Saturday, December 29, 2012

Joseph, A Story of Hope

 I have favorite stories in the Bible; true events meant to whisper the message of God’s love into our lives. One of my favorites is Joseph’s story. I never tire of the intrigue; it would make a great blockbuster movie. What is it about this best loved, spoiled son of Jacob the keeps me coming back to its pages? His life is filled with hope. No matter what happens, God is with Him. No matter what befalls him, the Lord brings him into favor with the one in charge. Every seeming blunder is a building block to purpose—God’s purpose. 

After many terrible events, Joseph, because of interpreting Pharoah’s dream is placed in power and holds the key to Egypt’s granary. A severe famine has struck Egypt and surrounding countries and Jacob (Joseph’s father) sends his sons to buy grain from Egypt before they die of hunger. Jacob doesn’t allow Benjamin, his younger son of Rachel to go, after all he has already lost one son—Benjamin’s older brother, Joseph. 

Joseph’s brothers set out for Egypt and through a turn of events are in the presence of their long lost brother whom they sold into slavery. Of course, they don’t recognize him in his Egyptian garb. Joseph sends them back with strict instructions to bring Benjamin—to prove they were not spies. Joseph shakes things up a little with his probing questions and mistrustful words.  The brothers still don’t know it is Joseph they are bowing down to; but Joseph’s dream from many years ago is coming true right before his eyes.  

Joseph holds Simeon as ransom while the others agree to bring Benjamin along on their next trip. The odds of being spies as Joseph charged are stacked against the sons of Jacob when Joseph has the grain money hidden in each of their grain sacks, discovered at their first stop to lodge for the night. 

When it comes time to return to Egypt for more grain, they know they must bring Benjamin. Jacob isn’t happy about it but they know they won’t get any more grain, or their big brother, Simeon back without Benjamin’s presence. Big brother, Judah vows to protect Benjamin no matter what happens. And, even says that he will be a surety for his brother’s safety.  

Then it struck me; Jesus comes from the line of Judah. Judah promised safety and protection to his brother, Benjamin, putting his own life on the line. Jesus promises to be our surety. He offered Himself as our substitution; His life for ours. This is one more layer of hope in the story of Joseph. 

I knew I loved this story! As I look ahead to the new year, because of Joseph, I can be sure of a couple of things: Jesus is watching out for me and all things that happen in my life will be for God’s bigger purpose. 

What glimpses of hope have you received through God’s love letter? What story do you love?

Looking forward to spending time with you in 2013,

Read Joseph's story in Genesis 37- 45


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Come, Let Us Adore Him

December can either be a dread or a delight, depending on how my lens is focused. The dread comes when I overextend, baking to rival Martha Stewart, decorations to outdo House Beautiful and date nights with Mr. Clean. No one will remember my clean floor. A cookie is a cookie is a cookie. And, whether I choose all white lights or twinkly multis, the tree will be festive no matter what I decide.

Delight happens when I focus more on the reason for the season—taking time to ponder. As I spend time reading the Angel’s pronouncements, Joseph’s dream and the Bethlehem journey, my delight grows. What was like to have lived then? How would I have reacted to the angel’s visit? Each character in the account we read, met the Savior in a special way.

Imagine, meeting the Savior of the world in the flesh—though He has always been, since the beginning, He was came to the world in the flesh as a baby. In the midst of the crazy days of December, we can enjoy the journey and delight in the story. When we do, our joy will show—joy to the world. The Lord has come.

I look forward to our family being all together. It doesn’t happen often; our children all live out of state. So to have time together is a special gift and a delight.

