“Sex, Manipulation & Revenge” January 21

 

Sex, Manipulation & RevengeGod created sex. He designed our sexuality as a means to delight and bring pleasure to one another within the marriage relationship. But, sadly, as our culture knows all too well, “sex sells” and it has been twisted and used throughout the ages to manipulate and entice and for many other evil purposes, including revenge.

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 41 & 42
Psalm 10.12-18
Proverbs 4.7-9
Matthew 14.1-21

 

Sex, Manipulation & Revenge

 

Matthew 14.1-21:

He Must Increase

 

Here we have the sordid story of King Herod, Herodias (Herod’s wife, his half-brother’s ex-wife and daughter of another half-brother) and Herodias’ daughter. It’s Herod’s birthday and this young girl is dancing for the men at the party—most likely a drunken “men’s affair” like a bachelor’s party or “gentlemen’s club” (what an oxymoron that is!)

Herodias, had probably noticed the way Herod looked at her young daughter when he thought she wasn’t looking, and instead of protecting her daughter, she used her to manipulate Herod into giving her what she wanted! And what she wanted was revenge—John the Baptist’s head on a platter! John had publicly spoken against her sinful behavior and she had decided to get even!

But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.

So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.”

And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her.10 So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother (Matt. 14.6-11).

After John’s death, we see Jesus’ grief over the loss of His cousin.

“When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself …” (v. 13).

But it was time for John to leave the stage and for Jesus to take full prominence. Remember John himself had said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn. 3.30). God can and does use sinful people to fulfill His divine purposes.

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Genesis 41 & Genesis 42:

Joseph’s Story & Your Story

 

Here in these two chapters God’s purposes begin to unfold in Joseph’s life. God has used trials to prepare him and in the chapters to come we’ll see that he has learned to trust God’s workings in his life. Now he’s ready to be placed on the world stage and to be reconciled with his family.

How difficult it must have been for Joseph when God gave him the interpretation of the Butler’s and the Baker’s dreams, and yet, to have it seemingly end there! It may not have seemed so strange to us because we know the end of the story, but think about it from Joseph’s perspective.

What has God allowed in your life that seems to make no sense? How can understanding Joseph’s story help you patiently wait on God in your own life?

Finally, if you have a strained relationship with someone in your family, Continue reading

“Private Temptations” January 20

 

Private Temptations - Like Joseph and Judah, all of us are tested and tried, sometimes through private temptations. How would you respond? Like Joseph or like Judah? Have you been tempted with discouragement or anger because you are experiencing some test or trial? Is it possible God is using that situation to prepare you for something great?Like Joseph and Judah, all of us are tested and tried, sometimes through private temptations. How would you respond? Like Joseph or like Judah?

Have you been tempted with discouragement or anger because you are experiencing some test or trial? Is it possible God is using that situation to prepare you for something great?

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 39 & 40
Psalm 10.1-11
Proverbs 4.1-6
Matthew 13.31-58

 

Private Temptations

 

Genesis 39 & Genesis 40:

Two Responses to Temptation

 

In yesterday’s reading (Gen. 38) we saw Judah’s private immorality, followed by his initial public self-righteousness when he condemned his daughter-in-law to death.

Here in 39 we see Joseph’s righteous behavior even when tempted in private.

Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”

But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

10 So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.

How easy it would have been for him to say, “What’s the use? What has doing good gotten me so far?”

And talk about temptation! Here’s this woman throwing herself at him, but he shows honor to his master even in his speech (a proper attitude toward authority). Most importantly, he says, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (v. 9).

Joseph realized that sin is first and foremost against God. While our sins can create major problems in other relationships with people, the biggest problem they create is in our relationship with God (Gal. 6.7-8; Heb. 12.7-11). As Joseph said, how then can I do this …?

Sexual immorality, lying, stealing, drunkenness, outbursts of anger, and other sins of commission (what we do) are not the only ways we sin. We can also commit sins of omission, things we should do, but don’t—like forgiving someone who has wronged us or taking full responsibility for our own failings.

James 4.17 says, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

But, after repeated attempts to seduce Joseph, Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses him of trying to rape her. When she tells her husband, he has Joseph thrown into prison.

 

Tested & Tried

 

Why would God allow all this to happen to Joseph? Had God left him? Was He punishing him?

We know that isn’t the case, because the text repeatedly says that the Lord was with him:

The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate (Gen. 39.2-6).

20 Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. 23 The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper (Gen. 39.20-23).

All of God’s servants are tested and tried. Sometimes He uses other people, even sinful people like Joseph’s brothers and Potiphar’s wife, to do it. Abraham was tested as he waited for the promised child and then by the command to sacrifice that child. The “mama’s boy” Jacob was tested as he was forced to flee the home life he loved and as he was betrayed by his father-in-law. Later we’ll see Moses being tested and refined as he spends forty years herding sheep … and David by running from Saul for years.

The Apostle Paul said of himself:

“From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness …” (2 Cor. 11.24-27).

