Joseph Searching (Joseph #3)

Soon after this, Joseph’s brothers went to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem. 13 When they had been gone for some time, Jacob said to Joseph, “Your brothers are pasturing the sheep at Shechem. Get ready, and I will send you to them.”

“I’m ready to go,” Joseph replied.

14 “Go and see how your brothers and the flocks are getting along,” Jacob said. “Then come back and bring me a report.” So Jacob sent him on his way, and Joseph travelled to Shechem from their home in the valley of Hebron.

15 When he arrived there, a man from the area noticed him wandering around the countryside. “What are you looking for?” he asked.

16 “I’m looking for my brothers,” Joseph replied. “Do you know where they are pasturing their sheep?”

17 “Yes,” the man told him. “They have moved on from here, but I heard them say, ‘Let’s go on to Dothan.’” So Joseph followed his brothers to Dothan and found them there.

Genesis 37:12-17 (NLT)

We return to the story of Joseph today, and pick up a section of text which is, well, not apparently all that interesting! You can sum it up in a few lines. Joseph’s brothers go to pasture the flocks, and after a while Jacob sends Joseph to go check on them. Joseph can’t find them, and an unnamed man directs him to them. No great theological revelation there right?

Is this section just padding though? Is it just a build up to the real action scenes that follow? It is my firm belief that nothing is in the Bible by accident, and every single word is in there for a purpose. If so, what is the purpose here? Let’s walk through the text and see what we can find. And I do not claim to have all of the answers.

Ready To Go

The first thing I want to note is how ready Joseph is to serve his father and family. Jacob wants to check on his sons and the flocks, but doesn’t immediately give reasons. Is he potentially concerned about what they might be getting up to? Verse 14 is an instruction to go and see, and then return with a report. This may suggest concern on Jacob’s part, but it may also just be a fairly normal practice. Remember, they had no mobile/cellular phones in those days!

A few questions start to emerge here. Why was Joseph not with them? It could be that they simply did not want him around, so left him behind. It could have been that Joseph was favoured such that he did not have to go along, and could stay home and please himself.

Given the brothers’ hatred of Joseph, which they made little attempt to hide, neither Joseph nor Jacob showed any apparent concerns for sending the dreamer off into the wilderness to look for them. Clearly, neither had any idea of what the brothers would soon do, or were even worried about giving them such an opportunity.

Sending Joseph to bring back a report reminds us of the early verses in this chapter where Joseph had brought an evil/bad report back about some of the brothers. Perhaps he and/or Jacob made a habit of checking up on them. Why? Were they known for their not so exemplary behaviour?

Shechem and Dothan

Shechem is an interesting place to go and pasture the flocks. The last time we encountered Shechem, was in Genesis 34. This is a rather grizzly affair where one of Jacob’s daughters in defiled, and the brothers hatch a plan to take vengeance on the man and town of the same name. We do not know how much time has passed since those events, but it is probably advisable to steer clear of the place for a long while. That may explain Jacob’s concern for how they are getting on.

I cannot help but wonder if there is some prophetic or symbolic inference here. Joseph travels to Shechem – the place of recent violence – but does not find either the brothers or trouble there. The fact that they have moved on, and he too heads away from Shechem may allude to Joseph avoiding the same kind of violence the people of that place felt at the hands of the brothers.

I certainly do not want to read more into the text than is there, but as I mentioned above, every word and every place mentioned in the Scripture is there for a purpose.

Verse 15 sees Joseph arrive in Shechem, find nothing and encounters a man of the area. On the surface, he asks what Joseph is looking for, and then directs him to where his brothers have travelled on to. Again, the text could simply be reporting what happened, and there always danger of seeing things that are not there.

Likewise, however, some questions arise in my mind. Does Joseph bump into this man by accident? There is no such thing as coincidence in the Bible! Also, Joseph does not appear to introduce or identify himself to the man, so how does he know who “my brothers” are? The family of Israel were likely quite well known in that area of course, and we know from later events that Joseph was once again adorned with the coat of many colours. No ID required in that case!

Whenever I see an unnamed individual or servant in the Bible, I immediately ask if this is a representation of the Holy Spirit. That statement takes some explaining, but often in the Old Testament we see the Spirit of God prophetically depicted as a servant with no name – because He never testifies about Himself. In Genesis 24, an unnamed servant (named elsewhere) is dispatched by the “father” to obtain a bride for the “son.” This is prophetically similar to the Father sending forth the Holy Spirit to prepare the Bride of Christ.

