Transformation Ministries with pastor and teacher Robert Lutz

Overcoming Emotional Trauma - Genesis 39:23

 

Recently I went through a book again – I like this book – so much so much of the devotions written in this series comes from this book.  Written by Ed Young its title is From Bad Beginnings to Happy Endings. Why do people respond differently when they go through a painful experience?  Why do some seem to come out on top and can overcome their adversity and others succumb to their circumstances? Unfortunately, bad beginnings, broken homes, and toxic dysfunctional families are not uncommon.  They are not even unique to modern families.  The story of painful pasts goes back all the way to the first book of the Bible and the story of a man named Joseph. It is hard to find someone who went through as much as Joseph and yet come out on top.

Genesis 39:23 says, “The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper.”

 

Joseph experienced three sources of emotional trauma:  First was his parents, particularly his father – Jacob.  Jacob is an interesting story itself.  Jacob had one older twin brother named Esau.  Jacob’s treatment of his brother included getting his birthright through questionable means.  He then participated in a con where he stole Esau’s blessing.  At the advice of his mother, Jacob fled from Esau and met a beautiful woman named Rachel.  Jacob loved Rachel and made an agreement to work 7 years for her father Laban to have her as his wife.  Laban conned Jacob and gave him Leah instead. Jacob then agrees to work another 7 years for Rachel.  Jacob loved Rachel, but not Leah.  However Leah gave Jacob children but Rachel was barren.  Talk about a soap opera. After years of being barren, God finally gives Rachel a child named Joseph.  And Joseph becomes the favored child of Jacob. (ironic since Jacob himself was not loved by his father as much as Esau yet Jacob does the same thing with his sons).  Not only did his dad’s drama become a source of emotional trauma, but Joseph’s brothers created an emotional trauma.  Joseph is hated by his brothers because he was the favored son and is hated more because of the visions Joseph had. He was hated so much the brothers plotted to kill him.  Instead they sold him into slavery and is carried to Egypt.  It is here Joseph experiences yet another incredible emotional trauma.  After moving to Egypt, he moves up in the business to second in command.  But he is falsely accused of a crime and thrown into prison and it is there he spends some considerable time in prison.

 

Through all this, Joseph rises to second in command in all of Egypt, second to Pharaoh himself. How did he not succumb to the emotional trauma that came from his parents, his brothers and his employer?  Many would falter. How is it that Joseph who had an agonizing beginning could end up second in command?  There are three truths that can help anyone overcome a painful experience:

1. You must know you are loved.

2. You must know that God is with you.

3. You must know God wants to help you.

These three truths are foundational and must be fully realized if I am going to overcome the difficult circumstances life brings.

 

Thank You Lord for loving me.  No matter my pain, my agony or crises, You are God.  I know Your word says You will never leave me or forsake me.  Thank you for being with me.  Amen.  Now let’s go live the transformed life knowing God is with me!

 

The Three P's of God's School of Suffering - Genesis 37:23-24

 

Genesis 37:23-24 says, “So it came about, when Joseph reached his brothers, that they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him; and they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it.”  Joseph was not liked by his brothers.  To be hated would be more appropriate – to the point they wanted to kill him.  To want to inflict harm on another individual can only be described as a disdain for another individual.  It cannot be described in any other way.  This hatred grew because he was the favored son of their father, Jacob.  And Jacob did not mind telling everyone especially the other sons that Joseph was the favored child.  Can you imagine all the back biting and jealous conversations that took place behind Joseph’s back?  While they directed their disdain toward Joseph, it wasn’t Joseph’s fault he was the favored child – it was dad’s.  But Joseph is the one who suffered.  In life, we can be hated and blamed for the things totally out of our control.  The brothers were going to kill him when Rueben suggested Joseph be thrown into a pit – so he could rescue his little brother later.  However, that was not to be.  They seized Joseph, stripped him of his tunic, and threw him into a pit.  Seeing more profit in a live slave than a dead person, the brothers would sell Joseph into slavery where he would be taken to Egypt.  But in this pit, Joseph got a rude awakening into the reality of this hard cold world we live in.  Joseph heard his brothers plot and plan his death and the story that would be told his father.  Life is changing quickly and his own brothers who are supposed to love him would do this to him.  It isn’t fair, but it is life.

