Joseph – Obedience in Hard Circumstances

Today’s Bible Journaling is taken from Matthew 1:18-25. Today, we’re looking at just the birth of Jesus, not the shepherds or the wise men, but just the circumstances around His birth. The story is so familiar to most of us that I’m not going to include the passage here, and I encourage you to read it for yourself.

The Bible tells us that Jesus’ birth was prophesied long before His birth. According to scholars, the book of Isaiah was written in the eighth century B.C. As I read our passage in Matthew today, I began to focus more on Joseph. We know so much more about Mary, but Joseph is only mentioned in the Bible just a few times, and then we hear nothing more about him. I couldn’t help wondering how Joseph felt when Mary told him that she was going to have a baby. Here he is, engaged to Mary, they have been pure, and suddenly, she says she’s pregnant! I’m sure he had a myriad of questions and thoughts swirling around in his head. At last, he decides to divorce her quietly, so as not to bring her more embarrassment. I’m sure he had a hard time sleeping. God sees his confusion, his hurt, his unsettledness and reassures Joseph by sending an angel to confirm what Mary has told him, and to encourage him to go ahead and marry her. Matthew, the author of the book, confirms the prophesy made by Isaiah centuries before, “this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet.” (verse 23)

The Bible says that Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel told him. In the time of Jesus’ day, weddings were different than we know them. The Bridegroom, with his friends, would go to his beloved’s home in the evening and take her from her father’s house. The procession, with lots of singing and rejoicing, would go through the streets to his parent’s home where they would proclaim a blessing over the couple. There would be singing, dancing, lots of games, and a great party. The bride and her attendants were given a room at the parent’s home set up just for her. The following day was the wedding feast with a full day of partying. By evening, the groom comes and the wedding ceremony with vows takes place. Sometime in the evening the couple vanishes to be alone and consummate the marriage. However, the party is still going on for several days, and the couple didn’t have a honeymoon as we do now, they would join in the celebration for the remainder of the time of rejoicing. The Bible says that Joseph kept Mary a virgin until she gave birth to Jesus. (verse 25)

As I read about what Jewish weddings were like in Jesus’ day, I wondered, considering the circumstances, if there was any celebration. Did Joseph gather his friends and have a huge wedding celebration, or did he just marry her quietly? The Bible doesn’t tell us. But we do know that Joseph was honorable. It’s possible this was an arranged marriage between Joseph’s parents and Mary’s parents, we don’t know if they knew each other well or not. But what stands out to me is his obedience to God and His plan. He trusted God although he didn’t necessarily understand all that was happening.

Aren’t we like that at times? Circumstances around us have us swirling, sleepless nights, muddled thoughts, being unsettled, and not knowing what to do. Joseph is an example of one who put their full trust in God and His plan, even though he didn’t understand the where’s or why fore’s. Like Joseph, we are to trust God with the situation and the outcome. As hard as that is, we must remember that God’s plan is always perfect and while we can’t see that now, we can trust Him that He has the best in store for us and He is with us. Even Jesus’ name tells us that. The prophet prophesied that His name was to be called “Immanuel, which translated means ‘God with us.’” Jesus means Immanuel. He is with us, through good times and bad, through struggles and joys, daytime and night. Joseph was obedient, in everything God told him to do, up to and including, naming Jesus, because he trusted God’s plan.

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My Heart is Full!

Today, I am deviating from the normal Christmas entry for this month. My heart is so full because God has answered my prayers. I have been praying for my family for a very long time, some are not Christians, some I’m not sure, and some are very solid in their faith. One, has been going through a struggle because of an issue in the family that has come to a crisis. The first thing they did was contact me and let me know what was happening. They were completely sidelined by the issue and began reaching out to me for help.

They asked for Scripture to help them through, anything that would give them answers. So, I gave them a packet of material from the Christian Network I used to work for, which included pamphlets on reading the Bible, becoming a Christian, things that would help them out. They assured me that they had a Bible and had tried to find Scriptures to give them hope, but they were having a difficult time. I gave them Scriptures to start with and encouraged them to continue seeking God’s Word for help. I also gave them information to help in the crisis.