Back to Genesis 37, this unnamed man directs Joseph away from Shechem (the place of former violence) and towards a place called Dothan. As far as I can tell, the only other time that this place was mentioned in the Bible was in 2 Kings 6.

In 2 Kings 6, we read of the Aramean king who was attacking Israel. Every time he formed a plan against them though, God would reveal this to Elisha – the man of God – and the plan would be thwarted. The King of Aram became so frustrated, he believed there was a spy in his ranks. It was told to him that Elisha was the one who somehow knew ahead of time, so the king sent to capture him. Where? At Dothan.

When the Arameans arrived however, they were met with a heavenly army that not even Elisha’s assistant could see. Elisha prayed, and the invading army became blind and he was able to lead them out and into captivity.

What does any of this have to do with Joseph? Well… truth be told, potentially nothing whatsoever! I do think it is interesting though that Joseph was heading into a place known for violence, was directed away by an unnamed man, and ends up going to Dothan. Dothan would later be the place of a great rescue. It could have been a slaughter, and yet God rescued Elisha and the rest in a miraculous way. Joseph is likewise rescued… although it may not seem like it.

If you know what happens next, then you know Joseph is sold into slavery. This is not a pleasant fate of course, but it is rather better than the brothers first idea, which is to kill him. As I say, without reading too much into the text, Joseph avoids violence (Shechem) and is instead led away into slavery (Dothan).

Let me restate that not every passage of the Bible has a hidden meaning, or some code you have to crack. I do not advise missing the obvious meaning of the text in favour of some other mysterious interpretation.

On the face of it, this text simply tells us that Joseph went to look for his brothers, and ultimately finds them. If we see other possibilities, then it is not wrong to explore them, but we must be very careful not to wander into heresy or falsity looking for things that simply are not there. I share what I have shared today to help us examine the text on different levels.

We will explore what happens to Joseph at Dothan next time. Thanks for reading.

Why Is Sound Doctrine So Important? – Revisited

I know that this is my third post today… Which is totally unheard of! But this post from Bruce Cooper is so good, I felt I just had to share it with you.

Defending the doctrine of our faith is so critically important in this time when there is so much falsity in “ Christian teaching” at times.

If you do not know Bruces blog, then I strongly encourage you to check it out and subscribe! I hope you enjoy this post.

This particular post goes back to 2018 but it bears repeating. I’ve been told that I am bent on destroying, that I throw God’s Word at people like a …

Why Is Sound Doctrine So Important? – Revisited

Discovering Your Identity

Ottawa River photo by David Kitz I am honoured to host once more our brother David Kitz with one of his beautiful Psalms Devotions. As I did …

Discovering Your Identity

Sudden Disaster

You need not be afraid of sudden disaster

    or the destruction that comes upon the wicked,

26 for the Lord is your security.

    He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap.

Proverbs 3:25-26 (NLT)

Reading the third chapter of Proverbs this week, this particular couplet of verses jumped out at me. Have no fear of sudden disaster, the word directs us, and yet I find myself often drifting into fearing the worst, or worst-case scenarios. My anxious mind wanders into negative places, and I start playing the “what if” game. Minutes can go by, and in my head I’ve crafted unlikely situations and pushed them out to their extremities, no matter how implausible.

When I read this verse yesterday morning, I realise that I do fear sudden disaster more often than I care to admit.

I do not mind telling you that I am prone to anxiety, and indeed have suffered with it at times. Anxiety is more than just worry, although it may start that way. Anxiety can be crippling, and it can cause us to shut down almost completely. There have been times when I’ve felt a knot in my stomach; a nervousness that I couldn’t explain. Perhaps you have experienced something similar yourself, or know others who have.

Sadly, it is all too common these days. Stress, anxiety, and depression affect many people in a whole host of ways. I am no psychologist, and of course if you need help with any of these things, do go and see your doctor.

These verses help us though, and so I want to consider them today.

They firstly say we need not fear sudden disaster, nor the destruction which falls upon the wicked. Why not? Because of what is said in verse 26.

The Lord is your security. That’s the key right there. We desire security in many respects. We want our homes to be secure from break in. We want our jobs to be secure from loss or redundancy. We want our family to be secure from harm – in this life and the next. We want to feel and be secure in all aspects of life.

