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Weekly Word

Entries in Fathers (4)

Monday
Jun192017

Our Heavenly Father

Matthew 5:43-48.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Father’s Day, June 18, 2017.

This weekend I entered a new stage of life when my first child was married.  He begins that new stage of life for him in which he creates a new home of his own with the young woman whom he loves.  Whether you have seen either of these stages yet or not, our passage today speaks to us today about looking to our Heavenly Father and asking Him to teach us to be good, earthly fathers.

Father’s have a purpose

Verse 48 of this passage hits all of us like a ton of bricks and we will deal with it more as we go along.  However, I want us to notice that this whole section is about how those who want to follow the wisdom of Jesus will follow him in being like the Heavenly Father.  So, instead of starting with the impossible command to “be perfect,” let’s start with the sense of belonging and purpose that is the foundation of what Jesus has to say.  We have a Heavenly Father and we are meant to choose to be like Him in our actions.  This really is a wonderful thing.

In fact, Jesus points out in verse 43 that they had heard it said, “You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.”  Now the first part of this sentence comes from the Law of Moses.  Though Jesus doesn’t specifically point this out, it is worth recognizing that they heard this because the Heavenly Father had spoken to them through Moses and later through others.  God has not been silent, but has spoken some very clear things to mankind.  The Bible is the collection of those words throughout time.  With that said, you will not find a place in the Old Testament where they were commanded to hate their enemies.  God had not actually said this. They heard this part from those who thought they were safely speaking what God intends.  Perhaps the logic could go like this.  God is going to judge his enemies who hate him, so we should hate them.  So within this one statement Jesus reminds us of that mix of instructions that come to people, some from God and some from religious leaders that goes beyond God’s Word and even contrary to it.  There is only one Son of God that perfectly represents the Heavenly Father and speaks only what the Father told him to say, and that is Jesus.  Thus we can read the Word, but even more, we can hear what the One and Only Son of God, Jesus, who can help us perfectly understand what our Father is saying.  Now I would point out here that earthly fathers who want to be like the Heavenly Father should be faithful to speak to their kids in appropriate ways at appropriate times.  Be a good representative of our Heavenly Father to your children and properly point them to Him.  Be careful of inserting your own ideas without prefacing them with the fact that they are just that.  Kids need to know that as you speak to them, so has God.

In verse 45, Jesus goes beyond speaking.  He reminds us that God has given us examples.  We can look at all the goodness and provision of creation and recognize that it is given to the righteous and the unrighteous alike, without distinction.  Even those who make themselves enemies of God receive massive amounts of kindness from Him.  Thus Jesus points us to learn from the example of God.  Fathers, let’s not forget that our life and the way it is lived must be a good example for our kids.  Yes, they need to hear our words, but our actions often speak louder than words.  So pay attention to the example you are setting.

So with the Word of God and the example of God, it is our purpose to become “sons of our father in heaven.”  I believe that this is key to understanding what Jesus is driving at in verse 48.  It is in the context of being a son of the Heavenly Father that we are called to “be perfect, as your father in heaven is perfect.”  Now the word “perfect” in the original language has the sense of that which is complete, finished, or has come to maturity.  Since we are speaking of humans and their heavenly father, maturity is the concept which fits best.  And, we should note that spiritual maturity is clearly intended.  The emphasis is not a lack of error or sin, as the English may imply.  Rather it is on becoming what you are intended to be.  You were created to be like God, to bear His image in this life.  Of course that is a tall order and yet we are in good company.  The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:12-14,

“12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.”

The words that I have emboldened and underlined are translated differently but they come from the same Greek word.  Now my point is not to point out that they are translated wrong.  But that they are the same word used in Matthew 5:48 for “perfect.”  In Paul’s passage he uses the word in two different ways.  In verse 12 he is stating that even he, the Apostle Paul, had not been completely finished.  He was still in the flesh, and was not without sin.  Thus this first use is that which sees that he falls short of all that God has for him.  But in verse 15, he uses it to emphasize those who have spiritually grown up and are mature Christians.  He clearly sees himself as a part of this group.  Maturity is a funny thing.  When a child is 1 year old and they are starting to walk and talk, we might speak of them as being perfect.  They are exactly where they should be in their development for their age.  So an 18 year old has a far higher bar to reach in order to be considered mature.  Though Paul had room for improvement, he was a mature Christian, one who understood the Father’s purpose and walked in conformity with it.

