Right or Righteous?

“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. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 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. “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “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.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:18–25, NASB95)

We are getting close to Christmas. “`Tis the Season” to reread the account of the nativity. It is my habit every year to restudy the Biblical narrative of Jesus birth. I learn something new every year. This year, the history of Joseph and his reaction to the events surrounding the birth of Jesus caught my attention.

It is compelling that Joseph chose to take Mary as his wife even though she was pregnant. Joseph was a righteous man. He did have questions about this. Anyone would. I often thought that his dilemma was with the fact that Mary was pregnant and as a righteous man he would not appear righteous if he still married her. But I studied the meaning of righteousness and came to a different conclusion.

Righteousness is often confused with being right. It doesn’t mean perfect or always accurate as I thought. The word righteousness is a relational word. It means that you are keeping promises, acting justly, and meeting reasonable expectations in a relationship.

Joseph was a keeper of the law. He obeyed God’s Word. But there had to be more than that, or he wouldn’t have been pondering what he should do. The law seemed pretty straight forward.

If Mary had been with another man, according to the law, the right thing to do was to have her stoned (Lev 20:10). She was pregnant, and it wasn’t his child. He could have brought her before the Pharisees and ruined her. But being a righteous man he did not want to disgrace her or see her die, because had a relationship with her. In relationship, in love he wanted something else for her, so he pondered (meditated) on these things.

God provided an answer. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and explained the circumstances. Mary was miraculously pregnant. God had a righteous plan. The Savior of the entire world was to come through Joseph’s bride. Joseph would have the responsibility of loving, protecting, and providing for this woman and for the Son of God.

It wasn’t a plan that made everyone look good. Most people thought Joseph had married a loose woman or that they had been together before it was proper. There would be gossip and rumors for the rest of their lives. No, this plan didn’t make them look right, but it was a righteous plan. It was God demonstrating his righteousness. It was God keeping promises, acting justly, and meeting expectations.

Joseph didn’t have a problem following this plan. Joseph got up and obeyed God. It was second nature to him to obey God. He was a righteous man. He had a relationship with God, so he responded by meeting God’s expectations, acting justly, and keeping the promises and commitments he had made. Joseph was a righteous follower of God, a righteous husband and a righteous father.

This Christmas, I have learned that I truly want to be righteous. I want more than just to do the right thing. I want live in relationship in a right way. I want righteousness to be my character. I want to get out of bed and obey God. Not to be right, but because I have a relationship with God through his Christmas gift, Jesus.

He Passes By and Says, “Live”

Check out this video-Aborted Baby Miraculously Lives

“And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born. “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment.” (Ezekiel 16:4–7, ESV)

I recently watched the posted video. It was emotional for me, because it was such a powerful testament to life being a precious gift. It reminded me of these verses in Ezekiel. Left for dead and unwanted, God sees our “inherent worth” and intervenes on our behalf. He passes by and says “Live”.
Against all odds, against all reason, in spite of human effort, God sees value in us and gives us life. Each one of us has been discarded by someone. Each of us has been unwanted and unloved by someone that should have loved us. Our stories may not be as dramatic as this baby living through torture in her own mother’s womb, but we have all been discarded. God saw our need and intervened.
Praise the Holy One who gave life. “Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:45, ESV) Praise God for Jesus and his gift of eternal life. Without him, there would be no hope.
Thanks be to God who didn’t see us as an inconvenience. God knew that we would act inappropriately. He knew we would have problems and messes that he would have to solve. He had already planned to send Jesus to give us life. We were not considered an inconvenience, but something of immense worth. We were worth the sacrifice of his son.
All glory to the Almighty who can sustain us when all else is against us. “By You, I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb; My praise is continually of You. I have become a marvel to many, For You are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with Your praise And with Your glory all day long.” (Psalm 71:6–8, NASB95)
Melissa, the woman in this video is a marvel to many. It is a miracle that she survived. As God sustains us and saves us from the attacks of our enemies, we become a marvel to many. It is a miracle that we survive. We can do nothing less than praise God and glorify him for his salvation and his gift of everlasting life.

