This One is for Christmas

This Christmas I decided to look a bit into the different Christmas accounts in the Gospels and rediscover the miracle of the baby Jesus. From what I learned, the family of Jesus tells us so much of who God is. For example, I already did a post some time ago about the women listed in the genealogy of Jesus, but again looking at his less than perfect relatives, we recognize that he came from a godly  lineage, although their actions at times proved otherwise, yet redemption undeniably dripped heavily throughout their stories. Therefore, we shouldn’t get hung up on the skeletons and embarrassment in Jesus’ genealogy, but rather the allowance of God’s work in their lives; they may not have started well and had some rough patched in the middle, but they ended in good standing.

When we consider and apply this for our lives, we must remember that for God to work in our lives, we can’t just do what we want and think He will bless us. To receive the blessings and miracles God wants for us, we must humble ourselves and have a surrendered life to Him; he blesses our obedience and promises to exalt us as we live in humility.

Thus, it only makes sense to consider who God chose to be the earthly parents of His Only Son. Yes, God can make somebodies out of nobodies, but it’s those things that are done when no one else is looking that make the difference. To protect His Son, he had to be able to trust the woman who would be his mother and the man who would be his father. Most of us hear of the purity of Mary, which we can see in her tone and her interaction with the angel when she learned she was pregnant with the Son of God. Though ordinary, Mary was deemed worthy to birth the Christ child. Thus, it raises the question of who was considered worthy to be the head of the home in which Jesus would live, so we must look closer at the character of Joseph, Mary’s husband, Jesus’ earthly father.

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In none of the Gospels do we find any words spoken by Joseph, and some say that Joseph died before Jesus’ ministry. Nonetheless, the account of Joseph in Luke tells us all we need to know. First of all, God demonstrated his intent for the family structure being that the angel appeared to Joseph, the head of the home, telling him to keep his family together and not divorce his wife, then to leave for Egypt, and then to return home. Subsequently, not once did he ask questions or second guess, but he trusted and revered the Lord enough to do immediately as he was mandated.

Though it applies to both men and women, I think it speaks more to women. People often diminish all of what marriage is and the impact it has on one’s life as a whole, for one reason or another. Therefore, I can’t help but wonder if there were other worthy women to have carried the Christ-child but their husbands could not be trusted. How loudly does that speak to us? We have to be very selective as to who we choose to lead us, cover us, and protect what the Lord is birthing and growing inside of us. If we entertain the wrong man, get impatient, and or marry too fast or defile ourselves with someone who is not our husband, we run the chance of killing the baby inside of us, or at least delaying the miracle he has for us. If Mary’s husband was disobedient or didn’t move immediately after the angel appeared to him the second time, then who knows if they would have made it out of Bethlehem alive. And if Jesus died as a baby…

On the other hand, I can’t help but consider why we were not given more interaction with Joseph, or at least his words. My only and immediate thought is that the Author did not want to overshadow who Jesus’ Father really was, the Living God of the universe. Luke expresses his manhood and Mark tells of his servanthood, but in the same manner, Matthew expresses him as the King and John deems him as God in human form.

During Christmas, we celebrate his arrival as the foretold Messiah, but we mustn’t forget the awesomeness that this tiny baby is the soon coming King, that he is God. It’s truly the miracle of Christmas, all of eternity of heaven and earth came consumed as a tiny baby, brought in by the most ordinary but worthy man and woman of God. As we strive to be ourselves for a purpose, we must ask if the Lord would find even our ordinary, our surrendered life, to be worthy to bring forth his miracles to change history.

 

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Imperfectly Perfect

He was a little snot, you may even say an arrogant snot. When we are first introduced to Joseph we see how the greater love he received from his father put him a bad place with his brothers, so much in so that within the first 11 verses there is a progressive hatred from his brothers. If I were Joseph I would not have worn the coat and would have tried anything to please my brothers, and I definitely would not have bragged or shared my dreams with them that I knew would make them salty, let alone be a tattletale.

At the age of 17 we pick up the story of who would become one of the greatest Biblical heroes. However, before we see the transformed life of snotty teenager, we also learn see the work of God in one of his elder brothers, so much in so that he initiated the bloodline of the Messiah, Judah. It is no secret that all the brothers of Joseph hated him, however, two of them, Reuben and Judah, were empathetic, especially toward their father, for it was Reuben who stopped the brothers from killing him and it was Judah who stopped them a second time and suggested they sell him as a slave. Even though he hated his brother, he knew it was wrong to kill him and put Joseph in the place where God needed him to be to elevate him. It is because of this that I believe the Lord chose to usher in His Son through his bloodline. Even in Judah’s imperfections, he came to a place of humility and tried to do what was right, not only with Joseph but with Tamar as well. Back to Joseph.

Just like his brother, Joseph had to be humbled in order to be ready for the calling God had on his life, which took 13 years. From being the favored son to being a slave, accused of sexual assault and jailed, Joseph became a man who trusted the Lord and did well in whatever work he was in while he was in Egypt. His story reminds us that even when we find ourselves in the most unfavorable situations that God orchestrates, we must do them honorably to our best ability, because we do it unto the Lord and there we will find favor with both man and God.

