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Foundation 9.28My son, the blessings I give are better than the promise of ancient mountains or eternal hills. Joseph, I pray these blessings will come to you, because you are the leader of your brothers. Genesis 49:26

Someone once said “A promise is only as good as the person who gives them.” Unfortunately, that is all too true today. Politicians make promises of  a better tomorrow and then turn around and blame others when those promises aren’t met. Preachers often make promises too. Promises that if you do ‘A-B-C’ you’ll be blessed with untold riches. Parents make promises too.

I remember sitting down with my ten-year-old son and drawing up plans for an elaborate ‘tree house’ on stilts. That was 30 years ago. The plans are long lost, the promise (hopefully) long forgotten by him, but not by me. Not that the fort was that big of a deal. It’s simply a reminder of all the times I made promises as a parent with great intentions but lacking the time or ability to fulfill those promises.

Broken promises can destroy relationships faster than anything. A spouse can forgive unpaid bills, messy garages and grass that has been un-mowed for far too long. But breaking the promise of fidelity, even if it’s a one-time event, destroys trust at best, and all too often the marriage.

Jacob gathered his sons around him shortly before his death and gave them his final blessings; the final words that would be with them for the rest of their lives. There was Reuben (who was guilty of incest); Judah (who suggested his brothers sell Joseph into slavery) and the list goes on. Jacob himself was no saint!

So how could this man who lived by deception and passed that on to his following generations make a promise to Joseph that “My son, the blessings I give are better than the promise of ancient mountains or eternal hills. Joseph, I pray these blessings will come to you, because you are the leader of your brothers.” (Genesis 49:26)

The reason was simple. Jacob was making this promise built on the character of God, not himself. That’s the key to living in integrity. If we base our actions on our own ability we will surely fail because we are human. If we base our trust and identity on what others tell us, we’ll be disappointed. When we put all our trust in God, through Jesus Christ, we’ll find those promises to be as dependable as a mountain and as long-lasting as time itself.

Prayer: Father, we fail you so often in what we say or what we do. Often our promises are based on the hope we will be able to carry them out. Our intentions are strong; our ability is weak. Thank you that even when I fail myself or others, I can know you will never fail me. In Jesus name, Amen.


They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.” Genesis 42:21 (NIV)

It’s a story I have heard from my youth. Joseph, just a boy of perhaps 18 was a dreamer. He was the favored son of his father and a source of contention among his brothers. So much so that when the opportunity came, these brothers sold their brother into slavery and told his father that he’d been killed by some unknown, but savage beast.

The disadvantage to seeing the end of the story is that you forget to contemplate what was going on emotionally for those involved. Judah, the ringleader of the brothers wanted Joseph out of the way once and for all. Rueben fought for the integrity of family and his father.

Imagine for a moment, if you will, the anguish of Joseph that day. We remember him more as the good looking and wiser ruler that led Egypt through famine and won the safety of his family. But that day near the old well, it was a different story.

Don’t forget for a moment that the story of Joseph, like any story in the Bible or any other book is a story about real people with real feelings and real emotions. These were the guys Joseph played football with on Sunday afternoons. These were the guys that Joseph learned tending livestock from. These were the guys who helped him put the first worm on his hook and cheered as he pulled in his really big fish.

As Joseph was led away behind the caravan of camels it wasn’t just his brothers he saw disappear over the horizon, it was everything he remembered. He left the arms of his father to deliver food and to the best of his knowledge would never see dad again. Some of us have an adventurers’ heart. Launching out into the great unknown has a certain romance to it. The adventurer chooses to leave the well-known for the unknown. That can’t be said for Joseph. As he was led away he saw his very future being ripped from his hands.

Fast forward now twenty years into the life of Joseph. Somewhere in his life Joseph made a decision to trust God. Read his story in Genesis and you’ll see the presence of God in his life mentioned repeatedly. Whether it was before he was sold into slavery or after, somewhere along the line Joseph made a decision to make the best of every situation and to realize that regardless of what happened God was in control. Because God was in control his ‘duty’, so to speak was to serve this God to the best of his ability.

Like Joseph, there are those times when life deals us a horrible hand of cards. There are those people and those events that seem destined to ruin us and destroy us. But we don’t see the end of the story. We must focus on a God we can trust to know better than we do how life should go. We must rely on the one who sees the end of the story to get us through the middle chapters.

PRAYER: Father, during those times when life seems hopeless and I’m not sure I can continue on, help me remember how you used the abuse Joseph suffered to save the lives of his family. Help me serve you faithfully during my distress. Amen.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” John 12:4-5

On occasion I am a referee for basketball games. While the money isn’t bad, I mostly do it for the exercise and because I enjoy the sport and the kids. I certainly don’t do it for the esteem or the accolades I get from the fans. In fact, when I’m on ‘the other side’ and sitting watching a game I’m amazed at the ignorance and impatience fans have with the men and women in stripes. On the lighter side, there’s an old joke among sports officials. “If you leave the gym with everyone mad at you, you’ve called a good game!”

The reality is, you will never please everyone and sometimes it’s hard to please ANYONE!

What’s true for basketball officials is unfortunately true for leaders as well, especially for spiritual leaders. The number of men and women who felt ‘called to the ministry’ and have since dropped out due to spiritual abuse is staggering.

To be fair, when a spiritual leader falls or leaves the ministry battered and bruised, it’s not always the fault of their followers. Like the basketball official, they make bad calls from time to time. But all too often the attacks on leadership are based on personal differences and have nothing to do with the ‘call of God’ on someone’s life.

