Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Humbleness of Joseph

"When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife."  Matthew 1:24 (NIV)

Welcome to the second Sunday in Advent.  As we continue our series of Christmas Humbleness, we move to Joseph, Jesus' earthly father.  Joseph is someone who truly amazed me.  There is little written of Joseph in the Bible past the Christmas story.  Yet, here we learn much about this truly humble man.

Throughout the Christmas story, Joseph had to deal with many "curve balls".  Mary becomes pregnant prior to their marriage.  Joseph makes a decision to quietly divorce her (humble decision?).  In those days it was.  He didn't want to disgrace her, which was typical in these types of situations.  Joseph refuses pride and humbles himself to protect Mary.

Then there was the dream when the angel tells Joseph that he needs to continue with the marriage, that the son of Mary is Immanuel.  Joseph humbles himself and obeys God's word, taking Mary as his wife.  Joseph's life probably would have been easier if he had gone through with the decision to divorce her - he would have been free from the public humility he endured.  Yet, he knew that wasn't God's plan, so he obediently followed.

Joseph also obeys as they go to Bethlehem to be registered, and is at Mary's side as she takes that journey with him.  He doesn't abandon Mary and leave her behind.  Through all of this, Joseph stands up in humility and does the right thing - by Mary and by God.  

Later, Joseph wonders what he would actually teach Jesus - the son of God.  After all, Joseph was a simple carpenter and wasn't, in actuality, Jesus' father.  Joseph could have left at any time.  Joseph could have moved on.  Yet, that wasn't Joseph.  He brought to this world a picture of humility that stays with us today.

In Joseph, we see the humility of helping others, although the position we take may not be a popular one.  In Joseph, we see the humility of obeying, although obeying God's word may not be the popular one.  In Joseph, we see the humility of commitment, staying with Mary and Jesus long past the birth.  In Joseph, we see the humble man that God chose to be Jesus' earthly father.  

What can we learn from Joseph?  Being humble means obeying God's word through a commitment of helping others.  Joseph is our ultimate example of doing this.  In our every day lives, our opportunity to do this may be greater than we think.  Read God's word - see what He shares about us living out His word.   Find those that need to feel God's love and may we move forward in this love, even if it isn't the most "popular" thing to do.  Our opportunities are endless, as is God's love.  Through God, we are able to live a life of humbleness.  The most important thing to remember is that in all actions, the glory goes to God, not to ourselves.  At any time, Joseph could have proclaimed himself as Jesus' father, "Look at me, the father of the Savior of the World".  Yet, Joseph didn't do this.  Through his humbleness, he did so much more - he provided the image of humbleness to God.  May we do the same.

Dearest Jesus:  Your earthly father, Joseph, is a wonderful picture of humbleness.  Through his obedience to God, he lived this out through his actions that we read in the Christmas Story.  May we also show that level of humbleness in our daily actions - ensuring that all glory goes to you.  In your blessed name we pray, Amen. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Humbleness of the Wise Men

"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh."  Matthew 2:11 (NIV)

We are upon another Advent season.  Each year, they seem to come sooner and sooner.  There are an abundant amount of reasons why Advent is a favorite time of year for me.  The greatest is that it is time for us to slow down and focus - focus on what is truly important.  As we light our first advent candle, the candle of Hope, this Advent season I will be focusing on the humbleness of those in the Christmas Story.  Today, I begin with the wise men.

There are many conflicting stories of who these three men were.  Kings?  Intellects?  Scientists?  Regardless of their particular background, it is safe to say that they were important men of their time.  Men who weren't of a servant nature.  Men who had living arrangements that were above average.  Men who were revered by others.  They were definitely a higher social stature.  As they set out on their journey, little did they know what they would find - and where they would find it.

As the wise men searched for the newborn king, as they followed the star, I can only imagine what was going through their minds.  They were looking for a newborn king.  Although the star was their guiding path, I would assume they would think there were also looking for a place where a newborn king would reside.  Weren't they surprised.  Yet, with all that they had, and all that they were, when they saw the newborn king, Jesus, they "bowed down and worshiped him."  Imagine, for a moment, kings of our nations today possibly bowing down in a lowly place for a newborn king.  Doesn't seem possible, does it?  Yet, these three wise men did just that.  They humbled themselves to the glory of our newborn king, Jesus.  They forgot about their intellect, their high social stature, the people who revered them, and they got down on bended knee to worship a child.  That picture of humbleness is beautiful.

