THE NEW EWE

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"  

Luke 15:4-6

May 21, 2008

Have a safe and happy Memorial weekend!!

Enjoy time with family and friends.

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

Romans 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."

Genesis 50:20 "And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order about this present result, to preserve many people alive."

Joseph's brothers passed the test and proved that they had truly repented and changed from the jealous guys who had sold him into slavery twenty-two years earlier. Joseph could wait no longer, and finally revealed his identity to his eleven brothers. The initial fear they felt upon this revelation was soon put to rest, as Joseph assures them that what had happened was God's plan; he needed to be in his current position, in order to save their lives during this famine. A tearful reunion follows, and Joseph asks them to go back to Canaan to get their father, families and belongings and move to Egypt.

Joseph's brothers returned to Canaan to their father, Jacob. They told him, "Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all the land of Egypt."

Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back to Egypt, the spirit of Jacob revived.

"I'm convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go see him before I die."

The total number of members of Jacob's family that went to Egypt was seventy. Once they drew near, Jacob sent Judah ahead to get directions to Goshen from Joseph. When they arrived in Goshen, Joseph got into his chariot and hurried to meet his father. They threw their arms around one another and wept for a long time. Jacob hadn't seen his son for twenty-two years, and had thought him dead that whole time.

Jacob told Joseph, "Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive."

Joseph went and told Pharaoh, "My father and brothers, with their flocks and herds and everything they own, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in Goshen." He chose five of his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh.

Pharaoh asked what their occupation was. They replied that they were shepherds. Joseph had coached them on what to say to Pharaoh. Shepherds were detestable and an abomination to the Egyptians. But Joseph was highly regarded by the Egyptian king; therefore, his family was given preferential treatment.

Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Your father and brothers have come to you, and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. And if you know of any among them with special ability, put them in charge of my own livestock."

Joseph then presented his father to Pharaoh. I think it's interesting that the only question Pharaoh asked him was how old he was. Jacob replied that he was a hundred and thirty. Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh and left his presence.

Joseph saw that his family had all that they needed and were cared for. The famine lasted another five years before ending.

We can see in this story how God truly does work all things together for the good of those who love Him. Joseph had to go through some difficult times [was sold into slavery by his brothers, was falsely accused by Potipher's wife and imprisoned] in order to get to where he was at this time.

Just because we may have to endure hardships or difficult circumstances, doesn't mean that God has forgotten us or isn't working on our behalf. Sometimes it may be that He is preparing us for greater and better things.

Earlier in Genesis, Jacob had an encounter with God, and his name had been changed to Israel at that time; therefore, his descendants became known as Israelites. They settled in Egypt and acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number.

Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years before his death. He made Joseph promise to take his body back to Canaan and bury him in the burial place of his forefathers. Some time later, Joseph was told that his father was very sick. He took his two sons and they went to visit him. Before his death, Jacob blessed Joseph's sons, as well as his own twelve sons. Immediately following his words of blessing, he breathed his last breath.

Joseph carried through on his promise, and he and his brothers took Jacob's body back to Canaan to be buried. They then all returned back to Egypt.

Knowing that their father was now dead, Joseph's brothers became fearful once again. They said, "What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?" They sent word to Joseph saying, "Your father left these instructions before he died: This is what you are to say to Joseph: 'I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly. Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.'" When Joseph received the message, he wept.

It must have hurt Joseph that he had been reconciled to his family, had cared for them and loved them; but now, they are scared of him and think that perhaps he is going to get revenge, because their father is gone. He had already reassured his brothers when he revealed his identity, and probably felt that the past was dealt with and they had moved on. Now they show that their fear of him is still present. I believe that although Joseph had forgiven them for their actions, they had not yet forgiven themselves.

But that is so typical of our human nature. It's very hard to move beyond the guilt and condemnation of wrong-doings at times. We may mess up big time and sin, we repent and know that God has forgiven us, but we have trouble forgiving ourselves. It's not God that keeps bringing that incident up and reminding us of it. As far as He's concerned, once we've repented and asked forgiveness, it's over and done with; forgiven and forgotten forever. But it's Satan who enjoys messing with our minds and reminding us of our mistakes and bad choices. If he can get us focused on our past, then we begin to become eaten up with guilt and feelings of condemnation. Then we begin to feel unworthy of God's forgiveness and get our eyes and thoughts on our past and off God. God is not a bully standing around with a big stick ready to beat us up and get revenge when we mess up. Instead He is standing, waiting with arms outstretched, ready to forgive and be reconciled with us.

Joseph's brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. "We are your slaves," they said.

Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in God's place? And 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." He comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his brothers and their families. He lived one hundred and ten years.

Before his death, he spoke to his brothers saying, "I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob." He made them swear an oath that when that time came that they returned back to Canaan (the promised land) that they would take his bones with them. I'm sure that he had no idea how many years would go by before that took place.

Jacob (Israel) and his family leaving Canaan to live in Egypt, during the famine, is how they came to be inhabitants there. Exodus starts out by naming the names of the sons of Jacob who went to Egypt. It goes on to say that Joseph and all that generation died, but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them. Remember, they were seventy in number when they first arrived. By this times, I'm sure there are hundreds, and possibly even several thousand, of Jacob's descendants living in Egypt. After all, Joseph was thirty-nine when his family moved to Goshen, and he died approximately seventy-one years later. There were twelve brothers, whom all had several children, whom all had children, etc. Genesis says that Joseph saw Ephraim's [his son] children to the third generation. Also the children of Machir, the son of Manasseh [also Joseph's son] were brought up on Joseph's knee. Can you just imagine all the stories Joseph had to tell all his grandchildren!

