January 21, Message by P. Kevin Clancey

All right, so Genesis 45 tonight, guys. Next week, I think I told you last week we’re going to Job. That was not, it wasn’t a lie in that I intentionally lied to you. I just kind of looked at the schedule and I thought, well, we’re just starting Job this last week and taking up the big meat of Job next week.

So, I’ll do next week, I’ll do Job. And so we’re in Genesis 45, the first 15 verses, Joseph being reunited with his brothers.

Let me give you just the backstory, though you’ve been reading it, so you know it, but just in case you have a bad memory or you’ve lagged behind on your reading. Some poor person in Bremerton this morning was like, “She goes, I just realized this morning I thought you were going to say when we were going to start this.” And I’ve been saying for months, “We’re going to start at the beginning of the year.” So she goes, “I’ve had my Bible, but I’ve just been waiting.” And it’s like, no.

And she’s, I realized I’m three weeks behind.” I said, “Well, read two assignments a day, you’ll catch up.”

All right, so here’s the backstory, right? You got the patriarchs, and the story of the patriarchs from Genesis 12:1 is the story of God’s faithfulness. God’s keeping his covenant, and he keeps his covenant through Abraham.

You know, it’s interesting, people are reading through the Bible and they have all these questions. “Well, what about this? And what about that? And what about that?” And one lady today said, “So, Abraham gave his wife away twice.

I thought he was supposed to be a good, godly man. I said, “We’re in the Bible, it doesn’t say he was a good, godly man.” He said he believed God and God credited it to him as righteousness. So he had faith. That’s good. That’s a good quality.

He wasn’t amazingly courageous. You know, you never hear that in the movies, you know, “Leave me alone, do anything you want to the woman.” you know, heroes don’t say that. And so twice he does it, Isaac does it, and she says, “Why doesn’t God punish him for that?”

We’ll get to that next week when we study Job. We’ll talk about moral theology. But I said, here’s what God’s doing. He’s protecting his promise. He’s protecting his promise. And he protects his promise through…

Far less than perfect people. That’s the story of Abraham, Isaac, and oh my goodness, is that the story of Jacob? You know? You have all these heroes in the Bible.

One of the amazing things when I first started reading the Bible, I had all these discoveries. One of my discoveries, Karen, was that a whole lot of the Bible was boring. It seemed irrelevant and didn’t make sense. I thought, because of that, I obviously was an unspiritual person. You know, I was a one-month-old Christian. But other parts did make sense, and that was good. Those were helpful. We thought these were, one of the discoveries I made was all these Old Testament heroes that I thought were heroes, I realized, oh, they all have warts. They’re all very fallible people. The only guy in the Old Testament who really comes across without many warts is Daniel. And the only person in the New Testament, besides Jesus, who comes across without very many warts is Mary. Other than that, they all got warts, all right?

Now, I happen to think there’s one instance in the Bible that isn’t recorded where Mary comes across with a wart. That was when the woman was caught committing adultery.

And you know, she, before Jesus, and they’re gonna stone her, and Jesus says, ‘He of you who has sinned, cast the first stone.’ And they all begin to leave, from the oldest to the youngest, dropping their stones. And Jesus is about to talk to the woman, and then out of the left somehow this rock comes hurling in, bam, and hits the woman, smack on her forehead. And Jesus turns and looks, he goes, ‘Mom.’ So, that’s from all my Catholic friends.

So anyway, all right. So these guys have warts, and God is protecting the promise.

And now, the promise is there’s gonna be a famine. God knows there’s gonna be a famine, and God desires to preserve his people because he’s creating this people. You’ve got, I, Jacob now has.

He has 11 sons and a daughter, and this people is starting to develop. He’s got this land for them, but there’s going to be this huge hiccup. In fact, it’s God’s plan ultimately because it’s going to be their salvation story. He’s going to take them out of Egypt, but he’s got to get them to Egypt before he can take them out of Egypt.

So, Joseph has this dream, and he shares the dream with his brothers. His brothers are jealous, and they want to kill him.

Well, that won’t work for God’s plan. So Reuben comes in and says, ‘Let’s not kill him, let’s throw him in a well and he’ll die there of natural causes, but we won’t be directly guilty of killing him.’ But Reuben had this secret plan that he was going to come back and rescue his brother because Reuben was only semi-wicked. You know, that’s not full-on chocolate, that’s semi-sweet chocolate.

And so, they throw him in the well. They’re going to throw him in the well, but then they see these slave traders, so they sell him to the slave traders. He goes down to Egypt, but because God’s covenant promises are upon him, just like Jacob. Remember, Jacob was a conniver, a wheeler-dealer, and yet God still prospered him. God’s favor, his promises, were upon him.

