Don’t Give Up On Your Dreams – Part 2

Joseph's Dream

What principles can we learn from Joseph if we want to make our God-given dreams reality?  Today, we’re continuing this series and looking at the first key to achieving your dreams.

1.  Don’t let your past determine your future.

I’m going to ask you to hang with me here this is going to take a little time to develop. We’re going to focus first on Chapter 37 of Genesis.

As our story opens we find Jacob settling once again in the land of Canaan.

Genesis 37:1-4

“So Jacob settled again in the land of Canaan, where his father had lived.

This is the history of Jacob’s family. When Joseph was seventeen years old, he often tended his father’s flocks with his half brothers, the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. Now Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day he gave Joseph a special gift—a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because of their father’s partiality. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.”

So let’s give a little background to this story because I really want to camp on this first key because I think it is so vital in our culture today.

Joseph is the son of the Bible Patriarch Jacob.  Jacob had just spent 20 years in Haran where 11 of his boys were born. He had 4 wives Leah, Rachel who had died giving birth to Jacob’s 12th son Benjamin on the way back from Haran, Bilhah and Zilpah who were originally Leah’s and Rachel’s handmaids.

So we have here a gigantic blended family.  That all still lived at home!

We have a father who tried to bring God’s plan about in his life by lying, cheating, and conniving.  A trait he had passed on to most of his boys.

And talk about dysfunction – these guys could write the book.  Jerry Springer would love this family!

Reuben the oldest son slept with one of his father’s wives,

Jacob’s only daughter Dinah had been raped by the Prince of Shechem, so Jacob’s sons deceived the men of Shechem and then Simeon and Levi went into the city and killed every man in the city and then the rest of the sons went in and looted and plundered all the wealth of the city and took captive all the kids and women.

Besides his other stellar qualities, Jacob showed total blatant partiality to Joseph.

Scholars differ on why this was, it could be that he spent more time with Joseph than his other kids, or that he was Rachel’s son that they had believed for for so long because she could not conceive for a long time, or it may have been because he was a good kid unlike his brothers.  But no matter the reason Jacob made no attempt to hide the fact that he like Joseph the best.

So, as if there was not already enough tension in the family, Jacob gives Joseph what is commonly known as the “coat of many colors.”  Scholars believe that it was most likely an ornate robe that was not suitable to work in that denoted royalty.

Many scholars believe that the coat that Jacob gave Joseph was a coat that designated that Joseph had been selected by Jacob to assume the family leadership.

So it’s not rocket science that his brothers hated him and trash talked him.

Here’s an interesting note:  the brothers couldn’t say a kind thing about him, and yet Joseph is one of 3 or 4 characters in the entire Bible, one of them being Jesus, that God does not say one negative thing about through the writers. In fact, later we’ll see that Joseph is actually a type and shadow of Jesus.

As our story continues, Joseph has a dream.  He dreams that he and his brothers were out in a field tying up bundles of grain and suddenly his bundle stands up and all the brothers bundles gather round him and bow low before him.

So what does Joseph do?  . . . He goes and tells his brothers.

Do you think they were happy about this dream? no . . . .

They responded, “So you think you’ll be our king do you?  And you think you’ll reign over us?”

And the Bible says,”They hated him all the more because of his dreams and the way he talked about them.”  Genesis 37:8

First, it’s not always wise to tell everything you know!  Some things are better kept between you and God.

Second,  not everyone is going to be excited about your dream.  The odds are that more people will try to discourage you from achieving your dream than will believe in your dream and help you achieve it.  In fact, we’ll see in a minute that some will even try to sabotage your dream.

Then if things weren’t bad enough, he has another dream, this time the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed low before him.

So has Joseph wised up?  No . . . this time he not only tells his brothers about the dream, but his dad as well.

His dad gets on his case “What kind of dream is that?  Will your mother and I and your brothers all bow down to the ground before you?”

