Day 30: A Bigger Dream

Opening Prayer:Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”

Daily Scripture Reading:

  • Genesis 45:5-8
  • Genesis 46:1-4
  • Philippians 2:3-4
  • I John 4:19-20

In the end, Jospeh’s dreams were fulfilled. We read of at least 3 different instances in which his brothers literally bowed down before him (Gen. 42:6, 43:26, 43:28). I wonder what those moments felt like. I wonder if he had that lightening bolt thought, “this is it. It’s happening. This is my dream coming true.” I imagine the road had been so long and his personal transformation so enormous, that moment was very different than what his 17-year-old self thought it would be.

In the beginning, I believe Joseph was like most of us, assuming his dreams were about himself. By the time he was standing above his bowing brothers, second in command of all of Egypt, he was clear that God had sent him ahead of them to save their lives. And not only their lives, but the future nation of Israel, fulfilling the promise God had given to Abraham generations before. And not only the nation of Israel, but the family line of Jesus, protecting the Messiah’s lineage hundreds of years ahead of His arrival. Though Joseph had one of the most adventurous, exciting stories in the Bible, he knew and we see that it was just a small chapter in God’s greater story.

Is this how you look at your life? Are you still assuming that the plans and purposes God has for you begin and end with the fulfillment of your own dreams? The tidal wave of our self-obsessed culture is hard to fight. We see everything through the lens of “me.” But what if that raise wasn’t just to fund your dreams? What if that new job wasn’t just about your own upward mobility? What if that new home is to open to the lonely? What if that experience- good or bad- wasn’t intended to terminate on your own personal growth? What if your broken heart was to heal someone else’s? What if your blessings are to bless others? What if it’s all a part of a bigger dream?

In I Corinthians 3:9 we are called God’s co-workers, or co-laborers. We are the conduit of His power, grace, healing and love to this broken world. And we bring all of this with all we are. We have to embrace His bigger dream for the redemption of His world. We get to tell our small chapter of His great story with our lives.

Our boy Joseph was a foreshadowing of Jesus. He left a comfortable home and a loving father to live as a foreigner among hostile people. He was betrayed, falsely accused, and eventually became the savior of his family. In Joseph’s story we see Jesus’ heartbeat for His people. And for those who call Him Lord, we have that same heartbeat inside of each of us. Will you live your dream in context of His?

Today’s Big Questions: Do you see your dreams in context of God’s bigger dream for the world, or do they begin and end with you? Try to identify how the dreams God has given you can fit into the bigger dream of loving on others and redeeming the lost.

Prayer Response: Today, ask the Holy Spirit to speak clearly to you about how your dreams, plans, and life are a part of God’s bigger story. Ask for specifics. Does He want you to financially bless someone today? Does He want you to tell your story to someone? Is He asking you to invite someone into your home? Confess if you have believed that your dreams are for yourself only.

Optional Action Step: On this, the last day of this devotional, take some time to journal your final thoughts. Make a bullet point list of lessons you have learned from the life of Joseph or areas of growth you have experienced. God does not desire more information in our heads if it does not translate to transformation of our hearts.

Closing Prayer:Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Day 29: What Was Meant For Evil

Opening Prayer: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”

Daily Scripture Reading:

  • Genesis 41:50-52
  • Genesis 50:20
  • Psalms 135:6
  • Proverbs 16:4
  • Romans 8:28

The Sovereignty of God. It is a theology that entire denominations have been built and broken on. Questions like what does God cause and what does God allow are more than just semantics. Where does God’s control end and free will begin? How do His plans interact with the sins of man and the will of Satan to steal, kill, and destroy? People a lot smarter than me have been arguing these points for centuries and we will not perfectly answer these questions today.

What is not in question is God’s hand in every twist and turn of Joseph’s story. He was with him in the pit, in Potiphar’s house, in Prison, and in the Palace. He used the good, bad, and ugly parts of Joseph’s journey to bring Him to Genesis 50:20 where Joseph declares to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Joseph’s brothers intended death, but God intended life. Joseph’s brothers thought it was the end of his dreams, but knew it was just the beginning. We may never know the exact line of what God causes and what God allows in a fallen, broken world, but we can be confident that He can USE every bit of our story for His purposes as well.

Have you ever used fertilizer or compost in your yard, garden, or flower beds? There are many store brand fertilizers full of chemicals but when we get back to basics we find that it is usually made of manure. The actual definition of manure is “excrement, especially of animals, or other refuse used as fertilizer.” Similarly, compost is “a mixture of various decaying organic substances used for fertilizing soil.” It’s the watermelon rinds, the old newspapers, the grass clippings, the used coffee grinds and the egg shells. It’s the unused, inedible, and rotting. Both fertilizer and compost are smelly, dirty, and gross. But every good gardener, farmer, or green thumb knows it is golden. It adds life and nutrients to the soil and to the plants that will eventually grow in it. Something rotten becomes something beautiful. Something dead bring life.