God’s favor is upon Joseph, and so he goes to Potiphar’s house. Joseph is an honorable man, and he serves Potiphar well. Potiphar loves him, and he’s the master of his house. Not only does Potiphar love him, but his wife loves him too. Potiphar is a workaholic, never gives his little wife any attention, and she’s lonely. There’s no soap operas to watch, no romance novels to read, and she sees this hunk of a Hebrew boy walking around, hard-working, good-looking, and she says, “I want me some of that.”

So, she tries to seduce Joseph, and Joseph says, “Never, I would never dishonor my master, I would never dishonor God.”

So, she lies on Joseph and says, “Joseph tried to rape her,” and Potiphar is all mad. Joseph can’t defend himself; Potiphar throws him in prison. Because God’s favor is on him, he prospers in prison. He puts him in charge of everything.

And then there’s the chief baker and cup bearer, and they, the same night, have dreams. You know what, don’t be too anxious to go tell somebody you had a dream and you want an interpretation. If you’re the cup bearer, good. If you’re the baker, just as well that you didn’t know.

And what happens is that they both have these dreams. Joseph gives them the interpretation. The cup bearer will be restored. The baker will be executed. It happens that way. Joseph tells them, “you know, remember me,” which was foolish because the baker didn’t have too much time to remember him. But the cup bearer was supposed to remember him, and the cup bearer didn’t. He forgot.

Two years, Joseph languished in prison. And as he’s languishing in prison, Pharaoh has dreams. Two dreams, same meaning. His wise men can’t interpret it. Then the cup bearer has one of these moments.

I’ll never forget. Exactly. My nephew. Kids, Christmas plays. Children’s plays at church are so hilarious. And they’re hilarious when your kids are in them and your nephews are in them. And my nephew, who I just love, was the cutest kid. He got up there, and he had this line. He had one line. One line. And it’s time for him to deliver the line, and he goes blank. And he’s just like. And in front of everybody, he did one of those. Pound it back in. It was a great moment. I’ll never forget it.

All right. Cup bearer. Now, I remember. Tells Pharaoh. Joseph comes. Pharaoh says, “These are my dreams. I heard you can interpret them.” Joseph said, “you heard wrong. I can’t interpret nothing. But God will give the interpretation.” He gives the interpretation, and then wisely tells Pharaoh what he ought to do with that interpretation.

That brings us to the principle of all revelation. I’ve said this time and time again, but it’s one of those things. When I’m dead and gone, you’re going to remember as a Kevinism, “Revelation, interpretation, application. Revelation, interpretation, application.”

All right, it works with dreams, it works with visions, it works with the Bible. You’re reading through the Bible in a year. That’s revelation. You’re going, “What does that mean?” That’s interpretation. Some of it you’re going to be able to interpret pretty easily. Other parts of it, you’re not going to be able to interpret pretty easily. That’s okay.

Application. What do I do with this? What’s my takeaway? All three are necessary for the revelation to have ultimately its full work. Now, interpretation and application. This is super detailed and super spiritual.

And I went to seminary for three years and spent thousands of thousands of dollars, learned how to read two foreign languages so I can answer this question for you. When God gives me an interpretation, or a revelation, how do I get the interpretation or application? So here it is.

What would now be hundreds of thousands of dollars was back then $30,000 worth of education, three and a half years of study, learning foreign languages. How do I get the interpretation? How do I get the application? Ask God.

I know, let me run it by you again, okay? Sydney, if that was too quick for you, here we go. You’re a bright girl, so here we go. Ask God. Got it? Yeah, ask God. I gave you a revelation, ask God. You stuck your tongue out at me. My interpretation is Sydney deeply loves me. My application is don’t stop teasing her.

So that’s how that works. See how that works? That’s how that goes. All right, so ask God. I don’t know. I don’t know the interpretation of your dream, Pharaoh, but God will give it.

And then, God. He also gave Joseph wisdom, which is another word for application. Wisdom is how do you take what you know and apply it to your life and the lives of others in a way that is helpful, prudent, and advances the kingdom of God. That’s wisdom.

You don’t have to be old to have wisdom. I am now old. I know old people. They do not all have wisdom. I know some really bag of hammers old people. Maybe I’m one of them. I don’t know.

I think my wife would say, “Sometimes you’re dumber than a bag of hammers.” She’s right. So, young people can be wise. Not just wise guys. They can be wise. Because wisdom is given from God. Application is given from God.

And the Bible says, “God will give wisdom generously to all who ask him.” And wisdom is more precious than silver and gold. And in some cases, wisdom will get you silver and gold. But that’s not the primary end of it.

Alright, now to our story. Joseph gives the application.

Pharaoh puts him second in command of all Egypt. And as second in command of all Egypt, the famine hits. After seven years, the famine hits. Two years into the famine, his family up north are starving. The brothers come down to Egypt.

