Sunday, November 21, 2010


Now that I live near a mountain, my life is a series of mole hills. During the first forty-four years of my life, my life seemed to progress from one emotional mountaintop to a bottomless valley to the next mountain, and then valley, etc. Perhaps it's age, perhaps it's faith—perhaps it's sheer exhaustion—but over the past few years, the emotional mountains and valleys of life have seemed to level-off. The internal mountains have become mole hills and the death valleys more like divots on a golf course, just gouges in the grass to be repaired and replaced. But level living can be tricky. Void of ecstasy or despair, one can become numb, calloused, anesthetized to emotion altogether. So how do we spare ourselves the manic, unhealthy highs and lows of unchecked emotion, yet experience the glorious life Jesus promised His followers? I think Joseph got it right…

Gen. 41:41-45 – "So Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.' Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph‘s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and men shouted before him, 'Make way!' Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.' Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt." (emphasis added)

  • Empowered by Pharaoh as second-in-command; hailed by the Egyptians; given an important-sounding name and an influential wife. How did Joseph keep all this praise from going to his head? #1 – He had been refined in the fires of adversity BEFORE he was blessed. #2 – He stayed connected with people. He could have wielded his new power from the palace; instead, he traveled among those he served. Humility is key to level living.
Gen. 41:46-49 – "Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh's presence and traveled throughout Egypt. During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure." (emphasis added)

  • Days of abundance, yeah! But when grain begins to multiply too quickly, and meticulous Joseph can no longer keep accurate records, does he plunge into a valley of administrative despair? No. He stops keeping records and praises the Lord for the abundance. Sometimes a blessing becomes a curse, when control becomes an issue. For those of us who cry when things aren't done a certain way—let's cheer for Joseph's flexibility, when his control slips away.
Gen. 41:50-52 –"Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, 'It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household.' The second son he named Ephraim and said, 'It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.'" (emphasis added)

  • Can I just say that if you name your child something about forgetting your dad's household, you haven't really forgotten your dad's household. Just sayin'. Perhaps his point is that he's chosen to let go, or disregard, the trouble of his father's household. And with Ephraim's birth, I'm noticing a pattern. Joseph attaches positive emotions from a joyous occasion to replace his negative feelings from past pain. He feels deeply the joy of his sons' birth, and he allows that sincere joy to root out the deep pain of his past.
Gen. 41:53-57 – "The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, 'Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.' When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world." (emphasis added)

  • This situation is the perfect formula for overload: overwhelming need + underwhelming boss = overload for Joseph, right? Nope! Why? Because Joseph had already been practicing level living. Pharaoh and the Egyptians saw that the abundance and drought had occurred just as Joseph said, but Joseph knew it happened just as GOD said. A growing faith assigns responsibility and praise to God and creates ever-increasing level living.
Lord, when others around me panic, remind me I can trust in You…because of the ways You've been faithful in my past. Teach me to uncover past wounds and apply the healing balm of present joy and blessing. Show me the benefits of level living, and guide me into Your abundant life.

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