 

It is in this time of being in the pits we experience God’s school of suffering. God never promised life would be easy, but Joseph was going to learn the three P’s of God’s School of Suffering.  First, Joseph was going to learn about perspective.  I have a limited view; but God sees the big picture. I must realize I do not see everything.  While I am finite, my God is infinite.  I know God is still on His throne and He is in complete control.  My circumstances may say one thing, but I must trust God to lead me in the midst of the difficulties because He knows where He wants me to go.  Satan and the world will tell me lies, but I must believe in God Who is always true.  I must do one thing during this time:  Rest in the fact God is faithful.

 

Second, Joseph learned preservation.  While in the pits, I can wonder if God is going to abandon me.  Am I going to survive this?  What can I hold on to?  It is in this moment, I must cling to God no matter what.

 

Finally, Joseph learned preparation. God was going to use this experience to prepare Joseph for what lied ahead.  While in the pit, many people will ask the wrong but most common question: what can I do to get out of the pain?  Instead the right question is: what does God want to do in me in the pain?  God knows my pain and will use it to mold me, shape me into whatever He desires and how He wants to use me.  At this time I must surrender my will to God and wait on God.

 

Dear God, life can be so difficult in the pit.  It is hard to look up and see You in those moments.  Help me to remember You are always there.  Help me to rest in Your faithfulness.  Help me to cling to You.  Help me to surrender to You.  I trust You.  Amen.  Now let’s go live the transformed life even in the pits.

 

Dealing with Change - Genesis 39:2

 

Change – a dreaded word in the English language.  It’s especially true when I am perfectly happy and content with the way things are.  Life is good or at least predictable and I find security in what I know.  But change brings new challenges and uncertainty.  Joseph experienced a lot of change when his brothers sold him into slavery.  He was no longer a favored son, but instead an unknown.  He went from family to no family.  His own father was told he was killed and now no one knows him or even cares to know him.  He was not in familiar territory, but instead taken to a new country – Egypt.  The foods, the culture, the rules, the language changed overnight for Joseph.  He went from the status of favored son to slave.  If he didn’t adapt quickly, he could be killed or left for dead and no one would notice or care.

 

There are some realities about change.  First, change is relentless.  The one consistent thing in life is change.  And change will come whether I welcome it or not.  It doesn’t matter how much I resist change, it will occur.  I find I can resist even healthy change.  Certain foods are not that healthy, but I still want to eat them.  And if this simple change is hard for me, how much more do I resist bigger change.  But change is risky and I want to shore up my bets.  I want the security of what the outcome will be like.  I can imagine the worst, but it can be difficult to imagine the best.  But change can also be painful.  This is especially true when established relationships are taken away.  A friend or acquaintance is not there any longer.  I rely on those friendships, but now who or where will I turn?  It makes me feel isolated, lonely and those feelings are not pleasant.

 

How would Joseph adapt?  Genesis 39:2 says, “The LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian.”  When going through change there are two truths I must realize:  First, my God is the same always.  His character never changes.  He is faithful, righteous and true.  It does not mean God cannot change His ways or His mind for He does in Scripture.  But God’s character never changes. And when I can’t see what He is doing behind the scenes, I must trust Him and His character to do what is right.  Secondly, I must know God is with me.  Jesus said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  I must realize God will be with me in whatever I face and in whatever I do and He will guide me through the change.

 

Because of these two truths and the uncertainty that change is bringing, I can then see the change as an opportunity.  Change brings opportunities for greater impact on others, new friendships and acquaintances. These opportunities can provide better security or greater opportunities to trust God like never before.  As I see these new ways God wants to move, I can begin to understand His ways are not my ways and His plans are not my plans for His ways and thoughts are higher and greater than mine.

 

Father, help me to always trust You especially in the midst of change.  As change is relentless, risky and can be painful – You are bigger than any change and You will be with me in the midst of my change.  Amen.  Now let’s go live the transformed life in the midst of change!

 

 

 

Dealing with Temptation - 1 Peter 5:8-9

 

1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.”  Temptation is a sure bet in life.  And Satan is a master fisherman when it comes to temptation.  Over the course of time, he has reeled in some big catches.  Just as fishing involves bait, sin’s bait is temptation.  I once read if we knew we weren’t going to get caught, we would sin more.  For Joseph in a strange land where he knew no one, the environment is perfect to cast the line of temptation.  He had experienced some success even as a slave because God was with him.  The success did not go unnoticed. His master, Potiphar noticed it and gave him more and more responsibility until he was second in command.  But he wasn’t the only one who saw the success.  Potiphar’s wife also noticed it and became interested in Joseph.  She offers herself to him and not just once. Temptation often comes after some success.  Because of the success Joseph was experiencing, who would blame him for indulging himself in a little sin?  He could rationalize it even blaming God for putting him there.  The roots of temptation are lust, greed and pride.  Here is the perfect opportunity and many would fall for it, but Joseph doesn’t.