And they come down to Egypt and they appeal to Joseph. They don’t recognize Joseph, but he recognizes them. For a couple chapters in the Bible, he jerks them around. But ultimately, when his blood brother, not his half brother, when his full brother Benjamin shows up, his heart breaks.

And here’s where we pick up the story.

45. Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out all of you.” So he was alone with his brothers, and when he told them who he was, then he broke down and he wept. He wept so loudly the gypsies could hear him, and the word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace.

“I’m Joseph,” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless.They were stunned to realize Joseph was standing there in front of them.

“Please come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer, and again he said, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve our lives. This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.”

God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So, it was God who sent me here, not you. And he is the one who made me an advisor to Pharaoh, the manager of his entire palace, and the governor of all Egypt.

Now, hurry back to my father and tell him, “This is what your son Joseph says.”

God has made me master over the land of Egypt, so come down to me immediately so you can live in the region of Goshen, where you will be near me with all your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and everything you own. I will take care of you there, for there are still five years of famine ahead of us. Otherwise, you and your household and all your animals will starve.”

Then Joseph added, “Look, you can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that I really am Joseph.

Go, tell my father my honored position here in Egypt. Describe for him everything you have seen, and bring my father here quickly.” Weeping now with joy, he embraced Benjamin, and Benjamin did the same. Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and after that, they began talking freely with him.

1 Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was. 2 Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace.

3 “I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them.

4 “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. 5 But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. 6 This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.

7 God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. 8 So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt. 9 “Now hurry back to my father and tell him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me master over all the land of Egypt. So come down to me immediately!

9 “Now hurry back to my father and tell him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me master over all the land of Egypt. So come down to me immediately! 10 You can live in the region of Goshen, where you can be near me with all your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and everything you own. 11 I will take care of you there, for there are still five years of famine ahead of us. Otherwise you, your household, and all your animals will starve.’”

13 Go tell my father of my honored position here in Egypt. Describe for him everything you have seen, and then bring my father here quickly.” 14 Weeping with joy, he embraced Benjamin, and Benjamin did the same. 15 Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and after that they began talking freely with him. (Genesis 45:1-15, NLT)

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable, Lord, in your sight, our rock, our strength, and our Redeemer.

14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord , my rock and my redeemer. (Psalms 19:14, NLT)

Joseph reveals to his brothers who he is, and the Lord has been taking me through a season recently of kind of understanding tears and understanding grief. Some things just happened in the fall that were grievous to me, and I began to kind of delve into this idea of grief.

There’s several reasons for it, not just because of what happened to me, but other reasons, and I just began to look at this thing of grief, which I’d never really looked at deeply before.

I’ve been with people who are grieving. Obviously, as a pastor, you know, you deal with that all the time, and I have some wisdom on how to walk with people in grief. Which is, again, three years of seminary, thousands and thousands of dollars, here’s how you walk with people in grief: Show up and shut up. Show up and shut up. Walk with them, love them, don’t give them advice to get out of their grief, don’t try to fix it. Just, Job’s friends did great for a week, and then they blew it.

They showed up and shut up, and then they started talking. Karen, they did not stop talking, on and on and on. All right, so show up and shut up, and that’s, but as I’ve been studying grief, and looking at Job grieved. Joseph grieved when his brothers first came down, and then later, when his father dies, he grieved, and all Egypt was required to mourn.

In Jesus’ time, right, they hired mourners. Grieving was so important, and I think, and here, Joseph is both. It’s a mixture of grief, and it’s a mixture of joy at the reuniting of his brothers, but he weeps, and he weeps openly, and he weeps twice, and he wept before, and he weeps when his father dies, and Joseph cries, and dear ones, there is a time to cry.

And I used to be so proud of the fact that I never cried. Macho guy, right? I don’t cry. My wife would go to movies, she’d cry.

I would lovingly mock her for crying, you know? “Oh, you’re crying.” And I was at this prayer meeting 20 years ago, about little Pentecostal ladies.

Listen, if you don’t want your world to change and you want to maintain the status quo, don’t go to prayer meetings with little Pentecostal ladies. It’s the most dangerous thing you can do.

So, I’m at this prayer meeting with these little Pentecostal ladies. I said, “I never cry, and I’m proud. Don’t worry, ladies, you have a strong pastor.” They did not see it as strength.

They saw it as deep brokenness in my life. And they looked at me and said, “We’ll fix that.” And they were on me like a cat. Thank you. They were on me. Their hands were on me. And they were praying prayers over me. I did not want them to pray.

“Oh, Heavenly Father, oh, Lord Jesus, hallelujah, we praise your name. God, we honor you, and we thank you, and give our dear pastor the gift of tears. Let tears flow from him freely. Let him cry.”

Let him get in touch with those deep feelings and those deep wells that he might know your deep comfort. Give him tears, Lord. Give him tears. And I don’t know if it was their prayers or just growing old. I’ve seen this in old men. We get weepy.