God can redeem all things. With Him, nothing is wasted. He can use our hurts, our shame, the things that were done to us and even our own mistakes. On their own, these things can stink up a life and rot out a soul. But when we remain faithful and bring them to God we can say like Joseph, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” He can use the parts of our story, our past, the detours on our journey for our good and His glory.

Today’s Big Questions: When you look at your own journey towards God’s purposes and dreams for your life, can you identify places where someone meant to harm you, but God used it for good? Have you turned over the rotten parts of your story to Him for Him to redeem?

Prayer Response: Today ask the Holy Spirit to reveal those detours He has used or desires to use you in your life. Sit still in His presence long enough to be encouraged that “no weapon formed against you shall prevail (Isaiah 54:17)” and His sovereignty means that nothing is wasted or unredeemable.

Optional Action Step: Tell someone about the ways you have seen God use what was meant for evil and death in your story for good and life. Encourage them to share their own “fertilizer to fruitfulness” story. Maybe even start collecting kitchen scraps in an old coffee can to use in your flower beds as a reminder that nothing is wasted with God.

Closing Prayer: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Day 28: Forgiveness

Opening Prayer:Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”

Daily Scripture Reading:

  • Genesis 42-45
  • Matthew 6:14-15
  • Ephesians 4:31-32

And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.” -Genesis 41:57

I wonder if Joseph looked for their faces in every crowd that came through Egypt to buy grain. I wonder if he had rehearsed the confrontation in his head for years. I wonder if he was expecting his band of betraying brothers to show up hungry at some point because he recognized them right away. This was the moment. The youngest brother crying out for his life from the pit was now the one who held all the control. He could have them killed on the spot. He could send them away without grain to a slow, starving death. What would Joseph do to his brothers?

When the time came, I think Joseph needed more time. For 3 chapters it seemed he played games with them, testing their character. He kept his identity hidden as he made false accusations and unreasonable requests, pressing them for information on the family. Joseph doesn’t appear ready to roll out the red carpet of forgiveness at first sight. Were his brothers still money hungry, as it appeared they had been when they decided to sell Joseph rather than kill him? No, because they returned the silver they found in their bags twice. Did they still hate the favored sons of Rachel and care little for their father’s heart? No, because they were willing to sacrifice themselves for young Benjamin and fought to protect Jacob from further heartbreak. Were they still calloused to Joseph’s plight and the memory of him crying out? No, because in 42:21 they recognized,” surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life but we would not listen.” Though we never read an apology from the brothers to Joseph, I think we see a change in their character by the time they reach Egypt. We don’t know if Joseph wanted to discern that before he offered forgiveness. The truth is, we aren’t commanded only to forgive if the offending party is sorry or changed. We are commanded to forgive because Christ forgave us. But I think Joseph’s fear of forgiveness overlaid on his deep concern for his family shows us that Egypt’s savior and second in command was still very much human.

Ultimately, Joseph revealed himself and started walking the road toward forgiveness and reconciliation because he was more attached to God’s sovereignty and His plan, than he was to his own agenda. In Genesis 45:5,7-8 Joseph, overcome by emotion, says to his terrified brothers, “do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here but God.” Joseph couldn’t deny God’s hand in his unexpected life. He had relinquished his own self-serving dreams somewhere along the road to slavery or inside a prisons’s cell. There is something about hitting rock bottom that gives you perspective. There is something about having absolutely nothing that frees the ordinary blessings to become everything. And now Joseph’s life truly was immeasurably more than he could have asked or imagined when he was dreaming of stalks of grain. The puzzle pieces fell into place for him and he no longer hated his brothers for the part they played in getting him to this day.

Finally we see that Joseph didn’t just barely forgive his brothers, like my kids do when I make them apologize to each other. He didn’t stop at a disgruntled, “I forgive you” under his breath. He went on to abundantly pour all the blessings he had access to onto his family. Instead of giving them only the sacks of grain they had come for, he gives them “the best of the land of Egypt (45:18).” In this example, we really see what Jesus has done for us. He doesn’t stop at forgiveness or even at eternal salvation. He desires to give us “every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3)

Refusing to forgive is like refusing to take the trash out. The job might be tedious and smelly, but refusing to do the work brings far more rancid consequences. From Joseph we learn that taking some time to process may not be bad but we are called to forgive no matter how sorry or changed the other person is. We also learn that tying ourselves to God’s sovereignty and dream for our life will free us up to forgive others that may have interrupted our own agenda. And if we really want to be like Christ, we will not hold back, but offer abundant blessings to those we forgive.

Today’s Big Questions: Is there someone in your life that you know you need to forgive today? Are you waiting for an apology or a changed heart? Can you see where God has had his hand on the situation, even if it hurt?

Prayer Response: Today, ask God to not only give you the ability to forgive just as Christ forgave you, but ask for the power to bless those who have hurt you.

Optional Action Step: Volunteer to take the trash out today at home or at work. As you do, remember Ephesians 4:31-32 and imagine yourself getting rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Remember that the rot of un-forgiveness in your heart is so much more than the stink of that garbage.

Closing Prayer:Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.