From Jacob's Well

These are reflections and devotionals from the experiences and life lessons that The Lord has graciously taught me!
I pray it will be an occasional encouragement to you ...
In His Grip,
samme palermo

Friday, February 12, 2010

“My Family Isn’t Perfect … How Can I Deal With That?”

“My Family Isn’t Perfect … How Can I Deal With That?”
Genesis 37: 1-11

The term dysfunctional is tossed around quite a bit these days in reference to families. That term is used to imply that family that is in crisis ... or that a family that is dealing with considerable hurt ... will begin to disintegrate and fall apart.

From a Christian perspective, this could include any home that is not functioning the way God intended! A dysfunctional home could be the end result of divorce, drug or alcohol addictions, lack of communication, rivalry among the children, self consumed parents, child abuse, sexual abuse, spousal abuse, extramarital affairs, pornography, poor stewardship, debt and the list goes on and on.

One of the strange dynamics in family life is that when children grow up they way too often, repeat the mistakes of their parents. The truth is that what we know about marriage and parenting, whether for good or bad, we learned while we were growing up … watching our parents! The consequences are therefore ... that dysfunctional families often create more dysfunctional families! Tragically ... that can go on for generations.

I believe that this is at least a part of what the Bible is speaking of when it says in Numbers 14:18, that God visits “… the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation” (NKJV). If we are living in a similar family situation, it can be extremely challenging to live for the Lord! HOwever, it's not impossible!

Joseph is proof that it can be done. Joseph was raised in a home filled with angry, jealous and false-hearted people! However ... Joseph became one of the two men whose lives are recorded in the Bible about whom there is not one word of criticism. Joseph was faithful in an imperfect family and we can examine his life to see what wisdom we can gain for our own lives.

Genesis 37:1-11 “Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. (2) This is the history of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father. (3) Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. (4) But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him. (5) Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. (6) So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: (7) There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.” (8) And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. (9) Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” (10) So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?” (11) And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind." (NKJV)

The first thing we notice here is that … Joseph’s Parents Weren't Perfect!

Joseph’s family life was so unbelievable that it probably wouldn’t be accepted as a soap opera for television today! Let’s look at the facts … he had three stepmothers, ten stepbrothers and one stepsister all living in the same house at the same time! Try to imagine the turmoil in this family! Can you imagine waiting in line for the bathroom in the morning?

Jacob was Joseph’s father. He was a polygamist and an inactive parent that openly showed favoritism between his children. Jacob’s wives and his stepdaughter were jealous, covetous, resentful and insecure. Joseph’s home had four unhappy women. Now, I don’t know about you … but that’s enough to strike fear in my heart!

Jacob was a weak and totally ineffective father ... the classic picture of a passive parent. Great tragedy had touched this family. In Genesis 34:1-2 we are told that the son of the mayor of Shechem raped Jacob’s daughter, as they traveled across the country. When Jacob found out what had happened he did nothing. When His sons saw that their father wasn’t going to do anything, they took matters into their own hands. They came up with a plan that humiliated and then slaughtered all the men in the city (34:29).

When Jacob found out what his sons had done, his first concern was about the bad public relations with the rest of the people in the land. And yet, he still did nothing!

Later, his oldest son, Reuben had a sexual affair with Bilhah ... one of his wives! (35:21). When he learned of Dinah’s rape he did nothing, when he learned his sons were guilty of murder he did nothing, when he learned that his own son had committed incest he still did nothing!

It's hard to estimate how Jacob’s inactivity as a parent added to the chaos in this family. However, Jacob is a classic example of a man that was too busy for his family, too preoccupied and indifferent, meaning of course that he was too passive to deal with what was happening in the lives of any of his children.

Not only was Jacob a passive parent, for seventeen years his kids had watched as he played favorites with Joseph. In verse three we read, “Now Israel (meaning Jacob) loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age….”

Joseph, who would be seventeen at this time, was the first-born son. He was the son of his father’s favorite wife, Rachel. Joseph, according to Scripture was born to his father later in life. There can be some legitimate reasons why the baby of the family, especially to one born late in the life of the parents seems to be favored.

I know what I am talking about ... because I am one the oldest in my family. I am the oldest of four brothers with almost ten years between my youngest brother and me. Things were definitely different for me than they were for my younger brothers!

Most parents were more relaxed and easy going with their younger children because of what they've learned from the earlier experiences of parenting. Another reason for the lenient attitude is that the parents themselves are more adjusted in their marriage to one another.

In many cases, the parents are also in a better place economically to give the younger children more advantages. But, with all that said … no matter what the reason for the advantages given to the younger child, they can definitely create jealousy on the part of the older child or children. I don’t remember being jealous of my younger brothers … but I do remember thinking that they were sometimes getting away with murder!