When we feel anxious, or fear sudden disaster, we do not feel secure. We feel there is a threat, known or unknown, which may befall us. What if I lose my job? What if I get injured? What if my spouse leaves me? What if… fill in the blank for you.

Yet God is our security. He is our fortress and high tower. In Him, we need not fear these things.

Don’t misunderstand, this is not a cast iron promise that nothing bad will ever happen. Life itself is proof of that fact. But the Bible is no liar, and we must understand what it means for the Lord to “be our security”.

Security in Christ means that no matter what happens in this life a) He will be right there with us, and b) We have eternal security that can never be stolen or damaged.

In this life, we will face trouble and danger. If you don’t believe me, just live. That’s not to be negative of course, but things just go wrong in this fallen world full of fallen people. If we stick with Christ however, we know that He will never leave us nor forsake us. We know that no matter what happens on this earth, He is working for the good of His people who are called according to His purpose. What happens to you may not be “good”, but we can trust God to bring good out of it.

I believe He wants us to have a good life here on the earth. Like any good Father, He wants us to have blessings and live a good and enjoyable life. Our enjoyment is not His primary concern though, and that’s the thing we forget sometimes. God deserves and will obtain maximum glory for Himself, and if that means us going through a time of trial, then so be it.

God also takes a longer perspective than us. While we go through trouble, it may feel like the end of the world to us. And even if it is, there is a new world to look forward to in eternity. Even if it was not true that God wants to bless us here on earth, we have a home in heaven to look forward to. That will compensate for any discomfort, trial or trouble we face while alive on the earth. A life of 80 or 90 years is a mere blip next to eternity.

So, returning to the passage at hand (I hadn’t forgotten!). We need not fear sudden disaster because the Lord is our security. We can trust Him to bring good into our lives, and know that the bad also has a purpose. Our security in Him is eternal, and not temporal.

This truth, if we accept and rejoice in it, is hugely comforting. I need not fear sudden disaster because firstly, it might never happen, and secondly because there is a heavenly eternity to focus on. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Nothing. That being the case, we need not fear sudden disaster coming upon us.

What is a miracle?

Some say that a miracle is a suspension of the normal rules governing reality. Others may say that it is God intervening in our lives in a powerful way.

When we think of miracles, we might imagine mountains moving or sight being restored. These are, indeed, great miracles! But not all miracles look like this.

I say that having clothes on your back and food in your belly is a miracle to.

Having a roof over your head it’s a miracle as well. As are your eyes which allow you to read these words.

Having the ability to walk up and down the stairs would be a miracle to some.

Surely though, the greatest miracle of all is being restored to righteousness in and through Christ Jesus our Lord! Our sins forgiven, and being fully justified before our Heavenly Father.

Have you experienced this miracle for yourself? You can do so today…

All you need do is believe and trust in Him, confess the things that you have done wrong, and then ask and receive God’s forgiveness. Let the knowledge of that forgiveness miraculously change your life forever!

If you are seeking a miracle, first check you have not already received one! God bless you this Lord’s day.

He Dreamed a Dream (Joseph #2)

Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brothers, and they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: 7 for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and behold, your sheaves came around, and bowed down to my sheaf.”

8 His brothers asked him, “Will you indeed reign over us? Will you indeed have dominion over us?” They hated him all the more for his dreams and for his words. 9 He dreamed yet another dream, and told it to his brothers, and said, “Behold, I have dreamed yet another dream: and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowed down to me.” 10 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? Will I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves down to the earth before you?” 11 His brothers envied him, but his father kept this saying in mind.

Genesis 37:5-11 (WEB)

Read part one of this series on Joseph here – Joseph’s Beginnings

Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brothers. Many will question the wisdom of doing this in the generations since he had this dream. Before we even find out its contents, we learn that his brothers hated him all the more.

We learned in the previous post, and the earlier part of the chapter, that Joseph’s brothers hated him. This was largely down to his father’s favouritism causing them to feel like second-class sons. Joseph had also brought a bad report about them to his father, which did not exactly endear them to him. We now find out that Joseph shared the contents of a dream with them, escalating matters further.

The first dream

In this dream, Joseph describes how they were all binding sheaves in the field. This would have been an activity familiar to them all, but then the sheaves take on a life of their own and Joseph’s one stands upright. The other sheaves, representing the brothers then gather around and bow down to Joseph and his sheaf.