The word goes on to say while his brothers were filled with jealousy, Jacob ponder what it could mean.

Soon after this Joseph’s brothers took Jacob’s flocks to Shechem to pasture them. After some time, Jacob sends Joseph from Hebron to Shechem to check on them.

So Joseph arrives in the hills of Shechem and a guy sees him wandering around looking lost and asks him what he was looking for and he tells him he’s looking for his brothers.  Now this guy tells Joseph, “They aren’t here any more, they have gone to Dothan.”

Let’s stop for one minute and look at this:  Jacob didn’t send Joseph across the street to find his brothers.  From where he lived he had to travel about 50 miles to get to this place.  Also, what were the odds this guy would know where his brothers were?  Remember, this was the city where Simeon and Levi had killed every male and trashed the whole city.  You’d better believe that when these boys were in town someone would be keeping a close eye on them.  This was also probably one of the reasons Jacob was concerned enough to send Joseph to check on them, as they had been gone for a while.

So then, Joseph had to go another 20 miles to get to Dothan. Which was right on the trade route to Egypt.

Joseph’s brothers see him coming from a ways off and say, “Let’s kill this dreamer.  Then we’ll see what will become of his dreams.” Genesis 37:19-21 So they devise this plot to kill him and throw his body into a cistern and tell their Father he was eaten by a wild animal.

Reuben intercedes and says, “Hey, let’s not kill him . . . why have his blood on our hands, we’ll just throw him in the empty cistern, then he’ll die without us having to do it.”  And all the brothers thought it was a great idea.

Reuben was secretly planning on rescuing him and taking him home.  Possibly in an attempt to regain first-born status with his father.

So Joseph arrives, they strip off his coat and throw him in the cistern.

Then they cook dinner like nothing happened.  At this point in the story, there is nothing recorded about Joseph’s reaction to all this, but in Genesis Chapter 42:21 some 22 or so years later, we’re privy to a conversation the brothers have after they have come to Egypt to get grain and are accused of being spies.

Genesis 42:21

“Speaking among themselves, they said, “This has all happened because of what we did to Joseph long ago. We saw his terror and anguish and heard his pleadings, but we wouldn’t listen. That’s why this trouble has come upon us.”

So we see that Joseph must have been terrified and begged and pleaded for his life and they heartlessly ignored his pleas.  And 22 years later they are still plagued by the guilt of what they did.

Then a caravan on it’s way to Egypt comes along and they sell him as a slave.  So they not only don’t have to kill him, they make a profit off the deal.

Let’s stop here in our story and go back to Point 1.  Don’t let your past determine your future.

Would you agree that if anyone qualifies as a victim, and has the right to play the blame game it would have been Joseph?

But the truth is, No one can keep you from your God-given destiny but you. Others can’t keep you from your dreams. We are the keeper of our own dreams.

No one can limit you, except you . . . its a choice

You can be a victim and remain a spectator for your entire life, or you can get up and make the world your dance floor.

No excuses – just do it.

Your past can’t stop God’s plan, your circumstances can’t stop God’s plan, your education, your color, you are the only one who has that power.

If you will trust him, God will take even your worst day and use it to your good.

Romans 8:28

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

While God did not cause all those awful things Joseph’s family did to him, it was playing right into God’s plan.  God got him right on the trade route to Egypt exactly where he needed to be to complete his assignment.

About 35 years ago, my husband and I went through a horrible separation.  It devastated our family.  After a year of being a complete knucklehead, I surrendered my heart back to the Lord.  I had the distinct impression that the Lord was telling me that He was not through with Kip and Sandy Lawson yet, unlike Joseph, I had no one to blame but myself and my own poor choices for the situation we were in.  However, God is so good that even though our circumstances looked impossible, God’s goodness reached down and brought healing to a truly hopeless situation.  Today, we’re happily married for over 48 years.  My husband is my best friend, and our family is healed.  God is the God of the impossible.

