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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Healing in His Wings

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Malachi 4:2, “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” (KJV) The New American Standard Bible (NASB) says, “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.” This month we are talking about blessings from God.

Healing is a blessing that can come to us not only physically, but Spiritually, and emotionally as well. Some of us are in need of a physical healing. I think that’s what most of us think of when we are talking of healing. It is true, Jesus can heal our bodies, and I believe that most of us yearn for totally healthy bodies with an absence of pain or disease. For myself, I long for the day when I have no pain. Through the pain, however; God gives me strength to be able to persevere through the day. So, some may say, well, God has forgotten you…you’re still in pain. Yes, I’m still in pain, but God hasn’t forgotten me. There may be a reason He is allowing the pain, what that may be, I don’t know. But this I know; His plan is better and greater than what I have planned for my life. Therefore, I trust Him.

There is also Spiritual healing. This is the most important kind of healing. God wants us to have an abiding relationship with Him, and He wants to heal us of all those things that separate us from Him. Burdens that keep us from reaching out to Him can all be dissolved when we give them to Him. The biggest restriction to a relationship with God is not accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Without Him, our relationship with Him is severed, and we have no one to lift us up when we are battling issues in our life. Sin blocks our feeble attempts at prayer, if we even try and pray, and it blocks our relationship with Him. God desires to take us into His family. He wants to heal those places deep in our soul that leave us defeated. Jesus came to this earth to make a bridge to God through His ministry, His death on the cross, and His resurrection. By accepting His sacrifice and making Him Lord of our lives, He will heal our hearts.

Emotional healing is also available. So many of us have things from our past that burden us and sometimes make us emotional wrecks. There are those who deal with a past that they would not want anyone to know about. But Jesus already knows all about it. He is the only One who can heal those wounds from our past. He took our pain, our sickness, our emotional scars, and healed them because He took the stripes for our healing at His Crucifixion. I Peter 2:24 says,” Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (KJV) Notice the verse says, “ye WERE healed.” Our healing was finished on the cross. Our healing was accomplished when Jesus took the beating for us. His shed blood covered our sins, completed our healing, and brought us freedom from sin, and Satan’s hold on us.

I look at our verse today and I love what it says. We will go forward and skip around like newborn calves. Have you ever watched newborn calves once they have had a chance to get their legs under them? They bounce around the field, enjoying life, and being free from any care or struggle. We can be like that when we trust in Jesus to take what is holding us back. Whatever it is, physical, emotional, or Spiritual, His healing gives us freedom.

Something else that stood out to me in our verse…God has healing in His wings. The Bible describes God and His love for us as being like a mother hen, spreading her wings out over her chicks in protection from the storm. God protects us much like the mother hen, and His “wings” have healing to cover us from the effects of the storm, of the battle, of past regrets, and from the effects of sin.

He desires for us to reach out to Him and seek His healing, trust in His Amazing Grace, His Abiding Love, and His Unfathomable Blessings.

Trusting in God Develops Courage

Today’s Bible study is from Psalm 31:24, “Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord.” Courage isn’t something that comes easily. We get attacked from every side and amid those attacks, we find that in our own strength we are defeated and haven’t much courage to face the battle. Today as I am doing my Bible Journaling, I am really struggling to concentrate. I have had a growing sinus headache, and even though I have taken medication and asked the Lord to ease the pain, it is still with me. I seriously believe that this is one of the tools Satan uses to distract us from doing the things God is calling us to do.

David had similar problems. When we read the 31st chapter of Psalm, David is praying to God, pouring out his heart of all the things, people, and situations that are coming against him. Enemies were seeking to kill him, others were being judgmental about his sin and attacking him with slurs and gossip, he is grieving deeply in his heart over the results of his sin, to the point where he physically has “wasted away” (verse 10), and he is discouraged. However, sprinkled throughout the chapter David reminds himself that God is the one who is his source of strength, his deliverer, his refuge, and in the end, David reminds us that we are to “be strong and let your heart take courage.” We can do this when we hope or trust in God. It is God who gives us the strength and the courage to face the things that come against us.

