Why? — The Perennial Question

Moving beyond the dark cloud

I just couldn’t shake the heaviness.

It seemed to hold on to me no matter how much I prayed or read my Bible.

Why?!

This was my continuing question of God as I endured a dark spiritual fog. It’s the perennial question we all ask when things don’t make sense or seem to go crossways to what we believe.

I was a young believer and recently married. We were very involved in our church and I served in various ways each week. We were doing all the right things. So, why did this heaviness stay with me?

I sought the counsel of others older in the faith and the answer was the same. It’s just a trial—a time of testing me and my faith. Just keep praying, reading the Bible, serving, and stay in fellowship. It was good advice.

But the dark heaviness continued.

This perplexed me and I kept trying to figure out what was wrong. Was I doing all the right things in a wrong way? No. It didn’t seem to be that.

This time of testing went on for weeks. Much longer than I expected or been told trials like this should go on.

More questions

Perhaps it was an intense spiritual attack?

So, I read about spiritual attacks and how to battle them. I would envision putting on the spiritual armor Paul spoke of in Ephesians (Eph 6:13–18 NIV). I would pray earnestly and claim victory over the enemy of my soul!

But the heaviness prevailed…

Continue reading this post on Medium—click here– Why?—The Perennial Question

Those People Are Us

Those people!

Are there people in your life who only seem to come around when they have some need? Then they act like they’re your BFF?

They may want to borrow some money, need a ride, or be rescued from some crisis. They come to you when they need help but when the need is met, they’re gone again. When another need arises they’ll be back for more help.

In my roles as pastor in the US and later as a director of two ministries overseas, this was a common occurrence. I found some people to be in chronic need of help. Little time would pass when some new crisis hit their life.

But there were some people who needed assistance but once it was given they seemed to be stable and able to move forward on their own.

Some people just blurt out what they need or want right away. But for some, it takes a while to build up the courage to ask for whatever it is they need.

One lesson my wife and I learned over the years is there is not enough money or time to fill the needs of those who came to us for help. We had limited resources and limitations on our capacity to help.

So we did what we could with what we had to offer.

We are those people

The thing is—we are those people with God. You and me. All of us. Think about it. Be honest.

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Wise Counsel

What is your source of wisdom?

How can anyone resist the pull of peer pressure? It’s easy to say, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything!” But resisting the influence of others is not so easy.

At times, the forcefulness of other people intimidates us. Some people sound so convincing when they present an opportunity or plan as an adventure or a sure bet we need to get in on.

Sometimes, we don’t want to be left out of a group of people who seem to have something special. These are some of the ways we get pulled along in a way we should not go.

Here’s where wise counsel comes in but where to find it? God’s design is for parents to be a source of wisdom and guidance for their children. But not all parents are suited to do this nor do all children have parents present to do so.

The Proverbs of Solomon provide one source of wisdom, often given as a father to a son or in the figurative sense of a woman calling out to anyone who will listen. Here is a father’s admonition to an older son—

My son, listen to your father’s discipline, and do not neglect your mother’s teachings,

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A Heart of Compassion

Photo by  OC Gonzalez  on  Unsplash

Photo by OC Gonzalez on Unsplash

Grandparents

I can spot grandparents right away. It’s not the age differential but their interaction with children. Grandparents, especially boomers, tend to look younger than earlier generations and some become grandparents in their forties.

When I see three generations of a family together, it’s easy to see who the parents are. Aside from their appearance, parents and grandparents interact with the children in very different ways.

Parents wear the day-to-day responsibility on their faces and have the countenance of marathon runners mid-way in a race. Grandparents now enjoy the race as spectators. But, they are experienced spectators.

Imagine God the Father as a grandparent. In a sense, He is. His Son Jesus has many children who trust in the Father through Him. Perhaps Jesus is more like an elder brother but you get the idea (Hebrews 2:10 GW).

Relating to God as Father

As a pastor, I’ve known many people who find it hard to relate to God as a father, because of their relationship with their own earthly father. But God has lots of experience as a father — for hundreds of generations.

He’s the Almighty Father — full of compassion with mercy that endures forever (Ps 136).

I’m a father of four and a grandfather of seven (so far!). Although I liked playing with my children a lot when they were young, playing with grandkids is now a special role for me. I love it, just as so many other grandfathers do!

Photo by  Mary Blackwey  on  Unsplash

Imagine God the Father as a grandparent

I’m sure you’ve seen grandparents fawn over their grandchildren, acting as if they’re the only children on the face of the earth. It’s because the affection and compassion that fills our hearts outweigh our responsibility for them.

I’ve seen fathers who were strict authoritarians melt into sugary cupcakes as grandpas. The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is something extraordinary and beyond description.

God’s love knows no boundaries

As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him. (Psalm 103:13 GW)

This text uses the word compassion but it could also be translated as mercy. This is the heart of God (Luke 6:36) whose mercies are new every morning(Lam 3:21–23).