During this Advent season, may we learn from those that were humble that first Christmas.  From the wise men we can learn much.  It didn't matter to them what their place was in the world, it was more important to be humble and bow down before Jesus.  The same is so true for us.  Regardless of our particular background, it is our time to bow down before Jesus.  May the pride that we might have in our lives for our intellect, our material items and our social stature be released to humble ourselves for the true king.  May we "bow down and worship him", and help others to see the awesomeness of the newborn king this Christmas season.  Take time to find ways to worship the True King this Advent Season.  I hope to start by reading and re-reading the Christmas story.  I always find something new and amazing each time I read it.  Let's remember to leave our "wealth" to the side and humble ourselves to Jesus and to each other.  When we look at the world through humble eyes, we see such great gifts - like the unconditional love of our Savior.  Blessings to all on this first Advent Sunday.

Dearest Jesus, help us to be humbled to you and to each other as the wise men humbled themselves that first Christmas.  Let us leave the pride of everyday life behind and may we rest our hearts close to yours as we bow down before you in the manger.  Help us, Jesus, to be more like the wise men as we approach each day.  In your heavenly Christmas name we pray, Amen.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Saying Goodbye

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."  Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)

Just like that, as fast as the children all joined us for the holiday, the house is now quiet again.  All the work and preparation, all the anticipation, and within a few short days, it is all over.  Is it just me or is the house even MORE quiet when all the children leave than what it was before they got there?  We were blessed to have all four children rejoin the household during Thanksgiving.  With everyone living their separate lives, it was truly a blessing.  I can still hear the laughter as they sat at the kitchen table Thanksgiving evening playing cards.  Truly made this mama's heart swell with joy.

It started Saturday - the exodus.  The first one took off mid-morning.  Close to 1PM on Sunday, they had all left.  Goodbyes can be hard, especially when you know it will be some time before we will all be together again.  How about you?  Did you spend these past few days with family and friends?  Are you also feeling the sense of loss as they say goodbye and leave the driveway?  It's hard to watch people leave us.  In trying to find a way to fill my heart again, I turned to scripture.

This wonderful blessing that our Lord bestows upon us is one I shared in my heart with my children today.  As they head off to a life outside of their childhood home, I have comfort knowing that our Lord is with them.  God doesn't disappoint.  He may not always give us what WE want WHEN we want it, but He always has a greater plan.  He has my children in His hands.  How do I know this?  

Because, in the verse above, I replace the word YOU with my children's names. When I do this, the verse becomes very personal to each and every one of them.  That is how I know God has their best intentions for them, that He will bless them with what they need.  He will love them - as I love them.  When I can't be there for my children, He will always be with them.  With that, I can be assured that they will receive great blessings from our Lord.  With that, I have peace.  

As you sent off family and friends this past weekend, pray the blessing above upon them.  Know that God is with them and will hold them in His hands.  Have peace in God's word, and that peace will pass all understanding.  

Advent begins next Sunday.  This year we will explore those who were humble during that first Christmas.  I pray you are blessed this Advent season.

"Heavenly Father, as family and friends leave our homes after the holidays, it can be tough to watch them leave.  Our homes may be going from lots of chatter to a sense of quiet.  Although we may feel a bit of longing for those who have returned home, we know that you will bless them and bring us peace.  Help us to be reminded of this.  In your name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thanksgiving in Despair

". . . always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name o four Lord Jesus Christ."  Ephesians 5:20 

So hard to believe that Thanksgiving is already here.  It seems like just a few weeks ago we were celebrating Easter.  Yet, here we are with a joyous focus on giving thanks for all the wonderful blessings we have been afforded.  Yes, I love Thanksgiving for all the wonders of the day - the gathering of family, the reminiscing of the goodness of God, and yes, the food and football!  This year, though, my thoughts have taken me to people and a world who don't seem to have much to be thankful for.

This past year, albeit gone so quickly, saw many tragedies.  Horrible natural disasters from earthquakes, to floods, to fires.  Dissension among people.  Destructive mass shootings.  It is hard to say "Happy Thanksgiving" when we think of all of those horrific events that have taken place during 2017.  Alongside of all of those events, we have the despair of our own lives - relationships that have been broken, health concerns, and economic difficulties.  So here we are - at Thanksgiving.  What is there to be thankful for?