Jacob loved Joseph more than his older brothers and confirmed this favoritism openly and in remarkable ways! Jacob didn’t try to hide his preference for Joseph. The later part of verse three says, “… Also he made him a tunic of many colors.”

This term “tunic of many colors” is variously translated as “many colored or richly ornamented” and in today’s modern language as the “Technicolor Dreamcoat!” The Hebrew word describes it as a robe that flowed from the ankles to the wrists, probably with an embroidered narrow stripe of color around the edge. This would have been a robe that was worn by nobility and the wealthy.

Joseph’s brothers wore garments that were short and sleeveless. In other words … WORK CLOTHES! This clothing was designed so the wearer would be able to climb up hills, wade through the mud and carry sheep on their shoulders. In reality, Joseph’s robe declared that he was exempt from manual labor and adversity. Even the light color of his robe indicated that he didn’t expect to get dirty or have it soiled in any way from hard work. If you want to get the kids riled up, make one of them exempt from chores in the house!

What we have here is a lot more than an average garment with a few added touches of finery. It symbolized Joseph’s favored position by his father. More than that, the robe worn by Joseph designated that he was the rightful heir in the family.

There would have been justification for that! According to Middle Eastern custom if the eldest son lost the birthright then it went to the oldest son of the second wife. Reuben, the eldest son had lost his birthright because he had a sexual affair with his father’s concubine (Gen 49:3-4). So the birthright would have gone to Joseph as the second wife’s oldest son.

I believe that the Coat was also a symbol of Purity. In the story of David’s daughter Tamar we see another robe of many colors. 2 Sam 13:18 tells us that it was a symbol of her purity, that she was a virgin. Tragically, Tamar was raped by her own brother. She felt shamed and immediately removed the robe and tore it into pieces (2 Sam 13:19). In her mind the robe was a symbol of her purity, which she felt had been robbed from her.

Joseph’s brothers were not noted for their purity. In fact, verse two tells us that, “Joseph brought a bad report” about his brothers to his father. On first glance it seems that Joseph was just a tattletale, but from what Joseph would say later on he tried to speak to his brothers about this first. It appears that they were giving in to the pressures of the pagan society around them! Canaanite religion included both idolatry and immorality.

So, because of their behavior, every time the brothers saw the coat they were reminded of the contrast between Joseph’s life and their own. Joseph’s brothers came to hate him for being all the things that they were not! In other words, they were convicted!

The story repeatedly exposes the fact that Joseph’s brothers hated him. First in verse four we are told that the brother saw how Jacob favored Joseph they “hated him and could not speak peaceable to him.”

It's pretty sad when someone hates their own brother so much that they can’t even be civil. Again in the following verse Joseph tells of his dream and again we are told that his brothers hated him. When Joseph has his second dream and relates it to his brothers, we are told, “They hated him even more.” Finally it is revealed in verse eleven that his brothers envy him.

Do they envy him for his coat and position of privilege?

Do they envy him because of the displays of their father’s affection?

Do they envy the fact that even God seemed to have a special place in his heart for Joseph because of his dreams? Truth be told, probably all of these things are a part of their envy and hatred of Joseph.

Today more than ever we are facing the challenge of blended families. The number one reason given for the failure of second marriages is conflict over child rearing issues. It doesn’t matter whether it is a first or second marriage … parents must learn that the personalities of children means that we cannot treat them exactly alike but that you can love them equally and treat them fairly!

I believe that Joseph, who was seventeen at the time, was a normal teenage adolescent. I doubt very much that Joseph understood everything that was happening in his life. Joseph was at the very least naïve and possibly even a little arrogant. He wore his new special coat into the fields to check on his brothers. This would be like putting on a tuxedo to go check on your brother out mowing the lawn! It was hardly appropriate and certainly just a little proud.

Joseph also recounted his dreams of superiority to his brothers (verses 5-8). We don’t have to know rocket science to understand that this could only further fan the flames of his brother’s animosity toward him. We can’t blame ourselves for the faults of others but we have to be realistic when it comes to our own faults and accept responsibility for them.

There is the story of a construction worker that took his lunch out one day and started screaming! “Bologna sandwiches again. I am so sick of bologna sandwiches if I see another one I’ll just die.” A friend of his asked him, “Calm down brother … why don’t you ask your wife to pack something else for you lunch?” To which he replied, “I’m not married, I pack my own lunch.”

That story reveals the truth that some of the bologna in our lives we put there ourselves!

Okay ... so how can we apply this to our lives?

