18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
The relationship of Mary and Joseph is confusing. “Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph”…”Joseph her husband was faithful”…”he had in mind to divorce her”… but…“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” Were they “pledged” or were they married? Why was divorce involved? Here’s what I found.
Marriage was considered far too important to be left to a matter of the heart. A pledge of marriage was made by family arrangements in the name of the couple. It was only a promise at this point but the next step really mattered. The promised couple must confirm their agreement with that family arrangement at some future point in time. Their agreement turned that promise into a binding contract that only another legal action could break. Legally they were now recognized as husband and wife but there was one more step that must happen. That’s where Mary and Joseph were at this point. It was the wedding celebration ahead that was meant to unite promise, contract and their relationship into the one flesh God promised in Genesis but there were those disturbing circumstances.
I can pass on facts I discovered about the culture of relationships of the time but I cannot explain why God would use these circumstances in Joseph’s life to fulfill his promise to all of creation. They were hard circumstances. Joseph could declare Mary unfaithful and possibly condemn her to death by stoning. He could stay in the relationship and deal with his own conflict with the law he was faithful to…or he could accept his dream and the words from the angel of the Lord as a truth and a blessing on their life together. God bless circumstances. Joseph’s circumstances and his response became a blessing for all of us that celebrate the Big Event. Wisdom and the Word still work to help the believer navigate circumstances today. Matthew Henry’s commentary on this scripture says it perfectly.
“Observe, it is the thoughtful, not the unthinking, whom God will guide. God’s time to come with instruction to his people, is when they are at a loss. Divine comforts most delight the soul when under the pressure of perplexed thoughts.”
“You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”
Today is the beginning of Advent, 2017. Advent may not be a familiar name to you. It’s really just a time set aside leading up to Christmas to acknowledge the fullness of what has become the “Big Event” of our life, the birth of Jesus. I’ve come to love the daily moments that catch my heart and focus my mind on the Who, What, Why, When and How the Bible records of that Big Event but the season is filled with many other things that catch my eyes and ears. It’s starting to sound like a whole body experience isn’t it…heart, mind, eyes and ears? That’s exactly what the purpose of the month-long celebration of the Big Event is about.
The words Isaiah spoke way back then have added one more facet to the fullness of this year’s celebration of the Big Event for me. This might be the best part. The weeks leading up to Christmas are one of those rare seasons when the hearts of complete strangers are softened by music, lights, food, parties, friends, family…and gifts. Softened enough that what Isaiah says to us may touch them as well. “You who bring good news…lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid… Here is your God!”
We are what is popularly referred to as snowbirds. Around Thanksgiving each year we pack our 35’ RV and head for warmer climate for a few months. That’s where my celebration of the Big Event happens each morning. Instead of a Christmas tree I have a hanging tree branch, a Jesse Tree [see above] that I decorate. It’s very simple. Today I hung an origami star with some off Isaiah’s words folded into it. I need those words to challenge myself, and maybe you too, to experience the fullness of a whole body celebration in one more way…voice!
There will never be a better time to “lift up your voice”…and bless someone. I’m not talking about a soapbox in a park or snagging someone on a street corner or even quoting scripture to them [although that might be appropriate in the right situation]. I’m only asking you to notice and respond to the people that cross your path between now and Christmas with a gift from God; a blessing given with your own voice and from the fullness of your own heart to make this year’s Big Event a whole body experience for yourself and maybe them too.
This doesn’t come naturally to me so I’ve been sitting here jotting down ideas of ways to fearlessly speak a blessing to a complete stranger. Ten minutes have gone by and after a lot of typing and a visit to look up the definition of blessing, Isaiah’s timeless truth [this is the “do not be afraid” part] has finally dawned on me. There is only one way to begin this blessing…God bless you…
…for your kindness
…for your help
…for your cheerful greeting
…for ringing that bell
…for opening that door
…for caring to ask
…for doing your job well
You get the idea, right? Make it part of your preparation during the days leading up to the Big Event to watch for opportunities to let your voice be a blessing for others. It’s really true you are blessed to be a blessing. May God bless you with his own heart, mind, eyes and ears…may he bless you with the courage to speak…may he bless you for pondering my thoughts and then coming up with your own.
Posted in Isaiah, Sunday, The Big Event
Tagged Blessing, Ears, Eyes, Fullness, Gift, Heart, Mind, Simple, Voice
Psalm 119 – א Aleph
1 Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the Lord.
2 Blessed are those who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart—
7 I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws.
8 I will obey your decrees;
do not utterly forsake me.
There’s mystery in the acrostic use of the Hebrew aleph-bet in this 22 section Psalm. Our alphabet is a sequence of letters but theirs is a sequence of symbols that have a particular meaning. That symbol is the first letter of the word that begins each verse of a section in the Hebrew text. I found a chart of the meaning of those Biblical Hebrew symbols that I’m going to use as I read and think about each of these 22 sections.
