Let's Be Inspired Together Blog Articles

 

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Rock, Hard place and other Options!

 

Joseph and Mary were ‘pledged’ to be married. This was the second step in the three-step process of what it meant to be married. Step one was that your parents would work out the details of the union and would work out a price for the bride that would be paid, etc. Step two is that a public announcement would be made, similar to an engagement today, except that it was much more binding… in fact, it could only be broken through death and divorce. During this year of engagement, sex was NOT permitted. But…Joseph had just found out that Mary was pregnant! Joseph found himself between a rock and a hard place.

"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly." Matt 1:18-19

Rock! Hard place! ...Joseph!

Mary’s apparent unfaithfulness carried a severe social stigma and according to the law he had a right to divorce her - he could even have had her stoned to death.

Rock! Hard Place! ...Joseph!

Have you ever been there? Not pregnant with the son of God, but caught between a rock and a hard place?!

For Joseph, the rock was that he had great compassion for Mary and the last thing that he wanted to do was to expose her to public disgrace. The Hard Place was that he didn’t want to go against God’s laws and carry the weight of, in the words of the A-Team, a crime that he didn’t commit.

When caught between a rock and a hard place it often appears that there are really only three things that we can do to get out of the jam. We read in these verses from Matthew that Joseph did all three;

1) First… seek to do what is right. We read that David was a righteous man, telling us that even though he was somewhat stuck, he really wanted to do the right thing.

2) Second…. Plan. What are the steps that I need to take to get out of this mess? What process can I set up to find a way out of this? We read that Joseph had planned to divorce her quietly.

3) Thirdly… sometimes we just have to make a decision and live with it. We have to set our resolve that we’re going to live with whatever fall out there will be. We read that Joseph had great resolve as he made this decision.

Joseph thought he had two options – divorce her publically or dismiss her quietly, but God had another option. It is important that we wrestle with difficult decisions, seeking to do what is right, but let’s not forget that often God has options for us that we can’t even imagine. This angelic appearance provided for David a third option, encouraging him to make a great decision rather than just a good decision. When you find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place, let Joseph’s story remind you that God may have another, better option for us.

Recently I was talking with a couple who were on the verge of divorce. The question was posed to me, “Which would God rather have? For someone to get divorced or for someone living in an abusive marriage?” It seemed like this couple was caught between the rock and the hard place… but God has a lot more options than just the black and white that we so often see.

Joseph’s Christmas? Rock… Hard place…an option giving God!

Christmas Statements


Have you ever noticed how many statements we make at this time of year? We make statements on what we value and what's important through numerous different mediums. One of the great ways that we have traditionally made statements at this Christmas season is through the carols that we sing. Consider some of the following, life-shaping statements that we make in what we sing at this time of year!

  • "That has made heaven and earth of naught, and with his blood mankind hath bought" (The First Noel). What a fantastic statement about where we come from! How succinctly this speaks to how we have ruined that which he has created and how God is redeeming it
  • "God with man is now residing" (Angels from the Realms of Glory) This is the Christmas message in six words… as the Message version of John chapter 1 tells us,"God moved into the Neighborhood". What a statement!
  • "To save us all from Sin and Self" (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen) This statement captures our human condition. Our sin manifests itself in our selfishness, and our selfishness prevents us from Godliness. The bold statement of the kingdom is that God comes to save us from ourselves.
  • "So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven." (O' Little Town of Bethlehem). What a great statement this is! As God gives himself to us, He places into our lives the blessings of heaven. If we could really believe this, then life we would live life so very differently.
  • "And Fit us for Heaven, to live with thee there". (Away in a Manager). What a profound statement this is! …That our Christian life isn't just crossing over some kind of line of salvation, but it is a continual journey of transformation - changed from glory unto glory as we are 'fitted' into the kind of people who will fit in in heaven!

 In Zechariah's prophecy, after his tongue has been loosened, I believe that he sings to us three statements that can and should shape how we celebrate this season. Zechariah is full of the Holy Spirit and follows in the line of Mary and Elizabeth who also sang when they were full of the Spirit, six months before the first Christmas. As Mary sang a song of love, Elizabeth sang a song of peace… here Zechariah sings a song of hope. Within Zechariah's song (Luke 1:67-80) are three profound statements.