Even though God’s mercy is an overflowing reservoir of compassion, it is reserved most for those who recognize Him for who He is — God Almighty.

The fear of God is not a cowering, anxious dread but a respectful sense of awe and wonder. He is awesome in the truest sense of the word. Fearing God is a secure relationship of trust—a trust in He who is all-powerful.

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Trustworthy Joseph

Photo by  Liane Metzler  on  Unsplash

Who would you trust?

If you were God—you’re not nor am I—but imagine what it would be like for God to consider who He would entrust as a father for His newborn Son.

We live in a world where trust appears as a fragile virtue—when trust is scarce. But the world is not so different now, in that sense, as when Jesus was born almost 2000 years ago.

Israel—God’s people—were a nation under occupation by the powerful pagan Roman empire, including its ruthless soldiers.

Not so special

Look at the attention given to the British Royal family and the Queen’s grandchildren! We might expect a lot more attention and fanfare for the birth of God’s only Son (John 1:14). But it wasn’t so.

A remarkable facet of the Christmas story is how the birth of Jesus took place.

No special national attention was given to His birth until two years later (Matthew 2:1–12). And that attention proved to be tragic (Matt 2:16–18).

Sure, there was an awesome angelic announcement outside of Bethlehem (Luke 2:8, 14), but who heard it? A group of nomadic—not-so-clean nor trustworthy—shepherds. They were not people of honorable status.

Shepherds were the equivalent of the old range cowboys of America — not exactly who you’d want your daughter to marry. Not quite the royal announcement you’d expect for the birth of the King of Kings!

No ordinary man

One of the fascinating parts of the Christmas story to me is the father of the Savior of the world. Actually, Joseph was the stepfather (Luke 1:26–38).

This is made clear by Joseph’s initial plan when he heard his bride-to-be was pregnant. He knew it wasn’t his child. But here’s where the story takes an unexpected turn.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was engaged to marry Joseph, but before they married, she learned she was pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Because Mary’s husband, Joseph, was a good man, he did not want to disgrace her in public, so he planned to divorce her secretly. (Matt 1:18–19 NCV)

Joseph was not an ordinary man. At first, he may appear ordinary, as a carpenter from a small town in northern Palestine (Israel). What makes Joseph extraordinary is the trust God places in him.

Joseph was a trustworthy man

Photo by  Filip Mroz  on  Unsplash

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Consider Joseph the man

The first thing I notice is Joseph’s character. He was “a good man.” Other Bible versions use the words just, righteous, upright, and honorable to describe Joseph. He had integrity. The kind of character God could trust.

Joseph was a compassionate and humble man

When Joseph finds out Mary—the woman he is legally promised to marry—is pregnant, he doesn’t want to publicly disgrace her. Though it was humiliating, he wasn’t vindictive. He still loved his wife-to-be.

Joseph was spiritually perceptive

His plan to quietly divorce Mary is interrupted by a dream. In the dream, an angel of the Lord informs Joseph what’s taking place.

While Joseph thought about these things, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, descendant of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit.

She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this happened to bring about what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and they will name him Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.” (Matt 1:20–23 NCV)

Consider this remarkable message to Joseph

  • Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit, not another man

  • Joseph is to go forward with the marriage

  • The child will be a son, to be named Jesus, because He will be a Savior

  • This was planned by God long ago

  • The Son’s name means “God is with us”

A final insight into Joseph’s trustworthiness is his response to all of this.

Joseph responded in faith to the message from God’s angel

When Joseph woke up, he did what the Lord’s angel had told him to do. Joseph took Mary as his wife, but he did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to the son. And Joseph named him Jesus. (Matt 1:24–25 NCV)

  • Joseph takes Mary as his wife

  • He accepts and bears the scandalous appearance of illegitimacy

  • He abstains from sexual relations with Mary until after the child’s birth

  • He names the child Jesus

Joseph was a faithful and responsible man

More to the story

There is more to the story, of course, but you can read it yourself. The story of Christmas is found in the first two chapters of both the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Joseph’s qualities as a man — good character, compassion and humility, spiritual perception, and faithfulness — add up to a trustworthy man.

These are qualities to be admired in any man

God is still looking for men like Joseph. Men who are trustworthy to bring the message of God’s redemption to a dark, insecure, and untrusting world.

This Christmas, think about the man to whom God entrusted as a father to care for His Son — the Savior of the world.

The Savior — crucified and risen, now seated in power in heaven — will transform any person who puts their trust in Him above all.

God is still looking for men like Joseph who are trustworthy

Are you willing to become a person like Joseph?

Personal Application Question

Which of Joseph’s virtues do you most identify with and which one do you least identify with—his integrity of character, compassion, humility, spiritual perception, faithfulness, or his trust in God?


This post was first published in Publishous on Medium— Trustworthy Joseph