Thursday, December 31

Genesis 50:15-21
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?”  So 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 their message came to him, Joseph wept.

His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him.  “We are your slaves,” they said.  But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to hare me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  So then, don’t be afraid.  I will provide for you and your children.” And
he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

Near the end of Joseph’s story, his brothers fear retribution following Jacob’s death.  After all, the brothers are the ones who attacked Joseph, threw him in a pit, and sold him into slavery in Egypt.  At this point in the story however, Joseph had welcomed the family to Egypt and provided land and food for them during a great famine.  Yet, the brothers were wondering if Joseph was only treating them kindly out of respect for their father, Jacob.  So, the brothers beg for Joseph’s mercy following Jacob’s death.

Joseph expressed true forgiveness and understanding.  He assured them that his actions were not out of obligation, but out of love for God and love for them.

This is ministry done WITH someone.  It communicates God’s love and grace for the person.

Have you ever expected a negative response from someone because of something you’ve said or done only to be forgiven?  Have you ever received an unexpected gift that you could not repay or where repayment was unwanted or even refused?  Reflect on your emotions in these situations.

Wednesday, December 30

Genesis 40:21-23
He [Pharaoh] restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand—but he [Pharaoh] impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation.  The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.

Joseph interprets two dreams while in prison.  After hearing their dreams, he tells Pharaoh’s cupbearer that he will get his job back and Joseph tells the chief baker that he will NOT receive a similar happy ending.

Joseph was expecting, and did not receive, something in return for his efforts.  Joseph expected that good actions (proper interpretation of the dreams) would yield good results (his release from prison).  But, that didn’t happen … or at least not when and how he wanted.

This is ministry done FOR someone.  It communicates our desire for praise or recognition.

Have you ever been helped by someone and then later found them asking you to “pay back the favor?”  Or criticizing you for not thanking them or showing appreciation in a certain way?  Reflect on your emotions in these situations.

Tuesday, December 29

Genesis 37:5-11
Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.  He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had:  We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us?  Will you actually rule us?”  And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers.  “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had?  Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?”  His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Whether he meant to or not, Joseph—in his enthusiasm for God’s vision—communicated to his family that he was better than they were.

This is ministry done TO someone.  It communicates that someone is helpless or to be pitied.

Have you ever felt belittled by someone “helping” you?  Have you ever gotten that feeling that their help was to make themselves feel important, generous, pious or whatever?  Reflect on your emotions in these situations.

Monday, December 28

Matthew 22:36-40
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  Jesus replied:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 7:12
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Taken together (love God, love your neighbor and treat others as you’d like to be treated) is a great place to start when interacting with people … especially early in a relationship.

Can you describe a friendship that began in the spirit of love described in these scriptures?  How would your relationships be impacted if you viewed everyone this way?

Saturday, December 26

Luke 2:19-20
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told.

Mary treasured and pondered all the happenings of that one evening in her heart.  What did she have to ponder?  A harried and hurried arrival in Bethlehem complete with the impending birth of her baby.  She pondered the moments of anxiety when she wondered if her child might be born in the street because there was no room for them in the inns of the city.  She pondered how the Son of God could be born in such a place as a stable.  Mary pondered the arrival of these strange shepherds who told an incredible story of angels in the sky heralding the birth of a child.  Did Mary know what all of these things meant?  Mary probably didn’t put all the pieces together but she did know that something special was happening.

As we ponder the ways that God works in our lives are we trusting that God is planning to do something special in and through us?

Friday, December 25

Luke 2:16-18
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Today is the celebration of Christmas.  Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  What did the shepherds do when they witnessed the coming of the Savior into the world?  They spread the word.  They told everyone they met, far and wide, about this great thing that had happened in the birth of Jesus.  When the shepherds told others about the good news of Jesus they were amazed at what God had done.

Today, let us think about what would happen if we would follow the example of the shepherds and share the good news of Jesus with others.  As we share Jesus I am sure that many people will be amazed at the love and forgiveness that is found in Jesus?

When was the last time you shared with someone how much Jesus means to you?