. But never in my wildest dreams could I imagine living in a society where a ruler can, on a whim, decide to violently eliminate everybody’s children! Can you? I know there are places in the world where this can happen, but it is completely foreign to my experience.

To all of this God says, “Fear not.”

Now let’s try to lift our mind’s eye away from this physical world completely. What did (does?) Christmas look like from the spiritual realm?

What was God up to?

What was Satan’s reaction?

We have a glimpse in Revelation 12. It’s couched in language that seems wild and hard to comprehend because the author is attempting to describe something that is truly beyond our experience. Take a look at Revelation 12:1-6

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Go ahead and read the rest of the chapter. Don’t get bogged down in the details, just soak up the images and sensations.

I’m telling you, something cataclysmic happened at what we refer to as Christmas. It’s not a warm, mushy, sentimental event.

It’s nothing short of a declaration of war.

A war of (literally) biblical proportions.

A war between God and Satan.

And here’s the most amazing part:
They’re going to war over you and me.

And that, my friend, is the real meaning of Christmas.


PS – We know who wins. So “fear not.”

Genesis 37:12-36

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 37:12-36
12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. 13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” 14 So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word.” So he sent him from the Valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. 15 And a man found him wandering in the fields. And the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16 “I am seeking my brothers,” he said. “Tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” 17 And the man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

18 They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits.[a] Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” 21 But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. 24 And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

25 Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels[b] of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.

29 When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes 30 and returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?” 31 Then they took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not.” 33 And he identified it and said, “It is my son’s robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” 34 Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him. 36 Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
This is a nasty business, isn’t it?
What if Reuben had not intervened and they killed Joseph?
I only ask because I want you to think about my involvement in this.
How much of this do you think I “controlled”?
Do you really think I would direct someone to kill his brother?
Or even to sell him into slavery?
What kind of a God do you think I am?

My Picks for Thursday 12-10-2015

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

Certainty, Openness and Theological Wisdom -Ray Ortlund
2012-MAY-Source-Liaohe-River-Delta-Marshland-300x214“Some Christians seem “all certainty.”  Maybe it makes them feel heroic.  But they see too few gray areas.  Everything is a federal case.  They have a fundamentalist mindset.

Other Christians seem “all openness.”  Maybe it makes them feel humble.  But they see too few black-and-white areas.  They have a liberal mindset — though they may demonstrate a surprising certainty against certainty…

…May we become more certain where we’ve been too open, and more open where we’ve been too certain, according to Scripture.”

The famous sixth-century Sinai Pantocrator (Christ Almighty) icon depicts one-half of Christ’s face as suffering servant and the other half as serene risen Lord.

Art in the Worship of the Church
-Paul Blowers
“Contrary to the old adage, beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder. True beauty lies in the richness and breadth of God’s revelation, which lays claim to all our senses—even some that we may not know we have! “Taste and See” is more than a lovely worship tune composed by James E. Moore in 1983. It should be a summons to all our senses to experience the boundless glory of God and to respond in kind, creatively and resourcefully.

Churches should be encouraged to use their imaginations and a wide array of arts (not just music but drama, ritual dance, photography, and iconography, etc.) to enhance their praise and worship.”

7 Situations Where Your Church Should Not Have Greeters
-Thom Rainer
“…there are a few occasions where I think it’s best for the church to have no greeters at all. Indeed, if one or a few of these situations exist, greeters in the worship services can do more harm than good... Here are seven such occasions…”

If Donald Trump Becomes President, It’s on You
-Melissa Schwartz
DONALD TRUMP“It’s not just his hate speech that should alarm you. We have had candidates for decades that have based their campaigns on arousing hate and fear. But they have not been frontrunners.

If elected President, Donald Trump has the power to enact policies by executive action to round up people of a specific race and take unilateral action against them. If elected President, Donald Trump really can spend your taxpayer dollars to build walls, tear families apart, and deny federal benefits and protections to people of a specific race.

For those who believe President Obama has overreached during his presidency, imagine those same powers in the hands of Donald Trump.”

You’d better watch out…




Genesis 37:1-11

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 37:1-11
Jacob lived in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan.

These are the generations of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.[a] But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.

Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” 11 And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Ok, I know you’re familiar with this story, but…
What’s your impression of Joseph? Was he spoiled? Was he egotistical? Was he bragging ?
Or, was he really just very socially unaware?
So, what if he was more aware of how this affected his brothers?
Would that have changed the outcome?
We’ll probably talk more about this later…

My Picks for Wednesday 12-9-2015

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

I hadn’t thought about it this way before, but his suggestions make a lot of sense…

Why White Men Should Preach Noteless Sermons
-Nicholas McDonald“…if you can’t remember your sermon, it’s too dense. It’s too complicated. It’s too geared toward written communication. Memory goes hand-in-hand with simplicity and focus – two essential qualities for oral communication.”

Stephen Colbert shows us how it’s done…

Why Humility Always Trumps Inflammatory Rhetoric
-Jesse Carey
“The need to have an opinion about every political or social issue, or a comeback to every hot-take, requires us to claim to know things we might not actually know. It elevates pride in our personally held position, over the humility to actually think and pray about what God wants.

Some situations require us to take action and seek meaningful change. But that might mean putting aside our own ideas by acknowledging we don’t know all of the answers, but we know who does.

It means sharing our opinion about an issue, but at least being humble enough to admit, “I should have mentioned this before: I don’t know what I’m talking about,” when we don’t actually have all of the answers.”

This is not really all that hard to do, but it does require you and your volunteers to be intentional…

What Are They Remembering?-Danny Franks
“Your guests walked away from your service this weekend with a collection of stories. They are stories they’ll tell once they return to their cubicle, their neighborhood, their dinner table. They are stories of delight and stories of disappointment. They are stories that will cement a positive experience or further erode a negative one.”

I like this concept a lot. It can be really helpful in thinking through how we use technology in worship…

Lightsabers in WorshipJeremy Armstrong
“Here at worship leader we have long highlighted the distinction between “idol” and “icon” as a valuable one. An icon, such as a stained-glass window or a beautiful refrain of a worship song, points attention to God. It is masterfully crafted and intricately designed, but it has a purpose: direct attention and glory to God.

An idol, on the other hand, has no such intentions. The purpose of an idol is to point to anything other than God. Idols usually point to themselves, but sometimes they can be sneaky in sending our attention in a hundred different directions.

So again, ‘How are you going to use a lightsaber in your worship service?’ Will it be an idol or an icon?”

Moving from Star Wars to Star Trek, here’s a great Christmas gift idea. “Energize” your drinks with these transporter coasters…
Star Trek Transporter Pad LED Coasters Additional Image