They told me they were planning on going to a local church for a Christmas concert. That alone sent me flying! They haven’t been in church in years! They posted on social media that they had gone and really enjoyed it! Praise God! So, I wrote to them and asked how things were going. They told me they were reading the book of John, a chapter a day, and using Bible study helps to help them get understanding. But, the 17th chapter of John was a little confusing for them. They asked me if I could help them understand. So, I emailed to them and tried to help them understand what the chapter was about.

They also told me that they were continuing to go to the local church where they had gone for the Christmas concert. They told me that they had found the website for the church and they were looking at past sermons. Today, my heart is so full of praise to God! He has answered my prayers. They are actively searching and desiring to be in God’s Word and seeking to be in church to gain more understanding about Who God is and why He loves them so much!

Today my heart was searching for Scripture to Journal to express my joy and gratitude for God’s Faithfulness in answering prayer. I found Psalm 118:21, “I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me, And You have become my salvation.”

What a loving, faithful Father we have! He knows our hearts, He knows our desires, He knows our struggles, He knows our joys, and He answers our prayers! He is a Good, Good Father! I’m on the verge of tears! Thank you, Jesus, for being so faithful, for loving my family member so much that You will do anything to draw them back to you. I’m thinking about how I can journal so much joy, and I’m really struggling with what to do. But I know one thing! God is Faithful!

At Christmas time many are in despair. It is not a happy time for them. Many have lost loved ones, some are dealing with depression, or do not have a good relationship with family members and getting together just brings strife. I’m here to tell you that God knows all about it and if you will only tell Him what is on your heart, He will answer! Right now, the song, “You Never Let Go” is playing and it just verifies the fact that God loves us so much that He won’t let go of us and He will answer our prayers, He will walk with us through joy, sorrow, struggles, good times and bad. He is FAITHFUL!

The Son of the Most High

 

To

day’s Bible Journaling comes from Luke 1:26-33. I’m sure many have heard the Christmas Story. If not, I encourage you to read this passage. Jesus was God in human flesh, born of a virgin, and was the Son of the Most High God. God, the Father, loved us so much that He wanted to redeem us from the penalty of sin. The only way that He could do that was to offer His Son as a sacrifice. Jesus was, and is, a part of the God-head, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All are One God, in three persons. No, we don’t worship three different Gods, He is One God but there are three different aspects to Him. Much like a chair…it has a seat, a back, and legs…all different parts but still a chair.

What popped out at me from this passage is that Jesus is the Son of the Most High God. (verse 32) Jesus was to be CALLED the Son of the Most High, because He is God’s Son. Can you imagine how Mary felt? She was going to give birth to God’s Son! The responsibility must have been overwhelming! No wonder she was troubled! The angel, Gabriel, had to tell her not to be afraid when he told her that she had gained favor with God and that He had a special assignment for her.

Not only is Jesus God’s Son, but He is also God at the same time! This is a concept that is so difficult for humans to understand. Our minds just cannot wrap itself around the thought that Jesus can be both. But as such, He could experience what we experience, he could walk as we walk, and He was the perfect One to be our help, our confidant, our Savior, our strength, and to give us eternal life!

He came as a baby, born in a manger, not in a castle. He lived life here on earth to share in the trials, joys, sorrows, and conflicts we experience. Have you been homeless? So was He. The Bible says He had no place to lay His head. (Matthew 8:20) Have you been ridiculed and beaten? Jesus was mocked (Matthew 27:29) and scourged (Matthew 27:26). Have you ever been rejected? So was Jesus. (Luke 9:22) In fact, all the things Jesus experienced were prophesied by Isaiah 53:3, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed Him not.” (KJV) He was born to die! He was born to experience life as we live it on earth, to suffer and die for us. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” He went through everything we do and did not sin. That is something we cannot say, for we are born in sin.

The Christmas story and the Easter story are tied together! Because He is the Son of the Most High, He is the only one qualified to be our Redeemer, our Savior, and our Lord. Without the Easter story there would be no need of the Christmas story. Without the Christmas story, there would be no Easter story. Jesus’ whole purpose on earth was to bring us to Himself, to be our sacrificial lamb, and be our Redeemer.