Happy Thanksgiving

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 118:1 ESV)

Happy Thanksgiving! Today I am truly thankful because God is good. I am thankful because God’s love is steadfast and endures forever. I am thankful because I know these things from years of experience and a personal relationship with the Lord. I know this verse is truth.
On Sunday, I heard my son quote this verse. It brought back memories from 25 years ago when I first helped him learn this verse. It was one of the first verses he memorized in AWANA. He was 5 years old and in Sparks. He learned this verse quickly and easily, and he obviously still remembers it.
A couple of years later, I helped his brother memorize this verse. A couple of years after that my daughter learned it too. In my 17 years as an AWANA leader, I helped many children learn this verse. I taught it to them because I believe it. And I never forget it. I remember it too! We should give thanks. God is good.
Thinking back over the last 25 years since my son learned that verse, I am amazed at God’s love. I am blown away at how steadfast and consistent his love has been. I have gone through many tragedies and victories in that time. I have made friends and lost friends. I have lost family and been there when new life came into the world. Life has ups and downs, but there is one thing you can always count on. “God is good, and his steadfast love endures forever.”
Today I am thankful for the AWANA program and all that we learned through it. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve God. I am thankful for my family, especially my children. My heart is full of gratitude to God for the life he has given me, with the ups and downs. I am most thankful for God’s goodness and steadfast love.

Magnify the Lord Your God

“Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!” (Psalm 34:3)

On a recent flight to Lima, I had a window seat. I like window seats. I have always enjoyed watching out of windows. I used to get in trouble in school for not paying attention because I would look out the window and daydream. Windows are a trigger for my brain to start imagining.
We were nearing the end of our whirlwind tour of Peru, headed back to Lima after some adventures in Puno. It was a beautiful day. It was a little cloudy which always makes a plane flight interesting. It was less cloudy the closer we got to the coast. We circled Lima getting ready to land. Then my imagination got really carried away. I saw a bunch of colorful little blocks. They looked like Lego blocks. I started guessing what they could be.
My guesses weren’t even close. I didn’t realize how far away I still was and how massive the “Lego blocks” truly were. As we got closer, I could tell they were quite large. I saw a truck parked next to one of the colorful boxes. That’s when I realized they were shipping containers. A far cry from Lego blocks!
What appeared to me as colorful one inch building blocks, where actually 20 foot long shipping containers! The reality was the same whether I was close or far. The difference was my perspective. As I said, they appeared as small blocks. The reality was that they were enormous shipping containers. In my imagination, I could move them around and build beautiful toys. In reality, I couldn’t move them even an inch. My perspective made a tremendous difference.
I started thinking about my perspective of God. Sometimes I see him as small. That is not reality. It is that I am too far away. He seems small when I am at a distance. At times, I think I can control Him, move Him according to my whims. The truth is that God is massive. I need to see Him from a different point of view.
So how do I get my perspective right? I need to magnify God. I need to enlarge my view of Him. That is something we sing about. It is something we talk about. But how do you do it? I had that question, so I went to Scripture to find an answer.
“I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving” (Psalm 69:30).

If we want to see God magnified, we need to praise Him and thank Him. When we do this, it takes us to reality. It brings our hearts and minds close to Him so we can see His true dimensions. When we praise and thank God, we are moved close to Him so we can see His power and glory. He will be magnified.

Dear Lord change my perspective. I do not always see you the way that I should. I move away, and from a distance you can seem small to me. That is not the truth. Let my mouth and my soul praise you and thank you for all that you have done. As I move into your presence through this praise, worship, adoration and thanksgiving, I know you will be magnified. I will see you as you are Big and Strong. I will confidently say that you my God are formidable and unmovable. I will know that you are Great and Mighty. In you, I put my trust.

Put Forth the Effort

“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27-33, ESV)

Technology is a marvellous thing. It keeps getting better. As it does, we keep upgrading in hopes of improving our productivity. My friend recently upgraded to a new smart phone. She had only owned simple cell phones and had a hard time just adding people to her contact list. Then she decided to upgrade to something even more complex.
When I asked about her new phone, she showed me the picture on the screen. It was beautiful and quite large. I asked how she liked the phone. She told me about all of the features she looked forward to using. It seemed that her phone could do everything.
She asked about my iPhone, and I told her how much I liked it. I told her about the features that I liked the most and the ones I used most often. She told me that her phone could do all of the same things. I thought that she truly loved her new phone and was actually enjoying all of its benefits.
I was wrong. Over the next few weeks, I saw how she struggled with the phone. She couldn’t make it work. She did not know how to use all of the wonderful features. The phone did have a lot of capability, but the user had to know how to use it. The problem was that my friend expected to pick up this complex phone, with many different apps and programs, and use it without any training.
I laughed when I thought about this later. I know that the more complex something is, the more effort we must exert to learn about it. My friend expected to pick up the phone and understand all of its complexity without putting forth any effort. Things just don’t work that way.
It was a powerful lesson for me. I realized that this is often our attitude about living and abiding in Jesus. We come to know Him and trust Him as our personal Savior, and then we expect that the most complex and involved relationship of our lives will be easy. We don’t even think about the effort required.
We certainly should be willing to put in the work. The benefits are enormous. As we take time to get to know the Lord of the Universe in His complexity, we will be better able to function in the program He created. Also, our lives will become more useful. Our time will be better spent. We will not just look pretty on the outside, but will be useful and a blessing. Our ability to reach out and touch others will grow exponentially as we learn about the Source of Power.
Put forth the effort. It will be worth it.