 

How does Joseph not fall for the bait? How did he not give into the same temptations that has hooked so many others in times past?  Joseph tells us the answer.  Genesis 39:9 says, "There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?"  First, he looked at the trust given to him by Potiphar and by God.  He knew it was God who gave him the success he was experiencing.  He knew Potiphar had given the opportunity.  And Joseph was not going to violate that trust.  Potiphar’s wife had no part of the success he enjoyed, and yet she was asking him repeatedly to violate the trust her own husband had given him.  Sin will never benefit us, only take away.  Inevitably, sin always leads to death.  Second, Joseph knew his boundaries.  She was off limits.  Many a person has fallen to the bait by going beyond the boundaries established and have been added to Satan’s fishing trophies.  I once heard of a pastor sharing with another minister about how God had blessed him, his church, and his ministry.  The minister was rejoicing in his friend’s success, but then told him to be careful because Satan would love to real in a big one.  It’s scary how attractive Satan can make sin appear.  Finally, Joseph knew that any sin was a sin against God.  Yes, the sin would be against Potiphar and even against his own body, but ultimately all sin is against God.  I must not allow sin to separate me from my Creator.

 

Father, I pray today I would not fall into temptation, but rather You would deliver me from evil.  Help me to see sin as You see it and not fall for the temptations Satan may send my way.  Amen.  Now let’s go live the transformed life!

 

 

 

Lonely and Forgotten - Genesis 40:23

 

Lonely and Forgotten.  There is no escaping it – the feeling of loneliness visits us all – whether we are a college student in a dorm room filled with strangers or a young couple who wants a child but can’t seem to have one when all others are having them left and right or an older adult who has lost their spouse and no one to share the house with.  Loneliness makes unexpected visits to us.  It does not matter if we are young or old, married or single, we all face times of loneliness.  The sting of isolation comes when we are told ‘I will be there’ or ‘I will remember you’ but then there is no word, no text, no phone call, no visit.  That must have been Joseph’s feelings while in prison.  He had helped a fellow prisoner out.  This man told Joseph, “I will remember you”, but then came more than two years of silence. Genesis 40:23 says, “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”  Earlier Joseph expressed his feelings of loneliness in three ways in Genesis 40:14-15:

1. I am homesick – “For I was in fact kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews.”

2. I was wrongly accused – “and even here I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon."

3. I am frustrated – “and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house”

 

The root of loneliness is found in the desire to be connected and included.  Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’”  I want to her a word from someone, to be seen as significant, to be recognized, remembered, affirmed, counted and known.  The feeling is not to be confused with aloneness.  It is possible to be lonely in a crowd or small group of intimate friends.  Sometimes loneliness involves waiting, and waiting is often a solitary thing.  Often when I am lonely, I am also disappointed, disenfranchised and feel forgotten.  I will ask myself: Why am I here? Does anyone care? Has God even forgotten me? It’s not good when we don’t feel connected to even God.  So what is the cure for loneliness?  How do I get passed it?

 

1. Accept the fact of your circumstances.  Often times our circumstances are not the greatest in these moments of loneliness.  It may be a divorce, a job loss, or in a new environment.  Whatever the case, your circumstances are just that – your circumstances.  People are not remembered for their circumstances so much as their attitude towards them.  Don’t let the circumstances define you, but you define yourself in the midst of the circumstances.

2. Obtain a God-centered world view.  When we are lonely, we often have the focus on ourselves.  A self-centered view invites loneliness.  We must turn our attention toward God.  It helps to pray to God through the loneliness and get our attention on Him.

3. Help others in their journey.  I find it interesting people who are busy helping others don’t have time to focus on their loneliness.  Few people know how to give of themselves, and when we help others, we truly make an impact.

 

Lord, I may be lonely, but I choose today to look to You and not my circumstances.  I choose to help someone else who needs a touch from you.  Amen.  Now let’s go live the transformed life!