Now back to Matthew 5:48.  If we see the word “perfect” in the first sense of which Paul speaks, then the verse is stating that we (in the future) will be perfect, which will mainly be God’s work in our life.  This is true, but doesn’t seem to fit the context well.  But the second sense that Paul uses fits perfectly.    When we look to our Heavenly Father’s example and listen to His words, our lives will grow to be like Him and we will become mature believers in this life (and sinless beings after the resurrection).  May we all press forward each day to be like our Father in Heaven.  Of course this is the joy of any father, to see their child grow up and become a mature adult (and to be like us in our best ways).

Fathers have a Heavenly Father

I have already made this clear.  But I want to push this part a bit further.  Earthly fathers don’t always live out this purpose that God has for them.  Our culture continually pumps a philosophy that promotes living life for yourself, and this contradicts God’s Word.  When we think about God it is important for us to understand that He is not just more mature than us.  He truly is without error and sin.  If there is something that we think He has done wrong, then we are the one in error.  More than likely we are missing information that God has.  However, it is quite possible that our judgment is not as wise and righteous as we think.  Even if you had the worst of earthly fathers, nothing can change the fact that you have a Heavenly Father who is good and perfect.  He has been working, and is even now working in your life just as a good father would do.  In fact, in many ways the best thing a father can do is to help their child to recognize that he and they are both children of the same Heavenly Father.  In that sense we are helping our kids to grow up and take their place side by side with us before God.

As Jesus mentioned in verse 46 and 47, it is not the presence of love that makes us like Him.  It is the prevalence of our love that makes us like Him.  Yes, we are going to mess up and fall down in trying to be like our Heavenly Father.  But He loves us no matter what.  Here is the logic.  If God even loves His enemies enough to provide for them even in their rebellion, how much will He love and provide for us who are His children?  Clearly, He will move Heaven and Earth to love and help us.  Thus, parents, do your best to demonstrate that kind of love and mercy to your children.  And, when you fail be quick to admit it and ask forgiveness.  This will help them to see God in a clearly light.  Yet, children don’t always agree with what a parent thinks is the loving thing to do.  When we talk about tough love, we recognize that sometimes love is difficult.  Even though a kid may think their parents hate them, generally as they mature they recognize that it wasn’t hate.  It was love and concern.  Perhaps we should think of this in regard to our Heavenly Father.  Yes, He may discipline us from time to time and we are often tempted to think that God hates us or has rejected us.  But the truth is that He loves us very much and only has a good goal in mind for us.

So we must learn to rest in His ability to help us.  As a Father, verse 48 is not being put in front of us as some impossible task.  Yes, it is tough, but we have a Heavenly Father that will help us to accomplish it.  We can rest in the fact that HE is not trying to disqualify us.  Rather, He will finish that good work which He has begun in us.  In fact, through our own death and resurrection, He will help us to even be without sin and error.  What a day that will be!

Father’s, don’t let yourself get discouraged to the point that you quit being a father.  Take it one day at a time and engage with your children at whatever stage they are in.  Daily take the time to look to your Heavenly Father for strength, wisdom, and direction.  And, learn to follow the Holy Spirit as He enables you to both overcome your own sin, and become more and more like Jesus.  God hasn’t left you alone to accomplish it all.  He has put His Spirit within you to help you fight the good fight.  So let’s cooperate with Him and, as Paul said in Philippians 3:13, “forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching forward…I press toward the goal.”  Let go of the mistakes and failures and reach forward to what He has for you.