But about two years later, man, it just reversed. My wife’s been working 9-1-1. She’s become hard as a rock, that woman. She’s like, “I love it when the dogs bite the bad guys. That makes my night. Anybody stupid enough to run from a police dog ought to get bit.”

She loves to catch those bad guys. And I just like, you know, happy ending TV commercials. Oh, he called his mom. That was so sweet. Did you see that card? I love Hallmark. I’m embarrassed by it. I think I’ve cried. I think I’ve cried at every episode of The Chosen. Oh my gosh, especially the first one. Can you believe that?

When Mary’s out there, ready to kill herself and in agony, she’s got this little, she’s got this one verse as a child. She doesn’t go by her name, Mary, and nobody knows this verse that her father gave her. Jesus stops her from drinking. She walks out and he calls her by name. She’s, “How do you know my name? Who are you, strange man?” And then he quotes her Bible, “It’s gonna happen now.”

He quotes her Bible verse, and she’s just, she’s a mess, and he just comes to her and embraces her, and he sets her free, and it’s so, and I’m just watching that the first time I’ve watched that. Oh, oh, oh, it’s crying. And here’s what I’ve discovered these last couple of months. It’s good to cry.

And here’s what we do with our grief that’s wrong. There are four responses to grief, and the least intuitive one is the right one. Here’s the three wrong ones. We run away. These are unpleasant feelings. I don’t want them.

I’ll run away. You can’t run away from them. They chase you. They’re faster than you, and they will never leave you alone. Your whole life, they will chase you if you try to run away.

Lock them out. I will lock them out. I won’t think about it. I won’t deal with it. They’ll knock down that door. They’re strong little boogers, those little grief boogers. I’m not gonna call them demons because they’re not. Grief is strong.

Or you can do what I’ve done for years. We have a phrase for it, right? Cowboy up. You know what?

Life’s hard. Suck it up, buttercup. Get on with it. I pastored a whole generation of people that were, now I’m the old generation, but when I was the young generation, they were the old generation, my parents’ generation, the greatest generation. The reason they’re called the greatest generation is because in America, they were great at building things, they built a culture, they built a society, and they went through two incredibly hard periods of time. They were back-to-back. They went through the Great Depression and World War II, as children, as young men and women.

They endured those things back-to-back. And one of the mottos that got people through that was exactly that. You know what? We don’t have time to cry that the bank’s gonna foreclose on our property. We gotta get out and harvest this food so we can save our property.

Stop crying and get to work. We don’t have time to cry. The Nazis are trying to take over the world, all right? Pick up your gun and go fight the Nazis. Don’t cry. Go do it.

Now, listen, I believe in that.

I believe that there are times, you don’t have time to have a little pity party. You don’t have time to sit down and cry in your corner. All right?

We were talking about it earlier. You’re a mom or dad. You had a baby. The most happy day of your life. Oh, we had a baby. Oh, it’s great. And then three weeks later, is this thing never sleeps? They’re crying all the time. I will never sleep again. This is horrible.

Well, you know what? You can’t take it back. Be a mom, be a dad.

Take care of that child. Keep it alive. Love it, nurture it, raise it. Don’t quit. Suck it up, buttercup. You know the Manguses, right? Rob, Marine, Lori. I was gonna say crazy woman, but dear godly woman. Dear godly woman, Lori. Their first year in Nigeria was horrible. It was horrible. Everything that could go wrong, sickness, financial, betrayal, everything that could go wrong, did. Anybody but a Marine and a crazy woman would have come back. But they stuck it out.

And I… I asked Laurie one time, I said, ‘Well, how does your tender, good, marine husband help you during those difficult times? Did he understand? Did he comfort you?’ He said, ‘Oh, he did.’ So I looked in his eyes, said, ‘This is so hard, Rob. This is really hard. I cried.’ He looked at me with compassion and tenderness and said, ‘Suck it up, buttercup.’ There’s a time to do that. I’m not going to knock that. There’s a time. You just got to do it, right?

I understand from the movies, one of those times is when you’re playing baseball. No crying in baseball. I saw it. I saw it. No crying in baseball. But I’ll tell you, the book of Ecclesiastes says there’s a time to cry.

The whole Bible says there’s a time to cry. “your friend Lazarus is dead.” He even knew he was going to raise him from the dead. And he still wept at the pain of his friends and at his own pain because he’s fully human.

And there’s a time to get done what must get done.

But that time comes to an end. And there’s a time to fall into the arms of God and let all those feelings come to the surface and cry. And it’s scary. Grief feels like fear.

But here’s the discovery of the saints and the message of the Bible. When those waves come over you and you think you’re going to drown, you find surfer Jesus. That’s where you find him.

Because let me tell you something. You run away from the pain. You lock it out. You stare it down. You’re running away from Jesus. You’re locking Jesus out.