You do not need to be a master interpreter of dreams to figure out what this meant. Having lived in Joseph’s shadow for years, the brothers already believing their father thought them inferior to him, now hear Joseph himself saying that he is superior. This kind of dream would have been thought of as prophetic, and that he was proclaiming to them that they would one day bow before him.

Verse 8 again reiterates their hatred for him. In only a few short verses, we’ve been told a number of times of their hatred for him, which underlines the strength of their feelings. It also shows that they hated him not only for the dream itself, but also his words.

This is a point of debate. Should Joseph have told them? Let’s discuss that at the end.

The second dream

Joseph dreams a second dream, and again decides to share. This dream is similar, but instead of sheaves this time, it is heavenly lights. The sun, moon and eleven stars bow down before Joseph’s star. This dream, as before, is not difficult to interpret.

The distinction here is that it is not merely the eleven brothers who would bow down to him, but the “sun and moon” also. Jacob, in his rebuke of Joseph (which may have been long overdue), interprets these two things for us. Clearly, the sun and moon refer to Joseph’s father and mother. It is now not just the brother who would bow, but Joseph’s parents too. This is indeed a bold claim, as parental authority was very important in those days (and arguably should be no less so now).

After Joseph has shared both dreams with his family, their response is the same. They both question him, saying “Will we really?” I hear the sarcasm in their tone here, and yet the Bible does not record Joseph responding to either time of questioning. Is that because the answer is plain? At no point are we told that Joseph even questioned the dreams.

And this leads us on to the question I posed above – should he have told them?

Humility

To stand before a group of your peers, friends or family and say that one day they will all bow down before me does not scream “humility” does it? In fact, we might label it as arrogance or pride.

Yet, what is humility? It certainly isn’t the opposite of arrogance as we know it. An arrogant person, in our vernacular, is someone who displays an almost offensive level of self-importance – “self” is a key word here.

The opposite, as we know it, is humility. I think, however, we wrongly define it. We believe that a humble person is the opposite of arrogant. It is someone who is perhaps shy, or timid, or who fades into the background not wishing to speak up or be seen. This kind of extremity is not humility in my mind, and actually as someone who is naturally quite shy (and many will laugh at that very idea), I can say that shyness is not humility. A shy person is just as much focussed on themselves as the arrogant person. While an arrogant person promotes themselves and how wonderful they are, a shy person may lack self-esteem to the point where they do not speak up for fear of what others may think. Their attention is on themselves and how they are perceived.

Humility does not focus on self; not in the negative or in the positive. Humility is not self-centred, but God-centred.

Joseph was, believe it or not, very humble to stand before his family and say such things. God put these dreams in his mind, and he was so excited about what God had said to him, he just shared it. Were they truly loving or humble themselves, they would have been excited for him too.

How do you react when someone excitedly tells you they have been blessed with something you’ve been praying for (for yourself) for years? Are you excited for them, or are you jealous? Do you ask yourself what they’ve done to deserve it, or think in your heart – “I’m a more spiritual Christian than they, I read the Bible, I pray, I give, I… I… I…”

They knew the truth

Verse 11 closes out this passage by saying that the brothers were envious of Joseph, and that Jacob kept these things in his mind.

You cannot truly love someone you are envious of. To be envious is to say that you want what they have, or worse, that you believe you are more deserving of it than they are. That is not love. Love wants what’s best for them, and takes no account of what we do or don’t have.

The other thing that envy points out is that they believed it. Had they dismissed it as the fantasies of a daydreamer, then they would have had little need to be envious. The envy shows that they, in their hearts, did believe one day he would rise up above them.

Jacob, likewise, stored up these things in his heart. He kept them in mind, and also knew that these things would come to pass one day.

As I close, I realise I have not directly answered the question: should Joseph have told them? Perhaps, perhaps not. It shows some naivety on his part to think they, who already hated him, would somehow be pleased to hear this. We have no indication that God instructed him to share this with them. The things that God reveals to us are often deeply personal and should not be lightly shared with others.

Joseph was an inexperienced young man who was no doubt excited by what God had revealed to him. All of us would have felt the desire to share the good news with our loved ones, but let us not forget that not everyone will see God’s vision for our lives.

As I close, we will go on next to see what their intense hatred of Joseph leads his brothers to do. Had he not told them these dreams, would they have still done it? We don’t know. But we do know that God’s plan and purpose would have come to pass.

