Feeling Insignificant Like a Guy From Nazareth

Roots matter. They help to define us… sometimes in a good way and sometimes not. Jesus had earthly roots in His childhood home that caused those who surrounded Him to look down on Him. These roots were insignificant and didn’t carry with them any sense of importance. He was a Nazarene…

So what, right? I mean… who really cares where you are from or what kind of difficulty that you had to face early on? 

Well, our early days have a lot to do in defining who we become or what kind of adversity that we have to fight along the way. Our roots carry a stigma that can wrap around our feet and hold us solidly in place or push us forward to achieve more and more. Jesus’ roots were ones that would traditionally stifle and hold back any growth. He was from Nazareth.

Now, let me make it clear that I am not implying that Jesus was a member of the band who brought us the great hits of “Love Hurts” or “Hair of the Dog”.

Nazareth Band

No… I am talking about the city that sits in Israel. Today, it is known as the ‘Arab Capital of Israel’ (with over 60% being Muslim) and the largest city in the Northern district of Israel. During Jesus’ time, this city was very Jewish and very small. In fact, there was a belief about the people who came from Nazareth that is reflected in Nathaniel’s words to Philip in John 1:46 …

“Nazareth? Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

It’s understandable. Nazareth was not known for much. It sat surrounded by soft, porous limestone hills and was filled with people who made their living farming. They were spread out as they needed room for plants and livestock to roam. They were very Jewish and very communal in how they lived, but nothing good was expected to come out of such humble places. Nothing significant… nothing noticeable. 

But someone did. In fact, it was in one of the dreams of Joseph that Jesus’ parents were directed to go to this humble city. (Check out this blog post for more on the dreams of Joseph). God wanted Jesus to be in Nazareth. Jesus begins his life with no place for a bed… born in a barn. Then, after spending some time in Egypt, they come to Nazareth to plant their tent posts and begin life as a family.

There was a Stigma that came from Nazareth.

“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Stigmas have a way of following us. People don’t forget who we were or what we did or where we came from. People have a hard time seeing us outside of the stigma. Nathaniel had a hard time with it and so will people in your life. They will only look at you through the lens of where you were and not where you are going.

This stigma on Jesus followed Him to His very death.

Fast forward His story to His death on a cross at a place called Golgotha… “Place of the Skull”. A sign was placed above his head on that old rugged cross. A sign that had the first words point back to this stigma… to this place of origin. The sign said…

“Jesus of Nazareth. King of the Jews.”

It is as if Pilate was giving the Jews one final twist of the knife into their gut of disdain towards Jesus. Not only was Pilate calling Him the King of the Jews… but he was calling out the reality that this “supposed” King was from this “Podunk” town of Nazareth.

Little did Pilate know what would happen three days later. Little did He know that this insignificant man from an insignificant town would literally rise to life from death and change the entire trajectory of the world. Little did he know that this Nazarite’s name would be known by every man on earth before it’s all said and done. (Phil. 2:9-11)

Little did he know…

And I want you to know today that God loves to make the insignificant significant. He loves to take that which the world would poke fun at and use for His glory on earth. He loves to be seen as the One working through those who would stand no chance in the eyes of the world… and do something great through them.

That is probably you.

That may be the reason you stumbled on this post and read these words and God is using them to speak into you. Yes, there have been plenty of Nathaniels and Pilates in your life who have been quick to write you off or tell you why you can’t do this or that, however you can do all things THROUGH CHRIST who gives you strength. Stay connected to Him. Stay close to Him. Stay surrendered to Him and watch what He can… and will… do in and through you.

Say this simple prayer of surrender.

“God, help me focus on You instead of my past. Help me look to my position with You when I’m tempted to look at where I come from. I surrender my life to You and ask You to use my remaining days for Your glory here on earth. I commit to serve You with everything I have until the day You call me home. I love You and thank You for today.”

