Monthly Archives: March 2017

Joseph and the Providence of God

JosephDivineProvidenceHave you ever noticed how easy it is to believe that God is in control when things are going well? When our health is good, our family is safe, and our jobs are secure, it’s easy to say, “God is good!” But what about the times in life when things take a turn for the worst? What about those times that our health fails us, our family comes under attack, or the security of our jobs becomes a thing of the past? It is in these moments that our belief in God as Provider is tested the most. It is in these moments that we often turn to God and say, “Why won’t you take control?” See, when we go from a mountaintop to a valley, we tend to go into shock and we lose all sense of spiritual confidence. We feel as though God has left us and has rejected us for reasons that we can’t understand.
The story of Joseph, the son of Jacob, is the epitome of a riches to rags story. The story of Joseph is found in Genesis 37-50 and is the account of a man that one day was on top of the world and the next was at the bottom of a pit. At a young age, Joseph was favored by his father and was immensely blessed by God. His father loved him so greatly that he gave him a beautifully adorned cloak of magnificent colors that made him stand out from all others. Called the “dreamer” by his older brothers because of the visions that God had given him of his future, he was despised by those that should have loved him most. Because of their jealousy and pride, Joseph’s brothers developed a plot to throw him into a pit and then sell him to a caravan of slave traders headed to Egypt. After selling Joseph, the brothers take Joseph’s cloak and cover it with goat’s blood and report to Jacob that Joseph has been slaughtered by a fierce animal. Jacob is beyond distraught at the news and refuses to be comforted and in one day Joseph finds himself moving from the mountaintop to the valley of his life. Things only begin to get worse as Joseph arrives in Egypt and finds himself as a servant in the house of an Egyptian official named Potiphar. As Joseph begins to work in the household of Potiphar, the Egyptian notices the wisdom and presence of God that Joseph contains and he places Joseph as overseer of his household. However, Joseph finds himself moving once again from mountaintop to valley as Potiphar’s wife attempts to seduce Joseph. When Joseph refuses, Potiphar’s wife accuses him of assault and Joseph finds himself in prison.

Now, let’s stop there for a moment because the application to our lives is so important at this point. See, we often find ourselves going through life serving God and thinking that everything should be fantastic. Today’s prosperity gospel tells us that, if we are right with God, then all is well and no illness, financial hardship, or conflict will come our way! However, just as Joseph did, we run into a wall in which life takes a turn for the worst due to circumstances beyond our control. We find ourselves in a physical and emotional “prison” and we don’t understand why God allowed us to get there. This is where we so badly need to see the providence of God at work in the life of Joseph. Let’s continue…

While Joseph is in prison, he meets two Egyptians that once worked for Pharaoh, King of Egypt as chief cupbearer and chief baker. While in prison, the two men have dreams that they can’t understand that rattle them to the core. In a God-ordained moment, God uses Joseph to interpret the dreams of the two men which subsequently come true. In payment for his interpretation, Joseph asks the men to remember him when they return to the house of Pharaoh. Of course, the men promise and the chief cupbearer returns to Pharaoh but forgets Joseph. However, before long, Pharaoh has a dream of his own. Pharaoh calls his magicians in but no one can interpret the dream. In this moment, the chief cupbearer remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh of Joseph’s interpretive ability. God once again uses Joseph, interprets the dream to Pharaoh, and reveals the reality of a famine that is coming to the land of Egypt. Now, this is where it gets really good! Joseph, the former slave and prisoner, is placed second only to Pharaoh as administrator over Egypt and oversees preparation for the famine. He begins to stockpile grain and prepare for the rough years of famine ahead. At the same time, Joseph’s brothers and father are going through the pain of the famine and decide to make a trip to Egypt for food. Upon arriving, in a moment of uncanny irony and providence, the brothers have an encounter with Joseph. As they arrive in the sight of Joseph, they bow down before him and in a moment, fulfill the dreams that Joseph had as young man. Joseph is moved to tears at the sight of his brothers, yet he hides his identity. Over the next few days, Joseph places his brothers under a test. This wasn’t a test to punish them or to get revenge, but it was a test to determine the condition of their hearts. The brothers pass the test by showing their genuine love and concern for their youngest brother Benjamin by being willing to take his place in lifetime service to Joseph. As Joseph is moved by this act, he reveals his identity to his brothers. Understandably, his brothers are overwhelmed by one emotion: Fear! Fear of revenge because anyone that had been through what Joseph had been through would rightfully want revenge, wouldn’t they? After the life he had lived and suffered through, there would be nothing wrong with getting even, right? In every way, wrong!

