“And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."
And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.”
Matthew 1:19-21, 24-25 NASB
What a nightmare! Yesterday Joseph was working hard in the planning stages of a new chapter of his life. Preparing for a new wife and children soon to come. Then the next day, Joseph's whole world would be altered, she's pregnant. Oh no! Who could have done this to her, how would he handle this? He loved her, but she was now used and the world would disown her, and this was not an easy thing to overcome. He had no choice but to let her go, but he loved her, and so he would do what a husband would do, he would do was a loving person would do, he would put together a plan to get her off the radar and cared for until this baby was born. He sound try to shelter her from the sneers and gossip of the world, but he could not be a part of this terrible scenario. His oldest son could not be the offspring of someone else. It just was not possible for him to overcome, but he loved Mary. What a nightmare! He finally is able to sleep when an angel appears to him in a dream and tells him what was really going on, Joseph must have awakened from that dream and though, "Wow, this is really complicated."
Gods work is complicated, especially when He decides to use our ways and means to accomplish something. But the reality is the the only way that we can separate what God does from what we think is life's fortune is for God to do something complicated. I remember when I had moved to Florida, after a period of time I found myself and my wife with no job, 2500 miles from any relative, at Christmastime. It was a nightmare. No job in sight, worried about everything, I was crying out to God for help, when on Christmas Morning something happened that was so spectacular. Laundry baskets of presents were left on our doorstep, with the names of our children on the packages. I could not believe what I saw, it was one of the most amazing moments of my life and deep inside of my heart God reminded Mehta He would take care of my family, just be obedient to me. It was a very simple moment that attended to a very complicated reality for me at the time, but it could have only been God that implemented it through the hearts and lives of others.
Following that dream, Joseph obeys God, and the witnesses what must have been the most amazing set of circumstances any one father on earth has ever witnessed; angels, shepherds, wise men later, and a baby born in the strangest set of circumstances, come to save the world. His face was the face of God. This Christmas be reminded that God has you in His hand, no matter how complicated your life is and will keep you in His care if you will just trust Him. No one has an easy life, everyone faces comp,I acted issues and worries, let go and allow God to work for you so that you can see the face of God in the answers to the circumstances of your life.
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”
Philippians 3:20-21 NASB
It is not uncommon for a conversation to make its way to the question, "So where are you from?" It so a common theme among people who want to get to know each other to ask historical questions to try to gain understanding about a person. Often our own knowledge of a place helps us center that person into a sphere of understanding for us and it helps us place a level of value on that understanding. However the question can be aa tricky one.
I was born and raised in San Diego, California but I lived in Las Vegas NV. for 15 years and have now lived in Central Florida for almost the same amount of time. Each of those places can conjure up ideas, pictures, and opinions in people and so the question of, “Where are you from?" can be hard to answer sometimes. It is pretty hilarious to see the different reactions from people when you say you are from a certain place like Las Vegas, NV., since there can be so many mixed feelings about that place and so many different understandings about it.
The same held true when I have traveled internationally. Very few know the places where I have lived, but what they were interested in was my citizenship in the United States. Most people I met were infatuated with the ideas they had about the promises of the USA, and although I am aware of how hard it can be to live here, to witness the hardships of their lives elsewhere gave me a great sense of gratitude for my US citizenship. At the end of my trip, I got to go home there. It was a humbling idea at the time, especially in parts of the world where I witnessed abject poverty and realized how truly blessed I was to be from the US.
But Paul reminds us that our citizenship is actually eternal. It transcends where we have lived here on Earth and when we have known while we lived here. It is a citizenship that supersedes all other citizenships. It is our true home. Jesus being born is like a living letter from that home. He represents a world that always has been and always will be, He represents a world that is not inhibited by time and sin, He is from a place where everything is perfect and the reign of God is synonymous with the very existence of the world itself. We awaited that Savior to be sent here to redeem us and we now await the return of that same Savior to finish the fullness of the redemption that He began by being born and then suffering, dying, and rising again.
Our being and our doing, then, become symbiotically connected to His being and doing. So as we approach Christmas, let's be careful to remember that Christmas is not about merely a gift that was given to us for our redemption, but a gift that, when received, redeems us from our sins, and secures the reality of our citizenship in Heaven with our Savior. Their is a great mount of power in the arrival, but the power of the arrival is truly meted out in our reception of that arrival and the dedication of our lives to His being and doing. For we must always remember that in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations. -Matthew 1:17 (NASB)
Matthew Chapter 1 is an amazing Chapter to read at Christmas time. It is a record of the lineage of Jesus with the premise that Matthew wants to show that Christ is the Messiah who was promised, come as promised, to redeem God's people as promised. It is the articulation of God's provision of redemption against the reality of sin that plagues man at the deepest of levels. It is inescapable and it is inevitable upon simply being born. Man cannot reconcile his sin, he cannot forgive himself or earn forgiveness, but God, who owes man nothing in return for his sin except death and an eternal sentence of separation from God, provides a pathway of redemption through a baby being born in a manger in a little town on a quiet night.