Why a Virgin Birth?

As we enter the Christmas Season, our thoughts usually are consumed by all the hustle and bustle of this time of year. Shopping and parties, baking and planning cause us to become hurried and we end up losing our focus of what the Season is all about. Today’s Bible Journaling is from Luke 1:31, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.” Many people tend to not believe the Virgin birth of Jesus. But, as the devotional for this journal observed, without Jesus being born of a virgin, the story would be about “a sinful girl, who got pregnant, was fortunate enough to avoid being stoned to death, who raised her son, and then watched him get slaughtered.” If that was truly the case, we would have nothing to rejoice about. Jesus would have been born as a sinful human and would not have been a worthy sacrifice for our sins. The truth of the matter is, Mary was a virgin, overcome by the Holy Spirit of God, and she became pregnant by God’s overshadowing of her. Therefore, Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, became the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

I am so grateful to God for His plan! His plan of salvation is perfect. No one born in the conventional manner would have been able to take the punishment for our sins. As humans, we are all born in sin. Adam’s sin has been passed down over the generations, and our sins must be paid for with a perfect sacrifice. Jesus was the only perfect sacrifice to die a horrible, cruel, death as punishment for our sins. God chose a chaste, Godly young woman to be the mother of His Son. Mary was such an honorable woman and she loved God with all her heart. She was the perfect choice!

As I read this Bible verse, my thoughts were drawn to the fact that because of the virgin birth, Jesus is my Savior! True, it was my choice to invite Him to be my Lord and Savior, but even before I accepted Jesus as my Savior, was already my Savior and my Salvation!
No one else could take His place as my sacrifice…heaven knows, I sure couldn’t! Jesus lived a completely sinless life, making Him the perfect sacrifice.

I can’t begin to imagine what Mary went through. In those days, being pregnant out of wedlock was a crime punishable by death. The law required that she should be stoned. However, Joseph, to whom she was engaged, decided not to humiliate her publicly, but was going to divorce her quietly. In those days, an engagement was almost the same as marriage without the benefit of living together. I’m sure the town gossips had a field day! Mary had to endure the gossip and the ridicule, the scorn, and the shame of being pregnant without being married. But she believed that God would see her through. She trusted His plan and did not turn away but remained steadfast in her faith that God knew what He was doing, and she was honored to be part of His plan. Joseph was warned by an angel sent from God not to divorce her, but to go ahead and marry her. I wonder what the town gossips thought about that? They must have either felt sorry for Joseph, or thought he was some kind of fool. But, little did they know that this was all part of God’s plan.

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, it is a good thing to think of what that virgin birth means. It means salvation for all mankind, it means we have a God who loves us so much that He planned a way to redeem our souls from sin. It means we can have joy, peace, and a life filled with God’s love, and strength to live every day for Him.

If you have never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, this is the perfect time! You will have a new life, be born again, and you can experience a love that mere human’s can not give. Ask Jesus to come into your heart, for He stands at your heart’s door knocking, asking if you will let Him in. (Revelation 3:20) He will replace the emptiness inside and give you peace.

Take Account of His Blessings – Part 4

The final part of our series on “Take Account of His Blessings” deals with the church of Ephesus. Revelation 2:1-7 (NASB) gives Jesus’ praise, admonition, and warning to the church. Jesus says, “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for my name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place – unless you repent.”

In the book of Revelation, Jesus tells the church how proud He is of them, and yet there was something with which He had to fault them. They had lost their First Love. I remember when I first was saved. I couldn’t help but tell others about what Jesus had done. I loved Him so much, and I was filled with this incredible joy! Everything was new! I was looking at the world through different eyes. Bible reading was fun! I couldn’t wait to get to church so that I could learn more about Jesus. Then when I tried witnessing to my classmates, I ran against resistance. I tried witnessing to my grandmother who wasn’t saved, and I met resistance. Suddenly, I found out that not everyone is wanting to hear about how great it was that Jesus saved me. I still loved Jesus, but my enthusiasm waned…a lot!