Since that time, God has used us in the lives of literally thousands of kids and he has used our son in even greater ways as well as our other kids.  We just had to get to the point that we desired God’s highest more than anything else.  We also had to get to the point that we truly believed and received that His blood had truly cleansed us of past sins and by His grace we got a do over.  We didn’t let our past determine our future, we used it to help others from falling into the same traps that we did.  God made all things work together for the good as he promised in Romans 8:28.

God does not want us to be trapped by outward circumstances, I think this is one of the beautiful truths in this story.  Joseph was a man who lived above his circumstances as we will see as the story continues . . .  He didn’t let his past determine his future.  Back to our story . . .

So Joseph arrives in Egypt and gets sold to Potiphar the head of Pharaoh’s Palace guard.

We are now in Genesis 39

At once he goes to work with all his heart and immediately Potiphar starts noticing that everything Joseph touches gets better!

Genesis 39:2

“The LORD was with Joseph and blessed him greatly as he served in the home of his Egyptian master.”

I believe that God was able to work on Joseph’s behalf to bring about his destiny because Joseph kept his heart right.  He didn’t allow bitterness or unforgiveness, or a victim mentality to occupy his heart.  The only one who had the power to rob Joseph or his desitny was Joseph.

Sometimes we can see delays and detours as defeats.  Maybe God is using them to refine our character, or maybe what seems like a detour is God’s rerouting to get us to our divine destiny.  We can’t always avoid delays and detours, but we can control our heart response to them.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1: 2-4 NKJV

How can Joseph’s story help you change the way you view your circumstances?

Don’t Give Up On Your Dream

Joseph's Dream

 

A few years back, there was a popular song with the kids called “Determinate”. from a group called Lemonade Mouth  It’s about not being a wallflower, watching others on the dance floor of life living out their dreams. The song exhorts you! You need to determinate, make the world your dance floor.  Try until you can’t and then you demand more.  Determinate.

How many of you have ever had a dream?  Dreams and aspirations . . .  we all have them or had them. Kids come with a built in sense of destiny and nothing is out of reach . . .- I’m gonna be president, a fireman, policeman an astronaut.  Notice how its all high and nobel, when was the last time you met a kid who said I want to be a bank robber when I grow up . . . that’s my dream.

My dream . . .  as a kid, I wanted to be the first woman supreme court justice.  Don’t laugh!  Sure, I was a bit overly ambitious and Sandra Day O’Connor beat me to the punch.  But seriously, I’ve always had this innate passion for justice.  I was always a conservative even in the 60’s when I was growing up in the counter culture generation, something just didn’t ring right.  Like it all sounded like truth, and seemed right, and looked good, good like bait on a hook.  The only problem with bait on a hook is when you bite it, you become someone else’s meal.

I wanted to right wrongs by being a prosecutor, so I could rescue the innocent from the bad guys.  Somewhere I lost that dream. Until one day, I found out Jesus is the only one who can really right wrongs and restore lives. .So full circle back to the dream, back to the passion in a different wrapper, I ended up in a pastoral role instead.  Now, I can help people pick up broken lives or preferably, build them right from the beginning so that they never broke.  Either way, my sense of justice is fullfilled because now I’m fighting the original bad boy, Satan.

But for many of us, somehow these high and nobel dreams have drifted into a permanent dream state instead of becoming living realities in our lives.  God did not create us just to dream . . .  but to live.  He did not create us to be wallflowers, He created us to be dancers.  God did not create us to be spectators, He created us to be world changers. So, in this series, we’re going to focus on how to get our dreams from concept to reality.

A dream by definition is a strong desire to do something high or great.

The opposite of a dream or aspiration is aimlessness.  Or as Proverbs puts it

“Where there is no vision, the people perish:”  Proverbs 29:11

Without a dream, we have no direction, we become aimless.  Without aim or purpose.  You know the old saying, if you aim a nothing, you’ll hit it every time. But God says . . .