What has God revealed to you? What is His plan and purpose for your life? Don’t just let life unfold before you, seek God’s will and live for Him today and every day.

Joseph’s Beginnings (Joseph #1)

Jacob lived in the land of his father’s travels, in the land of Canaan. 2 This is the history of the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. Joseph brought an evil report of them to their father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age, and he made him a tunic of many colors. 4 His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, and they hated him, and couldn’t speak peaceably to him.

Genesis 37:1-4 (WEB)

There has been much written about Joseph, whose life is described in the book of Genesis starting at chapter 37. You may know him as the young man who dreamed dreams and wore a rather colourful coat. For some time, I have wanted to write about him, and see what we can learn from his life. We may be familiar with the Hollywood or Broadway version of events, but what does the Bible actually say about him and what happened?

Let’s take a look at the life of this remarkable young man and learn what we can.

The story begins in the land of Canaan, where we find Jacob (Joseph’s father) living in the land of his forefathers – namely, Isaac and Abraham.

The story opens with Joseph being seventeen. Although it does not say so in the text above, Joseph was the first son of Jacob’s wife Rachel. Rachel was Jacob’s favourite wife, for he had two (Leah being the first) but also, as above, two concubines named Bilhah and Zilpah. Most of Jacob’s twelve sons were born to him via Leah, with Rachel bearing Joseph and Benjamin. Knowing these details will be important later!

The passage above says that Joseph was boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah – who were they? As mentioned, these were the sons of Jacob and the two concubines. They were Dan and Naphtali (of Bilhah) and Gad and Asher (of Zilpah).

An evil report

The first thing we learn about Joseph is the almost throw away remarks of these first few verses of chapter 37. We learn of his age (seventeen) but also that he grew up with these other boys. We are told that Joseph brought an evil report about them to his father. We do not know the nature of this, and so it is difficult to draw too many conclusions here.

Several scenarios are possible. It could have been a complete lie, for example, and Joseph just telling tales on his illegitimate brothers… but this seems very inconsistent with Joseph’s character elsewhere described in Genesis. Most likely, they were up to no good and Joseph told on them. The Bible does not record Jacob’s response.

Was this a good idea on Joseph’s part? It is hard to say without knowing more details. If one of my children were playing with matches, I would want one of the others to tell me about it. We can surmise that Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher weren’t best pleased with Joseph for this.

Some would accuse Joseph of naivety, particularly later when we read about his dreams and what he tells his family about them. This is likely true, but I think it also shows a great humility in Joseph which we will explore another time.

Having favourites

Verse three tells us that Jacob favoured Joseph over his brothers. It gives reasons for this; that Joseph was born to Jacob in his old age, but also that he was born of Rachel, Jacob’s favoured wife.

Jacob gave Joseph a tunic of many colours. This was quite a gift for a number of reasons. Brightly coloured clothing meant expensive dyes, and such a garment would not have been an everyday item. Such colours would have been reserved for the wealthy or people of some high importance. Kings, for instance, would have worn such items.

In addition, it would have signalled two major things to those who saw him wearing it. Firstly, it would have simply stood out from the rest. In a crowd of twelve brothers, Joseph would have been clear to see and marked out as special in some way. Secondly, colours of this nature would have meant leadership and superiority. Jacob was perhaps prophetically signalling Joseph’s rank above the rest.

Having favourites in a family is not a good idea. In a big family, there will always be those characters we get on well with and those we find it more difficult. Even our children can have a wide variety of personalities, and so, it can be easier to connect with some than others. The problem comes when we do not put an equal amount of effort into the relationships which are naturally more difficult. When we compare one child against another, it creates animosity. When we bestow expensive or special gifts on one, and not the other, the rest feel less valued and somehow less adequate.

This favouritism will lead to the major events of Joseph’s life. As we will see, Joseph will go through no small amount of suffering, and although it all turns out for God’s glory, what might have been different had Jacob been less obvious about who he favoured.

Hated

What is the result of Jacob’s favouritism? He brothers saw and knew it, and as a consequence, they hated Joseph. Each one was a son of Jacob, each one lived and served the family, and yet each one felt somehow less than Joseph was. Joseph’s actions of giving a bd report would have only added to this hatred (even if he had the best of intentions).