Throughout all of the news footage of those that have been so drastically effected by the areas listed above, I find that there are people who are saying, "Thank you, Jesus."  Thank you, really?  Thank you for what?  As I listen to these folks speak, I am in awe and admiration of their faith.  For it is their faith that brings them to the table of thanksgiving in despair.  To have that level of faith in God is something I aspire to.  

Having faith when things are good, and thanking Jesus for all the good things, seems to make sense.  Yet, as our verse for today shares, we are to give thanks to Jesus ALWAYS.  Not just when things are great, but when things are tough.  What are we supposed to thank Jesus for during despair?

We thank Him for life and for death, as we never know when death occurs what life would have been like for that person.  We thank Him for difficulties, as it is our opportunity to get closer to God, in prayer and petition.  We thank Him for losing everything, as we know that what we have is truly His anyhow, and He will always provide.  We thank Him that through the despair, our faith in Him is truly most important.  Thanksgiving in Despair always takes me to Job.  Now there was a man with despair.  Yet His faith was there, deeply rooted, for all of us to see.

Do you have someone who you know is dealing with difficulty?  Maybe you are having tough times?  Now is the time, dear brother and sister, to give thanks.  Give thanks to God who listens to your prayers and provides you a blanket of love.  Give thanks to God who blesses you in small ways each moment of the day.  Give thanks to God that He never lets go of you, no matter how bleak - NEVER.  During this Thanksgiving, may we give thanks under all circumstances, even in despair.

"Dearest Jesus, help us to remember to give thanksgiving in despair.  When life seems so difficult, may we remember your love for us and the way you continue to bless us when life is dark.  Help us to go to you, in faith, and know that you have all situations covered.  Thank you Jesus, that your love is eternal and your help is forever.   In Jesus' name I pray, Amen."

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Grumbling to Gratefulness

"Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure "children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.""  Philippians 2:14-15 (NIV)

It started early in the day.  I went to get a cup of coffee, and there it was - two people complaining that the line was too long.  I got my coffee, went back to my car, and began the drive to work.  Along the way, I noticed the car next to me was distracted at a red light.  The car behind them began beeping like crazy.  All I could think to myself was "I can't wait to get to work (how often do we say that)!"  Once at work, though, it didn't stop.  It seemed as if the entire day was filled with people complaining.  I heard complaints ranging from something not being done fast enough to being done too fast.  I heard grumbling about the weather, the food, the way people were being treated, etc.  It seemed no matter which way I turned, the grumbling words were gaining momentum.

Have you ever had a day like that?  What I found was that by the end of the day, guess who felt like joining the crowd?  Yes, sorry to say, me.  It seemed that if everyone else was miserable, I might as well be miserable too.  At that moment, three words came to my mind - STOP, CHECK AND ACT!  
     STOP - stop the grumbling.  Just stop the words and thoughts that were coming to me.
     CHECK - check to see if what I was grumbling about needed attention or was I chiming in with the people around me
     ACT - take action and accountability for what I was feeling and saying.

Sure enough, after I stopped, checked and acted, the words and complaints stopped.  I realized that I should be full of gratefulness for all I had - grateful for a good job with great people; grateful for my health; grateful for a wonderful family; most importantly - grateful for my heavenly Father.  It was amazing that the three or four minutes I took to stop, check and act, put a completely different perspective on my day.  As the great Billy Graham said, "Grumbling and gratitude, for the children of God, are in conflict.  Be grateful and you won't grumble.  Grumble and you won't be grateful."

Life can be difficult!  Our days can be filled with so much to be frustrated about, angry about, and we may believe we have every right to complain.  Add into the equation social media and gossip corners and before you know, we have a full-fledged grumbling session going on.  What we need to remember, what "I" need to remember, is that if we changed our perspective - just a little bit - we will see so much that we have to be grateful for.  If we change our grumbling to gratefulness, God will take center stage!  Isn't that a far better way to live our lives?  It certainly will prove healthier for our minds, our hearts and our souls.  The next time there is a grumbling session being started, why not "stop, check and act"!  Change your words, your thoughts and your deeds to ones of gratefulness.

Heavenly Father, so many times during my day I can hear words of grumbling.  It is easy to get caught up in the complaining and join in with those around me.  I ask that the Holy Spirit moves me to Stop, Check and Act.  Change my mindset from one of grumbling to one of gratefulness.  Help me to find those one or two items that I should be grateful for - beginning with you!  My sins are forgiven and I'm going to paradise - that is the greatest thing to be grateful for!


