Monday, December 31, 2018

Smooth Future

Smooth Future
December 31, 2018
Genesis 37:7 "We were binding sheaves in the field. All of a sudden my sheaf rose up and stood upright, and your sheaves stood around it and bowed down to my sheaf."

The life  of Joseph, son of Jacob, started out as favor and privilege and then traveled through much heartache before finally having his life restored. His life was not a gradual path with a steady increase.  In fact, Joseph had no stability whatsoever. His life was nothing but a roller coaster, with heartache and joy and heartache and joy. He had a dream in his teenage years, a promise and a glimpse from the Lord for his future. The dream was that one day his father and brothers would have to bow down to him in respect. The promise was from the Lord, and would be fulfilled, but the path to get there was never disclosed by the Lord. 

It was no surprise to the Lord when Joseph's brothers were jealous of Joseph's future. It was no surprise to the Lord when his brothers sold Joseph in slavery. While no one wants to think that Joseph being put into slavery was part of the Lord's design, you have to know that the Lord had His hand in it. The Lord knew what was going to happen, protected Joseph in it, but allowed it nonetheless. Joseph, in slavery, before being elevated to the status of a king, was never outside the Lord's reach. Joseph was also never outside the Lord's plan, though the incredible hardship. The Lord was able to pluck Joseph out of that rotten awful situation and still fulfill His promises to Joseph, still fulfill Joseph's destined appointments. My guess is that not only was the Lord able to pluck Joseph from slavery and elevate him to that status of a king, but He was able to use the horrible experiences to shape him into the man he became.

Like Joseph, your path is not going to be smooth. Your future is there, already written by the Lord, a promise that maybe He has not revealed to you yet. But just because He has written the destination, does not mean to path is going to be smooth. It is possible the road is bumpy by design. It may feel like a roller coaster, but as long as you stay true to the Lord, He will remain true to you and the plan that He has for you, if will come to fruition. Your future is there, just that the path may not be smooth.

As you look into what this next year could hold for you, it is possibly you are hoping for a smooth path upward. This next leg of your journey may certainly look like that. This next leg of your journey to the Lord's complete fulfillment for your life may look like a broken road, but none of it matters. What matters is your relationship with the Lord and your intent to remain true to Him. Don't make plans this year you have no control over, instead make plans to deepen your walk and relationship with the Lord. If you do that, what happens this year won't matter, roller coaster up or roller coaster down. If you don't deepen your relationship when the leg of the road seems broken, then how are you going to deepen your relationship with the Lord when the path feels like euphoria. My guess for Joseph, is that the prison sentence of slavery was a test for his character, whether or not Joseph would serve the Lord regardless of circumstances. If Joseph couldn't serve the Lord in the jail cell, how was Joseph going to serve the Lord as a king?

Remember Joseph's initial dream. In it Joseph rose in stature above his father and brothers, as the Bible says, "all of a sudden." Your path can take a turn at a moment's notice.

May the Lord bless your path this year, full of relationship with Him regardless of what the path looks like.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 37-46, Deut 31:6, John 15:4-7, Heb 13:5-6

Monday, December 17, 2018


December 17, 2019
Genesis 1:11 "Then God said, 'Let the earth produce vegetation: plants yielding seed and fruit trees on the earth yielding fruit after their kind with seed in them.'"

In the account of creation, the Lord created the plant life and vegetation. He instructed it to be fruitful, producing fruit in keeping with its kind. In science we understand that the fruit comes forth from the flower of the plant and the fruit itself carries the seed for more plants of its kind. When the Lord instruction the vegetation to be fruitful, He was instructing it to not just bear fruit, but bear fruit with seed, that would yield more fruit. The idea would be proliferation of each respective plant. Several verses later, the Lord made mankind, also instructing them to be fruitful. The idea, again, was that the fruit would contain seed for further creation of its kind.

The continuation of fruit with seed has been working for thousands of years. But the Lord warns us to be careful in the kind of fruit we each produce. In the Scripture, there are certainly examples of bad fruit. What is worse, however, than the bad fruit, is that the bad fruit also has seeds, perpetuating more bad fruit. There is an expression that the apple does not fall far from the tree, meaning the fruit will resemble the kind of specific fruit produced by that tree. And that fruit that fell from the tree, remember it contains seeds for more fruit of its kind, good or bad. 