Truth of the matter is, when you set your mind on your own agenda you will never see God’s working. A good case in point is none other than Jesus Christ himself. If you are like me, you have often marveled at what it was like to sit at the feet of Jesus; to see him heal the sick; to watch him deal with those who were demon-possessed or struggling with some life issue.

Yet, even Jesus wasn’t immune to the attacks of people. Some of those people were those closest to him! Take for example, Judas. At some point Judas must have seen Jesus as one worth following. Why? We aren’t sure. But there was something in Jesus Christ that attracted him, and conversely, something in Judas that attracted Jesus or he wouldn’t have chosen him as one of the 12, and the groups treasurer. (Okay, some of you theologians are going to argue that it was all part of the divine plan, and I’ll give you that, but from a human perspective, there was an attraction at the outset so bear with me!)

Somewhere along the line, Judas became disgruntled with the spiritual leadership (aka: Jesus of Nazareth). From that point forward, there was nothing that even the Son of God could have done to change him. Judas’ decision was from the heart and God will always allow us to choose. Rather than trust God, Judas chose to trust his own perspective and the results were devastating.

As spiritual leaders we are called to lead as Christ led – as servants. As those under the tutelage of spiritual leaders we are called to pray for and support our leaders. When these two attitudes are followed the body of Christ will prosper.

Don’t allow yourself to be a Judas and question how God wants to work in your life and the lives of others. Once you allow disgruntlement to set in (as a leader or a ‘follower’) you will never see the power of God manifested.

PRAYER: Father God, I confess to you that sometimes I struggle with my attitude towards those who are leaders in my life. Help me to keep a clear mind and to pray for those with whom I may disagree. Amen.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21 (NIV1984)

“It seemed like such a good idea at the time.”

How many times have you heard yourself or someone else mumble those words?

A couple sits across the courtroom from one another. Eight years ago they pledged their love to each other ‘until death do us part’. Now, the pieces of a family torn by doubt and infidelity and emotional abandonment are all that is left. As she looks at him she thinks back. He was a good Christian man. He was kind, generous, forgiving. Someone she could trust. Now, all she felt was hurt, all she saw in his eyes was anger. What happened?

The story is the same throughout mankind. We have plans. We have visions of what life should look like. Sometimes we make half-hearted prayers to God for wisdom, prayers which are really nothing more than asking his approval for our ideas.

Our plans can be for a successful career, a healthy family, or a large, burgeoning church. But things don’t go as we expected and we revert to our own strength and wisdom rather than look to God. We begin to compare, criticize, covet and complain about each other and about God.

Somewhere along the line we’ve gotten the idea that God’s plan for each of us is to live a fairy tale existence. The frogs of the world turn to princes. The princesses swoon at our kiss. The ‘magic seeds’ of entrepreneurial efforts become beanstalks that lift us to the heavens.

Jesus spent more of his time encouraging those who were down and out than he did catering to the social elite. Why? Because he knew man’s plans would inevitably lead to failure, pain, discouragement and destruction.

As the Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, he assures us “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) But that promise came to a people who were in exile at the time and far removed from Jehovah God.

God’s plan for us, as for the Israelites, was to prosper them AFTER they endured the trials of their own guilt.

God’s plan for each of us is first and foremost to have a healthy, vibrant relationship with him based on living a lifestyle according to his word. Anything that deviates from God’s word is man’s plan and destined to failure. Anything empowered by his Spirit and driven by his word will prosper; prosper by His standards, not the worlds.

Whether you are in ministry, a career or a blue-collar worker take a look at your plans. Make sure they are measured by relationship with God and not personal gain or tradition. God’s plans never go awry.

PRAYER: Father God. It’s so easy to superimpose my own desires and call them yours. Give me wisdom to earnestly seek your path and not the path more easily trodden. In Jesus name, Amen.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14 (NIV)

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

The familiar Christmas Carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” came from a poem penned on December 25, 1864, by Henry Lonfellow amidst one of the worst periods in United States history, the Civil War. His inspiration came as he heard the bells ringing in a nearby church.

Later, Longfellow pens two stanzas of the poem that hymn writers chose to exclude when the poem was put to the familiar tune we know it as.

Then from each black accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

One can’t blame the poet for the injection of these mournful words. In the previous year he’d lost his dearly loved wife in a fire, and his son became a victim of war.

Peace on earth?


Goodwill towards men?

The Civil War made enemies out of brothers.

Still, Longfellow ends his poem with:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

‘Peace on Earth; Goodwill towards men’ still eludes us. The news is full of horrific tales of violence mankind pits against one another. Only the most horrific acts gain media attention. Behind the scenes of mass murder and natural disasters are family members abusing one another; accidents claiming the lives of young fathers and mothers and children; disease taking lives of people all too soon.

So where is the peace that Longfellow fell back on as he closed his poem that dark Christmas Day? Where is the peace the Angels sang of on that dark hillside outside Jerusalem?

Like the Angels, Longfellow knew what we must never forget. ‘Peace on earth; Goodwill towards men’ will never be dictated by a politicians mandate, a hefty retirement account, a fulfilled relationship or healthy eating/exercise regimen. Peace and goodwill always has been, and always will be a state of mind that transcends the tragedies of life, and based on faith in Jesus Christ.

God’s favor, his peace rests on those who rest in him. Tragedies will come. Horrific acts of violence will happen. Innocent lives will be taken far too soon. But right will prevail. Jesus has promised us that he will be with us always, even in the midst of the storm.

The Angel song of honor reminds us that God’s kingdom of peace has a present reality to those who follow Jesus, and a future hope when he returns for his own.

PRAYER: Father, I pray for those who are struggling with a variety of hurt and anguish today. Evil seems to have engulfed us of late. Help us, even in the midst of tragedy to feel your peace here on earth. Amen.

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