See, when things take bad turns in life and our situations become painful and difficult, it is often the case that bitterness toward God and others sets in. However, this wasn’t the case with Joseph. In fact, this is what Joseph says to his brothers in Genesis 50:19-21 ESV, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 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. So do not fear, I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. What powerful words those are that we truly need to hear! Whenever we go through rough times in life, instead of questioning God and accusing God of wronging us, we need to speak to ourselves and say, “Am I in the place of God?” The fact is, we are in no position to be able to know the entire mind of God and His plans for our tomorrow. What looks like an insurmountable valley to us may be a necessary place in our lives that God uses to prove His sovereignty in our lives. Joseph knew that, even though there were serious valleys in his life, God’s providence never fails. He knew that God would use every good AND bad situation to bring about a perfect plan. The perfect plan resulted in, not only Joseph’s well-being, but in the well-being of the entire Hebrew people! The same God of providence is alive and well and is working in your life today in the good AND the bad. Instead of being overwhelmed by bitterness or anger towards God, respond by realizing that He knows what He is doing. Remember, Romans 8:28 ESV says, “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Whether you are on the mountaintop or in the valley, He IS the God of providence!


Cultural Impact: Beauty and the Beast

g_beautyandthebeast2017_08_78bde778If you have a young daughter at home, then you have probably been asked, “Can I go see Beauty and the Beast?” I know that my 8-year-old daughter has been asking my wife and I this question since the day that she discovered Disney was sending this childhood movie remake to theatres! Starring such huge names as Emma Watson, Ian McKellen, and Ewan McGregor, Beauty and the Beast is scheduled to come out in theatres on March 17th. The movie is set to be a Box Office hit and will undoubtedly have numbers of parents standing in line with their daughters. However, my wife and I will not be parents standing in that line. Why, you ask? Is it because we are trying to deprive our little girl from the joys of childhood? Are we just simply anti-Disney? The answer to both of those questions is NO! So, what is the big deal?

On Wednesday, March 1st, 2017,  Elahe Izadi of The Washington Post wrote an article entitled, “Beauty and the Beast to Have Disney’s First-Ever Exclusively Gay Moment” (Izadi, 2017). Yes, you read that right! As if our children have not been confused by our sex-crazed culture enough, Disney has decided to take the long-anticipated opportunity to create its first openly gay scene in one of the most anticipated children’s movies of the year. According to Izadi, the scene involves one of the movie’s openly gay characters named LeFou and another male character name Gaston as LeFou begins to discover that he has “feelings” for Gaston that go beyond friendship. The director of the movie, Bill Condon, states, “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston…. He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie” (Izadi, 2017). With that simple statement, Mr. Condon treats the scene as a “nice and delicious” moment that should be anticipated with excitement by all. It should be a moment that gives us all hope and promise, right? The problem is, through incorporating this character and scene into The Beauty and the Beast, Disney has not brought hope or promise at all. Instead, Disney has shown to us the depraved spiritual and sexual condition of a culture that has turned away from the God in whose image we are made. This is the same condition that the Apostle Paul described in Romans 1:26 when he wrote, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were confused with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”