We, too, are tested and like the men and women in the Bible. Sometimes He uses sinful people (a difficult spouse, child or other family member). Sometimes He uses our circumstances (financial hardship, sickness, loss, mistreatment, betrayal or some other difficulty). Continue reading

“Can God redeem YOUR past?” January 19

 

Can God redeem your past? - Can God redeem your past? What things in your family or your past do you wish weren't part of your personal history? Can God really use it for good? Does it disqualify you from serving God or ever being used in a meaningful way? Check out today's reading in Genesis, especially the story of Judah and Tamar.Can God redeem your past? What things in your family or your past do you wish weren’t part of your personal history? Can God really use it for good? Does it disqualify you from serving God or ever being used in a meaningful way? Check out today’s reading in Genesis, especially the story of Judah and Tamar.

Our New Testament reading talks about the heart. What kind of heart do you have? Is it hard, stony, full of thorns, or is it good ground?

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 37 & 38
Psalm 9.11-20
Proverbs 3.31-35
Matthew 13.1-30

 

Can God redeem your past?

 

Genesis 37 & Genesis 38:

Here comes that dreamer!

 

I continue to be blessed by our time in the book of Genesis—the book of Beginnings. I pray that this journey is as fascinating and enjoyable, as well as, practical and enlightening for you as it always is for me. I never tire of these stories. There is so much new to learn every time we walk with our spiritual ancestors.

Here in chapter 37 we have another seemingly sad story with which many of us can relate. There’s Joseph, Jacob’s son by Rachel, his “first love.” His father openly shows favoritism to the boy creating a great deal of resentment with the ten older brothers.

Although Jacob’s behavior was wrong, their attitudes were clearly sinful, as well. Even when we’re sinned against, God holds each of us responsible to respond in a godly way, these boys, definitely, did not!

This story is a good reminder to us that our preferential treatment of one child often does great damage to their relationships and can actually lead to that child being estranged from his or her siblings.

Joseph adds to the problem by sharing some dreams. Remember when the brothers saw him coming they said, “Here comes that dreamer!” Though the dreams would prove to be prophetic, pointing to a time when he would be exalted over his family, it wasn’t wisdom for him to share them.

It brings to mind a verse in the New Testament about Mary and her infant Son. It says:

“And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2.18-19).

Sometimes when God shows us something, we need to ponder it in our own heart and be selective about sharing it.

Perhaps she had learned that lesson earlier. Imagine what would have happened if Mary had gone around telling people she was pregnant with the Son of God. Even Joseph found it impossible to believe, until God spoke directly to him.

 

Redeeming the Past

 

Tomorrow’s reading and the remainder of Genesis will pick up the story of Jacob’s family with Joseph as the central character, but here in chapter 38 we have the story of Judah and Tamar. This story can be hard to understand without some cultural background.

The story centers around a custom called the levirate marriage where a close family
member, especially a single brother, would marry a widow to produce an heir for a dead brother who had died childless. It had both practical and spiritual significance. Continue reading

“The Jesus Code: Discouragement, Diversion & Doubt” + LINKUP

Chapter 3 of The Jesus Code: 52 Scripture Questions Every Believer Should Answer, by O.S. Hawkins.

For those of you just tuning in, The Jesus Code has 52 questions, one to contemplate each week. The author believes every Christian should be able to answer these important questions.

The question for week one was, “Has God Indeed Said …?” (Genesis 3.1).

Week two: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18.25).

And this week: “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39.9).

This week hit close to home. I’ll explain in a minute.

First let me talk a little about the question itself. You probably remember the setting. Joseph had been sold by his jealous brothers into slavery. He wound up in Egypt in the home of a man named Potiphar.

The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority … 

Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”

Joseph was faced with the age-old temptation.

His master was gone. Who would know?

But Joseph understood that sin was not just sin against another person, but more importantly, against God Himself. So he ran.

Joseph’s stand for righteousness cost him. Once she was rebuffed, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of rape and Joseph was thrown into prison.

Many years before, Joseph had a dream of his brothers and parents bowing down to him. Now sitting in that prison, his dream must have seemed nearly hopeless.

In this great chapter Hawkins talks about the three obstacles Joseph had to overcome to reach his dream – the same three obstacles many of us must overcome before we’ll reach our dreams:

  • Discouragement
  • Diversion
  • Doubt

So why was this chapter so personal? Because I have been struggling with some discouragement, and even some doubt, about my own dream. Just this morning, before I read this week’s chapter, I was pouring my heart out to God.

Then God did a couple of things for me. First, I had a schedule change and was free during our early morning service, so I decided to attend our women’s Sunday school class. Our Women’s Ministry Director was teaching on goal setting. The first thing she said was, “Do you have a dream?” She went on to make some great points, most of which I had heard before, but I heard them today with that clarity only the Lord can give.

When I got home and sat down to read this chapter, those “obstacles” jumped off the page at me, especially, discouragement and doubt. As I read the rest of the chapter, I could feel the Lord continue to minister to me and refresh my dream.

If you have a dream and you’re getting weary of waiting or just feeling discouraged for some reason, I want to encourage you to read the rest of the chapter for yourself.

You can get a copy of The Jesus Code and follow along with these 52 vital questions. The chapters are short and can easily be read in one sitting. If you do, I’d love your feedback. Click here to get the book or here for Kindle.

Next week’s question is, “Who am I?” (Exodus 3.11).

Be sure to sign up for the “Christian Living” emails so you won’t miss upcoming posts on the book and notifications of each week’s LINKUP.

Blessings,
Donna

 

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