 

How to Beat the Odds - Genesis 45:8

 

Genesis 45:8 says, “Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”  Joseph overcame insurmountable odds to become second in command in all of Egypt.  It is hard to believe that God could use a man who had such a dysfunctional family, who had brothers who hated him so much they wanted to kill him but instead sold him into slavery, who was falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison, and who was basically forgotten by everyone had come to a position of prestige and power.  Not many can not only survive such an ordeal but thrive in spite of it.  So how did Joseph beat the odds?  There are four facts regarding painful pasts that will help anyone beat the odds in life:

 

1. No human being is created to be a victim.  Crises and traumas do not determine the course of my life.  My response to those adversities gives me my direction.  If I choose to be a victim, then self-pity and bitterness will determine my direction.  But if I choose to trust God, then grace and faith will determine my course of action.  A friend recently told me, “Hurt people hurt people – this is true, but what is also true is healed people heal people.”  I can choose to walk in hurt or in healing.

 

2. When it comes to answer for the choices we have made in our lives, neither our parents, children, employers nor our spouses can answer for us.  I am individually responsible for the choices I make in my life.  Joseph faced a time of great temptation. Joseph could not control the temptation or the consequences of his decision.  Joseph could only be responsible for what he was supposed to do – and he chose not to sin.  That speaks to his character.  Your reputation is what people perceive of you; your character is what God knows of you.

 

3. Scars are inevitable. I must not seek to remove them but invite God to use them for His glory and good.  The man of God who becomes all God intended is not someone without scars, but allows Jesus Christ to “break the power of cancelled sin” and to heal and use these unique marks of experience.  While scars can remind me of my past, it can also remind me that God is my healer.

 

4. Anyone can be whole, regardless of their past.  Wholeness is a function of who you are, not where you have been.  Genesis 41:38 says, “And Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?’”  It doesn’t matter how rough my past has been, where I have been or the choices I have made.  God made today brand new and I can walk with Him completely today.  God is always doing something new.  That is what salvation is all about – beginning a new work.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”  Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

 

Father, thank You that I can overcome all obstacles and face all odds and be the person You want me to be.  Help me not to fall victim to my circumstances, but through You overcome all obstacles.  Amen.  Now let’s go live the transformed life victoriously!

 

 

Trusting God and His Timing - Genesis 41:16

 

Genesis 41:16 says, “Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, ‘It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.’”  Joseph’s moment had come.  For all these years, Joseph has been mistreated, forgotten and lonely.  He was 17 years old when he was sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37:2) and now he is 30 years old (Genesis 41:46).  He spent a combined 13 years in slavery and prison with a minimum 2-year stint in prison.  Hallelujah!  He has endured! But wait – we are getting ahead of ourselves.  All Joseph knows is that Pharaoh has called for him.  They probably tell him on the way what has gone on and what the cupbearer said about his capabilities.  Joseph to save the day!  Let’s move!  But not Joseph.  He takes his time to get prepared – shaving and changing clothes.  Joseph is not in a hurry – he is going to do things right.  I must admit Joseph is a class act.  I would be impatient.  But Joseph had been waiting 13 years, what’s a few more minutes?  This is God’s timing.

 

When Joseph arrives in Pharaoh’s court, Pharaoh doesn’t waste time but gets down to business.  He tells Joseph he has had a dream no one can interpret, but he understands Joseph has the ability to interpret dreams.  Joseph’s response is crucial.  I am afraid to admit my response probably would not have been like Joseph’s.  If I knew I had that ability and talent, I would probably say, “Yes sir, give it to me.  Let me see what I can do.”  But not Joseph.  Joseph is quick to let Pharaoh know his ability to interpret dreams comes solely from God.  It is God who gives dreams.  It is God who makes known what the dreams mean.  Humility.  Joseph has it.  Joseph knew God was doing this and it was God who gave Pharaoh the dream.  Joseph knew God would reveal the meaning behind the dream.  Pharaoh proceeds to share the two dreams he has.  As Joseph listens, God reveals to Joseph the meaning behind the dreams.  Joseph shares about the 7 years of plenty that are about to come and the seven years of famine that will follow.  Joseph goes on to say that God is letting Pharaoh know what will take place so he can prepare for the 7 years of famine and how to prepare.  In the midst of all this, Joseph does not presume what will take place.  That is not his position.  God is in control.  Pharaoh could have easily said thanks and return to his council.  Pharaoh could have sent Joseph back to prison where he came.  But it is not Joseph’s place to say he would be the most qualified for the job.  Joseph understands respect and authority.  He must trust God.  What an incredible young man Joseph is.  He shows constraint.  In honesty, my heart would be racing.  I would be fearful of going back to prison.  But I sometimes forget how God gives favor and shows grace to those whom He wants in those positions.  If God wants Joseph in command, God will make it happen.  What trust Joseph has.