Hate is a powerful word. When my children use it in anger or in vain, I pull them up on it. Hatred should be reserved for evil and sin, and not tossed around lightly. Joseph’s brothers hated him, wishing him ill and later bringing it upon him.

Their hatred for him was so powerful that they could not even speak civilly to him. Imagine living in a household like this? The strife and tension would have been evident for all to see. To live in such an atmosphere would have been intolerable. We must also never underestimate the dangers of living in strife.

For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

James 3:16 (KJV)

Where there is strife, there is “every evil work!” Strife opens the door for the enemy to work in our lives, and we must shut that door at all costs.

Jacob’s actions led to the brothers of Joseph hating him. You may find yourself in a place where someone else’s actions have led you to feel hatred for someone else. Perhaps your parents did to you what Jacob did to Joseph’s brothers. I cannot imagine the pain you must feel for this. If you are able, pray about the situation and tell God how you feel. Ask Him to help you forgive and let go of the hatred. If you simply cannot right now, just bring your pain to the Father and let Him minister to you.

One of the things I love about the Bible is that it does not sugar coat anything. Jacob, Joseph and his brothers were a real family with real problems leading to real pain. Many of us can relate! As we study Joseph’s life, I pray that God will help us learn their lessons and not repeat their errors. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Fruit

I recently had an experience with a fellow Christian which left me somewhat disappointed. I want to tread careful over this, as have no wish to criticise them here. It has affected me though, and often it is helpful to write about such things. Yes, helpful for me to share my thoughts, but hopefully too helpful for you as a reader.

The details of what happened are not for sharing, but this individual acted in a way which surprised me. I hoped that they would give the benefit of the doubt in the situation, or at least be forgiving, but instead they opted to take offense and absolutely point blank refused to engage in the matter.

It really shook me, as I had hoped they would be more open, understanding and compassionate. It got me wondering about their relationship with the Lord, and my human nature started to pick out other not so Christian behaviour in their lives which I had observed…

Before I travel too far down this path and really do start to judge them, I turned the lens onto myself. In my head, I had started to examine the fruit of their lives and assessed them to be coming up wanting. As I did that, the Lord directed me to examine my own fruit and see how I stack up.

The truth is that we cannot know what is going on in another person’s heart. We can take a view by looking at the fruit of their lives, as Jesus directs us in Matthew 7:

By their fruits you will know them. Do you gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles?

Matthew 7:16 (WEB)

Essentially, He is saying that if you see oranges growing on an unknown tree, you can be pretty sure it’s an orange tree. Apples don’t grow on plum trees, nor do peaches on citrus trees. The point is that Christians should be bearing Christian fruit.

What is Christian fruit?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 (WEB)

This is the kind of fruit a Christian should be bearing. If someone looks at us, they should see us being kind, gentle or patient. If not, then they may not recognise us for who we are.

As above, I was shaken by the experience because I expected to see some of the fruits listed in Galatians 5 and did not. When such fruit was absent, I questioned the tree. This is not wrong to do, but does require us to tread very carefully.

Jesus also points out earlier on in Matthew 7:

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam that is in your own eye?

Matthew 7:3 (WEB)

I take from this that if I’m going to examine the fruit of others, I’d better make very sure mine is ripe and juicy!

Christians are not perfect, and never will be this side of heaven. There should be evidence of our changed lives though, and we cannot claim to be an apple tree if we produce no apples. Christians must produce fruit in keeping with repentance – see Matthew 3:8. We do not do so to earn our salvation, but rather to display it.

It is all too easy for me (and perhaps you too?) to criticise my Christian brethren if I do not see appropriate fruit in their lives. Can it be clearly seen in mine though? Is my fruit up to scratch?

Anyone can claim to be a Christian, but if they do not regularly display the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, we must ask where their heart is. If you have concerns, you should ask how much of a role they should play in your life, and church leaders must consider if such individuals should take positions of authority.

For ourselves, we must examine our own fruit carefully and frequently. If our relationship with Jesus is not reflected in our day-to-day choices, words and actions, then we must challenge ourselves about whether He really is Lord to us. If Christ is Lord, then we must submit to Him and follow His lead.

To put it another way, if you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be sufficient evidence to get a conviction?

The world has been truly disappointed by those who claimed to follow Christ, and yet did not demonstrate it by their actions. The world is watching the church, and ready and eager to point out when we make mistakes. While we may never be perfect, let each of us display the wonderful fruit of the Spirit and show the world what Christ has done in our lives.