Our Heavenly Father audio

Tuesday
Jun212016

Marching to the Drum

Genesis 6:9-14, 22.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on June 19, 2016 for Father’s Day.

Throughout history the drum has been a valuable tool in marshalling large groups of men.  Today there are many different drummers that are drumming out different beats and marching in different directions across our land.  In this confused environment the wisdom of our culture is simply this: follow your own heart.  It was David Thoreau who wrote, “If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away.”  As encouraging as such words can sound to an individual both statements overlook an important issue: Just who is drumming this drum and just where are they leading me?  Yes, it is good to be true to your inner self as far as that should go.  But it is even better to be true to our Creator, Savior, and Lord, Jesus, who alone knows what makes for our good.  He alone can lead us to a destination that is good and along a way that is good.  All others are really just the variety of ways that the devil seeks to entice us from the path of the victory that God has for us.  God has a plan to make any man a victorious father and husband.  If he will listen to Him, he will find all the grace that he needs.

Today we are going to look at what the Bible had to say about Noah.  He was a man who did not follow the drummers of his day.  Instead he risked looking foolish in the eyes of man in order to be led by God.  His bravery and obedience provided salvation for his family when all others were lost.  May his life be a template to all Christian fathers today.

A Godly Father

Noah was a godly man and it is important for believers to pursue godliness.  This is elementary.  God is our heavenly Father.  If we want to be a good father then we should seek to be like Him.  So what does it mean to be like God?

We are told that Noah was a just man.  This can also be translated as righteous.  This is a person who is upright and straight as opposed to bent over and crooked.  This imagery describes whether their life lines up with the straight and upright Law of God.  Later prophets would describe the Word of God as a plumb line.  The Word of God reveals to us the character and ways of God.  God Himself has always been the measurement by which we analyze our own character and actions.  Noah demonstrated an ability to act toward others in a way that was in alignment with the character of God.  Yes, this is a tall order.  However, kids need more than a father with a pulse.  Rather, they need a father with a spiritual pulse, who seeks to be like God.

Noah is next described as a perfect (blameless) man.  The word translated as “perfect” or “blameless” is the idea of that which is complete, and sound.  It refers to that which has come to maturity and has integrity.  Thus it would be better described today as a man of mature integrity.  Such a person is not pretending to be one thing in public and yet privately filled with evil intentions.  This person is not an incomplete work, but rather is growing into the likeness of God Himself.

We are also told that Noah “walked with God.”  This is an important word picture in the Bible.  In the Old Testament the phrase is used of those who were exceptionally close to God and received visions or appearances of God.  These godly men did so at the expense of sticking out from the people around them.  In the New Testament the phrase is used of those who have been born again by the Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit leads them to believe on Jesus, fills their life with the power to follow Him, and strengthens their hearts to endure whatever they may incur on the path.  We walk with God through reading the Word, spending time in prayer, both speaking and listening, and then obeying God.  You may wonder even now if you are walking with God.  Romans 8:3-4 describes it this way, “He [God] condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”  Thus the godly man is not a man who is following what his flesh desires (aka following your heart).  Rather, he is a man who is following God.  Do we fall short?  Yes, we do.  However, a godly man is not perfect in the sense that he makes no mistakes.  He is perfect in the sense that he is where he should be for the work that Lord has done in his life.  For example, a new born may be perfect even though it cannot walk and talk yet.  However, we recognize that something is wrong if that baby does not learn to walk and talk.  A godly man wants to be like his heavenly Father.  It is not about the measurement at any given time, but about our response to God’s directing.

A Father Who Resists The Surrounding Culture

The culture around Noah had deteriorated from having a clear knowledge of God’s way and walking in them to everyone everywhere doing what was right in their own eyes.  This is how it has always been.  No culture from the beginning of man has done anything but cast off the knowledge it has of God’s ways, and then creates its own ways. Eventually they become so darkened that any knowledge of God’s ways becomes completely lost.  Thus it is not so much the culture we resist, but the tendency of culture to disintegrate from any truth of God within it.  Without an intervention from the Spirit of God such culture will eventually destroy itself.