א Aleph – ox head, yoke, learn.
The blessing is clear in this first section: be blameless, walk according to the Lord, keep his statutes and seek him with all your heart.
This must be what the writer had in mind for that first symbol, Aleph. It seems to fit. We need strength [ox]; we need yoke [Christ]; we need to [learn] how to be blessed.
We need strength [ox]; we need yoke [Christ]; we need to [learn] to pray these honest words “do not utterly forsake me” as this mystery of blessing becomes a reality in my life.
I’ve been starting each morning with a very simple short prayer. “I love you Lord, please lead me.” Then I start reading and wait for that to happen.
• Thursday: Waiting
Read Esther 1 👎 [that’s a thumb’s down sign]
Scanned Joel 1 👎
Read a new resource: Os Hillman TGIF [Today God Is First] on BibleGateway.com. The apostle Paul said, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13)
…He [God] has foreordained that we should accomplish great things in His name – not so that we will be accepted or become more valued, but to experience the reality of a living relationship with a God who wants to demonstrate His power through each of us.”
• Friday: Still Waiting
Read Oswald Chambers
1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
“Every tiny bit of my life that has value I owe to the redemption of Jesus Christ. Am I doing anything to enable Him to bring His redemption into evident reality in the lives of others? I will only be able to do this as the Spirit of God works into me this sense of indebtedness.”
• Saturday Morning: Read Philemon👍
At last, Scripture that catches my attention! Has God been leading these last few days while I thought I was floundering? Re-reading all my notes…again. Finally I do see a thread in one single verse that ties these last few days together!
• Sunday Blessing: Seeds of Grace
Philemon 1:25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
God wants to demonstrate His power through each of us as the Spirit of God works into us this sense of indebtedness. That’s where our understanding of “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” is revealed as more than comfortable personal assurance and becomes the Seeds of Grace to share with each other. That’s the blessing.
We’re on the last leg of our road trip and three long days of driving have left me unprepared for today’s post so I decided to go back to the very beginning of my digital journaling, October 10, 2012. This beginning was a challenge from the pastor to spend 40 days with God to see what he might do for each of us personally and for the church. It’s proved to be a lasting blessing.
5:32 am. Day 1 for the body & the BODY!
How odd it feels to get up and not flick on the tv to watch my recorded home improvement shows while I knit. This is a clue that I’ve chosen rightly I guess; 30 minutes to explore what God has in mind. High time.
“How great you are, Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.” 2 Samuel 7:22 Biblegateway VOD
My search begins: in Christ.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
I love gifts, giving and getting. My heart is so full right now of creative giving as Christmas approaches. Dredging up the old illustrations of the Christmas Story for the card for the children at church; the wooden trees for the pastor’s girls and the Prayer Shawl ministry. You know how much these things mean to me. They’re really gifts from you that happen to pass through my hands. Thanks for that.
When I do those Spiritual gift tests I feel like I come up so short. I’m not a helper, I’m not an evangelist, I’m not a teacher but I have this one thing that you can use… creativity. It’s really my only voice and its taken so long for me to find a way to use it for you. The new thing is not the creativity itself but the people connection that has come with it [the prayer shawl ministry]. Having a way to take the words out of my heart and put them in someone else’s life is so perfect. It’s the exercise my Spiritual body has needed.
Hebrews 6:4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
These people are “enlightened,” thought, decision and discipline are key to their faith. They’ve “tasted the heavenly gift.” Their faith has also included feeling and experiencing the power and goodness of God. These people “have shared in the Holy Spirit” and yet they “have fallen away” and there’s no going back. Why hasn’t their faith kept them safe?
How in the world do rain and crops fit in? Maybe knowledge about God is like the rain. It falls often, and broadly, over the land preparing large portions of it to be able to grow. Our faith may be our personal plot of land drinking in the rain and prepared to grow…but there’s a big difference between a muddy field and a useful crop. Maybe our blessing is The Safety of a Useful Crop.
John 20:11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white,seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”(which means “Teacher”).
Remember the chorus of a country music song from awhile back?
I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places
Lookin’ for love in too many faces
Searchin’ their eyes, lookin’ for traces
Of what I’m dreamin’ of…
This Scripture reminded me of that chorus and how easy it is to miss a new encounter with Jesus because of mistaken identity or because we’re looking in all the wrong places. We think we know just what to expect of him, but…
Jesus may not always always look like what we’ve imagined he would…or even should…look like. We may find him in places and situations we never expected we would see him. That would certainly describe this early morning encounter between Mary and Jesus. Look how her awareness of the world changed when he spoke her name.
This is Easter morning, 2016, the most important reminder of your spiritual life. Remember hearing Jesus first speak your name? That was Continue reading