You and I right now, are producing some kind of fruit, whether you'll admit it or not. Some of the fruit is good and some of the fruit is bad. All of our fruit has seeds that get sown. You show your fruit and the seeds of that fruit get planted in peoples lives around you, good or bad. When you are kind and polite, you sow those seeds into the people in your life, affecting them and those they come in contact with. When you are rude and intolerant, you sow those seeds into the people in your life, affecting them and those they come in contact with. This is all particularly true with the young and impressionable in your life. Maybe these are children, maybe these are new Christians.

You and I have bad habits, even fruitful sin, that plants more sin seed. Whether you admit it or not, you are planting that sin seed in the lives of those around you. You have more influence and affect on people than you realize. Your fruit is affecting those closest to you, the ones you love. And when you sow your sin seed in their lives, you are impacting their life and the lives of their future loved ones, as well. Your sin does not just affect you, it affects everyone you come in contact with and echoes into the future; your grandchildren will even see the seeds of your sin in their own lives some day.  

This is our opportunity to cut out the bad fruit in our lives, to stop sowing the seeds of that bad fruit. It isn't easy and the Lord says the only way to do it is to cut off the branch that produces the bad fruit. You cannot just pick the fruit and throw it away, you have to cut out the thing that is enabling the bad fruit. This might mean cutting out individuals from your life, unfortunately, that are helping you to produce bad fruit. This might mean changing jobs or even careers because it is helping you to produce bad fruit. This might mean throwing away your tv or deleting apps from your phone, because they are helping you to produce bad fruit. The Lord says, whatever it is, you have to cut it out of your life. He uses very aggressive language, saying that if your eye causes you to sin then you are to gouge your eyes out.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 1:1-28, Matt 3:8, Matt 5:29, Matt 7:15-20, Matt 18:6, Luke 17:2, Gal 5:22

Sunday, December 9, 2018

On Your Behalf

On Your Behalf
December 10, 2019
Matthew 2:9 ". . . And the star which they saw in the east went before them until it came and stood over where the young Child was."

If you re-read the story of the nativity, between all four Gospels, you'll find some details that are far more critical to the story than most realize. Aside from the Savior's birth, there are some amazing examples of the Lord's workings. Recall that three magi traveled from the East. No one knows for sure how far they traveled, possibly two or three months, following a star. The Lord had to put that star in place, months in advance of Jesus' birth, just to get those men moving. Mary was likely still only six months pregnant when these magi were studying the stars and decided to read through the Scriptures to understand prophecy enough to commit to the journey and bring the Christ child important gifts. Joseph and Mary had no idea these men were following a star in the sky on their behalf.

When the magi got into town, they presented themselves to the ruler of the land, Herod, as non-hostile visitors. Herod was nervous about this new child being born, a threat to the throne. Herod plotted to kid this baby Jesus, with Joseph and Mary having no idea Herod perceived the child as a threat. But the three wise men were led by the Holy Spirit to throw Herod off the scent. Again, Joseph and Mary had no idea these three wise men were working on their behalf. Then Herod issued an order to kill all the babies two years old and younger, born in Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary escaped with Jesus, but countless other mothers had their babies ripped from their side and killed. 

Joseph and Mary were willing participants in the birth of Jesus, but that does not mean Joseph and Mary were working to protect and manage the entire situation. Someone else was orchestrating it all behind the scenes, on their behalf. The Lord was in charge, managing the magi following the star. The Lord placed that star there and the Lord coached the magi. The Lord protected baby Jesus from the decree that killed countless other babies, saving Joseph and Mary from the grief of losing a child. The Lord sent His angels to appear before the shepherds in the field, telling them of the wondrous thing that had been done. After the shepherds honored the baby Jesus, they went off and spread the word about the Christ-child; they were the first evangelists. These evangelists made it far easier for Joseph and Mary to be walking around with the Savior of the World tucked in their arms. Joseph and Mary did not have to do but a fraction of the work surrounding the birth of their Child. The Lord prepared the place for Mary to give birth, preparing in advance the exact time and location. The Lord orchestrated it all on their behalf. Joseph and Mary possibly thought they were doing all the work, but remember that the prophecy was that the Christ child would be born in Bethlehem. Had the Lord not coaxed the rulers to require a census, Joseph and Mary would not have had to travel to Bethlehem when she was nine months pregnant. Again, the Lord orchestrated all this on their behalf.