GP

 

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God Speaks While Joseph Sleeps

It is amazing to me that God can often work in such profound ways while people are doing simple things… like sleeping. I look at the life of Joseph and see that God was working in a BIG way while he was snoring away. I know it doesn’t ALWAYS work out like this, but I imagine that there were a few years when Joseph (Jesus’ ‘adoptive dad’), would have been excited and scared when he crawled into bed. It seemed like God told Joseph some very BIG news while he was sleeping.

I imagine the first time was pretty stressful. Joseph had recently found out that his wife was pregnant… even though they had never been together sexually. He cared for her, but knew that he had to do something, so he decided to divorce her quietly. (I talked a little about this situation in this blog post).

So, he curls up in his footie pajamas and nods off into dreamland… knowing that he was about to quietly ‘divorce’ this woman that he loves. And, in between counting sheep and the rooster crowing, an angel shows up.

Angel Shows up to Joseph - Matthew.png

This was a pretty big moment for him. This would change everything. There were only two answers to Mary’s premature pregnancy. Either (1), the baby was Joseph’s and they had slept with one another before their official marriage was official. [This was a pretty grievous sin during this time and would carry with it much shame brought upon the family]. Or, (2) she had been with another man and the baby Mary was carrying was the product of infidelity. This, also, would bring incredible shame on both Mary and Joseph… but mostly on Joseph’s family which would be an incredible dishonor in a culture where integrity and honor were tantamount.

But, God spoke and Joseph was obedient. This is always my favorite part. He could have just ignored the dream and blamed it on some bad tamales that he bought at the local Quickie Mart. He could have come up with some excuse on why it didn’t make sense and followed his own will… but, he didn’t. The Bible tells us that he takes Mary to be his wife.

I wonder if God was proud of Joseph. I wonder if He smiled at His obedience. One thing is for sure… God used the ‘angel in the dream’ thing a few more times. I imagine He thought to Himself… ‘that Joseph sure listened to me when I sent the angel. We have a few more messages for Him. Keep that angel on speed dial. We are going to be needing him again’.

And God did… three more times recorded in Scripture.

There was the time that the death squad was coming to kill the babies in Bethlehem. The angel shows up and the angel tells Joseph to get the heck out of Dodge…

Matthew 2

Then, after a time in Egypt, Joseph is curling up in bed after reading the final chapter of Arabian Nights and, as he is drifting away, an angel comes and tells them that it is safe to head back to the homeland of Israel…

Matthew 2(2)

But, that wasn’t enough. Yes… Joseph was headed back to Israel, but God wanted to be a little more specific about where they were going to go. So, in the final recorded dream of Joseph, an angel shows back up and tells him what neighborhood and subdivision that He was supposed to move in to.

Matthew 2(3)

And, he did.

I am encouraged by this. I am encouraged by Joseph’s obedience, but I am also encouraged by God’s love and grace in His communication. I love how He knew to reach into Joseph. I love how He knew how to get His attention. I love how He knew what would work.

I know that this same BIG God, knows me as well as He knew Joseph. I know that He created Joseph and He created me with purpose. And, I know that He knows what to do in order to get my attention and to speak and guide and direct my life too. I trust Him and trust that He is actively working in my life today. And… as He works… He will be pointing some things out along the journey of life.

Feel free to say this prayer and spend some time listening to God today:

“God, show up in my life. Help me pay attention and see your fingerprints all over my life. Help me live a life of obedience to You and Your Word. When I see You moving in my life, help me to focus and pay attention with a humble and obedient heart. Thank You for all that You have done in my life and all that You will do. I am grateful.” 

GP

 

A King, a Priest and a Dead Man Walk Into A Barn

A gift is a blessing… but a perfectly timed gift is a miracle. 

I can imagine how humbled Mary and Joseph were when the ‘wise men’ astrologers followed a star to their front door. I can imagine their joy to see these learned men who had traveled (maybe 1,000 miles) to bow before their son. But when they opened the treasure boxes… I am sure their hearts melted.

Some gifts may seem strange to us today and some we would welcome gladly.

GOLD. For sure, no problem with this. If you want to bring a bucket full of gold to my kid’s birthday party… I will not complain. With a current value of $1,272 per ounce, you can fill every bucket in the house with it! Of course, it was also a gift fit for a king. And then there was the incense.