And you’re staring him down. He’s in the pain. That’s where you find it. Joseph wept. Jesus wept. David wept. Daniel wept. Paul wept.

Dear ones, we live in a wonderful creation and we have a glorious story, but we also are in the valley of woe. Life is hard. It’s painful. “Suck it up, buttercup,” doesn’t do the full trick.

It gets you through for an hour or two, but if you’re going to live the rest of your life, if you don’t know how to cry, I will call my little Pentecostal lady, see if I can fly him up here and I’ll have him pray for you. It worked on me, it might work on you.

He wept. His brothers shrunk away. That’s what guilt will make you do. That’s what living not knowing you’re forgiven will make you do. They didn’t know at this point that Joseph had forgiven them.

Now, they just know they’re in the hands of the second most powerful man they know in the world, and he’s got good reason to kill him. He would be entirely justified. Guess what? That’s our standing before Christ. The prince of the universe, and he’s got good reason to say, “you don’t make the grade. You don’t make the cut. You’ve lied, you’ve stolen, you’ve cheated.”

Listen, there’s two things that are true about all of us. We’ve been sinned against. That’s worth grieving. Not everything bad that’s happened to you was your fault. That’s absolutely true.

Alright, you didn’t have it coming, alright. The girl who wore the miniskirt didn’t deserve rape. She wasn’t asking for it. She didn’t have that coming. The little kid who spilt his milk didn’t deserve his daddy’s beating because he had a bad day. Spilled milk doesn’t deserve, doesn’t equal bad beating.

A lot of stuff has happened to us that wasn’t our fault. For that, we’ll get to it in a minute in detail. There’s only one remedy. It’s forgiveness.

There’s another thing though. Joseph’s brothers, they did it. Let me tell you what’s true about you.

Not only has stuff happened to you that wasn’t your fault, you’ve been on the other side of that equation. You have hurt people. Alright? I like to think of myself as a good dad. I don’t want my kids to go to counseling and find out the truth.

Give me a call at three in the morning. “you jacked me up, man. What do you want me to try to do it again? Sorry.” I like to think of myself as a good dad. If you grade on the curve, I think I did alright.

Maybe not, but I think I did alright. Grade on the curve. If you mean I never sinned against my kids, if you mean I was never angry and reacted over the top when I shouldn’t have, if you ever meant I was callous or sarcastic when I should have been compassionate, if you ever meant I was lenient and lazy when I should have drawn boundaries, all those things are true.

I’ve sinned against my wife. I’ve sinned against my wife. I’ve said things that have been hurtful and enjoyed it. Until later.

Nah, you know, hey, I won that, didn’t I? Put her in her place. I’ve sinned against my neighbors. I’ve sinned against people I’ve pastored. Sometimes just by callous indifference, sometimes by ignorance. I don’t know that I’ve intentionally ever, you know, gone out of my way to hurt somebody.

But I’m sure there have been times when people have come to me looking for compassion, when I was too busy, too hurried, didn’t pay attention. I’m sure there are times people came to me for counsel and I gave them bad counsel.

I’m sure there have been times when I have dealt with people more out of my self-interest than interest for them. And if you’ve experienced any of those things or any things that I haven’t mentioned, all I can say is, would you please forgive me? And you can even tell me what they were so I can get better, all right? Don’t all tell me at once.

Now, here’s what happens when we sin and we know it, we get busted. We shrink away. Joseph’s brother’s like, ‘I’m Joseph, your brother.’ That’s not good news yet.

That’s not good news yet. Adam, Eve, where are you? I’m in the garden, looking for our daily walk. Why are you wearing itchy fig leaves and hiding behind those bushes? When you sin, you shrink away from relationships, right?

This is one reason dogs are holier than cats. At least dogs know this. When a dog gets in the garbage and you come home, they got what? We even have a name for it. They got that hang dog look, right?

When your cat gets in the garbage and you come home, they’re like this. Dog did it.

Just saying, we’re more like dogs. We can’t cover our guilt. We can’t cover our lie. We shrink away. And that’s why sin is so deadly. Doubly dangerous is it hurts other people, but it draws us away from God. We don’t want to be with God when we feel guilty, right? Think about it. You just did something rotten and the Lord’s calling you to have your daily quiet time. Those are the days you miss your quiet time. Those are the days you miss your quiet time. But the good news is that Joseph forgives.

The Bible doesn’t say he forgives, but his behavior shows that Joseph forgives. And Joseph forgiving is huge in this passage because it is in forgiveness that Joseph sees the bigger picture. “you meant it for evil, God used it for good.”

The whole point of this story is the providence of God, and I believe that when we exercise forgiveness, we step into the realization of this huge picture of what God is doing and has done, which is so much bigger than our private desire for vengeance, our petty little desire to get even.