Jeremiah 29:11-13

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

My goal is to encourage and challenge you to pursue the dreams God has given you with all your heart.  And if your dreams are all but dead to stir those embers into a fire.  Because your dreams do not just impact you, everyone in your sphere of influence.

It’s said that encouragement is the oxygen of the soul.  I want to give you oxygen.

Over the next few weeks, we are going to a whirl wind study the life of Joseph, a man who lived nearly 4,000 years ago, but whose story is as relevant as if it happened yesterday.

What was your childhood dream?  Has it become a reality?  Did it get put on the back burner?  Did it get replace with something even better?  I’d love to hear from you.

Reboot Your Gratitude

I’ll confess, I can tend to be a half full. You know the type, the skeptic, the realist, you know negative.  God has been walking me through a process of renewing my mind.  Here’s what He’s been teaching me. For several years now, I can’t get off  Romans 12:2, Phil 4:8,  and Ephesians 2:6.  Joyce Meyer’s says, “You never fail God’s tests, you just keep taking them over and over until you get it right.”th-1

Is it just me, or sometimes does life stink? You think things will work out one way and everything seems to turn out just the opposite of what you’re believing for? You were believing for the sweet life, and you got lemons.

So, when life throws you a lemon, how do you reboot your mind to get it lined up with the Word?

How do you make lemons into lemonade?

You add sugar.

Gratitude is like adding sugar to lemon juice.

It makes sour things sweet.

Studies show that being grateful and giving thanks effects every area of your life. It effects your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Here’s how gratitude reboots your thinking:

1.  It honors God – the word actually commands us to give thanks to Him, Psalm 100, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise.” In 1 Samuel 2:30 –  God says, “I will honor those who honor me.”

2.  It renews your thinking by changing your focus from what you don’t have to what you do have.

3.  It’s God’s antidepressant – you can only have 1 thought at a time, you can’t think a grateful thought and a depressed thought at same time. It is impossible!

3 Ways to Increase Your Gratitude

  1. Start a gratitude journal – write down all those things your grateful for and read and add to it during your devotional time.
  1. Get a gratitude accountability friend  – Someone who loves you enough to tell you the truth.
  1. Hang around grateful people.

Even when gratitude doesn’t change your circumstances, it changes your perspective – from the lens that is limited by your circumstance, to the unlimited lens of God’s perspective.

How to Have the Family You’ve Always Wanted – Part 10

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Never Stop Dreaming

Children are dreamers, they see themselves doing great and noble things.  “When I grow up, I’m going to be . . . a firefighter, a policeman, a nurse, a princess.”  Yet, as the realities of life sink in around us, it is all too easy to give up on dreaming.

Is it because dreams involve risk? I don’t know, but I do know that I sit and counsel with way too many people who have quit dreaming.  Without dreams we do not live, we exist.  Without dreams there is no passion.  Without dreams there is no vision and as it is written, “Without a vision the people perish.”  Don’t let the comfortable and the convenient rob you of your destiny.  You were created for greatness, but before greatness comes dreaming.  Chose big humongous impossible dreams that challenge you.  Take the risk, dare to dream again.

This is one of the greatest things that you can model for your children.  Make dreaming big be the norm in your family not the exception.  Jeremiah 29:11-13 – God has great plans for you and your family!!!

How to Have the Family You Always Wanted – Part 9

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Keep First Things First

“The most important thing in life is knowing the most important things in life. ” ~ David Jakeilo

Sometimes life controls us instead of us controlling our life.  It is vital to periodically stop and take an accounting of our priorities lest we fall prey to the tyranny of the urgent.  When we allow this to happen it is usually effects those closest to us in a negative way.  Your priorities will be determined by your value system.  However, I would encourage anyone to think long and hard before they put their career at the top of their priority list.  Life passes all too quickly and you know the old saying, “You never see a hearse towing a Uhaul.”  The “stuff” stays behind.  Our real legacy remains behind in the lives of those we impacted along the way.