FRANKINCENSE to be specific. This was used in priestly functions as incense was burned before God as a picture of prayers going up before the Lord. Some today, however, believe that the wise men’s gift of frankincense was practical for the medicinal nature. Either way, it was also a gift for a priest. And then there was the myrrh.

MYRRH was an embalming agent. Yes, it was valuable, but it also carried with it a very ominous picture into the future of Jesus and the core reason on why He was on earth. He was there on purpose… and that purpose was death. It was a good gift for a dead man.

These gifts were normal gifts to give a king. In fact, these same three items were apparently among the gifts, recorded in ancient inscriptions, that King Seleucus II Callinicus offered to the god Apollo at the temple in Miletus in 243 B.C.E.

There is also a prophetic word from the prophet Isaiah about the response of people to God in the sixtieth chapter of Isaiah:

Isaiah 60-6.png

For us today, there is a lot to see about these incredible gifts given to this young child. It is a testimony of God’s care and provision for the future that was unknown by Joseph and Mary at this time. Because… in the next few verses we are going to find a raging king Herod, a death squad march into Bethlehem and an all expense paid trip to Egypt. Paid for through a miracle.

A miracle that involved a star that defied the laws of nature and a group that traveled over 1,000 miles with a message of honor.

God knew the future of Joseph and Mary… and He provided for them. He made a way. He opened a door. He cared for their needs. He worked a miracle and did that which ONLY He could have done. 

The same is true in your life.

The same God who worked a miracle in Bethlehem can work a miracle in your life today. The same God who provided for Mary and Joseph can provide for you. The same God who created the universe has a perfect plan for your life. 

Our role is to humbly trust and respond to His grace and love with open hands and a grateful heart. To thank Him for His provision today and trust that He knows ALL the difficulties we will face tomorrow and trust that He is providing for those tomorrows today.

Say this simple prayer:

“God, help me trust you more. Help me to believe that You do care and You do provide for ALL of my needs. Help me turn to You when things don’t make sense and to look for your fingerprints all over my life. I want to give all of my ‘todays’ to you and trust that you are actively at work in all of my ‘tomorrows’. Help me live out that trust. Amen.”

GP

A Star Defies Nature For Jesus

In the Bible there is a story about ‘wise men’ who were traveling to see a newborn King. They were following a star along their journey and this star made some incredibly unnatural moves along it’s journey.

It started in ‘the East’ with a group of people known as ‘magi’. Magi actually first entered the scene around the 7th century BC in the Median empire, but at the time of Jesus they were a priestly caste dwelling within the Parthian empire (a large area to the east of the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire). They were known for interpreting dreams and practiced a hybrid of astronomy and astrology. They were ‘star people’.

So, they see ‘the‘ star. This is not just any star, but the star that was a big deal because it was the star that marked a king being born. If they were in Persia when they saw the star (although the Bible is silent on the exact point of origin), they would have traveled 1,000 miles to Bethlehem as they followed that star! (Their feet must’ve been like stone after walking all that way… all calloused and blistered by the time they made it into Jerusalem. Either that or some sore butts from the camels. Either way, they were feeling it. )

Now, this is where it gets strange.

They start getting close to this baby named Jesus and we read:

“…the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.” Matthew 2:9b

Now stars travel in a certain trajectory. If you were to sit and watch the stars through a telescope, you would occasionally have to move the telescope. Because… these stars are not static… they move. They move from the east to the west. But Bethlehem in 5 miles south of Jerusalem.

Did you hear that? The star moved south.

In order for this star to lead these ‘wise guys’ from Jerusalem to Bethlehem it would have taken them on a five mile southward journey. It would have done the impossible to bear witness to the King of all kings… Jesus. 

This is just another one of those facts that I quickly read over and don’t pay any attention to. However, I can imagine the awe of these ‘astronomers’ who spent their entire lives with their eyes to the sky. They knew how stars were supposed to react. They knew what was ‘supposed’ to happen. But, when nature moved to bow before the child named Jesus… they noticed… and so should we. 

