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I'm a passionate writer - and therefore spend most of my time writing thriller novels. But I also live an interesting life in the nations. This blog is here for that aspect of my life - our life - I live with my wonderful wife and two daughters.

I believe in encouragement. I live for obedience. I believe in learning from our experiences, and this blog exists for both of those, and more.

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I was part of the leadership team in St Petersburg, Russia - which planted Hope Church in 2009.(www.hopechurchstpetersburg.com).
In March 2012 Hope Church sent my family to plant into Tallinn, the Capital of Estonia. I therefore lead this small but growing church plant team. Here is the website for Hope Tallinn (www.hopetallinn.ee)

For details on our journey here, read the series called Adventures of Faith which is linked for you on the right hand column, just below. That details our original journey to Russia and then onto Tallinn 4 years later.

Author for fiction novels - Cherry Picking (2012), The Last Prophet (2015), The Tablet (2015) and The Shadow Man (2016) are available on all major bookselling sites. Please visit: www.timheathbooks.com

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Joseph Series - Part 1 - The Dreamer

Dreams are important - they drive us on, inspire us, give us direction. Dreams change things. In preparation for a talk I recently did in St Petersburg, before I got to Joseph, I looked at another man famous for having a dream - Martin Luther King Jr. He had a dream to change America, from the country it was then, in the 1960s, to what it is like, in some regards, today.
His famous speech was the "I have a dream..." speech. He was killed at just 39 years old in 1968, but in 1964 had already become the youngest person to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. After his death he was to be awarded both the Presidential Medal of Freedom as well as the Congretional Gold Medal.

He died without seeing the forfilment of his dream - others were to walk in the good of it. But he did stand against the tide of opposition, stood in the gap of injustice and remained standing until he was illegally removed by a gunman's bullet.

At Hope Church here in Russia, we recently looked again at the Old Testament life of Nehemiah. He too was a man that had a dream - a city with its walls restored. His dream was also inspired by God and against much opposition saw the walls rebuilt in just 52 days - a miracle!

But as the title to this four part series suggests, my subject for the remainder of this entry is going to be a man I have always respected and felt connected to - the life of another Old Testament character - Joseph.

He was a dreamer too - dreaming actual dreams and then also able to interpret those dreams for himself and others. In Genesis we get a wonderful account of this man, what happens to him, and how God works through those things to bring about His plans and purposes for Joseph. It is hugely encouraging. So the four sections are The Dreamer, then The Hard Worker, Sin, Temptation & it's Accusing Nature and finally Humility.

This entry will now focus on the first of these sections - the dreamer.

We pick up his story in Genesis 37, which I have pasted below to remind you of the account;

Gen 37:2-11;

Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. 4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, "Listen to this dream I had: 7 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."

8 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.

9 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."

10 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?" 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Now we'll jump a few verses to the end on verse 17, where Joseph has been sent by his father to find his brothers, out somewhere with the animals;

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

19 "Here comes that dreamer!" they said to each other. 20 "Come now, let's kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we'll see what comes of his dreams."

21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. "Let's not take his life," he said. 22 "Don't shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don't lay a hand on him." Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the richly ornamented robe he was wearing-24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, "What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood." His brothers agreed.

28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, "The boy isn't there! Where can I turn now?"

31 Then they got Joseph's robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornamented robe back to their father and said, "We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son's robe."

33 He recognized it and said, "It is my son's robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces."

34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. "No," he said, "in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son." So his father wept for him.

36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard.

I've heard many times people using the opening verses of this, talking quite badly about Joseph, giving him a bad account for how he opens his mouth and just blurts out what ever he is thinking. It's as if they assume he is bragging to his brothers, as if saying "Look how special I am...."

I don't think this is entirely fair or true. Yes, he was young (it tells us he was 17 at the start), so maybe there is an element of his youth blinding him to his brothers feelings. Hate is very often hidden though, so their harsh words aside, there was no way for this young Joseph to actually know his brothers true feelings towards him.

But holding this thought, what do we know of the character of this young man, both at this point and from what follows in the latter chapters of Genesis. Well, it is clear to me that Joseph was at least honest, pure, one who flees sin, hard working, he hears from God, he is used by God, he's a great leader and he's very forgiving.