Ask

Today I want to encourage you to “ask”! I want you to be bold in your prayers, and recognise that our Father is infinite and power and nothing is impossible for Him. I am not saying you will get absolutely everything you ask for of course, but let us not limit God by asking for the smallest and most tiny thing we can think of.

I would rather ask for a lot and get half, than ask for nothing and get it all!

Prayer is not primarily about asking God for what we want. Our prayer lives should not simply reflect a list of our wants and needs, but reflect our worshipful heart. That said, God is able to do abundantly more than we could ever ask or think!  So let’s not limit Him by praying small.

You lust, and don’t have. You murder and covet, and can’t obtain. You fight and make war. You don’t have, because you don’t ask.

James 4:2 (WEB)

Here, in the letter of James, he warns us not to fight and quarrel to obtain the things we want. Rather, we should ask God and be content with the answer. You do not have because you do not ask. Let that not be true for any of us! If we lack anything, let it be because it is God’s will, not because we dared not ask our loving Father for it.

“I tell you, keep asking, and it will be given you. Keep seeking, and you will find. Keep knocking, and it will be opened to you.

Luke 11:9 (WEB)

Here Jesus encourages us not to give up. This is not an instruction to nag God into doing what we want, but rather to recognise that some prayers are not easily answered and we must persevere to achieve them. Prayer is often a journey and it can be long! When Daniel prayed twice, Gabriel answered him once in a matter of minutes and the second in a matter of weeks. What if Daniel had given up after a day? He might never have received the second answer.

Don’t give up! Ask, and keep on asking. If it is made clear that what you are asking for is not for you, or not God’s will, then yes, stop and seek the Lord for something else. Otherwise, dig in and keep praying until you see the breakthrough. And always remember that the answer you get may not look like what you imagined!

Until now, you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full.

John 16:24 (WEB)

Again, Jesus instructs us to ask. This time though, He gives us the enormous privilege of using His very Name to pray. When we pray in Jesus’ Name, we are coming before God not in our own strength or performance but presenting all that He is and has achieved. It is like walking out into a busy street and trying to stop the traffic. If I do that wearing plain clothes, then people will likely just drive on by. If I walk out wearing a police uniform, carrying a badge though, then I carry with me authority and you an almost guarantee that traffic will stop when I raise my hand. Christ’s Name is your uniform and badge in the spiritual realm.

These are but a mere handful of verses where we are encouraged to “ask.” We sometimes pray like we are bothering God, and overuse the word “just” time and time again. Let there be no “just” about our prayers, but instead they ought to be big and bold. I believe it pleases God when we pray big, because it recognises that it is Him who answers them. If I pray for small things I can achieve myself, then I have little need of God. IF I pray for things so vast that only a truly awesome God can answer, then I am proclaiming the greatness of our Heavenly Father.

Ask, and keep on asking today! What have you been praying for lately? How can you ramp up those prayers?

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for reading this, and any other of my posts. I am both surprised and humbled to note that May 2021 was one of the busiest months (in terms of views) my blog has ever had. Site views are not the be all and end all, but it is encouraging to us as writers. Thank you so much for reading, and please do share with anyone you think might enjoy it too. In the theme of the above, I pray that June 2021 is twice as big as May was, in Jesus’ Name! And if you are a blogger, then I pray the same for you as well! God bless you!

Encouragement For The Weary

by Hazel Straub No matter how exhausted you feel, be encouraged. Know that you would not be attacked by the enemy of your soul, unless you were a …

Encouragement For The Weary

Move them one step closer (PoW)

Pearls of Wisdom

Move them one step closer to Jesus

When it comes to sharing our faith with others, most of us feel pretty inadequate. We often let fear overrule us, and do not seize every opportunity as we should. We are not perfect. Most of us want to tell others about Christ, but are not always sure of the best way to go about it. Fear of rejection may stop us even trying.

I want to try to take some of the pressure off of you today. It is vitally important we tell others about Jesus, of course, but it is not our job to convict, convince or persuade them. Our job is to witness to the truth, and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work.

Instead of trying to win every argument, and feeling like we have to get everyone to pray the “sinner’s prayer,” just bring someone one step closer to Jesus.

