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Roxane B. Salonen, SheSays contributor, Published February 08 2013

Power Lunch devotionals pack a positive spiritual punch

Though Tracy Holwagner, of Fargo, loves the delicious salads, soups and desserts offered monthly at the non-denominational Power Lunch sessions hosted by Bethel Church, the most edifying part of the gatherings, she said, are the brief talks given by a local pastor.

She still remembers when the Rev. Matthew St. John spoke on integrity a while back.

“I remember him saying that integrity will always be a contrast to the world and the things around you, that it just forces you not to be so selfish, to do the right thing, but that it also can be costly in your life,” she said. “He reminded us that (integrity) moves us away from self-destruction and is one of the most important virtues to have.”

Through her business as a life coach, she was able to directly apply that lesson by sharing it with some of her clients.

St. John provides the Power Lunch talk about two-thirds of the time. In other instances, outside pastors come in to keep things from growing stale, he said.

At last month’s gathering, St. John drew from Genesis to extract a lesson on forgiveness, using the story of Joseph and his brothers to illustrate.

“I want to take a few moments to talk about something close to us – the power and necessity of forgiveness,” he began. “If you’re like me, you’ve had plenty of opportunity to be the recipient of forgiveness, because you’ve hurt somebody or done something that has created the need for you to be the recipient of grace.”

“Forgiveness can liberate your soul,” he continued, offering a summary of the life of Joseph, the youngest of Jacob’s 12 sons, and how his jealous brothers sold him into a life of slavery, not knowing he later would become one of the most powerful people in Egypt.

When a famine came to the area of Joseph’s origins year later, St. John reminded, his brothers, desperate for food, traveled to Egypt to beg for food. While there, they recognized their younger brother.

“If you take time to read the epic events of Genesis, 37 through 50, you may come to a place where tears are in your eyes,” St. John said. “This is some of the most gripping human drama in the Bible. It says that when Joseph sees his brothers he runs out of the room and weeps, collects himself, then goes back in (to talk to them).”

Revenge arises as a possibility, according to St. John.

“Have any of you in a position of authority ever had designs to get revenge on someone?” he asked. “The wound is so deep because a co-worker dissed you in front of the rest of the crew, or the boss didn’t give you the promotion or raise, or board members turned on you because they didn’t agree with your vision. Or maybe it’s something at home – a child that rebels, a husband that leaves or the parent that is cruel.”

Indeed, he said, “Joseph had every reason to leverage all of his power and authority and destroy his brothers.” But instead, he said to them, as they begged for mercy for good treatment, “‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God. I will provide for you and your little ones. Joseph comforted them and spoke kindly to them.’”

“Can you imagine having that sort of attitude with someone who’s hurt you?” St. John asked. “Telling them not to be afraid? That it’s all OK, God’s bigger than this, I’m going to take care of you, I’ll be generous to you and I’ll speak kindly to you? Can you match that?”

As a wrap-up, St. John said Joseph understood, first, that it’s God’s job to avenge the things that are wrong in life, not ours. “He had every reason to destroy these guys, humanly speaking … but decided instead, ‘I’ll let the Lord take care of that.’ ”

He added that Joseph also understood that God can use the most painful things in our lives and turn them for good.

“Whoever thought this Hebrew slave would rise up and become the prime minister of a nation, whose organizational skills and insight would allow that nation to feed a starving world?” he posed.

“If Joseph hadn’t been there, that kind of provision might not have been there,” St. John concluded, “but God can use the most painful things in your life for good, perhaps to make you and me a better person as we lean into him and trust him through the tough stuff.”

Roxane B. Salonen is a SheSays contributor. She can be reached at rbsalonen@cableone.net.