January 26

Genesis 40:14 (NIV) 14But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.

41:1 (NIV) 1When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile,

Joseph had dreams from God that predicted his brothers and parents would bow down to him. The dreams and his father's favoritism caused his brothers to envy him. The brothers sold their 17-year-old brother to slave traders. They concocted a deceptive story for their father saying that a wild animal had killed him. Meanwhile, in Egypt, Joseph was elevated to the chief servant over the household of his first master. When the master's wife wanted him sexually, he would not betray God or his master by yielding to her. Her false accusation landed him in prison.

In time, he rose to second in charge of the prison. The Pharaoh's butler and baker were confined there, and he interpreted their dreams. The butler's dream meant that he would be reinstated, and so, Joseph uttered the above Scripture. But when the butler was restored, he forgot his vow to tell Pharaoh about this young man, now 28 years of age. He had served faithfully for years as a slave and for more years in prison. We never read one word of complaint. Just when there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, the butler forgot while Joseph remained in the royal prison.

The darkest hour is just before the dawn. I don't think he ever doubted the God given dreams, but it sure must have seemed hopeless at times. After these 14 years of servitude, anyone would be discouraged. Yet, this was God's college for kings. In one day, he went from being a servant of the jailer to the second highest position in all of Egypt, the greatest nation in the world.

Encouragement: Don't give up on the vision and promises of God. He will bring them to pass in His time and His way. God's ways are vastly different from man's ways.

January 26

Matthew 3:10-12 (NIV) 10The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming as a time of separating the good from the bad. His illustrations included cutting down the trees that don't bear fruit, and separating the grain from the chaff. Jesus will use the same illustration in John 15 when he describes burning the fruitless branches. What is a fruitless tree? What is chaff? Here are two possible interpretations.

There are those lives that will never allow Jesus entrance. Their every action and deed is ultimately selfish. Even those that appear to be gracious have some self-seeking motivation behind them. There is nothing of eternal value to that life. Hell is the gathering of the selfish.

We could also say that there are branches and chaff in the life of every believer. These are areas in which the life giving sap of the Holy Spirit does not flow. It comes with being a fallen creature, but it only remains because we allow it to. A gardener prunes the branches that have died and those that will bear no fruit. They rob the rest of the tree of sunlight and nutrients but produce nothing in return. Jesus has come to clean up our life. He brings the life giving sap of the Spirit. He also brings a fire that burns away that which robs our life of fruitfulness. The end product of us giving Him the freedom to work in our lives is fruit that remains. That means treasure in heaven, substance of eternal value.

Consider: Are you a fruit-bearing tree? If so, which branches need pruning? Are there some fruitless ones that are keeping you from being more productive for the Kingdom of God?