A new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. "Look," he said to his people, "the Israelites are more and mightier than us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country." So they appointed taskmasters (slave masters) over the Israelites to afflict and oppress them with hard labor. This is how things remained for many years, until God raised up Moses to deliver them and lead them back to Canaan, the Promised Land.

But during the interim years, the more the Egyptians afflicted and oppressed the Israelites, the more they multiplied and expanded, so that that the Egyptians were vexed and alarmed. The Egyptians reduced the Israelites to severe slavery and worked them ruthlessly.

Even during the hardship that the Egyptians were inflicting upon the Israelites, we see that God was still blessing them by causing them to continue to multiply in number. Man cannot stop God's blessing!

In the story of Joseph and his brothers, we see God working out His divine plan. Regardless of man's interference, God was still victorious, and His plan came to pass. As Joseph spoke to his brothers, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good."

We can be assured that if we love God and are following His plan and purpose for our lives, then He is working all things together for our good. Man may do something to try and interfere, meaning it as evil against us, but God can use it for good.

As we learned when we first began this study, by looking at first Ruth's life and then Joseph's; if you look at just one detail or one situation, you can think, "Wow, that was really bad!" But when you look at the whole picture, you can see the hand of God orchestrating events in order for His will to be accomplished.

We cannot look at just one event in our life and focus on that, especially those that are difficult. But we have to look at the whole picture in order to see what God is doing. It's like putting a puzzle together. If you just look at one section of it, it may not make sense and you can't get a concept of what the finished product will look like. It may seem too hard, and you feel like just throwing it all back into the box without completing it. But if you persevere and keep at it, one piece at a time, eventually you will see the complete picture and be able to see the beauty of it.

That's like our lives. We may not see what God is doing and it may seem much too difficult at times, and we feel like giving up. But if we will persevere and continue on, the day will come when we will see the finished product, and see the beauty of what God was doing in our lives. All things do work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose!

**This concludes the study on all things working together for good. I hope you have been encouraged and have gleaned something from the past few weeks devotionals.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

Joseph's brothers never quite understood the perspective Joseph had. Joseph was viewing his life from a very different angle, and was able to forgive his brothers fully. But from the brothers' perspective, it seemed impossible that Joseph would forgive them so easily.

It reminds me of a parable that I've heard many years ago. I don't remember enough of the story, so I'll tell it my way.

A small group was canoing down an unfamiliar river. They came across some very minor rapids. They weren't anything to worry about, so they didn't. But as they went over the rocks, one gashed the side. The canoe was ruined beyond repair, at least fifty miles from the nearest roll of duct tape. They knew the closest phone was also fifty miles upstream. They made the hike upstream safely. They never even knew that God was saving them. The river grew faster just around the bend where they got out. There was no way to get out between there and the huge waterfall.

More often than not, we never fully understand God's perspective on things. Even when we have a fifty mile hike ahead, all we can do is trust God.

ON THE MENEWE:

7-Layer Dip

1 16-oz. can refried beans (or can use bean dip)

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

2 small cans avocado dip (or guacamole)

1 small can black olives – chopped or sliced

1 (8 oz.) carton sour cream

Chopped tomatoes (1-2 medium)

1 pkg. Taco seasoning

Sliced Jalapeños (or 4 oz. can chopped green chilies, drained)

In a serving dish, spread refried beans. Spread avocado dip on top of the refried beans. Mix sour cream and taco seasoning; spread on top of avocado dip. Spread cheese on top of sour cream mixture. Top with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with tortilla chips.

**With this recipe you can change it up and add or take away ingredients you may or may not want. I generally don't use olives because my husband doesn't care for them. But I've also made it by adding a layer of browned ground beef. I've also had it with green onions.

LAUGHING LAMBS:

A few months ago, Jon and I purchases burial plots at the cemetery in Missouri where my parents are both buried. Not that we're planning on using them anytime soon; but they were inexpensive, and we wanted to have that detail taken care of when the day comes that something does occur to one or both of us.

The man who takes care of the cemetery was one of my teachers in school, and we attended the same church most of my life. When we purchased them, he told us the general vicinity in which they are located. They are in the same row as where my parents are buried, but just down a ways.

Recently, Jon and I made a trip to Missouri and stopped by the cemetery. We stopped by my parents grave, and I ended up getting a little teary. My sweet husband was very understanding and had even put a Kleenex in his pocket to have ready, just in case that happened.

Later, Jon was trying to cheer me up and asked if I wanted to walk on down to where our spot was going to be. The land dips down and is on a hillside when you get to that area. Jon said that he wasn't sure whether he could be buried there, because he had trouble sleeping with his feet higher than his head. He asked if I wanted the two of us to lie down and try it out so we could see how it felt. That definitely broke the mood and got me to laughing. I could just picture the two of us lying down there in the grass, side by side, and then someone driving up or the caretaker stop by to mow. I can only imagine what they would think! Needless to say, I declined his offer!!

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

Just as we remember the good and bad of people after their live has past and they are gone; so will others remember us.

Make your life count so the positive things they say will far outweigh the bad.

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We hope everyone enjoys their Memorial weekend. We will be heading for Missouri for a long weekend, and are looking forward to time away to relax and have some fun. Be safe and take care.

We got a new Mac computer this week, and I [Loretta] am trying to figure out the new system, as well as get used to this small wireless keyboard...and the new wireless mouse. Of course, my computer whiz husband adjusted and had it all pretty much figured out very quickly! I'm not quite as proficient or computer literate as he is--not by a long shot!!! Hopefully, you haven't found too many errors this week!!

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org