God is about something so much bigger, and we can’t see it in bitterness. We can’t see it in revenge. We can only see it in forgiveness, and Joseph forgives his brothers. He sees the bigger picture. He says, “Look at what you did.” He doesn’t excuse them. He doesn’t say, “What you did was right.” He said, “What you did, God used for something far more redemptive.” This is the story of the Bible. This is the story of redemption.

God does not cause evil, but he uses it, and God’s goodness is more powerful than the evil that was done. This is the whole story of the gospel, right? The only person who should have never gone to a cross went to a cross. The greatest injustice, the greatest, he never did anything to deserve this. That happened to the one who never did anything to deserve that.

And not only did he go to the cross, but all the sins of the world balled up and laid upon him and crucified with him.

And he carried that weight, and he drank the dregs of every holocaust, every war, every violence, every conspiracy, every crooked political act, every act of cruelty, and every act of oppression. I didn’t say some, I said every. They’re all balled up, yours and mine. They’re all wrapped up. They’re laid on him on the cross, and it’s the worst injustice ever done. There’s no injustice ever done to you, ever done to your relatives, ever done to anybody worse than the injustice done to God himself on the cross.

And what happens is, he swallows it, he forgives, and God uses it for a greater purpose. God is more powerful than the evil that was done, and the testimony to that is Easter. Easter says God is more powerful than all the evil that’s ever been done on planet earth. Boom! He’s back up, and history is reversed, and everything starts moving forward. You can’t defeat God. You can’t defeat God. And we enter into that story.

We participate in that covenant story when our sins are forgiven by faith in Christ, and when we humbly and gratefully relinquish our rights to get even with those who hurt us, full of mercy and grace, we step into that huge river of God’s redemption. We just, we let it go. “you meant it for evil, but my God is so powerful he’s using it for good.” There’s nothing, no pain, no sin that God can’t turn around and use to protect his covenant and use his covenant and use your life. Here’s a guarantee.

God will use your life. Promise.

Now, I tell people all the time, don’t pray that God will use your life. Pray God will use your life as a vessel of honor, not a vessel of wrath. That’s an important distinction. That’s a good prayer.

Moses was a vessel of honor, Pharaoh was a vessel of wrath, right?

So, pick the honor, not the wrath. God will use your life, but he will use it most powerfully and most wonderfully in his big picture when we step into that grace and mercy that he extended us, and we extend it to others. You have a place in the puzzle.

Nothing’s more frustrating than, anybody do jigsaw puzzles, anybody like doing puzzles? Nothing’s more frustrating to me than having a 1,000 piece puzzle and only having 999 pieces.

I’m not OCD, but my OCD comes out then. It’s like, no, I’ve worked so hard, and again, it’s the cat. Yeah, I knocked it off the table. It’s the cat.

All right, you’ve got a place. You’re a note in the symphony, and you’re an important note in the symphony. So step into that.

Alright, Joseph sends his brothers home and there is great news, there is life-changing news for Jacob. We talked about this in our men’s Bible study. We talked about this idea of, and many Christians, many Christians are this. Many Christians are faithful plotters.

What do I mean by a faithful plotter? Right foot in front of the left, left foot in front of the right. You get up in the morning, you slam down your coffee, or in my case, your Coke Zero, or maybe in some of your cases, something healthy. I don’t care, you slam something down, maybe just a glass of water. Yummy.

You slam that down, you get up, you face the day, you do your job, you love your family, you read your Bible, you say your prayers. Sunday comes around, you go to church, you worship with the community, you’re generous with your money, you give to the poor, you give to the church, you give to the mission of the church, and you’re just faithful. You’re just steady Eddie, man, you just come to church and you do your job.

And I want to tell you something. Nothing is a bigger blessing to have in the body of Christ than faithful plotters. I love faithful plotters, man. They are the heroes of the church, alright. I just love them.

You ask them to serve, and they’re like, “Oh yeah, I’ll do that,” and they do it. You never have to think twice about it. It’s going to get done. It’s good, you know, it’s great.

Then, you’ve got the people who just love God encounters, and they just love, alright, they just love revival, they love power, they love testimonies, they love miracles, they love healings, they love excitement. Those are the people I call the suddenlies. They love the suddenlies, oh baby, I love, and I’m a little bit of both. I was trained as a faithful plotter, but my blood is a suddenly, alright, I’m a suddenly person.

I was trained with a bunch of faithful plotters, so I know how to faithfully plot, and I’ve been a pastor, and I know how to appreciate faithful plotters. I love faithful plotters, alright, but there’s the suddenlies. But here’s the deal. The Bible is both. The Bible is both.

We were talking in our men’s Bible study about Joseph a little earlier. Years in jail, and what does he do in jail? He faithfully serves the warden. That’s a crummy job. He has no choice, but he does it well, and God’s favor is upon him.