The culture around us today is corrupt.  It is ruined and losing any usefulness to a godly person.  The society around Noah had no redeeming qualities either to God or His people.  It was examined and found wanting by God.  Thus judgment was coming.  This whole dynamic has been exampled in the modern era by the United States of America.  We have been tossing aside the Word of God for generations, and replacing it with our own wisdom.  The impact of culture has become spiritually toxic.  It influences people into paths that destroy the godly work that the Spirit is doing with in them.  Men, we must take our stand against this in our own life!

Their culture became incredibly violent.  Violence is the idea of wronging people without concern, being cruel, and also oppressing them.  When God’s ways are tossed aside, man is left with only himself.  The competing, selfish ways give rise to Tyrants and Oppressors.  These are those who have the power to force things in society to conform to what they see as good.  Most people are crushed in such a world, with only the “Olympians” rising to the top of the mountain (Olympus).  God despises such pride and arrogance, not just because of its rejection of Him, but because of how it crushes the souls of men.  He will flatten such a mountain no matter how big it becomes.  We must not take shelter in such arrogance and make ourselves an enemy of God.  Come out from such people and walk with the Lord.

Although this next point is not mentioned in the text, such cultures become a confused culture.  Like little kids trying to chart their own course into the unknown, such societies wage war against those things that are their strength and strengthen those things that will destroy them.  Thus in our culture there is a tendency to pit men against women, and to diminish the influence parents have on their kids.  Fathers, go to war against such influences in your heart.  Lay your life down for your wife, and show respect and appreciation in an appropriate fashion to the women around you.  This amazing design of God (male and female) is a part of our strength.  Strong families in which parents raise their children while sacrificially loving each other will build up a nation.  But fractured homes in which we are all following our hearts breaks apart any firm foundation.  We end up doing the enemy’s work for him by destroying our own strengths.  In the name of freedom and power, our society undermines the very institution that can truly give both to men and women, and that is a godly marriage.

A Father Who Leads His Family Into Grace

God gives grace to the humble, but takes His stand against the proud.  Thus we are told that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  If we too want the grace of God upon ourselves and our families, we must learn humility.  All the things that we have talked about (seeking to be godly, and resisting the culture) require a man to humble himself and listen to God.  Father’s we must ask ourselves, “To where am I leading?”  What lies at the destination of the path that I am plotting and modeling to my children and the world around me?  It is not just me who experiences the destination of my life.  All those who are with me and in relationship with me experience it to.  In fact this is the reason of many fractured homes.  Instead of harmonizing around the goal of walking with God, we all pull in our own separate ways eventually straining the bonds to the point of breaking.  Men, do not let the enemy of your soul plunder what God has for you, and not just for your sake.  Do it for the sake of your family, and for the sake of other families that know you, perhaps even for the sake of our nation.  May God intervene and turn our hearts around as a nation.

Marching audio

Monday
Jun162014

Stepping In His Steps

This weekend is Father’s Day and so I want to look at several verses in Psalm 37:23-24.  When Jesus called his disciples he used a certain phrase, “Come, follow me.”  Those who responded became his disciples.  Notice that this same thing is happening today, 20 centuries later.  Of course, Jesus is not physically here calling people.  But, the Holy Spirit is speaking to the hearts of individuals and through the lives of believers to call out to this world, “Come, follow me.”

Yet, this call to follow Jesus would be like asking a child to follow a professional rock climber.  Without help we are unable to follow Jesus.  Today’s passage makes it clear that those who respond to the call to follow Jesus are not left to do it in their own strength.  Rather, they are helped by God Himself.

The Good Man Fights the Good Fight

Verse 23 starts out by referring to a “good man.”  The word translated as good is a term that can also mean strong, as in strong for battle.  Because the context is not about physical strength it gets translated as “good” as in morally strong.  Perhaps it may be better to see it as strong in faith because that is what is in contention.  It is clearly a righteous man who trusts in the Lord that is in view.  In fact the whole chapter is a treatise regarding the righteous and the unrighteous.  So this is a good man, a man strong in his faith toward God. 