We should read God’s Word with fresh eyes to see the miracles in the simple moments. To watch the impossible become possible as the fingerprints of God show up all over the situations relating to Jesus. Because, those fingerprints don’t simply stop around the life of Jesus and the first disciples, but they can be found all around you… also.

God is still at work and He is moving around your life. Sometimes, like when we read the Bible, we skip over those ‘small verses’ that don’t stick out. We just look at the ‘big things’ that are going on around us. But, it is in those small details that the real miracles are taking place. 

If you are frustrated or wondering where God is, I want to reassure you that He IS here and He IS active and He DOES care so much about you. Maybe start by saying a simple prayer like this to Him today:

“God, help me see your fingerprints in my life. Help me see that you are here in the little details of my life. Help me see that You do care and that You are actively at work all around me. Help me see that You will never leave me and that You are fighting on my behalf. Open my eyes to your work today.”

GP

 

 

 

 

Joseph, Mary and Marvin Gaye

It’s hard for us to imagine what it must’ve been like for Joseph in the Bible when he found out that his ‘wife’ was pregnant… and they had never been together. 

During Bible times, Hebrew marriage customs were much different than today. Marriages were ‘arranged’ by parents and after the contracts were negotiated and agreed upon… the couple were officially ‘husband and wife’, even though they were not sexually intimate. In fact, they were not intimate for the course of entire year! (Now that’s commitment). 

What was the purpose of this?

The waiting period was to demonstrate the faithfulness of the pledge of purity concerning the bride. If she got pregnant in that year, she was not pure and the marriage could be annulled. If she wasn’t pregnant, there would be a grand processional march back to the groom’s home, he would put on some Marvin Gaye and the rest was history.

Within that first year, Mary became pregnant.

I can imagine the pain in Joseph’s heart when he found that out. He loved Mary. He had envisioned a life together with her. He cared more about ‘her’ than himself.

You see that in his response. 

When he could have gotten even…

When he could have embarrassed her…

When he could have decided to run her name through the mud…

The Bible tells us: 

“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” Matthew 1:19

This is before an angel shows up. This is before he understands what is taking place. This is before God fills in all the blanks. This is before every answer has been given.

Joseph was a ‘just man’. 

Joseph, in that moment, had a choice on how he would respond. He could choose one way or the other. But, because of his character as a ‘just man’, he chose grace.

Jesus said this about our Father in heaven…

“…For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45b

You have a choice on how you are going to react when the rug gets pulled out on you. You have a decision to make when things don’t go your way or you are dragged down the dark road of despair because of the decisions and actions of another. I want to encourage you today…

Choose Grace. 

Choose to be that ‘just person’. Choose to be the ‘bigger person’. Choose to hold your head high and believe that a God who is greater than your current situation may even use it for His glory in your life.

Say this prayer: “God, help me to be just. Help me to choose grace. Help me to forgive. Help me see your fingerprints on my life even when things don’t make sense. I choose today to trust you. Help my heart follow my head. I love you. Amen.”

 

 

 

 

Four “Sinners” that God Still Used

We read their names really quick. In fact, I often tell people to skip the Bible chapter all together if it is their first time reading Scripture. Matthew chapter 1. The genealogy or better known as “that chapter with all those big names that I can’t pronounce which reminds me why I haven’t read the Bible until now” chapter. 

However, those names represent people and those people represent stories of how God moves in the lives of broken people to do something extraordinary. 

Five of the names in chapter one are the names of women. Mary, the mother of Jesus… of course… being one of the five. But, there are four more. Let me tell you their names and give you a highlight of what they were known for. (Click the link to read the Bible story for yourself). 

Tamar: Dressed like a prostitute, lured her father-in-law into a sexual romp, got pregnant, and had twins. (Now, I know that there is a lot of other issues involved here historically and culturally, but there’s the heart of the story. Read it entirely here.)

Rahab: She was a prostitute. Not just dressed like one, but made it her profession and had the red light in front of her house to prove it. (OK… it was a ‘scarlet cord’, but that’s just some Bible humor for me. Read it entirely here.)