But then, the cupbearer remembers. He’s brought before Pharaoh, and in one 24-hour period, he goes from a convict to the second most powerful person on the planet. Really, in some ways, the most powerful, because Pharaoh was just sitting around in the palace sunbathing, gave all the responsibility to Jacob. His world changed like that.

Joseph. Thank you, Karen. Joseph, like that. His world changed like that. Jacob’s world changed like that, too. Jacob was never really a faithful plotter. He was a faithful conniver. But one night, he had a wrestling match, and his life had a suddenly.

And the Bible is full of it. This is the story of the Bible. Abraham, Sarah, you’re going to have a baby. Yippee! 20 years later. I think he said he had a baby, but I don’t hear it too well now. 25 years, holding on to a promise.

Moses, you’re going to deliver my people. No thanks. I’m going to go hide in Egypt for 40 years. Nope. He sees a burning bush. Now he’s talking to the most powerful man in the world. Your life’s going to change in a day.

You thought you were a shepherd in Midian. Instead, you’re one of the world’s greatest deliverers. Changed in a day. David, taking care of the sheep. Hey, there’s a strange man here who he thinks is the prophet of God. He wants to talk to you. Hey, young sheep boy. You’re going to be king of Israel. Really? Yeah. It’s a lot like taking care of sheep. They’re just as stupid. It’s stupid.

All right, 30 years making chairs, tables, helping people fix their houses in Nazareth, a dusty nothing town in a conquered empire.

And you’re just a nothing, dusty man taking care of his mothers and all your little brothers and sisters, but you know something. See, he knew that there was going to be a suddenly. And in three years, the whole planet’s been transformed.

So if you’re an addictive adrenaline junkie suddenly person, here’s my word to you. Learn how to be a faithful plotter. A lot of your life’s going to be a faithful plotter.

All right. If you’re a faithful plotter, be on your tippy toes so you don’t miss the suddenly. So you don’t miss the God moment.

Because both are true, Jacob. I’m just hanging out, grown old, grieving the fact that one of my sons died and my other sons are down in Egypt, and they’re all a bunch of knuckleheads. The smartest one died. I still got Benjamin. I like him. He’s a spoiled youngest. The youngest is always spoiled, Sophia. The youngest is always spoiled. So just, you know, he’s just down. You know, I got Benjamin. Love him best. Then there’s a suddenly. Joseph’s alive. You’re lying to me. Joseph’s alive. We’re going down to Egypt. Everything’s changing in a day.

That’s our God. That’s our God. Don’t chase the suddenlys. But don’t miss them in your plotting. Okay. Got it. It’s my advice. All right.

Here we go. Relationships are restored by forgiveness and God’s mission goes forward by forgiveness. That’s the takeaway. Relationships are restored by forgiveness. There’s understanding, there’s communication, but all right, who we got here?

We got three on marriage here, three on marriage. Here you go. Advice, it’s free. All right, it’s free. It’s not free for your parents, they tithe, but it’s free for you. There you go.

Every good marriage, Peter, Sidney, Sophia, plan to get married someday, I don’t know. Every good marriage is made up of people who just fall head over heels in love and never have a problem in their life. Every good marriage is made up of two good forgivers. Every good marriage is made up of two good forgivers. So become one and make sure you marry one, which means somewhere in the courtship, screw up royally so they have to forgive you to find out if they can do it. Yeah, might as well get it done early.

Yeah, why go through two years when it’s the wrong guy? Test him early, all right? Yeah, just go to dinner with a booger hanging out of your nose, see if that works. All right, I don’t know where that came from, but there you go. All right, Lord, restore this sermon. Forgive me for that so this sermon can be restored.

The other thing is God’s mission goes forward. God’s mission goes forward when we forgive one another because we’re united, we’re one. We’re one and we do more together than we do apart.

And so, if somebody in the body of Christ has hurt you, which is inevitable if you’ve been to church for more than five minutes, forgive them. And if you’ve hurt somebody and you know about it, this is harder, this is sometimes harder than forgiving somebody. Go and ask them to forgive you. And if you know you hurt them and they hurt you worse and you’re waiting for them to ask for forgiveness first, you humble yourself and go ask for forgiveness first.

And then, if they don’t admit to their part of the problem, don’t rescind your forgiveness. I forgave them, but they didn’t apologize for what they did. Good. Greater honor, glory, and reward is yours, and you extended the kingdom even further than you thought when you did that.

You want to be used mightily for God’s goodness, for God’s power? I’ll tell you, somebody who was used mightily for God’s power was St. Patrick. He wasn’t Irish, he was British. For years, I thought I was Irish. I did my DNA, I’m Scottish and British. Irish is third.