We see the Apostle Paul speaking of this in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  He has been a strong warrior for the Lord.  The good fight is not fought with physical strength, but with spiritual strength.

Our battle is not with atheists and other religions.  Rather, our battle is first of al with our own self.  The flesh has a powerful way of justifying its lusts and desires.  If we do not restrain it, it will pull us down into a quagmire of serving self.  We also battle against the corrupting influence of this world.  Its culture, institutions, systems and powers are difficult obstacles to overcome in the arena of faith.  Also, we have a spiritual enemy in the devil and his evil spirits.  They operate mainly through deception and temptation.  These three areas of Self, World, and the Devil take a man who is strong for battle.

Of course, none of us are able to conquer these three areas.  Only Jesus has been able to do that.  He is the ultimate warrior.  He has done what none of us could do.  However, this enables us to follow him.  When we stick close to Jesus and put our steps into his steps we will be able to have victory in these areas.  We will talk more about this later.

The Good Man Gets Direction From The Lord

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”  So in Psalm 37 we are told that the Lord “orders” the steps of a man who trusts him.  Our paths or steps are a picture of the decisions and actions that we do in life.  Put in order we walk a certain way.  Now there really are only two ways in life.  God’s way will lead us to life. But “my” way will lead me to death.  Even if “my” way involves following someone that we look up to, other than Jesus, it is still headed in the same direction.  Yet, believers find that when we try to follow Jesus our way becomes a mixture of veering off the path of Jesus and then course correcting to get back in line.  This may seem futile, but recognize that God is able to direct us through it all.  He is not trying to control our every step so much as inform our every step.  Do you get your directions from Jesus?  Perhaps you wonder how that is possible.

We have the commands and example of Christ given to us in the New Testament.  We also have a powerful instructive picture in the Old Testament that helps us to understand who Jesus really is.  Thus his directions, in general, are given in the Bible.  As you read the Bible you will see that Christ does not call us anywhere that he hasn’t gone himself.  So if we cast off his commands and example we are trusting in our own thinking or the thinking of someone else.  The problem here is not that we are thinking.  Note in Proverbs 3:5-6 that we are only warned against leaning (i.e. putting all your weight upon) on our own understanding.  Yes we have questions and fears.  But we shouldn’t put our weight upon those things.  Instead we should trust the lord.  If we are truly listening, God will lead us and give direction to our path.  He will not force us.  He wants us to follow out of our own heart.  But know this, His direction will give you sure footing on treacherous ground.

The Good Man Is A Delight To God

You may not be particularly excited about your life right now, but God is.  He delights in our trust even when it is the trust of a spiritual babe.  He knows that it will grow and become the trust of a strong man of faith in time.

He also delights in the future to which He is bringing us.  He is leading us to a wonderful goal both in this life and in the life to come.  He sees the end that we cannot see yet and He is delighted in anticipation of the joys we shall have together.  Even when we are told the end goal, we cannot truly grasp how it will come about and what it will be like.  Thus it is our joy to delight in the discovery and realization of those things along with Him.

What about our failures?  Surely God doesn’t delight in us when we have failed.  The reality is that none of us will make it into eternity without having failed.  Only Jesus is the perfect warrior against sin.  God can see over the top of our failures to the person we are going to become.  He loves us, not just in spite of our failures.  In fact, our trust and love become more precious and more of a delight because it is over the top of cuts and bruises in this life.  Our trust becomes that much more precious, which brings us to the point of verse 24.

The Good Man Is Supported When He Falls

God promises to help us when we fall morally.  He knows that our frame is frail and that we are but dust.  This is precisely why He has pledged Himself to help us.  If you put your trust in Jesus, you will make it, period.

We might ask our self why we fell.  Did I fall because I desired sin?  Or, did I fall because someone else sinned against me and I couldn’t let it go?  Perhaps I merely lack skill in a particular area that he enemy is attacking and I am learning to follow Jesus.  Whatever the reason, Jesus knows your difficulties.  If you look to Him and cry out in the time of need, he will help you.

