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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Trumped Up Evidence

Joseph’s brothers present Jacob with trumped-up evidence of Joseph’s death, his shredded coat, dried blood, and bewildered faces. Jacob views all three and concludes that Joseph is dead. Jacob believes a lie based on trumped-up evidence and something within him dies. 
Twenty-two years later his sons return from their second trip to Egypt bearing the good news that Joseph is indeed alive. At first Jacob refuses to believe the truth (the trumped-up evidence had been so compelling) until he sees the carts Joseph had sent to carry him to Egypt. That something within that had died revives. Jacob has a glitter in his eye, a jump in his step, and hope in his heart as he loads up his family and heads toward Egypt. 
On the way Jacob stops at Beersheba and offers sacrifices to the God of his father, Isaac, for the first time in twenty-two years. God also speaks to him for the first time in twenty-two years, “I am God, the God of your father,” he said, “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.” (Genesis 46:3-4)
Several truths emerge from this story:
  • Just as Jacob’s sons use “trumped-up evidence” to deceive their father so the father of lies uses trumped-up evidence to deceive people today. The shredded coats of circumstances and broken relationships and the dried blood of dreams, hopes and plans convince many that God is finished with them. 
  • Something dies within the one who believes the trumped-up evidence. Hopelessness, despair, depression, and bitterness settle in. For years. Only the truth sets one free. 
  • Jacob hears God speak to him once the lie is revealed by the light of truth. Believing trumped-evidence about God, about himself, his family and his circumstances closes Jacob’s heart toward God. Once the truth breaks through he again offers sacrifices to the Lord and God speaks to him. 
Things are never as they appear. Hope, therefore, cannot be based on circumstances and people, but in the Living God. The Psalmist captures this when he states, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say on the LORD!” (Psalm 27:13-14)

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"Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come close to me." (Psalm 45:4)

When you can say "Come close to me" (not so that you can get in a good punch) in the spirit of reconciliation to someone who has hurt you then you've matured in grace and faith. Your view of God will determine whether or not you'll forgive others for hurting you. Joseph saw the hand of God in all that touched his life and was therefore able to extend forgiveness to his offending brothers.

Jesus said that "offenses must come" (Matthew 18:7). Offences must come but nothing others do to me should cause me to live a resentful and bitter life. How can I, like Joseph, live at peace with those who've caused me deep heartache and pain?2 Corinthians 4:7-18 is just one of many Scriptures providing an answer:
  • I am an earthen vessel. Besides being useful I am also vulnerable to being dropped, cracked and broken.
  • The treasure, Jesus Christ, resides powerfully within my spirit which is encased by my physical body.
  • The pressure of difficult and often perplexing betrayal and persecution works to bring about my death (the self-life) so that the indwelling life of Christ can "break out" and meaningfully touch the lives of "undeserving" others.
  • God bursts through the temporal world of brokenness and offers healing. And, all through me. His vessel.
Pain inflicted by others becomes a conduit for the manifestation of God through your life. Forgiveness/Unforgiveness is the cut off valve prohibiting or releasing the Spirit of Christ through me to touch "undeserving" others graciously, meaningfully and deeply.
Steps to walking in forgiveness:
  1. Recognize that I am expecting something from others. Offences come because I expect something from others, whether it is praise, affirmation, acceptance, validation, or one of the many other things we expect from others.
  2. I reckon myself dead to the offence and release it to the Lord. Dead people have no expectations. "I died and my life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). Dead people can't be offended.
  3. By faith, I yield to the life of Christ dwelling in me. I appropriate the promise of His presence and residence. Jesus is what people need. I, with my expectations and unforgiveness, get in the way of His giving them what they need (grace) through my life.
  4. I choose to forgive, which means, I verbally release that person and specific hurt to the Lord. (Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling.)
  5. I must then refuse to entertain thoughts of evil, suspicion, and mental record keeping of wrongs committed against me (1 Cor. 13:5). I refuse to give the enemy a place of operation in my life by allowing negative and unforgiving thoughts about another to fester. I will not allow the accuser of the brethren to accuse others through my mind.
  6. I thank the Lord for the offended person, the misunderstanding and ask the Lord to use it redemptively in my life to teach me humility and agape love. 2 Cor. 4:7-15.
  7. I offer my body as a living sacrifice and yield to the life of Christ residing in me to do what I cannot: agape love. I ask the Lord Jesus to literally take over my physical body and manifest Himself through my mortal flesh. And, He does! Even my countenance towards the offending brother/sister changes. I don't have to "fake" it. He surfaces and faces those offenders on my behalf IN me. It is an awesome and freeing experience. This is Romans 5:8 "love" and it does not originate from me but within me and can be mine toward others experientially.
Instead of causing bitterness these painful situations become stepping stones of sanctification. Once the Lord does all that He intends in me He will work in them. Ultimately, other people are not your real enemy. Unforgiveness is your real enemy!. The enemy has a field day in the lives of those who refuse to walk with a heart of forgiveness toward those who've hurt them.

You cannot control how that other person responds; you, however, are responsible for how you handle the situation. The real indicator that Joseph has forgiven from the heart is seen in his words "Come close to me." When you can say to those who've hurt you "Come close to me" you've entered the very portal of grace.

Questions for today's Chronologcal Bible reading:
Genesis 45:1-46:9
  • Descibe Joseph's view of God.
  • Joseph describes himself as "father to Pharaoh", "lord of his entire household", and "ruler of all Egypt". How has his time in Potipar's house and in prison prepared him to take on such huge responsibilites?
  • What had Joseph learned about himself, God, and others during those thirteen years of preparation?
  • What happens to Jacob when he hears the news of Joseph's life and position?
  • What does this teach you about the effects of believing lies?
  • How does Jacob know that it is God's will for him to leave Canaan and go to Egypt?
  • What does God promise Jacob about his descendents?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to show you where you are being held captive by unforgiveness. Determine before the Lord that you will work through the steps of release and forgiveness.