Judah was jealous and hated his brother and had enough drama with his sons’ indiscretions, but it is the tribe of Judah that brought forth Christ. Joseph was a snotty spoiled teenager, but God used him to rule a nation and establish the beginning of a people we know as Jews. They were both imperfect, but God still used them for His glory. This is so pertinent for us, because we all have vices and character flaws that cause others to look over us, but God is famous for taking the imperfect to fulfill His perfect plan. Continue to live and be you for a purpose with your imperfections, and allow God to transform you and take you higher than you ever imagined. Remember this, if only God knows your name, that is all that really matters and it won’t be long before the rest of the world knows your name.

High and Low

It’s always funny how I get overly familiar with a Bible story, then for whatever reason I go back and read it, only to find I missed so much and I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did. Prime example, the transfiguration. Previously, I had just thought the story captured in Scripture was Jesus and his special disciples going up a mountain, seeing the glory, then the story closes with a time gap to the next section (depending on translation) and another story begins. Boy was I wrong!! I was encouraged to read this account in Mark 9 after reading a few devotionals from Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest,” and I was intrigued by all I missed.

One of the first things I noticed is the fear of the disciples in the presence of Christ, up and down the mountain. It made me wonder if the fear of the Lord is merely reverence, actual fear, or a mixture of both. When I considered their moments of fear, it was definitely not a matter of reverence, but they were afraid because they didn’t know what to do or say or the response of Jesus to their actions. I think for us, it is necessary that we have a healthy balance of reverence for the Lord along with fear for His immensity. He is far above human understanding and a fear of His judgment and limitless incredible power and what He may do should inspire us to live as close to the cross as we can. Of course, as we learn the character of God that level of fear is balanced out because of His overabundant grace and overwhelming love.

The funny thing about this story is that in their fear, we see how started saying dumb stuff, for God the Father straightened Him out real quick so he couldn’t act his out, as did Jesus when he handled the dispute of the disciples who were totally missing the point of the ministry they had just been apart of and knew that they were wrong, which is why they didn’t respond to Jesus when he asked them. Without exhausting it, in our fear, we shouldn’t react, but we should instead consider Jesus and his glory so that we don’t mistake what God wants to say to us, show us, or do for us.

There really is so much in this account that I could present here, but a blog is not a book so I will refrain or just do a part two. Nevertheless, the major point that I gathered from the transfiguration story is the highs and lows of life; we can’t have one without the other. What struck me about the story is not their incredible experience on the mountain, but their immediate journey back down the mountain and into regular life.

As Chambers reflected, when we experience the high mountain-top experiences, we naturally want to stay there, but the mountain was created to prepare us for the valleys of life; we can’t stay there forever. As soon as they saw Elijah and Moses and were scolded by the Father, the experience was over, and back down the mountain they went; Jesus actually went ahead of them. If we are supposed to follow Christ, we must recognize the purpose and time necessary for the mountain.

Furthermore, there is a misconception that we leave the presence of God on the mountain, but just as Jesus went before them and walked with them down the mountain and back to reality, he will walk with us; His presence will never leave us. Just as we see when Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days fasting, right after his in depth encounter with God it was time to put what he learned to practice. For after his fast, the Devil tempted him, and immediately after their return from the high mountain, Jesus had to face problems in ministry with the other disciples.

There will be more lows in life than highs, and low doesn’t necessarily mean bad, but rather the normal every day things of life. The highs are those intense encounters we have in the presence of God, and I must admit that I couldn’t handle it if it happened every day, which is why those mountain highs last for just a weekend or a short time, as we see in Mark 9, where the majority of this chapter is not concerning the transfiguration, but what happened when they came back down. Likewise, if Jesus had stayed or if they had returned later, then that boy would not have been delivered and the disciples would have missed critical teachings and experience of the work of the Son if they would have lingered on the mountain.

As we live a life a purpose, it has to be guided and influenced by the times we spend with God on the mountain, but we can’t be stingy with what we gain there, rather, we must take those blessings and lessons and share it with others, otherwise it becomes a waste and the beauty of God can’t be share with others, encouraging them to seek the presence of God. We have a responsibility be ourselves for a purpose in lows, prepared in the highs of His presence.

A Command that Doesn’t Make Sense

I am doing character studies in Scripture again and one common figure that has fascinated me is Elijah. He is known to be the one of two persons never to die, and reading his story and how the Lord used him, it is clear as to why he was graced as such. Nevertheless, he was a real person with real emotions that at one point made him suicidal. Within the stories centered around this man of God, we are introduced to a widow, whose name was not provided and all we know is that she had a son.

Reading this story, which I have read or heard preached several times, I was struck when God told Elijah that He had already commanded the woman to feed him. First of all, the fact that we get this piece of the character of God, we see how He truly does value women. Often times, people consider Judaism or stigmatize the place of women in the Old Testament and the corresponding culture, but this excerpt is one of many where we see God’s consideration of and revelation to women. So awesome. Still, the focus is on the command itself.