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Turn Back Time

"'I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.'  So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down."  Isaiah 38:8 (NIV)

Today marked another year that we turned back the clocks.  Of course, there is much debate about "why" we do it, but nevertheless, most of us turned our clocks back.  Doing so always make me wonder, "What if we could turn back time?  What if we could go back in time and undo things that we had done?"

As I sat on my front porch this morning, it was a reflective type of day.  There was a bit of chill in the air and many of the trees have begun the process of shedding their leaves.  Days like today make me ask, "What would I undo if I could turn back time?"  I know, many people say that they have no regrets.  I'm not stating that my life is full of regrets, but there are certainly times when I said something that I wish I hadn't; as the words came out of my mouth - for a split second - I wished I could have turned back time.  There are also times when I should have said something that I didn't - again, wishing I could have turned back time.  Last, but not least, are those times that I did something that I wish I hadn't.  Well, you have the picture by now.  All of these times I wish I could have taken back - turned back the hands of time ever so briefly so that I made a different choice.

Today's verse truly took me back.  I had no idea until I was researching for today's post that there was a reference of turning back time.  Although it was in a very different context, it helped me to reflect. Turning back time on earth doesn't happen.  Yet, what we do have, is God's grace and forgiveness when we would like to turn back time to make different choices.  God is there for us to help us realize that although time cannot be turned back ten steps in the sun, God is there to help bring me forgiveness.

God's grace is so great.  He is there for us in every situation.  Yes, even the situations when we would like to go back in time.  The next time a word comes out of my mouth that I would like to take back, I will reflect on the Good Lord who is always there to provide me the forgiveness I very deeply need.

Dear Lord, your love, grace and mercy can bring me forgiveness when I would like to turn back time and reverse choices.  Please help me to quickly see those situations and immediately ask forgiveness - from those here on earth as well as with you. May I learn from those moments for my future.  Please bring me reflection always.  Amen!"


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Winds

"He  got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet!  Be Still!"  Then the wind died down and it was completely calm."  Mark 4:39  (NIV)

Lying in my bed with the window slightly cracked, I heard the wind.  It was the wind of autumn.  The wind seems different in autumn to me.  Maybe it includes a bit of a chill as compared to the wind of summer.  Maybe it includes a smell of the leaves.  Yet, it even seems to sound different.  Almost like a calling of, "It's time".  It's time to slow down a little, and actually listen to the wind.  It's time to enjoy all that autumn brings.  

Winds can bring so many things into our lives.  Many times, we see the "winds of life" as being the activities that come into our lives that can turn our worlds upside down.  Maybe it is the wind of a health concern.  Maybe it is the wind of job issues.  Maybe it is the wind of relationships.  So many times, the winds that comes into our lives create anxiousness and anxiety.  

This was the case of the disciples while they were on the water with Jesus.  All in a boat heading out across the water.  Jesus rested.  I'm sure with all the teaching, healing, preaching, etc., that Jesus did, there probably wasn't a lot of time for that.  Yet, He rested.  While on the water, a storm began brewing and the winds were coming into the disciples lives.  They called upon their teacher, their friend, their Lord, and He rebuked the winds, told them to "be still", and it became completely calm.

I love this Bible story as it teaches us so much:
  • As believers, the winds of life will stir up our lives.  We are not immune to difficult times.
  • As believers, we don't have to endure the winds of life alone.  
  • As believers, our first call should be to The One who can calm our winds.  This is an area I consistently need to work on.
  • As believers, we need to have simple faith that Jesus will calm our winds, when it is time.  So often, I want Him to calm my winds during MY time - we certainly know better!
  • As believers, we need to respond to Him calming our winds with thanks and praise.
The winds of life will blow.  They may knock us off our feet.  Yet, we have One who will not only stand beside us during these times, but will calm the winds.  We need to go to Jesus during these times and watch the goodness He can bring to us.  Have faith, simple faith, that Jesus can calm our storms.

Dearest Jesus, how often we forget when the wind rolls into our lives that the One who can truly calm our storms is a prayer away.  May we reach out to you, Jesus.  Fill  our hearts and our heads with the simple faith that you are waiting to hear from us, and that you will making "everything still".  Jesus, I ask that you calm the winds of those that are facing fierce winds in their lives.  Help them to reach out to you so that you may help them.  In your wondrous name I pray, Amen!

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.