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.”

 

 

 

 

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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 2: Killing Babies and Sitting Through Pain

As we move along to the second chapter of Matthew, tragedy meets divinity as we witness more miracles in the story of Jesus. This miracle… and tragedy… is built around those that fill our hearts with joy and our landfills with diapers… Babies!

King Herod has been affectionately called  “a madman” in history, though we have probably heard him called “Herod the Great”. After reading my history lessons about him, I would simply call him “Herod the Great Madman”.

He was a ruthless murderer. He killed three of his sons, his most beloved wife and many more. Killing, for him and many other leaders during this time, was a normal thing. Herod, however, took it to a whole new level during the time of Jesus. 

A group of people enter the city with news that a new king had been born.

Can you imagine the reaction of this man when he found out that the “King of the Jews” had been born on HIS watch in HIS region. Unacceptable! However, he played it cool. I love the answer that he gives this group of guys:

“… ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him’.” Matthew 2:8b

Worship Him.

If worship meant “violently murder”, then Herod was waiting for his moment.

The magi left.

They worshipped Jesus.

They returned home…  another way… and Herod never located this King.

This didn’t stop Herod though.

His rage grew.

His paranoia expanded.

His anger overflowed into one of the most heinous crimes in the New Testament… Killing babies. 

Imagine soldiers, going home to home, shooting babies. That’s it. Just babies. If you were two years or younger, you are getting a bullet.

But, this was ancient times. There were no guns. So, soldiers would have to murder babies with knives and swords. Door to door. House to house. Family to family. Death.

This is another one of those stories of the Bible that I don’t think I truly get. Even typing the words gives me a check in my gut. I don’t want to type them. They are too hard. They are too dark. They sicken me. But, they are true. It happened. 

Imagine the families. Imagine the pain. Imagine the stories… the memories… the tears. 

Pure evil. I don’t think that you can get more evil than this. When I think of darkness… this is about as black as it can get. Disgusting. 

And, it is out of this darkness, that light prevails. God shows up in a dream to Joseph, provides the money through the magi and opens the doors to Egypt. Jesus is saved from this crime and lives to shine light into this world.

However, most of the parents in Bethlehem probably never had the chance to see this light. They couldn’t make sense of the crime. They simply had to sit through the pain. 

I pray that we never have to go through such horror. I pray that we never have to witness such hate. I pray that this depth of pain never reaches the thresholds of our lives. However, I know that each and every one of us will experience pain. We will have things happen. We will go through rage and sadness and loss. It is life. It is the reality of breathing breath. It happens. Sometimes, even when we could do absolutely nothing to prevent it.

It happens. 

What do we do in the midst of it? How do we handle it? What does that look like? 

We hold on to the light. 

Believe that something good can come from the pain. Believe that God can use man’s evil for His good. Believe that light truly does trump darkness and that God is the one who will have the final say. Trust in Him. 

Jesus said it so plainly for us when He said:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

We are each called to have peace, but it will NEVER come from our circumstances. It doesn’t come from our bank accounts. It doesn’t come from our friends. It doesn’t come from living an “easy life”. Where does true peace come from? 

Jesus said, “…in ME you may have peace…”

If you need peace, there is only one place that you are going to find it. Look to Jesus. 

Shalom,

GP