And the brothers? Using the same process, what do we know of them? They are full of hate, have unkind words to say, they even hated all the more, they were mocking, jealous, murderous, plotting evil, lying, greedy and deceptive.

Next to each other, the characteristics of both Joseph and his brothers do not match up; Joseph wins hands down! Given this, the 'bad' account we see in verse two, from which the brothers hated Joseph, we see that what he pointed out to his father about the way they were working with the animals would have been correct. They probably were working badly....therefore their hate was unfounded, based on the fact that their own short comings had been noticed.

Coming back to the story, when you look at what has happened to Joseph, at the hands of his own brothers, it might lead you to ask the following questions;

Did God abandon him to his dream? As if to say, having revealed something to Joseph, did God stand back and take His hands off the matter?

Or had Joseph miss-heard? Maybe he just got it wrong?

Or maybe he should just never had shared his dream to anyone, especially his family?

My starting point to answer these questions is to remember in the Bible it states correctly that God works all things for good, for those that love him. And straight away in the story, even at the end of chapter 37 shown above, we get a glimpse of God already at work, in the way Joseph is sold to Potiphar. Not only is he one of Pharaohs officials, he's also the Captain of the Guard! Talk about rubbing shoulders with people of influence!!

Even before this moment, we see God at work, first through the actions of Reuben wanting to spare his life. Clearly if Joseph had been killed by them (imagining that this option was even possible!) then there would have been no forfillment to his dream. We then see that even through the greed of Judah, God is about to work to bring about the plans He has for Joseph. Because it was their greed at wanting to get something from their brothers downfall that led them to sell him to the passing merchants.

God is always at work and able to forfil the dreams he has for us! Amen

Someone once said "Every great dream begins with a great dreamer", but I feel the Bible says it better when in Ephesians 3:20 you are encouraged that God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine.

As we've seen, Martin Luther King Jr had dreams and God was in them and brought them to be. History has shown us such greats as Vivaldi, Bach, Handel and Da Vinci, who all had great dreams and produced amazing things from them. Yet these last four did things from just human minds.

I personally have dreams, things I know God has said to me but I am yet to see. It's these dreams and promises that keep me pressing on, pressing forward to the day that I see God outworking these things unto completion, all the time knowing that the process has long been started by Him already. And I believe every Christian can have their own promises, their own dreams from God.

The Prophet Joel, which is also requoted in the book of Acts, says "I will pour out my Spirit..." and this we are told will lead to prophecy, visions and dreaming dreams! We are in this time. The Spirit has been poured out on all people and its time to dream those dreams.

With God, all things really are possible, if we submit our plans to his, our ways to his ways, our desires to his, our dreams to his. If we make his dream, ours!

Do you have dreams? Do you have dreams that are personally yours? Do you have dreams for your local church, your city, or your nation? I believe we can each have our own dreams, as well as the corporate ones that include us all. But if we only have corporate ones, God can become less personal, and we just are one of the crowd, hidden behind what covers a much bigger group, safe in our salvation but no danger to the enemy as the corporate dream doesn't take root into our own lives, effecting them as a result. Don't hear me wrong - I do believe we need corporate promises, its just my experience is that if this is all we have, the individual needs to really work at seeing how they can outwork that promise within their own life, thus buying into it, otherwise they tend to just hide behind the fact that God has said something to their church, but nothing changes in their lives, so no fruit results from that word.

Are you a dreamer like Joseph? Maybe you've physically had dreams like he did - maybe you want to? It's been my prayer these last two months that I would have dreams like he did.

Or maybe you feel like your dreams are attacked & shot at like Martin Luther King Jr or Nehemiah? You've shared them to the 'wrong' people and instead of hearing encouragement, you were given harsh words.

Maybe you don't yet have any dreams? To this it just means God has a blank canvas ready to outwork a masterpiece on.

Lord I pray that there would be many dreamers out there - not day dreamers or people that only dream for personal gain, but people who hear you in their hearts. May You put into these people your dreams, and may You breathe life into these dreams. For anyone reading this who has had their dreams attacked and laughed at, please help them to forgive and forget those words, and to once again pick up the dreams you placed in them and give them the encouragement to see these dreams come to reality.

Thank you Lord for all that we can learn from Joseph. Help me to learn so much more from what follows in this series. Amen.