I imagine that is what happened with the church at Ephesus. They were very good at doing the right things, they stood up against persecution and persevered, and they were diligent at weeding out the false teachers that had managed to weasel their way into the church, but all that they did was more out of duty, not because they loved Jesus. They had lost the blessing of their First Love!

Baby Christians are so excited when they first come to know Jesus, and then they meet up with older Christians who are just holding on to the end. The more “mature” Believers will see how excited the Baby Christians are and say, “That won’t last long.” But it doesn’t have to be like that. For me, it took a good long while to get to the point where sharing my testimony, talking to people about accepting Jesus as their Savior, Bible Reading, and praying were not so much something I had to check of my list of things to do, but I truly wanted to do it.

My pastor says when there is no love, there’s no life. So, in essence, the church at Ephesus had become dead. They had forgotten what it was like at the very beginning of their walk with the Lord, how reading the Scriptures, praying, and witnessing, was a joy, it was as if they could do nothing else. But Jesus gives them an admonition…repent, remember, go back to your first love, do the deeds you did before. I believe they may have been doing some of the things they did at first, but not out of love, more out of duty. There was no joy, kind of doing “the same ole, same ole” and not realizing that they were becoming a dead church.

It can be so easy for us to fall into that trap ourselves. It’s a good thing to go back and remember what it was like when we first came to Jesus. Remember the joy in our hearts, remember the thrill of reading His Word and learning all we could, and marveling at the truths found in Scripture, remember the joy we had of leading someone to know Jesus, and how excited we were about getting to church so that we could learn more about the One who held our heart in His hands.

We need to take account of our lives…have we ever had a closer relationship with God than we are in right now? If so, then we are in a back-slidden condition. There is a solution to that condition… repentance. When I was in a singing group in my 20s, we sang a song that said, “Repentance is turning around my friend”, and that is exactly what repentance is, turning around and going in the opposite direction…a 180-degree position from where we are right now. Taking account of our lives is needed every so often. It helps us to know where we stand with Jesus.

Many will reject the Good News that Jesus loves them and wants to save them from eternal darkness, they will lose their souls to eternal darkness. If you have never asked Jesus to be your Savior, now is the time. Jesus made the process so simple, a small child can do it. Simply, ask Him to come into your life and heart, forgive you of your sins, tell Him you are sorry, and promise and endeavor to live your life for Him the rest of your days. Revelation 3:20 (KJV) says, “Behold I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” That’s His invitation to us!

Take Account of His Blessings – Part 3

We’ve been talking about how we can lose our blessings. We’ve looked at Samson and how he lost his power with God, and we’ve looked at David and how he lost the joy of his salvation. Today we look at Peter. Peter lost his boldness and testimony for the Lord. Peter was a lot like me. He was a “loud-mouthed lime” type. There was a commercial when I was a kid that was advertising flavors of their product (don’t remember what it was) and one of the flavors was “loud-mouthed lime.” That’s me…I identify with that! And like Peter, I’m a loud-mouthed lime…saying things before I think and getting myself into all kinds of trouble.

Our Scripture passage today is from Luke 22:54-62. Take the time to read it through and meditate on what is happening.

Peter was very bold in everything he did. When Jesus told Simon Peter that Satan wanted to destroy him, Peter boldly said, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison and to death.” Then Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed. (Luke 22:33-34 KJV)

Jesus was arrested and was brought before the high priest. Peter followed, but at a distance, that was his mistake. The bold Peter melted away and was replaced with a scared Peter, one who was almost afraid of his own shadow. When approached by a handmaiden, probably just a teenager, saying that he was one of the disciples, Peter denied it. When two others said that Peter knew Jesus, Peter vehemently denied that he was a follower of Jesus. Peter started with following at a distance and then was afraid of a little handmaiden. He couldn’t be that bold Peter everybody knew. His boldness faded when he followed “at a distance”. He wasn’t close to Jesus as he claimed he would be. Peter had gotten far away from the Lord.