It’s like, really? So hey, I didn’t like the idea at first, but now I’m like, I’m St. Patrick. I’m a Brit who’s an Irish, who’s a counterfeit Irishman.

So, he had, I don’t know if you know this, we all know, most of us know the story of his first great act of forgiveness, that he forgave the Irish who kidnapped him as a boy and enslaved him. And he went back to the Irish in love to evangelize them, even though they were his tormentors in the early part of his life.

But many of us don’t know the second part of the story. In the second half of Patrick’s ministry in Ireland, he built up a well-beloved team of Irish converts and followers who began to follow him and minister with him.

And he had this team, and they were a family, and he loved this team, and they were younger than him. They were a bunch of young people that he was discipling.

And one night, he was out doing his thing, and he came back to his camp, and the men were murdered, and the women were kidnapped by who else than Irish pirates, the original culprits. You know what Patrick did? He grieved. And he got mad. And he turned, he went to God and said, “I quit. It’s too hard. Why did you send me here?” A little bit like Job. “Why did you send me here to evangelize these barbaric people?” Of course, the people he loved were part of those barbaric people too.

Why did you set me up for this pain? And he met God in the tears. And God said, “Don’t quit. There’s more for you to save.” And he didn’t quit.

And as best we know, Ireland is one of the few cases, or maybe the only case, where a whole nation, a whole nation, was transformed, not in centuries, but in a generation. Irish went from almost entirely pagan to entirely Christian in about a generation and a half.

Because forgiveness, powerful forgiveness, extends the kingdom of God.

If you want to know about forgiveness, here’s the table of forgiveness. My blood and my body for the forgiveness of the 8 billion people that are going to be on the planet 2,000 years from now. And all the billions and millions that lived before then. And who knows how many billions and millions will live after. And I’ll drink it all. And I’ll take it all. And I’ll bury it so that I can have my forever family. So I can have my prize. And his prize, dear ones, is you.

I met Dean Braxton this week.

Dean and I did a funeral together. And Dean came out from Virginia to do the funeral for one of his children. Of his dear friends, Randy Barnett, who I knew lightly. But Randy didn’t have a home church, and his family reached out to the firehouse church and said, “Randy liked you, Kevin.” I met him a few times, prayed with him. But I wasn’t his pastor. I think he came to church once or twice five years ago. It’s amazing how many people do that, though.

They go to your church once or twice, and you meet them in the coffee shop. ‘Oh, here’s Kevin. He’s my pastor.’ And I’m like, really? I think I’d see you at church if I was your pastor. I’m just thinking that would be a part of the deal.

So when I pastored a big church, I was amused by it. Now that I pastor a small church, I’m annoyed by it. It’s like, get your butt in church if I’m your pastor. Shut up.

So anyway, I guess I was Randy’s pastor. I’m not mad at him. He’s dead.

So, the family reached out and said, “Can we do the service at your church?” And I’m not a jerk. It’s like, absolutely. Extend grace and kindness to people suffering. I said, “Please, do it. What can we pay you?” Nothing. Just do it.

All right. So I’m going down to set up, right? But no, not Dean. Dean’s an evangelist, and he’s Randy’s friend. Real nice guy. He calls me and says, “Well, I want you involved in this.” So OK. Well, that bummed me out. Now I can’t wear a sweater. I’ve got to wear my suit.

But OK, I’ll do it. Do the greeting, do the opening prayer, do the closing prayer. All right, I’ll do it. Dean walks in. Something about him, it’s like, I don’t know. I haven’t met him, but real friendly guy. We’re setting up. We’re chatting it up. Instant rapport, nice guy.

He starts putting books on the table. They’re called In Heaven and What Happens When you Die. And it clicks. When I was studying near-death experiences, I saw Dean’s testimony on youTube. He’s an internet celebrity. And I said, “Dean, I was reading John Burke’s book, Imagine Heaven.”

“He goes, ‘Oh, yeah, me and John are friends. He’s interviewed me. I’ve talked to John. Yeah, about near-death experiences. I saw your testimony on youTube.’ He goes, ‘Yep, that was me.’

He had one hour and 45 minutes, all documented in his book. His heart stopped an hour and 45 minutes. He was dead, went to heaven, met Jesus.

And he said, ‘When I got there, I fell at his feet, and all I could say was, “you did this for me. Thank you for doing this for me. Thank you for doing this for me.”‘

Jesus invites you to this table. And when you receive this, why don’t you just say, “Thank you for doing this for me.” Be nourished by Christ’s redemptive act on your behalf. Let it fill your life with hope, security, and love as you go through this valley of woe.

Every Sunday you’re here, I wish I could promise you the hard times are over. If I outlive you, I’ll say that one day at your service. If you outlive me, you can say it about me. The hard times are over.

Don’t have to listen to Kevin.

I mean, Kevin’s in glory. All right, but tonight, thank you, Jesus. You did this for me.