May your days be merry, bringing joy and delight to you and your family,


Friday, December 14, 2012

Violence Reveals a Darkened Heart - School Shooting in Newtown, CT

Our country is in shock from an act of violence in an elementary school in Newtown, CT. We don’t even have all of the information yet, but it is enough to sicken us to know that children became a bullet’s target. What a senseless act of aggression on those who cannot defend themselves. This shooting was a result of anger; the news reports say the young man had an argument with the school office staff this morning. Without any confirmation of motive the only response I have is to pray for the victims, and families in Newtown who were violated. Their world was rocked to the core as a result of darkened heart.
For anyone that thinks that humanity is getting better, I beg to differ. The heart of mankind in history is dark and full of violence, greed, anger, jealousy, and other roots that dig deep. A darkened heart is filled with skewed thoughts that lead to ugly deeds. Violence is older than Cain and Abel. The weapons may change but the heart is the same. And until we stop making excuses for the heart of mankind, we will cast blame where it doesn’t belong.
The only hope for dark hearts of stone is Jesus Christ who replaces a heart of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). A heart of flesh is filled with both love of God and love of mankind, giving thoughts to help, to build up and to share love and kindness. Jesus is the one who transforms us into new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) and give us the desire to live rightly and love freely. We then begin to see the world through His eyes and desire to make our actions count, to make a positive difference. Only He can remove the anger, greed, jealousy and other roots that spring forth in the darkness. The Light of the World (John 8:12) came to cast out darkness and draw people into His light.
Instead of hate, Jesus sows love. Instead of strife, He brings peace. And in the midst of our darkness, He illumines us with the light of truth. We then see ourselves as He sees us—weak, sinful and needing a Savior. He forgives the dark heart. He redeems the sinful soul and offers a new way of living life and hope for each day.
My heart goes out to the families in Newtown, CT. Please know that I am praying for you. In the midst of this senseless day, may God send His comfort through those around you. Because of this angry outburst, lives will be affected forever. God have mercy on us all.

Share your thoughts with the people of Newtown....


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Pondering the Nativity

I unpacked my nativity scene to display for Christmas; what appeared to be an idyllic scene as I placed the painted figures in the humble dwelling must have been a great inconvenience for Mary and Joseph. The stillness and serene faces hide the fact that Mary and Joseph traveled for about eighty miles to Bethlehem because of the decree for a census. Joseph had searched high a low for an inn to provide Mary a place to give birth. The bustling Bethlehem overflowed with travelers and the ‘No Vacancy’ signs ruled that night. Instead they took shelter, if you can call it that, in a stable.

The sanitized crèche seen on Christmas cards hides the evidence of barnyard smells and prickly hay. Joseph probably cleared a spot and put fresh hay down for Mary. He scooted the cow and the lambs out of the way and borrowed a feeding trough to lay the newborn baby. It wasn’t what they had planned for their birthing location, but by divine direction shepherds who had been in the starlit field found the infant, Jesus lying in a manger just as the angels had said.

I wonder what the young family was thinking about as they were jostled and tossed about, unable to find a resting place. Did they get stressed? Were they cranky? Did Mary and Joseph have words with each other in the heat of the situation?

We often forget that these were real people and trying situations. Instead of seeing them through human eyes, we set them up as some super saints who dressed up for a role and played it to perfection. But, the smelly stable was an obstacle; one that I would have felt cranky about.

So, as I ponder the holy family and all they endured, I am encouraged because of their faith and strength in the midst of some not so perfect circumstances. They knew that their son, Jesus was God’s son and they were coming to grips with angel’s proclamations. Yet mingled with the amazing truth they needed to face some uncomfortable realities. Scripture says that Mary pondered all the things that were said. She heard the shepherds tell about the angels in the field. By God’s grace, Mary and Joseph fulfilled God’s plan even when things didn’t look anything like they imagined.

 In any situation we encounter, we are the ones chosen to roll with the punches and give grace to those around us. God is at work in you and in me to bring about His purposes in us and through us. We may need to endure some smelly surroundings sometimes, but we can trust just like Mary and Joseph did on the night of Jesus’ birth. God is at work and is bringing some amazing things to pass in our generation. It may not be what we imagine but we can trust Him to work it out as we live life and face its less than perfect circumstances.

The coming of Jesus the Messiah was expected, but no one imagined Him being born among the smelly stable animals. For this reason, some overlooked Him. This nativity lesson to me is to expect the unexpected. Don’t miss what God is doing around you because it doesn’t look like what you have planned.

How is God at work around you today? How is it different than you imagined?