God had called this woman to minister to His prophet, Elijah, by giving him food. Fair enough, but the only problem was that she had none to give. So now what??

Being a widow in that time, it is no surprise that she was struggling, and the pressure on her was much greater considering that she had a son to take care of as well, so the last thing that she needed was God to tell her to give away what she really didn’t have to give. Yet, she did have something to give. Yes, it was barely enough just for her and her son and starvation was looking like a sure thing; she didn’t see the value in what she had, but made the commitment to obey God, though she didn’t know how. Isn’t that just like us??

God often commands us to do the impossible, for when we look around and consider what we have at our immediate disposal, we often think we misheard God or just fall into disobedience. I heard at a conference, “whatever the need, you have the seed to produce it,” and oh how this widow’s obedience reflects this principle. As we read the rest of the story, we see first that she was willing to obey, but she was just unsure how, and that is completely fine, since it will often lead us into unknown and scary situations, which is why Elijah told her not to be afraid and to do first what God commanded her to do before doing what she thought was necessary, like feeding her son. Now do I think that she was immediately assured to the fact of no fear or apprehension? Maybe not, but Elijah encouraged her that by sowing that seed, the Lord would bless her for the years to come during the famine. Her seed would meet her need. She was desperate, struggling, and preparing to die, but God met her where she was, giving her the opportunity to trust God with literally all that she had. And when you really think about it, she really had nothing to lose if she was going to die anyway.

In our moments of desperation, God still calls us to bless others in various ways, we must never forget that, because the earth and its fullness belongs to Him. As we see, the blessing of obedience far outweighs the cost of obedience.

As we continue to be ourselves and live our lives on purpose, we must never get so consumed with what we have that we hoard the little bit. God is a God of multiplication and whenever we sow those seeds and live in even the smallest acts of obedience, following the commands that don’t make sense or appear to magnify the struggle we are in, rather than rescue us, He promises to prove Himself, His power, His provision, and His faithfulness.  All of this is the beauty of the journey, because the biggest moves of God in our lives are in those random situations that can’t be logically processed as possible or effective; every mandate has a purpose, whether you recognize it immediately or not. So I have one question, do you trust Him?

Puzzle Reformed and Expanded

It’s amazing how we think we know what God wants for us and where He is leading us, but as I have been learning, the deeper you go, the Lord will fill in the in-between. Needless the say, the vision is still the same or rather the end result, but it has expanded. The Lord has given me new passions, developed others, and revived pasts interest or ideas, so that now I have no idea how it will all come together. I thought I had all the pieces to the puzzle picture that my calling would create, but I was missing quite a few, and I am still unsure as we whether or not I have all the pieces or if there is more that aren’t in my puzzle box yet.Image result for random puzzle pieces

I am still growing, still learning, still discovering my gifts and who I am. The Lord is doing the same for you. The closer you become to your Creator the more you learn you who are and who were created to be. It’s truly a humbling thing, when the Lord shows you even the smallest of what He has in store for your life and how He wants to use you. I often question if I am worthy enough to be used as such, but one thing for certain, I look forward to what is in store. On the other hand, I am scared out of my mind, because with great power comes great responsibility and I am certain that the Enemy will go toe-to-toe with me to get me off track or force me to forfeit God’s plan for my life.

My verse for the year has become Luke 12:48, which tells me that because I have been given much, much will be required of me. More than ever, I am focused on my spiritual compatibility for the work ahead, that is prayer, studying Scripture, and operating and depending on the Holy Spirit. This journey has become even more incredible and I am so excited about what the Lord is doing, but not only in my life but in your life as well. I am more than certain that there are so many who the Lord is quietly bringing out of the shadows, whom He will vindicate, restore, and show off to the world.

Now more than ever, there is such a need for the people of God to access and function in the power of the God through the Holy Spirit. The devil is busy and is trying to bring as many people to Hell with him as he can, so we need to fight with all that is within us without fear truly believing that greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. It’s time for us to step up our game and truly fight for the souls of the lost, by go deeper and being intentional about what the Lord has created each of us to do.

You may think that what God has in store for you is no big deal or is less important or significant than others’. But I am writing this to let you know that the more you trust Him, the more you believe in Him, the more you abandon and surrender your will to His, the more you will realize how incredibly needed you are. Nevertheless, you may think you know everything the Lord wants to do or you may still be trying to understand how all the pieces of the puzzle of your life will come together or even if you have all the pieces necessary for you to fulfill your purpose or even make sense of it. I am a witness that if you keep your focus on God, you may get surprises and be thrown curve balls that will make you question everything you thought, trust the Spirit that is within you that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be and that He knows your future and will not lead you the wrong way.

The completed puzzle of my own life has more details and has more pieces that at this point in my life I am honest enough to say I don’t know how or when they will all fit together, and I often get overwhelmed trying to make sense of things that I have put on hold and or understand what I need to do or focus on next, but simply put, I trust God and find myself praying things that scare me. At some point it will all come together in such an awesome way that only God can get the glory. I beg you to believe the same for your life. One day it will all make sense.