His first statement is that we can be "Saved Completely". Notice how God's affection towards us is one of love. A more accurate translation of the word "visited" is "looked favorably". God looked at us from heaven, through the eyes of love, and realized that he had to do something to help us. So he did, he sent his son to 'redeem' us - To restore, to renew, and to ransom. The affection and the action of God is to save us completely. When it comes to the issue of salvation, He has done his part and made it possible for you. Have you responded? Do you know that you are saved completely?

Secondly, I believe Zechariah says that we should "Serve Victoriously". Verse 74 tells us that we have been 'saved to serve'. We are called to serve our mighty God through those that he loves and haven't yet received his salvation. But as we do, the benefit isn't just for them. It is for us as well. Note how he continues in 74… we are to serve in holiness and righteousness. These two descriptors speak to the attitude of our heart and to our behavior. Have you noticed that when you serve, our heart starts to change… and thus shortly after our behavior. One of the things that I think Zechariah is saying is that as we serve, everyone wins!

Thirdly, Zechariah is saying (76-79) that we can "Shine Emphatically". I imagine that as he speaks, he is cradling his newborn son, John. He looks at him with great hope and affection as he speaks over his son what God has in mind for him. You will prepare people to receive the Messiah, you will share with people the knowledge of salvation, you will allow the glory of God to break into the world and allow people to experience peace! I believe that God wants to have tender moments with us where he extends the same invitation t us, and that through our lives people can be prepared to receive Jesus, that we would tell them about his forgiveness, and that through him we would bring peace.

This year, let your Christmas be defined by the following statements:

  • You can be Saved Completely!
  • You should Serve Victoriously!
  • You must Shine Emphatically!

Make a statement this Christmas!

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

One of the favorite verses of one of my favorite Christmas carol's is penned in the fourth verse of "In the Bleak Midwinter". The song asks;

"What then can I give him, poor as I am,

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.

If I were a wise man, I would do my part.

Yet - what can I give him? I give him my heart"

These words provoke a response from me. What do I have to give? 

Sharing God's Excitement

I imagine that Christmas excites God. His excitement surrounding the first Christmas must have been almost out of control, and like any proud parent on the birthday of their child, I imagine he has wildly celebrated each of Jesus’ birthday since then.

1) The First Christmas.

Since the fall of man, God had been trying his best to unlock the hearts of the men and women whom he loved so passionately. Throughout the centuries he had protected, nurtured, guided, promised, revealed, pleaded, offended, encouraged, pushed, pulled, challenged and invited humanity in the hope that we would turn back to him. He had exhausted almost every possible means to let the citizens of earth know how much he loved them... there were a few whose hearts returned their affection to him, but something special, something beyond anything previously, something unprecedented was needed to set God's redemptive plan in motion fully. In heaven’s conference room, it was decided that the Son – the ‘word’ who was with and was God – would come and live among those on whom God’s passion was focused. The first Advent must have filled heaven with excitement the holy strings were pulled, the angels were prepared, the critical players aligned, the miracles orchestrated and the story panned out. Heaven collectively anticipated with great fuss and giddiness the majestic display of love that would soon be revealed! The Word was to become flesh; he was going to dwell, glory would be revealed… and the great redemptive plan would enter into a new and complete phase for all who would believe and receive this most sacred of gifts.

The best kind of gifts to give are the ones that are lovingly prepared, creatively engineered, fantastically delivered, and revealed through elements of surprise, wonder, and awe. The best kind of gifts to give is of the best that we have to give. And that’s what God did. The first Advent was full of excitement; the first Christmas Eve was full of contagious hope, and on that first Christmas day, God must have been eagerly peering down to see how humanity would receive this indescribable gift.

2) This Christmas.

I imagine God is more excited about Christmas than we are. He sees people coming together and hears laughter. He notices the spirit of generosity that extends beyond selfishness. He sees hope in people, and wonder in both young and old. He initiates reconciliation and serendipity. He sees people understanding who he is through ancient words and the wise and foolish looking to him…

He sees the pain as well… those who are alone and grieving and lost. He hurts with those who are hurt and weeps for those whose heart is bankrupt. It grieves him… but then he remembers back to the very first Christmas and the very reason why he gave his son to us. He sent his son not only so we could share in his excitement, but to offer life to those of us, all of us, for whom life here is not as he intended.

For God so LOVED the world that he gave his only son.

Share God’s excitement this Christmas

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