But that story is told elsewhere in scripture as well, however Matthew uncovers something very different than the writers of the other Gospels. He shows the journey of man that God uses to bring this baby into the world. Now one would think that God coming into the world would prove a lineage of perfect people, but Matthew reveals quite a different story. Jesus' lineage includes Kings and queens, friends of God and great men and women of faith, but it also includes prostitutes, murderers, and adulterers. Simple folks and complicated ones, but all of them have one thing in common, the need of redemption and they were all a part of God's chosen people to bring about His ultimate act of love.
The reality is that God used messy people to bring about redemption. Not that they could redeem anyone because they could not, but He used them to hear the call to come back to God for redemption and those that would follow that call would be used to make a difference for eternity. Matthew's lineage shows that God is purposed and calculated. It shows His love in the details of His plan and the people that He used to bring the baby into the world. And then when the time was right, and God could no longer use man to accomplish His purpose, He intervened, a virgin conceives a baby, not of the blood of a man, but God Himself injecting Himself into the world of man. It could not be accomplished any other way. This baby had to be born 100% God and 100% man to bridge the gap between God and man. His birth would look like that of a bastard and His death like one of a martyr, but both were in actuality the provision of God for man's redemption. It is the most accurate picture of who God really is, and who Christ really is - God with us, Immanuel.
Today, reflect on the reality of how God used men and women to bring about His ultimate plan of redemption, and then look at the messy people He used. Now point the finger at yourself. God can use you to do amazing things, not because you deserve it, but because He loves you and He loves for you to be a part of what He is doing. This Christmas, rededicate yourself to Him for the accomplishment of His work. Your life, as messy as it might be, can be of great use to God. Matthew recognized the power of the lineage of the Messiah and so should you.
Many times life defies logic. Have you ever noticed that? One of the biggest hurdles in life that we face, especially when we are trying to follow God is that many times the call of God is counterintuitive to what we perceive as safe, and many times God seems to lack “common sense.” But God reminds us that His ways and thoughts are not like ours, but it still takes courage to do what God has asked us to do.
In this passage in 2 Samuel, we are not told the whole story here, just some facts that stand out about Benaniah, the son of Jehoiada. Conflict and death were a common part of this era of human history, and men often did “mighty deeds” with regard to these conflicts.
But then it says that among Benaiah’s mighty deeds that he went down a pit and killed a lion on a snowy day.
I can only imagine that if most of us were given the opportunity to go into a pit with a lion to kill it, even given some warrior like skills, we would pass. Too dangerous, not enough in it for me. For what? I would ask myself, it’s not logical. But it is a metaphor for us of a real life of following God.
I can think of countless times that God has given me opportunities to do mighty things for Him but I have walked away by saying things like, “ Too dangerous,” and “ not enough in it for me.” Our tendency is always to look for the things in life that make sense, but the mighty face danger to accomplish something that most would not fathom.
Safety or logic cannot always be what governs our decision making for what God asks us to do. Faith is our ability to trust the God that we know, so His presence in our lives must become the safety that we need, not our own definition of safety in the world.
Following God is not for the faint hearted, but when we purposely “go into a pit to kill a lion” in the pursuit of following Him, then our successes and failures are His to bear and our lives are significant in Him. But we really wouldn't have it any other way.
These verses have meant a lot to me over the years because they are a reminder of the life that I have with God and the role that I play as an actor in the script of the life that He has written for me.
However, my tendency is to make this a formula for life, to make it my theology of works that I might be blessed of God. “If I trust God, then He will do the rest,” so that my life becomes this archive of events where I trusted God and where I did not and then the accounting for what He did and what I kept Him from doing.
Wow, that is really a shallow way to look at my life but it is my tendency because that is what I am conditioned to believe. But the longer I live the more that I realize that these verses are not a formula at all that solve the answers to life's needs. But in fact these verses ARE the life that God has designed and desires for us. They are like the closing of a letter from God to us about our life, one that was written before we were ever conceived.
A letter that could say something like this:
“Dear (insert your name here),
Welcome to the world which I created, it is a good world with a lot to discover in it. If you look closely you will see My very fingerprints in it, and I have done that so that you will always remember that I am always here with you.
I have big plans for you and you will be a part of things that you never imagined. I will take care of you,
I will take care of those around you.
I will make sure that you have everything that you need, and I will not give up on you.
I will give you hope when you are doubtful, strength when you are weary, guidance when you are visionless, and peace when the turmoil of the world becomes overwhelming.
I have taken care of your sins and you will easily find a way towards forgiveness so that our relationship can be whole and strong.
Don’t be afraid of making a mistake, I can help you overcome those, no problem, My resources are greater than you could ever need or imagine.
Just remember, my ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts. I am not confined by the limitations of mans abilities or intellectual barriers and so I will do things in ways that will confound you, but that is so that you will always know it’s me.
nI closing, just trust Me with all of your heart and don’t lean on what you understand or can comprehend. I everything whether good or bad, clear or confusing, big or small, just remind yourself and those around you that I am with you and that I am your God and you are My son. I will direct your ways, clear your paths and I will never leave you or forsake you. Your life and your love for Me is intensely significant to Me, and you can completely be assured that your security rests in Me alone, so do not be afraid. I am always with you, just reach out and I will be there.
I love you now and for always. This has always been and will always be true, it is absolute and is reflected in all of eternity.
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