Notice verse 24 says that though a man fall, he will not be cast out.  It is one thing to fall, but quite another to never get up again.  Everyone who has fallen reaches that moment when they realize that they have survived and need to get up, and in fact must.  Can you imagine if the first time you fell off your bicycle you just quit trying ever again?  Though it sounds silly, what if you never got up off the ground and continued to cry and get angry for years on end?  Things that don’t happen in the natural often happen spiritually.  Many people are still laying in the road of some misfortune long ago and, instead of getting up, they just lay there refusing to move on.  Please know this, God is not looking for an excuse to get rid of you or throw you away.  He knows you will fail and He is committed to helping you get up and keep riding until you get it.  However, you must want to get back up and keep trusting Him.  People may cast you aside, but Jesus has pledged, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  And, that means even when you fail.

In fact, the Lord promises in verse 24 to support us by His own hand.  Allstate insurance can only do so much for you.  But there are far better hands in this world and they are God’s.  The support or bracing of the Lord holds us up so that we do not fail beyond recovery.  Of course we may not want to fall and wish God would keep that from happening.  However, we will never learn if God protects us from the effects of our decisions.  The hand is the symbol of power.  The power of God is Jesus.  He is the hand of God that has come down to save us.  When you trust in those hands they will lift you up through this life and through times of failure and bring you out the other side.  Jesus does this through the work of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit’s purpose is to come alongside of us and provide the help that we need.  If this is His purpose then He is also working in believers to be such a help to other believers.  I point this out because in engineering bracing is always done through triangles.  Thus God supports us directly by his Holy Spirit and indirectly through other believers.  This triangle of God, You, and Other believers is magnified by the multitude of relationships we can have with other believers.  Let the Lord support you.  If you aren’t a part of a group of believers that are trusting God and helping each other through life then you are missing a great part of how God intends to support you.

Now, the enemy wants you to stay down and refuse all help when you fall.  If you let him, he will get in your head and poison your thinking.  He will lead you to believe that it is impossible for God to love you because you have failed so badly.  In fact he only needs to insert the idea and walk away.  You will do all the work for him by trusting in what he says.  Don’t do that.  You will never recover from failure until you reject the lies of satan and believe the truth of God.  “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.”  It is not over.  God is not done with you yet.  Trust him.  Rise up and walk!

Stepping in His Steps Audio

Tuesday
Jun182013

Godly Men-Courageous Men

We live in a day and age where Christians need to be courageous, especially dads.  In fact the main place kids learn courage is from their parents when they are young.  In Joshua 1:9 God tells Joshua to “be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  The key to Joshua’s fear is not in diminishing what he will face.  Rather, it lies in the fact that no matter what he faces God will be with him.  So it is not surprising to see Jesus saying the same things to His disciples, “behold I am with you, even to the very end of the age.”

It is easy to see courage when it is displayed on the battlefield in wars.  But God calls all men to a greater courage, a courage that takes place in our daily life.   It is a courage to follow Jesus in doing the right thing in each situation we face. 

Today we are going to look at Joseph, the husband of Mary.  Normally we only do this at Christmas, but Joseph displays great courage in something as simple as saying yes to God’s way.  Let’s look at Matthew 1:18-.

Courage To Be Kind When Hurt

In verses 18-19 we see that Joseph is engaged to Mary, which is generally a very high moment in the life of a man.  However, before they had come to be married, the news comes to Joseph that Mary is pregnant.  We are not told how he found out and whether the story of the angel and a conception by the Holy Spirit was also told to him.  Yet, we see him a man who has been hit by a ton of bricks.  What?  Mary is pregnant?  How?  I can’t believe it?  Yet it was true.  Mary was pregnant.  At a time when Joseph has been tremendously hurt, chooses to call off the wedding in a way that would be as quiet as possible.  In fact we see him being as kind as he can to Mary.