If you want to argue that the Lord did all this because it was Jesus and was only working behind the scenes to protect His son, and would not do the same for you, then you'd be playing the part of a fool. The Lord is working on your behalf at this very moment. Remember the reason WHY Jesus had to come to earth in the first place, to die in place of your sins. The Lord did all this on behalf of Joseph and Mary, all on account of you and me. The Lord IS working on your behalf, setting things in motion months, even years, in advance. Christian, there is so much work behind the scenes going on right now, a massive orchestration of a magnitude you cannot comprehend. The Lord is working on your behalf at this very moment, resolving some situations and starting others in motion, setting you up for the best possible success in regard to His plan for your life. Part of your worries are that you don't trust Him, trusting that He is actually working for you. The Lord loves you and wants you to understand that your life has been an integral part of His plan since the beginning. He IS working on your behalf right at this very moment. Be encouraged, because He is doing all of this out of His intense love for you. Jesus came as a baby, on your behalf.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 139:13-14, Matt 1&2, Rom 8:28

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Trust and Precedent

Trust and Precedent
December 3, 2018
Matthew 1:20 ". . . the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. . . "

Joseph, the man who married the mother of Jesus, was a righteous man. For the Bible to consider him a righteous man, he likely would have spent a good deal of time in Scripture, reading and praying, understanding the Lord's Word.  He practiced what he learned about in the Scriptures, living out his life as recommended by the Lord. You could certainly say Joseph worked hard at his relationship with the Lord. While Mary was the chosen mother of Jesus, it probably was no chance relationship between Mary and Joseph. Joseph was an important part of the equation, and a man with integrity, at that. When Joseph learned the woman he was to marry was with child, he decided to do the right thing and simply divorce her quietly, to end the marriage contract before the wedding ceremony could finalize the deal. But the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Stop right there. The angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to marry the woman anyway. How many times is it recorded in the Bible that an angel of the Lord appears to anyone?  The number is limited to just a handful of people. 

Review for a moment the difference of an angel appearing in person like when they appeared to the shepherds in the field after Jesus was born, to several of them in public. But this appearance by the angel to Joseph was private, and in a dream. Dreams can be confusing, sometimes. Did Joseph make it up? Did he eat spicy Italian food from the Romans? Could he be certain the appearance was real and legitimate? Nonetheless, the angel in the dream told him it was OK to marry the woman, and to raise the child, the Christ child. Yeah, that's right, the angel told him the child was going to be the savior of the world. Now the dream is getting weird. An angel appeared to him in a dream, telling him this fiance was with child even though never having been with a man, and now the child inside her was going to be the savior of the world. Can you imagine if Joseph had woken the next morning and taking that dream to his pastor? It is hard to believe, impossible almost. It was the most outlandish dream in the whole of the Bible, when you consider the precedent. The two things in the dream defied gravity, having never been done before. A woman, with child, though not by a man, AND the child would be the savior of the world. This dream was rather outlandish. But Joseph did not wake up and discredit it. He did not belittle the ideas in the dream as preposterous or impossible or even improbable. Despite the lack of precedent regarding the message, Joseph trust the validity of it. 

It was preposterous, but Joseph not only trusted in it, he lived it out. Joseph put feet to the message and walked out his life in faith, that which the angel told him was true. The resolve and confidence Joseph must have had was amazing, to trust that this child was the Christ child, that marry was pregnant without the assistance of a man. It must have been a pretty impressive dream, to endure the other church members likely judging Joseph behind his back. No one else was given the dream. Imagine the conversations behind his back, in front of his face even. Did Joseph defend his actions, his decisions to marry the woman anyway? Could he have told anyone; would they believe him? Regardless, Joseph believed the Word of the Lord and he walked it out in confidence.

You and I aren't quite that impressive, walking in the resolve of Joseph on an apparent dream. For Joseph to have trusted that dream with his life, he must have had an amazing relationship with the Lord, conviction in hearing His voice. Joseph maybe had his questions leading up to the birth of Jesus, certainly the looks from others, and maybe even a doubt or two. Regardless, Joseph trusted in the word of the Lord, the gravity-defying word of the Lord where there was no precedent. You and I want the writing on the wall before we are willing to walk in trust, for those things the Lord has ask of us. We want a sign painted in the sky, an angel to appear on our door step, and a letter in the mailbox before we are sure we've heard from the Lord. Joseph didn't require all that, though, just a gentle dream to boost his resolve. What does it take for you to step out in faith, to trust the Lord down a path that has never before been traveled? We look at Scripture and look for the precedent; has someone else been down this path before? But what if the Lord is asking you to do something that has never been done before?  Will you still move forward? What if the going gets tough, will you stick it out?  What if there is no precedent; can you still trust the Lord through it?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 1:18-24, Matt 12:39, Matt 16:4