Ruth: She was a foreigner from the much hated land of Moab. The Jewish folks traced the land of Moab back to an incestuous relationship between Lot and his eldest daughter. (Who said the Bible wasn’t interesting? Read it entirely here.)

Wife of Uriah: This was a lady named Bathsheeba and may be the reason we call lounging around in a porcelin tub a ‘bath’, but I’m just guessing. She was the pursuit of King David and part of his adulterous fall. (Read it entirely here.)

So… what does that mean for me? 

Well, God knew what He was doing when He was setting up the lineage of Jesus. He could have picked ‘better’ choices. He could have left certain people out of His story. He could have passed this one up or chose this other one instead.

But… he didn’t.

He chose the messed up. He chose the broken. He chose that had been looked down upon. He chose the ones who messed up BIG TIME. He chose them IN SPITE of themselves… and He can use you too. 

I have talked with so many people who believe that they are ‘beyond’ God using them. They have messed up too bad or traveled too far away. But, I want you to know that God can use your story for His glory.

I want to encourage you to surrender your story to Him. Give your life and your past and your todays and your tomorrows to Him. Say a simple prayer sincerely from your heart…

“God, I’m yours. I’m sorry about the mistakes of my life and those moments I chose ME over YOU, but today I turn to You and ask for your forgiveness. Use my story for Your glory and help me rely on You completely each and every day.” 

Now, next time you want to give up or not show up or feel sorry for yourself. Remember… God is in the business of using messy people. And… if He can use them, He can use you. 

Blessings!

GP

Matthew 4: Beach Walks, the Jesus Train and Putting on Your Big Boy Pants

I’d like to think that I am a true disciple of Christ today. I want to think that if Jesus were to come to me and say “Follow Me” that I would quickly jump in his van and head out on a cross country adventure of epic proportions. I want to think that I’d leave it all to follow Him. But, in all honesty, I don’t think that it would be that easy. 

But, the early disciples had to make that decision. 

In Matthew 4, Jesus is traveling around after surviving the 40 days of fasting in the wilderness and the quality time with satan on the mountain. He is walking  down the beach one day and he runs in to two brothers… Peter and Andrew. The Bible records the proposition given to them by Jesus when He said:

“Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Mt. 4:19

At once they look at their friends, say “Peace Out”, and hop on the Jesus train. (My own translation.)

They continue their stroll and come across another two guys who are working with their dad by the names of James and John. Matthew doesn’t record Jesus’ exact words, but describes the scene like this:

“Jesus called them.” 

Those are powerful words for me and they should be powerful words for you too. “Jesus called them”. 

Two thousand years later and not much has changed.  Jesus is still calling people. Jesus is still interrupting our daily lives to tell us that He has a better plan. He is still encouraging us to follow Him. And we, like James and John, are forced to make a decision. There was no “Part Time” positions in the job description that Jesus is laying out. There is only “full time, give it all, leave it all behind, no turning back” positions.

And we are forced to make a decision.

James and John were forced to make a radical decision. It would have included leaving their jobs… It would have included abandoning their careers… And, it would have included walking away from their father who was sitting in a boat with them fixing a net. It would have been leaving your dad to do the work while you followed a rabbi.

Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us if dad gives them the “I’m your daddy and you better listen to me Boy” look or not. Maybe he was happy. Maybe he was excited. Jesus was a great guy for your kids to have the opportunity to learn from. But, upset or overjoyed, it would have been hard.

Following Jesus is hard. 

There is no way around that one. There are moments that are going to be very tough and we will be called to walk away from situations or security or relationships that keep us comfy. But, like the “blankee” that eventually gets put in a drawer and only gets pulled out when you have an extremely bad day, we will have to put some of our “comfort” away.

Think about it. Abraham leaving his homeland. Zacchaeus giving away all the cash. Paul sacrificing religious privilege. Mary letting go of her son. And the list can go on and on. Following God’s plans for our lives can be difficult. 