We can lose our boldness also. When we follow “at a distance,” our relationship with Jesus is hindered. We don’t have a close relationship with Him and we can lose our footing, our boldness, and even our witness. We need to re-evaluate how far we are from Jesus. Do we continue in Bible study, prayer, church attendance, witnessing to the unsaved? Are we living in a manner that pleases Him? Is our attitude such that it shows Christ’s attributes?

I remember my Dad saying one time that he wasn’t all together convinced that we couldn’t lose our salvation, but he didn’t want to live in a manner where he would have to find out that he had. That’s the attitude we need to have. My Pastor has said, we can’t lose our salvation, but we can choose to walk away from it. There is a difference. Losing our salvation implies something to the effect of “I lost my keys…I put them somewhere and now I don’t remember where I left them.” We can’t just lose our salvation. We can, however; walk away from it. That suggests a choice! We can choose to follow Jesus or not.

Once we’ve headed down that pathway it becomes a slippery slope to broken fellowship with the Lord, and unless we repent, we are lumped in with unbelievers. Like my Dad, I don’t ever want to find myself in that camp. So today take account of your blessings. Have you lost the power of God in your life, have you lost the joy of your salvation, or have you lost your boldness and witness for the Lord? It only takes one prayer of repentance to find yourself back at the side of Jesus.

Take Account of His Blessings – Part 2

 

Psalm5112Today we’re continuing in this series. Our Scripture for today is Psalm 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation. Uphold me with a willing spirit.” (World English Bible – WEB) Yesterday we talked about Samson and how he lost God’s blessing of power with God. Today, we are looking at David. Psalm 51 is the chapter where David calls out to God in repentance for his sin with Bathsheba and for killing Uriah, her husband. David is in agony. He had lost God’s blessing of the joy of his salvation. His relationship with God was hindered.

David was known as a “man after God’s own heart”. He had a very personal relationship with God, and when he sinned, he lost that close connection. This brought about a very dark time for David. He is crying out for God to forgive him and restore his joy, to create in him “a clean heart.” (Psalm 51:10) David is begging God not to turn away from him and remove His presence from him.

We can lose God’s blessing of joy. God’s joy should be full, there should be “unspeakable joy” (I Peter 1:8), we should have exceeding joy. (I Peter 4:13) When our joy is restored, we receive power from God. We can stand firm in the face of the enemy because God’s joy gives us the power to withstand Satan’s attacks.

Like Samson, David’s fall came about from what he saw, but then David went a step further and acted on what he saw. Actually, I think his fall started when he decided to stay home instead of going to war, “at the time when kings go to war” (II Samuel 11:1 KJV) If he would have done what he was supposed to do he never would have come to this point. Sin will take you down a road you don’t want to go. Your destination will never be what you think it will be. Satan makes the journey look like a vacation, but in the end, the reality is misery and separation from God’s presence and the loss of His blessing of joy.

Losing God’s blessing of joy can come gradually. In fact, it can be so gradual that we never even recognize that we are walking away from God and losing His blessing. We can keep on that trail and then all of a sudden, it seems, we find ourselves at a place we don’t want to be, wondering how we got there. Then, like David, we cry out in agony for God to restore His joy and forgive us so that we can reconnect with Him. This is the time when we need to take account of where we are with God. Take stock of whether we have strayed and lost His blessings, and then repent and keep close to Him.

Sometimes, we can do all the right things, and yet our attitudes are not right. We can be lackadaisical in how we live for God, whether we keep our relationship on a good footing, studying the Word, praying, attending church, fellowshipping with other Believers, and reaching out to those who need Jesus by witnessing of His great love, mercy, and grace.

From time to time we need to evaluate our walk with the Lord. Is our attitude proper…it is all about Him and not us? Are our Christian actions done out of duty or out of love for God and what He has done for us? How concerned are we that people know Jesus as Savior? All these things give us an indication of our heart condition and it also tells us if we have lost God’s blessings. Where do we stand with God? Have we walked away or are we keeping our relationship with Him close and strong? Take stock of your life…where are you with God?