Joseph Was An Exceptional Guy

God knew Joseph was someone he could entrust with a crucial part of His divine plan to redeem all of creation.

A painting of young Jesus with Joseph, from Orvieto Italy

How would you feel if you were Joseph? This man was legally Mary’s husband, but they had not yet celebrated or consummated their marriage. Think about how you might respond to the news that your wife was pregnant and you knew there was no way you were the father? Personally, I suspect my first reaction would include feelings of anger, betrayal, confusion and more, not necessarily in that order.

Matthew tells the story. I have emphasized potions for you to think about. Try to read slowly and imagine yourself in his proverbial shoes.

1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying,

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us. 24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

Wow! Joseph was the man for the hour and the task ahead. God chose him to be the earthly father figure for the savior of the word. We often think about the shame Mary had put on her. And yet neither one of them could hide in the small village where everyone knows your name.

I can only imagine the emotional, spiritual and physical weights Joseph carried by choosing to accept the invitation to cooperate with the Creators plan. Abba was gracious though, because he gave Joseph an unforgettable encounter in the form of a supernatural dream. The young man’s personal intimacy with God allowed him to recognize the invitation was from Creator himself. God knew Joseph was someone he could entrust with a crucial part of His divine plan to redeem all of creation.

I wonder how many times over the rest of his life, Joseph replayed that dream in his mind. And because Joseph believed and obeyed, that encounter was not the only one he had in his adventure called life. (Keep reading in Matthew to learn, or be reminded.)

What about us? Do we recognize when Creator invites us into his plans, large or small? Or are the “distractions of life” to bold for us to notice the often still small voice? Are we people Abba can trust when he offers us those invitations?

The Good News is, regardless of how we answers those questions right now, the path to choose runs straight through Jesus. God became human to reunite us with our Creator. “And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

May Abba bless you with being attentive and faithful like Joseph as you celebrate the divine plans and invitations of our Creator.

The Christmas Story Can Become Too Familiar

By Elizabeth Gunter

A hand carved cresh from Mali, West Africa. The shepherds are Fulani herdsman.

This week I bring you a guest writer. I really appreciate Elizabeth Gunter’s reminding us of the uniqueness of the Christmas story. She writes for My prayer is this will help reinstill some wonder into our Advent season.

For those of us who grew up celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Christmas story can become too familiar. It easily slips from a story of awe to simple facts of history. We rattle off these events, such as Mary gave birth to Jesus and then the shepherds and wise men came to see Him, with the same ease that we describe what we did last weekend.

When you stop to really consider it, the story of Christmas is anything but normal. It is absurd. It is full of biological impossibility, strained family dynamics, emotional turmoil, supernatural encounters, a failed assassination attempt, and people asked to do the craziest things.
This is an invitation to deeply experience the Christmas story.
How would you feel if God told you that you are bearing His Son? Feel the fear of telling your fiance and parents that you are pregnant, and Joseph is not the father. Sense the shame as the village whispers about you. Imagine the weight of knowing you are carrying God’s Son, hoping that you don’t mess the whole thing up.
How would you feel if your beloved comes to you and says she is pregnant and you know that the baby is not yours? Feel the betrayal, rejection, and heartbreak of Joseph, based on wrong conclusions about Mary, until God sends an angel who straightens things out.
How would you feel on a ordinary night taking care of your sheep if an angel of the Lord showed up to say, “Drop what you are doing and go”? Feel the fear of such a supernatural event, followed by the doubt that creeps in to say, “Did I make that up?” What about leaving the sheep which are your sole source of income? Sense the wonder, fear, uncertainty, and hope of the shepherds as they come to meet the Savior.
What if you were one of the servants in the entourage of the magi? You are following your master who is basing his journey on a star. It is not a short journey either. It was weeks, months, maybe even years before you arrive at your final destination. How long would you keep walking to a place you don’t know to meet a person no one else seems to know about with only a star as a guide?
Then as the story continues, when is the last time you had a dream that you woke up from and knew that you, your wife, and child were to leave immediately to live in a foreign country? What was that discussion like? Would you leave friends and family behind to go to Egypt, based solely on a dream your spouse had ?
The story is full of one crazy event after another. Beyond recording the details of Jesus’ birth, the Christmas story reveals to us the otherness of God and how He longs to partner with big-spirited people to do the impossible. His reality is so much greater than ours. While we are thinking about getting married and settling down with a family in our hometown, He is planning to partner with us to fulfill His plan for the world.
The joy of this season is that with each twist and turn in the story God finds people who choose to live from their spirit and follow when they are challenged to believe what they have not seen and do what they have never done before.
That is the adventure He is calling each of us to live.
This Christmas marvel at the outrageous and awesome lengths to which God the Father will go to give you the perfect gift. Give Him the gift of the same reckless abandon of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the magi to pursue and follow your King Jesus.
May your spirit be so large and in tune with the Holy Spirit that when God shows up in the middle of your ordinary day with an extraordinary plan, you are ready to follow Him regardless of how absurd it might sound.
As 2018 approaches, open your heart to God-size dreams. Wait expectantly for God-sized visions, and don’t be surprised as He does exceedingly abundantly more than you can ask or imagine.
© 2010 Elizabeth Gunter
An archive of past devotionals is available on the website.