Joseph, no doubt, was emotionally hurt by Mary’s pregnancy, but he is also socially hurt.  Unless he publically sets things right, it will be assumed that he is the father and that he has broken the contract with Mary’s father.    If he publically goes before the elders and declares his innocence then Mary would be required to give a defense.  Since she would not be able to stand and say Joseph is the father, she would be unable to contest the public divorce.  Thus the righteousness of Joseph would be elevated or vindicated in the eyes of society and Mary would bear the full weight of the pregnancy.

Joseph clearly either doesn’t know about Mary’s story or he has heard it and finds it too hard to believe.  Thus he chooses a path that demonstrates kindness to Mary.  He will put her away secretly.  That way he is declaring the child isn’t his, but he is leaving room for questions.  No one will really know what happened and it will be the source of rumors for the rest of their lives.  It takes courage to not rush to vindicate yourself when you have been hurt.  Joseph is not the kind of man to be cruel and angry when he is hurt.  In a sense he chooses that his last act towards her would be one of love.  This reminds me of the passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:15, “Make sure nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everybody else.”  It takes courage to live in such a way.  In fact most people will look at you like you are strange when you try to live by this principle.

Joseph could also be hurt by God and His plan.  We are not told what kind of communication may or may not have happened between Mary and her family to Joseph.  But essentially he is being told that God is the one that is causing these problems in his life.  Yet, keep in mind that it is only a problem because of the sinfulness of people and society.  God didn’t cause that.  Thus even when God’s plan causes us pain, it is not truly His Fault or intention.  Men choose to be cruel, sinful, and hurt one another because they are cowards and lack the courage to follow God, or they are ignorant and lack the understanding to follow God.

Courage to Follow God’s Spirit Contrary to Society

In verses 20-25 we see that God gives Joseph a dream.  Now this dream could be psychoanalyzed and put aside as an effect of Joseph’s extreme stress.  However, Joseph was no dunderhead.  He knew that this dream was from God.  The dream basically verifies Mary’s story and clarifies his confusion over how it could have even happened.  None of it made sense to him.  God’s plan for our life is not about making it easier for us.  But He will give us the strength to walk it.   God was basically asking Joseph to complete the marriage with Mary.  This would be tantamount to confessing the baby was his.

Society would not be as kind to Joseph as he had planned to be with Mary.  They would not let it go quietly.  It would be trumpeted in many situations and caustic phrases, whether it was snide remarks to Joseph that made it clear he was less than other men, or to Mary as other women cruelly put her down, or how the child Jesus would be ridiculed, persecuted, and ostracized by the other children.

Yet, in the dream God’s message is this: “Do not be afraid.”  First of all he doesn’t need to fear that Mary has been unfaithful to him.  The boy was miraculously conceived.  Yet, second, he doesn’t need to fear the society that would not understand and would call him a sinner and the child illegitimate.  This society would, no doubt, constantly remind him and his family that they were failures and outcasts.

In some ways we haven’t seen anything yet, here in America.  As society becomes more evil the chances of God calling us to do something that causes us pain increase.  Prepare yourself for courage today, before it gets worse.  Like training for the day of battle, we need to treat our everyday life decisions as if they were preparations for the end of the world.

Our society is casting off God’s wisdom and God’s way.  Will you go with them?  Or will you stand strong with Jesus?  Joseph made the tough call that day and demonstrated courage.  It wasn’t easy.  It was no doubt very difficult.  But immediately after the dream confirmed everything, he went and “did as the angel commanded him and took to him his wife.”  Not only that, but, Joseph refrained from any sexual contact until after Jesus was born.  This was a courageous man.

Final Thoughts

Our society is not always to blame for our cowardice.  Often it is the desires of my own flesh that pull me away from doing the right thing.  In fact this is the default.  Society is just “piling on top” of what my flesh is already doing.  Yet, like Joseph, Joshua, and ultimately like Jesus we must choose to live our life by following God’s path rather than our own.  Let’s prepare for battle.  Let’s roll.

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