Satan knows our weak points and he knows just what buttons to push to cause us to turn away from trusting God. We can find hope in our lives in Jesus. David, in the middle of his sorrow and pain, declared in verse 14, “But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD,
I say, “You are my God.”’ We need to remind ourselves that we are not forgotten, God knows where we are, He knows the battle we face, and He is right beside us. Therefore, we can trust Him. We can put our full faith and belief in Him to deliver us and to give us the courage to face those hardships.

For me, the struggles at this stage in my life have been physical pain and trying to win the battle over my anger issues. Satan is constantly at me, trying to get me to become distracted and turn away from God. My husband says the attacks are coming because I have determined in my heart to Bible Journaling and blogging as a means of ministry to others. This may be true. But the funny thing is, I have been in ministry work almost my entire adult life and the attacks have never been this constant or severe. My pastor has said that when the enemy attacks, it means that something is about to happen to where we are heading for another level in our walk with the Lord, and Satan is pulling out all the stops to prevent us from succeeding and becoming an effective Christian in our witness to others. He’s running scared and he’s throwing everything he can think of in our pathway to derail us.

Without God to give us the courage and strength to persevere in those times of hardship, we would fail miserably, and our witness would be ineffective. We can find victory when we place our trust in Him. He hears our heart’s cry and He is ready to give us what it is we need. Then we can boldly say, as David did, “But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD,
I say, “You are my God.”’

Contentment Begins with Obedience

This series on contentment has been a real wake up call for me. Today’s verse is Jeremiah 7:23, “But this is what I commanded them saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I commanded you, that it may be well with you.’” As I was working on the devotional part of my journaling, I felt God say, “Contentment begins with Obedience!” Wow, that was definitely an eyeopener. Then I remembered something I’ve carried with me at least for the last 25 years.

I had heard a Christian radio program while I was driving in my car, and the pastor speaking said, “Look at the word ‘obedience’, right in the middle of the word is another word, ‘DIE’. To be obedient means to die to ourselves and our wants and obey God’s will and desires for our lives.” When I heard God say, “Contentment Begins with Obedience!” it was as if I was being disciplined. My discontent was disobedience to Him. My anger and worry are disobedience to Him. Not only am I miserable when I am angry, worried and discontent, I make everyone else around me miserable, and God is not pleased with me. At that point, I am not allowing Him to rule and reign in my life. I am not displaying God-honoring behavior or attitudes. I am not allowing Jesus to shine in my life, and others don’t see Him in me, they see me in all my ugliness of attitude, words and behavior. I had to stop and ask for forgiveness and ask for His help to be obedient in being content and conquering my issues of anger and worry.

As I read the Scripture passage I read a little before and after the focus verse. God is telling Jeremiah what to tell the Israelites. He reminds them that their forefathers coming out of Egypt on the way to the Promised Land were disobedient in their complaining, stubbornness, always looking back to Egypt and walking in their own way instead of listening to God and obeying Him. Their constant rebellion was what inevitably caused a whole generation to be punished by wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, until everyone in that generation had died, not being able to enter the Promised Land.

With disobedience comes consequences, discontentment, and loss of joy. I need to not just say I’m working on my struggles, but actually put my words into action. Each day, every moment, every second, I must be aware of what I say, reign in my emotions, change my thinking, and trust God that even when I am not happy about something, He knows what is best for me, and will work in that situation for my good. It may not be something I want, but it will be for my good.

This past Sunday’s sermon wasn’t really on contentment, but on changing our thinking, and it ties in with what I’ve been studying in this series on contentment. Everything starts in the mind, which affects attitudes, behaviors, speech, and motivations. At the very beginning, I must decide in my mind that I will be obedient, to be content, to not worry, to not become angry at the drop of a hat. Forgiving others for past injustices also go toward being content. Forgiveness is not actually for the other person, it’s for me! It frees me up to be obedient and thereby be content.

This morning I was watching Kathie Lee and Hoda on the Today Show and they were talking about being happy. Kathie Lee is a Christian and she gave her view on happiness, and she was right on the money. She said happiness is not constant, but joy is. We can be happy one minute but then the next minute not be happy. However, joy is constant, and she said her joy comes from Father God. I love how she boldly proclaims her faith. She works for NBC, a network I used to work for a long time ago, and I know what she preaches flies in the face of the network’s viewpoint. I’m surprised they haven’t toned her down, but I’m glad they haven’t. She is an encouragement to those of us who are Believers living in this world of sin and darkness. Contentment also brings joy, or maybe it should be the other way around, joy brings contentment. When we have the joy that Jesus gives, we are content.