 

Father, help me to trust You in all things.  I choose today to walk in humility and allow You to have Your way.  I choose today not to get in Your way of what You want to do.  Amen.  Now let’s go live the transformed life allowing God to move as He wills.

 

Understanding Forgiveness - Genesis 41:51

 

Sometimes the most unexpected things happen to us catching us off guard.  It is in these moments, we may face a crucial test.  So it would happen with Joseph.  Nine years after appearing before Pharaoh, two years into the famine, Joseph would have that unexpected moment.  He was busy managing the grain for five years remained when a group of men came from a foreign land to purchase the grain.  Not uncommon at this time, but Joseph recognizes them.  They are his brothers whom he has not seen in 22 years.  Talk about catching your breath.  What was Joseph going to do.  I’m not sure if anticipated it, but probably not on that day.  After a series of events, Joseph finally reveals himself to them.  Genesis 45:1 and 5 says, “Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, ‘Have everyone go out from me.’ So, there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers…Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”  Talk about a response…I don’t know if I could say that to the men who wanted to kill me, throw me in a pit but decided to sell me into slavery leading to further issues they don’t even know about.  But Joseph chooses to walk in forgiveness.  But forgiveness is tough and is perhaps one of the most difficult things man can do.

 

Forgiveness is often misunderstood.  But forgiveness is not approval.  It does not mean I am okay with what a person did.  When Jesus died on the cross, he forgave us of every sin we would ever commit.  But let me share with you, he never ever approved of a single sin.  He still despises our sin.  Nor is forgiveness excusing their behavior. I do not have to try to rationalize their feelings or behavior.  What was done was wrong. Period.  Finally, forgiveness does not mean I must forget what they had done.  In Christian circles, we call it forgive and forget.  The reality is some sins cannot be forgotten.  We have scars too visible to forget it ever occurred.

So, what is forgiveness?  Forgiveness is a decision to keep no records of wrongs. I believe Joseph had chosen to forgive his family long before they ever showed up.

 

Genesis 41:51 says “Joseph name the firstborn Manasseh, ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’”  Through Manasseh, Joseph chose to no longer hold them in the courtroom of his mind.  It’s not an easy decision.  No one else can do it for you, not even God can do it for you.  It is a decision you and I must make. I must choose to no longer keep a black book.  Forgiveness is refusing to punish.  I will not make them pay for what they did to me.  The wrong done creates a debt and I choose not to collect.  As a result, forgiveness is an act of mercy and grace. Mercy is not giving them what they deserve – justice.  Grace is giving them what they do not deserve.  God demonstrated mercy to us because we deserve eternal separation in a place called hell.  He gives me grace by giving me eternal life which will result in a place called heaven. Finally, forgiveness is the absence of bitterness.  If someone is being unkind, we respond with kindness.

 

Lord, forgiveness can be so difficult, but I choose today to walk in forgiveness.  Amen.  Now let’s go live the transformed life in forgiveness!

 

 

 

How An Act of Forgiveness Changed a Family - Genesis 33:4-7

 

One morning I was having my normal quiet time reading through Genesis when the Holy Spirit showed me an incredible truth.  I could not believe I had never seen it. Genesis 33 tells an incredible story of two estranged brothers named Esau and Jacob being reunited.  Verses 4-7 says, “Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.  He lifted his eyes and saw the women and the children, and said, ‘Who are these with you?’ So he said, ‘The children whom God has graciously given your servant…and afterward Joseph came near with Rachel, and they bowed down.”   While reading this Scripture it occurred to me that none of Jacob’s family had ever met his brother Esau.  Jacob left his father – Isaac, his mother – Rebekah, and his brother Esau 20 years earlier.  Jacob was on the run to his Uncle Laban and stayed with him for years.  He began a family but none had ever met their uncle Esau.  I can only imagine the awkward conversation that must of taken place when Jacob decided to return home.  Jacob had conned his dad into giving him the blessing instead of Esau and Esau was ready to murder his brother.  Now 20 years has passed.  I wonder what Jacob’s boys knew of their uncle.  What story was shared.  Certainly they knew something bad had to of happened.  Their dad was scared!  He was sending gifts of extraordinary measure.  He was having a difficult time sleeping.  I wonder if they realize their dad had messed up and did a royal job of doing so.  Now they are on their way to meet Uncle Esau.  What was he going to do?  Is he still upset?  Are they going to be killed?  Dad messed up and now we are going to pay.