This will not be “politically correct”, but Scripture is clear in its condemnation of the practice of homosexuality. Paul clearly said that homosexuality is dishonorable and contrary to nature. Not only in Romans, but 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 are additional examples. Now, I do want to address this very important point that we as Christians so often get wrong: Homosexuality is sin just as lust is sin and just as greed is sin. We so often put homosexuality in a category all its own and we act as if those that struggle with it are irreparably condemned. This is not the case! God is more than willing to forgive all sin when we come to him in true repentance (1 John 1:9). We are to love those that struggle with homosexuality as we would love anyone else with struggles of the flesh and we are to lead them to repentance. At the same time, saying that homosexuality is an innate form of love that should be accepted by all is completely against the Truth of Scripture. But that is where we are in our world today. We live in an era in which the lines are so blurred that everything we believe is relative and there really is no moral truth. That is why it is so vital that we as Christians take a stand and say, “I will not be forced to accept what I know is against Scripture!” Be prepared! We will be called intolerant, judgmental, intellectually primitive, and more. But didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” When we stand up for the Truth, we are going to be ridiculed and rejected but that should not detour us. If we don’t teach our children to take a stance that aligns with Scripture, then we will find them taking a stance that aligns with the world.

Works Cited

Izadi, Elahe. “Beauty and the Beast to Have Disney’s First-Ever Exclusively Gay Moment”. (1 March 2017) The Washington Post. Web. Accessed on 6 March 2017. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2017/03/01/beauty-and-the-beast-to-have-disneys-first-ever-exclusively-gay-moment/?tid=sm_tw&utm_term=.df6b0d13060a


Cultural Impact: Have We Lost Valuable Communication?

textingDo you remember the days of visiting someone at home and spending hours in conversation? What about the days of writing a letter to someone that didn’t require you to be limited to “140 characters or less”? For those of us that grew up before the age of the iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging, we can recall those days. But for so many, the text has replaced the voice of a friend or loved one and Facebook Messenger has replaced face-to-face conversation. Why is this a problem? Well, just have someone hide behind their smartphone and send you a text that says, “I’m fine”, when in reality the look on their face is full of sadness and pain. Behind the smartphone or tablet, we can’t see the hurts, concerns, and pains of others. Forbes reports that 7% of all communication is spoken or written language and 93% is body language (Forbes, 2012). In today’s world of emoji’s, OMG’s and BFF’s, we need to ask, “How do I really know what another person is going through when all I can see is a text screen?” Don’t get me wrong! I believe that technology and social media have extraordinary benefits and that today’s world provides wonderful opportunities for the spread of the Gospel. However, I also believe that we are lacking in so much of the personal, meaningful conversation that we once had.

In Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV, the Scripture says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This Scripture speaks of the importance of the gathering of Christians. Today, we as Americans typically gather together on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesdays. However, even this is coming under attack in our age due to the belief that we can “get the same thing from home by watching the preacher on TV”. This viewpoint is harmful to Christians in ways that we so often overlook. The question is: Why does Hebrews say that it is important that we gather together? The simple reasoning is: to stir up one another to love and good works. We are to gather together, whether it’s in one-on-one conversation in our homes or in a church setting, to encourage one another to grow in love and to grow in ministry. When we are able to sit and look into the face of someone we are communicating with, we are able to show multitudes more care and concern than through an electronic device. Simultaneously, when we choose to limit our communication to the one line text or the 140-character tweet, we are depriving ourselves of the mutual encouragement and love that comes from spending time with one another as Christians. When we choose to let the sermon on TV be our church service for the week, we are depriving ourselves of the encouragement and accountability that comes along with gathering with other believers. (I do want to throw in a disclaimer: It is completely understood that there are those that are unable to attend services due to disability.) The point is, we sincerely must evaluate our lives and discover whether we have allowed today’s technology to rob us of the beauty of personal communication.

So, ask yourself this question: Am I still allowing time in my life for the kind of communication with others that truly matters? Now, don’t go and throw your smartphone or tablet in the trash! Instead, try turning them off for 24-48 hours and spend some one-on-one time with someone that you can encourage in the Lord.

 

Works Cited

Tardanico, Susan. Is Social Media Sabotaging Real Communication? (30 April 2012). Forbes.     Web. Accessed 2 March 2017. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/susantardanico/2012/04/30/is-social-media-sabotaging-real-communication/#2ad297202b62