I have a lot of work to do to get to where I need to be, but I’m so glad my Heavenly Father is so patient with me. He keeps at me until I get it right. One day I will be able to look back and see how far I’ve come. It’s during times like this that I grow. I am thankful for His love and discipline.

Being Content

In my Bible Journaling this month I’m reading about “Being Content”. This is one of those things I have struggled with my whole life. That, and coupled with being a worrier, and having anger issues, it’s a lot of issues that I need to deal with and get resolved. Today’s verse is Matthew 6:31-32, “Do not worry then, saying, ’What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”

As I said, this is one of the big things I struggle with. Part of it is the old, “keeping up with the Joneses” attitude. The problem is, I was a Jones! So, if everyone is trying to keep up with my family, it’s like there is this thing that says, “You have to keep up appearances for the rest of the world.” The only problem with that is, we weren’t wealthy, didn’t have every latest thing that came along, but we managed. Even though I was reared in a Christian home, it was by no means perfect! I have a lot of issues to weed through from my past. So, in thinking through all of this today, my mind went back to yesterday and the sermon our Pastor delivered. The title of his sermon was, “What Were You Thinking?” He spoke from the Scripture passage, Philippians 4:8-9, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” It was a tough sermon to hear, because it hit you square in the face. It was one of those kinds of sermons where there wasn’t a peep in the sanctuary because people were deep in thought over what Pastor was saying. Usually, our services are filled with “amen” and “yes”, and periodic applause at something Pastor has said that we agree with. But yesterday, it was like God was saying, “Listen up! I want you to know this, I want you to do this!”

I pondered the sermon for most of yesterday. God was dealing with me. I began to think that maybe this is my time to get this settled, because not only was my study for this month on contentment, but yesterday’s sermon was about where this all starts. In my thoughts! Pastor asked us, “What do you spend your day thinking about?” Wow! It never occurred to me that what I focus on in my thoughts dictates my actions and attitudes. He said that what consumes our thought life will develop our character. Ok, so for me, I guess one of my issues is appearances, or how others perceive me. My hubby has observed that about me. I’m worried about what other people will think if I do something, or how my house will look to other people, whether they will like it, or me, or not. My Dad used to say that I shouldn’t worry about what other people think, even him. I tried all my life as a kid to make my Dad proud of me. Sometimes he would tell me, other times I never was sure. It left me feeling like I wasn’t good enough, that I needed to do something else to gain his approval. I’m sure that is the basis for my worry about how things appear to others. I need to remember that the only person I need to be concerned about what they think of me, is God! My job is to please Him!

The Scripture in Matthew plainly says that we are not to worry! That’s a command, not a suggestion! God already knows what we need, so why are we so consumed by acquiring money, food, clothes, and the things of this world? Part of the issue is what we spend time thinking about. In today’s society, we have television, radio, and advertisements all over telling us that we NEED the latest and greatest whatever it is. We can see and hear these things for so long before it begins to overtake our thoughts. Then we start seeking our WANTS instead of our NEEDS. The news on TV and radio nowadays is filled with negative reports of all kinds of things, and that leads to us worrying about our safety, will something happen to us that will cause irreparable harm? That leads to a lot of “What if’s” that most likely will never happen.

What are we focusing our thoughts upon, the things of this world or God’s Word? Pastor also said that the enemy wants to get our minds away from our focus on God. That means we must be aware of his traps. Trusting God for everything begins with keeping our minds upon Him and His Word. Another thing my Pastor said yesterday was, “The Word of God is a discerner of your thoughts.” God knows what we think about, whether it is good or bad, worth the time to think on or not. Therefore, if we keep our focus on His Word, seeking His opinion rather than others, praying and trusting that He will “work everything for our good” (Romans 8:28) then we have no cause to worry or be discontent with our situation.

In case, my readers think I’m pointing fingers, this is as much a preaching to myself as it is an encouragement for you. For me, this is a long journey, not a sprint, but a marathon. I have a lifetime of issues to resolve. It took a lifetime to develop them and it will take a lifetime to conquer each one of them. I hope this has been an encouragement to my readers, and that you will keep your mind focused on God and trust Him for all of your needs and desires.