1. We have to learn to look at life in the long term. The decisions we make affect not only ourselves but also all those who care about us! The course of action that we choose today may affect our children, our grandchildren, and even our great grandchildren. Jacob’s mistakes with his children had tragic long-term affects.

2. We must be faithful regardless of our family situation. It’s so easy for us to look at our family background and make excuses. “My parents are divorced; I can’t help being this way, I was abused as a child, my father was an alcoholic, my parents don’t love me” … and the list goes on and on. However …

3. God understands our unique circumstances and He wants to help us rise above the negative influences in our lives.

4. God specializes in changing us and conforming us into His image, no matter what our family background. Regardless of our past … we can know the love of the Heavenly Father if we surrender to Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Today is the day of salvation … but more than that … today is a day of new beginnings & new tender mercies!

Maybe our parents were not perfect.
Maybe our home life was less than ideal.
Perhaps we made mistakes as a teenager.
Maybe we made mistakes as a parent.
Maybe we made mistakes as a spouse!

Our Lord is a Lord that mends … and right now ... it’s time to get rid of the bologna in our life! God wants to forgive us and help us to start over! Right now! Read Lamentations 3:22-23 ...
In His Grip,
pastor samme

Monday, December 14, 2009

Loving Jesus!

Hello Family!

Have you ever asked a little child ... “How much do you love me?”

Usually the little one being asked raises his or her hands together, a few inches apart. You ask again, “Is that all you love me? Okay, one more chance, how much do you really love me?”

And then, the child smiles and flings their arms wide open to show just how much they love you! This brings the response we have all seen ... great joy & happiness! The questions we need to ask then are these: “Do we love Jesus?” & “How much do we really love, Jesus?”

We tend to use different artificial means to express our love for Jesus. You know what I am talking about here and can probably think of a few! Ever seen the bumper sticker, "Honk if you Love Jesus"? How about the chrome bumper fish that adorn many a car?

Have you ever been at a concert and heard the announcer or the artist use what I call ... “The Jesus Pep Rally Call”? Many emcees & bands resort to this at times in desperation to get the crowd going ... “If you love Jesus, give me a "J" "E" "S" "U" "S"! Admittedly, these are pretty weird ways to express our love for Jesus. But even stranger is how Jesus showed His love for us!

1 John 4:10, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

“Atoning sacrifice” simply means "to be set before." When God judged the sin on man on Calvary, we were the target of God’s wrath and judgment. However, God placed His Son before us so that Jesus, the Son of God would take the blow of judgment. In this came a payment (atonement) of our sin, a transaction (forgiveness) to remove our sin, and the debt of sin is cancelled (justified)!

Another word for this is propitiation! Now, I don’t know about you but I like the word propitiation! When we think about that little baby in the manger this time of year, we really should do so with the idea that he is our substitute ... he IS OUR propitiation!

I want to love Jesus for what He has done for me. And I want to do anything that He asks me to do in return! My question is this, “Is Jesus looking for bumper stickers or chants as expressions of our love for Him?” I don't think so! I believe that Jesis is looking for motion and action, after all, faith without works ... ain't breathing, right?

We need to quit seeing love as just an emotion and start seeing it as the motion behind what we do in response to the love of Christ. Loving Jesus is obeying Him as seen clearly in John 14:15, 21 & 23-24! Jesus doesn't allow love to be lowered into a sentimental or emotional love, but obedience. To Jesus, real love is not an easy thing.

Jesus asks ... DO you Love Me? then ... keep My commandments! He told us taht the Father loves those who love Him. We know that the Father loves those who do the words of Jesus, and that those that do not keep the commandments do not love Jesus.

Jesus showed His love of the Father through obedience and, consequently, we show our love for Jesus through obedience. We are to be obedient in all the things that we are asked to do in the course of our ministry to each other!

In John 21:15-17 Jesus asks Peter this question, "Do you love Me?" This is a penetrating question and it seemed to irritate Peter. I think that was because it's being aimed at him. Remember Peter had said he would die for Jesus, and yet he denied him three times.

Did Jesus doubt Peter’s answer that he loved Him? Have we ever wondered if Jesus doubts our answer? Jesus’ answer back to Peter in the three affirmations of love was "feed & tend" My lambs and sheep. I believe he was telling Peter and for that matter, all of us, “If you love Me ... serve Me. Don’t love Me in the lip service of the crowd. But love Me by serving me so as to care for My own. Jesus asks ... "Do you love Me?"

Wow! Do I need help! We all do! And ... that’s good! God doesn't intend for us to conjure up the love He desires and expects from us! He wants us to love with His love, so He’s standing by in the form of the Holy Spirit, waiting for us to simply ask for His help!

