Christianity 201

September 13, 2011

God Ties Up Your Story’s Loose Ends

Stumbled on this well-written piece yesterday.  Jeff Milam blogs at Transient Glory where this appeared as But God Was With Joseph – Romans 8:28 in the Old Testament

As long as I’ve been reading the Bible I’ve actually only read straight through it one pathetic time. Certain Old Testament narratives capture my imagination, causing me to slow my pace to the point of stillness as early on as the opening chapters of Genesis. So while I‘ve often had the grand objective of reading through the scriptures over the course of a year, it very rarely happens. Recently I’ve started to speculate as to why specific parts of the Bible have this effect on me. Is it that I just adore a good tale, with interesting characters, a complicated plot, valor, a bit of violence, a tinge of romance, and sacrificial love? Or could it be that God is actually communicating directly to me though a dusty piece of ancient Hebrew literature? Is it possible that I’m detecting a personal message from God in these stories? Is that why they tug at my heart time after time?

I believe the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis was written down not only for the children of Israel, but for people like me as well; people who have mastered the art of unbelief. This is one of those heart tugging stories I was talking about. And if there’s one central message in the story of Joseph, it’s that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. See Romans 8:28. It’s a story that leaves absolutely no vacancy for unbelief to reside. Though Joseph goes through some very challenging situations that seem enormously bleak and completely undeserved, by the end we see that God had an astounding plan not only for the godly Joseph, but also for his devilish brothers who had treated him like trash.

If Joseph’s tale was simply made up, I would have to say that its author did a masterful job. Everything is tied together in the end. All the scary, unjust, deceitful, heartbreakingly sad pieces of Joseph’s tale are suddenly all wrapped up in a perfect ending. And it’s an astonishing conclusion. (Almost as shocking as the end of M. Night Shyamalan‘s Sixth Sense.) It makes one’s jaw drop. It’s definitely not something one would anticipate. We find out that God had allowed all those scary, unjust, deceitful, heartbreakingly sad events in Joseph’s life to transpire only so that people’s lives would be saved from the worldwide famine. The most astounding part of the story is that God saved the lives of Joseph’s contemptible brothers by a sequence of events that their own evil dealings had initiated! It almost seems too good to be true, doesn’t it? But that’s just how God works. In fact, you could say that Joseph’s fourteen chapter saga is a foreshadowing of the Gospel.

Whether I think it’s too good to be true or not, the story haunts me for days after I read it. It mercilessly and unapologetically beckons belief in God. It calls me to move to a higher plane of faith where, like Joseph, I can look at my life and know that God is doing something with all the scary, unjust, deceitful, heartbreakingly sad and even nonsensical parts of it. Like Joseph, I can forgive those who I feel have wronged me, knowing that God is ultimately the one in control. After all, what if God was allowing mistreatment in my life to bring about something amazingly good, not only for me, but also for the very people who mistreated me as well as the whole world? Is this what God is saying to me at this point in my life? Is this something God wants me to learn now before I encounter “real” trials? Is that why this story has always tugged at my heart? “But the Lord was with Joseph,” is a recurring phrase in Joseph’s roller coaster of a story.  Will I choose to claim this promise for my life too?

~Jeff Milam

September 2, 2011

Timothy Keller on Joy

This 5-minute clip from the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, Timothy Keller, is part of an online promotion for a series of CDs produced by Oasis Audio — the books on CD people — who have recently discovered the wealth of sermon audio material out there.  This excerpt is from “When Life Isn’t Perfect” which features full sermons by Timothy J. Keller, John Ortberg, Mark Mitchell, and Mark Buchanan