Dear Lord, I am often lazy. I do not count the costs or pick up my cross daily. I am sorry. Help me. I do desire to know you and have a closer relationship with you. I know that any effort I expend will be well worth it.

A Time to Travel

I am going on a trip in the near future. I am going to a distant country on another continent. I have never been there before. It has always been a dream of mine to go there. I am going to Machu Picchu, Peru. I have watched documentaries and travel shows about it. I have read books. I am so excited finally to be going.
When I decided to book the trip, I read even more. I read about the people, the culture, the history, the geography, and the climate. I wanted to be prepared. I wanted to get the most out of my journey.
To enjoy the trip fully, I felt that it was necessary to know what to wear. I want to bring the right clothes for the climate. I also want to make sure that my clothes are culturally acceptable, and I don’t want to offend the Peruvians. So I need to know what to pack. I am still unsure, but at least I have some guidelines.
I am also reading about the sites and culture. This way I will be able to ask intelligent questions and gain a better understanding of what I am seeing. I will be prepared to get the most out of the experience. I will not be surprised when they offer guinea pig for dinner. I already know that it is a staple of the Andes called Cuy.
How much richer our experiences are when we are prepared for them. We can be prepared. We can enjoy the adventure at a deeper level. We can be more intelligent about our choices by making informed decisions that are based on knowledge. We can be less fearful as we travel abroad.
Living the Christian life is living on permanent vacation. I am in a foreign land. I belong to a different culture It is exciting, and there are incredible things to see and enjoy. But I get myself in messes because I am not always prepared for the next adventure. I could be if I studied ahead and read the guide book. I better read my Bible today.
I should also talk to the guide who travels with me everywhere I go. He knows all the ins and outs of travel in this world. He also knows all the best places for adventure. He shows me the most beautiful sites and wonders. I better trust the guide today.

Lord, thanks for going on an adventure with me. I am looking forward to traveling through life with you. I will trust you and read my Bible. You are a joyful and exciting companion. I thank you for all the fun.

I Want to be Found Faithful

And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ (Luke 19:17)

The disciples of Jesus were longing for the Kingdom of God to be established here on earth. They mistakenly believed that Jesus was going to establish this kingdom immediately. Jesus told a parable describing a different future.
The parable describes a kingdom where the constituency refused to accept the king. So the king leaves but before he goes the wise ruler delegates responsibility to his servants. The ruler entrusted each servant with some money. They were to use the money to carry on business and make a profit for the king. Upon the king’s return, there would be an accounting for the money.
When the king returned, he established his kingdom. He then called his servants into his presence to ask about the business of the kingdom. Each servant gave an account for the money that had been entrusted to them. Some are praised for doing a good job. They had been found faithful. Some are condemned for their laziness. They are held accountable for their choices and actions.
The king in this parable says to one of the servants who did an admirable job, “Well done”. The ruler also rewards him with more responsibility. He gives him greater honor and a better position because he had been faithful in the small matters. He worked his way up by doing his best in the little things.
This is a lesson God wants me to learn. Why would he give me great tasks if I can’t be consistent with the small things? I must be faithful where I am at this moment. I need to give my best effort in everything I do. The King is coming, and I want Him to say to me “Well done”.
I recently read this quote, “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble” (Helen Keller). This sums up the point the Lord was teaching me from this parable. So today, I will do the small tasks as if they were great and noble, and I will do them for Jesus!
Jesus is coming back to establish His Kingdom. When He gets here, I want to be found faithful in all matters, great and small.

King of Heaven, I am glad to be your servant. Thank you for entrusting me with little. Let me be found faithful. I agree with Helen Keller. I also long to do extraordinary things for you, but I know that my calling for today is to do the small things to the best of my ability. Bless my small efforts and use them for your honor and glory.