So, what do we do with that? Well, we put on our big boy pants and realize that the One who we are following has a better plan for our lives than we do. 

Peter had a plan for his life… God’s plan was better. 

James and John’s dad had a plan for their lives… God’s plans were better. 

YOU have a plan for your life… God’s plan IS better. 

Who’s plan are you going to follow. 

It’s not easy, I agree. It’s tough to follow Jesus, but IT IS SO WORTH IT!

You may be tempted to remain in your comfy place, but I want you to reevaluate where you are. You can continue to sit in a boat mending a net, or you can learn how to follow Christ into the adventure of a lifetime.

If I were you… I’d choose the latter.

GP

Matthew 3: Honey Glazed Locusts and a Side of Repentance

Chapter three of the book of Matthew in the Bible ushers in another character into the Jesus story, although he is one that had been around since the very beginning… literally. He is the one who leaps in his mother’s womb when a pregnant Mary walked into the room. He is the cousin of Jesus and eccentric who is well known for two things.

His fashion sense… “Camel Hair” must have been pretty chic around this time.

His cuisine… He created the appetizer “sticky bugs”, which was simply locusts with a honey glaze.

But, there was something else that made him pretty interesting… his message. It was a simple message: “Repent!”

Yes, like the guy on the street corner with a bullhorn and a wearable placard:

Repent!

“Turn away from sin and turn towards God.” It’s a message that more need to hear today. It’s a message that some churches have forgotten about in an effort to become more appealing. Here’s the funny thing though. John preached the message loud and clear and people traveled from all over to respond to the message of repentance.

Did you hear those words? “Respond to the message of repentance.”

I didn’t say that they traveled out to be shamed or ridiculed. I didn’t say that they enjoyed being told that they were a “very, very bad, bad boy”. I said that they responded to the message of repentance.

“Turn around from the direction that you are going and look to God!”

“You are going in the wrong way. Your current direction leads to destruction. Make a U-turn!”

“WAKE UP!”

Repent.

It’s a message that needs to be heard today also. However, we need to learn how to say it. Consistently. Emphatically. Gracefully. Repent.

John couldn’t have done this any better than what he said in verse 8 of chapter 3 in Matthew:

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”

Imagine your life as a tree. The health of the tree is producing the fruit that other people are partaking in. They consume the fruit. You produce the fruit. This fruit is either produced from a life of repentance or from a life of continuing on in disobedience.

We all can clearly see the fruit of what happens when we DON’T walk in repentance. Just watch an episode of “Cops”. (What’cha gonna do when He comes for you?) Sure, that’s obvious, but what about the NOT so obvious fruit. The fruit that we have to live in. The fruit of anger and sadness and fear. The fruit of jealousy and pain and hate. What about that insidious fruit that destroys us from the inside out?

There’s another choice. There’s a better choice.

Paul described what “producing fruit in keeping with repentance” looked like. In fact, he gave it a cool name: the fruit of the spirit. We can read about it in the book of Galatians. Here is what we read:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

When we learn how to walk in repentance, we begin to produce fruit in keeping with this repentance. It is good fruit that not only nourishes us, but nourishes those all around us. Our lives begin to produce joy and love, peace and goodness, gentleness and self control. But, you need to see that this comes AFTER the turning away.

When I was young I used to think that I had to DO things to make God happy. In other words, I’d have to earn His love and admiration by the actions that I would make. When I would mess up, I would be punished. When I did good, I would be blessed. I would try to MAKE myself love… but I couldn’t produce that fruit. I would try to control my actions… but failed miserably every time. I couldn’t do any of these things because I can’t produce this fruit. It is not the fruit of my flesh, but my spirit. My flesh is all about ME, ME, ME and that’s a different kind of fruit, for a different kind of discussion.

Today, just know this. The first step towards producing the fruit that we long for in our lives is simply to turn away from “my will” to “God’s will”. It is a little thing called “surrender” and one that we need to learn to practice every day. Then, as you surrender your life to God, begin to pray Galatians 5:22-23 over your life.