You Tell The Story

Most of you have probably heard the joke about a children’s Sunday School teacher asking the children, “What is furry, with four legs, as swishing tail and loves nuts?” The young ones all look around at each other hoping someone else will answer. Finally, a little girl answers the teacher, “The answer’s gotta be Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel.” Well, today’s blog let’s you look at some photos so you can tell the story. And no, the answer is not Jesus. (Though Jesus might be found at some level in our stories.)

Please take a few minutes with each photo, or take time with one today then another later…. I chose animal pictures to give a little “personality.” There is a bird feeder behind my home that backs up to woods. I see a lot of wild life every day. It is therapeutic and I have plenty of  “wild kingdom” stories to tell. (I’m showing my age, unless you remember Wild Kingdom too.) I think we can agree that nature has a lot of lessons to teach us, at the very least because it is part of creation.

What do you see beyond the obvious? Where does your mind go? How does it make you feel? What does that tell you about yourself? What might the photo tell you about Creation, and the Creator?

For the more easily creative and artistic people it might be easy to use the image to create a story. Others might be reminded of something from their own experience, a dream or a wish.

What are your eyes drawn to in any of the images? Take a moment to wonder why you are drawn to that part. Pray. Ask first for a sanctified imagination, then talk with our Creator and ask whatever comes to mind. Then be still for a bit to listen for that still small voice.

Is there one of these you prefer over another? Why? Of course there is no right or wrong answer, but maybe you can learn a little more about yourself and the one who made us in the process of enjoying the beauty and diversity.

I hope this exercise of letting you tell the story this time is a blessing even if it is possibly a little more work than I usually give. My prayer is that something in one of these images unlocks some hidden treasure for you. I hope you will respond to let me know how my prayer is answered!

“You Are The God Who Sees Me” – Hagar

Genesis 16:13

I suspect most people go through life not truly understanding that the God of all creation sees them. I know I did not grasp the truth that God sees me for a long time. Maybe I did a little, but the concept has grown with time and experience. There are still moments when I have an experience of the love of God, the God who sees me, and the truth sinks in a little deeper.

Hagar, in Genesis 16, ran away from a difficult situation. She couldn’t stand being mistreated by Sarah who she served. Sarah gave Hagar to her husband Abraham to fulfill a promise from God to have a son. Problem was, they were impatient and did not see the full plan, so they tried to do it their own way. Hagar became pregnant, and Sarah became jealous. In her fear and anger Sarah began to treat Hagar badly.

God appeared to Hagar in the desert to guide and bless her. That is when she understood “You are the God who sees me.” That phrase also became the name of the water well where they met.

When I say, “sees me,” I mean Abba knows me, just like He knew Hagar. I am a friend, not because of anything I have done, but because I am His created and chosen one, just like you are. I am one Christ came to reconcile to himself. So are you. Jesus said: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” John 15:16

Wow! God knows me and you, chose me and you, hears and answers my prayers and yours, and sees me and you!O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.”Psalm 139:1-4

Abba, help us to slow down so we can see you at work in and around us. Thank you for seeing Hagar. Thank you for seeing and knowing each one of us intimately. Help us to know that when you see us, you see Christ righteousness. You see the ones you chose to bear your fruit. May we walk in ever-increasing faith and intimacy with you! Amen