For me, my priorities are my faith, my marriage, my family, then my career.  It seems when I keep things in that order, my life is really great.  When my priorities shift, my life can go into a tailspin in nothing flat.  When I see the very first tell tale sign that I’ve gotten myself out of sync, I stop and do a quick self evaluation and invariably I find that my priorities have gotten misplaced.

Keeping your priorities in order is like a pilot keeping his eye on the Altitude Indicator to make sure that the plane is flying level.  Remember to do regular “Priority Checks.”

How to Have the Family You’ve Always Wanted – Part 7

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The Number One Key to Peace in Your Home

Be quick to forgive. Easier said than done until you realize the incredibly high price of a grudge.  Failure to forgive has destroyed more marriages, families, interpersonal relationships, and lives than any other single poor life-choice. Unforgiveness is a personal prison you sentence yourself to, and the good news is you are the only one who has the key to let yourself out.

For our family, holding a grudge against anyone for anything was not an option. This policy was one of the biggest keys to harmony and peace in our family. We called it keeping “short accounts.”

Forgiveness has nothing to do with how we feel, it is a choice we make. It’s not an emotional decision, it’s a heart choice.  Sometimes we have to make it, and make it, and make it, as many times as it takes until it sticks. Your choice will bring you the life-changing freedom that only true forgiveness can bring, if you stay consistent in making good choices in the thoughts you keep and the ones you discard.  Then you train your kids by your example.

We taught our kids that when they realized they did something unkind to one another, they needed to immediately go to the person involved and ask their forgiveness.  We taught them to say, “I was wrong for ________, will you forgive me?”  And hopefully the response would come back, “I forgive you.”   Remember, there is creative power in our words.  Important: once we forgave, we never brought it up again.  Just like Jesus.

We all lived by, when you blow it, man up and own it.  Ask forgiveness quickly so bitterness and unforgiveness never have the chance to take root.  “I was wrong, but you . . . “ just didn’t get it.  That was blaming – not owning in our household.  Any time you put a “but” in a sentence, you can forget anything that came before it.

Are you in a self-imposed prison of unforgiveness?  Now you have the key, use it and set yourself free.  Your example also holds the key to keeping your family free of this plague as well.

How to Have the Family You’ve Always Wanted – Part 6

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For some of us, it’s easy to focus on the 10% others do wrong instead of focusing on the 90% that they do right.

Unfortunately, what you focus on tends to get bigger. I believe a common reason people fall into the trap of focusing on the 10% deficiency is because that person is making them look bad.

This is especially common in the parent child relationship. The parent feels their child’s actions are a direct reflection on them. Basically, “You make me look bad.”

This was one I struggled with for a long time as a parent.  It boiled down to I was more concerned about what others thought of me.  I felt like my kids actions short of perfection reflected negatively on me.  It was not only selfish, I cheated my kids out of some valuable growth experiences.  If the truth be told, I probably added some scars to their souls as well.

The Bible flat out warns us not to go there.

Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.” msg

What helped me to get over this, was when it happened to me.  It’s probably happened to you too.  I’m sure you can think of examples of when someone, a parent, a spouse, a boss, tended to focus on what you did wrong and never or rarely praised for what you did right.  What happened? I bet you felt defeated, or maybe it made you angry? Or, worst of all, did it make you want to give up?

Now, a little heart check, do you do to others what you hate having done to you?

I’m not advocating overlooking positive correction, but I’m recommending in all your relationships you focus far more of your energy on encouraging others in what they do right.

Proverbs 12:25 tells us, “Anxious hearts are very heavy, but a word of encouragement does wonders!” TLB

We all have enough sources telling us everything we do wrong. The really great thing is when we focus on the 90% right, the 10% usually self corrects. So make a choice to affirm what others do right daily and tell them.