“God, teach me to love like you. Let your joy rise up in my soul. Let your peace guide my days. Let me learn patience through You. Let my life exude your gentleness and kindness and goodness. Teach me to be faithful in all that I do. And, Holy Spirit, I thank you for your self-control. Let me bear fruit in keeping with repentance. As I put you first, let my life reflect Your light to this world. Amen.”

Start there and see what happens. You can also eat some insects… but that is for the REALLY spiritually advanced!

GP

Matthew 1: Tamar, Halibut and the Plans of God

If you start reading the Bible in Matthew chapter 1, you are going to be smacked with a list of names. Not names that you would probably find in your city’s maternity wing either. Some of these names are long, confusing and can make us really frustrated when we start reading the Bible.

Amminadab

Jehoram

Zerubbabel

Or, my favorite, Salmon and his brother Halibut.

(Bible disclosure. What you just read was a joke. Salmon does exist, however there is no Halibut in the family. Aunt Tuna wouldn’t let it happen.)

But, what we have to realize is that every name has a story and that story can mean something profound to us. When we read the name and know the story… a greater understanding of the hope and peace and grace of God comes into our lives.

For example, there is a phrase that is thrown into verse three. We read:

“Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar)…” Matthew 1:3a

What’s the point? We don’t hear the name of everyone’s mom… so why would the Bible include Tamar?

I would encourage you to read the story in Genesis 38. It is a tale of ejaculation, prostitution and all the stuff you don’t hear preached about on a Sunday morning. You hear the dark side of a patriarch named Judah (whose name I still think is awesome, even though his character might have been slightly askew).

Here it is in a nutshell:

Judah’s son Er gets a wife and her name is Tamar. He was wicked so God killed him. (see 38:7)

Judah tells the younger brother to marry her, have sex with her and make a baby. For some reason, this doesn’t seem like the life plan that Onan has for himself, so he pulls out just in time (before his ejaculation) and the Bible tells us that he “spilled it on the ground”. (see 38:9) Because of this… God killed him. (see 38:10)

I can’t make this stuff up.

This left the third son who was too young to get married (and probably scared to death of the “black widow” that was killing off his family), so Judah tells her to go back to her family’s home until he grew up.

She does.

He grows up.

Judah just forgets about his promise to Tamar. Life goes on and she is left without husband and without child.

This was a big deal.

To be married and have children were the purposes that drove this culture. It was disgraceful not to have children and to be a widow and not have children was just shameful.

She had trusted in her husband… that didn’t work out. She had trusted in the integrity of her father in law… and he failed her. She had hoped her life would turn out different… it didn’t. So, she took matters into her own hands.

She dressed up like a prostitute.

Maybe you didn’t see that coming. I know I didn’t when I first read it.

“I’m frustrated. I’m upset. But, I’m also single and ready to mingle! Let’s go on down to the sheep barbershop and see what I can get into.”

Judah sees her, but she has on a veil. He thinks, “There’s a prostitute and then says…”

“Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee.” This must be the normal King James talk between a “John” and a lady of the night.

Long story short… she gets a staff from him, gets a baby by him, gets accused by him, schooled him and then gets married to him. (For full story, please read your Bible!)

The baby (or should I say ‘babies’) are born… twins… named Perez and Zerah (NLT).

These babies are found in the lineage of Jesus. They are part of His story… Tamar is part of His story… and YOU are part of His story.

Maybe you understand how Tamar felt. Let down by people. Alone. Forgotten. Maybe you, like her, have tried to take matters into your hands. For some of us, that has worked. For others, it has blown up in your face. However… for all of us… whether we sit with smiles or singed eyebrows from a recent life explosion, God can work in that.

He does. He works in our mistakes. He works in our victories. He sees our pain and comforts us through it. He is guiding the steps of your life and has a perfect plan for you. The only question is… “Will you respond to Him? Will you give Him control over the chaos today?”

Tamar was far from a perfect person. Many things she did were wrong. However, God still used her in His story. I want to encourage you to believe this simple fact today:

God wants to use you in His story. Will you let Him?

GP