Wait and Hope-A New Meaning

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.” Psalm 62:5-6

Wait, because our hope is in the Lord. I love verses that encourage us to trust God. But, I have been confused by some of them, especially the ones that say “wait and hope”. Wait sounds like sitting around, doing nothing. Hope sounds like wishing things are going to be ok. This kind of thinking takes some of the encouragement out of our verses.
Waiting in silence seems like a punishment. We wait in line. We wait for people to show up. We wait for the microwave to heat up yesterday’s coffee. We can’t speed the process or get the ball rolling. We are stuck in a situation that we would rather not be in, and would change if possible. We view waiting as a form of torture to be endured.
As we wait in silence, we wish things were different. Hope is just a desire for things to be as we imagine them. We hope for pleasant weather for the weekend zoo trip. We hope to have enough money left over after bills to buy new shoes. We hope things will work out well for a sick friend. We wait, unable to do anything, dreaming for a good outcome. Is this actually what God meant? I don’t think so.
Recently, I read this quote. “Until the day when God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, Wait and hope.” (Alexandre Dumas from The Count of Monte Cristo) This led me to believe that the concept of wait and hope that fills our modern minds must not be a historically accurate thought. I started studying.
I found a good Biblical definition of waiting. “Being prepared to patiently look towards God for his guidance and accepting the timing he proposes. Waiting on God can lead to an atmosphere of expectation and confidence in God and a realisation of the unreliability of one’s own judgment.” Another thing I discovered was that waiting on God is not a passive activity. It is an active choice to trust God for His timing. It is placing His will and desire above our own. It is a choice of love and an act of worship. It is like waiting for someone you adore to come home from a long trip, although it still requires patience there is an eagerness and excitement in the waiting.
Hope is the eagerness and excitement that we have. We know and are confident that our loved one will come home as promised, so we hope for the moment to come quickly. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary hope is “to desire with expectation of obtainment”. With this in mind, the above verses have a whole new meaning..
With my incorrect view, I would have thought the above verses meant, Be quiet and sit around until God gives you an idea that you can wish will happen soon. With my new understanding, I now think it means, Choose to rest quietly as you look with eager expectation to the future, knowing that God is going to care for us.

Thank you Lord for the hope that you give to me. You have made promises that I know you will keep. I wait in eager anticipation for fulfillment of all you have promised. Thank you that the hope you give is more than just wishful thinking. I am glad I learned that waiting in you is an active choice to rest in your promises, confident of their fulfillment.

Self-Centered Freedom Is No Freedom At All

Our world’s view of tolerance and acceptance has started to erode the churches moral standards and beliefs. Many Christians are leaning towards a relativistic view of morality instead of holding fast to the Word of Truth. Many claim that freedom in Christ allows them to make choices to live in a way that Christianity has traditionally held to be immoral and sinful. This self-centered freedom is no freedom at all. It is bondage to the flesh and fleshly desires. It is a lack of discipline. It is sin against a Holy God. Also, it is a sin against the people that we are called to love.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). Our selfishness in demanding freedom is a far cry from stirring up love and encouraging good works in one another. When we choose to live as slaves to sin, it is harmful to those around us. Paul shared this with the Corinthian church. “And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:11-12). Paul was addressing believers who were selfishly standing in their freedom without concern for how it affected weaker believers. Do we do that? It seems to be a predominant theme in American Christianity today, and it is wrong.

We must humble ourselves and care for others. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Looking to the interests of others means that we will avoid sin. We will not succumb to temptation because we are to be an example. We will withstand the attacks of the enemy because we do not want to harm others by dragging them into sin with us. We will practice self-control so we do not wound the conscience of weaker believers. We will practice what is good and right because we love others and want them to have an example that encourages them to live in freedom with Jesus.

Again, we are called to love one another. When we choose to follow our desires and succumb to the flesh, we always affect those around us. To continue in a path of sin, is a most unloving act. Our friends and family are harmed. Our churches are weakened. The people we sin with are driven farther from God. And we fail to declare the glory and honor and power of the Almighty. Loving others requires us to choose real freedom, freedom from sin, not freedom to sin.

Lord, let me live a free life, a life free from sin. Teach me self-control. Let me control emotions and desires so they do not control me. Give me strength to live this life of freedom ina a way that encourages others to be free also. If I truly love others, I will live as sinlessly as possible so I can be a blessing to them. Let me be an example and support to those who are weak. Help me to make decisions wisely, realizing that they affect others. I live in a community, and my behavior affects that community. Only in you and the power of the Spirit will I have the strength to love those around me in truth. Fill me with that power today and every day. Amen