 

In the midst of all this uncertainty and worry over something that happened 20 years ago, Joseph witnessed the most incredible sight.  When his dad saw Uncle Esau for the very first time in 20 years, they hugged, embraced and kissed.  His uncle wasn’t upset.  His uncle wasn’t angry.  His uncle was happy to see his daddy.  Uncle Esau never brought up what his dad did – as terrible as it was.  He saw what forgiveness looked like.  He saw a man who was his uncle forgive his daddy.  He saw a man forgive his brother.  As I read this, I can’t help but wonder if while in slavery, in prison, in a foreign land, Joseph played this scene over and over again in his mind.  I wonder if perhaps Joseph remembered how his own dad needed forgiveness from his brother.  In all that was happening, Joseph knew that as his dad needed forgiveness from Joseph’s uncle, Joseph’s own brothers would need the same type of forgiveness from him.  And because his father modeled forgiveness, he knew how to give the same forgiveness.

 

Sometimes we may be unaware at how much we pick up from others or the influence we can have on other people.  But as Esau was unaware what his nephew was seeing, we may be unaware what others see in us when we display the love of God through forgiveness.

 

Father, help me to show Your love, Your grace, Your forgiveness to others.  Help me to be like You because I want those I influence to be like You.  Amen.  Now let’s go live the transformed life reflecting God’s forgiveness.

 

 

 

How To Know You Have Forgiven Someone - Genesis 50:19-20

 

Genesis 50:19-20 says, “But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.’”  Joseph forgave his brothers long ago.  But then, their father died, and the brothers now wonder if Joseph is going to finally get his revenge.  They knew he would not do anything to hurt their dad.  Joseph loved Jacob. but now Jacob is gone.  There is nothing to keep Joseph for making them pay for what they did so long ago to him.  So, they concocted a story. They told Joseph that before their dad died, his deathbed wish was for Joseph to not hold them accountable to what they did so many years ago.  Really?  Years later we are going to bring this up again.  Guilt really got the best of them.  But Joseph’s response was classic.  He had forgiven them a long time ago and he wasn’t going to go back to unforgiveness.  It’s interesting to me that later we have the ability to take back forgiveness.  But that is not true forgiveness.  Sometimes I want to take the offender into the courtroom of my mind even though I have already made the choice to forgive.  Sometimes forgiveness is continual and sometimes daily.  Sometimes the offense comes back to my mind years later, and I have to remind myself I have chosen to forgive.  Once, a minister told me I may have forgiven all I could forgive, but then I will have to forgive again later.  Forgiveness is a gift that I must choose not to take back once I have given it to my offender.

 

It was obvious Joseph had forgiven his brothers.  But how do I know I have truly forgiven my offender?  Joseph demonstrated true forgiveness by not allowing his brothers to be afraid of him or intimidated by him.  He told them ‘do not be afraid.’  Joseph did everything possible to put their mind at ease.  They had been uneasy for years, but Joseph held no bitterness.  Second, he wanted them to forgive themselves and not feel guilty.  He did this by pointing them to the fact God had a plan all along. Despite their intentions, God was moving to position Joseph to be in a place of great influence.  While not excusing their actions, Joseph was quick to let them know God is ultimately in control.  Third he let them save face.  He did this by not parading their faults in front of everyone.  When he revealed he was Joseph years earlier, he did it in privacy and not publicly.  He did not want to embarrass them. And finally, he made forgiveness a lifelong commitment.  He chose to help protect his own family including his brothers from the drought that came in the area.  He wanted to bless them.  I know I have truly forgiven someone when I can pray for God to bless them and it does not bother me if the blessings they receive are more than mine.  That is so tough in my mind and emotions, but it is how I can know God has worked in my life to truly forgive them.

 

Lord, forgiveness can be so difficult, but I choose today to continue to walk in forgiveness.  Amen.  Now let’s go live the transformed life in forgiveness!