John 14:16-18 "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

God knows we are not capable in and of ourselves to love in this capacity. He gives us a Helper. The Helper is one who is called in to assist us in our weaknesses. Let us all pray to God, asking the Spirit to lead us to love Jesus by "knowing, obeying and serving" Him. We are all the ministers of the Gospel! Some of us are licensed by government, yet we are all ordained! This means we all have an opportunity to feed & tend His sheep! Are we ready?
Are we willing?
In His Grip,
pastor samme

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My Way Or the Highway?

Proverbs 1: 32-33, “For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm."

Basically that translates this way, "Fools will die because they refuse to listen! They ultimately will be destroyed because they don’t care! However, anyone that does listen to wisdom will live in safety and be at peace without fear of harm!"

We are beginning a new year in a couple of weeks and I believe that we all possess a true desire to influence people around us! I further believe that the way to accomplish that is to start loving all of them! One thing that I have learned over the years is that I cannot antagonize people and influence them positively at the same time!

A genuine concern for the people we know is at the very heart of the process of encouragement! As we try to help and influence people in our lives that look up to us this year, we must have positive feelings and concern for them. Since we all want to help make a positive impact on other lives, we must not harbor any dislike or bias towards them, no matter what they may have done to us in the past!

I believe the greatest gift we can give others is love and respect. Seriously, none of us likes being disrespected! It's like being kicked in the gut! Being fired from a job or publicly humiliated is devastating to our emotional balance.

We, therefore, must take on a nurturing and encouraging role with the people that we want to influence! I have heard the question voiced, “Isn’t that something they can get somewhere else, like at home or church or school?” Well, let me say this, I work in a Christian school as the school's Chaplain and as a Senior Pastor of a flock in Webster, NY. Sadly, my experience has revealed to me the unfortunate truth that even Christians are desperate for encouragement! If we take the time to nurture and encourage others, we will have the opportunity to make major impact on them!

Influence is a curious thing! We impact nearly everyone we meet in some way, however, our amount of influence we have isn’t the same with everyone! There are some people that we instinctively know are impacted by us and some that are not! Some of the people we know may think everything we say should be written down as Gospel truth, while others are skeptical of everything we say, forgetting everything they hear before we have punctuated the sentence with a period at the end! Our influence on some will be greater than our influence with others!

One thing for sure, POSITION doesn’t necessarily make a leader. We may have a title or position that has some authority, boss, teacher, parent or countless others. The bible teaches that we are ALL ministers of the Gospel. However, that does not necessarily demand influence. Influence comes from us, but we must earn it. For instance, David led Israel long before Saul lost his throne (1 Chronicles 11: 1-2). David had earned influence and Saul did not! WHY?

I believe it was because David rallied the people thereby creating and maintaining UNITY! IDENTIFICATION! David identified with his people as family!
CREDIBILITY! David’s strategies were effective!
ANOINTING! David knew that God’s hand and power was on his life!
PARTNERSHIP! David worked in cooperation with the people in his life!

People will reflect their leadership! Leaders cannot expect their team to grow beyond the example of leadership that they maintain, therefore, leaders cannot expect their team to be fundamentally different than they are!

consider Proverbs 29!

Verse 2, “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.”
This speaks to attitude.

Verse 4 speaks to stability … “By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down.”

Verse 7 speaks of compassion … “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”

Verse 12 speaks of honesty … “If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked.”

And finally … verse 18 gives us the vision! “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.”

My personal challenge this year for myself is to jettison any attitude of "My way or the highway!" and instead to remember that COMPETENCE + CHARACTER + CONNECTION = INFLUENCE!

I am going to try very hard to grow in each of these areas especially in reference to the people I know in my life and the people that I lead! We must use our influence as Christians, to lead other people in the right way and to help them grow as well!

We are all appointed by God Himself to speak into the lives of other people! Our ability to make things happen in & through them depends entirely on our ability to be led by Him! Basically … leadership is influence! Furthermore, since we are all called to be leaders, that means that we all have 2 things in common! First, we are going somewhere, and second, we are able to persuade others to follow us!

Integrity is essential to influence! Here's a challenge for all of us to follow for the year! 1 Thess. 5: 16-18, “Be joyful always; pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus!”

I saw a TV documentary that spoke about the footprints of the astronauts on the moon. The ad declared that since there is nor rain or wind that they will last a million years! Well … God in Christ left footprints on this planet for 33 years and after 2,000 years, His footprints are just as fresh as the day He walked the earth! The impact of His presence is still felt in the souls of people all over the world.

This year, we will all have an opportunity to encourage others to walk in our footprints! I believe that they will only IF ... we are joyful, prayed up and thankful! For this is the will of God! Amen? Amen!

In HIS Grip,