Coming to faith is a journey, and while we may want to be the one to bring them over the finishing line, it might be our job to cheer them on halfway through the race. To put it another way, you do not have to supply all of the jigsaw pieces. It may be your role to give them one piece, answering just one question they have. It may not complete the picture for them, but it certainly will help.

I am sure there are people in your life you want to share Christ with. Don’t try to do God’s job for Him, but instead just move them one step closer to Him. What might that look like for you? Is it a prayer? Is it to answer a question they have? Is it just to display Christ in your own life so they can see Him plainly?

Whatever it might look like for you, take a step of faith today. You may not see instant results, but rest assured God’s word does not return to Him in vain.

God’s Call

This week in my course in Christian Studies we’ve been thinking about the theme of God’s Call on our lives. My group have been thinking a bit about Moses and Jeremiah from the Old Testament, and how God called them to their specific roles.

The focus verse from Moses comes from Exodus chapter 3.

Come now therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Exodus 3:10 (WEB)

For anyone not very familiar with Moses, he was an Israelite born at a time when the people of Israel were enslaved by Egypt. The Israelite population was growing so big that Pharaoh ordered that all male babies be murdered. This was not just a evil king’s violence against a supposed threat, but a demonic attempt to destroy the people of Israel and particularly the Messianic line. No Israel, no Messiah, and no salvation.

Moses, instead of being drowned in the Nile, was instead saved by being placed in a reed basket. He was found, rescued and nursed by his very own mother (in a way that only God can arrange!). He was raised in Pharaoh’s household, which meant that he was born of the people of Israel, and yet learned the culture and ways of the Egyptians. This made him perfectly suited to God’s call later in life.

Verse 10 may be a short summary of Moses’ call, but it does not fully capture what must have been going through the man’s heart. It is  straightforward on the surface; go and talk to Pharaoh… but imagine how Moses must have felt.

To enter into Pharaoh’s presence and demand he release the people of Israel was no mean feat. It also came with plenty of risk. Pharaoh could have reacted angrily and had Moses executed, and certainly had little compassion for the Israelites.

When we think of God’s call, we might expect it to take us to a place of safety. This is not so. God did not promise to always lead us into safe places. Look at the apostles in the early church. Most of them were martyred, sacrificing their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Their call was not “safe!”

Of course God does not want us to come to harm, and will in many circumstances, protect us in our time of need. His purposes however are far greater than our physical safety here on earth. While we may give up our earthly safety for the sake of Christ, we retain an eternal safety in our home in heaven.

What do our gifts and experience tell us about our call? For Moses, he had means and opportunity to reach out to Pharaoh due to his upbringing. This experience enabled him to fulfil God’s call in a way that no one else could have. Likewise, you may have experiences which mean you can reach people no one else can. Indeed, God may have allowed such circumstances in your life for that very purpose!

What about Moses’ skills? Turn one chapter over to Exodus 4 and see:

Moses said to Yahweh, “O Lord,[a] I am not eloquent, neither before now, nor since you have spoken to your servant; for I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.”

Exodus 4:10 (WEB)

Moses was not a gifted or eloquent speaker. In fact, he feels that speaking is the very opposite of what he is able to do. And yet, this did not dissuade God. Moses was the one He chose to send and to “speak” to Pharaoh.

For us, I think this tells us that our skills and experience can be used for God’s Kingdom. If you are talented in some respect, then that talent has come from God and you are right to deploy it for His glory.

On the other hand though, not being talented or gifted in some way does not disqualify you from serving God. When God asks us to do something we are not naturally able to do well, then it forces us to fully rely on Him to achieve it. If you can do it in your own strength and ability, there is a chance you will try to do it without God’s help, and therefore rob Him of that glory.

The last thing I would like to say about God’s call on our lives is that you do not have to be perfect to fulfil what God is asking you to do.

Moses was a murderer:

He said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you plan to kill me, as you killed the Egyptian?” Moses was afraid, and said, “Surely this thing is known.”

Exodus 2:14 (WEB)

He had a problem with his temper.

Moses was very angry, and said to Yahweh, “Don’t respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them, neither have I hurt one of them.”

Numbers 16:15 (WEB)

None of us are perfect, and if God only called perfect people, He would never call anyone.

What are your gifts and talents? How might you use them to serve the Lord?

Is God calling you in some way? Have you ignored this call because you feel you are not talented enough to do it? Do you think God is unaware of that?

Seek the Lord and follow His lead with your whole heart. It may not be safe, but it will be satisfying.